On July 10, 1850, Millard Fillmore ascended to the presidency

July 10, 2018

The popular hero of the Mexican-American War, Zachary Taylor, died on July 9. For the second time, a vice president was sworn in to replace the elected president.

Millard Fillmore was that vice president.

Millard Fillmore, in 1873, 20 years after he left the presidency. Portrait by C. M. Bell. From the Library of Congress.

Millard Fillmore, in 1873, 20 years after he left the presidency. Portrait by C. M. Bell. From the Library of Congress.

Fillmore ended the run of presidents by Whig Party members, the last Whig. He served out the term of Taylor, but despite trying, never succeeded in winning election on his own.

Most people including historians know little about Fillmore, except his unsavory role in signing the Fugitive Slave Act, and thereby pushing the nation closer to civil war. The hoax on Fillmore’s allegedly introducing a plumbed bathtub to the White House, by H. L. Mencken in 1917, stained Fillmore’s reputation and chased out most information about good things he had done, such as opening Japan to trade.

There are morals about hoaxes and fake news in Fillmore’s story. Those morals are much lost to history now.

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The author and a bronze likeness of Fillmore meet on a street in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2016

The author and a bronze likeness of Fillmore meet on a street in Rapid City, South Dakota, August 2016

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Trump is most like Millard Fillmore? Perhaps in his failures . . .

July 5, 2018

One story says Queen Victoria commented that Millard Fillmore was the handsomest man she'd ever met; true or not, imposing Trump's face on Fillmore doesn't improve anything. Illustration from BBC

One story says Queen Victoria commented that Millard Fillmore was the handsomest man she’d ever met; true or not, imposing Trump’s face on Fillmore doesn’t improve anything. Illustration from BBC

Millard Fillmore was a self-educated man, an ardent reader, the founder of the White House library.

Millard Fillmore understood the strategic geography of Japan, an opened Japan up to the world.

Has Trump done anything beneficial? Logical? Based on good, accurate information?

We may have a bone to pick with BBC.

BBC’s article, by Jude Sheerin from the Washington bureau, actually is quite well done. The article compares the nativism in Fillmore’s time, to which Fillmore fell victim, with Trump’s nativism — and the comparison is troubling.

In the end, the Whigs refused to nominate Fillmore to run for his own term in 1852 (he had succeeded President Zachary Taylor on Taylor’s death, remember); Fillmore was courted by the American Party, better known to school kids as the Know-Nothings. Fillmore led the Know-Nothings to a crushing defeat in 1852 (they did get Maryland), but the Whigs never recovered either. In 1856, partly in the ashes of the Whigs, rose the Republican Party to run John C. Fremont for President.

And in 1860, the new Republican Party managed to knock a homerun, getting Abraham Lincoln elected to the presidency on the party’s second try.

“What is past is prologue,” the wall of the National Archives tells us, and Santayana warns that those who do not remember history will repeat it. What lessons can we learn from comparing Donald Trump to Millard Fillmore?

Other than the fact that Fillmore was actually quite a bit better looking, that is.


“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon)” with Arlo Guthrie and Hoyt Axton

June 21, 2018

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Deportations plague much of recent U.S. history. It never works out well for the U.S., on the whole, especially mass deportations.

Hoyt Axton and Arlo Guthrie joined to sing Woody Guthrie’s account of one catastrophic deportation incident.

A more urgent version of the song, by Lance Canales and the Flood, featuring the names of the 28 who died.

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See the world – love this Subaru Outback ad

June 19, 2018

If you know people who seek outdoor adventure, each one of them probably has a great story sorta like this one. Excellence in advertising.


Making America great will make us free?

June 19, 2018

The great Lalo Alcatraz put truth in his cartooning pen. Damn, that hurts.

Lalo Alcaraz cartoon, what he saw at the child detention centers, June 19, 2018. Or something like that. Please share, he asks, for our #MAGA friends.

Lalo Alcaraz cartoon, what he saw at the child detention centers, June 19, 2018. Or something like that. Please share, he asks, for our #MAGA friends.

Sadly, Lalo Alcaraz got it right. How many steps down the road must a man take before we call him lost?

Shake of the old scrub brush to The Mexican Judge, Lalo Alcaraz hisownself.

 


Lifting children to freedom over the barbed wire – should we choose freedom now?

June 17, 2018

August, 1961. First the barbed wire went up surrounding West Berlin, separating those in the Russian sector, and East Germany, from those in the French, British and U.S. sectors, an island of non-communist rule in a sea of communists.

The famous wall of concrete, steel and barbed wire would be built soon. Germans living in Berlin were sometimes trapped by arbitrary lines on a map, lines that meant the difference between freedom and a communist dictatorship.

Why am I thinking of this now? This photo, from the U.S. Information Agency, in the files of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The photo tells a sad story, that should never be repeated.

Berlin residents pass children over the barbed wire separating the free West Berlin from Soviet-occupied West Berlin. August 1961. U.S. National Archives image, from U.S. Information Agency.

Berlin residents pass children over the barbed wire separating the free West Berlin from Soviet-occupied West Berlin. August 1961. U.S. National Archives image, from U.S. Information Agency.

The guard, a “Vopo,” looked the other way. And that made all the difference in that child’s life.

Caption for photo from USIA, on the back of the photo.

Caption for photo from USIA, on the back of the photo.

Why does this image call out to me now, as if from the voice of that child, pleading for help? Does it call to you, too?


Flag Day 2017! (Fly your flag all week)

June 14, 2018

Of course you know to fly your flag on June 14 for Flag Day — but did you know that the week containing Flag Day is Flag Week, and we are encouraged to fly the flag every day?

Clifford Berryman's 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives:

Clifford Berryman’s 1901 Flag Day cartoon, found at the National Archives: “In this June 14, 1904, cartoon, Uncle Sam gives a lesson to schoolchildren on the meaning of Flag Day. Holding the American flag in one hand, Uncle Sam explains that the flag has great importance, unlike the Vice Presidency, which he ridicules in a kindly manner. (National Archives Identifier 6010464)”

Our National Archives has a blogged history of Flag Day pointing out it was a teacher who started Flag Day celebrations.

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk at the Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The 19-year-old teacher then asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance to them. This small observance marked the beginning of a long and devoted campaign by Cigrand to bring about national recognition for Flag Day.

And so we do, today, still.

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.


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