Millard Fillmore

Summary

Millard Fillmore (b. January 7, 1800, Summerhill(d), New York, USA – d. March 8, 1874,) was the twelfth Vice President and thirteenth President of the United States of America, serving one incomplete presidential term between 1850 and 1853, and the last member of the Whig party to hold the highest office of state in the United States. Millard Fillmore succeeded the previous president, Zachary Taylor, whose vice president he was, due to his death from acute indigestion. Fillmore thus becomes the second President of the United States to become President following the death of the President-elect. Not only was he not elected president, but after serving the remainder of Zachary Taylor’s term, Fillmore was not even nominated by his own party, the Whig Party, for the 1852 presidential election. In the 1856 presidential election, although he was nominated by his party, the Know Nothing Party (officially known as the American Party) as a candidate for President of the United States, he did not win the election.

Fillmore was born into poverty in the Finger Lakes area(his parents were renters during his formative years. He rose from poverty through education and became a lawyer, though he had little formal education. He became prominent in the Buffalo area as a lawyer and politician, was elected to the New York Assembly in 1828 and to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1832. He originally belonged to the Anti-Masonic Party, but became a Whig, this being a party formed in the mid-1830s; he was a rival for party leadership against publisher Thurlow Weed(d) and Weed’s protégé William H. Seward. Throughout his career, Fillmore declared slavery an evil, but one beyond the powers of the federal government, while Seward was not only openly hostile to slavery, but argued that the federal government should have a role in stopping slavery. Fillmore failed to gain the Speaker of the House when the Whigs took control of the House in 1841, but was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Defeated in elections for the nomination for Vice President in 1844, and for Governor of New York the same year, Fillmore was elected head of the New York Audit and Control Department in 1847, the first to hold the post by direct election.

Fillmore received the Whig Party nomination for vice-president in 1848 as Taylor’s running mate, and the two were elected. He was largely ignored by Taylor. As vice president, Fillmore presided over furious debates in the Senate at a time when Congress was deciding whether to allow slavery in the areas granted from the Mexicans. Fillmore supported Henry Clay’s Omnibus Act (the basis of the Compromise of 1850), although Taylor did not. After President Taylor died in July 1850, Fillmore dismissed the cabinet and changed administration policy. The new president lobbied for passage of the compromise, which gave legislative victories to both North and South and was passed by September. The Fugitive Slave Act, which urged the return of runaway slaves to those who claimed ownership, was a controversial part of the compromise, and Fillmore felt compelled to implement it, though it hurt his popularity and also the Whig Party, which had split between north and south. In foreign policy, Fillmore supported American expeditions to open trade with Japan, opposed French plans for Hawaii, and was embarrassed by Narciso López(d)’s pirate expeditions to Cuba. He sought the party nomination for a full term in 1852, but was passed over in favor of Winfield Scott(d).

As the Whig Party split after Fillmore’s presidency, many in Fillmore’s Conservative wing joined the Know Nothings, which formed the American Party. In his 1856 bid as the party’s nominee, Fillmore had little to say about immigration, focusing instead on Union conservatism and winning only Maryland. In retirement, Fillmore was active in many civic actions. He helped found the University at Buffalo, serving as its first chancellor. During the American Civil War, Fillmore denounced secession and agreed that the Union should be maintained by force if necessary, but criticized Abraham Lincoln’s war policies. After peace was restored, he supported President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies. Noted today, Fillmore has been praised by some for his foreign policy, but he is criticized by others for his implementation of the Fugitive Slave Act and his association with Know Nothings. Historians and scholars have consistently ranked Fillmore as one of the worst presidents.

Millard Fillmore was born on January 7, 1800 in a farm cabin now in Moravia(d), Cayuga County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York. His parents were Phoebe (Millard) and Nathaniel Fillmore(d). He was the second of eight children and the couple’s oldest son.

Nathaniel Fillmore was the son of Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. (1739-1814), a native of Franklin(d) who became one of the earliest settlers of Bennington(d) when it was founded on the territory then called the New Hampshire Concessions. Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. was a member of the Green Mountain Boys militia, and served as second lieutenant and lieutenant during the American Revolution. In 1767, Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. married Hepzibah Wood (1747-1783), mother of Nathaniel Fillmore and grandmother of Millard Fillmore. Members of the Fillmore family lived in New England for several generations; Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. was the son of John Fillmore (1702-1777), who lived in Massachusetts and Connecticut and was a sea captain John Fillmore was the son of John Fillmore Sr. (1676-1712), a native of Manchester, England, who was also a sailor and died as a prisoner of the French on the island of Martinique during Queen Anne’s War.

Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard moved from Vermont in 1799, seeking better opportunities than were available on Nathaniel’s stony farm, but the land title in Cayuga County proved defective, and the Fillmores moved to nearby Sempronius(d), where Nathaniel occasionally attended school. As historian Tyler Anbinder described it, “Fillmore’s childhood was one of hard work, frequent deprivation, and virtually no formal schooling.”

Over the years, Nathaniel Fillmore was successful in Sempronius, but during Millard Fillmore’s formative years, the family faced severe poverty. Eventually, Nathaniel Fillmore became quite well liked so he was chosen to work in local offices, including justice of the peace. Hoping that his eldest son would learn a trade, by the time Millard was 14, his father tried to persuade him not to join the army to fight in the War of 1812 and sent him to apprentice to the tailor Benjamin Hungerford in Sparta. Fillmore was made to do menial labor; unhappy that he learned no skills, he left Hungerford. His father then sent him to work in a mill in New Hope(d). Seeking to improve his life, Millard Fillmore bought a share in a traveling library and read all the books he could read. In 1819, he took advantage of a period when there was less work at the mill to enroll in a new academy in town, where he met a classmate, Abigail Powers, with whom he fell in love.

Later, in 1819, Nathaniel moved his family to Montville, a village in Moravia. Appreciating his son’s talents, Nathaniel Fillmore persuaded Judge Walter Wood, the Fillmore family’s landlord and the richest man in the area, to allow Millard to become his clerk for a probationary period. Wood agreed to hire young Fillmore and supervise him. Fillmore taught school for three months earning money to buy out his apprenticeship at the mill. Fillmore left Wood after 18 months; the judge paid him almost nothing and the two quarreled when Fillmore won a small sum by advising a farmer in a minor lawsuit. Refusing to promise not to do it again, Fillmore resigned. Nathaniel Fillmore moved back in with his family, and Fillmore accompanied his father west to East Aurora(d) in Erie County, near Buffalo. This move proved successful, and the farm Nathaniel Fillmore bought there became prosperous. Nathaniel Fillmore would be the first father of a president to visit his son in the White House, and when one person asked him how to raise a son to be president, he alluded to his family’s poverty: “Keep him like a trough.”

