Sunday, January 09, 2011

Happy Birthday Dear Millard, Happy Birthday to You

In case you missed it, Friday was the 211th birthday of Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States, 12th Vice President, and Know-Nothing (oops). It's not too late to muse on the man's immortal deeds, provided you have a fascination with antebellum U.S. presidents.

I'm glad this Kia commercial is still around on YouTube; and, as I said three years ago, that the Bathtub Hoax still has some life to it.

Of course, a bigger deal is always made out of Elvis Presley's birthday, which was January 8. Sure, he recorded a lot of fine songs and did some other remarkable turns, but did he open up Japan? That's usually attributed to Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy, but the commodore had his orders. From President Fillmore.

"Assisted by Secretary of State Daniel Webster, Fillmore ordered a trade mission to Japan by Commodore Matthew Perry," notes the Miller Center of Public Affairs of the University of Virginia. "Although the mission was not fully completed until the succeeding administration of Franklin Pierce, the policy did open Japan for trade with the rest of the world. The consequences of this mission, both positive and negative, were the work of Fillmore."

That's not all. He thought the Monroe Doctrine should apply to the Hawaiian islands: "Elsewhere in the Pacific, Fillmore showed strong resolve in preventing the Hawaiian Islands from falling into either French or English hands. When the French government tried to force an annexation agreement on Hawaii's king, Fillmore warned Napoleon III in no uncertain terms that the United States would not stand for any such action."

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