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Zachary Taylor

Oil on Canvas of President Taylor by John Vanderlyn in 1850.

In office
March 4, 1849[1] – July 9, 1850
Vice President Millard Fillmore
Preceded by James K. Polk
Succeeded by Millard Fillmore

Born November 24, 1784(1784-11-24)
Barboursville, Virginia
Died July 9, 1850 (aged 65)
Washington, D.C.
Nationality American
Political party Whig
Spouse(s) Margaret Smith Taylor
Children Ann Mackall Taylor
Sarah Knox Taylor
Octavia Pannill Taylor
Mary Smith Taylor
Mary Elizabeth (Taylor) Bliss
Richard Taylor
Occupation Soldier (General)
Religion Episcopal
Signature
Military service
Nickname(s) Old Rough and Ready
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Army
Years of service 1808–1848
Rank Major General
Battles/wars War of 1812
Black Hawk War
Second Seminole War
Mexican–American War
*Battle of Monterrey
*Battle of Buena Vista

Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was the 12th President of the United States and an American military leader. Initally uninterested in politics, Taylor nonetheless ran as a Whig in the 1848 presidential election, defeating Lewis Cass and becoming the first president never to have held any previous elected office. He was the last Southerner elected president until Woodrow Wilson was elected 64 years later in 1912.

Known as "Old Rough and Ready," Taylor had a forty-year military career in the United States Army, serving in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War. He achieved fame leading American troops to victory in the Battle of Palo Alto and the Battle of Monterrey during the Mexican–American War. As president, Taylor angered many Southerners by taking a moderate stance on the issue of slavery. He urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, setting the stage for the Compromise of 1850. Taylor died of gastroenteritis just 16 months into his term and was succeeded by his Vice President, Millard Fillmore.

Contents

Early life

Zachary Taylor was born on a farm[2] on November 24, 1784, in Orange County, Virginia, to a prominent[3] family of planters.[4] He was the youngest of three sons in a family of nine children.[2] His father, Richard Taylor, had served with George Washington during the American Revolution.[3] Taylor was a descendent of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrims; James Madison was Taylor's second cousin, and Robert E. Lee was a kinsman.[5] During his youth, he lived on the frontier in Louisville, Kentucky, residing in a small cabin in a wood during most of his childhood, before moving to a brick house as a result of his family's increased prosperity.[4] He shared the house with seven brothers and sisters, and his father owned 10,000 acres, town lots in Louisville, and twenty-six slaves by 1800.[4] Since there were no schools on the Kentucky frontier, Taylor had only a basic education growing up, provided by tutors his father hired from time to time.[2] He was reportedly a poor student; his handwriting, spelling, and grammar were described as "crude and unrefined throughout his life."[4] When Taylor was older, he wanted to join the military.[4]

Military career

Zachary Taylor led the defense of Fort Harrison, near modern Terre Haute, Indiana.

On May 3, 1808, Taylor joined the U.S. Army, receiving a commission as a first lieutenant of the Seventh Infantry Regiment from his cousin James Madison. He was ordered west into Indiana Territory, and was promoted to captain in November 1810. He assumed command of Fort Knox when the commandant fled, and maintained command until 1814.[6]

During the War of 1812, Taylor successfully defended Fort Harrison in Indiana Territory, from an attack by Indians under the command of Shawnee chief Tecumseh.[2] As a result, Taylor was promoted to the temporary rank of major,[2] and led the 7th Infantry in a campaign ending in the Battle of Wild Cat Creek. Taylor was also commander of the short-lived Fort Johnson (1814), the last toehold of the U.S. Army in the upper Mississippi River Valley until it was abandoned[7] and Taylor's troops retreated to Fort Cap au Gris. Reduced to the rank of captain when the war ended in 1814, he resigned from the army, but reentered it after he was commissioned again as a major a year later.[2] In 1819, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel and was promoted to full colonel in 1832.[2]

Taylor led the 1st Infantry Regiment in the Black Hawk War of 1832, personally accepting the surrender of Chief Black Hawk.[2] In 1837, he was directed to Florida, where he defeated the Seminole Indians on Christmas Day, and afterwards was promoted to brigadier general and given command of all American troops in Florida.[2] He was made commander of the southern division of the United States Army in 1841.[2]

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Mexican-American War

General Zachary Taylor in uniform.

