Celebrate The Presidents: Millard Fillmore

Today is Presidents Day, and as a result, many area businesses, including the Federal Government, are closed, and this is one of those rare late winter three day weekends. That is, unless you work somewhere that only offer the Original Six holidays, in which case you’re cursing the rest of the non-working populous today. The holiday began in celebration of George Washington, America’s First President, and the General of her armies during the Revolutionary War. Most of the time, we see celebrations of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln on this day, their contributions to the history of the Union are quite significant, and after all, they had birthdays this month. Today, however, I want to draw attention to a different President of the United States of America: Millard Fillmore, the 13th President.

On the death of President Zachary Taylor in July of 1850, then Vice President Millard Fillmore took office as the second unelected President of the union. Taylor’s entire cabinet submitted their resignations and went their way, and Fillmore was left to fill all the vacancies. His first choice was Daniel Webster for Secretary of State, and the two of them marched through the Capitol five bills that would forever change the United States:

  • Admit California to the United States
  • Settle the Texas boundary with New Mexico
  • Admit New Mexico as a Territory
  • The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (which had significant consequences for Americans in the Northeast, and could be credited in part with the Civil War that followed.)
  • The Abolition of Slavery in the District of Columbia (which is really why I chose him)

Fillmore & Webster did all five of these in scant 90 days, making pretty much every Congress thereafter look like a bunch of lolligagging buffoons. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was initially an attempt at settling the slavery issue between the abolitionist North and the slave-owning South, but it turned into an uneasy truce as the northerners resented the idea of returning the South’s slaves.

President Fillmore can be credited with the abolition of slavery, the admittance of California as a State (largely due to the gold strike in 1849) and the admittance of New Mexico as a Territory, further expanding the borders of the US. Toward the end of his presidency, he sent Admiral Perry to pursue trade routes with then-closed-state Japan. Much of this information was gleaned from Wikipedia, though, honestly, most of their page is word for word from his White House bio, so I figure we’re pretty safe on this one, yeah?

1 Comment so far

  1. sa-ra (unregistered) on February 19th, 2007 @ 10:20 pm

    thanks for the post – very informative. hard to imagine those times and slavery issues were for real.

    i was one of those who did not get a holiday, but i liked empty buses.

    also, it looks like sometimes they don’t skip #13.

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