Millard Fillmore Essay, Research Paper
Introduction Millard Fillmore was born in 1800. Fillmore is mostly know for being the 13th President of the United States. In a critical moment in American history, Fillmore succeeded President Zachary Taylor. Because the Mexican War had let the United States gain new territories, the conflict over slavery was renewed. To the relief of Northern and Southern politicians, Fillmore pursued a moderate and conciliatory policy. In 1850, he signed the Compromise of 1850 into law, which admitted one territory as a free state and allowed slave owners to settle in the others. The compromise didn’t completely solve the slavery problem, but it did keep the topic peaceful for over a decade. Fillmore went on to die in the year 1874. Early Years Millard Fillmore began life in the year 1800 in upstate New York. He was the oldest son in a family with a total of 9 children. Several years before he was born, his parents, Nathaniel and Phoebe Millard Fillmore, moved from Vermont to upstate New York. As a young man, Fillmore did many different things. Fillmore did chores on his fathers farm, worked as an apprentice in the clothier’s trade, and attended to local schools off and on until he was 17 years old. With the help of Abigail Powers, Fillmore was able educate himself. At the age of 19, with the aid of Judge Walter Wood of Cayuga County, Fillmore began to study law. To help fund his education, he would teach classes at schools. Then his family moved to East Aurora. In 1823 he opened a law office in East Aurora. Three years later he married his old teacher, Abigail Powers. During thier marriage, they had 2 children, Mary Abigail and Millard Powers. Throughtout the beginning of their marriage, Mrs. Fillmore continued to teach school and to help her husband with his law studies. Politics In 1826, the year Fillmore was married, an incident in western New York set him on the road to the presidency. When a former member of the Masonic fraternal order who had written a book that claimed to expose the order’s secrets, named William Morgan, disappeared, a rumor spread that he had been murdered by avenging Masons. A newspaper publisher and politician by the name Thurlow Weed, picked up on the incident and to arouse public feeling against all secret organizations and helped to organize the Anti-Masonic Party. Meanwhile, Millard Fillmore had been gaining respect and popularity in East Aurora. People liked his professional ethics, temperate habits, careful speech and dress, and attractive appearance. These qualities got him the attention of the Anti-Masonic politicians, who were looking for vote-winning candidates. In 1828, Weed and his group ran Fillmore for a seat in the New York state legislature, and he was elected. Four years later, again with Weed’s backing, Fillmore was elected to the House of Representatives in the Congress of the United States. United States Congressman In the mid-1830s, Fillmore be came a member of the Whig Party when Anti-Masonic Party merged with the Whig Party. In Congress Fillmore was a supporter of Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky, the leader of the Whig Party. The two men believed that compromise on the slavery issue was necessary to preserve peace between the North and South. In the important position of chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Fillmore took a leading part in framing the protective tariff of 1842. The tariff raised rates to about the high level of the tariff of 1833. That tariff was opposed by the South and had provoked the state of South Carolina to pass its Ordinance of Nullification, making the tariff void within its borders. Fillmore chose not to run for reelection in 1842. He hoped for the vice presidential nomination on Clay’s Whig presidential ticket, but the party’s national convention of 1844 gave that spot to Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey. Fillmore decided to accept the Whig nomination for governor of New York. In the election Fillmore was defeated by opponet from the Democratic Party, Silas Wright, and Clay lost the decisive New York vote. The Whigs nominated Fillmore for state comptroller in 1847. This office was next in power after the governors and supervised public finances and superintended the banks. Fillmore defeated his Democratic opponent by the largest margin ever gained by any Whig over a Democrat in New York. The victory established Fillmore as a vote getter placing him in competition with former Governor William Henry Seward for the position of New York’s leading Whig. The presidential election of 1848 was dominated by the recently ended Mexican War and by the Wilmot Proviso of 1846, which had been inspired by the war. The proviso said that slavery should not be brought into any territory acquired by the United States as a result of the Mexican War. Although the proviso was never passed in Congress, it raised the political issue of whether slavery should be extended past its limits prior to the war. During the Whig convention of 1848 in Philadelphia, a friend of Fillmore, Henry Clay, lost the presidential nomination to Zachary Taylor. Clay’s policy of compromise on the slavery issue was well known, whereas Taylor, a hero of the Mexican War, was associated with no particular point of view. He won the nomination mostly through the efforts of Weed and Southern leaders. After Taylor was nominated, John A. Collier, a Whig delegate from New York and a political ally of Fillmore’s, suggested to the convention that it lessen the disappointment of the Clay supporters by naming Fillmore as the candidate for vice president. His idea was successful, and Fillmore was nominated. To avoid further controversy over slavery or any other issue, the national convention adopted no particular platform.
