The 13th President of the United States, Millard Fillmore (1800–1874) was born on this day on an isolated farm in central New York, near Syracuse.
Poor and self-educated, he apprenticed as a cloth dresser, practiced law, and at age 28, as a member of the Whig party, was elected to the state legislature, then Congress.
"It is not strange... to mistake change for progress," he once said. He was a hard worker and an honorable man.
Elected Vice President in 1850, he succeeded to the presidency upon Zachary Taylor's sudden death from cholera. Serving from 1850 to 1853, he fired Taylor's cabinet and sent Commodore Matthew Perry to open diplomatic relations with Japan.
Fillmore opposed slavery, calling it an "existing evil," but supported the controversial Fugitive Slave Acts that required federal officials to capture and return runaway slaves.
He said, "The man who can look upon a crisis without being willing to offer himself upon the altar of his country is not fit for public trust."
Alienating his party, he lost the 1852 presidential nomination, then opposed President Abraham Lincoln throughout the Civil War. Following his presidential defeat, Fillmore quit politics, returned to his Buffalo law practice, and became active in his city's local affairs.
"It is a national disgrace that our Presidents, after having occupied the highest position in the country, should be cast adrift, and, perhaps, be compelled to keep a corner grocery for subsistence," he said.
More PRESIDENTIAL Quotations
True honor is priceless.