Millard Fillmore, statesman. What?

November 2, 2008

Elektratig relates views in a new book that makes a case that Millard Fillmore acted decisively and powerfully to prevent a war between the states in 1850, and thereby force the Compromise of 1850.

Among its many other virtues, Mark J. Stegmaier’s Texas, New Mexico, & The Compromise of 1850: Boundary Dispute & Sectional Crisis contains a detailed and balanced discussion of Millard Fillmore’s contributions toward the resolution of the Crisis of 1850.

A cartoon from April 1850 shows how raw were some of the emotions among national leaders, especiallyi n the Senate.  It illustrates an incident that occurred April 17, 1850, when Sen. Henry S. Foote of Mississippi drew a pistol on Missouri’s Sen. Thomas Hart Benton.  Elektratig used the cartoon to illustrate his post; it’s good enough to repeat here.

A somewhat tongue-in-cheek dramatization of the moment during the heated debate in the Senate over the admission of California as a free state when Mississippi senator Henry S. Foote drew a pistol on Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. In the cartoon Benton (center) throws open his coat and defiantly states, Get out of the way, and let the assassin fire! let the scoundrel use his weapon! I have no arms! I did not come here to assassinate! He is attended by two men, one of them North Carolina senator Willie P. Mangum (on the left). Foote, restrained from behind by South Carolinas Andrew Pickens Butler and calmed by Daniel Stevens Dickinson of New York (to whom he later handed over the pistol), still aims his weapon at Benton saying, I only meant to defend myself! In the background Vice President Fillmore, presiding, wields his gavel and calls for order. Behind Foote another senator cries, For Gods sake Gentlemen Order! To the right of Benton stand Henry Clay and (far right) Daniel Webster. Clay puns, Its a ridiculous matter, I apprehend there is no danger on foot! Visitors in the galleries flee in panic.

Cartoon by Edward Williams Clay, from the Library of Congress Collection. LOC Summary: A somewhat tongue-in-cheek dramatization of the moment during the heated debate in the Senate over the admission of California as a free state when Mississippi senator Henry S. Foote drew a pistol on Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri. In the cartoon Benton (center) throws open his coat and defiantly states, "Get out of the way, and let the assassin fire! let the scoundrel use his weapon! I have no arm's! I did not come here to assassinate!" He is attended by two men, one of them North Carolina senator Willie P. Mangum (on the left). Foote, restrained from behind by South Carolina's Andrew Pickens Butler and calmed by Daniel Stevens Dickinson of New York (to whom he later handed over the pistol), still aims his weapon at Benton saying, "I only meant to defend myself!" In the background Vice President Fillmore, presiding, wields his gavel and calls for order. Behind Foote another senator cries, "For God's sake Gentlemen Order!" To the right of Benton stand Henry Clay and (far right) Daniel Webster. Clay puns, "It's a ridiculous matter, I apprehend there is no danger on foot!" Visitors in the galleries flee in panic.

Real history:  Stranger than you can imagine.


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