Any special activities at the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library for January 7?

January 7, 2016

The Ladies of Mount Vernon maintain George Washington’s home and a couple of farms, and now have an extensive center for teachers, in addition to an extensive library on Washington.

In Springfield, Illinois, a private foundation established the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

Neither is part of the National Archives (NARA) presidential libraries programs. NARA operates libraries for Hoover, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George Bush, and NARA will operate the Obama library from the start.

Other presidents are left out in the cold, mostly. There are informal facilities for Teddy Roosevelt, James Garfield, and Woodrow Wilson.

On Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7, I am happy to report there is a Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, too.

For some reason, it’s in Cleveland, Ohio.

Photo of the interior of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, in Cleveland, Ohio. Motto something like, "This ain't the LBJ Library."

Photo of the interior of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, in Cleveland, Ohio. From Facebook page. Motto something like, “This ain’t the LBJ Library.”

A promising place for scholarship on our 13th president, perhaps. Photos of Fillmore, previously unknown, have been published by this establishment.

The new Millard Fillmore Presidential Library casts new light on the 13th president's talents and methods of relaxation.

The new Millard Fillmore Presidential Library casts new light on the 13th president’s talents and methods of relaxation.

Finally, a place to properly celebrate Millard Fillmore’s 216th birthday anniversary, today!


A Gospel About Millard Fillmore – a Unitarian paean to our 13th president, born January 7, 1800

January 7, 2016

This sermon was delivered at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, by the Rev. John Robinson, on September 18, 2005.

Choir practice at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco.

Choir practice at First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Francisco.

That church used to keep this text in its sermon archives, but I recently discovered the archive had gone away.  I was happy to find I could get a historic version of the page, from which I got this text below.

I offer this here for scholars of the history of the presidency, and for scholars and fans of Millard Fillmore.  Oh, and to update the link in my list of sources on Millard Fillmore.

The Gospel About Millard Fillmore

This sermon began many years ago, over 30. Elliot Richardson had been invited to speak at the Annual Meeting of our Association of Free churches. He was then the martyred hero who had resigned as Attorney General of these United States rather than obey Richard Nixon’s order to fire Archibald Cox as Special Watergate Prosecutor. He was a Unitarian from an old Unitarian family.

Not all Unitarians were happy to have him as speaker. There was much agitation about the choice. Protesters tried to interrupt his speech, but were finally prevailed upon to let him make it.

In the question and answer period that followed, one of the dissenters demanded to know how Elliot Richardson, when Nixon’s Secretary of Defense, could have authorized the infamous December bombings of Hanoi and Haiphong.

Elliot Richardson pointed out to the questioner that he had not been appointed to Secretary of Defense until after the bombings, indeed until after the Vietnam Truce had been declared. He could have stopped there. Gotten off, as so many of us are apt to do, looking good. But he did not. He told the truth. He continued saying: “But, I think the decision to bomb was right.” It was the sort of candor that impresses.

Later that evening a young minister, this was years ago, was on a hotel elevator on to which Elliot Richardson stepped, unsuspectingly. Emboldened by spirits if not spirit. The young minister thanked Mr. Richardson for his speech and apologized for the rude behavior of some self-righteous Unitarians who treat those others of this tradition with whom they disagree so intolerantly. And then, as an illustration he launched into an impromptu sermon on Millard Fillmore. Ever polite, Elliot Richardson said he would like to see a full text. The young minister sent it to him, at the Court of St. James, where Mr. Richardson was at the time United States Ambassador to Great Britain. The Ambassador sent back a letter thanking the young minister for his sermon, saying that he had enjoyed it immensely. As a not so young minister, I still treasure that letter. Here for you this morning is the text of that sermon.

History has been unkind to Millard Fillmore, often referred to as “Millard Who?” forgetting that he was 13th president of the United States. One of the few accomplishments for which he is given credit is installing the first bath tub in the White House. There is serious doubt about that. [MFB note: No longer is there doubt; Fillmore was not the first.]

One historian said of Fillmore: “He came to the Presidency by the only road available to a man of limited ability, the death of his predecessor.” He was accused of being both pro-slavery and abolitionist. It was said he did “not have courage” “but was just inflexible.” They accused him of having “no position except equivocation,” that he was “without personal earnest conviction, personal force, or capacity for strong personal leadership.” His general rating as a president has been, until recently, below average, way below. He is judged bad or poor in his religiousness by those who judge such things. He was rejected by the religious community of which he was a member. He was a Unitarian.

There are three reasons to tell the story of Millard Fillmore: First, he illustrates the on-going tension in our free religious community, between the prophetic and the practical – the privilege of moral purity and the necessity to make real world decisions. Second, he illustrates well how difficult it is to judge our contemporaries. And third, to help restore Millard Fillmore to his rightful place in history.

The list of reasons for Fillmore’s lack of fame or infamy is long. His presidency was very short, only 2 years 236 days. His presidency is greatly overshadowed by the momentous events of the Civil War, eight years later. He was not liked by either the abolitionist historians or those historians who were apologists for the south. His association with the Know-Nothings tarnished his memory. And perhaps most important, the principal source of information about him came from the writings of his arch rival and enemy, the New York political boss Thurlow Weed, who called Fillmore derisively, “That incorruptible man from Buffalo.” Weed was very corruptible.

Millard Fillmore was born in a log cabin January 1, 1800, in upstate New York on his father’s poor, unproductive, isolated, farm. Millard was his mother’s maiden name. His education was sparse, no more than three months a year. He said that in the nine months working on his father’s farm, he forgot more than he learned the other three months. But his ambitious father apprenticed Millard to a cloth cutter, and then later got him a job in a law office. Millard’s Education was mostly self-learning, though by 20 he had a position as a schoolteacher. And then he became a lawyer. At 26 he married Abigail Powers who had taught him as he tried to catch up on his education. At 28 he was elected to the New York State Assembly.

At age 31 he joined a group of like-minded citizens in Buffalo New York where he now made his home. These were the founding and charter members of the First Unitarian Church of Buffalo New York.

Millard fought many good fights in the New York State Assembly. He fought for repeal of a law that required anyone testifying in court to swear that they believed in God and the hereafter. He pushed for an end to imprisonment for debt, and bankruptcy laws to protect small business interests. He fought for separation of church and state.

Millard was a party switcher right from the beginning. He was elected to the assembly as a National Republican, the party of Jefferson. Then He was elected as an Anti-Mason, a party he had helped to form. The Anti-Masons held that the Masonic Order with its lodges, secret rites and oaths, loyalties to something other than the Constitution, constituted an invisible Empire, a dangerous intrusion in a democracy. He wanted to get Masons out of government.

Fillmore was elected to Congress as a National Republican in 1832. His first term saw the formation of the Whig Party, an event he supported, as he wanted to see a party of National Union.

