Most of us don’t know all that much about Millard Fillmore beyond the fact that he was President of the United States.
I came across this post on his birthday, January 7.
Like William H. Seward, Fillmore “was a protégé of the state Whig party leader, Thurlow Weed.” He was Zachary Taylor’s vice president in 1849. “At the time, Congress was involved in a heated debate about the future of slavery in newly acquired territories and states, and it was Fillmore who presided over the debates in the Senate. President Taylor defied expectations and didn’t endorse the expansion of slavery. Taylor specifically wanted California admitted as a free state.” Taylor died the following year, without a compromise in the argument, and Fillmore took office as President of the United States.
“Fillmore worked with a rising Senator, Stephen Douglas, from the rival Democratic Party on a package of laws that admitted California as a free state, but granted some important concessions to pro-slavery forces. Fillmore was conflicted over parts of the Compromise, especially because his personal experiences. But as he told Daniel Webster in a letter, he felt it was his constitutional duty to enforce the law. ‘God knows 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 get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world,’ Fillmore said. The result was that Fillmore had greatly upset members of the Democrats and the Whigs with the Compromise. The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act angered Northerners, who saw that President Fillmore would act to compel federal marshals to track down slaves to had escaped to the north. Fillmore also sent government troops to the South to act against rumors of a secession by South Carolina. Pro-slavery forces were also unhappy that slavery had been barred in California. The Compromise of 1850 also dealt a fatal blow to the Whig Party, which had divided into an anti-slavery northern section and a pro-slavery southern section. At the 1852 Whig convention, Fillmore couldn’t gain support for the presidential nomination he sought at the last moment; General Winfield Scott became a candidate who stood little chance against the Democratic Party.”
So Millard Fillmore played a key role in the Compromise of 1850, acted against secession, and staved off civil war for another decade.