In 1845, Texas became a U.S. state, and President James K. Polk directed Taylor to deploy into disputed territory on the Texas-Mexico border,[4] under the order to defend the state against any attempts by Mexico to take it back after it had lost control by 1836.[2] Taylor was given command of American troops on the Rio Grande[8], the Army of Occupation, on April 23, 1845. When some of Taylor's men were attacked by Mexican forces near the river, Polk told Congress in May 1846 that a war between Mexico and the United States had started by an act of the former.[4] That same month, Taylor commanded American forces at the Battle of Palo Alto, using superior artillery to defeat the significantly larger Mexican opposition.[4] In September, Taylor was able to inflict heavy casualties upon the Mexican defenders at the Battle of Monterrey.[4] The city of Monterrey was considered "un-destroyable".[4] He was criticized for not ensuring the Mexican army that surrendered at Monterrey disbanded.[4] Afterwards, half of Taylor's army was ordered to join General Winfield Scott's soldiers as they besieged Veracruz.[4] Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna discovered that Taylor had only 6,000 men, through a letter written by Scott to Taylor that had been intercepted by the Mexicans, many of whom were not regular army soldiers, and resolved to defeat him.[4] Santa Anna attacked Taylor with 20,000 men at the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847, inflicting 672 American casualties at a cost of 1,800 Mexican.[4] As a result, Santa Anna left the field of battle.[4]

Buena Vista turned Taylor into a hero, and he was compared to George Washington and Andrew Jackson in the American popular press.[4] Stories were reportedly told about "his informal dress, the tattered straw hat on his head, and the casual way he always sat on top of his beloved horse, "Old Whitey," while shots buzzed around his head".[4]

Election of 1848

Taylor/Fillmore campaign poster

In his capacity as a career officer, Taylor had never reportedly revealed his political beliefs before 1848, nor voted before that time.[9] He thought of himself as an independent, believing in a strong and sound banking system for the country, and thought that Andrew Jackson should not have allowed the Second Bank of the United States to collapse in 1836.[9] He believed it was impractical to talk about expanding slavery into the western areas of the United States, as he concluded that neither cotton nor sugar (both were produced in great quantities as a result of slavery) could be easily grown there through a plantation economy.[9] He was also a firm nationalist, and due to his experience of seeing many people die as a result of warfare, he believed that secession was not a good way to resolve national problems.[9] Taylor, although he did not agree with their stand on protective tariffs and expensive internal improvements, aligned himself with Whig Party governing policies; the President should not be able to veto a law, unless that law was against the Constitution of the United States; that the office should not interfere with Congress, and that the power of collective decision-making, as well as the Cabinet, should be strong.[9]

After the American victory at Buena Vista, "Old Rough and Ready" political clubs were formed which supported Taylor for President, although no one knew for sure what his political beliefs were.[9] Taylor declared, as the 1848 Whig Party convention approached, that he had always been a Whig in principle, but he did consider himself a Jeffersonian-Democrat.[9] Many southerners believed that Taylor supported slavery, and its expansion into the new territory absorbed from Mexico, and some were angered when Taylor suggested that if he were elected President he would not veto the Wilmot Proviso, which proposed against such an expansion.[9] This position did not enhance his support from activist antislavery elements in the Northern United States, as these wanted Taylor to speak out strongly in support of the Proviso, not simply fail to veto it.[9] Most abolitionists did not support Taylor, since he was a slave-owner.[9] Many southerners also knew that Taylor supported states' rights, and was opposed to protective tariffs and government spending for internal improvements.[9] The Whigs hoped that he put the federal union of the United States above all else.[9]

Taylor received the Whig nomination for President in 1848. Millard Fillmore of Cayuga County, New York was chosen as the Vice Presidential nominee. His homespun ways and his status as a war hero were political assets. Taylor defeated Lewis Cass, the Democratic candidate, and Martin Van Buren, the Free Soil candidate. Taylor was the last southerner to be elected president until Woodrow Wilson, as Andrew Johnson became president through succession.

Taylor ignored the Whig platform, as historian Michael Holt explains:

Taylor was equally indifferent to programs Whigs had long considered vital. Publicly, he was artfully ambiguous, refusing to answer questions about his views on banking, the tariff, and internal improvements. Privately, he was more forthright. The idea of a national bank 'is dead, and will not be revived in my time.' In the future the tariff "will be increased only for revenue"; in other words, Whig hopes of restoring the protective tariff of 1842 were vain. There would never again be surplus federal funds from public land sales to distribute to the states, and internal improvements 'will go on in spite of presidential vetoes.' In a few words, that is, Taylor pronounced an epitaph for the entire Whig economic program.[10]

Presidency

Policies

President Taylor and his Cabinet, 1849 Daguerreotype by Matthew Brady
From left to right: William B. Preston, Thomas Ewing, John M. Clayton, Zachary Taylor, William M. Meredith, George W. Crawford, Jacob Collamer and Reverdy Johnson, (1849).

