Monday, July 19, 2010

Millard Fillmore: Lucky(?) President Number 13

 Majestic statue of Fillmore in Buffalo, NY. Does it look like he's "presenting" to anyone else?

You guuuyys, it's time to write about Millard Fillmore. Because I haven't yet. And also because Matty voted for him way back when I polled you guys. The only presidents left after this one are the dudes nobody wanted me to write about. This whole thing should be fun AND educational! Anyway, let's hop to it:

Millard Fucking* Fillmore was born in 1800 in a LOG CABIN in the Finger Lakes region of New York state, the second of nine children. I found out no information about his childhood, but apparently formal education was hard to come by out in the frontier in those days, since it was illegal for any building made of rough-hewn logs to contain more than three books--one of which had to be the Bible, another some sort of Indian captivity narrative, and a third one probably meant you were a little bit queer. But I digress: at fourteen, the Fillmores tired of having to feed their eldest son and farmed him out to a cloth maker as an apprentice. Millard was not so excited about this apparently, moved around apprenticing a bit, tried to get some education, and ended up clerking for a judge by his late teens who helped him begin his STUDY OF LAW. He passed the bar in 1823 and built a home in East Aurora, NY (scroll that shit down for random Fillmore/Fisher-Price connection). In 1826, Millard "Floppy Hair" Fillmore married his longtime love Abigail Powers, with whom he had two children, Millard Powers and Mary Abigail (SRSLY--could they have gotten any less creative with the names?). But whatever, nobody asks me before they do this shit.

SRSLY though: does he or does he not look like the Jim Halpert of 1820s rural New York law practice in that pic?

In 1828, the Fillmeister was elected to the New York State Assembly on an Anti-Masonic ticket. Fucking Masons. By 1832, he had moved up to the United States Congress, serving as a Whig in the House. During a break between terms in Congress, Fillmore and his friend Nathan Hall started up a successful law firm in Aurora. Fillmore went back to Congress in 1837 and served until 1843. As a Congressman, he opposed the admittance of Texas as a slave state, chaired the powerful Ways and Means Committee, and was nearly elected Speaker of the House. Fucking degenerate "Whig" John Tyler kept vetoing the bills he wrote, though. So Fillard Millmore decided to run for governor of New York state next. He lost. But then he totally got appointed as the state's comptroller and did some boring banking reform shit for awhile. During the Mexican War, he pulled a George W. Bush and joined the New York militia and never really had to do anything. Also, he started the University of Buffalo, which eventually become a SUNY school and is, like, really big or something.

But on to the thrilling political maneuverings of the 1848 Whig National Convention! Haha, just kidding. Weak-stomached war hero Zachary Taylor got the nomination, but the supporters of his rival Henry Clay managed to get Fillmore on the ticket as VP because he was from a populous AND non-slave-holding state. (Gotta balance that shit out.) Though supposedly the Fillbot was opposed personally to slavery, he thought it best to allow the new territories seized from Mexico to be open to slavery (he called it an "existing evil") so the South would be APPEASED.** Oh, and they won the election. Millman presided over the Senate as VP during those crazy days of debating the Compromise of 1850. So much wacky shit went down on the floor of the Senate in those days, like this guy pulling guns on people and whatnot. Anyway, as we know, President Taylor died suddenly in July of 1850 and after his ascendancy to the top office, Fillmore declared his support for the latest version of the Compromise, allowing it to pass with the infamous Fugitive Slave Act.***

I'm not suggesting we bring back slavery for more Senate-floor excitement, but they still know how to do it in Ukraine and South Korea. Aren't you glad we saved them from Communism?

But so blah blah blah, Fillmore pissed off the Whigs by bringing in his own cabinet instead of retaining that of his deceased predecessor and by compromising left and right with Democrats and Southerners and Mexicans and whatnot. He tried to hold his party and the country together over the slavery shit, and it kind of seemed like it was working for awhile right after he signed the Compromise bills into law. In the meantime, Millard Fillingstation played the careful diplomat when it came to relations with Mexico in the post-war era and with Cuba and the various European powers vying for its control (also, the South wanted it for slavery, but the U.S. wouldn't conquer that shit for another forty-five years or so). He did some other stuff that's not really that interesting while in office. Oh, but apparently when Fillmore moved into the White House, there were like no books there (I told you Taylor couldn't read!), so the Millman took it upon himself to start the White House Library, which as we now know, is full of socialist propaganda.****

Annnyway, the Whigs probs could've taken back the White House if Filliment and his popular Secretary of State Daniel Webster had teamed up, but they wouldn't do it. So Millard was denied the nomination in 1852. Instead, we ended up with this winner in the White House. So Fillmy went back to New York, focusing on his position as chancellor of the University of Buffalo, and at some point declined an honorary doctorate from Oxford because he couldn't read it. (That's actually the real reason, though it was in Latin.) As the 1850s wore on, the Know-Nothings AKA the Tea Party/KKK of those days, formed the "American" Party for the 1856 presidential election. Fillmore took up their anti-Catholic/anti-immigrant/anti-your face mantle and ran for a second term. Though he pulled in an impressive 21.6% of the popular vote, the third-partier ultimately lost to the Doughface. So Millardpants stayed in New York, founding and presiding over the Buffalo Historical Society, opposing Lincoln like only an asshole would, pretending to do stuff in the militia but only in New York during the Civil War, and eventually dying of complications from a stroke in 1874, having watched the Civil War come and go. Apparently Millard, Jr.'s will stipulated that most of his father's papers and correspondence be destroyed upon his death, so we don't really have much that he wrote. I doubt there was really anything interesting in there, anyway.***** But so the best parts of Fillmore's legacy are undoubtedly the H.L. Mencken bathtub hoax, the ensuing annual bathtub races as part of Moravia, NY's "Fillmore Days," (sadly not featured on their rudimentary website) and this "comic" atrocity.

*Wikipedia lists no middle name, so I'll just make some up. As usual.

**Millard Fillmore now = Hitler. Or France. Whatever.

***The Compromise was actually a series of five separate but related bills meant to appease the North and the South and slavery's advocates and its opponents. But whatever, law-making is boring--besides the pistol-drawing parts.

****Now Millard Fillmore = Karl Marx. Or at least Trotsky.

*****BTWs, still eagerly awaiting the release of these papers.


  1. "the Jim Halpert of 1820s rural New York law practice" is my new favorite phrase. FYI.

  2. MASSIVE. Chesnut FTW.

    Turns out he's just as significant as I always wanted him to be every time I put him in for a "which president..." trivi question I don't know the answer to--and I'm always wrong.