to James Reid Lambdin, 1848. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
Institution; gift of Barry Bingham, Sr.
Zachary Taylor, "Old Rough and Ready," was a veteran of the war of
1812 and two Indian wars of the 1830s, but it was his stunning defeat
of General Antonio López de Santa Anna's superior forces in the Mexican
War of 1846 that made Taylor a national hero. The truest definition
of a "political outsider," when he agreed to run as the Whig party's
candidate Taylor had no knowledge of the political process and had
never so much as voted in a presidential election! The most pressing
issue of Taylor's presidency was the question of extending slavery
into the new southwestern territories. Taylor was opposed to having
the territories become slave states, yet he was faced with the chasm
between the Northern states, which opposed the expansion of slavery,
and the Southern states, where the economy rested on the backs of
slaves. The Compromise of 1850 was still under debate when Taylor
died unexpectedly during his second year in office.