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Millard Fillmore is best known for assuming the presidency after the death of Zachary Taylor, becoming the 13th U.S. president.
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Millard Fillmore was born in New York on January 7, 1800. Fillmore began his political career in the anti-Masonic party, but switched to the Whig Party through his association with Henry Clay. He became vice president under President Zachary Taylor, assuming the presidency after Taylor's death in 1850. As the 13th U.S. president, Fillmore was responsible for forcing open Japan to trade with the Treaty of Kanagawa.
"Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and independent, possessing certain rights and owing certain duties to each other."
"May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not."
"The powers conferred upon the Government and their distribution to the several departments are as clearly expressed in that sacred instrument [the Constitution] … and I deem it my first duty not to question its wisdom, add to its provisions, evade its requirements, or nullify its commands."
"Upon you, fellow-citizens, as the representatives of the States and the people, is wisely devolved the legislative power."
Millard Fillmore was born in extreme poverty in a log cabin on January 7, 1800, in Locke Township, New York. At age 15, he was apprenticed to a cloth maker by his father to keep the family solvent. After nearly two years of brutal apprenticeship, Fillmore left and moved to New Hope, New York. Around this time, he became obsessed with educating himself, stealing books when he could. He attended New Hope Academy, where he met his future wife, Abigail Powers, who was teaching the class. The couple wed in 1826.
In 1819, Millard Fillmore got a job as a clerk with a local judge, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1823. Fillmore joined the Anti-Masonic Party as a young lawyer, and his political career subsequently began. In 1828, he ran for the New York State Assembly and won, serving three terms before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1832. During this time, Fillmore supported the protective tariff and eliminating the slave trade between the states. He eventually joined the Whig Party through his association with party boss Thurlow Weed, who would later help Abraham Lincoln become president.
In 1843, Millard Fillmore attempted to strengthen his position in New York: He resigned from the House, thereafter making an unsuccessful run for the New York governorship. In 1846, he helped establish the University at Buffalo and served as its first chancellor. In 1847, Fillmore was elected to the prestigious position of New York comptroller, or chief financial officer, revising New York's banking system. In 1848, the Whig Party tapped Fillmore to run as vice president with presidential candidate Zachary Taylor, a southerner.
Zachary Taylor and Milliard Fillmore won a bitterly fought election, but could not have been more different in backgrounds and political positions. The two did not even meet until after the election, and, when they did finally meet, they didn't hit it off well. As a result, Fillmore was excluded from any major role and relegated to being president of the Senate, which was beginning to debate several bills addressing the issue of slavery.
The sudden death of President Zachary Taylor in July 1850 brought a political shift to the administration. Taylor's entire cabinet resigned, and Millard Fillmore sided with Democratic Senator Stephen Douglas for a series of bills that would become the Compromise of 1850. While the Compromise of 1850 passed and was signed by Fillmore, it turned out to only prolong the split in the Union.
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