Millard Fillmore's Obituary

[From page 1 of The New York Times, March 9, 1874]



     Buffalo, N.Y., March 8 -- 12 o'clock, midnight. -- Ex-President Millard Fillmore died at his residence in this city at 11:10 to-night. He was conscious up to the time. At 8 o'clock, in reply to a question by his physician, he said the nourishment was palatable; these were his last words. His death was painless.
     Millard Fillmore was born on the 7th of January, 1800, on what was then the outskirts of civilization, in Cayuga County, N.Y. His father was at that time a pioneer settler in the township of Locke, (now Summerhill,) and lived four miles from his nearest neighbor. In the wilderness young Fillmore grew up with no education except a moderate knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic, acquired at home. At the age of fourteen he became an apprentice to a fuller, and the next five years of his life were devoted to carding wool, dressing cloth, and working on his father's farm. At the age of nineteen he made an arrangement with his employer to give up his trade, having determined to take up the study of law. At that time seven years of preparation were required in New-York before one who had not a classical education could be admitted as an attorney; but nothing daunted by this prospect, the young man entered into an agreement with Mr. Wood, a retired lawyer, to attend to that gentleman's "private business" for his board and the use of a scanty library, and was set to work to make what he might out of Blackstone and Tidd's Practice. After one year of this kind of experience, relieved in the Winter by teaching school, he set out for Buffalo, where he arrived a perfect stranger, with $4 in his pocket. Here he studied in a lawyer's office in the early morning, taught school during the day, and in the evening discussed the subject of the morning's study with a fellow-student. During a portion of the time, also, he was engaged in the Post Office, making up the mails and keeping the accounts of the office. In 1823 he was admitted to the Bar in Erie County at the recommendation of several prominent lawyers, although he had completed little more than half the required period of preparation, and commenced practice at Aurora, where his father then resided. By faithful study and a thorough application to business he soon acquired an extensive practice, and in time became one of the leading lawyers of the State. He married the daughter of Rev. Lemuel Powers in 1826, and in 1830 removed to Buffalo, having been previously admitted to practice as an attorney and counselor in all the courts of the State.
     Mr. Fillmore's political life commenced in 1828, when he was elected to the State Legislature by the Anti-Mason Party. He served in the House of Representatives for three consecutive terms, and sustained a high character for integrity and faithful attention to the duties of a legislator. The act abolishing imprisonment for debt was drafted in part by him. In 1832 he was elected to Congress by the party opposed to the Administration of Gen. Jackson, and was re-elected in 1836, 1838, and 1840. In 1842 he was unanimously nominated by the Whigs of his district for another term in Congress, but declined to serve longer. While in Congress he was opposed to the annexation of Texas, and favored all measures looking to a restriction of slavery. In 1841-42 as Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, he performed an amount of labor which hardly ever falls to the lot even of the incumbent of that arduous position. The Tariff act of 1842 was almost entirely the work of his hand, and he prepared a digest of the laws authorizing appropriations, so that he could always cite the authority for any expenditures which he recommended. He afterward procured the passage of a resolution requiring the departments, when they submitted estimates of expenses, to accompany them with a reference to the laws authorizing them, in every instance. He retired from Congress in 1843, and in 1844 was supported by the Whigs of New-York and some of the Western States as a candidate for the Vice Presidency. He did not receive the nomination, however. The same year he was nominated for Governor of the State, but was defeated by his opponent, Silas Wright. In 1847 he was elected Controller of the State of New-York, and discharged the duties of that arduous and responsible position for two years with distinguished success.
     In 1848 Mr. Fillmore was nominated by the Whig National Convention as Vice-President on the ticket with Gen. Taylor, and was elected to that position in the following November. During the excited debates on the compromise measures of 1850 he discharged the duties of presiding officer of the Senate with such great firmness and with such impartiality that it was not known which side of the controversy he favored, except by the President, to whom he had privately stated that, if required to cast the decisive vote, he should give it in favor of the compromise. On the death of Gen. Taylor Mr. Fillmore acceded to the Presidential chair, and was inaugurated on the 10th of July, 1850. He at once appointed a new Cabinet, with Daniel Webster at its head, and in many respects adopted a different policy from that of his predecessor. He signed the Fugitive Slave bill, and when a disposition was shown in some quarters to resist the law, he expressed his determination to enforce its execution, and issued a proclamation calling upon all officers of the United States to perform their duty in all cases arising under the act. His course in this matter was extremely unpopular with a large portion of the Northern people, and was the occasion of a very general indifference toward him ever after. The general policy of his Administration was wise and liberal, and he left the country at peace with all the world and enjoying a high degree of prosperity. His Administration was distinguished by the Lopez fillibustering expeditions to Cuba, which were discountenanced by the Government, and by several important expeditions to distant lands. The expedition to Japan under Commodore Perry resulted in a favorable treaty with that country, but that dispatched under Lieut. Lynch, in search of gold in the interior of Africa, failed of its object. Exploring expeditions were also sent to the Chinese seas, and to the Valley of the Amazon. Mr. Fillmore's name was brought forward in the Whig Convention of 1852 for renomination, but could not command 20 votes from the free States.
     Soon after Mr. Fillmore's retirement from the office of President of the United States the death of his wife occurred, and was shortly followed by that of his only daughter, leaving him an only son, now a lawyer at Buffalo. In 1854 he made a tour of the Southern and Western States, and in the following year traveled extensively in Europe. The degree of D.C.L. was offered him by the University of Oxford, and declined. In 1856, before his return from Europe, he was apprised of his nomination for the Presidency by the American Party. He accepted the nomination, but received a very light vote at the election. On the 16th of February, 1858, he was married to Mrs. Caroline McIntosh, youngest daughter of the late Charles Carmichael, of Morristown, N.J. Since that time he had lived in retirement at Buffalo, devoted to general literary study and the society of many admiring friends.