Open main menu

FILL'MORE, Millard (1800-74). The thirteenth President of the United States. He was horn in Cayuga County, N. Y., February 7, 1800. After a youth of industry with little opportunity for education, he undertook the study of law, and was admitted to the bar in 1823. His practice of his profession, chiefly at Buffalo, continued actively for twenty-four years. His political life began in 1828 with his election as an Anti-Mason (q.v.) to the State Legislature, where he served for three terms. In 1832 he was elected to Congress as a Whig, and retained his seat, with one intermission (1835-37), until 1843. During this period he was prominent as a debater on the Whig side, upheld the right of petition, served as chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means in the Twenty-seventh Congress, and reported the Tariff Act of 1842, of which he was virtually the author. He sought without success the Presidential nomination in 1844; and in the same year he ran for governor of the State on the Whig ticket, but was defeated by Silas Wright (q.v.). He became Comptroller of New York State in 1847. In the following year he was elected by the Whig Party Vice-President on the ticket with Zachary Taylor (q.v.). Upon the death of the President, in July, 1850, Fillmore succeeded him, and the change in administration was marked by the early passage of the Compromise Measures. (See Compromise Measures of 1850.) Fillmore's support of those measures, and especially his signing of the Fugitive Slave Law (q.v.), alienated many of the extreme Northern members of his party. Aside from the developments of the slavery problem, his administration was marked by one conspicuous event — the establishment of diplomatic relations with Japan. In 1852 he was a prominent Presidential candidate before the National Convention of the Whig Party. In 1856 he was a candidate for the Presidency on the ticket of the Know-Nothing (q.v.) or American Party, and although supported by many conservative Whigs, such as Edward Everett (q.v.), he received the electoral votes of only one State, Maryland. He took no active part in the Civil War, and spent the remaining years of his life at Buffalo, where he died March 8, 1874. Consult: Chamberlain, Biography of Millard Fillmore (Buffalo, 1856); and Wilson, The Presidents of the United States (New York, 1894). For an account of his administration, see United States.