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Although Millard Fillmore succeeded unexpectedly to the presidency, prior New York state office, eight years in Congress, and as comptroller of New York, from which he was nominated to become the vice president, served him as he presided over the Senate during the debates of the Compromise of 1850. When Taylor’s cabinet resigned, Fillmore appointed Daniel Webster secretary of state, intimating alliance with the moderate Whigs who favored the Compromise.
His Aug. 6, 1850, message to Congress recommending Texas be paid to abandon her claims to part of New Mexico helped Whigs give up their insistence on the Wilmot Proviso. California was admitted as a free state, the critical questions averted and submerged for another decade.
1838: After nominated to Congress, an abolitionist group sent the following questions:
“Do you believe that petitions to congress…on slavery and the slave trade, ought to be received…and…considered? Are you opposed to the annexation of Texas…? Are you in favor of congress (abolishing) the…slave trade between the states? Are you in favor of immediate… abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia?” Fillmore supposedly shouted “The Philistines are upon us,” but to all questions answered “Yes.”
1846: (The Mexican War) a “wild and wicked scheme of foreign conquest” to add “another slave territory to the United States.” ……while the North had the majority, “the South has managed to have the Speaker of the House about two-thirds of the time, and the Presidency about two-thirds of the time…I cast no imputations upon the South for this, but ask: Shall we submit to our servile condition?”
1850: Signing Fugitive Slave Act with the warning he would use federal troops to enforce it: “God knows 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 destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”
1852: Left out last state-of-the-union message, Fillmore predicted that within a century the population, white and black, would overwhelm the land. “It will give birth to a conflict of races with all the lamentable consequences which must characterize such a strife… The terrific scenes of St. Domingo (Haiti slave rebellion) are sooner or later to be re-enacted here, unless something be done to avert it.”
“If emigration could take place at the rate of 100,000 per annum, that would not only prevent the increase of the slave population, but constantly diminish it, and at last…wipe it out entirely.” (At that time Asian labor was proposed to replace the slave labor force.)
Critical to the evolving Nevada saga, Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as the first governor of the Utah Territory.
For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series to be published during that time. The first part of the series covers the presidencies leading up to Lincoln in order to review national policy and experience leading to emancipation. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.
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