By Mathew Brady, ca. 1860. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian
Thirteenth President, 1850-1853
Millard Fillmore was Zachary Taylor's vice president, and so became
president in 1850 after Taylor's sudden death. Although he personally
opposed slavery, Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850, which he
felt would temporarily pacify both North and South. But the Fugitive
Slave Act, a resolution which promised federal support for capturing
runaway slaves and allowing slaves to be hunted in anti-slave states,
infuriated Northern abolitionists and lost Fillmore any hope of reelection.
Two of Fillmore's more positive acts in office were sending Commodore
Matthew Parry on a trade mission to Japan in 1853 and allocating federal
aid for the construction of railroads.