Millard Fillmore (president from 1850-1853)
By Richard E. Noble
Millard Fillmore, vice president, took over after Zachary Taylor died from a bad case of gas. Slavery was the main issue. Millard signed Henry Clay of Kentucky's compromise but it really wasn't much of a "Great" compromise, because nobody liked it. The South didn't like it because it allowed the Federal Government to be sticking their nose into everybody's business. The North didn't like it because it demanded that they had to return run-away slaves to the South. Immediately thereafter Millard was forced to send troops into Charleston, South Carolina to quell the riots and threatened the same action in the North if they refused to adhere to the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act.
Fillmore was a member of the anti-Mason wing of the Whig party or movement - whatever that was about. Fillmore expanded the railroad, avoided a war with Spain over Cuba, and expanded the Monroe doctrine to cover the Hawaiian Islands against the French, but slavery was still the big problem at home.
By the end of his presidency the Whig party was just about out of business. The newly established Republican Party was anti-slavery and strong Union. So Millard went with another new group called the Know-Nothings.
The Know-Nothings were just the opposite of the anti-Masons with whom Millard had started. This group was a secret group that originally stemmed from an anti-Catholic group known as the Star Spangled Banner society. They didn't like the pope, or foreigners, especially Germans and Irish and they had a strong antipathy towards that new radical political philosophy, Marxism. They hired plug-uglies to man the polls and "plug" anybody with a carpenter's awl who attempted to vote and didn't know their Know-Nothing password. Which was, of course ... I know nothing.
This group got Fillmore nominated for president in the 1856 election. Democrat James Buchanan won that election in 1858. Franklin Pierce had won the election for the Democrats in 1854.
Millard then married a rich widow named Caroline Macintosh, and tried to live happily ever after. But the next thing you know he got involved with that trouble maker Abraham Lincoln.
By 1864 he was convinced that the Republicans not only knew nothing but meant nothing but trouble for the nation. He disavowed the party. He was then labeled as a traitor (probably a communist) and withdrew entirely from public life.
Slavery was the prominent issue of the day and Millard, like all those to follow him before the Civil War, didn't have the answer. He tried his best to promote compromise and understanding between the North and the South but neither side was having any of it. The South stirred on by men like Calhoun, Douglas and Fremont felt that this was an issue to be decided by each state on an individual basis. The North engrossed and inflamed by Harriet Beecher Stowe's, Uncle Tom's Cabin, wanted the horror of Slavery abolished. There are those who say, even today, that a Civil War was the only answer, but the truth of the matter is that the Civil War didn't resolve the problem.
Slavery was not really abolished but only replaced by the Klu Klux Klan, segregation, oppression, hatred, viciousness, cruelty, prejudice and violence. If we look upon the Civil War as a failure rather than a solution or victory, what was the real answer to this problem, I wonder?