Although Taylor had subscribed to Whig principles of legislative leadership, he was not inclined to be a puppet of Whig leaders in Congress. He ran his administration in the same rule-of-thumb fashion with which he had fought Native Americans.

Under Taylor's administration, the United States Department of the Interior was organized, although the legislation authorizing the Department had been approved on President Polk's last day in office. He appointed former Treasury Secretary Thomas Ewing the first Secretary of the Interior.

Slavery

By the time Taylor became President, the issue of slavery in the western territories of the United States had come to dominate American political discourse, and debate between extreme pro and antislavery viewpoints had become very pronounced.[11] In 1849, he advised the residents of California, including the Mormons around Salt Lake, and the residents of New Mexico to create state constitutions and apply for statehood in December when Congress met.[11] He correctly predicted that these constitutions would state against slavery in California and New Mexico.[11] In December 1849, and January 1850, Taylor told Congress that it should allow them to become states, once their constitutions arrived in Washington D.C.[11] He also urged that there should not be an attempt to develop territorial governments for the two future states, since that might increase tension between pro and antislavery activists regarding a congressional prohibition of slavery in the territories.[11]

Foreign affairs

Taylor and his Secretary of State, John M. Clayton, lacked much experience in foreign affairs before Taylor assumed the presidency, and Taylor was not directly involved in diplomacy or the development of American foreign policies.[12] Taylor's administration attempted to stop a filibustering expedition against Cuba, argued with France and Portugal over reparation disputes, and supported German liberals during the revolutions of 1848.[12] The administration confronted Spain, which had arrested several Americans on the charge of piracy, and assisted the United Kingdom's search for a team of British explorers who had gotten lost in the Arctic.[12] The United States had planned to construct a canal across Nicaragua, but the British opposed the idea, arguing that they held a special status in neighboring Honduras.[12] In what was described by one source as Taylor's "most important foreign policy move", delicate negotiations were performed with Britain, and a "landmark agreement" was reached called the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty.[12] Both Britain and the United States agreed not to claim control of any canal that might be built in Nicaragua.[12] The treaty is considered to have been an important step in the development of an Anglo-American alliance, and "effectively weakened U.S. commitment to Manifest Destiny as a formal policy while recognizing the supremacy of U.S. interests in Central America".[12] The creation of the treaty was Taylor's last act of state.[12]

The Compromise of 1850

The slavery issue dominated Taylor's short term. Although he owned slaves on his plantation in Louisiana,[13] he took a moderate stance on the territorial expansion of slavery, angering fellow Southerners. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the Army. Persons "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ... with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico." He never wavered. Henry Clay then proposed a complex Compromise of 1850. Taylor died as it was being debated. (The Clay version failed but another version did pass under the new president, Millard Fillmore.)

Administration and Cabinet

Official White House portrait of Zachary Taylor
The Taylor Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Zachary Taylor 1849–1850
Vice President Millard Fillmore 1849–1850
Secretary of State John M. Clayton 1849–1850
Secretary of Treasury William M. Meredith 1849–1850
Secretary of War George W. Crawford 1849–1850
Attorney General Reverdy Johnson 1849–1850
Postmaster General Jacob Collamer 1849–1850
Secretary of the Navy William B. Preston 1849–1850
Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ewing, Sr. 1849–1850


Judicial appointments

Taylor appointed only four federal judges, all to United States district courts:

Judge Court Began active
service
Ended active
service
Henry Boyce W.D. La. 01849-05-09 May 9, 1849[14] 01861-02-19 February 19, 1861
Thomas Drummond D. Ill. 01850-02-19 February 19, 1850 01855-02-13 February 13, 1855
John Gayle N.D. Ala.
M.D. Ala.
S.D. Ala.
01849-03-13 March 13, 1849 01859-07-21 July 21, 1859
Daniel Ringo D. Ark. 01849-11-05 November 5, 1849[15] 01851-03-03 March 3, 1851

Death

Taylor's mausoleum at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

The true cause of Zachary Taylor's premature death is not fully established. On July 4, 1850, Taylor consumed a snack of milk and cherries at an Independence Day celebration. On this day, he also sampled several dishes presented to him by well-wishing citizens. Upon his sudden death on July 9, the cause was listed as gastroenteritis.[16] He was interred in the Public Vault of the Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C. Later, he was interred in a mausoleum in Louisville, Kentucky, at what is now the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery. He was moved to his current mausoleum in 1926.

