Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore

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Millard Fillmore, the son of a poor farmer, was born in Cayuga County, in 1800. After a brief schooling he found work as a clerk in the law office of a county judge. By 1823 he gained admission to the bar in Erie County and moved to Buffalo to practice law.

Fillmore became involved in politics and in 1828 was elected to the New York legislature. He joined the Whig Party and in 1832 won election to Congress. He soon became one of the most important figures in the party and in 1848 presidential candidate Zachary Taylor selected him as his running mate.

Taylor obtained 1,360,101 votes and defeated the Democratic Party candidate, Lewis Cass (1,220,544) and Martin Van Buren (291,263) of the Free Soil Party.

The great issue before the nation was the problem of slavery in the land taken from Mexico. New Mexico and California were being ruled by military governors but Zachary Taylor favoured them becoming part of the United States. This became more complicated after the people of California and New Mexico approved constitutions prohibiting slavery. Taylor's son-in-law, Jefferson Davis and John Calhoun, led the pro-slavery faction in Congress that opposed the admission of California and New Mexico as free states.

Zachary Taylor died on 9th July, 1850 and was replaced by Fillmore as president. Fillmore, who detested slavery, but wanted "to get rid of it without destroying free government". He therefore signed the Compromise of 1850 and tried to enforce the Fugitive Slave Law. This upset the radical wing of the Whig Party and he failed to win the presidential nomination in 1852.

After the defeat of Winfield Scott, the Whigs split into two factions. The radicals formed the Republican Party and the conservatives the American Party. Horace Greeley called them the "Know-Nothing" party.

In 1856 Fillmore was nominated for president and one of his main policies was the demand for a 21 year residence in the United States for all foreigners before naturalization. He also called for non-interference with slavery in the territories and a victory for John C. Fremont and the Republican Party would result in the South seceding from the Union.

In the election James Buchanan (Democratic Party) won with 1,838,169 votes. John C. Fremont got 1,341,264 and Fillmore came third with 874,534 and the only state he won was Maryland.

In the 1860 presidential election Fillmore supported John Bell and the Constitutional Union Party. Although he opposed Abraham Lincoln he supported the Union Army during the American Civil War. Millard Fillmore died in 1874.

Millard Fillmore

M illard Fillmore became president unexpectedly in 1850 upon the sudden death from a stomach ailment of President Zachary Taylor (1785–1850 served 1849–50). As a conservative politician from New York, Fillmore shared in widespread prejudice against immigration that arose after a large influx of German and Irish immigrants during the 1840s. Some of the anti-immigrant prejudice reflected the fact that Irish immigrants in particular were overwhelmingly Catholics, which aroused long-standing religious prejudices by many American Protestants. In 1856, four years after losing the Whig nomination as the incumbent, or current, president, Fillmore was nominated for president by the anti-immigrant American Party (popularly known as the Know-Nothing Party). But in the election in November, he won a majority of votes in just one state, Maryland. Ironically, Maryland was originally founded in the early 1600s as an English colony where Catholics would be safe to practice their religion.

Millard Fillmore was born in Cayuga County, New York, on January 7, 1800. Fillmore's early life had been guided by good luck. The son of a poor farmer, Fillmore at age fourteen became an apprentice to a clothing maker. His teacher, Abigail Powers (1798–1853), whom he later married, persuaded him to aim higher, and a friendly county judge helped supervise his study of the law. In the 1820s, Fillmore helped organize a new political party, the Anti-Mason Party, which opposed the supposed political influence of the Masonic Lodge, a secret social organization whose members had included, among others, President George Washington (1732–1799 served 1789–97). (A political party is a group of people with similar ideas and goals who work together to elect like-minded individuals to public office.) At age twenty-eight, Fillmore was elected to the New York state legislature, where he served for three years.

The Anti-Masonic Party never attracted widespread support and soon dissolved. Most of its members, like Fillmore, joined the Whig Party instead. The Whigs were in favor of government policies that helped business owners and promoted the westward expansion of the United States during an era when the "frontier" was still in western Missouri. In 1832, Fillmore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from his home district in New York he served for two years, decided not to run for reelection, then ran again and was elected a representative for three terms in a row. In 1844, he ran unsuccessfully for governor of New York. In 1846, he was elected comptroller (the official in charge of paying government bills) of New York, and was then elected vice president in the election of 1848. Fifteen months later, after President Taylor's death, Fillmore became president.

