Millard Fillmore


Millard Fillmore Famous memorial

Summerhill, Cayuga County, New York, USA
Death 8 Mar 1874 (aged 74)
Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA
Burial Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA
Plot Section: F Lot: 55 Space: 4
Memorial ID 336 View Source

US President. He was the 13th President of the United States, having also been the 12th Vice President, and a Congressman, having represented New York's 32nd District in the US House of Representatives. He was another "log cabin" President, having been born in a log cabin in Cayuga County, New York. His childhood was one of poverty and privation and in which he received virtually no formal education. At age 14, he was apprenticed to a cloth maker in New Hope, a hamlet in Niles, New York. His father, Nathaniel Millard, who served as a justice of the peace, purchased a farm at East Aurora, near Buffalo in Erie County, and the family prospered on the farm. At age 19, and seeking to better himself, he bought a share in a circulating library and commenced to read avidly. He enrolled at a new academy in New Hope, where he was taught by a classmate, Abigail Powers, aged 20. In 1821, he taught school in East Aurora, and also accepted cases in justice of the peace courts, where one could practise without having a legal qualification. In 1822, he moved to Buffalo, New York, where he continued to teach, while he also studied the law....and became engaged to Abigail Powers. In 1823, he was admitted to the New York bar, and returned to East Aurora and established the only legal practice there. He and Abigail married on February 5, 1826. They had two children, Millard Powers Fillmore, known as Powers [1828- 1889] and Mary Abigail Fillmore [1832 - 1854], neither of whom married or had issue. He was elected to the New York State Assembly and served three one year terms in Albany [1829 - 1831]. In 1828, Jacksonian Democrats were swept into power, taking the White House and also a majority at Albany, where Fillmore's Anti-Masonic Party, essentially opposed to President Andrew Jackson, a Mason, was in the minority. Fillmore did not seek election in 1831. He moved his family to Buffalo, his legal practice there was a success, and he became a leading Buffalo citizen. Elected to the US House of Representatives in 1832, he saw the need for a broader political party than one simply opposed to freemasonry. Along with the very prominent Thurlow Weed and others, he formed the broad-based Whig Party, which became a major party by supporting economic growth, federally funded internal improvements such as roads, bridges and especially canals. Weed held very strong anti-slavery views, as did another Weed protégé, William Seward from Auburn, New York. Fillmore disliked slavery, but considered slavery to be a matter for the States and not an issue over which the federal government had power. The Anti-Masons did not nominate Fillmore in 1834, he declined Whig nomination, returned to building his legal practice and boosting the Whig Party. In 1836, he returned to the US Congress representing the Whig Party, despite a nationwide victory by the Democrats led by Martin Van Buren. In 1840, Fillmore was returned for a 4th term in the House, and advocated strongly for the Whig Presidential nominees, 9th President General William Henry Harrison and former Virginia Governor and former US Senator for Virginia, John Tyler Jnr. Tiring of conflict with 10th President Tyler over tariffs, Fillmore announced in July 1842 that he would not be seeking re-election. His terms in Congress had run from March 4, 1833 to March 3, 1835....and then from March 4, 1837 until March 3, 1843. From April, 1843, he continued with his Buffalo law practice. Kentucky Senator Henry Clay, a slave owner, and a commanding political figure, was the consensus Whig candidate for 1844. Fillmore had wanted to be Clay's Vice Presidential running mate. Weed wanted Fillmore as candidate for New York Governor. In any event, Democrat James Knox Polk defeated Clay, and Fillmore was defeated by the Democrats in the New York gubernatorial contest. It was thought that Fillmore's weak position on slavery had contributed to his defeat. In 1846, Fillmore was involved in founding the University of Buffalo, became its first Chancellor and served in that role until his death in 1874. In 1847, Fillmore was elected New York State Comptroller, by a margin of 38,000 votes, the largest Whig win ever in a contest for statewide office in New York. He took up office on January 1, 1848 and his service in this role was favorably received. In that office, he was a member of the state canal board, and secured an enlargement of Buffalo's canal facilities. General Zachary Taylor, Mexican War hero, secured Whig Presidential candidate nomination in 1848, despite opposition from Weed, who wanted Seward as Vice Presidential candidate. Seward's strong anti-slavery views and statements made Fillmore more acceptable in the South. The Democrats nominated Michigan Senator Lewis Cass....and the