Millard Fillmore by Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.
The American Presidents Series: The 13th President, 1850-1853 (American Presidents (Times))

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The oddly named president whose shortsightedness and stubbornness fractured the nation and sowed the seeds of civil war

In the summer of 1850, America was at a terrible crossroads. Congress was in an uproar over slavery, and it was not clear if a compromise could be found. In the midst of the debate, President Zachary Taylor suddenly took ill and died. The presidency, and the crisis, now fell to the little-known vice president from upstate New York.

In this eye-opening biography, the legal scholar and historian Paul Finkelman reveals how Millard Fillmore's response to the crisis he inherited set the country on a dangerous path that led to the Civil War. He shows how Fillmore stubbornly catered to the South, alienating his fellow Northerners and creating a fatal rift in the Whig Party, which would soon disappear from American politics--as would Fillmore himself, after failing to regain the White House under the banner of the anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic "Know Nothing" Party.

Though Fillmore did have an eye toward the future, dispatching Commodore Matthew Perry on the famous voyage that opened Japan to the West and on the central issues of the age--immigration, religious toleration, and most of all slavery--his myopic vision led to the destruction of his presidency, his party, and ultimately, the Union itself.


About Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

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Paul Finkelman is the author of Dred Scott v. Sandford: A Brief History and Slavery and the Founders: Race and Liberty in the Age of Jefferson. The author or editor of more than twenty-five books, he is a distinguished professor at Albany Law School and a noted specialist in American legal history, race, and constitutional law. He lives in Slingerlands, New York.
Published May 10, 2011 by Times Books. 193 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

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With President Zachary Taylor’s sudden death, the completely unprepared Fillmore acted rashly by firing Taylor’s cabinet, then pressed to enact the divisive Fugitive Slave Act, which would “taint everything else he did,” even his important sponsoring of Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Jap...

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The Wall Street Journal

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President Taylor, though a slaveholder himself, had opposed any arrangement that would allow the extension of slavery into the western territories, regarding yet more slave states as a threat to the Union's stability.

May 23 2011 | Read Full Review of Millard Fillmore: The America...

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