In the late 1980s, Clara Rising theorized that Taylor was murdered by poison and was able to convince Taylor's closest living relative and the Coroner of Jefferson County, Kentucky, to order an exhumation. On June 17, 1991, Taylor's remains were exhumed and transported to the Office of the Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner, where radiological studies were conducted and samples of hair, fingernail and other tissues were removed. The remains were then returned to the cemetery and received appropriate honors at reinterment. He was reinterred in the same mausoleum he had been in since 1926. A monolith was constructed next to the mausoleum later on. Neutron activation analysis conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed arsenic levels several hundred times lower than they would have been if Taylor had been poisoned.[17] Rather, it was concluded that on a hot July day Taylor had attempted to cool himself with large amounts of cherries and iced milk. “In the unhealthy climate of Washington, with its open sewers and flies, Taylor came down with cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis as it is now called.” He might have recovered, Dr. Samuel Eliot Morison felt, but his doctors “drugged him with ipecac, calomel, opium and quinine (at 40 grains a whack), and bled and blistered him too. On July 9, he gave up the ghost.”[18]

Despite these findings, assassination theories have not been entirely put to rest. Michael Parenti devoted a chapter in his 1999 book History as Mystery to "The Strange Death of Zachary Taylor", speculating that Taylor was assassinated and that his autopsy was botched. It is suspected that Taylor was deliberately assassinated by arsenic poisoning from one of the citizen-provided dishes he sampled during the Independence Day celebration.[19] Other dissenting historians claim as suspicious the facts that there were no eyewitness accounts of Taylor consuming cherries and milk on that day; that there are no confirmed cholera outbreaks in Washington in 1850; that Taylor's symptoms were not those of typhoid (spread by flies); that Taylor was not given the aforementioned drugs until he was already deathly sick, on the third day of his acute illness; and that Taylor was not bled until near death on the fifth and last day of his illness.[20]

Unlike William Henry Harrison and the other six Presidents after him who died in office, Taylor was not elected in a year ending with a "0", making him an exception to the myth of Tecumseh's Curse.

Personal life

In 1810 Taylor wed Margaret Smith, and they would have six children of whom the only son, Richard, would become a lieutenant general in the Confederate Army.[2] One of Taylor's daughters, Sarah Knox Taylor, decided to marry in 1835 Jefferson Davis, the future President of the Confederate States of America, who at that time was a lieutenant.[2] Taylor did not wish Sarah to marry him, and Taylor and Davis would not be reconciled until 1847 at the Battle of Buena Vista, where Davis distinguished himself as a colonel.[2] Sarah had died in 1835, three months into the marriage.[2] Another of Taylor's daughters, Margaret Anne, died of liver failure at age 33. Around 1841, Taylor established a home at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and gained a large plantation and a great number of slaves.[2]

Legacy

Taylor postage stamp (1938)
Presidential Coin of Taylor

It is contended that Taylor was not President long enough to cause a substantial impact on the office of the Presidency, or the United States, and that he is not remembered as a great President.[21]

The majority of historians believe that Taylor was too nonpolitical, considering he was in office at a time when being involved in politics required close ties with political operatives.[21] The Clayton-Bulwer Treaty is "recognized as an important step in [the] scaling down [of] the nation's commitment to Manifest Destiny as a policy."[21]

Taylor is one of only four presidents who did not have an opportunity to nominate a judge to serve on the Supreme Court. The other three presidents are William Henry Harrison, Andrew Johnson, and Jimmy Carter.[citation needed]

In 1995, Taylor was inducted into the Louisiana Political Museum and Hall of Fame in Winnfield, Louisiana, the honor bestowed on the only U.S. President to have lived in Louisiana.

Considering the shortness of his presidency, Taylor's most notable legacy may be that he was the last U.S. President to own slaves while holding the Office of the President of the United States, in 1850.