Unfortunately for those who look for titillation in sermons there were no publish rumors of moral turpitude. He served but one term in Congress, (perhaps an early supporter of term limits) and then went home to Buffalo and devoted himself to cultural and intellectual enrichment of Buffalo. (I know, you may think that an oxymoron.) He supported good causes like free public education and free public libraries.

In 1836 he was again elected to the House of Representatives. There he was made chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He also was chair of a Select Committee charged with investigation of election fraud in New Jersey (yes, I know, no change there). Incredibly Fillmore’s committee found 5 congressmen of his own party guilty, threw them out of congress, and thus handed control of The House to the opposition party! (IMAGINE!)

In 1842 he again left Congress, this time as a prominent Whig. The next year Horace Greely, editor of the NEW YORK TRIBUNE (also an alleged Unitarian), urged Fillmore’s candidacy for Vice-President. (Years later Fillmore repaid the favor by getting Greely out of debtors’ prison in Paris.)

1844 was not the year for Millard to get the nomination. He was held to be anti-slave and anti-Southern. He opposed the annexation of Texas as an attempt to swell slavery forces.

Later Millard opposed the Mexican War, which he believed would spread slavery and weaken the North’s industrial economy.

1848 was the year when Fillmore was tapped as the Whigs vice-presidential candidate. He balanced the ticket, with General Zachary Taylor, a Southerner, and slave owner, who was a hero of the Mexican War (ironically). Taylor ran on a rough and ready image. Leading abolitionists bolted the party, particularly New Englanders, notably the leading Unitarian, Charles Francis Adams.

The Taylor-Fillmore ticket had no platform because whatever was said would alienate part of the country. Abe Lincoln supported this ticket. On November 7, they won.

On July 9, 1850, rough and ready Zachary Taylor died from illness. Fillmore became President, the third President to be Unitarian. (In October of that same year this church was founded.) Within a month Fillmore had aroused the ire of the North by signing the Compromise of 1850. He did it, knowing that he had ruined any hope he had to run for the Presidency on his own. He also earned the animosity of many Unitarians.

The Compromise of 1850 preserved the balance between the North and South that dated from the Missouri Compromise and earlier. By it: California was admitted as a free state; New Mexico and Utah became Territories with no restriction on slavery; Texas was paid 10 million dollars to accept the Texas-New Mexico boundaries; slavery was to be decided by the people of Texas. The balance of concessions was further kept by prohibiting the slave trade in Washington, D.C. but continuing the right (better said the wrong) of slave ownership in the capital. The provision that enraged the abolitionists most was the strengthening of the fugitive slave laws. It empowered federal agents to enforce the act. The Whig Party split over Fillmore’s signing of the law.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (Unitarian) said of the fugitive slave law, “I will not obey it, by God.” Theodore Parker (author of the opening words this morning), a Boston Unitarian minister, led an armed band of vigilantes that confronted slave hunters up from the South; intimidated them into leaving; and saved a slave couple who had escaped to Boston. Parker had acted in direct defiance of the Fugitive Slave Law. With loaded pistol and sword ready on his writing desk Unitarian Parker wrote the Unitarian President, Fillmore, telling what he had done and challenging Fillmore to enforce his “damned law.”

History has judged Fillmore harshly for that one law – a Unitarian President perpetuating slavery – the scandal! Why did he do it? Talk of secession! Remember the times. Even before Taylor’s inauguration, Virginia had passed legislation that threatened secession if the federal government interfered with “Southern Institutions”. John C. Calhoun (also a Unitarian and charter member of the Unitarian Church in Washington D.C.) and other Southern leaders were making ominous warnings. Tension between the States in the House of Representatives kept them from selecting a Speaker for over three weeks. By the time Fillmore took office, the South was ringing with calls for secession, not only if slavery were interfered with but if its expansion were checked.

Fillmore’s predecessor, Taylor, a Southerner, a slave owner and war hero, might have held the country together had he lived to veto the compromise of 1850 as he had said he would. Fillmore knew he could not hold the Union if he vetoed it. He set one goal, to preserve the Union and the Constitution. To give up the great compromise forged in 1787-1788 would, he knew, lead to the rupture of the Union. He thought the North was at that time not yet strong enough to win a civil war. Modern historians agree.

By the end of October 1850, Fillmore had angered abolitionists by sending federal troops to assist U.S. Marshal’s in the arrest of fugitive slaves. His determination for the compromise was also felt in the South. He sent reinforcements for Charleston, South Carolina where Southerners, angry over the North’s resistance to the fugitive slave laws, were threatening to seize federal property.

Fillmore has been most severely criticized for not fighting slavery with determination. However, there is another side. John F. Kennedy in Profiles of Courage chose to profile Daniel Webster. Webster was also a Whig and a Unitarian. Kennedy praises Webster for his courage in supporting The Compromise of 1850 with its Fugitive Slave Law. Fillmore had presided as Vice-President over the debates on the Compromise. He had heard Webster’s famous speech that cost Webster the support of his Massachusetts constituents. Emerson said of Webster at this time “The word ‘liberty’ in the mouth of Mr. Webster sounds like the word ‘love’ in the mouth of a courtesan.”

Webster and Fillmore thought slavery would die a natural death in the industrial revolution (Why invest capital in slave ownership when an Irishman could be rented for next to nothing in wages.) They saw the tension, not so much as slave vs. free, as agriculture vs. industry.

Webster was but one vote for the bill. Fillmore alone shouldered the final responsibility to veto or sign the bill. Fillmore bore the blame for the Compromise of 1850. Do not forget that Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, said that if he could preserve the Union by keeping slavery, he would.

When the Compromise of 1850 fell apart, the Civil War began. The Whigs were terribly weakened by abolitionist outrage.

Perhaps Fillmore’s next most far-reaching act was to send Commodore Perry to Japan. But Fillmore was done. The Whigs were done.

In the election of 1852 Fillmore and Webster fought over the nomination for President at the next Whig Convention, for 47 ballots to a deadlock. In the end, a man neither of them could support was nominated and lost the election. A saddened Fillmore attended, with his wife, the cold rainy inauguration of Franklin Pierce. Three weeks later Fillmore’s wife died of pneumonia contracted that inauguration day. Fillmore’s 22 year old daughter died the year after he left office.

After he had stepped down from office, the Officers of the American Unitarian Association invited Millard Fillmore to preside over the Annual Meeting. But abolitionists refused to allow him to be seated after he got there. They would have no part of this man who would not follow their conscience. One hopes that this free religion might be gentler today but I am not sure. After the Civil War, Fillmore stung by their action resigned from the Buffalo Church when its minister and his friend died.

By 1856 the Whig party had disintegrated. The lines grew harder: Democrats to the South, Republicans to the North. Millard Fillmore wanted a party for the Union. He then made the second mistake for which he has been charged harshly. He offered himself to the American Party, the Know-Nothings, anti-foreign and anti-Catholic, as candidate — a devil of a thing for a free religionist to do. He hoped to gather there the remnants of the Whigs. He then went off to Europe on a 12-month vacation.

