“May God save the country, for it is obvious the people will not.” – Millard Fillmore
Millard Fillmore was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1832, the same year the Paris riots took place which were described in Victor Hugo’s novel “Les Miserables.”
Comparing the American Revolution with France’s numerous revolutions and riots, President Millard Fillmore stated in his third annual message, Dec. 6, 1852: “Our own free institutions were not the offspring of our Revolution. They existed before. They were planted in the free charters of self-government under which the English colonies grew up, and our Revolution only freed us from the dominion of a foreign power whose government was at variance with those institutions. But European nations have had no such training for self-government, and every effort to establish it by bloody revolutions has been, and must without that preparation continue to be, a failure. …”
President Fillmore added: “Liberty unregulated by law degenerates into anarchy, which soon becomes the most horrid of all despotisms. … We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children.”
Millard Fillmore was born Jan. 7, 1800. He assumed the Presidency when Zachary Taylor died unexpectedly. As the 13th U.S. president, Millard Fillmore stated July 10, 1850: “I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God to remove from this life Zachary Taylor, late President of the United States.”
After being sworn into office, President Millard Fillmore addressed Congress. July 10, 1850: “A great man has fallen among us and a whole country is called to … mourning. … I appeal to you to aid me … in the discharge of the duties from which … I dare not shrink; and I rely upon Him who holds in His hands the destinies of nations to endow me with the requisite strength for the task and to avert from our country the evils apprehended from the heavy calamity which has befallen us.”
President Millard Fillmore sent Commodore Matthew C. Perry to open trade with Japan. He admitted California, which had just begun the Gold Rush, into the Union as a free state.
On Dec. 24, 1851, the Library of Congress, then located inside the Capitol, caught fire. Two-thirds of the 55,000 volumes were destroyed, included most of the 6,487 books purchased from Thomas Jefferson’s personal library in 1815. Millard Fillmore helped to form a bucket brigade to extinguish the flames.
Millard Fillmore was the last president belonging to the Whig Party, which subsequently dissolved and members filtered into the:
- Know Nothing Party
- Free Soil Party
- Constitutional Union Party
- National Union-Republican Party
Averting a renewal of hostilities with Mexico, President Millard Fillmore addressed Congress, Aug. 6, 1850: “The treaty, being a part of the supreme law of the land, does extend over all such Mexicans, and assures to them perfect security in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, as well as in the free exercise of their religion.”
Endeavoring to keep the United States together prior to the Civil War, his record was mixed:
- Keeping France from annexing Hawaii
- Preventing Britain and France from expanding into the Americas
- Abolishing slave trade in the District of Columbia
- Recognizing Utah and New Mexico territories
- Nonintervention in Europe – refusing to aid Hungary
- Resisting Cuba from being brought into the United States
- Signing the ignoble Compromise of 1850
President Millard Fillmore stated in his first annual message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1850: “Being suddenly called in the midst of the last session of Congress by a painful dispensation of Divine Providence to the responsible station which I now hold. … Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and independent, possessing certain rights and owing certain duties to each other … which rights and duties there is no common human authority to protect and enforce. Still, there are rights and duties, binding in morals, in conscience, and in honor. …”
Fillmore continued: “The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us. … And now, fellow-citizens, I cannot bring this communication to a close without invoking you to join me in humble and devout thanks to the Great Ruler of Nations for the multiplied blessings which He has graciously bestowed upon us. His hand, so often visible in our preservation, has stayed the pestilence, saved us from foreign wars and domestic disturbances, and scattered plenty throughout the land. …”
Fillmore ended: “Our liberties, religious and civil, have been maintained, the fountains of knowledge have all been kept open, and means of happiness widely spread and generally enjoyed greater than have fallen to the lot of any other nation. And while deeply penetrated with gratitude for the past let us hope that His all-wise providence will so guide our counsels as that they shall result in giving satisfaction to our constituents, securing the peace of the country, and adding new strength to the united Government under which we live.”
President Millard Fillmore stated in his second annual message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1851: “None can look back to the dangers which are passed or forward to the bright prospect before us without … a grateful sense of our profound obligations to a beneficent Providence, whose paternal care is so manifest in the happiness of this highly favored land.”
In his third annual message to Congress, Dec. 6, 1852, President Millard Fillmore stated: “Our grateful thanks are due to an all-merciful Providence, not only for staying the pestilence which in different forms has desolated some of our cities, but for crowning the labors of the husbandman with an abundant harvest and the nation generally with the blessings of peace and prosperity. … Is it prudent or is it wise to involve ourselves in these foreign wars? Is it indeed true that we have heretofore refrained from doing so merely from the degrading motive of a conscious weakness? For the honor of the patriots who have gone before us, I cannot admit it. …”
He continued: “Men of the Revolution, who drew the sword against the oppressions of the mother country and pledged to Heaven ‘their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor’ to maintain their freedom, could never have been actuated by so unworthy a motive. … The truth is that the course which they pursued was dictated by a stern sense of international justice, by a statesmanlike prudence and a far-seeing wisdom, looking not merely to the present necessities but to the permanent safety and interest of the country.”
In 1862, Millard Fillmore was named the first chancellor of the University of Buffalo. Millard Fillmore, whose ancestors were Scottish Presbyterians and English dissenters, married his wife Abigail the Episcopalian Church.
Fillmore stated: “I owe my uninterrupted bodily vigor to … life-long habits of regularity and temperance. Throughout all my public life I maintained the same regular and systematic habits of living. … The Sabbath day I always kept as a day of rest. Besides being a religious duty, it was essential to health. On commencing my presidential career, I found that the Sabbath had frequently been employed by visitors for private interviews with the president. I determined to put an end to this custom, and ordered my doorkeeper to meet all Sunday visitors with an indiscriminate refusal.”
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