The Compromise: Millard Fillmore

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Jean H. Baker in her biography of James Buchanan identifies an “irredeemable group” of “the very worst presidents.” 1 Baker includes in this group—along with Buchanan—Fillmore, Pierce, Nixon, Grant, and Harding. Certainly, there is substantial agreement about the extreme badness of these presidents. All but Fillmore are unanimously selected in major polls as “failures.” There is, however, a singularity about Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan. In the standard narrative, they collectively are responsible for the maintenance of slavery and Civil War. While Buchanan’s inaction during the secession crisis of 1860–61 seems to mark him as the most irredeemable, Fillmore and Pierce are accessories.


Republican Party Cabinet Member Union Party American Party Standard Narrative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan (New York: Times Books, 2004), p. 146.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Michael F. Holt, The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 522;Google Scholar
  3. Jean Baker, “Millard Fillmore,” in James M. McPherson, ed., “To the Best of My Ability”: The American Presidents (New York: Dorling, Kinderley, 2000), p. 102.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Philip Shriver Klein, President James Buchanan: A Biography (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania Sate University Press, 1962), p. 21.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Elbert B. Smith, The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1988), pp. 192–98.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    W. L. Barre, The Life and Public Services of Millard Fillmore (Buffalo: Wanzee, McKim and Co., 1856), p. 124. Interestingly, the observer later questioned whether the young Fillmore had the “self confidence and assurance” to be a “political chieftain.”Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Harry L. Watson, Liberty and Power: The Politics of Jacksonian America (New York: Hill and Wang, 1990), pp. 210–11.Google Scholar
  8. 11.
    See, Glenn A. Phelps’s George Washington and American Constitutionalism (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1993).Google Scholar
  9. 13.
    Robert J. Raybick argues that the motion was engineered by Fillmore. Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President (Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Historical Society, 1959), pp. 247–52.Google Scholar
  10. Holman Hamilton, however, is skeptical. Prologue to Conflict: The Compromise of 1850 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1964), p. 113.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    John C. Waugh, On the Brink of Civil War (Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2003), p. 179.Google Scholar
  12. 18.
    John D. Richardson, ed., Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1897), vol. 5, pp. 165–66.Google Scholar
  13. 27.
    Allan Nevins, The Ordeal of the Union (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1975), vol. I, pp. 5300ff.Google Scholar
  14. 28.
    See, Ariela J. Cross, Double Character: Slavery and Mastery in the Antebellum Courtroom (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 2006), pp. 151–52, for the importance of relative geographic strength.Google Scholar
  15. 30.
    See, John H. Aldrich, Why Parties: The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 31.
    Michael Holt, Political Parties and American Political Development (Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press, 1992), p. 272.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Abbott 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Abbott

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations