19 minute read

Millard Fillmore, Utah's Friend in the White House

Utah Historical Quarterly

Vol. 48, 1980, No. 2

Millard Fillmore, Utah's Friend in the White House

BY WAYNE K. HINTON

IN THE SUMMER OF 1850 VICE-PRESIDENT MILLARD FILLMORE succeeded to the presidency of the United States upon the death of Zachary Taylor. The timing of Fillmore's succession coincided with the great debate over territorial expansion and rising sectionalism in America. Part of that controversy involved the political status of the Mormons and their proposed state of Deseret. Fillmore's handling of the Mormons' political concerns won him acclaim in Utah, but America's thirteenth president has not been treated kindly by most professional historians.

In 1948 and again in 1962 Arthur M. Schlesinger asked panels of historians and political scientists to rate past presidents of the United States in categories ranging from "great" on one end of the spectrum to "failure" on the other. In the 1948 poll rating twenty-nine past presidents, Millard Fillmore ranked twenty-fourth. Fillmore placed twenty-sixth among the thirty-one presidents considered in the 1962 poll. In 1970 Gary M. Maranell conducted a more complex poll that evaluated thirty-three former presidents in seven categories. Fillmore ranked twenty-ninth on prestige, thirtieth on strength of action, twentyeighth on presidential activeness, ninth on idealism, thirteenth on flexibility, twenty-ninth on accomplishments, and thirty-second on amount of information available. Historians had less information about only one president, Franklin Pierce.

There are but two biographies of Fillmore, William Elliot Grifns's Millard Fillmore: Constructive Statesman, Defender of the Constitution, President of the United States, a eulogistic biography of little scholarly value, and Robert J. Rayback's Millard Fillmore: Biography of a President, a more recent and more objective work. Despite efforts by some twentieth-century writers to find parallels between Millard Fillmore's and Abraham Lincoln's rise from a log cabin to the White House, Roy F. Nichols suggests that little is known of Fillmore because there is so little in his life to provoke interest. In spite of this assertion there has continued to be some interest in Fillmore among Utahns.

It is ironic that in territorial Utah, many hundreds of miles from Fillmore's birthplace in a wilderness cabin in central New York, his name became so revered that a county and the territorial capital were named for him. What occasioned such recognition for one who has been so largely ignored or harshly dealt with by history? Did nineteenth-century Utahns view him as friendly, or were they simply trying to win favors through flattery in 1851 when they renamed Chalk Creek, Fillmore, and designated it the new territorial capital? Was Millard Fillmore friendly to the faraway Mormon colony? If so, what did he do specifically for Utah? And finally, what was his motivation? For answers to these questions one must look to Fillmore's political career and his relationship to Utah's early history.

In 1826 a new political movement was creating a stir throughout New York State. Many citizens had come to believe that the ancient Masonic Order was an invisible empire of oath-bound men who were infiltrating the government to the detriment of the Republic. In 1828 Millard Fillmore actively enlisted in the Antimasonic movement and was selected as a county delegate to the party's first statewide convention. A strong strain of idealism guided his action. He was philosophically opposed to this secret order which he felt was a corrupting influence. He would seek to purify government by its elimination.

Fillmore won the first political race he entered when he was elected to the New York State Legislature as an Antimason in 1829. He rapidly rose in the esteem of party officials, and after moving from East Aurora to Buffalo in the spring of 1830, he became a recognized party leader in western New York. In 1832 he was elected to the United States Congress. During the next twenty years he gave an extraordinary share of his life to public affairs, serving four terms in Congress, becoming New York's first elected comptroller, and running for the governorship of his native state before being nominated for the vice-presidency in 1848. As a freshman congressman in 1833 he worked within the inner circle of Antimasons and National Republicans to create the new Whig party, which became America's second major party during 1836-54.

Fillmore's early political career advanced under the tutelage of Whig leader Thurlow Weed. Beginning in 1834, however, Weed began to push the fortunes of William Henry Seward to the neglect of Fillmore. Fillmore grew more independent and began to deny Weed his every whim. When one of his progeny crossed him, W'eed bristled. He treated Fillmore in a cavalier manner, and jealousy and rivalry developed within the New York Whig party. Little could anyone have known in 1834 how much this developing rivalry would one day benefit the newly founded Mormon faith.

In the twenty years from Fillmore's entrance into the Antimasonic movement until he was elected vice-president several events transpired that by 1848 were beginning to converge as salient political issues. In 1830 Joseph Smith had organized the Mormon church in New York. From there its headquarters were moved to Kirtland, Ohio, and then to Jackson County, Missouri. Finally, the Mormons, expelled from Missouri, settled in Illinois, ultimately making their way to Nauvoo. In 1844 their prophet and founder was murdered, and shortly thereafter the Mormons were again forced to move, this time settling in the Great Basin in 1847. As the Mormons were making their trek westward, the United States entered the Mexican War. On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed ending the conflict and ceding California, New Mexico, and the Mormons' princely domain, which they called Deseret, to the United States. In the meantime, a great controversy had arisen in 1846 over Pennsylvania Congressman David Wilmot's proviso stipulating that slavery should never exist in territories that might be acquired from Mexico.

Because of the issue of slavery in the territories, the Whig party in 1848 adopted a stratagem to nominate a Southerner untainted by antislave heresy. Zachary Taylor, a popular general and sugar planter from Louisiana who had gained fame by leading an American army from victory to victory in the Mexican War, met the requirements. Millard Fillmore was personally opposed to slavery, but with an eye to the party's success would neither castigate nor reject a Southern Whig. A stampede to Taylor secured his nomination on the fourth ballot.

Fillmore, who had openly sought the Whig vice-presidential nomination in 1844 only to be thwarted by Weed's and Seward's manipulations, had not made a move to urge his own candidacy in 1848. But John A. Collier, the most prominent member of the New York delegation, did. Adroitly identifying himself with the anti-Southern faction, he announced he had a peace offering to suggest, which if accepted, would reconcile the supporters of Northern candidates and prevent a fatal party breach. To everyone's astonishment he placed Fillmore's name in nomination for vice-president. Collier's perfect timing produced the desired effect, and Fillmore was nominated on the second ballot.

Whatever Fillmore thought of the party's Southern candidate, he did not say. His future and that of the Whig party were tied to Taylor. His campaign role was to work in party harness to help make Taylor acceptable in the North and to avoid alienating the South. The ultimate victory pivoted on Fillmore's home state of New York. For his role the vice-president-elect should have earned the gratitude of Taylor and the Whig party. However, Weed and Seward, who had earlier attempted to prevent Taylor's nomination, began insidiously to insinuate themselves into the Taylor administration and to shoulder Fillmore aside.

Weed approached Fillmore in an attitude of reconciliation and asked for his support for Seward in the coming New York legislative caucus to select a United States senator. Fillmore, naively believing that peace in the party was imminent and necessary, encouraged his friends to accept Seward. With this support Seward won and systematically began to destroy Fillmore's position in the administration and to curtail his patronage influence. As Seward worked his way further into the confidence of Taylor, Fillmore ceased to be counted as important. Seward and Weed, the administration's new confidants, wanted the substance of the Wilmot Proviso. As a result, when New Mexico sought territorial status and Taylor's agents prodded Californians into a seemingly spontaneous movement for admission to statehood without slavery, Southerners found they had misjudged Taylor. Neither words nor threats could move him from Seward's Free-Soil influence.

At the same time, from Deseret came two petitions to Congress, one asking for statehood and the other for territorial status. To support the petitions in Washington Mormon officials sent John M. Bernhisel, a Whig, and Almon W. Babbitt, a Democrat, and enlisted the aid of non- Mormon Thomas L. Kane, a Democrat, who had many important political acquaintances. Amid the rising national controversy surrounding the status of slavery in the Mexican Cession, could the Mormons, so often driven from place to place in the States, gain legislative and executive support for statehood in far away Deseret or, less desirable from the Mormon standpoint but more politically probable, territorial status? Over the issue of slavery in the western territories the career of Millard Fillmore and the interests of the Mormons in Deseret began to converge.

At first Fillmore could only sit on the sideline; he dared not declare open war. Locked out of the administration's councils, his party loyalty was nevertheless too deeply ingrained for him to pursue an independent course. Seward had effectively immobilized Fillmore within the administration, but as presiding officer of the Senate he was in a position to gauge the truth or falsity of the debate swirling about the Senate.

As tensions heightened over several sectional issues, Henry Clay, one of Fillmore's old adversaries, began his last great legislative effort, the Compromise of 1850. On January 29, 1850, hoping to promote political peace, Clay introduced his Omnibus bill providing statehood for California without slavery and territorial status for Utah and New Mexico without reference to slavery. Other sectional issues were tied to the Compromise. The Texas boundary dispute with New Mexico would be settled by giving the disputed territory to New Mexico and granting Texas money from the federal treasury to pay her debts. The slave trade would be ended in the District of Columbia, and the South would be given a stringent new fugitive slave law.

