Sunday, April 29, 2007

The Fillmore Rangers

Poor Millard Fillmore! During the 1848 presidential campaign, Louisiana Democrats apparently figured out that it wouldn't be all the credible to attack the pro-slavery credentials of Zachary Taylor -- after all the general owned one hundred slaves. They therefore went after Millard:
The [Louisiana] Democrats concentrated their venom on Whig vice presidential candidate Millard Fillmore. Arguing that northern Whigs were antagonistic to slavery and had voted in favor of the Wilmot Proviso, Democrats reminded voters that they could not vote for Taylor without voting for the "avowed and notorious abolitionist" Fillmore. Democratic orators denied they slandered Fillmore with this designation because they claimed to possess evidence that Fillmore had proudly called himself an abolitionist.

John M. Sacher, A Perfect War of Politics: Parties, Politicians and Democracy in Louisiana, 1824-1861 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 2003), at 150-51.

On the other hand, Millard did have a fan club. Whig enthusiasts formed a club called the "Fillmore Rangers," "whose 'appearance, songs, shouts, music, & banners kill[ed] off the charge of abolition.'" Id. at 153.

The Fillmore Rangers were apparently effective. Millard (together with his running mate) received 54.6 percent of the vote in Louisiana.

Shortly after the election, a grateful Millard graciously acknowledged the Rangers' heroic efforts on his behalf:

I am honored by the receipt of your note the 21st ult. [i.e., October 21, 1848], enclosing a copy of the address of the "Fillmore Rangers" of New Orleans.

It did not reach me until the contest had closed, and the din of strife had given way to the exultations of triumph and the song of victory.

But I can assure you that the noble and truly national sentiments of that address find a hearty response in my breast, and the triumphant Whig vote in your city is the best evidence of the zeal and ability with which the young men of your club discharge their duty to the Whig party and the country. My illustrious associate on the ticket required no vindication, and I therefore feel the more deeply the obligation which I have incurred by the noble stand which these young men took in my favor, and I acknowledge it with heartfelt thanks, and trust they will never have reason to regret the confidence they have reposed in me.

Please make my grateful acknowledgments to the Club over which you preside, and accept for yourself the assurance of my high regard and esteem.

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