Saturday, January 31, 2015

Millard Fillmore, "the most Jacksonian of any president of the era"

Our thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore, is typically cast as a craven milquetoast who facilitated the Compromise of 1850 because he didn't have the guts to stand up to the southern Slave Power.

I have long argued that this is nonsense.  Citing among other things Millard's determination to address the state of Texas's threat to invade the New Mexico Territory, I have repeatedly argued that Millard was a bold and decisive leader who authorized and was prepared to use military force to put down rebellion if necessary.  See my post "Anyone who thought that Fillmore lacked spine was now disabused" for a summary of my views and links to earlier posts on the subject.

I am pleased to report that author Chris DeRose has clearly carefully studied and absorbed my posts.  In his most recent volume The Presidents' War: Six American Presidents and the Civil War that Divided Them the author correctly characterizes Millard as "the most Jacksonian of any president of the era."
In a message to Congress, Fillmore promised to respond to this [Texas's threatened invasion of New Mexico] for what it was - criminal invasion.  He underscored his words by dispatching 750 additional troops to the region. 
. . . Fillmore learned that extremists in South Carolina planned on seizing federal installments at Charleston.  As he had with Texas, Fillmore acted decisively, inviting General Winfield Scott to cabinet meetings.  He poured federal troops into South Carolina and positioned others in North Carolina that could strike if necessary.  The South Carolina legislature, through their governor, demanded an explanation.  Fillmore, through his State Department, made clear that he was the commander in chief of the army and navy, that the decision to direct troop was entirely within his discretion, and that he was not answerable to the governor, the legislature, or anyone else. 
. . . [B]y finding the right balance of firmness and flexibility, Fillmore has prevented civil war and ironically was the most Jacksonian of any president of the era.


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