Fillmore, Millard

Born: 1800-01-07 Cayuga County, New York

Died: 1874-03-08 Buffalo, New York

Although he received little formal education, Millard Fillmore studied law with a local judge and was admitted to the bar in Buffalo, New York. He won election to the New York State Legislature in 1828 as the Anti-Masonic candidate and remained there until 1831. He was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives as a Whig in 1833 and served, with the exception of one term from 1835 to 1836, in that capacity until 1842. In 1844, he unsuccessfully ran for governor against Silas Wright but remained an active Whig and won the party's nomination as running mate for 's running mate for Zachary Taylor in the presidential election of 1848. In the preceding few years, Fillmore had come into conflict with the anti-slavery wing of the New York Whigs and his conservatism became more prominent when he ascended to the presidency following Taylor's death on July 9, 1850.

Although Taylor had opposed Henry Clay's proposed Omnibus Bill - the components of which would eventually constitute the Compromise of 1850 - Fillmore supported it and continued to do so after it failed and Stephen A. Douglas passed each of its elements separately through Congress. As president, Fillmore also frequently appointed patronage positions to conservative Whigs like himself over his opponents in the party. This caused increasing friction among Whigs, resulting in the party's bypassing him as their presidential candidate in 1852, instead favoring Winfield Scott.

Shortly after Fillmore left office, his wife, Abigail Powers, with whom he had fathered two children, died. Fillmore married his second wife, Caroline McIntosh in 1858. He remained active politically throughout the 1850s and became one of the leading figures of the growing Know-Nothing movement - receiving the American Party's presidential nomination in 1856. He proved to be a very unpopular candidate, causing many Know-Nothings to vote for the Republican candidate, John C. Fremont, or the Democratic candidate, James Buchanan, instead. Following Buchanan's victory, the American Party dissolved and Fillmore continued to endorse a nationalist pro-compromise position. He opposed Abraham Lincoln's election in 1860 but supported the Union during the Civil War. In 1864, he endorsed George B. McClellan's presidential campaign, but largely retired from public life thereafter.

Elbert B. Smith, The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988); Tyler Anbinder, "Fillmore, Millard," American National Biography (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 7:910-12.