Sentiments regarding Clay's Omnibus bill fell into three broad categories: Southern extremists opposed the principle of the Wilmot Proviso and were willing to go to the limit — secession; Northern extremists were willing to push them to that limit; and Nationals sought an end to the agitation through compromise. Henry Clay and Stephen A. Douglas, the Democratic junior senator from Illinois whose skillful negotiations in cloakrooms and manipulative legislative procedures left their marks on the Compromise, were the leaders of the Nationals.

Taylor, Seward, and the Northern extremists agreed with only one point in the Clay Compromise, admission of California as a free state. Vice-president Fillmore professed loyality to the president, but when forced to choose on this sectional issue between the positions of his old adversaries, Clay and Seward, he moved toward Clay. Fillmore had his political allies praise Sen. Daniel Webster's March 7 speech in which he unexpectedly supported the Compromise and then wrote to a friend saying that the speech was "truly statesman-like."

President Taylor remained adamant. If any compromise measure reached his desk, he threatened to veto it. His position presented a special obstacle to Mormon desires. Babbitt wrote that Taylor had said "before twenty members of Congress that he would veto any bill passed, state or territorial, for the Mormons — that they were a pack of outlaws, and had been driven from two states and were not fit for self-government." He also referred to the "absurdity" of the Mormons' asking for a state or territorial government.

Bernhisel, meanwhile, had held interviews with a former New York governor, John Young, a moderate Whig of the Fillmore faction, who supplied Bernhisel with a letter of introduction. In consequence, he was able to meet with Vice-president Fillmore in early March and found him friendly and cooperative.

By mid-June the national spotlight was beginning to shine on the publicly neutral vice-president as it became more and more likely that Fillmore might be called upon to cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate. To avoid ruffling Taylor's feathers more than necessary, Fillmore informed the president that should he have to cast the decisive vote he would support the Compromise in the interest of the nation. Before that eventuality, a dramatic change took place. On Thursday July 4, 1850, Taylor came down with a cold. Over the weekend he grew weaker, and by Monday his condition was grave. At noon Tuesday, July 9, Fillmore was informed that he might become president, and late that evening Taylor died. Taylor's death prompted Bernhisel to write:

The late illustrious chief magistrate entertained some strong prejudices and used much harsh language against our community.

Poor man! He has gone to give an account of his deeds done in the body, and has, I doubt not, ere this, learned that Mormonism, so called, is as true and enduring as the throne of the most High. Peace to his name.

Brigham Young added his condemnation:

I love the government and the Constitution of the United States, but I do not love the damned rascals who administer the government. I know Zachary Taylor, he is dead and damned, and I cannot help it.

In contrast to Taylor's obstructionism the Mormon emissaries found the new president far more friendly. Bernhisel reported that Millard Fillmore appeared to be a most courteous, agreeable, and accomplished gentleman who seemed favorably disposed toward the Mormons because of his belief that they had been shamefully abused and persecuted.

Nevertheless, in the first week after Taylor's death few knew on which side of the Compromise Fillmore would direct the force of his administration. His desire, it was soon learned, was the substance of the Compromise. In the face of inevitable friction, Taylor's official family resigned but agreed to stay on one week while Fillmore reorganized the administration. In that limited time the new president sought out men who would reflect his wish for sectional peace. In the first public act suggestive of his hope for the Omnibus bill, Fillmore chose Compromise supporter Daniel Webster as his secretary of state.

With Taylor's threat of a veto gone there was no need for the Omnibus bill as such. By breaking the bill into its component parts, the sectionalists could vote for those measures of which they approved, and if enough Nationals joined them each measure would become law with a cooperative president's signature. This was sound political wisdom. Stephen A. Douglas, who had earlier advocated such a plan, now promised to assume leadership to effect the essence of Clay's Omnibus bill through separate measures. Fillmore affixed his signature to the bills as rapidly as they came to him, with the exception of the Fugitive Slave Act on which he hesitated. In ten weeks Fillmore's administration had, temporarily at least, settled several problems that had plagued the nation since the Mexican War. In the process, Utah gained territorial status.