In 1821, Fillmore turned 21 and thus became legally independent of his father. He taught school in East Aurora and accepted a few cases in the justice of the peace courts, which did not require the practitioner to be a licensed attorney. He moved to Buffalo the following year, continued his law studies, first while teaching at the school, then in the law office of Asei Rice and Joseph Clary; during this time he became engaged to Abigail Powers. In 1823, he was admitted to the New York bar and declined offers from Buffalo law firms to return to East Aurora and begin practicing as the town’s only lawyer. Fillmore later said he initially lacked the self-confidence to practice in Buffalo; his biographer, Paul Finkelman, suggested that after being directed by others all his life, Fillmore enjoyed the independence of practicing his craft in East Aurora. On February 5, 1826, Millard and Abigail were married. They had two children, Millard Powers Fillmore(d) (1828-1889) and Mary Abigail Fillmore(d) (1832-1854).

Members of the Fillmore family were active in politics and government; Millard Fillmore’s grandfather, Nathaniel Fillmore Sr. worked in local offices in Bennington, including as a road inspector and tax collector. In addition to Fillmore’s father’s service as justice of the peace, Fillmore’s uncle, Calvin Fillmore, served in the New York State Assembly, and another uncle, Simeon Fillmore, served as supervisor of the Town of Clarence(d). Millard Fillmore was interested in politics, and the rise of the anti-Masonic party in the late 1820s initially attracted him to it.

Many anti-Masons opposed the presidential candidacy of General Andrew Jackson, a Mason, and Fillmore was a delegate to a New York convention that supported President John Quincy Adams for re-election, as well as two anti-Masonic conventions in the summer of 1828. At the conventions, Fillmore, and one of the early political bosses, newspaper editor Thurlow Weed(d), met and impressed each other. At the time, Fillmore was the leading citizen in East Aurora and was elected to the New York State Assembly for three years from 1829-1831. Fillmore’s 1828 election contrasted with the victories of the Jacksonian Democrats (soon to be Democrats), who sent the general to the White House and won a majority in Albany, so Fillmore was in the minority in the Assembly. He proved effective, however, in trying to get the legislature to allow court witnesses to opt to tell the truth instead of taking a religious oath, and in 1830 to get the penalty of imprisonment for debt abolished. By then, much of Fillmore’s legal practice was conducted in Buffalo, and later that year he moved there with his family; he did not run for re-election in 1831.

Fillmore has also been successful as a lawyer. Buffalo was then in a period of rapid expansion, rebounding after the burning of the city by the British during the War of 1812 to become the western end of the Erie Canal. Cases from outside Erie County were already coming to Fillmore, and he was known as a lawyer in Buffalo even before he moved there. He took Nathan K. Hall(a lifelong friend, Hall was Fillmore’s partner in Buffalo and postmaster while he was president. Buffalo was legally a village when Fillmore came there; although the bill that elevated it to city status passed the legislature after Fillmore left the Assembly, he helped draft the city charter. In addition to his success as a lawyer, Fillmore helped found the Buffalo High School Association, joined the high school, and was a local Unitarian churchgoer; he became one of Buffalo’s most prominent citizens. He was also active in the New York City Militia and attained the rank of major as inspector of the 47th Brigade.

First term; returning to Buffalo

Although Fillmore retired from the legislature after the 1831 session, he did not remain out of politics for long. In 1832, he ran for the House of Representatives and was elected. The anti-presidential candidate, former Attorney General William Wirt, won only in Vermont, with President Jackson easily winning re-election. At the time, Congress convened its annual session in December, so Fillmore had to wait more than a year after his election to take his seat. Fillmore, Weed and others realized that opposition to Masonry was too narrow a niche on which to build a national party and rallied the Whig Party faction of the National Republican Party, the anti-Masons and the disillusioned Democrats. The Whigs were initially united by their opposition to Jackson, but became the major party by expanding their platform to include support for economic growth by refinancing the Second Bank of US and federally funded modernizations, including roads, bridges and canals. Weed joined the Whigs before Fillmore and became a force within the party; his anti-slavery views were stronger than Fillmore’s (who, though he disliked slavery, considered the federal government powerless in the matter) and closer to those of a prominent Whig member from New York, William H. Seward of Auburn, who was seen as a protégé of Weed.

In Washington, Fillmore called for the expansion of the Port of Buffalo, a decision under federal jurisdiction, and in his private capacity served on a committee lobbying for Albany to expand the Erie Canal. Even during the 1832 campaign, Fillmore’s affiliation as an anti-Mason was uncertain, but once he was sworn in he quickly removed those uncertainties. Fillmore was noticed by influential Massachusetts Senator Daniel Webster, who took the new congressman under his wing. Fillmore became a staunch supporter of his, and the close relationship between the two continued until Webster’s death during Fillmore’s presidency. Despite Fillmore’s support of the Second Bank as a means of national development, he did not speak in congressional debates, in which some supported the renewal of its charter, although Jackson had previously opposed legislation for a charter renewal. Fillmore supported infrastructure construction, voting in favor of building a bridge across the Potomac River and improving navigation on the Hudson.

Anti-Masonry was still strong in Western New York, though nationally it was beginning to fade, and when the anti-Masons did not nominate him for a second term in 1834, Fillmore declined the Whig nomination, understanding that the two parties would split their anti-Jackson votes and thus elect the Democratic candidate. Despite his departure from office, he remained a candidate for the state party leadership, Seward, the unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate in 1834. Fillmore spent his time building his career in law and encouraging the Whig party, which gradually absorbed most of the anti-Masons. By 1836, Fillmore was fairly confident in the anti-Jackson unity so he accepted the Whig nomination for Congress. The Democrats, led by their presidential candidate, Vice President Martin Van Buren, were victorious nationally and in Van Buren’s home state of New York, but Western New York voted Whig and so Fillmore returned to Congress.

The next three terms

Van Buren, faced with the economic panic of 1837, caused in part by a lack of confidence in private banknotes after Jackson instructed the government to accept only gold or silver, called a special session of Congress. Government funds had been held in so-called “company banks” since Jackson withdrew them from the Second Bank; Van Buren proposed placing funds in sub-treasuries, government deposits that would not lend money. Believing that government funds should be borrowed to develop the country, Fillmore felt this would lock the nation’s limited reserves away from commerce. Van Buren’s subtreasury as well as other economic proposals passed, but as hard times continued, the Whigs won more votes in the 1837 election and became the majority in the New York Assembly. This led to the start of a battle for the nomination for governor in 1838. Fillmore supported the Whig candidate for vice-president in 1836, Francis Granger; Weed preferred Seward. Fillmore was upset when Weed won the nomination for Seward, but remained loyal during the campaign; Seward was elected, while Fillmore won another term in the House.

