Thursday, January 07, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

Our thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore, was born January 7, 1800, two hundred ten years ago today. I have written a number of posts over the course of this blog trying to illustrate and explain why he was a fine man and an outstanding president. I urge you to click on the Millard Fillmore tag and take a look at a post or two to get a taste.

Meanwhile, here is something to think about. What if Fillmore, against all odds, had been reelected president in 1856 on the American Party ticket, and occupied the White House in 1860?

Fillmore demonstrated in the Crisis of 1850 that he was no milquetoast. While he fervently sought compromise (and took effective action to achieve it), he also made clear that he would resolutely oppose, by military action if necessary, any attempt to disrupt the Union, ordering federal troops to New Mexico to defend against possible attack by Texas.

In 1860, retired from politics, he displayed the same instincts. Although he was critical of the Republicans for their unwillingness, in his view, to compromise, he was aghast at President James' Buchanan's failure to take military steps to defend the Union. Fillmore's biographer, Robert J. Rayback, describes the former president's position:
On the eve of war Fillmore's criticism was not confined to Republicans. When President Buchanan did not take quick military action to stop South Carolina's secession, Fillmore labeled it a "mistake." "That the general government is sovereign . . . admits of no doubt in my mind," he asserted. From that precept, he argued that no state could "set up its will against" the national government. "Secession and all such acts are absolutely void." Buchanan made his "mistake," Fillmore thought, when he said that the national government has "no authority to 'coerce a state.'" In reality, those who passed the ordinance of secession, Fillmore thought, should have been "regarded as an unauthorized assembly of men conspiring to commit treason, and as such liable to be punished like any other unlawful assembly engaged in the same business."

In all probability, considering his actions in 1850, had Fillmore been in Buchanan's place he would have strengthened the federal garrisons in the Deep South and would have been prepared, if conciliation failed, to use force against the secessionists.

Happy Birthday, Mr. President.


  1. Anonymous7:32 PM

    Hi Elektratig,

    Since you have been on a Buchannan kick of late, perhaps you will find this citation in pdf format of interest (edited by someone you already know):

    Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 73 (July 1949), 349-392.

    The Library: The Mystery of the Dallas Papers

    Pennsylania Magazine of History and Biography 73 (October 1949), 475-517.

    The Library: The Mystery of the Dallas Papers, Diary and Letters of George M. Dallas, December 4, 1848 to March 6, 1849


    Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 75 (July 1951)

    The Missing Diaries of George Mifflin Dallas

    Happy reading,


  2. Sean,

    As always, it's great to hear from you. You links go to the top of my reading list . . . in the morning!


Related Posts with Thumbnails