October 29, 1856

Millard Fillmore, All But Admitting Defeat Five Days Before the 1856 Election, Looks Forward With Relief to the End

Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages
SMC 1070
“If there be those, North and South, who desire an administration for the North as against the South, or for the South as against the North, they are not the men who should give their suffrages to me. For my part, I know only my Country, my whole Country, and nothing but my Country.”
       
     -The words to the “Fillmore Quick Step,” music arranged by Albert Holland, published by Miller & Beacham, Baltimore, 1856.

How an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic political party, backed in public by gangs of ruffians and in private by secret fraternal lodges, chose for its presidential nominee a non-nativist, Catholic-neutral, anti-Masonic, genteel former President of the United States is a story worth telling.  

The idea was that President Fillmore’s evenhanded enforcement of the Compromise of 1850 would rally those pro-Union ex-Whigs and disgruntled Democrats, North and South, who feared Republicans would provoke Southern secession, but blamed Democrats for the inflamed sectional conflict. That, however, was not what happened. Instead, ex-Whigs disdained the lower-class rabble-rousing of Fillmore’s American (Know-Nothing) Party, and the disgruntled Democrats, wanting only to stop the Republicans, backed Buchanan as the better bet to beat them. By October’s gubernatorial and congressional elections, the die was cast: the swing states went Democratic, and Fillmore was finished.

Writing, then, somewhat dejectedly, five days before the presidential election, Fillmore first dispenses with the whereabouts of a piece of presidential sheet music – the “Fillmore Quick Step” – and then, all but admits defeat. Mostly, he says, he’ll be glad when it’s over.
 
The election is approaching: and we hope for the best but I am prepared for the worst. But whatever may be the result, I am thankful that the end is so near. I hope when it is over to have a little more leisure and certainly a little more rest for my eyes, which I can not favor as much as much as I ought. The end is so near that I forbear to speculate at all upon our chances; and if defeated shall find consolation in the fact that I am relieved from a load of responsibility, & the hazard of losing what little reputation I now possess as a statesman. My philosophy is that all will be for the best.

Fillmore’s defeat on November 4th was absolute, and brutal: he carried only one state - Maryland.  His “little reputation” had only gotten smaller as a result of his ill-starred candidacy.
Autograph Letter Signed, 2 pages, recto and verso, octavo, Buffalo, New York, October 29, 1856. To Miss Stuart.
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