Surviving family

References

  1. ^ *Taylor's term of service was scheduled to begin on March 4, 1849, but as this day fell on a Sunday, Taylor refused to be sworn in until the following day. Vice President Millard Fillmore was also not sworn in on that day. Most scholars believe that according to the U.S. Constitution, Taylor's term began on March 4, regardless of whether he had taken the oath or not.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Whitney, David C; Robin Vaughn Whitney (1993). The American Presidents. The Reader's Digest Association. p. 101. ISBN 1-56865-031-0. 
  3. ^ a b Connor, Seymour V. "Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia: Taylor, Zachary". Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia. http://ap.grolier.com/article?assetid=0285260-0. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Zachary Taylor: Life Before the Presidency". Miller Center of Public Affairs. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/taylor/essays/biography/2. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  5. ^ Hamilton, Holman. "Encyclopedia Americana: Taylor, Zachary". Encyclopedia Americana. Archived from the original on 2008-02-10. http://web.archive.org/web/20080210165153/http://ap.grolier.com/article?assetid=0380680-00. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 
  6. ^ * Allison, Harold (©1986, Harold Allison). The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians. Turner Publishing Company, Paducah. pp. 89–90. ISBN 0-9380-2107-9. 
  7. ^ Nolan, David J. (2009). "Fort Johnson, Cantonment Davis, and Fort Edwards". in William E. Whittaker. Frontier Forts of Iowa: Indians, Traders, and Soldiers, 1682–1862. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press. pp. 85–94. ISBN 978-1-58729-831-8. http://uipress.uiowa.edu/books/2009-fall/whittaker.htm. 
  8. ^ The American Presidents. p. 102. 
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "Zachary Taylor: Campaigns and Elections". Miller Center of Public Affairs. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/taylor/essays/biography/3. Retrieved 2009-01-08. 
  10. ^ Holt 1999 p 272
  11. ^ a b c d e "Zachary Taylor: Domestic Affairs". Miller Center of Public Affairs. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/taylor/essays/biography/4. Retrieved 2009-01-14. 
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h "Zachary Taylor: Foreign Affairs". Miller Center of Public Affairs. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/taylor/essays/biography/5. Retrieved 2009-01-09. 
  13. ^ For the latter part of his life Taylor considered Louisiana his home
  14. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 21, 1849, confirmed by the United States Senate on August 2, 1850, and received commission on August 2, 1850.
  15. ^ Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 21, 1849, confirmed by the United States Senate on June 10, 1850, and received commission on June 10, 1850.
  16. ^ "Biography of Zachary Taylor" from The White House
  17. ^ New York ‘’Times’’, “Verdict In: 12th President Was Not Assassinated,” June 27, 1991; "President Zachary Taylor and the Laboratory: Presidential Visit from the Grave" from Oak Ridge National Laboratory
  18. ^ New York ‘’Times’’, “Scandal and the Heat Did Taylor In,” July 4, 1991.
  19. ^ "Parenti", "Michael" (September 1999). "History as Mystery". "City Light Books". p. 304. ISBN 9780872863576. 
  20. ^ Hamilton Smith, "The Interpretation of the Arsenic Content of Human Hair," Journal of the Forensic Science Society, vol. 4, summarized in Sten Forshufvud and Ben Weider, Assassination at St. Helena (Vancouver, Canada: Mitchell Press, 1978).
  21. ^ a b c "Zachary Taylor: Impact and Legacy". Miller Center of Public Affairs. http://millercenter.org/academic/americanpresident/taylor/essays/biography/9. Retrieved 2009-01-12. 

Further reading

  • Bauer, Jack K. Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest. Louisiana State University Press: 1993 ISBN 0807118516
  • Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor: Soldier of the Republic (1941) vol 1
  • Hamilton, Holman. Zachary Taylor: Soldier in the White House (1951) vol 2
  • Michael F. Holt; The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. (1999)
  • Smith, Elbert B. The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore. University Press of Kansas: 1988. ISBN 070060362X
  • List of United States Presidents who died in office

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
James K. Polk
President of the United States
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
Succeeded by
Millard Fillmore
Party political offices
Preceded by
Henry Clay
Whig Party presidential nominee
1848
Succeeded by
Winfield Scott

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784July 9, 1850), also known as "Old Rough and Ready," was the twelfth President of the United States, serving from 1849 to 1850. Taylor was noted for his extensive military career, becoming the first president not previously elected to any other public office. He was the second president to die in office.