Ironically he was on foreign soil, after just completing an audience with the Pope when he was notified that he had received the Know-Nothing’s nomination for President. He was chosen because he was the only person of stature that they could get.

But many Know-Nothings were unhappy with him and bolted the party. Fillmore is not known to have ever expressed any anti-Catholic sentiments. This though he had lost a bid for Governor of New York because Catholics were angry that his militancy for separation of church and state made him oppose state funding they sought for various Catholic institutions.

Fillmore expressed no support for the Know-Nothing goal of removing all Catholics from office alleging they would be loyal to the Pope rather than the U.S.A. He did, however, believe that foreigners should be fully Americanized in their views before becoming citizens. He was also concerned that immigrants, who joined our diplomatic service, were sent to the countries from which they had come. He thought it a potential conflict of interest.

In 1856, he ran for President as the American Party candidate with a Southern slaveholder as his running mate. They emphasized in the campaign regional compromise and preservation of the Union. They carried only the State of Maryland. However they also were the spoilers that kept the Republicans from winning and thus put the Civil war off four more years. It is important remember that the changes happening in this nation, at this time, were more dramatic and far reaching in many ways than the computer revolution in our own. These were the years of the industrial revolution. The dramatic growth of railroads and factories, was changing the North for a subsistence farm economy to market agriculture and industrial growth. These changes radically altered the balance between North and South, increasing the might of the North disproportionately.

It is difficult to know whether Millard was in any sense a believer in Know-Nothingism, or if he knew of the violence in which some of its members engaged, or if he merely compromised himself to win his objective of continued Union of the States. He wouldn’t be the first prejudice Unitarian. He was not a radical Abolitionist. He said, however, that he thought the fugitive slave law odious but constitutional.

Slavery was a despicable practice. There is no apology for it. It is easy to condemn compromisers. But it is harder to make the difficult decisions that the real world demands. If it had not been for the courage of Fillmore the Civil war would have come sooner. And if the South had succeeded in becoming independent, how long and how entrenched by bitterness would slavery have lasted? Until today? And if cooler heads had prevailed, compromise succeeded, would slavery possibly have collapsed anyway without the blood shed and bitterness engendered by that fratricidal war?

The tension between the ideal and the real, the promise and what is practical, between moral purity and the sin of every day life, is very real. It is a tension that we humans are both burdened and blessed with. I leave you to struggle with these hard dilemmas. You do each time you vote. I believe that we are at our best when we walk with each other talk with each other, even in our differences, rather than separating.

Millard Fillmore lived out the balance of his days quietly in private life. He supported Lincoln, met Lincoln in Buffalo when Lincoln was on his way from Illinois to his First Inaugural. He took Lincoln to services at the First Unitarian Church of Buffalo. He thought that the Republicans had provoked the Civil War but gave it his support at rallies. He thought Lincoln too harsh – he strongly supported Andrew Johnson’s efforts at conciliation.

Fillmore was no Saint if you look for moral purity, nor was he our most brilliant President. He refused an Honorary Degree from Oxford, because he had no earned degree of any kind. He said he was “not entitled to it.” (Give him high marks on humility). But he was more than most have given him credit for. He risked and lost his reputation to keep the vision of a United States, even as others risked much to purify that vision. In looking up Eliot Richardson on the Internet, I find that he is listed as an Episcopalian/Anglican. Perhaps he too felt the sting of our righteousness at the General Assembly.

May we, O God, be people who understand that the course of truth and good is never so easy, and that the tread of evil runs through each of us, most surely when we are convinced of our own righteousness.

Amen and Amen.

Mostly accurate, so far as I can tell.  No, I haven’t figured out how you cite this under MLA standards.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Graveside commemoration for Millard Fillmore’s birthday in Buffalo, January 7

January 6, 2015

Are you going to the graveside event in Buffalo, New York, for Millard Fillmore’s birthday?

Press release from the University of Buffalo:

Millard Fillmore’s Buffalo legacy to be recognized at commemoration

A plaque commemorating Millard Fillmore hangs on a gate in front of the grave site in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

By Sue Ann Wuetcher

December 30, 2014

“Millard Fillmore’s imprint on Buffalo’s development into a leading U.S. city of the 19th century is unparalleled and his legacy today remains truly vibrant.”
– William J. Regan, director of special events,University at Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. – If Millard Fillmore, the much-maligned 13th president of the United States, were alive today, he might tell you he has a lot to be proud of.

Fillmore helped establish UB — serving as the university’s first chancellor from 1847 until his death in 1874 —and he played a major role in founding numerous cultural, civic and community organizations in Buffalo and Erie County, among them the Buffalo History Museum, the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library and Buffalo General Medical Center.

He also was instrumental in framing the charter that transformed the village of Buffalo into the city of Buffalo, and as a four-term congressman, secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and expand the Erie Canal.

Fillmore’s “legacy organizations” will be well represented at the annual commemoration of Fillmore’s birthday, the 50th year UB has organized the annual program.

The ceremony will take place at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 — the 215th anniversary of Fillmore’s birth — at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

“In celebrating 50 years of planning this event, we thought it would be fitting to include all the organizations that can trace their roots back to Millard Fillmore,” says William J. Regan, director of special events. “Millard Fillmore’s imprint on Buffalo’s development into a leading U.S. city of the 19th century is unparalleled and his legacy today remains truly vibrant as these organizations continue to define and lead Buffalo in so many ways.”

The roster of organizations Fillmore touched is impressive, Regan says, and includes the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, The Buffalo Club, the Buffalo Public Schools, Buffalo Science Museum, the law firm Hodgson Russ LLP and the SPCA serving Erie County, as well as the history museum, public library, Buffalo General and, of course, UB.

Representatives of these organizations — Provost Charles F. Zukoski will represent UB — will give short tributes to Fillmore and present a community wreath to be placed on Fillmore’s grave. Wreaths also will be presented by the White House and Forest Lawn. Col. Kevin Rogers, inspector general of the 107th Airlift Wing of the New York Air National Guard based at the Niagara Falls Air Base, will place the White House wreath on behalf of President Obama.

Robert Goller, Town of Aurora historian, will deliver the memorial address and provide an account of Fillmore’s early days. Although he was born in Moravia, Cayuga County, Fillmore started his law practice in East Aurora and built a house there for himself and his wife, Abigail.

Following the gravesite ceremony, a reception sponsored by Forest Lawn and the Buffalo Club will be held in the new Margaret L. Wendt Archive and Resource Center in Forest Lawn.

The tradition to honor Fillmore dates back to 1937. From 1937 until 1965, the commemoration was staged by the city of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education. The annual ceremonies were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7 — one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn.

The responsibility of planning the commemoration shifted to UB when Templeton died in 1965. Although UB participated in the Fillmore birthday commemoration during Templeton’s stewardship, the university took over the ceremony and made it a community event starting in 1966.

