Monday, February 21, 2005

A Presidents' Day Tribute

Most outlets when they do their annual Presidents' Day remembrances focus on the Easy Presidents: Washington and Lincoln. Indeed that is apropos as this day is meant to commemorate those men's respective birthdays. But Presidents' Day has evolved into a day to honor all presidents who have served our country throughout its history. It is in that spirit that on this year's occasion, we at the KAR honor:

Millard Fillmore

Fillmore was our thirteenth president, serving from 1850 to 1853. But it might be indeed difficult to honor a president whose official White House biography begins thusly (emphasis added):

Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.

Yet the Fillmore administration did have some notable accomplishments:
  • The Senate hammered together the Compromise of 1850 while Fillmore was president.
  • Adolf Hitler did not conquer large swaths of Europe during Fillmore's term in office.

The Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore for another term in 1852. After that party's demise, Fillmore ran again for president in 1856 as the nominee for the newly formed Know-Nothing party. The bid was something less than a smashing success. This was pretty much the end of Fillmore's presidential aspirations.

But he stayed in the limelight throughout the Lincoln presidency as one of Honest Abe's most vocal critics. Fillmore vehemently opposed the Civil War which he often called "reckless" or "a quagmire". He chastised Lincoln's conduct of the war ceaselessly, always demanding that Abe "lied" about the South's "Cannons of Much Destruction" program. One of his lesser known ad hominem attacks on Lincoln - calling him a "Stovepipe hatted homo" - continues to fuel rumors about Lincoln to this day.

Fillmore's Know-Nothing party ceased to become a political force shortly after his death in 1874. But their philosophical descendants carry on to this day using a similar moniker: "New Democrats".

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