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Millard Fillmore: An Unexpected President

February 18, 20244 min read

“It is not strange... to mistake change for progress.” - Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore was born on January 7, 1800, in a log cabin in Moravia, New York. He didn't have the easiest start in life. His dad died when he was young, so he had to work hard to help his family. But he didn’t let that get him down. Like many of our presidents, Millard loved reading and learning, so he became a skilled lawyer and started his own law practice.

In 1832, Fillmore got into politics and became a member of the New York State Assembly. He worked his way up and eventually became Vice President under President Zachary Taylor. When President Taylor died in office in 1850, by law, Vice President Fillmore automatically became the 13th President of the United States.

The Compromise of 1850

At the time, the country was growing fast, with more people moving westward and new states joining the Union. Some people in the North didn't want slavery to spread, while some people in the South thought it should be allowed.

Fillmore was not a slave owner and was personally against slavery, but he wanted to encourage peace between the states. Thus, he supported a compromise. The Compromise of 1850 was like a big agreement or deal that tried to settle this argument. It had a few important parts:

1. California Becomes a Free State: One part of the compromise said that California would join the United States as a free state, meaning slavery wouldn't be allowed there.

2. Popular Sovereignty: Another part said that people in the new territories (places that weren't states yet) could vote on whether they wanted slavery or not. This was called popular sovereignty, which means the people get to decide.

3. Fugitive Slave Law: There was also a new law that said people had to help catch runaway slaves, even if they didn't agree with slavery. This made some people unhappy because they didn't want to support slavery.

4. Slave Trade Ended in Washington, D.C.: Lastly, the Compromise of 1850 stopped the buying and selling of slaves in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.

It didn’t work, though. A lot of people were not happy with the Compromise of 1850. The argument over slavery continued to cause tensions in the years leading up to the Civil War.

Contributions to the Country

Fillmore may not be as well-known as some other presidents, but he still made some contributions. He helped to modernize the White House by installing the first bathtub and running water!

He also supported the building of the first transcontinental railroad to help connect the country from coast to coast. While the railroad didn’t get started until the 1860’s, he supported the survey which began in 1853. Plus, he worked to open up trade with other countries, which helped the economy grow.

Life After the Presidency

After leaving the White House, Fillmore continued to be active in his community and worked on various projects, including founding the University of Buffalo.

Sadly, Fillmore passed away on March 8, 1874, but his legacy lives on. Even though he wasn't the most well-known president, he still played an important role in shaping the history of the United States.

Learn more about Millard Fillmore here.

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Millard Fillmore Word Search Puzzle

Download and print this free word search puzzle, which accompanies the article.

Millard Fillmore

Millard FillmoreU.S. Presidents
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