spacer Millard Fillmore Millard Fillmore (1800 - 1874)
Thirteenth President (1850 - 1853)

In the summer of 1850, with President Zachary Taylor stubbornly blocking a compromise on a number of slavery-related issues in Congress, the country stood on the brink of armed civil strife. But the succession of the more conciliatory Vice President Millard Fillmore to the White House after Taylor's death cooled the situation. By year's end, Fillmore was bestowing his presidential blessing on the Compromise of 1850. The ensuing harmony between the slaveholding South and the free North, however, was short-lived. Among the compromise's salves to the South was the new Fugitive Slave Law, which facilitated the capture of runaway slaves, and Fillmore's determination to enforce it soon became a source of national friction. As northern abolitionists sought to undermine enforcement, tempers on both sides of the issue flared again. Fillmore, in short, had helped to preserve peace, but he had also fed the pool of sectional bitterness that made a future rupture over slavery all but certain.

Fillmore's portrait by an unidentified artist dates from about the time he retired from the House of Representatives in the early 1840s. In the years following, he devoted himself to reconciling the growing differences among fellow Whigs in his native New York State a task for which this hulking and amiable politician was well suited.

Unidentified artist
oil on canvas, circa 1840
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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Millard Fillmorespacer Millard Fillmore

This daguerreotype is thought to date from Fillmore's presidency.

Attributed to Albert Sands Southworth (1811-1894)
and Josiah Johnson Hawes (1808-1901)
Daguerreotype, circa 1850
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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