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Four years later, Fillmore was serving as comptroller of New York when he was chosen as a dark horse pick for vice president under the Mexican War hero Zachary Taylor. As a pro-business northerner, Fillmore served to balance the victorious Whig ticket opposite Taylor, a slaveholder from Louisiana.
At the time, sectional tensions over slavery and its extension into new western territories threatened to pull the nation apart. Taylor pushed for the immediate admission of California and New Mexico as states, a position that angered many southerners since both were likely to ban slavery. Beginning in early , Vice President Fillmore presided over the Senate during months of debate over a compromise package of legislation proposed by Whig Senator Henry Clay.
Congress had been debating for five months when Taylor took ill suddenly after an Independence Day celebration in Washington. California was admitted to the Union as a free state, while New Mexico was granted territorial status. The slave trade in Washington, D.
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Fillmore, who opposed slavery personally, was unwilling to touch it in states where it already existed for the sake of preserving the Union. Over the next few years, he consistently authorized the use of federal force in carrying out the return of slaves, further enraging northern abolitionists including many in his own party.
He favored federal support for the building of a transcontinental railroad and opened markets abroad, restoring diplomatic relations with Mexico and urging trade with Japan.
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In , the Whigs denied Millard Fillmore their presidential nomination in favor of General Winfield Scott , who lost to Democrat Franklin Pierce in the general election. Within a few years, it had become clear that the Compromise of was only a temporary truce, and as violence broke out in Kansas and Nebraska the Whig Party splintered into factions and disintegrated. Fillmore refused to join the new Republican Party and endorse its strong antislavery platform, and in he accepted the presidential nomination of the short-lived Know-Nothing or American Party.
Fremont, Fillmore retired from politics. His wife Abigail had died in , and in he married a wealthy widow, Caroline McIntosh. He died in after suffering a stroke. A capable administrator and devoted public servant, Fillmore has largely been remembered for his ambivalent stance on slavery and his failure to prevent growing sectional conflict from erupting into a full-blown civil war. Start your free trial today. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!
From to , when he declined further service, he again represented his district in the House, this time as a member of the Whig party. In Congress he opposed the annexation of Texas as slave territory, was an advocate of internal improvements and a protective tariff, supported John Quincy Adams in maintaining the right of offering anti-slavery petitions, advocated the prohibition by Congress of the slave trade between the states, and favored the exclusion of slavery from the District of Columbia. His speech and tone, however, were moderate on these exciting subjects, and he claimed the right to stand free of pledges, and to adjust his opinions and his course by the development of circumstances.
In he was the Whig candidate for the governorship of New York, but was defeated. In November he was elected comptroller of the state of New York, and in he was elected vice-president of the United States on the ticket with Zachary Taylor as president. Fillmore presided over the senate during the exciting debates on the "Compromise Measures of On the death of Webster in , Edward Everett became secretary of state.
Unlike Taylor, Fillmore favored the "Compromise Measures", and his signing one of them, the Fugitive Slave Law, in spite of the vigorous protests of anti-slavery men, lost him much of his popularity in the North. Few of his opponents, however, questioned his own full persuasion that the Compromise Measures were vitally necessary to pacify the nation.
In he interposed promptly but ineffectively in thwarting the projects of the "filibusters", under Narciso Lopez for the invasion of Cuba. Commodore Matthew Perry 's expedition, which opened up diplomatic relations with Japan, and the exploration of the valley of the Amazon by Lieutenants William L. Herndon and Lardner Gibbon also occurred during his term.
In the autumn of he was an unsuccessful candidate for nomination for the presidency by the Whig National Convention, and he went out of office on the 4th of March Fillmore was elected to the New York state legislature in on the Anti-Masonic ticket, which, as its name suggests, strongly opposed Freemasonry. He remained affiliated with that party, which at the time polled well in western New York, upon winning election to the U. House of Representatives four years later. But he soon cut ties with it to join the Whig Party, an amalgam of forces opposed to Democratic President Andrew Jackson.
With the Democrats split over the issue of slavery—some had left to form the anti-slavery Free Soil Party—Taylor and Fillmore took the White House with 47 percent of the popular vote. But on July 4, , Taylor came down with a stomach bug after attending a Fourth of July celebration at the Washington Monument. His doctors, following the since-discredited medical practices of the era, gave him a mercury compound called calomel and induced bleeding and blisters. Within days, Taylor was dead and Fillmore had ascended to the presidency.
The only other U. Arthur and Gerald Ford Fillmore did not have a vice president.
Since the Constitution did not originally include a provision for replacing dead or departed vice presidents, the office has been vacant for about 38 of its years. Fillmore, along with Tyler, Johnson and Arthur, had no second-in-command for the entirety of their terms.