Sunday, January 18, 2009

President Millard Fillmore

I’m still writing about past Presidents since this is the time to think about our leaders present and past. The inauguration of Barack Obama takes place this week.

Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States and he has had an image problem for years.

Some scholars say history has given Millard a bum rap. He was dubbed by cartoonists “his accidency” after becoming President upon Zachary Taylor’s 1850 death. Fillmore served two and a half years and when he wanted to run for election on his own, no one would nominate him.

Some historians have called him a do-nothing President, but lets look at the record. In foreign policy he successfully intervened to prevent France from taking over Hawaii in 1851. He supported commodore Matthew Perry’s 1853 visit to Japan, which opened Japan to international trade after 100 years of self-imposed isolation.

For several years a couple of professors at New Mexico’s state University have tried to get the governor to declare January 7th, “Millard Fillmore Day. It seems New Mexico owes President Fillmore a debt for having stopped Texas from carrying out a threat to annex part of that state in 1850.

He did a lot of other things too. He was the University of Buffalo’s first chancellor. He was a five-term congressman from that city and helped found a science museum, a WMCA and a hospital.

Historians credit Fillmore with starting the first library in the White House and he did not, as the myth persists, install the first bathtub in the White House. Where did they bathe in those days?

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