10 Things to Know About Millard Fillmore

Facts About the Thirteenth President

Portrait of Millard Fillmore From 1856 Campaign
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) served as the thirteenth president of the United States having taken over after the untimely death of Zachary Taylor. He supported the Compromise of 1850 including the controversial Fugitive Slave Act and was not successful in his bid for the presidency in 1856. Following are 10 key and interesting facts about him and his time as president.

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A Rudimentary Education

Millard Fillmore's House
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Millard Fillmore's parents provided him with a basic education before they apprenticed him to a cloth maker at a young age. Through his own determination, he continued to educate himself and eventually enrolled in New Hope Academy at the age of nineteen.

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Taught School While He Studied Law

Millard Fillmore sitting with a book
MPI / Getty Images

Between the years of 1819 and 1823, Fillmore taught school as a way to support himself as he studied law. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1823.

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Married His Teacher

Portrait of Abigail Powers Filmore standing next to pillar.
Abigail Powers Filmore, wife of President Willard Fillmore. Bettmann / Getty Images

While at New Hope Academy, Fillmore found a kindred spirit in Abigail Powers. Even though she was his teacher, she was only two years older than him. They both loved learning. However, they did not get married until three years after Fillmore joined the bar. They later had two children: Millard Powers and Mary Abigail.

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Entered Politics Soon After Passing the Bar

President Millard Fillmore statue, Buffalo City Hall.
President Millard Fillmore statue, Buffalo City Hall. Richard Cummins / Getty Images

Six years after passing the New York bar, Fillmore was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was soon elected to Congress and served as a representative for New York for ten years. In 1848, he was given the position of comptroller of New York. He served in this capacity until he was nominated as the vice presidential candidate under Zachary Taylor.

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Was Never Elected President

Zachary Taylor, Twelfth President of the United States
Zachary Taylor, Twelfth President of the United States. Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

President Taylor died a little over a year after being in office and Fillmore succeeded to the role of president. His support over the next year of the Compromise of 1850 meant that he was not renominated to run in 1852.

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Supported the Compromise of 1850

Clay, Henry
Corbis/VCG via Getty Images / Getty Images

Fillmore thought that the Compromise of 1850 introduced by Henry Clay was a key piece of legislation that would preserve the union from sectional differences. However, this did not follow the policies of the deceased President Taylor. Taylor's cabinet members resigned in protest and Fillmore was then able to fill his cabinet with more moderate members.

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Proponent of the Fugitive Slave Act

The Rendition of Anthony Burns Engraving
Angry citizens in Boston protesting a 1854 court order to return Anthony Burns to slavery in Virginia, in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act. Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

The most odious part of the Compromise of 1850 for many anti-enslavement proponents was the Fugitive Slave Act. This required the government to help return self-liberated individuals to their enslavers. Fillmore supported the Act even though he was personally opposed to enslavement. This caused him much criticism and probably the 1852 nomination.

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Treaty of Kanagawa Passed While in Office

Commodore Mathew Perry
Commodore Mathew Perry. Public Domain

In 1854, the U.S. and Japan agreed to the Treaty of Kanagawa that had been created through the efforts of Commodore Matthew Perry. This opened two Japanese ports to trade while agreeing to help American vessels which were wrecked off the coast of Japan. The treaty also allowed the ships to purchase provisions in Japan.

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Unsuccesfully Ran as Part of the Know-Nothing Party in 1856

James Buchanan - Fifteenth President of the United States
James Buchanan - Fifteenth President of the United States. Hulton Archive / Stringer / Getty Images

The Know-Nothing Party was an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic party. They nominated Fillmore to run for president in 1856. In the election, Fillmore only won the electoral votes from the state of Maryland. He garnered 22 percent of the popular vote and was defeated by James Buchanan.

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Retired From National Politics After 1856

Abraham Lincoln, Three-Quarter Length Portrait, Seated, Facing Right; Hair Parted On Lincoln's Right Side. 1864 Feb. 9
Education Images/UIG / Getty Images

After 1856, Fillmore did not return to the national stage. Instead, he spent the rest of his life in public affairs in Buffalo, New York. He was active in community projects such as the building of the city's first high school and a hospital. He supported the Union but was still looked down upon for his support of the Fugitive Slave Act when President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

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Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Millard Fillmore." ThoughtCo, Sep. 10, 2020, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-millard-fillmore-104817. Kelly, Martin. (2020, September 10). 10 Things to Know About Millard Fillmore. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-millard-fillmore-104817 Kelly, Martin. "10 Things to Know About Millard Fillmore." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-millard-fillmore-104817 (accessed March 27, 2023).