The rivalry between Fillmore and Seward has been affected by the growing anti-slavery movement. Although Fillmore disliked slavery, he saw no reason why it should become a political issue. Seward, on the other hand, was hostile to slavery and made this clear through his actions as governor, refusing to send back his slaves claimed by the Southerners. The Buffalo bar proposed in 1839 that Fillmore be offered the position of Vice Chancellor of the Eighth Judicial District. Seward declined and appointed Frederick Whittlesey; when he made the nomination, Seward said that if the state Senate rejected Whittlesey, he would continue to decline Fillmore’s appointment.

Fillmore was active in discussions about presidential candidates that preceded the Whig National Convention for the 1840 race. He initially supported General Winfield Scott, but wanted to defeat Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, a slave owner whom he believed could not move New York State forward. Fillmore did not attend the convention, but was pleased when it nominated General William Henry Harrison for president, along with former Virginia Senator John Tyler, a candidate for vice president. Fillmore campaigned in Western New York for Harrison’s campaign, Harrison was elected president, while Fillmore easily won a fourth term in the House of Representatives.

At Senator Clay’s urging, Harrison quickly called a special session of Congress. Fillmore wanted to be named Speaker of the House, the first time Whigs would have been in charge, but a Clay acolyte, John White of Kentucky, was chosen instead. Nevertheless, Fillmore became chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means. Harrison was expected to agree with everything Clay and the other Whig leaders in Congress proposed, but he died on April 4, 1841, so Vice President Tyler became chairman. Tyler, a former Democrat, had disagreed with Clay’s congressional proposals for the creation of a national bank to stabilize the currency, a proposal for which he used his veto twice, leading to his expulsion from the Whig Party. Fillmore remained on the sidelines of this conflict, generally supporting the Whig position in Congress, but his main achievement as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means was the Tariff of 1842. The existing tariff did not protect production and a portion of the revenue was distributed to the states, a decision made in better times that had depleted the Treasury. Fillmore prepared a bill to increase the tariff, which was popular in the country, but continued distribution secured a veto from Tyler and a big political advantage for the Whigs. Once Tyler rejected it, a House committee headed by John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts condemned his actions. Fillmore prepared a second bill, this time omitting distribution, which Tyler signed, but in the process offended his Democratic allies. Thus, Fillmore not only achieved his legislative goal, but succeeded in isolating Tyler.

Fillmore was lauded for this legislation, but in July 1842 he announced he would not run for another term. The Whigs nominated him anyway, but he declined. Tired of life in Washington and the conflict swirling around President Tyler, Fillmore tried to return to life and the practice of law in Buffalo. Fillmore continued to be active in Congressional hearings following the 1842 election and returned to Buffalo in April 1843. According to his biographer, Scarry: “Fillmore ended his congressional career at a time when he had become a powerful figure, a capable statesman at the height of his popularity.” Thurlow Weed considered Congressman Fillmore “able to debate, wise in council, and inflexible in his political sentiments.”

Out of office, Fillmore continued to practice law and made long-neglected repairs to his Buffalo home. He remained a major political figure, leading the committee of important people who welcomed John Quincy Adams to Buffalo, with the former president expressing regret over Fillmore’s absence from Congress. Some urged Fillmore to run for vice president alongside Clay, the consensus Whig choice for president in 1844 – Horace Greeley wrote privately that “my first choice was Millard Fillmore” – others thought Fillmore should try to win the Whig governorship. Fillmore wanted the vice-presidency and it didn’t take him long after returning from Washington to try to get back there in that capacity.

Fillmore was hoping to get the New York delegation’s endorsement at the national convention, but Weed wanted the vice presidency for Seward, with Fillmore as governor. However, Seward withdrew before the 1844 Whig National Convention. When Weed’s preferred replacement, Willis Hall, became ill, Weed tried to beat Fillmore to the vice-presidential nomination by trying to force him to run for governor. Weed’s attempts to induce Fillmore to accept the governor’s nomination prompted the former congressman to write, “I am not willing to be unfaithfully killed by this alleged goodwill…. let it not be believed under any circumstances that I think they want my nomination for governor” New York sent a delegation to Baltimore, promising to support Clay, but with no instructions on how to vote for vice president. Weed told the out-of-state delegations that the New York delegation preferred Fillmore to be their candidate for governor, and after Clay was nominated for president, it was decided that former New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen would be the vice presidential candidate.

Fillmore met and appeared in public with Frelinghuysen, rejecting in Weed’s offer to be named a gubernatorial candidate. Fillmore’s stance opposing slavery, but his belief that the government had no power to abolish it, made him acceptable as a Whig candidate, and Weed saw the pressure mounting on Fillmore. Fillmore had previously asserted that a convention had the right to choose whomever it wished for political service, and Weed agreed to choose Fillmore, who had broad support despite his reluctance.

Democrats have nominated Sen. Silas Wright as their candidate for governor and former Tennessee Gov. James K. Polk for president. Although Fillmore tried to win the support of German Americans, a major community, he felt cheated by New York City immigrants who supported a local candidate in the 1844 mayoral election, and Fillmore and his party were defeated. He was not friendly to immigrants and, after his defeat, blamed “foreign Catholics.” Fillmore’s biographer, Paul Finkelman, suggested that hostility to immigrants and a weak stance on slavery led to his defeat.

In 1846, Fillmore was involved in the founding of the University at Buffalo and became its first chancellor; he remained in that position until his death in 1874. He opposed the annexation of Texas and spoke out against the Mexican-American War that followed, seeing the annexation as helping to expand the land of slavery. Fillmore was upset when President Polk vetoed a bill that would have benefited the city of Buffalo and wrote: “May God save the country for it is evident the people will not.” In those days New York governors served two-year terms, and Fillmore could have received the Whig nomination in 1846 if he had wanted it. In fact, he came within one vote of getting the nomination for his supporter, John Young, who was elected. A new constitution for New York State provided that elections were held for the office of inspector, as well as for attorney general and other offices previously appointed by the state legislature. Fillmore’s work as chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means made him a candidate for comptroller, and he succeeded in securing the Whig nomination for the 1847 election. With a united party behind him, Fillmore won by 38,000 votes, the largest margin a Whig candidate had ever won in New York for statewide office.

Before moving to Albany to take office on January 1, 1848, he left his law firm and rented his home. Fillmore received positive reviews for his service as comptroller. As a member of the state board, he secured an expansion of Buffalo’s canal facilities. The comptroller regulated the banks, and Fillmore stabilized the currency by requiring state banks to hold New York and federal bonds at the value of the notes they issued. A similar plan was passed by Congress in 1864.

Nominating

President Polk pledged not to run for a second term, and with victories in Congressional elections during the 1846 election cycle, the Whigs hoped to win the 1848 presidential election. The party’s perennial candidates, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, each sought the nomination, and sought the support of their colleagues in Congress. Many Whigs supported Mexican war hero General Zachary Taylor for president. Although Taylor was wildly popular, many Northerners had doubts about electing a Louisiana slave master at a time of tension over whether to allow slavery in the territories ceded by Mexico.