Fillmore's course was prompted in part by intraparty political strife. He was willing — even anxious — to thwart the ambitions of the Weed- Seward faction which he considered radical. He abhorred their extremism, and by 1850 he had made his peace with Clay — age had overcome the Kentuckian's ambition. Additionally, Fillmore was by nature a conciliator committed to maintaining peace in a troubled land. He believed he acted to preserve the Union and that time would heal all wounds, eventually settling even the slavery issue. In the meantime, military force was to be avoided insofar as possible. His legislative and executive record is remarkably clear of bluff, bombast, or aggression. He respected commercial leaders and sought to advance their cause wherever he could. In the spring of 1850 they began to advocate compromise to quiet threats of secession and/or economic boycott from the South. To put it simply, Fillmore accepted territorial status for the Mormons in Utah in the larger national interest and because it seemed a more realistic political alternative than ignoring their existence or granting them statehood.

There was, with Utah's new status, an additional opportunity for Fillmore to demonstrate friendship. Taylor had clearly stated his opposition to the nomination of members of the LDS First Presidency or the Quorum of Twelve Apostles to governmental positions. This had disappointed Bernhisel who had come to Washington with a proposed slate of territorial officers including: Brigham Young, governor; Willard Richards, secretary; Zerubabbel Snow, chief justice; Heber C. Kimball and Newell K. Whitney, associate justices; Seth M. Blair, attorney; and Joseph L. Heywood, marshal. Several of these were in the Mormon ecclesiastical hierarchy. It was soon learned that the Fillmore administration was much more favorably disposed toward the appointment of Mormons to executive positions for Utah without concern for their church offices if the federal government could have the three judgeships. Daniel Webster and Secretary of the Treasury Thomas Corwin, the two most influential members of Fillmore's cabinet, also endorsed the concept of appointing Mormons. Fillmore told Bernhisel "that officers, by all means, should be appointed from among your members."

Knowing that an all-Mormon slate was out of the question, Bernhisel now amended his list to Brigham Young, governor; Zerubabbel Snow, who had been secretly baptized into Mormonism the previous winter in Ohio, chief justice; Joseph L. Heywood, marshal; Seth M. Blair, attorney; and Daniel F. Miller, a friendly non-Mormon from Iowa, associate justice. Miller seemed a good choice since he was a Whig and Iowa was a politically pivotal state where Mormons led by Orson Hyde and his Frontier Guardian had strongly supported the Whig ticket.

The negotiations continued into September 1850. When Fillmore asked what he might expect from Young as territorial governor, Bernhisel assured the Whig president that Young, a Democrat, would support his administration. In a letter marked "strictly private and confidential," Bernhisel reported that a quid pro quo might be necessary to the appointment of Mormons. "It had been intimated to me in high quarters, that if the people of Utah wish any favor of this Administration, they should elect a Whig delegate to Congress. I have no aspirations for that office." The First Presidency replied:

We feel inclined, as soon as an organization can be gone into under the act to elect a delegate. We shall recommend some good Whig for that office, and use what little influence we are possessed of to do the fair thing. . . . We think some of nominating a Whig for delegate who is now in Washington City, feeling assured that although he may have no aspirations to that office, yet that we can rely up on his eminent capability and acceptance.

The First Presidency's "little influence" proved sufficient, as they nominated Bernhisel and he received all 1,259 votes.

President Fillmore kept his part of the bargain, and Bernhisel was soon able to convey the good news to Brigham Young: "I heartily congratulate you on your appointment to the office of Governor of Utah Territory." The other appointments went to Broughton B. Harris, a Vermont Whig, secretary; Lemuel L. Brandebury, a Pennsylvania Whig, chief justice; Perry E. Brocchus, an Alabama Democrat, associate justice; Zerubabbel Snow, associate justice; Seth M. Blair, attorney; Joseph L. Heywood, marshal. Four of the seven territorial officials were Mormon. Bernhisel assured Brigham Young that "the appointing power has been far more liberal to us, than it has been to any other territory, for all the officers in the territories heretofore established were filled by citizens selected from the states."

Fillmore's friendly gesture to the Mormons was prompted by several considerations. The president believed implicitly in local rights and in not embarrassing a locality. Additionally, Bernhisel had presented a persuasive case for popular sovereignty. In 1850 Utah was enjoying favorable publicity from letters to the eastern press by goldseekers traveling through the territory on their way to California. It might also be conjectured that Utah was considered insignificant: it was far away, its culture seemed alien, and there were probably no lines of patronage-seekers forming. Since Fillmore was not then contemplating an attempt to gain the presidential nomination in 1852, he did not feel the need for patronage appointments to strengthen his party standing. The three non- Mormon appointments went to men suggested by others. Yet another explanation for the administration's attitude toward the Mormons was offered by the highly partisan Orson Hyde. He believed, "it is God working through the Whigs. . . ."