Free Soil Party, opposed to the spread of slavery, nominated former President Martin Van Buren. The Taylor-Fillmore ticket won narrowly [47.3% to 42.5%], with 163 Electoral College votes to the Democrats' 127 Electoral College votes....the strength of the anti-slavery movement was demonstrated by the 10.1% vote for Van Buren's Free Soil Party. Weed's influence in New York politics diminished Fillmore's influence at a time when influence in job seeking was particularly important. Sworn in as Vice President on March 5, 1849, Fillmore presided over the Senate at the time of some of the most momentous and passionate debates in US history, generally as to admission of new States and as to the slavery status of those States. The Compromise of 1850 gave victories to both North and South. Clay introduced his "Omnibus Bill" on January 29, 1850 which admitted California as a free State, organized territorial governments in New Mexico and Utah, and banned slave trade in the District of Columbia. The Bill also toughened the Fugitive Slave Act, the inadequate enforcement of which in the North had been a long running Southern grievance. Clay introduced the notion of "popular sovereignty" whereby the residents of territories would decide on the status of slavery in those territories [which resulted, for instance, in spectacular failure in Kansas during the Presidency of James Buchanan, in an historical event generally referred to as "Bleeding Kansas".] Fillmore often took advice from Abigail, noted for having been a very well educated teacher, with significant intellectual capacity. Abigail had actually advised against the strengthening of the Fugitive Slave Act! Fillmore was not pre-selected by the Whigs in 1852 after his signing of the amendment of the Fugitive Slave Act. President Taylor died on July 9, 1850, thought to have been the result of gastroenteritis after laying the foundation stone of the Washington Monument, and taking refreshment (milk, cherries) on a very hot day. By July 31, 1850, Clay's Omnibus Bill was effectively dead, except for the organization of the Utah Territory. Senator Stephen Douglas, with Clay's consent, and with Fillmore's endorsement of the strategy, eventually divided the compromise into five bills. Despite Northern unhappiness, Fillmore's signing of the Fugitive Slave Bill brought widespread relief, and the hope of settling the slavery question. Viewed with a wider historical perspective, it is probably fair to say that the Civil War had been postponed. In foreign relations, Fillmore is generally given credit for opening Japan to the world having, along with his very capable Secretary of State Daniel Webster, dispatched Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan. Webster had died in 1852, and Fillmore was out of office by the time Perry reached Japan in July 1853. Fillmore decided against nominating for the Presidency in 1852, although it is thought likely that he would have defeated Democrat Franklin Pierce. Abigail caught a cold at Franklin Pierce's Inauguration, developed pneumonia and died on March 30, 1853. Their daughter Mary died of cholera on July 26, 1854. In 1856, Fillmore stood as the Know Nothing Party candidate in the Presidential Election won by Democrat James Buchanan [45.3%] who defeated Republican John C Fremont [33.1%] with Fillmore obtaining 21.5%, and winning 8 Electoral College votes in Maryland. Fillmore was not a Know Nothing or a nativist, and campaigned for National unity, against the Democrats, seen as favoring the South and the Republicans, fanatically in favor of the North and abolition. On February 10, 1858 he married wealthy widow Caroline McIntosh. They purchased a large house in Niagara Square, Buffalo, where they lived for the remainder of his life. Fillmore stayed in good health until suffering a stroke in February 1874, and died after a second stroke on March 8, 1874 at the age of 74. Fillmore, or perhaps more particularly Abigail, had established the first White House library. Fillmore was a conscientious President who chose to honor his oath of office. Unfortunately his enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act has given him a quite undeserved reputation as being pro-southern. He ought to be given significant credit for his support of the 1850 Compromise....and President Truman's characterization of Fillmore as a "weak, trivial thumb-twaddler who would do nothing to offend anybody" seems harsh, and Truman's assessment that Fillmore was responsible in part for the Civil War is an assessment that can probably be applied similarly to all pre- Civil War Presidents. There can be little doubt that Fillmore's actions significantly delayed the Civil War.

Bio by: James Nicol


JANUARY 7, 1800,
MARCH 8, 1874.


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 336
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Millard Fillmore (7 Jan 1800–8 Mar 1874), Find a Grave Memorial ID 336, citing Forest Lawn, Buffalo, Erie County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find a Grave .