Zachary Taylor   (1784-1850)

Attributed to James Reid Lambdin, 1848. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Barry Bingham, Sr.

Twelfth President, 1849-1850

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 L�pez 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.