The second of six children raised in a hard-working, little-educated family, Millard Fillmore's ascent to the highest title in the U.S. should make him a fascinating, memorable character. Unfortunately, as Gottfried writes in this "Presidents and Their Times" series entry, Fillmore has been all but obscured by the fog of history. Perhaps this is because of the Fugitive Slave Act, which proclaimed that any escaped slave must be returned to his or her owner. Fillmore was on the fence regarding the incendiary issue of slavery, and when he signed this act, abolitionists threatened him for doing too little and slave owners felt it was not enough. As a result, Fillmore's popularity plummeted. He did, however, make some noteworthy contributions during his presidency. One example is the White House library which was created by Millard and his wife, Abigail. Another is a stirring speech he delivered that still resonates today, which stated "the minorities have nothing to protect them but the Constitution and the rules of the House, and if these are broken down, then farewell to freedom." Along with mandatory sidebars that define terms like manifest destiny, the reader receives a thorough account of Fillmore's rather remarkable life, including how he and Abigail waited seven years to marry, how he once maintained order when a gun-wielding Senator took center stage in Congress, and how, with his wife's support, he transformed himself from country bumpkin to President. In the end, the author succeeds in clearing away a lot of the fog which previously obscured this all-but-forgotten man. Reviewer: Naomi Milliner
Millard Fillmoreby Ted Gottfried
Millard Fillmore is considered one of the more obscure U.S. presidents. Born in poverty, he rose from a tenant farming family to become president of the United States. Millard Fillmore explores the presidency of a man from humble beginnings who, throughout his presidency, battled the question of slavery and maintaining the unity of the nation.
Each volume opens with an attention-grabbing paragraph that captures the essence of the man and then follows his life chronologically. Primary-source materials and quotes, helpful insets, and carefully selected photographs and/or reproductions bring history to life and help make these clearly written biographies highly readable. Unfortunately, there are no sources for the quotes. Aronson shows Nixon as a man who could be a ruthless candidate for office, often destroying the reputations of his competitors, but also having great sympathy for America's poorer citizens. Madison is presented as a physically tiny, quiet, shy man whose great intellectual capacity helped craft the Constitution. His presidency was tumultuous, and his difficulties with leadership and stubborn adherence to his ideas are fairly presented. Roosevelt is characterized as a man of action, personal dynamism, and dedication to addressing corruption. His many accomplishments and failures are evenly handled, and Elish touches on both his personal tragedies and public triumphs. Fillmore is often presented as a lackluster president. However, Gottfried shows him to be an interesting man of his times. He was largely self-educated and during his apprenticeship to a cloth manufacturer he was ill-treated, which made him sensitive to injustices in later life. The tensions of the 1840s and '50s, which included anti-immigrant sentiments, slavery, and the war with Mexico, are discussed. These books merit more than a cursory reading for reports as they are particularly well balanced and attractively formatted. They are similar to but more accessible than the "Encyclopedia of Presidents" series (Children'sPress).
Kathryn Kosiorek Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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