Unsourced

  • For more than half a century, during which kingdoms and empires have fallen, this Union has stood unshaken. The patriots who formed it have long since descended to the grave; yet still it remains, the proudest monument to their memory.
  • I can and shall yield to no call that does not come from the spontaneous action and free will of the nation at large and void of the slightest agency of my own. In no case can I permit myself to be a candidate of any part, or yield myself to any party schemes.
  • I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.
  • I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country.
  • In the discharge of duties my guide will be the Constitution, which I this day swear to preserve, protect, and defend.
  • It would be judicious to act with magnanimity towards a prostrate foe.
  • Tell him to go to hell.
    • His reply to Mexican General Santa Anna's demand for surrender.
  • The idea that I should become President seems to me too visionary to require a serious answer. It has never entered my head, nor is it likely to enter the head of any other person.
  • The power given by the Constitution to the Executive to interpose his veto is a high conservative power; but in my opinion it should never be exercised except in cases of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of due consideration by Congress.
  • Upon its preservation must depend our own happiness and that of countless generations to come. Whatever dangers may threaten it, I shall stand by it and maintain it in its integrity to the full extent of the obligations imposed and the power conferred upon me by the Constitution.
    • Referring to the United States.

External links

Wikipedia
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ZACHARY TAYLOR (1784-1850), twelfth president of the United States, was born in Orange county, Virginia, on the 24th of September 1784. During the following year his father, Colonel Richard Taylor, a veteran of the War of Independence, migrated to Kentucky, settling near Louisville, and thereafter played an important part in the wars and politics of his adopted state. The boyhood and youth of Zachary Taylor were thus passed in the midst of the stirring frontier scenes of early Kentucky, and from this experience he acquired the hardihood and resoluteness that characterized his later life, although he inevitably lacked the advantages of a thorough education. In May 1808 Taylor received a commission as first lieutenant in the 7th United States Infantry, and for the next few years was employed in routine duties. Early in 1812 he was made captain, and during the ensuing hostilities with Great Britain distinguished himself by his gallant defence against the Indians of Fort Harrison, a stockade in central Indiana. For this he was breveted major, and in May 1814 received a regular major's commission, but being reduced at the conclusion of the war to the rank of captain, temporarily left the service. In May 1816 he was reinstated as major, and in 1819 was promoted to be a lieutenant-colonel; and in the routine discharge of his duties he was stationed at various posts on the western frontier. In 1832, as colonel, he took part in the Black Hawk War, and was the officer to whom Black Hawk surrendered; later he occasionally acted as Indian agent along the upper Mississippi. In 1836 Taylor was ordered from Wisconsin to take command against the Seminoles in Florida. On the 25th of December 1837, after a difficult campaign, he inflicted a severe defeat upon the Indians at the battle of Okeechobee, and for this was breveted brigadier-general. Then followed four years of harassing service in the Florida Everglades, whence he passed to the command of the First Department of the army, with headquarters at Fort Jesup, Louisiana.

While at New Orleans in 1845, Taylor received orders from President Polk to march his troops into Texas, as soon as that state should accept the terms of annexation proposed by the Joint Resolution of Congress of March 2, 1845. Later in June Polk, who assumed that the Rio Grande rather than the Nueces was the south-western boundary of Texas, ordered him to take up a position at the mouth of the Sabine, or at some other point best suited for an advance to the former river. By the middle of August Taylor had selected a position at Corpus Christi, on the west bank of the Nueces and within the disputed territory, and here he remained until the following spring. Upon the definite refusal of the Mexican government under Paredes to resume with the United States the diplomatic relations broken off by the annexation of Texas, Taylor was ordered to advance to the Rio Grande for the purpose of anticipating any hostile incursion from Mexico. He himself favoured such a movement if the United States was to maintain its claim as regards the boundary. In obedience to his instructions he left Corpus Christi on the 12th of March 1846, fortified Point Isabel as a base of supplies, and took up his position on the disputed river, opposite the Mexican town of Matamoras. Here he began to construct Fort Texas, afterwards called Fort Brown, upon the present site of Brownsville. The commander of the Mexican Army of the North, Ampudia, immediately summoned him to retire behind the Nueces under the threat of interpreting his advance as an invasion of Mexican territory. Taylor not only disregarded this summons, but within the following week proceeded to blockade the Rio Grande. Hostilities were then una voidable, and the first passage at arms occurred on the 24th of April 1846; when a large force of Mexicans on the east bank of the Rio Grande ambushed and captured a small party of American dragoons under Captain Seth B. Thornton (1814-1847). The news of this event led President Polk, on the 11th of May, to recommend a formal declaration of war on the ground that it existed " by the act of Mexico herself,' for that power " has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon American soil." This statement was incorporated in the bill declaring war, and although severely criticized during the Senate debate, passed both houses of Congress by overwhelming majorities.

