Friday, September 3, 2010
Nickname: Old Rough and Ready
Zachary Taylor was another president who gained prominence from being a famous general. He had participated in the Mexican war along with Winfield Scott. Taylor had never held any political office before becoming president, nor had he ever voted in his life. Using the same tactics as William Henry Harrison did, as in avoiding the issues altogether, Taylor narrowly beat out Michigan governor Lewis Cass.
The slavery issue hit Taylor hard. Everyone wanted to know what to do with California and the territories gained from Mexico. Taylor infuriated the Whigs and the Democrats by declaring that the people living in the areas should decide for themselves and keep the government out of it. Taylor himself was one of the largest slave owners in the south but was a strong nationalist, declaring that he would lead an army into the south if anyone threatened to secede. He was also not one to compromise. He refused to do anything with the issue of slavery in his short term as president.
Taylor became the second president to die in office, succumbing to gastroenteritis, and inflammation of the stomach and intestines. A quick note on terms of presidents in case you were wondering. Millard Fillmore took office after Taylor died and served three years. If he had been elected in the next election, he would officially have served two terms. If Taylor had died after the official halfway mark in his presidency, then Fillmore would only been counted as serving one term. So if a future president (being after the two term limit given after FDR) dies after two and a half years, his vice president could technically serve a total of 9 1/2 years. That is about the only way anyone could be president longer than two terms. Hasn't happened yet.
Taylor was another mediocre president. He didn't know anything about politics, and his rash decisions didn't work out as well in the presidency as they did on the battlefield. He had a noble cause of keeping the nation together, but didn't have any answers to the slavery issue itself. Also, he didn't live long enough to make any big things happen, though that isn't really his fault.