The ceremony is open to all members of the UB and broader Western New York communities. Registration is encouraged at www.ubevents.org/event/mf2015

– See more at: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/releases/2014/12/043.html#sthash.dqcO3WTO.dpuf

No bathtub races this year, that I have found.

Do you know of any other commemorations of Fillmore’s birthday?


Polish up your bathtub, oil the wheels: Millard Fillmore’s birthday next Monday, January 7

January 4, 2013

Check out your bathtub to be sure it’s in top running order for the bathtub races.

English: 1938 u.s. postage stamp of Millard Fi...

1938 U.S. postage stamp of Millard Fillmore. It’s a 13-cent stamp; Fillmore was the 13th president. Photo: Wikipedia

Millard Fillmore’s birthday anniversary is coming Monday, January 7.  He would have been 213 years old.  He’d also have been reading a book, and he’d probably be very cranky.

More:


Are you ready? Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7

January 6, 2010

Millard Fillmore turns 210 tomorrow.

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, NY Times image, Wikimedia

Millard Fillmore in the 1850s, wondering about that birthday cake. Wikimedia, via New York Times image

How do you plan to celebrate?

Some are planning big fetes:

From 10:00AM to 3:00PM on Sun Jan 10, 2010.

Save the date! Cayuga-Owasco Lakes Historical Society will once again host a birthday party for Millard Fillmore on Sunday, January 10 from 10:00am to 3pm. The history museum at 14 West Cayuga Street will be open for visitors and will serve refreshments in honor of our 13th President’s birthday. This will be the last official function until March, 2010. Throughout December the house will be open on Mondays 9:00 am until noon. If you have not visited lately, the recently refurbished Fillmore Room features a timeline of his life and presidency as well as photos and memorabilia.  (From Auburnpub.com)

Tradition is on a glide path at the University of Buffalo, a school founded by Millard Fillmore; from the UB Media Center:

Media Advisory: UB to Commemorate 210th Birthday of Millard Fillmore

Release Date: January 6, 2010

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The University at Buffalo will uphold a longstanding winter tradition as it celebrates the 210th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore, UB’s first chancellor and the 13th president of the United States, at a ceremony to be held at 10 a.m. Jan. 7 at Fillmore’s gravesite in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

The outdoor ceremony marking the 210th anniversary of Fillmore’s birth on Jan. 7, 1800, is hosted by UB, the Forest Lawn Group and the Buffalo Club. It is free and open to the public.

The commemoration address will be delivered by James A. Willis, UB executive vice president for university support services. Wreaths will be presented by Col. Timothy G. Vaughn, 107th Mission Support Group Commander, New York Air National Guard, representing the White House; Marc Adler, adjunct professor in Millard Fillmore College and immediate past president of the UB Alumni Association, representing UB; Charles M. Mitschow, president of the Buffalo Club; and Dean H. Jewett, chairman of the board of the Forest Lawn Group.

The invocation will be presented by The Rev. Joel Miller, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo. The UB Police Color Guard will present the flags, and West Richter, a UB student and member of the UB Marching Band, will play taps.

A reception with refreshments will immediately follow in the Forest Lawn Chapel.

Fillmore helped establish UB, serving as its first chancellor from 1847 until his death in 1874. He also was instrumental in framing the charter transforming the Village of Buffalo into the City of Buffalo. He helped establish Buffalo General Hospital, the SPCA, the Buffalo Historical Society, the Fine Arts Academy, Buffalo Savings Bank, Buffalo’s public library system and the Buffalo Club. As a congressman, he secured funding to enlarge the Buffalo Harbor and expand the Erie Canal. Fillmore served as president from 1850 to 1853.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of UB’s stewardship of Fillmore’s service, but the tradition to honor Fillmore dates back to 1937. From 1937 until 1965, the ceremonies were staged by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Board of Education. The events were administered by Irving R. Templeton, a 1909 graduate of UB, who scheduled two programs annually on or near Jan. 7, one in City Hall and one in Forest Lawn.

The responsibility shifted to UB when Templeton died in 1965. Although UB participated in the Fillmore birthday commemoration during Templeton’s stewardship, the university took over the ceremonies and made it a community event starting in 1966.

Media arrangements: Charles Anzalone onsite at 440-8824.

According to Buffalo Rising!, tradition wins out at Forest Lawn, New York, too:

By Sandy Starks

Okay… the frenzy of holiday visits and activities are past, the decorations are put away, and the final game in regular season football has been played. The winter doldrums are about to set in, and what are we to do?

The Forest Lawn Cemetery Heritage Foundation has come up with programming that will help you get over the inevitable winter blues. We all love the Summer in the Cemetery tours the cemetery offered each year, so in 2010 the folks at Forest Lawn have decided to celebrate the winter season by hosting a four-part series of concerts and lectures to be held at the historic chapel, located in the heart of the cemetery.

On the second Sunday of each month, January through April, at 2PM, programs will include a mini concert, followed by a lecture on a topic related to Forest Lawn and the History of Buffalo. This Sunday January 10th, the topic will be The History of Music in Buffalo.

Music Librarian, Raya Lee, teams up with one of Buffalo’s favorite musical talents, Bruce Woody, to discuss how music evolved in Buffalo. The lecture includes information about the opening of the first music store in 1827, the first performance of super-star Jenny Lind in 1851, an overview featuring the greatest musical artists of the day, their stories, and the birth of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

People featured in the lecture include Millard Fillmore, James P. Sheppard, owner of the first music store in Buffalo; Marian de Forest, Zorah Berry, and conductors John Lund and Charles Kuhn. Tunes, some we are familiar with such as “Shuffle off to Buffalo,” “Buffalo Gals,” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (Harold Arlen), will be played throughout the lecture.

The series continues with a program on February 14th, with The Entertainers and Writers of Forest Lawn, presented by: Forest Lawn researcher, Patrick Kavanagh with a musical presentation performed by Buffalo musicians Billy McEwen and Joe Head.

Many of us know about Darwin Martin of the Larkin Soap Company but there is much to know about John Larkin and the company itself. The March 14th program, A Review of the Larkin Soap Company – A Man and His Products will familiarize us the dynamic Buffalo business. Larkin Enthusiast Jerry Puma will talk about the Larkin Soap Company and bring some of his Larkin collection for you to view. A musical presentation by The Docenko Brothers rounds out this fun yet informative day.

The series concludes on April 11th, with a talk by Author Laura Pederson (if you haven’t read the book Buffalo Gal yet, that is another way to beat the winter blues), talking about Smokestacks & Skyscrapers: A Lighthearted History of Buffalo. The musical presentation will be by Grace Stumberg, a rising Buffalo musical talent and student at Villa Maria College.

Admission is $15. Tickets may be purchased at Forest Lawn’s administration office, 1411 Delaware Avenue or by calling 716.885.1600. Ask about the discount that is available for all four programs.


Millard Fillmore’s birthday, January 7 – How will you celebrate in 2010?