Joy over the territorial appointments was short-lived. Despite Bemhisel's assurance that the president would appoint no man unfriendly to "our people," a noisy uproar soon came from the three non-Mormon officials. The growing dissatisfaction of the non-Mormon appointees was underscored on September 20, 1851, when Judge Brocchus began the charges and countercharges with a letter detailing alleged authoritarian rule and misgovernment in Utah under Brigham Young. The crisis escalated on September 28 when Brocchus, Judge Brandebury, and Secretary Harris left Utah, taking with them the official seal, the public funds, and the judicial authority.

Bernhisel was summoned by Secretary of State Webster, shown the charges, and given an opportunity to reply. He essentially denied the charges. Then, on December 19 the fugitive officers filed their official report alleging Mormon misrule. Bernhisel responded to that move with a request for an investigation, whereupon Congress asked the president for information on conditions in Utah Territory. Bernhisel feared that the charges were detrimental to the Mormon cause and that Congress and the press would be persuaded. He frankly reported his misgivings:

The excitement here in relation to the Utah difficulties is intense, and it is with deep regret that I inform you that it is considered a settled matter that Governor Young is to be removed, and the appropriation immediately to be paid over to his successor. General Doniphan, of Missouri, is spoken of as the successor, and a military force is to be stationed in our Territory to enforce the law.

Brigham Young, realizing the difficulty Bernhisel faced in defending Utah, set the stage for a conciliatory gesture. He wrote the president complaining of the distance from the southern Utah communities to the capital in Salt Lake City. A few days later Bernhisel was asked to set forth to the president Utah's request that Chalk Creek be renamed Fillmore and established as the new seat of territorial government. Seeking to buoy Bemhisel's spirit, confident the charges could be refuted, hopeful his gesture toward the president would be rewarded, or perhaps all three, Young wrote: ". . . we still trust and believe that President Fillmore and those associated with him have good sense enough to discern the trick that is trying to be played upon them by the Devil and his imps." Jedediah M. Grant who was in the East gave an equally optimistic report: "I think and feel that all things will work together for our good." He also informed Governor Young: "You are not yet removed from office. Though it has been rumored that you were and that you would be, etc"

Fillmore was in a tight spot: Democrats were critical of the alleged mess created by their Whig opponents, and the Seward faction of the Whig party was even more critical of the president's appointments. However, Mormon optimism proved justified, for Fillmore gave considerable weight to Bemhisel's continuing advice. He assured Bernhisel that he wanted to do justice to the Mormons and his duty to the government. The Utah delegate felt that the president, a believer in the right to worship according to one's conscience, did not partake of the general prejudice against the Mormons. Fillmore did express concern, however, at the charge that the Mormons had set up a government for themselves. Of course, Bernhisel assured him that there was no truth to the assertion. Mormon satisfaction with Fillmore grew during the crisis:

President Fillmore's declining to act on the absconding officer's question till he heard both sides is but another of the many proofs that we have had that he is a man worthy of the dignified station he occupies. . . . He will judge righteous judgment.

Brigham Young was "pleased that the President thinks before he acts in this case." Fillmore's manner was so successful as to reconcile the governor to his possible removal: "If any man that is not one of us or resident in the Territory should be appointed Governor in my place, I should soon General Doniphan would be that man . . . ," Young wrote.

In May 1852 Bernhisel was again summoned to the White House, not to hear of Young's removal but to suggest whom the president should nominate to replace the three fugitive officials. Bernhisel reported

[his] conviction that the President honestly and sincerely desires to do what is right toward us. . . . He is a noble, high minded, accomplished gentleman, and the more intimately I become acquainted with him, the more he excites my respect and admiration.

The nominees submitted included Orson Hyde as the replacement for Brocchus. However, the Senate refused to ratify the appointment, not because Hyde was a Mormon but because he lacked training in the law. His nomination was a source of gratification to the Mormons, for it indicated the positive attitude of the administration, and it angered the three fugitive officials, symbolizing as it did Fillmore's disparagement of their reports. Mormons were sure that "President Fillmore . . . acted nobly."

Ultimately, Leonides Shaver of Virginia and Lararus H. Reed of New York were confirmed as judicial replacements with Reed as the chief justice. Lest the Mormons become complacent Bernhisel warned, "The President desired me to say that the good people of Utah must not get into difficulty with these officers." Utahns heeded this advice and got along with the new appointees. In 1855 on the occasion of Chief Justice Reed's death the Deseret News editorialized:

Among the many kind public acts of Millard Fillmore, the late [sic] President of the United States, towards the inhabitants of Utah, few are cherished by the Saints with warmer gratitude than is felt for his appointment of the now lamented and illustrious deceased. . .

