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Millard Fillmore: 13th President: Fighter for Freedom

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

Basic Facts

QuestionAnswer

Born

in New York; Jan. 7, 1800

President Number

13th

Party

Whig Party

Military Service

New York, Militia - Major

Wars Served During

Mexican-American War, American Civil War

How old at Presidency

50 years old

Term of Office

July 10,1850 - March 3, 1853

How long was he President

less than 3 years

Vice-President

none

Age and Year Died

74 years old in March 8, 1874

Cause of Death

Unknown

Millard Fillmore's Political Career Career

Millard Fillmore was born January 7, 1800, in what was called the Finger Lakes Country of New York. He was the son of a poor New York farmer and grew up working on a farm, clearing land and raising crops. When Fillmore was fifteen years old, he was sent to a cloth dresser to work as his apprentice. The man he worked for treated him very poorly, to escape working for him, he borrowed $30 to buy his freedom. He then had to hike over a hundred miles to get back to his log cabin.

When he was 18, he attended his first school. His teacher was a redheaded woman named Abigail Powers, whom he adored. Seven years later, they married. At 23, he was admitted to the bar and started working as a law clerk. He eventually went on to become a lawyer, where he moved his practice to Buffalo. He was elected to the New York State Assembly, due to his excellent relationship with a Whig politician named Thurlow Weed. He then became a Congressman and served eight years as a member of the House of Representatives.

Taylor Dies and Leaves Filmore President.

In 1848, the Whig party elected him as Vice President. He was present in the Senate for many of the debates on the Compromise of 1850. Although Fillmore never publicly vocalized his opinion on the compromise while Vice-President, he had confided with someone that if there ever were a tie vote on the bill, he would vote in favor of it, despite President Taylor's opposition to it.

Unexpectedly, President Taylor died from sunstroke, leaving the presidency to Millard, who was acting Vice-President at the time. He became the 13th President of the United States and the last President who was not affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties since he was part of the Whig party.

Fillmore and Donelson 1856

United States political poster for American party

United States political poster for American party

Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act

When he came into office, the issue of slavery was very prominent. Northerners wanted to end slavery, while Southerners felt that slavery should expand westward. So when the presidency changed from Taylor to Fillmore, the political climate changed abruptly. President Taylor's Cabinet resigned; therefore, Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster to Secretary of State, which showed allegiance to the moderate Whigs that favored the Compromise of 1850.

Clay became exhausted and left Washington, which caused Senator Stephen A. Douglas from Illinois to take the lead. Fillmore then stated he was in favor of the compromise, which forced the northern Whigs that were in Congress to step away from their insistence that all the land gained by the Mexican War should be closed to slavery. This stipulation was the Wilmot Proviso.

Douglas strategized by breaking down the Compromise of 1850 into five different bills, which then went before the Senate to be voted on. They included:

  • to make California a free state
  • to settle the Texas boundary
  • to grant territorial status to New Mexico
  • to allow federal officers to assist in finding fugitive slaves, also known as the Fugitive Slave Act
  • abolish slavery in Washington, D.C.

Each bill passed; Fillmore signed them all by September 20th. The Fugitive Slave Act was very upsetting for the northern Whigs that had supported him previously. It allowed federal officers to bring fugitive slaves back to their slave owners, which invoked a lot of anger to those who were against slavery. Some people even attacked the federal marshals that had captured slaves in their custody. This decision alone deprived him of the Presidential nomination in 1852.

In the end, the compromise did not accomplish what it hoped to achieve. Instead, it only served as a temporary truce. Many remained angry with Fillmore for his support in the Fugitive Slave Act, which may have contributed to the disintegration of the Whig party.

Fillmore did run one more time for the president, but not as a Whig. He refused to join the Republican Party but did accept the nomination by the American Party. He later supported President Johnson but was very against President Lincoln.

On March 8th in 1874, Millard Fillmore died of unknown causes at the age of 74.

Statue of Millard Fillmore outside City Hall in Buffalo, New York.

Statue of Millard Fillmore outside City Hall in Buffalo, New York.

Fun Facts

  • He was the last president to not have an affiliation with either the Democratic or Republican parties.
  • The first president to have a stepmother.
  • He married his school teacher.
  • While he was president, indoor plumbing and a bathtub were placed in the White House.
  • His wife Abigail turned a room in the White House into a library. She received $250 to buy books for the library.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Official Presidential portrait of Millard Fillmore

List of American Presidents

1. George Washington

16. Abraham Lincoln

31. Herbert Hoover

2. John Adams

17. Andrew Johnson

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

3. Thomas Jefferson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

33. Harry S. Truman

4. James Madison

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. James Monroe

20. James Garfield

35. John F. Kennedy

6. John Quincy Adams

21. Chester A. Arthur

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Andrew Jackson

22. Grover Cleveland

37. Richard M. Nixon

8. Martin Van Buren

23. Benjamin Harrison

38. Gerald R. Ford

9. William Henry Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

39. James Carter

10. John Tyler

25. William McKinley

40. Ronald Reagan

11. James K. Polk

26. Theodore Roosevelt

41. George H. W. Bush

12. Zachary Taylor

27. William Howard Taft

42. William J. Clinton

13. Millard Fillmore

28. Woodrow Wilson

43. George W. Bush

14. Franklin Pierce

29. Warren G. Harding

44. Barack Obama

15. James Buchanan

30. Calvin Coolidge

45. Donald Trump

Sources

  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Millard Filmore. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/millardfillmore
  • History.com Staff. (2009). Compromise of 1850. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://www.history.com/topics/compromise-of-1850
  • Sullivan, G. (2001). Mr. President: A book of U.S. presidents. New York: Scholastic.
  • U.S. Presidential Fun Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2016, from http://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/history/presidential-fun-facts/#geo-washington.jpg

Questions & Answers

Question: What is one important change Millard Fillmore made during his presidency?

Answer: Millard Fillmore's greatest contribution in foreign affairs was in progress while he was President, but it was not finished until after he left office. Fillmore ordered the Perry Expedition, which sought to begin foreign trade with Japan. Japan, up until this point, was closed to all trade with the United States. Americans would be punished if they sought food or even emergency provisions from Japan. Eventually, this did result in the United States being able to trade with Japan. Unfortunately, he did not see this happen during his Presidency, but only as a result of it.

© 2016 Angela Michelle Schultz