Early life and career

Fillmore was born in a log cabin to a poor family and was apprenticed to a wool carder at age 15. He received little formal education until he was 18, when he managed to obtain six consecutive months of schooling. Shortly afterward he secured his release from apprenticeship and started work in a law office, and in 1823 he was admitted to the bar. He married his first wife, Abigail Powers (Abigail Fillmore), in 1826.

Fillmore entered politics in 1828 as a member of the democratic and libertarian Anti-Masonic Movement and Anti-Masonic Party. In 1834 he followed his political mentor, Thurlow Weed, to the Whigs and was soon recognized as an outstanding leader of the party’s Northern wing. Following three terms in the New York state assembly (1829–32), he was elected to Congress (1833–35, 1837–43), where he became a devoted follower of Senator Henry Clay. Losing the New York gubernatorial election in 1844, he was easily elected the first state comptroller three years later. At the national Whig convention in 1848, Zachary Taylor, hero of the Mexican War (1846–48), was nominated for president and Fillmore for vice president, largely through Clay’s sponsorship.

The First Lady: Abigail Powers Fillmore

Abigail Powers Fillmore held a paying job before and during her marriage &ndash a first for a First Lady. Married in 1826, the couple struggled financially but eventually reached a point where she could quit work as a school teacher and devote herself to family life.

After Zachary Taylor&rsquos death on July 9, 1850, Fillmore and his wife moved into the White House. A graceful, bust socially subdued and physically weak First Lady, Abigail Powers often relied on her daughter Abby to fill in as hostess. She did make a substantial lasting contribution as First Lady, however, as she was the first to create a White House library.


Fillmore was Utah’s first territorial capital and was named for U. S. President Millard Fillmore in recognition of his courage in appointing Brigham Young Utah’s first territorial governor. On 4 October 1851 the Utah territorial legislature passed a joint resolution creating Millard County from a portion of Iron County known as “Pahvant Valley” they named its county seat Fillmore City. This resolution also relocated the territorial capital to the new community and appropriated $20,000 toward that effort. On 21 October two companies set out from Salt Lake City for the Pahvant Valley. Brigham Young headed a delegation of lawmakers making the site selection of the territorial capital. The other company, under the direction of Anson Call, was chosen to make a settlement. On 28 October territorial lawmakers selected a spot located on the hunting grounds of the Pahvant Indians, 150 miles south of Salt Lake City.

A monumental statehouse was planned to be constructed to house the territorial government. Truman O. Angell, architect of the Salt Lake Temple, designed an elaborate structure of four wings in the form of a cross with a Moorish dome at the center. Local red sandstone and native timber were to be used in its construction. The first wing was completed for the fifth annual session of the Utah territorial legislature which convened in Fillmore on 10 December 1855. The sixth legislative session also met at Fillmore, but soon adjourned to reconvene in Salt Lake City. Because the development of southern Utah was slow and accommodations in Fillmore inadequate, the capital was moved to Salt Lake City. The statehouse was never completed, but the first wing remains Utah’s oldest governmental building and now serves as a state museum.

Anson Call and thirty families began the settlement of Fillmore City. By February 1852, about thirty houses and a log schoolhouse were completed in the form of a fort. In 1852 a post office was established, and by 1853 the population of Fillmore was listed as 304. Farming and stock raising quickly became its principal industries. Because of Indian problems, a fort was constructed in 1853󈞢 of stone and adobe, and all local people were located within its walls for safety. On 26 October 1853 a team of U. S. Army topographical engineers headed by Lieutenant John W. Gunnison was massacred by Pahvant Utes not far from Fillmore. Seven were killed.