Fillmore continued his friendly support of the Mormons in the latest controversy partly for political reasons. Reconsidering his future and believing his candidacy necessary to the fulfillment of the Compromise of 1850, Fillmore was back in the race. He felt that much of the furor over Utah was a partisan attempt to discredit his administration, a challenge he met head on. A second, related reason was that the charges leveled against Brigham Young and the Mormons were flawed, contradictory, and in some instances easily refuted. For example, the complaint that Governor Young had illegally carried out a fraudulent census in 1850 was readily countered by pointing to Young's official appointment to enumerate the inhabitants of Deseret and to the statement of the superintendent of the seventh census that he was "pleased with the manner and accuracy" of the Utah census. This, of course, undermined the credibility of the entire testimony of the fugitive officials. Millard Fillmore could easily relate to this sort of half-truth, innuendo, and character assassination, for he was undergoing the same experience himself. A third reason for Fillmore's response to charges against the Mormons was the assistance of Thomas L. Kane who cleverly defended Brigham Young against what he termed "anonymous charges" of excessive taxation. He struck a responsive chord with the president, a temperance advocate, when he admitted that Young did place a high tax on spiritous liquors. Mistakes by the plaintiffs constituted a fourth motivation. Judge Brocchus inadvertently helped the Mormon cause by reporting that military force would be necessary to successfully rule Utah without Brigham Young's cooperation. For Fillmore, the conciliator, military force should be used only as a last resort. He believed there were enough patriots in Utah to execute the law. Brocchus's second, unwitting mistake was taking his anti-Mormon message to the Masons. Given Fillmore's Antimasonic political beginnings, this strategy backfired. Finally, Fillmore's own experience as comptroller of New York State, coupled with Bemhisel's effective lobbying, helped convince the president that Harris's behavior as territorial secretary was petty, nit-picking obstructionism. Bernhisel, on the other hand, was cordial, cooperative, and supportive. This came as a welcome relief from the acrimony and controversy surrounding the embattled president in 1852. Fillmore and Bernhisel had been drawn into a closer alliance by circumstances. Criticism of the manner of Bemhisel's election as territorial delegate to Congress ran simultaneously with the controversy of the three absent officials. This attack on Bernhisel, led by George Briggs, a New York Whig congressman of the Seward faction, was seen by Fillmore as another attempt to embarrass his administration.

In addition to the more tangible motivations noted above, Fillmore's Unitarian faith may also have helped to make him more tolerant of the Mormons. Unitarian liberalism was conducive to an easier acceptance of religious peculiarities, even those of the Mormons. Fillmore's religious background kept him in step with democratic America's march toward complete separation of church and state. He was especially opposed to religious test oaths for officials, and it seemed as reprehensible to remove a person from office because he was a Mormon as it was to administer religious oaths prior to obtaining an office. However, Unitarian liberalism did not allow Fillmore to grant the same objectivity to Catholics. In fact, he found the anti-Catholic and antiforeign Know-Nothing party a convenient political vehicle after the death of the Whig party, and he became the Know-Nothing candidate for president in 1856. In 1852 the Mormons had played upon Fillmore's anti-Catholicism by attributing the charges raised against them to a conspiracy of Catholic priests and Catholic-controlled newspapers.

Regardless of Fillmore's underlying motivation for granting favors, contemporary Mormons viewed him as a friend. It was with genuine regret that Bernhisel informed Brigham Young that Millard Fillmore had lost his bid for nomination as the Whig presidential candidate in 1852, for Fillmore was considered high-minded, honorable, and a man of liberal views who desired to do the Mormons justice. As Fillmore's administration drew to a close, Brigham Young asked Bernhisel to "remember me in kindness to the President, I feel that he is our friend." Mormons generally agreed with Daniel H. Wells's Independence Day toast of 1853: "May his retirement be as happy and prosperous as his Administration was successful and glorious and the American people learn to know and appreciate their good men before they lose them." In contrast to history's harsh judgment of Fillmore, Utahns, upon his death in March 1874, rendered their positive assessment of his administration. With the added perspective of time and comparison to subsequent presidents the Deseret News felt that Fillmore was "more thoroughly imbued with the fundamental principles of American government than. . . any President since his time." Indeed, from the perspective of territorial Utah, history has been too unkind to Millard Fillmore.

For full citations and images please view this article on a desktop.