With the nomination undecided, Weed did some maneuvering to get New York to send an uncommitted delegation to the 1848 Whig National Convention held in Philadelphia, hoping to arrange things so that former Governor Seward would be the nominee. He persuaded Fillmore to support an uncommitted candidacy, though he did not tell him what his hopes were for Seward. Weed was an influential publisher, and Fillmore tended to cooperate with him for the good of the Whig party. But Weed had strong opponents, including Governor Young, who disliked Seward and did not want to see him win a major office.

Despite Weed’s best efforts, Taylor was nominated in the fourth round of elections, drawing the ire of Clay supporters and a faction in the Northeast. When order was restored, John A. Collier, an opponent of New York and Weed, addressed the convention. Delegates were waiting for his every word, as he described himself as a Clay supporter; he voted for Clay on every ballot. He eloquently described the pain of Clay supporters, frustrated again by a defeat in their bid to make Clay president. Collier warned of a fatal split in the party and said that only one thing could prevent that split: the appointment of Fillmore as vice chair, whom he incorrectly described as a strong Clay supporter. Indeed, Fillmore agreed with many of Clay’s positions, but did not support him for president and was not in Philadelphia. The delegates did not know these facts and there was a strong reaction in Fillmore’s favor. In those days, presidential candidates did not automatically choose their running mate, and despite Taylor’s managers’ efforts to get the nomination for Abbott Lawrence of Massachusetts, Fillmore became the Whig Party’s nominee for vice president on the second ballot.

Weed wanted the VP nomination for Seward (which drew few delegate votes), and Collier acted to further thwart his plans, since at the time, no one from New York State could be appointed to the cabinet. Fillmore was accused of aiding and abetting Collier’s actions, but this was never proven. However, there were sound reasons for Fillmore’s election, as he was someone who could bring in votes from New York’s important college, and his congressional record demonstrated his devotion to Whig doctrine, eliminating fears that he might be another Tyler if anything happened to General Taylor. Delegates reminded him of his role during the Tariff Act of 1842. His rivalry with Seward (already known for his anti-slavery views and statements) made him more acceptable in the South.

General election campaign

In mid-19th century America, it was customary for a candidate for high office not to seek re-election. Thus Fillmore remained in office in Albany and made no speeches; the 1848 campaign was conducted in newspapers and with addresses by surrogates at rallies. The Democrats nominated Michigan Senator Lewis Cass for president, along with General William O. Butler for vice president, but they were joined by a third candidate, from the Free Soil Party, which opposed the spread of slavery, and chose former President Van Buren. There was a moment of crisis among the Whigs when Taylor also accepted the nomination from a group of dissident Democrats in South Carolina. Fearing that Taylor would be a party renegade like Tyler, Weed scheduled a late August meeting in Albany to elect a slate of presidential electors, but Fillmore intervened against the editor, assuring him that Taylor was loyal to the party.

Northerners assumed that Fillmore, coming from a free state, was an opponent of the spread of slavery. Southerners accused him of being an abolitionist, which he strenuously denied. Fillmore replied to an Alabama resident in a published letter that slavery was an evil, but one over which the federal government had no authority. Taylor and Fillmore corresponded twice in September, with general satisfaction that the South Carolina crisis had been resolved. Fillmore, on the other hand, assured his running mate that the electoral prospects for the vote looked good, especially in the Northeast.

Finally, Taylor’s candidacy

Millard Fillmore was sworn in as Vice President on March 5, 1849, in the Senate Chamber. Since March 4, then the usual inauguration day, fell on a Sunday, the swearing-in was postponed until the following day. Fillmore was sworn in before Judge Roger B. Taney, chief justice of the Supreme Court, and in turn was sworn in by senators who had begun their terms, including Seward, who had been elected by the New York legislature in February. Fillmore then went out with the senators to be present at Taylor’s swearing-in and that evening accompanied the president to the inaugural balls.

Fillmore spent the four months between the election and the swearing in with festivities prepared by the New York Whigs and winding up business in the inspector’s office. Taylor had promised him influence in the new administration, but the president-elect mistakenly believed the vice president was a cabinet member, which was not true in the 19th century. Fillmore, Seward, and Weed met and came to a general agreement on the division of jobs in the New York federal offices. Seward, once in Washington, met Taylor’s cabinet appointees, advisers, and the general’s brother, and an alliance between the incoming administration and Weed’s machinations was put in place without Fillmore’s knowledge. In return for support, Seward and Weed were allowed to nominate the people who would fill the federal posts in New York, Fillmore being offered far less than they had agreed. When Fillmore, after the inauguration, discovered this, he went to Taylor, who escalated the war against Fillmore’s influence. Fillmore supporters like Collier, who nominated him at the convention, were overlooked in favor of candidates backed by Weed, who even triumphed in Buffalo. This greatly increased Weed’s influence in New York politics and diminished Fillmore’s role. According to Rayback, “by the middle of 1849, Fillmore’s situation had become desperate.” Despite his lack of influence, he was nagged by office-seekers and those who had a house to rent or sell for vice president. One aspect of his tenure he enjoyed, due to his continued enjoyment of learning: he became deeply involved in the administration of the Smithsonian Institution as an ex-officio member of its Board of Regents.

In 1849, the issue of slavery remained unresolved in the territories. Taylor advocated admitting California and New Mexico as member states; both were likely to abolish slavery. Southerners were surprised to learn that the president, despite being a slave owner, did not support the introduction of slavery in the new territories because he believed the institution could not flourish in the arid Southwest. There was anger among southern party lines, where it was felt that making the territories free of slavery meant excluding the South from the national heritage. When Congress convened in December 1849, this discord manifested itself in the election for Speaker of the House, an election that lasted for weeks and dozens of rounds.

Fillmore countered Weed’s machinations by building a network of Whigs in New York State, their positions being publicized by creating a rival newspaper to Weed’s Albany Evening Journal. It was backed by wealthy New Yorkers. All pretense of friendship between Fillmore and Weed disappeared in November 1849, when they met in New York and accused each other.

Fillmore presided over some of the most important and passionate debates in American history as the Senate debated whether to allow slavery in the territories. The ongoing factional conflict had already had many debates when, on January 21, 1850, President Taylor sent a special message to Congress demanding the immediate admission of California and later New Mexico and that the Supreme Court would settle the boundary dispute in which Texas had claimed much of what is now New Mexico. On January 29, Henry Clay introduced what was called the Omnibus Bill. The bill would have brought successes to both north and south: it would have admitted California as a free state, organized territorial governments in New Mexico and Utah, and banned the importation of slaves into the District of Columbia for sale and export from it. It would also have tightened the Fugitive Slave Law, since resistance to enforcement in parts of the North was a constant Southern grievance. Clay’s law provided for the settlement of the Texas-New Mexico boundary dispute; the status of slavery in the territories would have been decided by those who lived there (known as popular sovereignty). Taylor was not enthusiastic about the bill and it stalled in Congress, but Fillmore, after hearing weeks of debate, notified Taylor in May 1850 that if senators voted equally on the bill, his vote, which would have been decisive, would have given him the bill. He did his best to maintain peace among the senators, recalling the vice president’s power to exclude them from meetings, but was blamed for failing to maintain it when, on April 17, a physical confrontation broke out between Henry S. Foote of Mississippi and Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, Foote pointing a gun at his colleague as Benton advanced toward him.

