Monday, January 07, 2008

Millard Fillmore, Know Nothing: Part VII

Millard Fillmore sailed for Europe in May 1855, having made a single statement designed to ingratiate himself with Know Nothings, and did not return to the United States until June 1856.

In his absence, a Know Nothing convention nominated him for the presidency at the end of February 1856. From the very outset, many Know Nothings expressed doubts about Fillmore’s commitment to the American cause. Tyler Anbinder cites complaints by the Albany State Register (February 29, 1856), the Jamestown [NY] Journal (March 7, 1856), and the Steubenville True American (March 5, 1856). Also in early March 1856, Thomas Ford, an Ohio Know Nothing leader, urged Ohio KNs to renounce Fillmore’s nomination.

Such condemnations generated rumors that Fillmore would decline the nomination. Solomon Haven and others therefore urged Fillmore to accept as soon as possible. Fillmore did so by letter from Paris dated May 21, 1856, addressed to Alexander H.H. Stuart and other members of the National Americans’ executive committee.

To placate concerns about his bona fides, Fillmore’s letter included endorsements of the party and its platform. But what is most remarkable about the letter is how frank Fillmore was in describing his priorities and reasons for doing so. The KNs, Fillmore asserted, were the only political organization that had the power to silence the “violent and disastrous agitation” between the sections -- sectional divisions could lead to disunion. It was for this reason that Fillmore, and “every earnest friend of the integrity of the Union,” was compelled to embrace the National Americans:

As the proceedings of the Convention have marked a new era in the history of the country, by bringing a new political organization into the approaching presidential canvass, I take occasion to reaffirm my full confidence in the patriotic purpose of that organization, which I regard as springing out of the public necessity forced upon the country to a large extent by unfortunate sectional divisions, and the dangerous tendency of those divisions towards disunion.

It alone, in my opinion, of all the political agencies now existing, is possessed of the power to silence this violent and disastrous agitation, and restore harmony by its own example of moderation and forbearance. It has a claim, therefore, in my judgment, upon every earnest friend of the integrity of the Union.

So estimating this party, both in its present position and future destiny, I freely adopt its great leading principles, as announced in the recent declaration of the National Council in Philadelphia, a copy of which you were so kind as to enclose to me, holding them to be just and liberal to every true interest of the country, and wisely adapted to the establishment and support of an enlightened, safe, and effective American policy, in full accord with the ideas and the hopes of the fathers of our Republic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails