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Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President

4.3 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0945707042
ISBN-10: 0945707045
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 470 pages
  • Publisher: American Political Biography Press (April 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945707045
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945707042
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #62,914 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Philip K. Warner on August 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Serving only two and a half years as president, it is not surprising that Millard Fillmore has been given short shrift among historians. This book helps history rediscover the importance of Fillmore's brief tenure. Fillmore assumed office with the country in turmoil over the question of extending slavery to the territories acquired after the war with Mexico. His predecessor, President Taylor, was presumably on an course which would have led to civil war in 1850. Fillmore carefully guided the country toward compromise and away from war. Although his enemies argue that there should be no compromise with slavery, Fillmore's prudent, but politically unpopular stance did preserve the union. Unfortunately, future presidents did not follow Fillmore's example and the country was split in two as a result of uncompromising sectionalism. This book is an excellent study of both President Fillmore and the rise and fall of the Whig Party. The book traces Fillmore's career along with the founding of the Whig party in New York as a protest again the secret organization of the Masonic Lodge, to the accession of a Whig president, to the party's degeneration into a nativist, secret organization of "Know-Nothings."
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book narrates the life of Millard Fillmore through the lens of Unionism and the formation of the many political parties in which he was involved (Antimasonic, Whig, American [aka Know-Nothing]) or to which he was opposed (Liberty, Free Soil, Republican). Fillmore's dedication to the Union, especially in passing and implementing the Compromise of 1850, is well told. This book also serves to explain the rise and fall of a number of lesser known American political parties.

The book is well-written--one of the better ones, perhaps the best, in this series of American political biographies. It was one of the last written. The author relies on letters to Fillmore as one of the main sources, since his own letters are mostly missing. Generally the author is fair and balanced, although he portrays the struggle between Fillmore and Thurlow Weed rather naively as the battle between Good and Evil. He also brushes over Fillmore's willingness to allow slavery to exist as the price for preserving the Union--an opinion that was common at the start of Fillmore's career but increasingly anathema by the end of it.

The review on the dust jacket, quoted on this item's Amazon page, written by Roy Nichols, is manifestly unfair to the book and to Fillmore. The author is not nearly so naive as Nichols makes him out to be, and Fillmore, while not a great president, was not nearly the mediocrity and indecisive man as Nichols portrays him. Read the book (it's worth it) but not the dust jacket!
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Format: Hardcover
I am currently reading a biography of every President in order. For Millard Fillmore the selection of Rayback's (amazon.com has spelling incrrect) one volume biography of our thirteenth President was an easy choice given the lack of alternatives and the positive reviews this book has received from other readers.

I am happy to say that I concur regarding the quality of this book. Rayback has written a comprehensive and interesting biography of Millard Fillmore that is a highly enjoyable read. Rayback get's the detail level just right and succeed's at painting a thorough portrait of Millard Fillmore's life, political career, and the times and issues in which he lived. The writing style is very readable and rarely does the book get dull.

The only criticism I have regarding this book is that it does seem to be slightly biased in favor of Fillmore and makes some assumptions regarding Fillmore's inner feelings and thoughts on certain events for which I am quite sure the author would be hard pressed to find definitive documentation. The book also portrays Fillmore as always being selfless, good intentioned and often a victim of his own magnaminity while his enemies (namely Thurlow Weed and William Seward) were motivated only by the pursuit of political power. My suspicion is the story is not quite as one sided as this but Rayback, in my opinion, does not adequately explain fully the motivations behind Weed's enmity towards Fillmore. My guess is Weed's abolitionism and sectionalism was at odds with Fillmore's more pragmatic opposition to slavery and conviction of the primacy of preserving the Union. With the hindsight of history I believe good points can be argued about both positions however Rayback defaults to Fillmore's point of view.

These criticisms aside, this is still a great biography and highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Rayback sets up a promising premsie for the book. One in which the traditional view of Fillmore as a "weak and pompous president" is challenged and a more fully explored Whig party is presented. Rayback asserts that Fillmore's was truly a statesman and the popular view held is manipulated by his enemies, Thurlow Weed and William Seward. However, his arguments fall flat, the work comes across as a biased account of the presidency, and Fillmore, in my opinion, still comes across as a very weak leader.

What I think Raback does do successfully, however, is relate the circumstances that caused the disintegration of the Whig Party and ushered in the Republican Party. Additionally, Rayback does explore some interesting aspects of Fillmore's career: his role in the Compromise of 1850, the Fugitive Slave Act, the inner-party fighting between Fillmore and Weed, the exploration of a canal through Latin America, shortening travel between Asia and America, and what may be the turning point of separation of Church in State as we know it today. The reader can't help but understand a little more why we are marching towards the Civil War as well.

Rayback's writing style is descriptive and he certainly has a good command of the Enghlish languate. However, I felt each chapter was about 10 pages too long.

Overall, I think this contributes to our exercise of building our knowledge of American history but would not recommend this to the casual reader, as it took quite a bit of focus for me to finish.
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