December 30, 2009

In honor of Millard Fillmore’s birthday on January 7, I’ll post a collection of images of Fillmore and his administration that I’ve come across over the past year.  Though photography was invented in 1837, and though Fillmore was thought to be a handsome man, not many images of our 13th president survive on the internet.  For that matter, there is not a lot of good biographical information, either.

Many of these images come from the Library of Congress’s collections.

Millard Fillmore, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Collection - Duval image

Millard Fillmore, undated lithograph, Library of Congress

The Library of Congress has one copy of a print of this image.  A note with the image says “Duval,” but little is known about it otherwise, at least to the Library of Congress.  No date is given.  Judging from the color of his hair, I think this may be an image done for his unsuccessful 1856 campaign.

Only a tiny handful of images of Fillmore show up regularly — this is not one of them.  I wonder whether my posting it here will have any effect in spreading its popularity.

Fillmore will perhaps always remain enigmatic, out of step with his own times in many ways, and forced to the edges of history by other events and people more in the mainstream.  Fillmore was born January 7, 1800, 24 days after the death of George Washington (d. December 14, 1799), and lived through the administration of Abraham Lincoln, and the Civil War.  Fillmore had some things in common with both of those great presidents, but no real dealings except for his opposition to Lincoln.

History uneasily deals with such men, who refuse to be put into pigeon holes.

Resources:


Call the bakery: Millard Fillmore’s birthday is January 7

January 4, 2008

Monday, January 7, is the 208th anniversary of the birth of Millard Fillmore.

millare-fillmore-campaign-poster-american-party-loc-3a48894v.jpg
  • Campaign poster from the 1856 presidential election, when Fillmore ran on the American Party ticket. The American Party is better known as the Know-Nothing Party. Library of Congress image. Fillmore failed to win the nomination of the Whig Party in 1852; he lost in 1856 with the Know-Nothings, too.

The rumor is inaccurate that there will be a big celebration in the organizing offices of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, same as they also celebrate the births of James Buchanan, Franklin Pierce, and Warren G. Harding — those who bar the way of Bush’s being acclaimed as the worst president in U.S. history.

Watch a C-SPAN video on the Millard Fillmore map collection at the Library of Congress. Fillmore was a surveyor (a profession he shared with Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, among others), and when he got the money, he collected maps. It’s a nice collection which I knew nothing about when I was in Washington, and which I would love to see. (I found the video via the American Presidents website.)

Fillmore was the last Whig Party president. So far as I can tell, the Whig Party has no plans to celebrate in any fashion. Peter Brimelow, Vox Day and Cleon Skousen were all unavailable for comment.

Fillmore Days in Cayuga, New York, are the last week in June.

The University of Buffalo organizes a gravesite commemoration, set for January 7, 2008, 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time at Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, where Fillmore is interred. Fillmore founded the University of Buffalo and was its first chancellor. If you plan to attend, you should register for the event.

Near Buffalo, in East Aurora, the annual dinner commemoratng Fillmore’s birthday will be held Thursday night:

This year’s dinner at The Roycroft Inn will be held on Jan. 10 at 6 p.m., missing Fillmore’s 208th birthday (Jan. 7) by just a few days. The meal is said to be inspired by Fillmore’s early days in East Aurora, and features a “Know-Nothing stew.” Guests can also enjoy a birthday cake provided by Tops. The Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce hosts the event, which is sponsored this year by OPCS Federal Credit Union. Seating at the dinner is limited, and reservations are available by calling the [East Aurora] Chamber [of Commerce] at [716?] 652-8444.

How will you celebrate Fillmore’s birthday?

Should we also note March 8, the day that both Fillmore and William Howard Taft died? Forgotten Presidents Day? Bathtub Presidents Day?
Read the rest of this entry »


Happy 220th birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 7, 2020

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use. Creative Commons copyright.

Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born on January 7, 1800.

That was 24 days after the death of our first President, George Washington.

Fillmore’s birthday isn’t such a big deal anymore, since fun organizers discontinued the bathtub races once word got out that the story of Millard Fillmore putting the first bathtub in the White House, is a hoax.

Historians from the University of Buffalo — an institution founded by Fillmore after his presidency — usually hold a graveside ceremony with speeches. In 2020 the service was scheduled for 10:00 a.m. EST, at Fillmore’s grave. No news I can find about whether it occurred. The ceremony has been cancelled for snow, ice and cold in recent years. (About as cold as the response I get from the University of Buffalo when I ask for a copy of the speech or paper to publish here.)

It’s a shame, really. Fillmore is the victim of fake news, a hoax perpetrated by H. L. Mencken 100 years ago, in 1917. Mencken claimed, falsely, that Fillmore’s sole good, memorable deed was putting that fictitious bathtub in the White House. That story crowds out the real history, and any good Fillmore should be remembered for.

Fillmore did a few notable things as president.

  • Fillmore secured a steady supply of bird guano for the United States. Funny as that may be, the guano was essential for making gun powder, which in turn helped fuel the military might of the United States for years (including through the Civil War).
  • Millard Fillmore and his first wife, Abigail, read books all the time. Deprived of the opportunity of going to school much in his youth, Fillmore became an ardent reader, read for the law, became a lawyer, got into politics and was selected Vice President for President Zachary Taylor. When Taylor died (probably of typhoid) in 1850, Fillmore succeeded to the presidency. In the White House, the Fillmores found few books to read, and so established the White House Library. Say prayers that library survives the current president.
  • Fillmore thought globally, and he could see world trade as a huge opportunity for a young nation with a strong navy and army, and a lot of resources including intellectual capacity to manufacture things. Trade in the Pacific was problematic, and a large number of problems stemmed from Japan’s closing itself off from the world. Japan had coal, which could refuel steamships. Japan instead closed its ports. An occasional U.S. sailor would be executed if he washed up on Japanese shores. Fillmore sent a small fleet of “black ships” under Commodore Matthew Perry, to tell Japan it was time to open up to trade and assume its place among nations. Perry was successful, after a second visit and a small round of cannon fire. Japan became a strong economic power in the West Pacific, and in its march to glory decided to take over resources of several other Asian nations. We might say Fillmore started the slide to World War II in the Pacific.

History should be kept to accuracy. Mencken upset the ship of accuracy with his essay, and America has not recovered, nor has Millard Fillmore’s reputation. There’s a moral there: Don’t spread hoaxes; seek the truth, and glorify it. (Mencken apologized for the hoax, but too late.)

Rapid City, South Dakota, is a booming town. Mineral wealth and oil in the state combine with a nearby Air Force Base, great housing prices and good weather to benefit the town. One of its civic watchdogs got the idea of putting statues of all U.S. presidents on downtown corners. That is how Millard Fillmore comes to be seated with a book to read, at the corner of 9th Street and St. Joseph Street, where I met him in August 2017. Altogether a fun little history enterprise for Rapid City, very well executed, and worthy of a stop there if you’re passing by.

