Millard Fillmore was in office from July 10, 1850, until March 3, 1853. He disagreed with his predecessor, Zachary Taylor, concerning slavery in the territories. Fillmore felt that it was important to allow the Compromise of 1850 through to preserve sectional peace, and that new territories should be added as slave states to appease the South. Taylor's cabinet resigned and Fillmore began filling positions with moderate Whigs like Daniel Webster to signal his change in policy.
Compromise of 1850
When the Compromise of 1850 was delivered to him as president, he signed it into law. The compromise consisted of five separate laws:
California was admitted as a free state.
Texas received compensation for giving up claims to Western lands.
Utah and New Mexico were established as territories.
The slave trade was abolished in the District of Columbia.
The Fugitive Slave Act was passed, which required the federal government to help return runaway slaves.
The last of the above items was the most odious to antislavery forces.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS…
Fillmore's thoughts on slavery: “God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”
While the compromise temporarily held off the Civil War for a time, Fillmore's support of it — especially the Fugitive Slave Act — cost him not only support during his presidency but also the Whig party's nomination in 1852.
Opening of Japan
One other important event that occurred during Fillmore's time in office was the opening of Japan. Commodore Matthew Perry created the Treaty of Kanagawa in 1854 that provided for peace between the two nations, the ability to trade in two Japanese ports, help for any American ships wrecked off the Japanese coast, and permission for American ships to purchase provisions in Japan. This treaty was significant because it opened inroads for American merchants to trade with the Far East.