During their national convention the Democratic Party tried not to make a big deal out of slavery. They nominated United States Senator Lewis Cass of Michigan for president and William O. Butler of Kentucky for vice president. Cass favored letting the settlers of new territories decide for themselves whether they would allow slavery or not. Vice President of the United States During the first half of 1850, Fillmore as vice president presided over the United States Senate (the upper chamber of Congress) as angry debates raged between Northern and Southern sectionalists over the status of slavery in the recently acquired lands. His fairness and sense of humor in the chair were not enough to restore peace among the contending senators. The antislavery faction, led by Senator Seward (the former governor of New York) and Senator Salmon P. Chase of Ohio, clashed with the Southerners, led by Senator James M. Mason of Virginia, Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi, and Senator John C. Calhoun of South Carolina. Angry words figuratively rocked the Senate hall, as they did the chamber of the House of Representatives. Although President Taylor was a Louisiana slaveholder, he leaned more toward Seward’s antislavery views. Determined to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the president threatened to send federal troops to protect disputed New Mexico territory from an invasion by proslavery Texans. Southerners countered that, if Taylor followed through with his threat, the act would be the signal for an armed Southern rebellion against federal power. Mississippi called for a convention to meet in June 1850 at Nashville, Tennessee, to consider secession. President of the United States President Fillmore’s choice of a Cabinet showed unmistakably that, as a moderate Whig and a foe of sectionalism, he favored compromise to avoid a national crisis. As his secretary of state, Fillmore appointed Senator Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, who had appealed for compromise in a celebrated speech on March 7, 1850. Another significant Cabinet appointment was Governor John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, also a well-known conciliatory Whig, as attorney general. Fillmore made plain his desire for peace in a message to Congress on August 6, 1850. It was hailed by influential congressional leaders as a masterstroke of timing and persuasive moderation. Aided by the full power and support of Fillmore’s administration, Clay’s omnibus bill, known as the Compromise of 1850, was split into five separate measures, all of which were passed by Congress and signed into law by Fillmore. Meanwhile, the Nashville convention adjourned without taking any action against the Union. One of the five measures was the new Fugitive Slave Law. Fillmore signed and, more important, enforced the Fugitive Slave Law, actions that were completely in keeping with his conciliatory policy. As a result, he won the hatred of the more radical antislavery group. Seward and Weed, the antislavery Whig leaders of New York, opposed Fillmore vehemently, and the president countered by removing pro-Seward people from federal office. At a Whig convention in Syracuse, New York, resolutions were passed approving Seward’s radical position. Thereupon a contingent of Fillmore conservatives walked out, led by Francis Granger, whose gray hair gave the name Silver Gray Whigs to that faction. This act widened the breach in the Whig Party, which was also disintegrating in other parts of the country on the issue of slavery. Election of 1852 Fillmore was unsure to serve a second term, but participated in the Whig national convention of 1852 because he wanted to ensure that the party platform supported the Compromise of 1850. After securing that, he asked that his name be withdrawn at an opportune moment and his delegates transferred to Daniel Webster, another contender for the Whig presidential nomination. However, Fillmore’s Southern Whig supporters, who believed he would win, backed him vigorously and never did withdraw his name. They held out for Webster to release his delegates. By the time Webster did that, it was too late. The antislavery Whigs had secured control of the convention and, mindful of Fillmore’s enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Law, they succeeded in having General Winfield Scott named the party’s candidate. In November, Scott was decisively defeated by his Democratic opponent, Franklin Pierce. After the 1852 election the Whig Party broke up over the slavery issue. By 1856 its place had been taken by the Republican Party, led by Seward and Weed.