Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800 - March 8 , 1874) was the the thirteenth
(1850 - 1853) President of the United States being the second President
to succeed to the office from the Vice Presidency on the death of the predecessor.
He succeeded Zachary Taylor, who died of acute indigestion.
Abigail Powers (wife)
Mary Abigail Fillmore (daughter)
Political Party :
Vice President :
Born in extreme poverty, he worked his way up through the Whig party, eventually
being selected as Zachary Taylor 's running mate. It was thought that the
obscure, self-made candidate from New York would complement Taylor, a slave-holding
military man from the south. Nevertheless, the two men came to a head on
the slavery issue in the new western territories taken from Mexico in the
Mexican-American War . Taylor wanted the new states to be free states,
while Fillmore supported slavery in those states in order to appease the
South. In his own words: "God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an
existing evil ... and we must endure it and give it such protection as
is guaranteed by the Constitution."
Fillmore presided over the Senate during the months of nerve-wracking
debates over the Compromise of 1850. He made no public comment on the merits
of the compromise proposals, but a few days before President Taylor's death,
he intimated to him that if there should be a tie vote on Henry Clay's
bill, he would vote in favor of it.
Thus the sudden accession of Fillmore to the Presidency in July 1850
brought an abrupt political shift in the administration. Taylor's Cabinet
resigned and President Fillmore at once appointed Daniel Webster to be
Secretary of State, thus proclaiming his alliance with the moderate Whigs
who favored the Compromise.
A bill to admit California still aroused all the violent arguments for
and against the extension of slavery, without any progress toward settling
the major issues.
Clay, exhausted, left Washington to recuperate, throwing leadership
upon Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. At this critical juncture,
President Fillmore announced in favor of the Compromise of 1850 . On August
6 , 1850 , he sent a message to Congress recommending that Texas be paid
to abandon her claims to part of New Mexico.
This helped influence a critical number of northern Whigs in Congress
away from their insistence upon the Wilmot Proviso --the stipulation that
all land gained by the Mexican War must be closed to slavery.
Douglas's effective strategy in Congress combined with Fillmore's pressure
from the White House to give impetus to the Compromise movement. Breaking
up Clay's single legislative package, Douglas presented five separate bills
to the Senate:
Admit California as a free state.
Settle the Texas boundary and compensate her.
Grant territorial status to New Mexico.
Place Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives.
Abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia.
Each measure obtained a majority, and by September 20, President Fillmore
had signed them into law. Webster wrote, "I can now sleep of nights."
Another important legacy of Fillmore's administration was the opening
of Japan to American trade under Commodore Matthew Perry .
Some of the more militant northern Whigs remained irreconcilable, refusing
to forgive Fillmore for having signed the Fugitive Slave Act. They helped
deprive him of the Presidential nomination in 1852 .
Within a few years it was apparent that although the Compromise had
been intended to settle the slavery controversy, it served rather as an
uneasy sectional truce.
Upon completing his presidency, Fillmore returned to Buffalo, where
he served as rector of the local university. As the Whig Party disintegrated
in the 1850's, Fillmore refused to join the Republican Party; but, instead,
in 1856 accepted the nomination for President of the Know Nothing, or American,
Party. Throughout the Civil War he opposed President Lincoln and during
Reconstruction supported President Johnson. He died in 1874 with his last
words, upon being fed some soup on his deathbed, were "The nourishment
The myth that Millard Fillmore installed the White House 's first bathtub
was started by H. L. Mencken in a joke column published on December 28
, 1917 in the New York Evening Mail.