The first settlers were principally American, but later an influx of English, Scots, Welsh, and Scandinavians arrived in the area. Today, Fillmore is a community of 1,956 people. It is a tightly knit community which has won numerous beautification awards and is dedicated to community development. It is the home of the Chief Kanosh Pageant as well as one of the largest Fourth of July celebrations in Utah. Its citizens are strong supporters of high school athletics. In 1985 the former Fillmore Hospital was purchased by Fillmore City, and by the fall of 1986 it had been remodeled, with city offices in the east wing and the President Millard Fillmore Library in the west wing. Fillmore is also the home of a multimillion-dollar mushroom plant located in the city’s industrial park where 100,000 pounds of mushrooms are harvested each week. During the 1980s, Cambodian and Vietnamese immigrants began to work in the mushroom factory.

See: Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, East and West Millard Chapters, 100 Years of History of Millard County (1951).

Millard Powers Fillmore

Millard was born on April 26, 1828, in East Aurora, New York. He served as a private secretary to his father, Millard Fillmore, during his presidency. Millard apprenticed in his father’s law office and attended Harvard University. He was a bachelor and had no children when he died on November 15, 1889.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore became president upon the death of Zachary Taylor in July 1850. Born in upstate Cayuga County, New York on January 7, 1800, Fillmore as a youth endured the privations of frontier life. He worked on his father’s farm, and at 15 was apprenticed to a cloth maker. He attended a local school where he met Abigail Powers, who was 19 years old at the time. They later married in 1826 and had two children.

In 1823 he was admitted to the bar seven years later he moved his law practice to Buffalo. As an associate of the Whig politician Thurlow Weed, Fillmore held state office and for eight years was a member of the House of Representatives. In 1848, while comptroller of New York, he was elected vice president.

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 omnibus bill, he would vote in favor of it.

Millard Fillmore’s sudden accession to the presidency brought an abrupt political shift in favor of trying to give more ground to the southern advocates of slavery. Taylor’s cabinet resigned, and President Fillmore at once appointed Daniel Webster to be secretary of state, thus demonstrating his alliance with the moderate Whigs who favored the Compromise.

When Clay’s omnibus bill failed, Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois broke the legislation into five separate bills, submitting them in piecemeal fashion. At this critical juncture, Fillmore announced his support of the compromise. On August 6, 1850, he sent a message to Congress recommending that Texas be paid to abandon her claims to part of New Mexico.

Douglas’s effective strategy in Congress, combined with Fillmore’s pressure from the White House gave impetus to the Compromise movement. The acts passed both chambers of Congress, and were signed by President Fillmore in September 1850. These pieces of legislation admitted California as a "free state" organized the territorial governments of New Mexico and Utah on the basis of popular sovereignty established a boundary between Texas and New Mexico abolished the slave trade in the nation's capital and strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act.

Fillmore believed that his efforts had averted a major crisis and saved the Union. Instead, this sectional truce left most factions unsatisfied. Fillmore's signing of the Fugitive Slave Act was also heavily criticized by abolitionists. By law, the federal government was now required to assist slave owners in recapturing enslaved people, even if they were found in states where slavery was outlawed. There were also harsh penalties for anyone caught assisting or hiding enslaved people.

As the Whig Party splintered over slavery, Fillmore lost critical support from northern Whigs who opposed the institution. As a result, he lost the 1852 presidential nomination to General Winfield Scott. In 1856, he accepted the nomination for president from the National-American Party (also known as the Know-Nothing Party.) While he was handily defeated, Fillmore captured more than 20% of the popular vote and won the state of Maryland. With this defeat, Fillmore withdrew from politics and focused more on philanthropic endeavors in Buffalo with his second wife Caroline. During the Civil War, he supported the Union and different leaders from both political parties who sought to save it. He suffered a stroke and later died on March 8, 1874.

Millard Fillmore Presidential Site

2.Roycroft Campus and Fillmore Presidential Site Admission: $20 (value $25)
Basic 1-hour tour of The Roycroft Campus and a 1-hour tour of Millard Fillmore Presidential Site. Must be taken during each sites normally scheduled tours. Purchase tickets at the Power House on the Roycroft Campus

Special tours are available. Call Kathy at 716-652-2621 for more information.

A National Historic Landmark Millard Fillmore, who served as the 13th president of the United States from 1850 and 1853, began his law and political career in East Aurora, New York.

Millard Fillmore built the house in 1826 for his bride Abigail. One of only 10 National Historic Landmarks in Erie County, besides the White House, it is the only remaining house of the 13th President.

