Monday, July 06, 2009

Millard Fillmore

by Robert J. Scarry

Who would have expected a book about Millard Fillmore to have an agenda? I mean, you can expect a book about Lincoln or FDR to take sides in a controversy. But A bio of Millard Fillmore? How could there even be a controversy about him? Isn't it common knowledge that he's one of those dull one-termers who merely kept the presidential chair warm until Lincoln got elected? Well, that's the stereotype that Mr. Scarry hoped to dispel with his book. Rather than a weak, ineffectual leader, Mr. Scarry makes the case for Fillmore as a principaled man who made the hard choices to put aside his own popularity and preferences on slavery to preserve the Union and obey the Constitution. While his accomplishments were overshadowed by the Civil War, Mr. Scarry maintains that Fillmore truly made an impact on the course of American history. For me, the book revealed a generational shift in American politics. Millard Fillmore appeared to be at the tail of the the Clay-Calhoun-Webster generation, who were willing to maintain the nation's slave-free compromise for the greater "good". After 1850 that system crumbled as younger politicians started pushing for their ideals. All in all, Mr. Scarry did a good job of presenting Fillmore's life and times. His writing is a bit uneven at times--the flow of Fillmore's story is now and then broken up with paragraphs of simple facts. But really, that's the only complaint I have with the book.

Do check it out.
LibraryThing link

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