Meanwhile Taylor had strengthened his base of supplies at Point Isabel, where he was reinforced by militia from Texas and Louisiana, and during the return march from this post was fiercely attacked at Palo Alto (about 8 m. N.E. of Brownsville, Texas) on May 8th, by the Mexicans under Arista. The latter was easily driven from the field, but on the following day threatened Taylor's advance in a much stronger position, Resaca de la Palma (about 4 m. N. of Brownsville). A brilliant charge by the dragoons under Captain May decided this contest, which Taylor followed up by a pursuit of the Mexican general to the Rio Grande. After relieving Fort Brown, which had been besieged since the 3rd of May, Taylor himself crossed the river, and on the 18th of May occupied Matamoras, from which Arista had already retreated to Monterrey.

As it was the intention of the administration to wage war for the purpose merely of bringing Mexico to negotiate, Taylor did not immediately advance southward from the Rio Grande. When, however, Mexico persisted in her refusal to treat, Polk decided to conquer her northern provinces. Taylor formed a new base of operations at Camargo, farther up the river, and from this point, in August began an advance towards Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo Leon. After hard fighting he occupied this city in the latter part of September (see Monterrey). The truce with which he followed up this success was unacceptable to the administration, and upon receiving notice to resume hostilities, he occupied Saltillo, the capital of Coahuila, and Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas, thus completing the conquest of the north-eastern states of Mexico. By this time Taylor had been reinforced by some 3000 troops which had marched under Gen. John E. Wool from San Antonio directly towards Chihuahua, but which had been deflected at Monclova to join his " army of occupation." During the war he was breveted major-general (May 1846), and. Congress thrice passed votes of thanks and ordered the presentation of commemorative gold medals. President Polk distrusted Taylor because of his supposed Whig views, and now began to express his dissatisfaction with the general's failure to take full advantage of his victories and his hesitancy to suggest a plan for the future conduct of the war. Taylor was unwilling to lead his own army farther into the desert interior of Mexico and remained non-committal upon the projected attempt from Vera Cruz. When Polk finally determined upon the latter campaign, he selected Gen. Winfield Scott, although the latter was personally unacceptable to himself, as its leader, and despite Taylor's vigorous protests detached most of his experienced troops to join Scott's command. Meanwhile through the connivance of the American authorities, Santa Anna returned from his Cuban exile, and, as the newly elected Mexican president, disregarding his pledges to aid Polk in bringing about a satisfactory peace, prepared to wage a more effective war against the American invaders. Learning of the weakened condition of Taylor's force he made a sudden advance to the northward, with some 20,000 troops, and on the 22nd of February 1847 encountered Taylor with one-fourth that number at Buena Vista, a few miles beyond Saltillo. The all-day battle in the narrow mountain pass was the most stubbornly contested of the whole war, and the brilliant victory of Taylor over such odds made " Old Rough and Ready," as he was called by his troops, the hero of the hour. With this encounter the serious work of his " army of occupation " ended, although he was later joined by Gen. Alexander W. Doniphan's troops, who had marched from New Mexico via Chihuahua. Taylor's brilliant victory, won when he was so greatly handicapped by 'Polk, emphasized the popular discontent which that president's policy had already aroused, and suggested him to the political leaders as a presidential possibility. The general, however, had passed his mature years wholly in military service and had never voted, much less strongly allied himself, with any political party. Nevertheless when Taylor meetings became the fashion and newspapers began to advocate his nomination, party lines threatened to disappear despite the frantic efforts of the oldtime chiefs of the two leading organizations to stem the tide against the popular favourite. The Democratic party with its more efficient machinery prevented a stampede of its rank and file, but the Whigs were less successful. Within a month after his victory over Santa Anna a Whig convention in Iowa nominated him for the presidency, and public meetings in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and elsewhere quickly took similar action, in many cases without regard to party lines. Taylor first adopted a course of discouraging these suggestions and emphasized his non-partisan attitude, but later gave way to the pressure, and issued a statement that proved satisfactory to the majority of the Whig politicians. Yet it required four ballots in the national convention to overcome the reluctance of Webster's, Clay's and Scott's followers and secure the party nomination. The disaffection of these leaders was more than counterbalanced, however, by the split of the New York Democrats over the slavery question, which assured Taylor of the vote of that state. His residence in Louisiana, his ownership of a large plantation with its slaves, and his family connexion with Jefferson Davis (who had married his daughter), rendered him more acceptable to many of the Southern Democrats than their party candidate, Lewis Cass, an advocate of " squatter sovereignty " and the representative of the democracy of the free North-west. As a result Taylor carried eight slave states while his opponent secured seven, but in the free states the conditions were exactly reversed. He received a majority of electoral votes on each side of the Mason and Dixon line and was confirmed in his preconceived opinion that he was to be the president of the whole people. Both parties had attempted to avoid the burning slavery issue, - the Whigs by adopting no platform whatever and the Democrats by trusting to the well-known views of their candidate, but the political leaders in Congress could not escape the many definite questions preserited by the possession of the territory newly acquired from Mexico. The Wilmot Proviso and the bill to organize the territory of Oregon had already aroused both sections and had given occasion for Webster and Calhoun to state their respective views upon the constitutional questions involved. The three weeks' contest over the election of a speaker in the House of Representatives, in December 1849, emphasized the sectional passions already engendered. Under the circumstances the first message from President Taylor was awaited with great interest. While advising Congress to " abstain from the introduction of those exciting topics of sectional character which have hitherto produced painful apprehensions in the public mind," he favoured the admission of California as a free state, and counselled the legislators to await the action of the people of New Mexico and Utah upon the slavery question. As he had already encouraged California to form the state government it desired, and later took a strong position against the efforts of Texas to possess itself of part of New Mexico, it was apparent that he was less inclined to favour the radical pro-slavery programme than his previous career had seemed to promise. This was still further emphasized by his marked friendship for William H. Seward and his contemptuous reference to the territorial portion of Clay's compromise measures as the " Omnibus Bill." This situation militated greatly against that leader's cherished policy, and led him to a bitter criticism of the president on the floor of the Senate. Such was the situation when the president, early in July 1850, was stricken by the disease to which he succumbed on the 9th. His remains were temporarily interred at Washington, but afterwards removed to the family cemetery near Louisville.

