In what has become a tradition here at HGP, promulgated by the general miss-use of the apostrophe, this year we have chosen
to honor for Presidents Day our thirteenth President of the United States of America, the much beloved Millard Fillmore.
Fillmore: 13th in a Series (collect them all)
Obama (Ol’ Number 44), in a recent interview, stated that he staked his entire political career on the presidency of
Millard Fillmore. Said Obama, “If a man with a first name like ’Millard’ can get elected,
so can I.”
Millard Fillmore was born in 1800 in upstate New York, which is really more west
than up, but nobody seems to care. According to noted historian Mandrake Chapman, Millard was named after
either “his Great Aunt Mildred, or a duck. Quite possibly both.” Fillmore’s
family was dirt poor, and not very good dirt at that. Millard’s father, sick of his own failures,
was determined that his children should grow up to be anything but farmers, so he had Millard apprenticed to someone who had
something to do with sheep. From there, quite naturally, Fillmore became a lawyer. Politics
Fillmore rose through the local ranks to the New York State
Assembly, and from there rumbled right on into the big times, becoming a Representative and then the Vice President under
Zachary Taylor, who only agreed to let Fillmore on the ticket if he would go out with his sister. Taylor
tried to renege on his deal when his sister refused to go out with Fillmore, but Fillmore insisted that he had upheld his
end of the deal, regardless if they had never actually gone out. In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court agreed.
Fillmore was given an office and told not to come out for the next four years, or the President’s death, whichever
came first. The President’s death came first.
Millard Fillmore came to
office when, in the summer of 1850, in a shrewd political move that ultimately backfired, President Zachary Taylor dropped
dead. Though a slave owner himself, Taylor had been opposed to the spread of slavery. Go
figure. So Taylor had been working toward giving new states the right to choose slavery or not.
Naturally, the Southern states stood in opposition. After all, the right to choose went against
everything that slave owners believed in. With Taylor conveniently out of the way, Fillmore was able to
push forward the Compromise of 1850, which was where the North pretty much let the South do whatever they wanted, and in exchange
the South put off having the Civil War until somebody else was in office. Preferably somebody Fillmore
didn’t like. Everybody was pleased for the most part, except maybe the blacks. But what’s the
discomfort of a few blacks compared to keeping our country together?
Fillmore is best known for having the first bathtub installed in the White House, causing one to wonder what they did before
then. Lord knows, Fillmore’s not known for anything else.
a tribute to his shrewd politics, did not get nominated in 1852, and by 1853 was drawing unemployment. Four
years later, Fillmore once again ran for president. Having formerly belonged to the Whig Party (in fact,
he is known as the last Whig President, or maybe it was the last president to wear a wig), and not being invited to either
the Democrat’s or the Republican’s parties, he ran on the Know Nothing ticket. Apparently
the public took him at his word and he lost that election, too.
was nothing more than a political annoyance for the rest of his life, dying in 1874. Reportedly his last
dying words were, “See... I did keep the country from a civil war....”