July 9, 1850 – March 4, 1853, one term
Millard Fillmore, (not to be confused with the execrable right wing comic strip duck) was the last of the Whigs to become president. Just to give you an indication of why the Whigs went the whay of the dinosaur, they nominated Fillmore as Vice President because they saw him as the least controversial, or safest choice, right when the most controversial issue in U.S. history – slavery – was becoming, you should pardon the expression, white hot. Right when you’d want someone in power making a stand for morality and justice, for anything really, here’s what you got with Fillmore:
"God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil ... and we must endure it and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the Constitution."
Fillmore was the very definition of a Dark Horse: “a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence” - don’t let the name fool you though, he was a person, not a thing. And as it turns out, he was a person who didn’t want to alienate the Southern states.
His most significant act as President was to sign into law the Compromise Bill of 1850, which made these things law:
- Admitted California as a free state (obviously none of them ever lived here – “free” my a$$!)
- Abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia (but not slavery – psych!) - - Fixed the boundary of Texas and gave it money for making nice with
- New territory New Mexico
- And inexplicably, the bill also placed federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking escapees. Ooops!
Compromise has a new name: “Fillmore!”
Fun Facts: Fillmore never actually met his Presidential running mate Zachary Taylor until after Taylor’s inauguration. Imagine that!
He was the first President to open up trade with Japan, sending a fleet there to open diplomatic and trade negotiations with the Japanese. The fleet was commanded by Commodore Matthew Perry, who as we all know went on to even greater fame as Chandler on the hit TV show “Friends”
Fillmore was not a highly educated man, so he prized books and reading as a way of making more of oneself – he started the White House library, where today you can still find brand new books left uncolored by Dan Quayle and Bush, Jr.