The house originally stood on Main Street near the Aurora Theatre building. It stood in disrepair for many years until artist Margaret Evans Price (Mrs. Irving Price of Fisher-Price Toys) became enchanted with the little house and its history. She purchased it in 1930, had it moved to its present location and remodeled it for her studio.

The Aurora Historical Society acquired it in 1975 and began returning it to circa 1826. The house now typifies a small frame dwelling of the Federal Period with much of Millard Fillmore's hand labor in it. The house is furnished with pieces that belonged to the Fillmores from their East Aurora, White House and Buffalo years.

Your tour of the house will include the living-room, kitchen, bedrooms, playroom, Victorian library and the carriage barn. You can also stroll through the beautiful period gardens that surround the house. The tour lasts about one hour.

Millard Fillmore House Garden sign Millard Fillmore House Front view Millard Fillmore House Library

Millard Fillmore Signs Compromise of 1850

Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English.

In 1850, the United States Congress debated a proposal for an important compromise. The compromise dealt mostly with the national dispute over slavery. That dispute threatened to split the northern and southern parts of the country. There was a danger of civil war. Many leaders supported the compromise. But President Zachary Taylor did not.

This week in our series, Leo Scully and Larry West complete our story of the Compromise of Eighteen Fifty.

Taylor did not think there was a crisis. He did not believe the dispute over slavery was as serious as others did. He had his own plan to settle one part of the dispute. He would make the new territory of California a free state. Slavery there would be banned.

Taylor's plan did not, however, settle other parts of the dispute. It said nothing about laws on escaped slaves. It said nothing about slavery in the nation's capital, the District of Columbia. It said nothing about the border dispute between Texas and New Mexico. The congressional compromise was an attempt to settle all these problems.

Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, who had written the compromise, questioned the president's limited proposal. Clay said: "Now what is the plan of the president? Here are five problems, five wounds that are bleeding and threatening the life of the republic. What is the president's plan? Is it to heal all these wounds? No such thing. It is to heal one of the five and to leave the other four to bleed more than ever."

While the debate continued in Washington, the situation in Texas and New Mexico got worse. Texas claimed a large part of New Mexico, including the capital, Santa Fe. Early in 1850, Texas sent a representative to Santa Fe to take control of the government.

The United States military commander in New Mexico advised the people not to recognize the man. The governor of Texas was furious. He decided to send state soldiers to enforce Texas's claims in New Mexico. He said if trouble broke out, the United States government would be to blame.

President Taylor rejected Texas's claims. He told his secretary of war to send an order to the military commander in New Mexico. The commander was to use force to oppose any attempt by Texas to seize the territory.

The secretary of war said he would not send such an order. He believed that if fighting began, southerners would hurry to the aid of Texas. And that, he thought, might be the start of a southern struggle against the federal government.

In a short time, the North and South would be at war. When the secretary of war refused to sign the order, President Taylor answered sharply. "Then I will sign the order myself!"

Taylor had been a general before becoming president. He said he would take command of the army himself to enforce the law. And he said he was willing to hang anyone who rebelled against the Union.

President Taylor began writing a message to Congress on the situation. He never finished it. On the afternoon of July 4, 1850, Taylor attended an outdoor independence day ceremony. The ceremony was held at the place where a monument to America's first president, George Washington, was being built.

The day was very hot, and Taylor stood for a long time in the burning sun. That night, he became sick with pains in his stomach. Doctors were called to the White House. But none of their treatments worked.

Five days later, President Taylor died. Vice President Millard Fillmore was sworn-in as president.

Fillmore was from New York state. His family was poor. His early education came not from school teachers, but from whatever books he could find. Later, Fillmore was able to study law. He became a successful lawyer. He also served in the United States Congress for eight years.

The Whig Party chose him as its vice presidential candidate in the election of 1848. He served as vice president for about a year and a half before the death of President Taylor.

Fillmore had disagreed with Taylor over the congressional compromise on slavery and the western territories. Unlike Taylor, Fillmore truly believed that the nation was facing a crisis. And he truly believed the compromise would help save the Union.

Now, as president, Fillmore offered his complete support to the bill. Its chances of passing looked better than ever. Fillmore asked the old cabinet to resign. He named his own cabinet members. All were strong supporters of the union. All supported the compromise.

