Our 13th President: 1850-1853
Just the Facts:
- Millard Fillmore became president when Zachary Taylor died in office.
- Fillmore taught himself to read and write.
- His nickname was “Last of the Whigs.”
- His Wife, First Lady Abigail, started the White House library.
- He installed the first iron cookstove in the White House.
- President Fillmore himself went to fight the fire at the Library of Congress on Christmas Day, 1853.
Millard Fillmore was born into a poor farming family near Buffalo, New York. He worked on the family farm instead of going to school, until his father found him a job as a clerk in a law office. He found his calling! Young Millard taught school to earn some money while he was studying law. Finally, he opened his own law firm when he was 23 years old. Before long, he was drawn to politics. He served in the New York state legislature and eventually Congress.
Fillmore never ran for president. Instead, he was nominated to run as General Zachary Taylor’s vice president. After President Taylor died, Fillmore became President and wasn’t very popular. During his term, the biggest issue on people’s minds was slavery. President Fillmore spent much of his time trying to keep the peace by compromising with Southern leaders.
His famous legislation was called the Compromise of 1850 – he tried to ease tensions between the North and South, but ultimately no one was happy with the Compromise. It included the Fugitive Slave Act, which required runaway slaves found in the North to be returned to their owners in the South. The Act also greed to admit California into the Union as a free state.
The California gold rush started right before Fillmore became president. During his term, the government financed much of the transcontinental railroad – President Fillmore gave money to railroad companies that were building tracks out west. President Fillmore ran for another term but lost.
Fillmore married one of his teachers. He was in Abigail’s class when he was 19 years old. In fact, Abigail was the first First Lady that had a paying job before getting married! They married when he was 26 years old, and they had two kids, Millard Jr and Mary. When Abigail arrived at the White House, she was shocked that is had no collection of books – so she decided to start one, which eventually became the White House library.
President Fillmore helped to modernize the White House – before him, all food was cooked over a colonial-style open hearth. In addition, the first running water bathtub was installed in the White house during Fillmore’s term. Millard and Abigail retired to their home in Buffalo until he passed away from a stroke.
“Upon you, fellow-citizens, as the representatives of the States and the people, is wisely devolved the legislative power.”
“Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and independent, possessing certain rights and owing certain duties to each other.”
Want to Learn More?
Take a virtual tour of his house in New York at:http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/presidents/millard_fillmore_house.html
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