Friday, April 19, 2013

Zachary Taylor

Presidential Friday is upon is, and so is Zachary Taylor. He served only 16 months before dying suddenly of cholera morbus, though unlike other Presidents who served short terms like William Harrison and James Garfield, he is always in the list for presidential rankings.

"Old Rough and Ready" Taylor was a Virginian and a member of the Whig Party. He became known to the public as a war hero in the Mexican War, and he appealed to both Northerners and Southerners. Northerners admired his long military history and Southerners were comforted by the fact that Taylor owned slaves.

However, when Taylor assumed the presidency, he took an anti-slavery stance. He pushed for the admittance of California and New Mexico as states, knowing they would likely ban slavery. This paved the way for the Compromise of 1850. Southerners felt betrayed and angry, and when they spoke of secession, Taylor replied that those "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ... with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico."

The Gold Rush in occurrence helped Taylor sell the public on the idea of Californian statehood. Taylor faced controversy in his recognization of New Mexico, as Texas and New Mexico had unsettled border disputes. Texas was willing to protect the disputed territory by force, but was unsuccessful as Taylor sided with the New Mexicans. Furthermore, Taylor organized the Utah Territory as a federal territory, but promised the leaders there (the Latter-Day Saints) relative independence and religious freedom to ease their concerns.
Amidst all, Southern tension rose over the debate on slavery. Taylor didn't live to see the Civil War that he had no hesitancy about fighting. But his only son Richard ended up a Confederate soldier.

Sources: Miller Center,, White, Wikipedia

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