Succession amid the crisis

July 4, 1850 was a very hot day in Washington, and President Taylor, who attended the Fourth of July ceremonies, cooled off, probably with cold milk and cherries. What he consumed probably gave him gastroenteritis and he died on July 9. Taylor, nicknamed “Old Tough and Ready,” earned his reputation for toughness by campaigning in the military during the heat, and his sudden death came as a shock to the nation.

Fillmore had been recalled from the Senate floor on July 8 and joined cabinet members at the vigil outside Taylor’s White House bedroom. He received official notification of the president’s death, signed by the cabinet, on the evening of July 9 at his residence at the Willard Hotel. After learning the contents of the letter and spending a sleepless night, Fillmore went to the House of Representatives, where, in a joint session of Congress, he was sworn in as president before William Cranch, chief judge of the federal court for the District of Columbia, and the man before whom President Tyler was sworn in. Cabinet officials, as was customary when a new president took office, tendered their resignations, expecting Fillmore to refuse, allowing them to continue their work. Fillmore was sidelined by cabinet members, and the new president accepted the resignations, though he asked them to stay for a month, which most of them refused. Fillmore is the only president to succeed to office following the death of the president or the resignation of the president, who, at least initially, did not retain his predecessor’s cabinet. He was already in talks with Whig leaders and on July 20 began sending new nominations to the Senate, with Fillmore’s cabinet to be headed by Webster as secretary of state. Webster angered his Massachusetts constituents by supporting Clay’s bill, and as his term ended in 1851 he had no electoral future in his home state. Fillmore appointed his old law partner, Nathan Hall, as postmaster, a cabinet position that controlled many appointments. The new department heads were, for the most part, Compromise supporters like Fillmore.

The short break in politics following the grief over Taylor’s death has not reduced the crisis. Texas tried to assert its authority over New Mexico territory, and the state’s governor, Peter H. Bell, sent belligerent letters to President Taylor. Fillmore received one such letter after he became president. He reinforced federal troops in the area and warned Bell to keep the peace. By July 31, Clay’s bill was effectively dead, as all significant provisions had been removed except for the organization of Utah Territory – one of the Whig representatives said that “Mormons” were the only ones left in the bill. Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas, stepped to the forefront, with Clay’s agreement, proposing to break the law into individual parts that could be pieced together. Fillmore supported this strategy, with the bill split into five bills.

Fillmore sent a special message to Congress on August 6, 1850, disclosing Governor Bell’s letter and his response, warning that armed Texans could be considered intruders, and asked Congress to defuse tensions by passing the compromise. Without the Grand Triumvirate of John C. Calhoun, Webster, and Clay, which had long dominated the Senate, Douglas and others steered that body toward the package of laws supported by the administration. Every bill passed the Senate with the support of the faction that wanted it, plus a few members who were determined to see all the bills passed. The fight then moved to the House of Representatives, which had a northern majority because of population. Most controversial was the Fugitive Slave Act, whose provisions were anathema to abolitionists. Fillmore lobbied for Northern Whigs to abstain rather than oppose it, including New Yorkers – threatening to prevent the renomination of Rochester Congressman Abraham Schermerhorn, whose constituents included Frederick Douglass, if he voted against the bill. Through the legislative process various changes were made, including establishing a boundary between the New Mexico territory and the state of Texas – Texas would receive a sum of money to settle any claims. California was admitted as a free state, the slave trade in the district was ended, and the final status of slavery in New Mexico and Utah was to be settled later. Fillmore signed the laws as soon as they reached his desk, holding the Fugitive Slave Act for two days until he received a favorable opinion on its constitutionality from the new attorney general, John J. Crittenden. Although some Northerners were unhappy with the law, relief was widespread, as was the hope that it would solve the slavery problem.

Internal policy

The Fugitive Slave Law continued to be controversial after its adoption: southerners complained about the slow pace of implementation, but many in the North-East found its application highly offensive. Abolitionists decried the unfairness of the law: it severely punished any aid given to a runaway slave and, if captured, he was not given a fair trial and could not testify before a magistrate who would be paid more to decide he was a slave than to decide he was not. Nevertheless, Fillmore considered himself bound by his oath as president and the deal made to reach the Compromise to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. He did this even though some of the charges or attempts to return slaves ended badly for the government, with acquittal or with the slave taken from federal custody and freed by a Boston mob. Such cases were widely publicized in the North and South, and inflamed passions in both places, undermining the good feeling that followed the Compromise.

In August 1850, social reformer Dorothea Dix wrote to Fillmore, urging him to support her proposal in Congress for grants to fund asylums for the mentally ill in poverty. Although her proposal did not pass, they became friends, meeting personally and corresponding, continuing long after Fillmore’s presidency ended. In September of that year, Fillmore appointed Brigham Young, leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the first governor of Utah Territory. In gratitude, Young named the first territorial capital “Fillmore” and the surrounding county “Millard.”

A supporter of national infrastructure development, Fillmore signed bills to subsidize the Central Illinois Railroad from Chicago to Mobile and for a canal at Sault Sainte Marie. The 1851 completion of the Erie Railroad in New York prompted Fillmore and his cabinet to ride the first train from New York City to the shores of Lake Erie, along with many other politicians and dignitaries. Fillmore made many speeches along the way from the rear platform of the train, calling for acceptance of the Compromise, and then went on a tour of New England with Southern members of his cabinet. Although Fillmore asked Congress to authorize a transcontinental railroad, it did not do so until a decade later.

Fillmore has appointed a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court and made four appointments to U.S. district courts, including that of his law partner and law clerk, Nathan Hall, to the federal courthouse in Buffalo. When Supreme Court Justice Levi Woodbury died in September 1851, with the Senate not in session, Fillmore appointed Benjamin Robbins Curtis to the court. In December, after Congress convened, Fillmore made a formal nomination of Curtis, who was confirmed. Judge Curtis, objected in the slave case Dred Scott v. Sandford in 1857 and tendered his honorable resignation.

