In the countdown of the Presidents of the United States from Worst to First we are at #33, the 13th POTUS Zachary Taylor. Taylor was elected in 1848 and would serve as president from 1849 until his death on July 9, 1850.
Zachary Taylor was born on November 24th, 1784 in Orange County, Virginia. At age eight months the Taylor’s moved to the Louisville, Kentucky area [where Taylor would be buried.} Taylor got a basic education for someone out on the frontier at that time. He would be a poor speller all his life.
Zachary Taylor’s career would be one spent in the military. From 1808 until being the year he was elected president 1848 he would be a military man. He served in the War of 1812, Black Hawk, second Seminole War and the Mexican War. His rank would rise over the years from 1st Lieutenant to Major General. In the Mexican War he would become an American hero for his victories. His nickname was “Old Rough and Ready.” There started to become talk that compared Taylor to George Washington and Andrew Jackson and speculation on a future political career. Zachary Taylor himself denied any interest in running for president writing “Such an idea never entered my head, nor is it likely to enter the head of any sane person.”
The President at the time, James K. Polk was not running for re-election in 1848 living up to his pledge when he was elected to serve only a single term. Zachary Taylor was a political unknown. Both the Democrats and Whigs were interested in getting him to run for their parties nomination. Taylor would run as a Whig and would get their nomination. He would face the Democratic candidate Lewis Cass and Free Soil candidate former President Martin Van Buren in the election.
Taylor appealed to the south because he owned land in Louisiana and was a slave holder, he appealed to people in the north due to his being a war hero.
A big issue in 1848 was what to do with the land won in the Mexican War? The Wilmot Proviso was a bill that would ban slavery in the new territories. Taylor didn’t really commit himself on the issue, Cass came out against it. Zachary Taylor was a slaveholder owning more than 100 slaves. The election would end up rather close with both Taylor and Cass winning 15 states each but Taylor won more of the larger states taking the election with a 163-127 electoral victory. Taylor would be a minority president winning 47% of the vote to 43% for Cass and 10 % for Van Buren. President Taylor’s Vice President would be Millard Fillmore of New York.
Zachary Taylor was 5’8″ and weighted around 200 pounds at the time he became president. He had long arms, brown hair, hazel eyes. He didn’t smoke or drink but did chew tobacco. He was a plainspoken man but a poor public speaker. A warm and open person, a gentleman.
Entering office in March 1849, Taylor would only serve sixteen months in office. America at this time needed an strong, great president. The country was starting to come apart over the slavery issue. George Washington was not walking through the door. What America got were weak presidents in Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan.
Taylor was a relaxed manager, he tended to defer to others. He said he would not use his veto power and leaned on his Cabinet and the U.S. Congress to lead the way.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was coming apart, the big issue of the day was Henry Clay’s “Compromise of 1850” an effort to keep the country together. California would enter as a free-state. The compromise would put in the controversial Fugitive Slave Act. Taylor was for a free state of California but that was the only part he approved of. The issue was being debated but not settled at the time of Taylor’s death. Taylor was a strong Unionist. With talk of succession from the Union, Taylor said “He’d hang’em.” He was against using the veto but threatened to use the veto on the “Compromise of 1850” if it went beyond just letting California enter as a free state.
During his presidency Taylor had no Supreme Court openings to fill.
In July 1850 President Taylor went to a ceremony for the groundbreaking of Washington’s monument. It was a very hot day and Taylor enjoyed a lot of milk and cherries. He got a stomach ache and five days later he was dead at the age of sixty-five. There have been over the years speculation that maybe there was evil at hand, maybe Taylor had been poisoned, murdered. In 1991 they dug Taylor up and samples of hair, fingernails and other tissues were removed and tested and they found no evidence of poisoning.. He most likely died of cholera or acute gastroenteritis.
With the death of Taylor, Vice President Millard Fillmore, a man who like Taylor had never held elective office before 1848 was now president and he would be in favor of the “Compromise of 1850.”
How does President Zachary Taylor rate? He only served sixteen months in office. There is always a learning curve for a new president, some presidents may start off a little rocky but catch up quick, it appears to most historians that had Taylor served a full term, great things weren’t going to happen. He was what he was. There have been 5ive elected presidents who had never been elected to any office before the presidency- Taylor, Grant, Hoover, Eisenhower and now Trump. Taylor was not a political figure at all before his presidency, he hadn’t even bothered to vote. He gets a D. He gets a little break since he served such a short time.
- Some trivia to tell your friends about President Zachary Taylor
- Jefferson Davis who would become the President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War was briefly the son-in-law of Zachary Taylor. He was married to Taylor’s daughter Knox. Knox died three months into their marriage of malaria. Davis at the same time also had malaria but survived. Taylor did not approve of the marriage, he didn’t want his daughter marrying a military man.
- The 1848 Presidential Election was the first election in which everyone in the United States voted on the same day. It would also be the first time Taylor ever voted. A career military man who was always too busy to vote.
- The first president to have never have held an elective office before being elected president was Zachary Taylor.
- Zachary Taylor’s only son Richard would later become a general for the Confederacy during the American Civil War.
- Taylor was the first president who had not served in the U.S. Congress or the Continental Congress before becoming president.
- The most notable member of President Taylor’s cabinet was Secretary of State and future president- James Buchanan.
- Although he was born in Virginia, Zachary Taylor represented the state of Louisiana, he became the first president from a state west of the Mississippi River.
- Of the eight presidents who have died in office, Taylor is the only one who wasn’t elected in a year ending in 0.
- President James Madison was Taylor’s second cousin, Robert E. Lee was his 4th cousin, twice removed, and Franklin Roosevelt was also his 4th cousin, twice removed.