Millard Fillmore was born in Moravia New York in on January 7th, 1800. At a time when it was popular for politicians to prove they were “of the people” by claiming they were born in a log cabin he actually was. Instead of a formal education Fillmore was apprenticed to a cloth manufacturer, he only attended a school, the New Hope Academy, for six months. While learning the cloth trade he also clerked for Judge Walter Wood where he first began studying the law.
Fillmore saved up enough to buy out the remainder of his cloth internship contract; he then began formally studying the law and passed the bar in 1823 and opened his own practice, Fillmore and Hall in East Aurora, New York. He married Abigail and they settled down to raise a family. He also joined the New York Militia where he eventually held the rank of Major, although he wasn’t involved in any actions.
In 1828 Fillmore was elected to the New York State Assembly as a member of the Anti Masonic Party, one of the first third parties in the United States. The Anti Masonics felt that the secret organization was attempting to take control of the country and much of their propaganda is still in circulation to this day, including stories about the symbols on the dollar bill and the novels of Dan Brown. Although the party directly opposed the Democrats Fillmore worked with them on such issues as the elimination of debtors prisons and even stood back and let others take credit, this would become his standard political style.
Fillmore left the Anti Masonic Party in 1832 joining the Whig party where he was elected to the House of Representatives and served until 1835. In 1836 he was elected again and served until 1842. During his time in Congress he mostly worked with the Abolitionists and opposed new slave states, including Texas, and supported laws that protected run away slaves. After congress he ran for the Governor of New York but lost, he was eventually elected to the office of Comptroller, the first in New York, where he worked to regulate banking in the state.
In 1848 the Whigs nominated Zachary Taylor for President, however as a slave holder they decided they needed to balance out the ticket and nominated anti slavery Northerner Millard Fillmore as the Vice President, the Whigs also wanted to keep William H. Seward off the ticket. Taylor/Fillmore won the majority of the Electoral College although not the majority of the vote. Fillmore soon found himself over overseeing a divided Senate, working to keep the peace between the pro and anti slavery Senators. The fights included the expansion of slave states, admitting California to the Union and slaves in the District of Columbia. He also found himself facing a tied vote on the Clay compromise bill of the Crisis of 1850 but then fate intervened.
On July 9th 1850 Zachary Taylor died suddenly and Fillmore became the second Vice President to ascend to the office of the Presidency. Although he avoided having to make the tie breaking vote on the Clay compromise he now found that he was going to have to either sign the Compromise of 1850 bill or veto it. He took an active roll in the debate and even sent federal troops to the territory of New Mexico to keep Texas from annexing the area. Eventually the compromise was signed but it only caused more hostility between the states and was one more step towards the Civil War.
Although Fillmore was unable to prevent the oncoming war several of the actions of his administration would have a major impact on the future of America. He ordered Commodore Perry to sail to Japan to negotiate a trade policy. He also worked to extend the Monroe doctrine to Hawaii where he prevented both the French and the English from annexing the islands. When several southern states plotted an invasion of Cuba Fillmore opposed their actions but sent the navy to prevent European governments from interfering. Fillmore did maintain U.S. neutrality in European conflicts.
In 1852 Fillmore ran for President but was beaten by Winfield Scott at the Whig convention. After the election he and his wife attended the inauguration of Franklin Pierce but during the trip Abigail contracted pneumonia and passed away. Following the death of his daughter he decided to go on a long European trip where he was offered an honorary degree by Oxford although he turned it down due to the fact he had never received a formal education, he also met with Pope Pius IX. When he returned to the United States he was nominated as the Presidential candidate for the American Party, The Know Nothings. Although he wasn’t anti Catholic he accepted the nomination because the Whigs had disbanded, he didn’t like the newly formed Republican Party plus he felt the American Party was the only true alternative to the Democrats. Although he came in third he received 21% of the vote and even won the state of Maryland and 8 Electoral votes, the best showing of a third party candidate in the history of U.S. elections.
After permanently leaving politics Fillmore became the first chancellor of the University at Buffalo (State University at Buffalo). Although not directly involved in politics he did support John Bell as the candidate for the Constitutional Unionists, an anti secession party, and strongly criticized the policies of Abraham Lincoln. He also became involved in the military forming a militia to protect New York from Confederate attacks. In 1864 he supported the candidacy of George McClellan who called for a secession of all hostilities and allowing the Confederate states to rejoin the Union and keep their slaves. After Lincoln’s death Fillmore supported the Reconstruction policies of Andrew Johnson and opposed the more radical plans of the Republicans.
On March 8th 1874 Millard Fillmore passed away from the effects of a stroke. He was buried in Forrest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo New York and every year the city holds a ceremony in his honor. Fillmore is considered one of the 10 worst Presidents in history mostly due to his attempts to reconcile differences between the pro and anti slavery states. However it is unlikely anyone could have prevented the Civil War by that time and he was only in office for two years. Fillmore’s only real fault was being elected the Vice President of a man who would die a year later.
After the death of Zachary Taylor in 1850 the office of the Vice President remained vacant until 1854.
So, once again, if you vote for Ocular Nervosa as Vice President in 2016 and the President dies I promise to name a replacement and then step down the day after they take the oath.