Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Millard Fillmore: A supporter of slave states

Milford Fillmore presided over Congress during the debates over the compromise of 1850.  Despite his support for it, he kept silent until only a few days prior to the death of Zachary Taylor when he told the president he would vote in favor of the bill if he was called to break a tie.  But, as it stood, Taylor was opposed to the bill, and it was not going to become law so long as he was president.

However, be it as it was, after attending a celebration on a cold day at the unfinished Washington Monument on the 4th of July in 1850, Taylor was struck with stomach cramps and died within 24 hours.  Fillmore became president, the entire staff of Taylor resigned, and were replaced with pro-slavery Whigs, including Daniel Webster as secretary of state. 

While Henry Clay wrote the original compromise, he left Washington for health reasons, leaving the bill in the hands of Stephen A. Douglas.  

With the support of the president, a compromise that now contained five bills aimed at easing tensions between the north and the south regarding slavery made its way through Congress:
  • Admit California as a free state
  • Settle the Texas border
  • Grant territorial status to New Mexico; allow it's legislature decide status of free or slave
  • Strengthen the fugitive slave law so that federal officers at the disposal of slave holders seeking to find fugitive slaves
  • Abolish the slave trade in the District of Columbia
Each bill passed Congress, and on September 29, 1850, all the bills were signed by Milford Fillmore.  The main problem that Taylor had with the bill was the fugitive slave act, which was an ardent violation of justice. Northern Whigs never forgave him for signing this bill, and for this reason they did not support him when he ran for re-election in 1852.  

He would end of losing the election of 1852 to democrat William Buchanan.  He would end up being the last president to be a member of any party other than democrat or republican.  

Further reading: