Zachary Taylor

When a Whig politician first proposed Zachary Taylor ( 1784-1850) for President, the forthright old general scoffed: "Stop your nonsense and drink your whiskey!"1 A little later he became enchanted with the idea. Though he had been a professional soldier for forty years and was utterly lacking in political experience, he began to envision himself as the candidate not of a party, but of the people as a whole. But he had to have a party; so he announced that he was "a Whig, but not an ultra-Whig." 2 Daniel Webster scornfully dismissed him as "a swearing, whiskey-drinking, fighting frontier colonel," but he was not being fair about it. 3 Taylor's only real vice was tobaccochewing; he was known as a "sure shot spitter." Despite Webster's misgivings, the Whigs went ahead and nominated him for President in June 1848 (with Millard Fillmore as his running mate), sent him a letter of notification, and awaited his acceptance. They had to wait a long time. When the letter arrived, collect, at the post office in Baton Rouge, Taylor did not bother to pick it up; he was refusing to accept any unpaid mail at the time. Weeks passed before he received a duplicate letter from the chairman of the convention and replied with an official acceptance. 4

As in 1840, the Whigs had a candidate in 1848 but no platform. They avoided issues and presented Taylor to the voters as a military hero. Not only had he served ably in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War in Illinois ( 1832), and the Seminole War in Florida ( 1836-


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Presidential Anecdotes
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