Saturday, January 06, 2007

Happy Birthday, President Fillmore!

Over at Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, Ed Darrell included, in a post anticipating the thirteenth president’s birthday tomorrow, the following quote attributed to Fillmore: “May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.”

As I commented there, this quote does not sound like Fillmore. He seems to have shared the faith in “the People” common in the mid Nineteenth Century, and I’ve never detected that he was cynical or sardonic. As my birthday present to Fillmore, I set about to find the source.

The quote is, indeed, all over the web, but I was unable to find a source attributed anywhere. The quote is not in Bartlett’s (16th Edition 1992), nor is there a reference to it in Elbert Smith’s The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. The bottom line: I can’t find even a purported source, much less a reliable one.

If Fillmore did speak the words, I would guess that he did so later in life, perhaps during the election of 1860 or as the southern states were seceding. As I mentioned in an earlier post, he became depressed after the deaths of his wife and daughter in 1853 and 1854, and he was resoundingly defeated in 1856. I suppose it is possible that the perceived foolishness of the people in voting for a purely sectional candidate, Lincoln, or watching the dissolution of his beloved Union, triggered a bitter observation.

But at this point, the authenticity of the quote remains unproven. Fillmore deserves the benefit of the doubt until a reliable source surfaces. Happy 207th Birthday, Mr. President!

1 comment:

  1. I have not confirmed it, either. Neither the New York State Library nor the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society can confirm it, yet.

    I'm rather sure that, if he said it, it had something to do with the coming civil war -- and so would have been after Fillmore's term as president was completed.


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