Perhaps someday Rapid City will take to decorating the statues on the birthdays of the men (so far!) represented. I hope they won’t be frozen out like Buffalo, New York, is, if they commemorate Millard Fillmore’s birthday.

We can reflect on happier times, when even our disrespected and forgotten presidents were good people who did great things.

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017; photo by Kathryn Knowles

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Timpanogos dressed in snow

November 27, 2019

Recently ran across this photo of Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos in the snow. You can see how majestic the mountain is dressed in white, and how its glory can bring awe and joy to people in the valley.

Photo found on Wikipedia, from January 2008.

Evening view of Mount Timpanogos from Provo, Utah, January 7, 2008. Photographer is identified only as A4GPA. Wikipedia image, Creative Commons license.

Happy 219th birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 7, 2019

Millard Fillmore, future 13th President of the United States, was born on January 7, 1800, in upstate New York.

Victim of one of the most infamous hoaxes in history, Millard Fillmore’s good works are often forgotten.

It’s that hoax that gives the name to this blog, and preventing or stopping other similar hoaxes which is the hope of the author.

In the past 50 years residents of Buffalo revived the reputation of Fillmore, and started a tradition of celebrating his birthday.

Trumpeter plays taps at the grave site of President Millard Fillmore in Buffalo, New York's Forest Lawn Cemetery, with a military honor guard and dignitaries from the University of Buffalo, which traces its founding to Fillmore. This is a Buffalo News photo of an earlier celebration, perhaps 2015.

Trumpeter plays taps at the grave site of President Millard Fillmore in Buffalo, New York’s Forest Lawn Cemetery, with a military honor guard and dignitaries from the University of Buffalo, which traces its founding to Fillmore. This is a Buffalo News photo of an earlier celebration, perhaps 2015.

But so far as I have found, no bathtub races occurred this year.

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James Baldwin’s record collection

March 15, 2018

Interesting Tweets from an organization in France, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin (The Friends of the House of James Baldwin), showing off his collection of records. They are recordings of music, on vinyl. Baldwin died in 1987, when it was still possible to avoid music on compact discs.

I love our old vinyl records. They have great works of art on the covers, often, and they have real notes in a readable font. We turned to CDs when some releases stopped coming on vinyl, after 1987.

Now it’s difficult to get CDs, and the tech magazines talk about the death of medium.

But in this short series of Tweets, more photos than words, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin take us back into his mind and art, and give us a glimpse of what could have been a wonderful time, sitting in his home in Paris, listening to great music on his record player — stereo I presume, though there is no information on what equipment he had.

He played some of it loud.

Good.

A photo of the vinyl record albums of James Baldwin, from the group that takes care of his home in Paris.

A photo of the vinyl record albums of James Baldwin, from the group that takes care of his home in Paris.

Diana Ross, Carmen McRae, Patti Labelle, more Carmen McRae, more Diana Ross, Donna Summer. Brenda Lee, Nina Simone and more Nina Simone. The Pointer Sisters. Deborah Brown Quartet (bet you don’t have that one in your collection). Aretha Franklin, “Here Comes the Sun” by Nina Simone, and more Aretha. One of the jazz albums produced by Creed Taylor (you have some of that, certainly). “From a Whisper to a Scream;” Allen Toussaint?

It’s a great collection in that first photo. We might expect polemics from Baldwin, but the polemic comes only from the entire field of artists and material. It’s the art he collected, and that carries a deeper, more powerful message than any one song or one artist.

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said,

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said, “Neighbors and friends recall music played at volume from the Baldwin villa.”

In the case of Aretha Franklin, “at volume” is a good thing, easily understandable. Heck, that’s true of every record in that collection.

Tweet caption: Well lived, well loved

Tweet caption: Well lived, well loved

Lou Rawls, Frank Sinatra, the Platters, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Dinah Washington. Solid stuff.

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said:

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said: “James Baldwin occupied the villa on Chemin du Pilon from 1970 to 1987.”

Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin captioned this photo:

Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin captioned this photo: “He was reportedly entranced by gospel singer Sara Jordan Powell. He played her Amazing Grace again and again and again.”

Shirley Bassey, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, Otis Redding.

James Baldwin appears not to have had a very large collection of records in his home in France. But what he had, was great. A lot of artists are missing that we may wish Baldwin could have heard, and heard often in his own home. Perhaps he was just building up.

What a firm, great foundation.

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Happy 218th birthday, Millard Fillmore!

January 8, 2018

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use.

Millard Fillmore, bronzed, sitting at the corner of 9th and St. Joseph Streets in Rapid City, South Dakota. He still gets around. Photo by Ed Darrell. Please use. Creative Commons copyright.

Millard Fillmore, our 13th President, was born on January 7, 1800.

That was 24 days after the death of our first President, George Washington.

Yes, I’m a day late in noting the anniversary. Fillmore’s birthday isn’t such a big deal anymore, since fun organizers discontinued the bathtub races once word got out that the story of Millard Fillmore putting the first bathtub in the White House, is a hoax.

Historians from the University of Buffalo — an institution founded by Fillmore after his presidency — usually hold a graveside ceremony with speeches. But for at least the second time in recent years, they got frozen out. (About as cold as the response I get from the University of Buffalo when I ask for a copy of the speech or paper to publish here.)

It’s a shame, really. Fillmore is the victim of fake news, a hoax perpetrated by H. L. Mencken 100 years ago, in 1917. Mencken claimed, falsely, that Fillmore’s sole good, memorable deed was putting that fictitious bathtub in the White House. That story crowds out the real history, and any good Fillmore should be remembered for.

Fillmore did a few notable things as president.

  • Fillmore secured a steady supply of bird guano for the United States. Funny as that may be, the guano was essential for making gun powder, which in turn helped fuel the military might of the United States for years (including through the Civil War).
  • Millard Fillmore and his first wife, Abigail, read books all the time. Deprived of the opportunity of going to school much in his youth, Fillmore became an ardent reader, read for the law, became a lawyer, got into politics and was selected Vice President for President Zachary Taylor. When Taylor died (probably of typhoid) in 1850, Fillmore succeeded to the presidency. In the White House, the Fillmores found few books to read, and so established the White House Library. Say prayers that library survives the current president.
  • Fillmore thought globally, and he could see world trade as a huge opportunity for a young nation with a strong navy and army, and a lot of resources including intellectual capacity to manufacture things. Trade in the Pacific was problematic, and a large number of problems stemmed from Japan’s closing itself off from the world. Japan had coal, which could refuel steamships. Japan instead closed its ports. An occasional U.S. sailor would be executed if he washed up on Japanese shores. Fillmore sent a small fleet of “black ships” under Commodore Matthew Perry, to tell Japan it was time to open up to trade and assume its place among nations. Perry was successful, after a second visit and a small round of cannon fire. Japan became a strong economic power in the West Pacific, and in its march to glory decided to take over resources of several other Asian nations. We might say Fillmore started the slide to World War II in the Pacific.

