"An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory."
(Robert J. Scarry)
From the time he left office in 1853, thirteenth United States president Millard Fillmore has become increasingly shrouded in mystery and stereotyped by traditional anecdotes that have come to be accepted as fact. The real Millard Fillmore was not the weak and boring figurehead many Americans today believe he was. This account of Fillmore's life is drawn largely from the Fillmore family's personal papers, many of which have previously been suppressed, unavailable, or believed lost for decades. Covering Fillmore's life from his ancestry to his presidency, and finally to his death and descent into obscurity, this history presents Fillmore as his own letters do, and as his friends, family members, and contemporaries saw him, as a distinguished and honorable man who was also a strong and effective president. This comprehensive work includes a genealogy of the Fillmore family, a brief chronology of Fillmore's life and career, a bibliography, and an index. Photographs complement this carefully researched portrait of a wrongfully underrated American leader
The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore
(Elbert B. Smith)
In this book Elbert B. Smith disagrees sharply with traditional interpretations of Taylor and Fillmore, the twelfth and thirteenth presidents (from 1848 to 1853). He argues persuasively that the slaveholding Taylor--and not John C. Calhoun--was the realistic defender of southern slaveholding interests, and that Taylor did nothing to impede the Compromise of 1850. While Taylor opposed the combination of the issues into a single compromise bill that could not be passed without ammendments to suit the extremists, he would have approved the different parts of the Compromise that were ultimately passed as separate measures.
Most historians have written that Taylor's death and Fillmore's accession led to an abrupt change in presidential policy, but Smith believes that continuity predominated. Taylor wanted the controversies debated and acted upon as separate bills. Fillmore helped to accomplish this. Taylor was ready to defend New Mexico against Texas. Fillmore ordered 750 additional troops to New Mexico and announced publicly that he would do the same. Taylor had wanted statehood for California and New Mexico with self-determination on slavery. As separate measures, the Congress admitted California and preserved a viable New Mexico as a territory authorized to make its own decision on slavery.
With secessionists pitted against moderates in the southern elections of 1851, Fillmore had to choose between his constitutional oath and his personal antipathy to the new fugitive slave law. He supported the law and thereby helped keep southern moderates in power for a few more years. In fact, however, his efforts did not recapture a single slave. In Smith's view, Fillmore's most serious mistake was refusing in 1852 to get himself nominated for another term.
Smith argues that Taylor and Fillmore have been seriously misrepresented and underrated. They faced a terrible national crisis and accepted every responsibility without flinching or directing blame toward anyone else.