MILLARD FILLMORE: BIOGRAPHY OF A PRESIDENT
by Robert J. Rayback
ISBN 978-0-945707-04-2 $32.50
417 pages including bibliography, illustrations and index.
For some reason hard to understand, the historically minded
public has had to wait 85 years since the death of a president for an adequate
biography. This gap has now been filled with Dr. Rayback's authoritative
work on MILLARD FILLMORE. It is no eulogy, rather it is honest and
unprejudiced, describing and assaying his defects of judgment such as his
leadership of two absurd parties at the beginning and at the end of his political
career, but asserting that all this ... even his approval of the fugitive
slave law ... was far outweighed by his moral convictions and concrete actions
against the institution of human slavery. To Western New Yorkers this
book will of course have special appeal, but it is by no means unduly concerned
with local history; it is the story of a life not only of dignity and integrity
but of permanent achievement on both the local and national scene.
"This is a curious and complicated story well told. It
is a "portrait"' not a comprehensive "life and times". It is based
largely on the manuscript riches concentrated in central and western New
York. The notes, however, carry no references to certain of the other
manuscript collections of Whigs, some of whom were closely associated with
Fillmore. Furthermore, the author has combined with his excellent analysis
the burden of defense and justification. There appears to be a tendency
to make Fillmore and Weed appear as champions of good and evil. The
fact probably is that they were both playing the same game, only Weed was
better at it. The book fills a gap which has long needed filling, and
the author is to be complemented for assuming a difficult responsibility.
From Roy F. Nichols, AMERICAN HISTORY REVIEW, October, 1959.