The death of Justice John McKinley in 1852 led to repeated unsuccessful attempts by the President to fill the vacancy. The Senate took no action on the appointment of New Orleans attorney Edward A. Bradford. Fillmore’s second choice, George Edmund Badger, asked that his name be withdrawn. Senator-elect Judah P. Benjamin declined to be appointed. The nomination of William C. Micou, a New Orleans attorney recommended by Benjamin, was not confirmed by the Senate. The vacancy was eventually filled after Fillmore’s term, when President Franklin Pierce nominated John Archibald Campbell, confirmed by the Senate.

Foreign policy

Fillmore supervised two very competent Secretaries of State, Daniel Webster, and after his death in 1852, Edward Everett, making all the important decisions. The President was particularly active in Asia and the Pacific, especially with regard to Japan, which at that time had banned almost all foreign contacts. American merchants and shipowners wanted Japan “open” for trade. This would not only allow trade, but would allow American ships to ask for food and water, and help in emergencies, without being punished. They were concerned that American sailors stranded on the Japanese coast were imprisoned as criminals. Fillmore and Webster sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry to get Japan to open up to relations with the outside world, by force if necessary. Although the Commodore did not arrive in Japan until after Fillmore’s term ended, Fillmore commanded the Perry Expedition.

Fillmore was a staunch opponent of European influence in Hawaii. France under Napoleon III wanted to annex Hawaii, but backed out after Fillmore issued a strong message warning that “the United States will not support any such action.” Taylor pressed Portugal to pay its claims to the US dating back to the War of 1812, and refused offers of arbitration; Fillmore obtained a favorable settlement.

Fillmore had difficulty with Cuba; many Southerners hoped to see the island as part of U.S. slave territory: Cuba was a colony of Spain where slavery was practiced. Venezuelan adventurer Narciso López recruited Americans for three unauthorised expeditions to Cuba, hoping to overthrow Spanish rule there. After the second attempt in 1850, López and some of his followers were indicted for violating the Neutrality Act, but were quickly acquitted by friendly juries in the South. López’s final expedition ended with his execution by the Spanish, who put several Americans in front of the firing squad, including Attorney General Crittenden’s grandson. This led to riots against the Spanish in New Orleans, causing their consul to flee; historian Elbert E. Smith, who wrote about the Taylor and Fillmore presidencies, suggested that Fillmore could have started a war against Spain if he had wanted to. Instead, Fillmore, Webster, and the Spanish worked out a series of measures to salvage the crisis without armed conflict. Many Southerners, including Whigs, supported the expeditionists, and Fillmore’s response helped split the party as the 1852 election approached.

A much-publicized event of Fillmore’s presidency was the arrival in late 1851 of Lajos Kossuth, the exiled leader of a Hungarian revolution against Austria. Kossuth wanted the United States to recognize Hungarian independence. Many Americans sympathized with the Hungarian rebels, especially German immigrants, who were coming to the US in large numbers and had become a major political force. Kossuth was supported by Congress, and Fillmore allowed a meeting at the White House after receiving word that Kossuth would not try to politicize it. Despite his promise, Kossuth gave a speech promoting his cause. American enthusiasm for Kossuth dissipated and he left for Europe; Fillmore refused to change American policy, remaining neutral.

Elections of 1852 and the end of the mandate

As the election of 1852 approached, Fillmore remained undecided whether to run for a full term as president. Secretary Webster had long coveted the office of president and, though past seventy, planned one last attempt to win the White House. Fillmore agreed with his old friend’s ambitions, but although he published a letter in late 1851 stating that he did not want a full term, he was reluctant to rule out a candidacy, fearing that the party would be captured by the Sewardi. Thus, as the national convention approached in Baltimore, to be held in June 1852, the leading candidates were Fillmore, Webster, and General Scott. Weed and Seward supported Scott; in late May, the Democrats nominated former New Hampshire Senator Franklin Pierce, who had left national politics nearly a decade before 1852, but whose profile became higher because of his military presence in the Mexican War. The nomination of Pierce, a Northerner with a close Southern view on slavery, united the Democrats and meant that the Whigs had a major candidate to challenge for the presidency.

At the time Fillmore was unpopular among Whig northerners for signing and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act, but he had considerable support from the South, where he was seen as the only candidate capable of uniting the party. Once the Convention adopted a party platform favoring the Compromise as a definitive solution to the slavery issue, Fillmore was willing to withdraw, but found that many of his supporters could not accept Webster and this withdrawal would lead to Scott’s nomination. The convention was deadlocked, and this persisted until Saturday, June 19, when 46 rounds of elections had been held; delegates recessed until Monday. Party leaders proposed a deal to both Fillmore and Webster: if the secretary could increase his vote count in the next few rounds of balloting, a few Fillmore supporters would join him in coming out on top; if that didn’t happen, Webster would withdraw in favor of Fillmore. The president agreed very quickly, but Webster delayed the decision until Monday morning. On the 48th ballot, delegates who supported Webster began to join Scott, and the general won the nomination on the 53rd ballot. Webster was much more unhappy with the result than was Fillmore, who refused the secretary’s resignation. Lacking the votes of many Southerners, and also of Northerners who depended on peaceful commerce, Scott was easily defeated by Pierce in November. Smith suggested that the Whigs might have had a better chance with Fillmore.

The final months of Fillmore’s term were uneventful. Webster died in October 1852, and towards his end Fillmore acted effectively as his own Secretary of State without incident, and Everett replaced him without incident. Fillmore had intended to make a moralizing speech to Congress on the slavery issue in his last annual message in December, but it was discussed in his cabinet and he was content to emphasize the prosperity of the nation, expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to serve it. Fillmore ended his term on March 4, 1853, succeeded by Pierce.

Tragedy and political turmoil

Fillmore was the first president to return to private life without being independently wealthy or in possession of real estate and, with no early pension, did not know how he would live up to the dignity of his former office. His friend, Judge Hall, assured him that it would be suitable for him to practice law in the superior courts of New York, and Fillmore intended to do so. The Fillmores planned to tour the South after leaving the White House, but Abigail caught a cold at President Pierce’s inauguration, which turned into pneumonia, and she died in Washington on March 30, 1853. A Fillmore Fillmore returned to Buffalo for the funeral. Being in mourning caused him to limit his social activities and his investment income was sufficient to pay for his necessities. He was again bereaved on July 26, 1854, when his only daughter, Mary, died of cholera.

The former president came out of seclusion in early 1854 when the debate over Senator Douglas’ Kansas-Nebraska bill engaged the nation. It would have opened the northern portion of the Louisiana Purchase to settlement, including slavery, and ended the northern limit on slavery under the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Fillmore decided to conduct a seemingly impolitic national tour, hoping to rally disillusioned Whig politicians to preserve the Union and gain support for his presidential bid, as he still had many supporters. This occupied much of the late winter and spring of 1854. Fillmore appeared in public inaugurating railroads and visiting Senator Clay’s grave, but also met secretly with a few politicians.

