US President Millard Fillmore | Last of the Whigs

US President Millard Fillmore | Last of the Whigs


This history series article 'Last of the Whigs' is about a less known pre-civil war era US President Millard Fillmore whose policies proved the elephant of Porus for Whig party. He was the 13th president of USA.

Personal Life

He was born on January 7, 1800, in New York. He had a very poor background. His father was a farmer, he struggled for the good education.  At the age of 19, he fell in the love with his teacher Abigail, who was two years elder than him. He was professionally a lawyer. Abigail inspired him for law education. At the age of 26, they married. They had two children. She caught pneumonia during the inauguration ceremony of 14th US president Franklin Pierce and died just after one month leaving the white house. She established the first formal library in White House.

Fillmore Political Career

He was a Whig (belonged to the Whig party) and was last US president from this party, this earned his nickname “Last of the Whigs”. He proved very successful lawyer and ran a well-famed law firm in New York. In 1828 he was elected representative of New York State Assembly. In 1833, he became US Congress member and remained the member of U.S. House of Representatives till 1945.

Fillmore as US President

In 1848 election he was elected as vice president under Zachary Taylor. Zachary Taylor died in one year. In 1850, he took the office of US President on the death of Zachary Taylor. He changed his predecessor cabinet altogether. During his presidency, he started communication with Japan for open trade. He protected the Hawaiian Islands from French occupation when he warned Napoleon III regarding potential US response in any such French attempt. The most noteworthy action was the compromise of 1850.

The Compromise of 1850 and fall of Whig Party

Principally, he was against the slavery. Despite being opponent of slavery he was in favor of reconciliation between south and north regarding this issue. In contrast to Zachary Taylor’s uncompromising stance on Union authority and slavery issue, Fillmore was quite lenient and in pursue of compromise. Some of the important clauses are these.  

In 1850, series of bills reflecting Fillmore ideology were passed by Congress that are collectively known as ‘Compromise of 1850’. The intention behind these laws was to please both south and north and establish a long-lasting peace but eventually, it fired back.

According to compromise of 1850, California was admitted in the union as a free state. Texas abandoned its claim to New Mexico areas; in lieu of giving up the claim, they were compensated monetarily. New Mexico and Utah were granted territorial status. According to a new law, the slave trade was abolished in District of Colombia but slavery lasted.

 According to the Fugitive Slave Act, the escaped slaves of South would be returned to their owners, even the federal officers will ensure it. It was one of the most controversial law. This caused quite unrest and retaliation in the North. Whig party could not recover from the side effects of it and collapsed within few years.

Post-Presidency

Whig party did not nominate him for 1852 presidential election. In 1856 presidential election, he participated with the nomination of Know-Nothing Party. He lost badly and could only manage Maryland electoral votes. Later, Fillmore married a rich widow in 1858. He resumed his law practice and remained opponent of Ibrahim Lincoln throughout the civil war.

By large, he is remembered as an un-inspiring president who took office accidentally and his policies on slavery issue proved nails to Whig party coffin. He died on March 8, 1874, in New York.


 

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