Millard Fillmore - 13th U.S. President

Bill Federer

"May God save the country, for it is obvious the people will not." -Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1832, the same year the Paris riots took place which were described in Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables.

Comparing the American Revolution with France's numerous revolutions and riots, President Fillmore stated in his Third Annual Message, December 6, 1852:

"Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our Revolution. They existed before. They were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up,

and our Revolution only freed us from the dominion of a foreign power whose government was at variance with those institutions.

But European nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure ..."

Fillmore added:

"Liberty unregulated by law degenerates into anarchy, which soon becomes the most horrid of all despotisms ...

We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and Government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children."

Millard Fillmore was born JANUARY 7, 1800.

He assumed the Presidency when Zachary Taylor died unexpectedly.

As the 13th U.S. President, Fillmore stated July 10, 1850:

"I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God to remove from this life Zachary Taylor, late President of the United States."

After being sworn into office, President Fillmore addressed Congress. July 10, 1850:

"A great man has fallen among us and a whole country is called to ... mourning ... I appeal to you to aid me ... in the discharge of the duties from which ...

I dare not shrink; and I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations to endow me with the requisite strength for the task and to avert from our country the evils apprehended from the heavy calamity which has befallen us."

President Millard Fillmore sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry to open trade with Japan.

At the U.S. Naval Academy, in front of Maury Hall, is a Japanese Bell, commemorating Commodore Matthew Perry.

Commodore Perry, on a Sunday in 1853, while sailing to Japan, set his Bible on the capstan and read Psalm 100, then sang:

"Before Jehovah's awful throne

Ye nations bow with sacred joy."

Commodore Perry wrote:

"I have just finished the Bible; I make it a point to read it through every cruise. It is certainly a wonderful Book -- a most wonderful Book ...

From boyhood I have taken a deep interest in Christianizing the heathen, and in imparting a knowledge of God's revealed truth everywhere."

On December 24, 1851, the Library of Congress, then located inside the Capitol, caught fire.

Two-thirds of the 55,000 volumes were destroyed, included most of the 6,487 books purchased from Thomas Jefferson's personal library in 1815.

President Fillmore helped to form a bucket brigade to extinguish the flames.

After the Texas War of Independence, 1835-1836, and the Mexican-American War, 1848, President Millard Fillmore successfully averted a renewal of hostilities with Mexico. He addressed Congress, August 6, 1850:

"The treaty, being a part of the supreme law of the land, does extend over all such Mexicans, and assures to them perfect security in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, as well as in the free exercise of their religion."

President Fillmore:

  • took much of Texas' western lands in exchange for $10 million to pay off its debts; and

  • recognized these western lands, under the names Utah and New Mexico, as U.S. territories.

Southern States were overwhelmingly Democrat and favored maintaining the institution of slavery and expanding it into the new territories coming into the Union.

Fillmore was the last President belonging to the big-tent Whig Party, which was was being torn apart by anti-slavery tensions.

The Whig Party subsequently dissolved, with its members filtering into the:

  • Know Nothing Party (American Party),

  • Free Soil Party,

  • Constitutional Union Party, and

  • Republican Party.

Endeavoring to keep the United States together prior to the Civil War, President Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850, engineered by "the Great Compromiser" Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky.

Clay, who belonged to the Whig Party, had previously engineered the Missouri Compromise of 1820.

The Compromise of 1850 admitted California into the Union as a free state and abolished the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

Unfortunately, the Compromise yielded to Southern Democrat demands for the Fugitive Slave Act, which, instead of averting a war, just postponed, and perhaps precipitated, it.

California, which had recently begun the Gold Rush, prohibited slavery in its Constitution of 1849:

"We, the People of the State of California, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom ... do establish this Constitution ...

Article 1, Sec. 18. Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crimes, shall ever be tolerated in this State."

During his Administration, Fillmore:

  • prevented Britain and France from expanding into the Americas;

  • resisted efforts to bring Cuba into the United States;

  • kept France from annexing Hawaii, though France later annexed Polynesia; and

  • insisted on non-intervention in Europe - refusing to aid Hungary in their war to become independent from the Austrian Habsburg Empire.

Fillmore stated in his Third Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1852:

"Is it prudent or is it wise to involve ourselves in these foreign wars?

Is it indeed true that we have heretofore refrained from doing so merely from the degrading motive of a conscious weakness?

For the honor of the patriots who have gone before us, I cannot admit it ...

Men of the Revolution, who drew the sword against the oppressions of the mother country and pledged to Heaven 'their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor' to maintain their freedom, could never have been actuated by so unworthy a motive ...

The truth is that the course which they pursued was dictated by a stern sense of international justice, by a statesmanlike prudence and a far-seeing wisdom, looking not merely to the present necessities but to the permanent safety and interest of the country."

President Millard Fillmore stated in his First Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1850:

"Being suddenly called in the midst of the last session of Congress by a painful dispensation of Divine Providence to the responsible station which I now hold ..."

He continued:

"Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and independent, possessing certain rights and owing certain duties to each other ... which rights and duties there is no common human authority to protect and enforce.

Still, there are rights and duties, binding in morals, in conscience, and in honor ...

The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us (Matthew 7:12) ..."

He added:

"... And now, fellow-citizens, I cannot bring this communication to a close without invoking you to join me in humble and devout thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the multiplied blessings which He has graciously bestowed upon us.

His hand, so often visible in our preservation, has stayed the pestilence, saved us from foreign wars and domestic disturbances, and scattered plenty throughout the land ..."

Fillmore ended:

"Our liberties, religious and civil, have been maintained, the fountains of knowledge have all been kept open, and means of happiness widely spread and generally enjoyed greater than have fallen to the lot of any other nation.

And while deeply penetrated with gratitude for the past let us hope that His all-wise providence will so guide our counsels as that they shall result in giving satisfaction to our constituents, securing the peace of the country, and adding new strength to the united Government under which we live."

President Millard Fillmore stated in his Second Annual Message to Congress, December 2, 1851:

"None can look back to the dangers which are passed or forward to the bright prospect before us without ... a grateful sense of our profound obligations to a beneficent Providence, whose paternal care is so manifest in the happiness of this highly favored land."

Fillmore stated in his Third Annual Message to Congress, December 6, 1852:

"Our grateful thanks are due to an all-merciful Providence, not only for staying the pestilence which in different forms has desolated some of our cities, but for crowning the labors of the husbandman with an abundant harvest and the nation generally with the blessings of peace and prosperity."

In 1862, Millard Fillmore was named the first chancellor of the University of Buffalo.

Millard Fillmore, whose ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians and English dissenters, married his wife Abigail in the Episcopalian Church.

Fillmore wrote:

"I owe my uninterrupted bodily vigor to ... life-long habits of regularity and temperance. Throughout all my public life I maintained the same regular and systematic habits of living ..

The Sabbath day I always kept as a day of rest. Besides being a religious duty, it was essential to health.

On commencing my Presidential career, I found that the Sabbath had frequently been employed by visitors for private interviews with the President. I determined to put an end to this custom, and ordered my doorkeeper to meet all Sunday visitors with an indiscriminate refusal."

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