Tuesday, April 8, 2008

#13 - Millard Fillmore, 1850-1853

What? We had a President named Millard? And he was Vice President for a guy named Zachary? Who were these people?

Millard Fillmore was born on the "frontier" of New York State. (I will say here that I grew up on Long Island, which is just east of "the City" and that everything else was "upstate." But back then, New York really did have a frontier.) Good old Millard was born near the Finger Lakes and ran a successful law practice in East Aurora, near Buffalo, New York. In addition to being a member of the House of Representatives, he was Comptroller of New York when he was elected as Vice President.

Fillmore, as Vice President, presided over the Senate during the divisive debates over the Compromise of 1850. When Zachary Taylor died, Fillmore was thrust into the presidency. Taylor's cabinet resigned and Fillmore plucked Daniel Webster out of the Senate to serve as Secretary of State. Webster was one of the great orators in the debate. Henry Clay, another of the great debaters over the deal, left Washington exhausted, leaving the debate in the hands of Stephen A. Douglas. The Compromise of 1850 was finally hammered out (shortly after Fillmore pledged his support to it) and it was passed and signed into law in September of that year.

There were five provisions of the Compromise of 1850:
  1. Admit California as a free state
  2. Settle the Texas boundary and compensate her.
  3. Grant territorial status to New Mexico
  4. Place Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives
  5. Abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

Ultimately, it was Fillmore's support of the Fugitive Slave Act (#4 above) that cost him the nomination of his party in 1852, making Fillmore a less than one term president. By this time in history, most believe that civil war was going to happen, the Compromise of 1860 did delay it for another ten years. The Whig Party fell apart in the late 1850s, but Fillmore refused to join the Republicans. He accepted the nomination of the "Know-Nothing" party for the presidency in 1856, which was won by James Buchanan (but we have to wait two weeks for that one - J in PA, are you writing that one?)

The Facts
  • Born January 7, 1800 in Locke Township (now Summerhill), Cayuga County, New York
  • Died March 8, 1874 in Buffalo, New York (age 74)
  • Party: Whig
  • Fillmore was the last member of the Whig party to hold the Presidency. His last words are alleged to be, "my only regret in death is that the Whig dies with me."
  • In 1846, he founded the private University of Buffalo, which became part of the state system and is the largest college in the SUNY system. He served as the first Chancellor, continuing during his presidency and returned to Buffalo following his time in Washington.
  • Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as the first governor of the Utah Territory. As a result, you should not be surprise to find Millard County and the city of Fillmore in Utah today.
  • Fillmore is responsible for starting the White House library, when he arrived there in 1850 and found no books.
  • In addition to Webster serving as Secretary of State, Fillmore's other Secretary of State, was Edwin Everett, who is notable for being the long winded orator, who spoke ad nauseum prior to Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.
  • Fillmore was one of two presidents to have been an indentured servant.
  • Fillmore authorized Commodore Matthew Perry's trip to Japan, although Perry did not reach Japan until after Fillmore was out of office.


Anna van Schurman said...

Not only is the bulldog that Pete won for me at the LA County Fair called Millard, we have actually stayed overnight in Fillmore, UT. Oh yes, we know about Millard Fillmore.

Amy said...

No info on the other indentured president?

And the history of the millardfilmore.org site is kind of funny, in a pathetic way. My favorite part?

"Virtualology created an environment where students published their work on URLS named for the topic of their research. . . . The concept, however, faltered with the collapse of internet advertising revenue in 2001. Additionally students and teachers in 1999-2001 were not internet savvy and there was only a minor interest in the online student publishing opportunities."

— http://virtualology.com/aboutus/

Unknown said...

Dude -- ...Long Island, which is just west of "the City" ...

Does that make Western New York southeast of the city????

Brave Astronaut said...

Anna - Glad to hear that Millard is not totally forgotten.

Amy - I got that piece of information from the "always reliable" Wikipedia, so no, no more information on the other, yet. And yes, the Millard Fillmore site is quite bizarre.

C - corrected. I had a little directional issue. So what's the news?!?!

Amy said...

The other was Andrew Johnson -- according to the "always reliable" Wiki Answers ; )

Anonymous said...

Well, BA, I think I'll have to pass on writing the guest post bio for the only PA president. As a lifelong Pennsylvanian who shares an alma mater (and is actually employed by same) with #15, I think I may be too close to the topic, and would probably craft a terribly long (though not Edward Everett long) narrative. (How sad and pathetic is that?) But I will be upset if a certain link is not included in your list when JB comes up in two weeks.

Brave Astronaut said...

Amy - I swear, if we don't make you into an archivist, we are not doing our jobs well enough.

J in PA - I hope you will be happy with the post, which I finished the other day. I even incorporated some of your comments to me from your email based on the significance of the date on which the post will appear.