THIRTEEN

Millard Fillmore
1850-53

On July 10, 1850, the day after President Zachary Taylor's death, Vice-President Millard Fillmore ( 1800-74) took the oath of office as thirteenth President. Before long a story about the new President was circulating in Washington. Fillmore, it was said, decided that as President he ought to have a new carriage; so "Old Edward" Moran, a White House attendant, took him to see a handsome outfit which was being sold for a bargain because the owner was leaving the city. "This is all very well, Edward," said Fillmore, after looking it over carefully, "but how would it do for the President of the United States to ride around in a second-hand carriage?""But, sure," said Old Edward, "your Ixcellency is only a sicond-hand Prisident!"1

Secondhand, commonplace, mediocre, undistinguished: these are the words that spring naturally to mind as one surveys Fillmore's brief rise from obscurity and quick descent into oblivion. " Fillmore," said one observer in 1843, "is a great man; but it takes pressure to make him show his highest powers."2 The pressure, possibly, was never strong enough. "He had the peculiar faculty," said another observer, "of adapting himself to every position in which he served."3 Fillmore opposed the institution of slavery; but he did not believe anything could be done to abolish it. "God knows," he once said, "that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, and give it such protection as is guaranteed by the constitution, till we can get rid of it without

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Presidential Anecdotes
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