Such a comeback could not have been achieved under the auspices of the Whig Party, with its remnants divided by the Kansas-Nebraska bill (which passed with Pierce’s support). Many enemies of northern slavery, such as Seward, gravitated to a new party, the Republicans, but Fillmore did not find himself in that party. In the early 1850s there was considerable hostility to immigrants, especially Catholics, who had recently arrived in the United States in large numbers, and several organizations promoting a pro-existing-dweller policy against immigrants, including the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, sprang up in response. In 1854, the Order morphed into the American Party, which became known as Know Nothing because, in its early days, members were sworn to secrecy about internal discussions and if asked said they knew nothing about them. Many of Fillmore’s “National Whig” faction joined the Know Nothings by 1854 and influenced the organization to take up causes besides nativism. Know Nothing’s success in the 1854 election, in which they won in several northeastern states and showed strength in the South, encouraged Fillmore, who on January 1, 1855, sent a public letter warning against immigrant influence in American elections, soon joining the Order of the Star Spangled Banner.

Later that year, Fillmore went abroad, publicly declaring that since he had no position, he might as well travel. The trip was made on the advice of political friends, who felt that going on tour would avoid involvement in the contentious issues of the day, and he spent more than a year between March 1855 and June 1856 in Europe and the Middle East. Queen Victoria is said to have declared that the former President was the handsomest man she had ever seen, while his presence in the House of Commons gallery at the same time as Van Buren prompted a comment from John Bright MP. Fillmore was awarded an honorary degree in Civil Law at Oxford University. Fillmore declined the honour, explaining that he had neither the “literary nor the scholarly standing” to justify the distinction. He is also quoted as explaining that he “did not receive a classical education” and therefore could not understand the Latin text of the degree, adding that he believed “no one should accept a degree he cannot read”. Another possibility is that Fillmore refused to escape the interruptions and taunts with which Oxford students routinely subjected recipients of such honours.

Dorothea Dix preceded him to Europe and lobbied for better conditions for the mentally ill. They continued to correspond and met several times. In Rome, Fillmore was received in audience by Pope Pius IX. Fillmore carefully weighed the political pros and cons of meeting with the pope and almost gave up on the meeting when he was told he would have to kneel and kiss his hand. To avoid this, Pius remained seated throughout the meeting.

The 1856 campaign

Fillmore’s allies had full control of the American Party and arranged for him to secure the presidential nomination while he was in Europe. As Fillmore’s running mate, the Know Nothing convention chose Andrew Jackson Donelson of Kentucky, nephew by marriage to President Jackson. Fillmore returned in June 1856, arriving at a grand reception in New York City. He headed across the state to Buffalo, speaking at a series of meetings. These speeches were apparently in appreciation for the reception and therefore did not violate the custom for a former president to make campaign speeches. Fillmore warned that electing the Republican candidate, former California Senator John C. Frémont, who had no support in the South, would divide the Union and lead to civil war. Both Fillmore and the Democratic candidate, former Pennsylvania Senator James Buchanan, agreed that slavery was basically a state issue and not a federal government issue. Moreover, Fillmore talked about the immigration issue and focused on the division of the country, calling for preservation of the Union.

Once Fillmore returned home to Buffalo, he had no excuse to give speeches, and his campaign stalled in the summer and fall of 1856. Political appointees who had been Whigs, such as Weed, tended to join the Republican party, and Know Nothing had no experience in presenting anything but nativism to voters. Consequently, Fillmore’s pro-Union stance was largely ignored. Although the South was friendly to Fillmore, many feared that a Frémont victory would lead to secession, and some Fillmore sympathizers switched to Buchanan’s camp so that the anti-Fremont vote would not be split, which could lead to the Republican’s election. Scarry suggested that the events of 1856, including the conflict in the Kansas Territory and the caning administered to Charles Sumner by Senator Preston Brooks in the Senate, polarized the nation, making Fillmore’s moderate stance obsolete.

On Election Day, Buchanan won with 1,836,072 votes (45.3%) and 174 electoral votes to Frémont’s 1,342,345 votes (33.1%) and 114 electoral votes. Fillmore and Donelson finished third, earning 873,053 votes (21.6%) and winning the state of Maryland and 8 electoral votes. The American Party candidate lost badly in several southern states and was just under 8,000 votes short in Louisiana, Kentucky and Tennessee for the election of the President to be decided in the House of Representatives, where the specter of secession would have made the outcome uncertain.

Historian Allan Nevins wrote that Fillmore was not a Know Nothing or a nativist. He was not in the country when he was nominated and had not been consulted about the nomination. Moreover, “”without a word spoken or written it cannot be said that he adhered to the principles of the American Party.” He pursued national unity and felt that the American Party was “the only hope of forming a truly national party which would ignore this constant and disturbing agitation of slavery.”

Final years and death

With his defeat in 1856, Fillmore considered his political career over. He again felt inhibited to return to the practice of law. But his financial worries were put to rest on February 10, 1858, when Fillmore married Caroline McIntosh, a wealthy widow. Their combined wealth allowed them to buy a large house in Buffalo’s Niagara Square, where they lived for the rest of Millard Fillmore’s life. There, the Fillmores devoted themselves to entertaining and philanthropy, according to Smith, “they generously supported almost every cause imaginable.” Among these were the Buffalo Historical Society and the Buffalo General Hospital, which he helped found.

In the 1860 election, Fillmore voted for Senator Douglas, the candidate of the Northern Democrats. After the election, in which the Republican candidate, former Illinois Representative Abraham Lincoln, was elected, many expected Fillmore’s views, but he refused to take part in the secession crisis that followed, feeling he lacked influence. He criticized Buchanan’s inaction as the states left the Union, writing that while the federal government could not force a state, those who advocated secession should simply be considered traitors. When Lincoln arrived in Buffalo on his way to the site of his inauguration, Fillmore led the committee chosen to receive the president-elect, hosted him at his mansion and took him to church. After the war came, Fillmore supported Lincoln in his efforts to preserve the Union. He commanded, at age 45, the Union Continentals, a militia corps in the New York area. They trained to defend the Buffalo area in the event of a Confederate attack. They performed military drills and ceremonies at parades, funerals and other events. Union Continentals guarded Lincoln’s funeral train in Buffalo. They continued operations after the war, and Fillmore remained active with them almost until his death.

Despite Fillmore’s zeal in the war effort, he was attacked in many newspapers when he spoke early in 1864, calling for magnanimity toward the South at the end of the war when the financial and human cost of the war would be calculated. The Lincoln administration saw this as an attack on them, which could not be tolerated in an election year, and Fillmore was even called a traitor. This led to a lasting sense of enmity against Fillmore in many circles. In the 1864 presidential election, Fillmore endorsed Democratic candidate George B. McClellan for the presidency, believing that the Democratic Party’s plan of an immediate cessation of fighting and allowing the seceding states to return with slavery intact was the best chance for restoring the Union.

