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Millard Fillmore


FILLMORE, MILLARD (1800-1874), 13th president of the United States of America, came of a family of English stock, which had early settled in New England. His father, Nathaniel, in 1795 made a clearing within the limits of what is now the town of Summerhill, Cayuga county, N.Y., and there Millard Fillmore was born, on Jan. 7, 1800. Until he was 15 he could have acquired only the simplest rudiments of education, and those chiefly from his parents. At that age he was apprenticed to a fuller and clothier, to card wool and to dye and dress the cloth. Two years before the close of his term, with a promissory note for $30, he bought the remainder of his time from his master, and at the age of 19 began to study law. In 182o he made his way to Buffalo, then only a village, and supported himself by teaching school and aiding the postmaster while continuing his studies. In 1823 he was admitted to the bar, and began practice at East Aurora, N.Y. Hard study, temperance and integrity gave him a good reputation and moderate success ; in 1827 he was made an attorney and in 1829 counsellor of the supreme court of the State. Returning to Buffalo in 183o, he formed in 1832 a partnership with Nathan K. Hall (1810-74), later a member of Congress and postmaster general in his cabinet. Solomon G. Haven (1810-61), member of Congress from 1851 to 1857, joined them in 1836. The firm met with great success.

From 1829 to 1832 Fillmore served in the State assembly, and, in the single term of 1833-35, in the National House of Represen tatives, coming in as anti-Jackson, or in opposition to the adminis tration. From 1837 to 1843, when he declined further service, he again represented his district in the House, this time as a member of the Whig Party. In Congress he opposed the annexation 'of Texas as slave territory, was an advocate of internal improve ments and a protective tariff, supported J. Q. Adams in maintain ing the right of offering anti-slavery petitions, advocated the pro hibition by Congress of the slave trade between the States and favoured the exclusion of slavery from the District of Columbia. His speech and tone, however, were moderate on these exciting subjects, and he claimed the right to stand free of pledges, and to adjust his opinions and his course by the development of cir cumstances. The Whigs having the ascendancy in the 27th Con gress, he was made chairman of the House committee on ways and means. Against a strong opposition he carried an appropria tion of $30,000 to Morse's telegraph. In 1844 he was the Whig candidate for the governorship of New York, but was defeated. In Nov. 1847 he was elected controller of the State of New York, and in 1848 he was elected vice president of the United States on the ticket with Zachary Taylor as president. Fillmore presided over the Senate during the exciting debates on the Compromise Measures of 185o.

President Taylor died on July 9, 185o, and on the next day Fillmore took the oath of office as his successor. The cabinet which he called around him contained Daniel Webster, Thomas Corwin and John J. Crittenden. On the death of Webster in 1852, Edward Everett became secretary of State. Unlike Taylor, Fillmore favoured the Compromise Measures, and his signing one of them, the Fugitive Slave law, in spite of the vigorous pro tests of anti-slavery men, lost him much of his popularity in the North. Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry's expedition, which opened up diplomatic relations with Japan, occurred during his term. In the autumn of 1852 he was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for the presidency by the Whig National Conven tion, and he went out of office on March 4, 1853. In Feb. 1856, while he was travelling abroad, he was nominated for the presi dency by the American or Know-Nothing party, and later this nomination was also accepted by the Whigs; but in the ensuing presidential election, the last in which the Know-Nothings and the Whigs as such took any part, he received the electoral votes of only one State, Maryland. Thereafter he took no public share in political affairs. Fillmore was twice married; in 1826 to Abigail Powers (who died in 1853, leaving him with a son and daughter), and in 1858 to Mrs. Caroline C. McIntosh. He died at Buffalo March 8, 1874, and was buried in Forest Lawn in that city.

In 1907 the Buffalo Historical Society, of which Fillmore was one of the founders and the first president, published the Millard Fillmore Papers (vol. x. and xi. of the society's publications; edited by F. H. Severance) , containing miscellaneous writings and speeches, and official and private correspondence. Most of his correspondence, however, was destroyed in pursuance of a direction in his son's will. See William E. Griffis, Millard Fillmore (Ithaca, N.Y., 1915) .

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