13th President of the United States. b. January 7, 1800 d. March 8, 1874.
Millard Fillmore was born into poverty in Locke Township, in western New York state. His family owned a small farm that was so small it could not support the members of the Fillmore brood. So, his father arranged for him to enter into an apprenticeship with and extremely cruel and sadistic clothmaker. Treated as a slave, and according to some sources brutally whipped at the clothmaker's pleasure, Fillmore spent his time stealing books and secretly teaching himself to read. He eventually managed to borrow the thirty dollars he needed to pay for his freedom for the clothmaker (although no one seems to know who loaned it to him or if it was paid back). He then walked over a hundred miles in uncomfortable, worn out shoes to rejoin his family.
Fillmore had a powerful compulsion towards educating himself. He read every book he could beg, borrow or steal and at the age of 17 went to school in a neighboring town for six months in order to evaluate how his self-teaching had advanced him. His teacher, a 19 year old person of the female persuasion named Abigail Powers, became his wife nine years later.
In 1823 he was admitted the bar and became a lawyer, and in 1830 he set up a law practice in Buffalo, New York. He became associated with an influential politician named Thurlow Weed, who helped him get elected to state office and eventually the House of Representatives. He became the chief financial officer of New York in 1847 and one year later was chosen as the vice presidential running mate for Zachary Taylor on the Whig ticket. Mostly, they wanted a non-descript Northern Whig to run on the ticket with Taylor, a war hero who owned slaves and property in the deep south. The two men did not even so much as meet or shake hands with each other until after the election placed them in office together.
In 1850, Zachary Taylor became incapable of holding the office of the presidency because of death's icy grip, and Millard Fillmore was thrust into the vacated office. Over the next couple of years, he earned the title of "The Compromise President" for his efforts to forestall impending civil war through the passing of compromise bills, highlighted by Henry Clay's Compromise of 1850. Instead of appeasing the opposing sides on the issues of slavery and states' rights, the compromises further fueled the fire by making everyone at least mildly unhappy and unfulfilled.
He later signed and enforced the Fugitive Slave Law, which had his northern supporters seething because it required them to assist Federal officials in returning runaway slaves. His other political adventures included establishing trade with Japan and keeping Hawaii from being taken by hungry Europeans. In his presidential election bid of 1852 he failed to secure the Whig party nomination. In 1856 he would run again for president, this time as a member of the Whig-American party, which was a last gasp for the Whigs who had not joined the new Republican party.
Fillmore World of Irony:
His first wife died of a severe cold she caught while sitting through the inaugural address of James Buchanan, Fillmore's successor. Millard Fillmore would pass on from our world on March 8, 1874. Throughout the American Civil War and Reconstruction he battled Republicans, a party for which Fillmore had great distaste and a complete lack of affection. His grave in Buffalo, New York has a plaque dedicated to his memory in 1932 by the "Millard Fillmore Republican Woman's Club."