Millard Fillmore

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Millard Fillmore
Missing image

Order:13th President
Term of Office:July 9, 1850 - March 4, 1853
Followed:Zachary Taylor
Succeeded by:Franklin Pierce
Date of BirthJanuary 7, 1800
Place of Birth:Summerhill, New York
Date of Death:March 8, 1874
Place of Death:Buffalo, New York
First Ladies:Abigail Fillmore (wife)
Mary Abigail Fillmore (daughter)
Political Party:Whig
Vice President:none

Millard Fillmore (January 7, 1800March 8, 1874) was the thirteenth (18501853) President of the United States and 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. Fillmore served out Taylor's term and was never elected to the presidency in his own right. He was the last president from the Whig Party.



Early life

Fillmore was born in extreme poverty to Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard in Summerhill, New York as the second of eight children and eldest son. He was first apprenticed to a fuller to learn that trade. He struggled to obtain an education under frontier conditions. Several years later, Fillmore moved to Buffalo, New York to continue his studies. He was admitted to the bar in 1823 and began his practice of law in Aurora. In 1828 he served in the New York legislature. He worked his way up through the Whig party, eventually being selected as Zachary Taylor's running mate. During that time he served in the House of Representatives and was Comptroller of New York. It was thought that the obscure, self-made candidate from New York would complement Taylor, a slave-holding military man from the south.

The Vice-Presidency

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.


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Statue of Fillmore outside City Hall in downtown Buffalo, New York

Thus the sudden ascension 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.

Later Life

Upon completing his presidency, Fillmore returned to Buffalo, where he served as chancellor of the University of Buffalo. 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 at 11:10 p.m. on March 8, 1874 of the after effects of a stroke with his last words alleged to be, upon being fed some soup, "the nourishment is palatable."

To this day Millard Fillmore remains the last U.S. president who was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

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. See Bathtub Hoax for more. More factual is, having found the White House devoid of books, Millard Fillmore initiated the White House library.

On January 7 each year a ceremony is held at his gravesite in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.


Fillmore postage stamp
Fillmore postage stamp
PresidentMillard Fillmore1850–1853
Vice PresidentNone 
Secretary of StateDaniel Webster1850–1852
 Edward Everett1852–1853
Secretary of the TreasuryThomas Corwin1850–1853
Secretary of WarCharles Conrad1850–1853
Attorney GeneralJohn J. Crittenden1850–1853
Postmaster GeneralNathan K. Hall1850–1852
 Samuel D. Hubbard1852–1853
Secretary of the NavyWilliam A. Graham1850–1852
 John P. Kennedy1852–1853
Secretary of the InteriorThomas McKennan1850
 Alexander Stuart1850–1853

Supreme Court appointments

Fillmore appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

States Admitted to the Union

Related articles

History Clipart and Pictures

External links

Preceded by:
U.S. Congressman for the 32nd District of New York
Succeeded by:
Thomas Cutting Love
Preceded by:
Thomas Cutting Love
U.S. Congressman for the 32nd District of New York
Succeeded by:
William A. Moseley
Preceded by:
Luther Bradish
Whig Party nominee for Governor of New York
1844 (lost)
Succeeded by:
John Young
Preceded by:
Theodore Frelinghuysen
Whig Party Vice Presidential candidate
1848 (won)
Succeeded by:
William A. Graham
Preceded by:
George M. Dallas
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1849(a)July 9, 1850(b)
Succeeded by:
William R. King
Preceded by:
Zachary Taylor
President of the United States
July 9, 1850(c)March 4, 1853
Succeeded by:
Franklin Pierce
Preceded by:
American Party Presidential candidate
1856 (lost)
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Winfield Scott
Whig Party Presidential candidate
1856 (lost)
Succeeded by:

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