Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Guess the 13th President of the United States...

If you said, Millard Fillmore, you are the winner!

If you're like me, however, failed by public education and your own memory, you probably can't name very many presidents according to their numerical terms, and Millard Fillmore probably wasn't on the top of your list. In fact, when I recently mused to my brother, "Can you believe that we had a president named Millard Fillmore?" he replied with all seriousness, "No way! We did?" Precisely my point; who knows anything about President Fillmore?

For starters, he served as Vice President from 1849-50 and then acceded to the office of President from 1850-53, after President Zachary Taylor's unexpected and early death. Millard is actually his mother's maiden name (at least there's some explanation for it, right?). He was a self-fashioned man from New York who eventually became a lawyer and started his own law firm and also founded the private University of Buffalo. In 1828 he was elected the the New York Assembly and then Congress until 1843, when he resigned to campaign for Governor of New York (an unsuccessful campaign). Fillmore was against the extension of slavery in the new lands, but he oversaw the Compromise of 1850--which, if you remember your American History was an attempt to solve the disputes over slavery in the territories after the Mexican-American war. The Compromise was to alternately admit slave states and free states to preserve the balance as a means of preserving the unity of the United States.

After his term in the White House, though, he was not very popular because he signed the Fugitive Slave Law which required the capture and return of any escaped slaves, even if they had made it to free territory, and was not re-elected (he later ran on the Know-Nothing ticket opposing Democrat James Buchanan and lost again). Although he is credited with the installation of the first bathtub into the White House, this is actually a tall-tale created by H.L. Mencken 1917 in a fictitious account on the "history of the bathtub." Too bad. That 's a pretty cool legacy. Boo :( He is said to have been quite a pleasant person with a soft eloquence and perhaps low self-confidence. See his picture below. I hope you've this episode of Who's Who?

Portrait of Millard Fillmore
Portrait of Millard Fillmore

1 comment:

  1. The Funny Thing Is:

    I actually knew that Millard Fillmore was the 13th president. I'm tutoring a girl in Lit. and History now and we've been memorizing the presidents in order.

    I kind of like Good old Mill-Fill.