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Item 7010 - Millard Fillmore Autograph Letter Signed Catalog 509 (Oct 2017)

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Description


ALS as president, three pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.75 x 10, December 27, 1850. Letter to New York Governor Hamilton Fish, in part: “I have yours of the 23’d and am gratified to learn that you 'acquiesce in the wisdom and foresight which dictated my late message.' I felt at the time, that if I were acting only for the North, your policy was the true one; but the public mind was inflamed North and South. No attempted modification of the fugitive Slave law, would be conceded at that moment by the South that would be satisfactory to the North. It was therefore not the proper time to attempt it. It would have reopened the dangerous sectional agitation without the hope of benefit to any one. Time will show its defects and enable us to correct them without excitement or danger to the Union. I know that I hazarded much in making so heavy a draft upon my Whig friends at the North, and I feared with you that they might refuse to honor the draft, but I felt it indispensible to save the country and I feel relieved and rejoiced that my sentiments have met with such general approbation. It is a guaranty, not only that the Union is safe, but that the Whig party will be a unit.

I am gratified to hear what you say of the feeling in ‘a certain quarter.’ I hope you are not deceived. No man desires more than I do the Union of the Whig party in my own state. But I have no hopes of it, while there are two antagonistic papers in Albany. Can they not be united under the auspices of one editor, who has not participated in these controversies and is entirely independent of both factions. I ask it not for myself but for the cause. I ask that no friend of mine should be placed there, but only that it be a good Whig, true and independent. If this can be accomplished you and Gov. Hunt are the men to do it, and you are more interested in effecting it than any other men in our state. I feel that my political career is at an end. I have received more than I deserved; and I am content to retire; but both of you have a bright political prospect before you. If the Whig party can be made National it will be triumphant. Let the reward be yours." In fine condition, with areas of light toning.

Of the five statutes of the 1850 Compromise, the amending of the Fugitive Slave Act on September 18, 1850, which mandated that citizens assist in the return of captured fugitive slaves, proved by far the most divisive and controversial. The law’s effects impressed on the North an even greater need for abolition, which in turn “reopened the dangerous sectional agitation” Fillmore desperately sought to avoid. Despite being an opponent of slavery, Fillmore staunchly enforced the Fugitive Slave Act, deeming the Compromise of 1850 necessary to preserving the Union. His belief that his “political career is at an end” was premature but no less prophetic; the Whig anti-slavery faction refused to support Fillmore as their candidate in the 1852 presidential election.

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