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Born in Virginia, taken to Kentucky as an infant, and raised on a plantation, Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Man became President of the US. But, he also ran a plantation in Mississippi and served as a General in the Mexican War. Of course, the obligatory link to the overview of all US Presidents.
Significantly, this house remains the only home still standing of Zachary Taylor’s living places (except for the White House, of course.) You will see why I call Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Man. His birthplace is long gone. Of course, he lived in other places growing up. Also, his plantation in Mississippi no longer contains his buildings. But he never really lived there. By the way, the house is still occupied as a private home. It’s on the National Registry of Historic Places.
His burial ground lies near here, designated as the Zachary Taylor National Cemetary. There are no buildings beside a 50-foot granite marker to commemorate his life. Here’s a link to the website.
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Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Man – Before Presidency
Taylor owned a plantation and held enslaved people in Mississippi. Overall, he became very conflicted about slavery. But, he mostly believed the states should decide. Of course, he continued to own them. Although he continued to call Kentucky home, he also lived in Baton Rouge, where he had a home.
However, he spent 40 years in the Army, serving in the War of 1812. And by the time of the Mexican-American War in 1846, he advanced to Major-General. While he showed heroism in the War of 1812, his heroism shone in the Mexican-American war. Still, Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Man, comes through.
While he also served in the Indian Wars, he came into the Mexican-American War as a General. During the war, he defeated the Mexican Army in four major battles. Thus, he became a genuine US hero! He felt conflicted as a Southerner who acquired a distaste for slavery but remained an enslaver. As a Southerner, he could understand the Southern point of view. Because of his military service, he remained very nationalist in his thinking. But one more sign of Zachary Taylor the Conflicted man.
Zachary Taylor the Conflicted President
Zachary Taylor the Conflicted President, left the Army in 1848. Before settling into home life, the Whig Party drafted him to run for president. He reluctantly agreed, although he disliked politics and politicians.
After much internal conflict, Taylor decided to accept the nomination of his party, the Whig party. He defeated Henry Clay and Winfield Scott for the nomination. Consequently, he selected New Yorker Millard Fillmore as his running mate. So, even Abraham Lincoln, a young Whig, supported him at the time. Although the Whigs were known as anti-slavery, the party accepted Taylor due to his war hero status.
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And the presence of Millard Fillmore balanced the ticket. And Taylor and Fillmore went on to win in a fractured election. Emphatically, Fillmore played a spoiler role running on the third-party Free Soil Party ticket. He took more votes from the pro-slavery Democrats than from the status quo Whigs.
Southerners believed Taylor supported slavery and would be “soft” on the slavery issue. But, they should have realized that “Old Rough and Ready” wouldn’t be soft on anything. Of course, he angered his party by refusing to select prominent party members. While he didn’t pick any Democrats, he did pick his cabinet and other key positions from all parts of the US.
Of course, this angered both parties. Therefore, the way to getting legislation passed became difficult. He supported Texas and California, becoming states as free states. So, the Democrats and the Southern states became angrier. By 1850, tensions began rising even more between the South and the Union. So, even though he remained a Southerner, Zachary Taylor the Conflicted President, became very much evident.
Soon, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster led the bill known as the Compromise of 1850. Taylor’s combativeness didn’t earn him enough political capital to push it through Congress. In February of 1850, President Taylor held a stormy conference with some key southern leaders. During the meeting, they threatened secession. Taylor responded, “I’ll personally lead the Army to put down the rebellion.” So, the relationships continued to fester until the summer of 1850.
On July 4th, 1850, President Taylor attended and spoke at a ceremony at the Washington Monument, still under construction. He remained there in the blistering heat of a Washington DC summer day. Within hours, he became ill and died on July 9th at age 65. So, he became the second president to die in office. To date, his term remains the third shortest term of office. (After William Henry Harrison and James Garfield. Garfield was assassinated in 1881.)
Vice-President Millard Fillmore assumed the office of the Presidency. Fillmore signed the Compromise of 1850 into law. The compromise allowed Texas to join the US as a Slave State and California as a Free State. Historians generally rank him in the lowest quartile as an effective President. Accomplishments and conflicts: Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Presidency & Life
11 Accomplishments and conflicts: Zachary Taylor the Conflicted Man & President
- Forty-year military career through the War of 1812, several “Indian Wars,” and the Mexican-American War
- Great War Hero as a General during the Mexican-American War
- A lifelong slaveholder and plantation owner
- Nationalist views conflicted with slave states
- Nominated for the Presidency despite not attending the convention
- Grudging acceptance by his own party
- Angering his own party for refusing to appoint key party supporters to the Cabinet and other appointed positions
- A statement that he would lead the Army himself against secession efforts by the Southern States
- And before his presidency, his daughter married Jefferson Davis (although that was 1835, Davis was an Army officer, and she died three months after the marriage.)
- Later, his only son served as a Confederate General in the Civil War (after his death).
- His time in office was marred by a financial scandal involving several administration members. Of course, he became tainted even though he did not know of it
So, how do you create excitement about a president who served 16 months, remained at odds with his party, fought with the other party, threatened the southern states, yet remained popular with the people?
Classic Rock Recollection
“Mexico” by James Taylor
Way down here
You need a reason to move
Feel like a fool
Running your stateside games
Lose your load
Leave your mind behind, Baby James
It sounds so simple I just got to go
The sun’s so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I’ll have to go now
Written by: James Taylor
(I know, tacky to have this song just because Zachary Taylor fought in the Mexican War.)