History should be kept to accuracy. Mencken upset the ship of accuracy with his essay, and America has not recovered, nor has Millard Fillmore’s reputation. There’s a moral there: Don’t spread hoaxes; seek the truth, and glorify it. (Mencken apologized for the hoax, but too late.)

Rapid City, South Dakota, is a booming town. Mineral wealth and oil in the state combine with an Air Force Base, great housing prices and good weather to the benefit of the town. One of its civic watchdogs got the idea of putting statues of all U.S. presidents on downtown corners. That is how Millard Fillmore comes to be seated at a desk with a book nearby, at the corner of 9th Street and St. Joseph Street, where I met him last August. Altogether a fun little history enterprise for Rapid City, very well executed, and worthy of a stop there if you’re passing by.

Perhaps someday Rapid City will take to decorating the statues on the birthdays of the men (so far!) represented. I hope they won’t be frozen out like Buffalo, New York, is, if they commemorate Millard Fillmore’s birthday.

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017

Millard Fillmore and Ed Darrell meet, in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2017; photo by Kathryn Knowles

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Happy 217th birthday, Millard Fillmore! Mo Rocca’s profile, from our archives to yours

January 7, 2017

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it's difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Millard Fillmore as a younger man? Several sites claim this is a painting of Fillmore, but as with much about our mysterious 13th president, it’s difficult to confirm, partly because images of Fillmore really are rather rare.

Our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, was born January 7, 1800. He’s 217 years old today, though he’s been dead most of that time.

After commemorating Fillmore’s birthday each year for the past several years, I’m running out of ideas to write about him that seem novel, at least to me. [No doubt you’ve noted this is roughly the same post as last year.]  Several years I’ve called the University of Buffalo to try to get copies of the remarks officials make at Fillmore’s gravesite, but those remarks rarely come through — so we don’t get enlightenment from them.

Reality? Few people remember anything about Fillmore even after we feature it here. For Fillmore’s 217th, let’s review what little we really know about him, with some encore posts.

Raconteur Mo Rocca profiled Fillmore for CBS’s Sunday Morning, a while back. That may be as good a place as any to review the highlights of Fillmore’s life, and meaning and place in U.S. history.

Most historians give Fillmore bad marks as a president, despite his having opened Japan for trade, and despite his having procured a steady supply of bird poop for U.S. industry.

I get this eerie feeling Fillmore would fit right in today in the GOP presidential scraps, and would be a serious challenge to fellow New Yorker Donald Trump. Do you agree?

You may view Mo Rocca’s “profile” of President Millard Fillmore for CBS Sunday Morning, on YouTube:

“CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

East Aurora Advertiser caption: CBS Visits East Aurora “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca, far left, poses with Kathy Frost, curator of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Site, and Robert Lowell Goller, town historian and director of the Aurora Historical Society, during his recent visit to East Aurora. Photo by Robert Lowell Goller

CBS broadcast this piece on February 16, 2014.

 974

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. Overcoming Mencken’s hoax requires an army, too.

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Georgia’s vote ratified the 13th Amendment, December 6, 1865

December 6, 2016

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. National Archives image.

On December 6, 1865, Georgia’s legislature voted to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, pushing the total of states past the three-fourths margin required, 27 of 36 states. Secretary of State William Seward proclaimed the amendment ratified 12 days later, on December 18.

But we celebrate it in February.

February 1 is National Freedom Day in the U.S.

Text courtesy of the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University, 36 U.S. Code § 124 reads:

The President may issue each year a proclamation designating February 1 as National Freedom Day to commemorate the signing by Abraham Lincoln on February 1, 1865, of the joint resolution adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives that proposed the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

(Pub. L. 105–225, Aug. 12, 1998, 112 Stat. 1259.)

The Library of Congress collects original documents teachers and students can use to study the 13th Amendment; here’s the full page, copied in case they change it:

Primary Documents in American History

13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Thomas Nast's celebration of the emancipation of Southern slaves with the end of the Civil War.
Thomas Nast.
Emancipation.
Philadelphia: S. Bott, 1865.
Wood engraving.
Prints and Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-2573

The 13th Amendment to the Constitution declared that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Formally abolishing slavery in the United States, the 13th Amendment was passed by the Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the states on December 6, 1865.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

Digital Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

This collection contains congressional publications from 1774 to 1875, including debates, bills, laws, and journals.

References to debate on the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) can be found in the Congressional Globe on the following dates:

  • March 31, 1864 – Debated in the Senate (S.J. Res. 16).
  • April 4, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 5, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 6, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 7, 1864 – Debated in the Senate.
  • April 8, 1864 – The Senate passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 38 to 6.
  • June 14, 1864 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • June 15, 1864 – The House of Representatives initially defeated the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 93 in favor, 65 opposed, and 23 not voting, which is less than the two-thirds majority needed to pass a Constitutional Amendment.
  • December 6, 1864 – Abraham Lincoln’s Fourth Annual Message to Congress was printed in the Congressional Globe: “At the last session of Congress a proposed amendment of the Constitution, abolishing slavery throughout the United States, passed the Senate, but failed for lack of the requisite two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives. Although the present is the same Congress, and nearly the same members, and without questioning the wisdom or patriotism of those who stood in opposition, I venture to recommend the reconsideration and passage of the measure at the present session.
  • January 6, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives (S.J. Res. 16).
  • January 7, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 9, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 10, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 11, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 12, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 13, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 28, 1865 – Debated in the House of Representatives.
  • January 31, 1865 – The House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment (S.J. Res. 16) by a vote of 119 to 56.
  • February 1, 1865 – President Abraham Lincoln signed a Joint Resolution submitting the proposed 13th Amendment to the states.
  • December 18, 1865 – Secretary of State William Seward issued a statement verifying the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The complete Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress consists of approximately 20,000 documents. The collection is organized into three “General Correspondence” series which include incoming and outgoing correspondence and enclosures, drafts of speeches, and notes and printed material. Most of the 20,000 items are from the 1850s through Lincoln’s presidential years, 1860-65.

A selection of highlights from this collection includes:

Search the Abraham Lincoln Papers using the phrase “13th amendment” to locate additional documents on this topic.

The Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana

This collection documents the life of Abraham Lincoln both through writings by and about Lincoln as well as a large body of publications concerning the issues of the times including slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and related topics.

From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909

This collection presents 396 pamphlets from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division, published from 1822 through 1909, by African-American authors and others who wrote about slavery, African colonization, Emancipation, Reconstruction, and related topics.

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

Chronicling America

This site allows you to search and view millions of historic American newspaper pages from 1836 to 1922. Search this collection to find newspaper articles about the 13th Amendment.

