Can you recall, off the top of your head, who the 13th president of the United States of America was? Chances are, you can’t. But every president has a story to tell. That’s why I’m here to tell you about Millard Fillmore. Born in January of 1800, he lived in poverty in the frontiers of New York. First working on his father’s farm, he was convinced by his father Nathaniel not to enlist in the army during the War of 1812, but learn a trade.
He was apprenticed to a clothmaker, but left as he wasn’t learning any skills. He then shifted his attention to law, and attended school. It was only a one-room school, but he was learning law well, and fell in love with his teacher, Abigail Powers. By now he was 21, and moved to Buffalo to continue his law practice. Not feeling content with the large city of Buffalo, he moved to East Aurora, which was a much smaller village 25 miles from Buffalo.
He married Abigail on February 5th, 1826, and soon had two children: Millard Powers Fillmore and Mary Abigail Fillmore (not very original with the names, in my opinion). He was elected to the New York State Assembly, and became an associate with Thurlow Weed, a member of the Whig party. He served in state office in Albany for three years, and was a House of Representatives member for eight years.
During his two years as Comptroller (not to be confused with controller), he was elected vice president under Zachary Taylor, another member of the Whig party. On July 4th, 1850, Zachary got gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea), and he died five days later. Millard became president, and he was very successful.
For example, the West was in conflict, and he signed all five bills presented to the Senate, which was favored by a majority. The first was to admit California as a free state. Second, settle the Texas boundary and compensate her. Thirdly, grant territorial status to New Mexico. The fourth was to place Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives, and the fifth was to abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia. So, he went along to make some major changes right away.
He became controversial by signing the Fugitive Slave Act, which stated that once slaves who fled would be returned to their master upon capture. He felt it was his duty to sign it, but it was his downfall. He was unpopular with Whig members in the north for signing the act, so he left office and was succeeded by another little-known president: Franklin Pierce.
Only 26 days later, his wife died from pneumonia, and just over a year later his daughter died of cholera. He remarried to Caroline McIntosh, and they used their wealth to buy a large house in Buffalo, where he spent the rest of his life. He suffered two strokes, and died on March 8, 1874. He is seen by many as the worst president, as many historians describe him as incompetent.
He may be the worst president in some people’s eyes, but you can’t deny his rise to presidency as an inspiring story. His climb from poverty to presidency goes to show that you don’t have to be born rich or famous to do great things. While he might be incompetent, he still led the country for three years, which is not an easy task. So, in my opinion, he was a mediocre president with a story worth sharing.