Little Bits of History

July 9

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 9, 2017

1850: US President Zachary Taylor dies in office. He was born in 1784 in Virginia to prominent plantation owners. He was one of nine children and married in 1810. They had six children. He had enlisted in the US Army prior to marrying and was a first lieutenant after the Chesapeake-Leopard Affair. He rose through the ranks. He purchased two plantations along with the slaves attached to them. He served in the War of 1812, commanded Fort Howard, served in the Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, and the Mexican-American War. By the end of his service, he was both a war hero and a major general. He returned home from his final combat assignment in 1847.

While serving in the Army, Taylor had never stated his political beliefs or even voted. He was an independent and believed in a strong banking system. He disapproved of President Andrew Jackson’s reluctance to stop the bank collapse of 1836. He thought the expansion of slavery was impractical even though he owned over 200 slaves. He was a firm nationalist and believed secession was not a good idea. He aligned himself with the Whig Party even though he did not totally agree with their stand on tariffs and internal improvements. At the Whig National Convention, he beat Henry Clay and Winfield Scott to get the nomination for President. He chose Millard Fillmore as his running mate.

Although he was elected in November 1848, he did not resign his Western Division command until late January 1849. He spent the time after the election in selecting his cabinet. He frustrated some Whigs by not appointing patrons but he would not appoint any Democrats, either. He was hoping for a diverse representation of the country and avoided any prominent Whigs, such as Clay. He set out for Washington, D.C. in late January and didn’t arrive until February 24. He met with outgouing President Polk who felt the new President was totally unqualified. Taylor finalized his cabinet and took office on March 4.

Just sixteen months later, and without having accomplished any of his hoped for goals, he was at a picnic on July 4. The cornerstone for the Washington Monument had been laid two years earlier and the construction site served as the venue. During the day he had several servings of fresh fruit and some iced milk. Later in the day, he began to sicken. Medicine of the time was not as good with diagnosis or treatment and as the days passed, he became ever more ill. He died of some intestinal malady at 10.35 PM. He was 65 years old. He was buried in the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. before his body was moved to his home in Louisville, Kentucky.

I should not be surprised if this were to terminate in my death.

I did not expect to encounter what has beset me since my elevation to the Presidency.

God knows I have endeavored to fulfill what I conceived to be an honest duty. But I have been mistaken.

My motives have been misconstrued, and my feelings most grossly outraged. – all from Zachary Taylor, July 8, 1850

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