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Millard Fillmore: Significant Facts and Brief Biography


Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore

Library of Congress

Life span: Born: January 7, 1800, Locke Port, New York.
Died: March 8, 1874, Buffalo, New York, at the age of 74.

Presidential term: July 8, 1850 - March 4, 1853.

Millard Fillmore was serving as vice president to President Zachary Taylor, and became the 13th President of the United States when Taylor died of a digestive illness.

Accomplishments: Fillmore's administration is closely tied to the intense political battling over slavery which led to the passage of the Compromise of 1850.

As the various bills which would become the compromise were being debated in the U.S. Senate, Fillmore was serving as vice president, and thus presided over much of the debate. It was a very contentious time on Capitol Hill.

After Fillmore became president he sent a message to Congress urging passage of the Compromise of 1850 and he eventually signed the various components into law.

Supported by: Fillmore was supported by the Whig Party during the years of his greatest political influence.

Opposed by: Being affiliated with the Whigs, Fillmore was generally opposed by the Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson and his successors.

Presidential campaigns: Fillmore was not elected to the presidency, but rather to the vice presidency. And as the candidacy of his running mate, Zachary Taylor, was largely based on Taylor having been a hero of the Mexican War, Fillmore did not play much of a role in the campaign.

After becoming president, Fillmore was not highly motivated to run for a term on his own. However, he reluctantly attempted to gain the Whig nomination for the election of 1852. In an epic brokered convention, Fillmore lost out to General Winfield Scott, whom the Whigs nominated on the 53rd ballot.

Fillmore, in 1856, after the Whig Party had essentially fallen apart, ran for president again as the candidate of the Know-Nothing Party. His campaign was disastrous, perhaps one of the worst presidential campaigns in history.

Spouse and family: Fillmore married Abigail Powers on February 5, 1826. They had two daughters.

Abigail Fillmore caught a cold at the inauguration ceremony for Fillmore's successor, President Franklin Pierce, on March 4, 1853. Her condition worsened, and she died on March 30, 1853, at a hotel in Washington, D.C.

Education: Fillmore was apprenticed to a cloth maker in his youth, but also attended schools and was able to study law under a judge in New York State.

Early career: Taking a job as a clerk in a law office in 1822, Fillmore was able to gain enough practical experience to be admitted to the bar in 1823. He established himself as a lawyer, and through an affiliation with publisher Thurlow Weed, a powerful figure in New York State politics, Fillmore entered the political realm.

Running on the ticket of the Anti-Masonic Party, a short-lived but popular political party of the time, Fillmore was elected to the New York State assembly in 1829.

As an Anti-Mason, Fillmore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1833, and the following year he joined the young Whig Party. As a Whig congressman in the early 1840s Fillmore chaired the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.

Fillmore ran for governor of New York in 1844 and lost, but was elected to a statewide office, New York comptroller, in 1847.

In 1848 Fillmore became a leading contender for the vice presidential slot on the ticket with Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor. Fillmore actually had little influence on Taylor's administration, though he became president when Taylor became ill and died in July 1850.

Later career: After leaving politics, Fillmore returned to New York State. During the Civil War he commanded a local militia group formed as a home guard unit. He also helped to found the Buffalo Historical Society and participated in other civic pursuits.

Death and funeral: Fillmore died on March 8, 1874, after suffering a stroke. He was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo, New York.

Legacy: Like most presidents in the two decades before the Civil War, Fillmore struggled with a nation that was essentially tearing itself apart. But his role in urging the passage of the Compromise of 1850 makes him stand out as someone who took an active role in the unfolding crisis, and at least helped to delay the Civil War by a decade.

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