A selection of articles on the 13th Amendment includes:

Congress.gov

Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation

The Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis and Interpretation (popularly known as the Constitution Annotated) contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law. This regularly updated resource is especially useful when researching the constitutional implications of a specific issue or topic. It includes a chapter on the 13th Amendment. (PDF, 201 KB)

Exhibitions

The African-American Mosaic

This exhibit marks the publication of The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. This exhibit is a sampler of the kinds of materials and themes covered by this publication. Includes a section on the abolition movement and the end of slavery.

African American Odyssey: A Quest for Full Citizenship

This exhibition showcases the African American collections of the Library of Congress. Displays more than 240 items, including books, government documents, manuscripts, maps, musical scores, plays, films, and recordings. Includes a brochure from an exhibit at the Library of Congress to mark the 75th Anniversary of the 13th Amendment.

American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Abolition of Slavery

An online exhibit of the engrossed copy of the 13th Amendment as signed by Abraham Lincoln and members of Congress.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom

This exhibition, which commemorates the fiftieth anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, explores the events that shaped the civil rights movement, as well as the far-reaching impact the act had on a changing society.

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: The Freedmen

The Emancipation Proclamation and Thirteenth Amendment freed all slaves in the United States. This page links to related primary source documents.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln Association

Documents from Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861-1867, University of Maryland

End of Slavery: The Creation of the 13th Amendment, HarpWeek

“I Will Be Heard!” Abolitionism in America, Cornell University Library, Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections

Landmark Legislation: Thirteenth, Fourteenth, & Fifteenth Amendments, U.S. Senate

Mr. Lincoln and Freedom, The Lincoln Institute

Our Documents, 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, National Archives and Records Administration

Proclamation of the Secretary of State Regarding the Ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, National Archives and Records Administration

Proposed Thirteenth Amendment Regarding the Abolition of Slavery, National Archives and Records Administration

The Thirteenth Amendment, National Constitution Center

Selected Bibliography

Avins, Alfred, comp. The Reconstruction Amendments’ Debates: The Legislative History and Contemporary Debates in Congress on the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments. Richmond: Virginia Commission on Constitutional Government, 1967. [Catalog Record]

Hoemann, George H. What God Hath Wrought: The Embodiment of Freedom in the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Garland Pub., 1987. [Catalog Record]

Holzer, Harold, and Sara Vaughn Gabbard, eds. Lincoln and Freedom: Slavery, Emancipation, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2007. [Catalog Record]

Maltz, Earl M. Civil Rights, the Constitution, and Congress, 1863-1869. Lawrence, Kan.: University Press of Kansas, 1990. [Catalog Record]

Richards, Leonard L. Who Freed the Slaves?: The Fight Over the Thirteenth Amendment. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2015. [Catalog Record]

Tsesis, Alexander, ed. The Promises of Liberty: The History and Contemporary Relevance of the Thirteenth Amendment. New York: Columbia University Press, 2010. [Catalog Record]

—–. The Thirteenth Amendment and American Freedom: A Legal History. New York: New York University Press, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Vorenberg, Michael. Final Freedom: The Civil War, the Abolition of Slavery, and the Thirteenth Amendment. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

Biscontini, Tracey and Rebecca Sparling, eds. Amendment XIII: Abolishing Slavery. Detroit: Greenhaven Press, 2009. [Catalog Record]

Burgan, Michael. The Reconstruction Amendments. Minneapolis: Compass Point Books, 2006. [Catalog Record]

Schleichert, Elizabeth. The Thirteenth Amendment: Ending Slavery. Springfield, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 1998. [Catalog Record]

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.


Quote of the moment, December 6, 1852: Millard Fillmore explains his legacy; history ignores it

December 6, 2016

For an accidental president, a man who no one expected to take the office; for a guy whose term was marked by his party’s rejection of his policies so much that they did not even entertain the idea he might be the nominee in the next election; for the last Whig president, an obvious dinosaur of a dying political view; for a guy so obscure that a hoax more than a half-century later remains his greatest acknowledged point of reference, Millard Fillmore left the U.S. in good shape.

Should that be his real legacy?

On the anniversary of his final State of the Union message, let us ponder what Millard Fillmore bragged about.

Millard Fillmore for President, campaign poster from 1856 (American Party)

Campaign poster for Millard Fillmore, running for president in 1856 on the American Party ticket. He carried Maryland, which is probably ironic, considering Maryland’s Catholic roots, and the American Party’s anti-Catholic views, views probably not entirely shared by Fillmore; the American Party is more often known as the “Know-Nothings.”  Image from the Library of Congress American Memory files.

These are the last two paragraphs of his final State of the Union message, delivered on paper on December 6, 1852 Perhaps establishing a tradition, he made the message a listing of current zeitgeist, starting out mourning the recent passing of Daniel Webster, and the abatement of epidemics of mosquito-borne plagues in several cities.  He recited activities of the government, including the abolishing of corporal punishment in the Navy and improvements in the Naval Academy; he mentioned U.S. exploration around the world, in the Pacific, in the Amazon River, in Africa, and especially his project to send a fleet to Japan to open trade there.  He noted great opportunities for trade, domestically across an expanded, Atlantic-to-Pacific United States, and in foreign markets reachable through both oceans.

The last two paragraphs would be considered greatly exaggerated had any president in the 20th century delivered them; but from Millard Fillmore, they were not.  He gave credit for these achievements to others, not himself.

In closing this my last annual communication, permit me, fellow-citizens, to congratulate you on the prosperous condition of our beloved country. Abroad its relations with all foreign powers are friendly, its rights are respected, and its high place in the family of nations cheerfully recognized. At home we enjoy an amount of happiness, public and private, which has probably never fallen to the lot of any other people. Besides affording to our own citizens a degree of prosperity of which on so large a scale I know of no other instance, our country is annually affording a refuge and a home to multitudes, altogether without example, from the Old World.

We owe these blessings, under Heaven, to the happy Constitution and Government which were bequeathed to us by our fathers, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit in all their integrity to our children. We must all consider it a great distinction and privilege to have been chosen by the people to bear a part in the administration of such a Government. Called by an unexpected dispensation to its highest trust at a season of embarrassment and alarm, I entered upon its arduous duties with extreme diffidence. I claim only to have discharged them to the best of an humble ability, with a single eye to the public good, and it is with devout gratitude in retiring from office that I leave the country in a state of peace and prosperity.

What president would not have been happy to have been able to claim as much?  Historians often offer back-handed criticism to Fillmore for the Compromise of 1850; in retrospect it did not prevent the Civil War.  In the circumstances of 1850, in the circumstances of Fillmore’s presidential career, should we expect more?  Compared to Buchanan’s presidency and the events accelerating toward war, did Fillmore do so badly?

Compare with modern analogs: Donald Trump appears to be working exactly contrary to those things Fillmore said were beneficial to the U.S., then: Friendly relations with foreign powers, the U.S. recognized as a refuge for persecuted people, and domestic prosperity. Any president since Franklin Roosevelt would have loved to have left such a legacy.

Have we underestimated Millard Fillmore?  Discuss.

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

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