The only son that survived him, Richard Taylor (1826-1879), popularly known as " General Dick," graduated at Yale in 1845, entered the Confederate army at the beginning of the Civil War, was commanding officer in Louisiana, and under Kirby Smith helped to administer the western half of the Confederacy, after the fall of Vicksburg. He won the victory of Sabine Cross Roads over the Union expedition under Gen. N. P. Banks on the 8th of April 1864. He finally surrendered to Gen. E. R. S. Canby on the 4th of May 1865. He wrote Destruction and Reconstruction (1879).

H. Montgomery's Life (Auburn, 1850) and John Frost's Life (New York and Philadelphia, 1847) are almost wholly devoted to President Taylor's military career, and are excessively laudatory in character. A better biography is that (New York, 1892) by Maj.-Gen. O. O. Howard, in the " Great Commanders " series. There is much material about Taylor in the general histories of M`Master, Von Holst, and Rhodes. (I. J. C.)


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Zachary Taylor
File:Zachary


In office
March 4, 1849 – July 9, 1850
Vice President Millard Fillmore
Preceded by James Knox Polk
Succeeded by Millard Fillmore

Born November 24, 1784
Barboursville,Virginia
Died July 9, 1850
Washington, D.C. capital of America
Nationality American
Political party Whig
Spouse Margaret Smith Taylor

Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 - July 9, 1850) was the 12th President of the United States. He was the second cousin to James Madison.

Taylor was a general in the United States Army. He led an army during the Mexican-American War. He was selected by the Whigs to be their candidate because he was a famous general.

During his term, slavery was a big issue because the Northerners wanted no slavery in the U.S. and wanted to stop newly formed states from allowing slavery. The Southerners believed that they had the right to keep their slaves and people feared that they would choose to not be a part of the United States anymore (which they would eventually do in 1860).

Taylor did not like the idea of the Southern states leaving the United States at all. He threatened to use military force against them if they were to do that.

Sixteen months into his presidency, Taylor died and his vice-president Millard Filmore became president to take his place.

The Compromise of 1850 (a proposal several laws that would calm down the slavery issue by pleasing both the north and the south) was voted on in Congress shortly after his death.

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