As the nation’s thirteenth president, Millard Fillmore (1800–1874) supported the Compromise of 1850 and federal enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. Elected as a Whig to the vice presidency in 1848, Fillmore ascended to the presidency upon the death of President Zachary Taylor in 1849. Taylor had opposed the expansion of slavery into new states as well as compromises on the question, but the more moderate Fillmore supported Henry Clay’s Compromise of 1850 as a tool for preventing disunion. Fillmore also signed and pledged enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act, which required the federal government to aid in capturing and returning runaway slaves to their owners. Fillmore’s backing of the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act cost him support in the North and in the Whig Party, which soon fell apart over the question of slavery, and he failed to earn the presidential nomination in 1852. In 1856, Fillmore unsuccessfully ran for president as the Know-Nothing candidate before retiring.

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