Millard Fillmore, Election of 1856 (American National Biography)

Tyler Anbinder, "Fillmore, Millard," American National Biography Online, February 2000,
In February 1856, while the ex-president toured Europe, his handlers secured for him the American party presidential nomination. Fillmore's campaign was a disaster from start to finish. In one of his first campaign speeches, the ex-president outraged most northerners by implying that the South would be justified in seceding should the Republican candidate, John C. Frémont, carry the election. Fillmore's supporters emphasized that he was the only candidate capable of restoring harmony between North and South in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Yet that legislation, the caning of Massachusetts abolitionist senator Charles Sumner, and the "sack" of Lawrence, Kansas, by proslavery Missourians had convinced many northerners that compromise with the South was pointless. Consequently, most northern Know Nothings repudiated Fillmore and supported Frémont instead. Even in the South, where Fillmore's message carried greater appeal, many members of the American party voted for Democrat James Buchanan out of fear that ballots cast for Fillmore's apparently hopeless candidacy would lead to a Frémont victory. On election day Fillmore carried only Maryland, and although four other southern states eluded him by just a few thousand votes, the ex-president considered his popular tally of 22 percent an embarrassment. Fillmore's defeat destroyed the American party as a national political force and marked the end of his political career.
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