After Lincoln’s assassination in April 1865, black ink was thrown on Fillmore’s house because it was not draped in mourning like the others, although he was apparently out of town at the time, and once back he put black drapes on the windows. Although he retained his position as a leading citizen of Buffalo and was among those selected to escort Lincoln’s body as the funeral train passed through Buffalo, there was still plenty of anger against him for his positions taken during the war. Fillmore supported President Andrew Johnson’s Reconstruction policies, feeling that the nation needed to be reconciled as soon as possible. Most of his time was devoted to his civic activities. He helped Buffalo become the third American city, after Boston and Philadelphia, to have a permanent art gallery The Buffalo Academy of Fine Arts.

Fillmore was in good health almost to the end, but suffered a stroke in February 1874 and died after a second on March 8. Two days later, he was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo after a funeral procession attended by hundreds of notables; the U.S. Senate sent three members to honor its former president, including Lincoln’s first vice president, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine.

According to his biographer, Scarry: “No president of the United States … has been ridiculed like Millard Fillmore.” He attributed much of this offense to a tendency to denigrate presidents who served in office in the years before the Civil War as having leadership deficiencies. For example, President Harry S. Truman “characterized Fillmore as a weak, trivial player who would do nothing to offend anyone,” responsible in part for the Civil War. Anna Prior, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 2010, said Fillmore’s name signified mediocrity. Another Fillmore biographer, Finkelman, commented, “on the central issues of the era, his vision was narrow and his legacy even worse … in the end, Fillmore was always on the wrong side of the great moral and political issues.” Rayback nevertheless applauded “the warmth and wisdom with which he defended the Union.”

Although Fillmore became a most forgotten cult figure as president, Smith considered him “a conscientious president” who chose to honor his oath of office and enforce the Fugitive Slave Law rather than govern based on his personal preferences. Paul G. Calabresi and Christopher S. Yoo, in their study of presidential power, considered Fillmore “a faithful executor of the laws of the United States – for better or worse.” But, according to Smith, the imposition of the law gave Fillmore an undeservedly pro-Southern reputation. Fillmore’s place in history also suffered because “even those who give him high marks for his support of compromise did so almost grudgingly, probably because of his Know Nothing candidacy in 1856.” Smith argued that Fillmore’s association with Know Nothing seems much worse in retrospect than was seen at the time, and that the former president was not motivated by nativism in his candidacy.

Benson Lee Grayson suggested that the Fillmore administration’s ability to avoid potential problems is often overlooked. Fillmore’s constant attention to Mexico avoided a resumption of the war and laid the groundwork for the Gadsden Treaty during Pierce’s presidency. Meanwhile, the Fillmore administration resolved a dispute with Portugal left over from the Taylor administration, smoothed a disagreement with Peru over unclaimed islands containing guano deposits, and peacefully settled disputes with Britain, France, and Spain over Cuba. All of these crises were resolved without the United States waging war. Grayson also applauded Fillmore’s firm stand against Texas’ ambitions in New Mexico during the crisis of 1850. Fred I. Greenstein and Dale Anderson praised Fillmore for his steadfastness in his first months in office, noting that Fillmore “is usually described as calm, friendly, and conventional, but these terms understate the strength evoked by his effectiveness in resolving the Texas-New Mexico crisis, his determination in replacing Taylor’s entire cabinet, and his effectiveness in advancing the achievement of the Compromise of 1850.”

Millard Fillmore, along with his wife Abigail, established the first White House library. There are a number of memories of Millard Fillmore: his home in East Aurora still stands, and in some places he is honored at his birthplace (where a replica cottage was dedicated in 1963 by the Millard Fillmore Memorial Association). A statue of Fillmore exists near Buffalo City Hall. At the university he helped found, the Millard Fillmore Academic Center and Millard Fillmore College bear his name. On February 18, 2010, the United States Mint released the thirteenth coin in the Presidential $1 Coin Program bearing Fillmore’s likeness.

According to Fillmore’s assessment by the Miller Center for Public Affairs at the University of Virginia:

Any assessment of a President who was in office a century and a half ago must be reflected upon, taking into account the interesting times in which he lived. Fillmore’s political career encompassed the winding course toward the two-party system we know today. The Whigs were not cohesive enough to survive the complications of slavery, while parties like the Anti-Masons and Know Nothing were too extreme. When, as president, Fillmore was part of the pro-slavery elements in enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law, he nevertheless guaranteed to be the last Whig president. The first modern two-party system, Whigs and Democrats, succeeded only in dividing the nation in two by the 1850s, and seven years later, the election of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, guaranteed the advent of the Civil War.

Sources

  1. Millard Fillmore
  2. Millard Fillmore
  3. ^ Cabana originală a fost demolată în 1852, dar în 1965, Millard Fillmore Memorial Association folosind materiale de la o cabană similară, a construit o replică, aflată în Moravia.[8]
  4. ^ Carolina de Sud nu a folosit votul popular pentru alegerea electorilor, aceștia fiind aleși de legislativ.
  5. ^ Până în 1913, senatorii erau aleși de legislativul statului de unde proveneau, nu de către populație.
  6. ^ New Mexico și Arizona de azi, mai puțin Achiziția Gadsden
  7. Jörg Nagler: Millard Fillmore (1850–1853). Die Verschärfung der Sklavereifrage. In: Christof Mauch (Hrsg.): Die amerikanischen Präsidenten. 5., fortgeführte und aktualisierte Auflage. München 2009, S. 158–162, hier: S. 159.
  8. Fillmore fue vicepresidente bajo el presidente Zachary Taylor y se convirtió en presidente tras la muerte de Taylor el 9 de julio de 1850. Antes de la adopción de la Vigésima Quinta Enmienda (1967), una vacante en el cargo de vicepresidente no se llenaba hasta la siguiente elección e inauguración.
  9. a b Bahles, Gerald (2010). “Millard Fillmore: Foreign Affairs”. American President: Miller Center of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-09-07
  10. Jusqu’à l’adoption du 25e amendement en 1967, il n’y avait pas de statut précis pour le vice-président. Ce n’est qu’à partir de là que la nomination d’un vice-président fut rendue constitutionnelle en cas de vacance du poste.
  11. L’Inauguration Day devait avoir lieu un dimanche, or le président Zachary Taylor avait refusé de prêter serment ce jour-là en raison de ses convictions religieuses. La plupart des constitutionnalistes sont néanmoins d’accord pour dire que le mandat de Taylor et de Fillmore à bien commencé le 4 mars 1849, malgré la prêtation de serment le lendemain.
  12. Zachary Taylor et Lewis Cass remportent 15 États chacun. La bascule de l’État de New York en faveur de Taylor empêcha la Chambre des représentants d’élire le président, ce qui s’était produit en 1800 et 1824.
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