Millard Fillmore (no middle name) was born in Moravia, Cayuga County, in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, on January 7, 1800. His parents were Nathaniel Fillmore and Phoebe Millard. Millard was the second of nine children and the eldest son. he became a lawyer and practiced law in Buffalo. He was also an early member of the Whig Party. Fillmore served in the New York State Legislature from 1829 to 1831, as served a U.S. Representative for two non-consecutive terms (1833–1835 and 1837–1843). He was the New York State Comptroller (1848–1849). In 1848 the Whig convention chose Fillmore for the second spot on the presidential ticket and he was elected Vice President of the United States in 1848 as Zachary Taylor's running mate. He served from 1849 until Taylor's death in 1850, when he became the second president in history to assume the office following the death of the incumbent.
Fillmore became President in the middle of what was known as the "Crisis of 1850" over slavery. He was considered to be an anti-slavery moderate, but during the 1850 debate, he opposed abolitionist demands to exclude slavery from all of the territory gained in the Mexican War. Instead he supported the Compromise of 1850, which briefly ended the crisis, but at a price that included the Fugitive Slave Law, which required northerners to turn in runaway slaves.
In foreign policy, Fillmore supported U.S. Navy expeditions to open up trade relations with Japan. He opposed French designs on Hawaii, and was faced with adventurer Narciso López's filibuster expeditions to Cuba, the nineteenth century's version of the Bay of Pigs. He sought re-election in 1852, but was passed over for the nomination by the Whigs.
After leaving office, Fillmore embarked on a tour of Europe, which included an audience with Queen Victoria in 1855. There is a disputed story in which it is said that the queen though that Millard was pretty hot stuff. Here is what biographer Robert Rayback says about this in his book Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President at page 397:
"A visit to the London docks turned into a tour of the winehouses. For the first and only time in his life - for he was a temperate man - Fillmore became 'slightly fuddled by merely moistening his lips with such a variety of liquids.' Like all tourists, he walked through Westminster Abbey; but at the Bank of England, unlike other tourists, he had the guidance of the Bank's governor, who encouraged him to 'heft' a million pounds sterling. Fillmore left no account of his presentation at the Court of St. James, though tradition developed in America that Her Majesty Victoria pronounced him the handsomest man she had ever seen."
When the Whig Party broke up in 1854–1856, Fillmore and other conservative Whigs joined the American Party, sometimes called the "Know-Nothing" Party. He was the American Party candidate for President in 1856, but finished third in the election. During the American Civil War, Fillmore denounced secession and agreed that the Union must be maintained by force if necessary, but was also very critical of some of the war policies of President Abraham Lincoln. After the war, he supported the Reconstruction policies of President Andrew Johnson.
Millard Fillmore died at 11:10 pm on March 8, 1874, from a stroke. His last words were alleged to be in reference to some soup he was being fed. He said "the nourishment is palatable" before he shuffled off this mortal coil. On January 7th of each year (his birthday), a ceremony is held at his grave site in the Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo.