At a Glance
Term: 13th President of the United States (1850-1853)
Born: January 7, 1800, Summerhill, New York
Nickname: "The American Louis Philippe"
Formal Education: Six months of grade school; read law in 1822
Marriage: February 5, 1826, to Abigail Powers (1798-1853); February 10, 1858, to Caroline Carmichael McIntosh (1813-1881)
Children: Millard Powers (1828-1889), Mary Abigail (1832-1854)
Political Party: Whig
Died: March 8, 1874, Buffalo, New York
Buried: Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York
Presidential Life in Brief: Born into desperate poverty at the dawn of the nineteenth century, Millard Fillmore climbed to the highest office in the land -- and inherited a nation breaking into fragments over the question of slavery. Despite his best efforts, the lines of the future battles of the Civil War were drawn, and Fillmore found himself rejected by his own dying party and denied re-nomination.
After the unthinkable happened and President Taylor died, vice president Millard Fillmore took command of the presidency.
As President, Fillmore strongly supported the compromise. Allying himself with the Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas and appointing the pro-compromise Whig Daniel Webster as his secretary of state, Fillmore engineered its passage. By forcing these issues, Fillmore believed he had helped to safeguard the Union, but it soon became clear that the compromise, rather than satisfying anyone, gave everyone something to hate. Under the strains of the failed agreement, the Whig Party began to come apart at the seams.
On the international stage, Fillmore dispatched Commodore Perry to "open" Japan to Western trade and worked to keep the Hawaiian Islands out of European hands. He refused to back an invasion of Cuba by a group of Southern adventurers who wanted to expand the South into a slave-based Caribbean empire. This "filibustering" expedition failed, and Fillmore took the blame from Southerners. At the same time, he offended Northerners by enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law in their region. Weary and dispirited, he tried to decline to run again but was prevailed upon to allow his name to be put forward -- only to lose the nomination to General Winfield Scott. Shortly thereafter, his beloved Abigail died, followed by his twenty-two-year-old daughter Mary.
In 1856, he ran for election as the presidential candidate of the Whig-American Party, a fusion of the remaining Whigs and the anti-immigrant American (nicknamed "Know-Nothing") Party. He won the Electoral College votes of Maryland and 21 percent of the popular vote. But the newly organized Republican Party, even in defeat, eclipsed Fillmore and the Whigs, winning 33 percent of the vote, and Fillmore's poor performance marked the end of his party.