Millard Fillmore grew up on a farm in upstate New York and belonged to a large family. He was born in Cayuga County, NY on January 7, 1800. He was the second child and eldest son in a family of nine children. Nathaniel and Phoebe Millard Fillmore were his parents. Fillmore attended local schools irregularly until he was seventeen years old. One of his teachers was Abigail Powers who helped him become educated. Young Fillmore also worked as a clothier’s apprentice. When he got older he studied law with Judge Walter Wood.
After he finished studying he had various political careers and was also married. In 1823 he opened a law office in East Aurora, NY. Fillmore married his former school teacher, Abigail Powers in 1826 and had two children, Mary Abigail and Millard Powers. Millard Fillmore joined the Anti-Masonic Party and was elected to the New York Legislative and the United States House of Representatives numerous times. When the Anti-Masonic party merged with the Whig party, Fillmore became a Whig.
Fillmore’s political friend and ally, Henry Clay lost the Whig Presidential nomination to General Zachary Taylor. Someone suggested to lessen the disappointment of Clay supporters by nominating Fillmore as the vice presidential candidate. This idea was successful and Fillmore was nominated. Taylor and Fillmore ran against Lewis Cass and William O. Butler, who were Democrats. Taylor and Fillmore won by about 105,000 votes. During his Vice Presidency there were many problems dealing with slavery and the newly acquired U.S. territories.
Zachary Taylor suddenly died on July 9, 1850 and Fillmore took office. While he was President, Fillmore signed The Fugitive Slave Act, and five other bills that admitted California as a free state, settled the Texas boundary, made New Mexico a territory, allowed runaway slaves to be returned to their owners, and outlawed slave trade in the District of Columbia. The Fugitive Slave Act helped to postpone the Civil War for almost eleven years, but drew hatred for Fillmore from the anti-slavery Whigs. Fillmore’s foreign policy dealt with opening Japan to world commerce. He sent Matthew C. Perry to Japan. He arrived in Japan four months after Fillmore left office. Perry formed a treaty with "The Sealed Empire" through two visits.
Abigail Powers Fillmore couldn’t do as much as other first ladies because of her poor health, but she still was at all of the official dinners and receptions that were held at the White House. Most duties were given to her daughter. Regardless of her poor health and the stormy weather, Mrs. Fillmore took part in the outdoor inauguration of President Pierce. She caught a terrible cold and died soon after.
After his Presidency, Fillmore suffered many losses. He was denied his party’s Presidential nomination for the next election because of his signing The Fugitive Slave Act. Fillmore returned to his home in Buffalo, NY, Abigail died less than a month later. Their daughter Mary died sixteen months later.
In 1858 Fillmore married Caroline McIntosh. He practiced law in Buffalo. Fillmore suffered a stroke on February 13, 1874 that paralyzed his left side. A second stroke ended any chance of recovery. Millard Fillmore died peacefully on March 8, 1874.
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