- 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: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #109,984 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President
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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I knew nothing of this man who became President because he was the Vice President.Read more