5 Things You Didn't Know About Millard Fillmore

On July 10, 1850, Millard Fillmore was sworn in as president of the United States, following Zachary Taylor's death in office. Here are 5 things you never knew about this president whose own party would not nominate him as a candidate in the following election...

 
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Fillmore Was One of the Accidental Presidents # Fillmore holds the distinction of being the first U.S. president born after the death of George Washington. Image credit: WikiCommons Fillmore ascended to the presidency suddenly when Zachary Taylor became ill and was given a mercury compound by physicians that caused blisters and bleeding, leading to his death. Taylor died within days after serving merely 16 months in office, and Fillmore became the new president. John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur and Gerald Ford are the only others who rose to the office of the presidency without ever being elected.

He Served Without a Vice President # President Fillmore, then a civilian, commanded the New York Union Continental Corps during the Civil War, which was made up of men over 45. Image credit: WikiCommons For around 38 years during the existence of the presidency, no vice president served because there was no provision for that under the U.S. Constitution. Fillmore had no vice president, and neither did Tyler, Arthur or Johnson for the entire time they were U.S. presidents. In 1967, the 25th Amendment fixed this glaring error and allowed a president to choose their own vice president as long as members of Congress agreed.

 
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Fillmore Personally Fought a Fire While He Was President Both Fillmore and his wife had a love of learning, and they founded the first permanent library at the White House. Fillmore was even known to carry a dictionary around with him to work on improving his vocabulary, which is something that probably wouldn’t happen these days. In December 1851, the Library of Congress caught on fire, and he was reported to have helped to battle the blaze and later approved a bill that would pay to replace all of the books destroyed in the fire.

His Support for the Compromise of 1850 Delayed but Did Not Stop the Civil War Tensions were high among the states about slavery during this period, so Fillmore approved the 1850 Compromise. This bill let New Mexico and Utah decide whether or not to permit slavery and added California as a non-slavery state, but it did not lower the tension between the slave and non-slave holding states. The arguments over the issue of slavery and enactment of this new legislation might have postponed a war between the states, but the Civil War finally broke out in 1861.

Fillmore Never Won an Election for President Because Fillmore supported the controversial Compromise of 1850, his own party refused to nominate him to run for reelection in 1852 and chose Winfield Scott of New Jersey as their candidate. Fillmore was nominated by the Know-Nothing Party to run for president in 1856 but was handily beaten by James Buchanan. Fillmore only received 22 percent of the popular vote and won Maryland’s electoral votes, which wasn’t nearly enough.