Congress debated the compromise throughout the summer of 1850. There were several proposals in the bill. Supporters decided not to vote on the proposals as one piece of legislation. They saw a better chance of success by trying to pass each proposal separately. Their idea worked.

By the end of September, both the Senate and House of Representatives had approved all parts of the 1850 compromise.

President Fillmore signed them into law. One part of the compromise permitted California to enter the Union as a free state. One established territorial governments in New Mexico and Utah. One settled the dispute between Texas and New Mexico. Another ended the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

Many happy celebrations took place when citizens heard that President Fillmore had signed the 1850 compromise. Many people believed the problem of slavery had been solved. They believed the Union had been saved.

Others, however, believed the problem had only been postponed. They hoped the delay would give reasonable men of the North and South time to find a permanent answer to the issue of slavery. Time was running out.

It was true that the 1850 compromise had ended a national crisis. But both northern and southern extremists remained bitter. Those opposed to slavery believed the compromise law on runaway slaves violated the constitution.

The new law said negroes accused of being runaway slaves could not have a jury trial. It said government officials could send negroes to whoever claimed to own them. It said negroes could not appeal such a decision.

Those who supported slavery had a different idea of the compromise. They did not care about the constitutional rights of negroes. They considered the compromise a simple law for the return of valuable property. No law approved by Congress, and signed by the president, could change these beliefs.

The issue of slavery was linked to the issue of secession. Did states have the right to leave the Union? If southern states rejected all compromises on slavery, did they have the right to secede? The signing of the 1850 compromise cooled the debate for a time. But disagreement on the issues was deep. It would continue to build over the next ten years. Those were difficult years for America's presidents.

Next week, we will tell how the situation affected the administration of President Millard Fillmore.

Learn about the Whig Party's final U.S. president, Millard Fillmore, and the Compromise of 1850

Millard Fillmore became the 13th president of the United States upon the death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850. The country was on the verge of civil war, bitterly divided over slavery. President Fillmore pushed for the Compromise of 1850, which delayed war for a decade but also ended his political career.

Millard Fillmore was born in upstate New York in 1800. He spent much of his childhood working on his family’s struggling farm. When Millard was 15, his father sent him away to apprentice in the wool industry. He worked long, dreary hours for five years before paying his employer $30 for his release.

Fillmore moved to Buffalo, New York, where he studied law. During the 1830s his law firm became one of the best known in the state.

In 1832, Fillmore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He served four terms in Congress, becoming a prominent member of the Whig party. The pressing issue of the time was slavery. Fillmore was against slavery personally – perhaps because of his treatment as an apprentice – but he took a moderate stance on the issue politically. This made him an acceptable vice presidential candidate for both Northern and Southern Whigs in 1848. Zachary Taylor ran as president and the pair won the election.

Taylor served only 16 months of his term before dying suddenly. Fillmore rose to the presidency as Congress was in a fierce fight over slavery. Northern states wanted slavery banned in the territories recently gained from the Mexican-American War, while Southern states wanted slavery to be permitted. Civil war seemed inevitable when Senator Henry Clay devised a compromise. The Compromise of 1850 extended slavery to parts of the newly acquired land while prohibiting it elsewhere. It also included a harsh Fugitive Slave Act, which required the federal government to help capture and return escaped slaves to their owners.

President Fillmore supported the compromise, as he believed it would preserve the Union. The legislation passed and helped delay the outbreak of the American Civil War for another ten years. But it also cost Fillmore the support of anti-slavery Whigs.

In foreign affairs, President Fillmore sent an expedition to Japan in 1852. Led by Commodore Matthew Perry, the expedition opened Japan to trade and diplomatic relations with the United States and the rest of the western world.

As the election of 1852 neared, the Whig party abandoned Fillmore and instead nominated Winfield Scott, who was soundly defeated. Fillmore ended up being the Whig party’s last president.

When Fillmore left office in 1853, his national political career was largely finished. But he did remain highly influential in Buffalo. He helped found a medical center, a historical society, a fine arts center, and an animal welfare organization. Fillmore also served as chancellor of the institution formerly known as the University of Buffalo from 1846 until his death in 1874.



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