13th President, 1850-53
Millard Fillmore's rise to the presidency reads like a Horatio Alger tale: he was born in a log cabin on New York's frontier before rising through the state's political machine to the highest office in the land. All the ingredients for a great story were there. But his presidency would provide an utterly forgettable ending.
Fillmore became President after the unexpected death of Zachary Taylor and became myopically focused on the Compromise of 1850, which tried to quell sectional concerns by setting the balance of slave states and free states after the Mexican-American War. Here he would prove to be on the wrong side of history, treating the conflict as the New York Times famously observed as a political rather than a moral question. In his desperation to broker the act, however, he ended up with legislation that united everyone only in their displeasure and did little to ameliorate the tensions that would eventually lead to civil war. Instead, another log-cabin-born President would ultimately be remembered for saving the Union. And Fillmore? Fillmore who?
By Dan Fletcher
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