AHC: Millard Fillmore a far more respected president

I've been working hard in preparation to post my finished timeline detailing the history of the alternate universe from the TV show Fringe. There have been a litany of blogs and wikis dedicated to cataloging and explaining the differences between our universe and the show's fictional alternate reality, but one of the differences keeps bugging me since it's so random: Millard Fillmore is featured on the US $100 bill.

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Not only is his likeness featured on this bill here, but in another episode, a technician describes how he "lost two Fillmores" as part of a bet on a boxing match.

What I'm curious about is what could have possibly happened during Fillmore's presidency that would grant him a spot on highly valuable currency? What comes to mind immediately is that he might have managed to avoid signing the Fugitive Slave Act and/or his 1856 Know-Nothing candidacy never occurs.

I'm also open to other scenarios, such as him having multiple terms or being president during the Civil War, but I'd prefer to hear out suggestions regarding deviations from his OTL presidency. I'm trying to minimize major historical differences down the road since in the alt-u in the show is extremely similar to our own world, minus certain idiosyncrasies.
 
The problem is that without the Fugitive Slave Law, the Compromise of 1850 falls apart, and secession and civil war come about a decade early. Admittedly, that could enhance Fillmore's reputation--if the North wins...
 

CaliGuy

Banned
The problem is that without the Fugitive Slave Law, the Compromise of 1850 falls apart, and secession and civil war come about a decade early. Admittedly, that could enhance Fillmore's reputation--if the North wins...
Would as many Southern states have seceded if the civil war came a decade earlier?
 
Would as many Southern states have seceded if the civil war came a decade earlier?

The thing is that it was precisely the Upper South that was most affected by fugitive slaves, so if Fillmore is seen as picking a fight with the South on *that* issue, there may actually be *more* southern states seceding.
 
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CaliGuy

Banned
The thing is that it was precisely the Upper South that was most affected by fugitive slaves, so if Fillmore is seen as picking a fight with he South on *that* issue, there may actually be *more* southern states seceding.
OK.

Also, if Maryland is going to try to secede, the U.S. will use force to make it remain in the Union (due to its sensitive location), correct?

Finally, could the South actually win a U.S. Civil War in this TL? After all, if more Southern states secede, and with a decade less of Northern industrialization, the South certainly appears to have a better shot at winning than it had in our TL. :(
 
Finally, could the South actually win a U.S. Civil War in this TL? After all, if more Southern states secede, and with a decade less of Northern industrialization, the South certainly appears to have a better shot at winning than it had in our TL. :(

Well, from what I can tell, there's no evidence that the Confederacy maintained independence for any significant length of time in the Fringe alt-u. If anything, the US is somewhat more progressive than OTL. But regarding the Fugitive Slave Law--let's say that still passes just as it did in our history. Since that basically guarantees Fillmore doesn't get re-nominated, what else could he have done to gain a better reputation? If he had never associated with the Know-Nothings, especially since he wasn't really much of a nativist to begin with, what else could he do?

I'm also wondering about the possibility of him joining the Republican Party and taking Lincoln's place in history (suggested as a hypothetical by one of my old history professors), but I can't find any precedence for this having much chance of occurring. Thoughts?
 
I was going to make a joke about Mormons taking over, but is there any serious way his sympathy towards them help improve his reputation?
 
The problem is that without the Fugitive Slave Law, the Compromise of 1850 falls apart, and secession and civil war come about a decade early. Admittedly, that could enhance Fillmore's reputation--if the North wins...

By what sort of majority was it passed? Could a Fillmore veto have been overridden?
 
By what sort of majority was it passed? Could a Fillmore veto have been overridden?

The Fugitive Slave Act passed the House by 109-76 (with 36 abstentions--mostly though not exclusively Northerners). So it seems unlikely that if Fillmore vetoed the bill, the veto could be overridden. Incidentally, a grand total of *two* northern Whigs voted for the bill. One was a Webster loyalist from Massachusetts, another a Virginia-born Congressman who represented a district in southern Ohio. Even conservative northern Whigs generally would go no further to help the bill than to duck the vote. They knew that it would be hard to explain a vote for the bill to their constituents, yet "They would not or dared not oppose a measure the administration wanted passed, and after the vote Thaddeus Stevens sarcastically sneered that a page be sent to tell these cowards that they could return to the House floor..." Michael F Holt, *The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party,* pp. 542-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=hMkYklGTY1MC&pg=PA542
 
The Fugitive Slave Act passed the House by 109-76 (with 36 abstentions--mostly though not exclusively Northerners). So it seems unlikely that if Fillmore vetoed the bill, the veto could be overridden. Incidentally, a grand total of *two* northern Whigs voted for the bill. One was a Webster loyalist from Massachusetts, another a Virginia-born Congressman who represented a district in southern Ohio. Even conservative northern Whigs generally would go no further to help the bill than to duck the vote. They knew that it would be hard to explain a vote for the bill to their constituents, yet "They would not or dared not oppose a measure the administration wanted passed, and after the vote Thaddeus Stevens sarcastically sneered that a page be sent to tell these cowards that they could return to the House floor..." Michael F Holt, *The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party,* pp. 542-3. https://books.google.com/books?id=hMkYklGTY1MC&pg=PA542

So is a Fillmore veto a distinct possibility, then? Would that flare up tensions so much that it would definitely lead to earlier secession?

I'm also curious about whether Fillmore could have been honored for "keeping the Union together" vis-a-vis passing the entire Compromise, just as in OTL, without his 1856 candidacy tainting his reputation. I mean, it's not totally clear how long Fillmore's been on the alt-u's $100 bill. It could have been during the early 20th century during the height of white supremacy in American government; heck, people forget that even Lincoln wasn't an abolitionist yet he's celebrated for preserving the Union under more dire circumstances. Just think about how Jackson got on the $20 during the late 1920s (which, incidentally, in the show he was replaced at some point with the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
 
In a letter to Hamilton Fish, Fillmore insisted that Whig principles had required him to sign the admittedly deeply flawed Fugitive Slave Act. https://books.google.com/books?id=5aGyVFn3VnMC&pg=PA598 (The letter seems to have been an example of a standard pre-ACW theme by northern "moderates" in addressing anti-slavery men--the theme always went somewhat as follows: "Honestly, I don't like slavery any more than you do, BUT...")

This may just have been rationalization on Fillmore's part, but remember that the Whig Party did originate as a protest against Jackson's "executive tyranny" manifested in part by his alleged abuse of the veto power--especially in vetoing Bank recharter on consitutional grounds after the Bank had been found constitutional by the Supreme Court. The first Whig president, William Henry Harrison, had taken a narrow view of the veto power, arguing that it was "preposterous to suppose...that the President, placed at the capital, in the center of the country, could better understand the wants and wishes of the people than their own immediate representatives, who spend a part of every year among them, living with them, often laboring with them, and bound to them by the triple tie of interest, duty, and affection. To assist or control Congress, then, in its ordinary legislation could not, I conceive, have been the motive for conferring the veto power on the President..." http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=25813

Anyway, even apart from Whig inhibitions on using the veto, Fillmore was convinced he had to sign all provisions of the compromise, the Fugitive Slave Act included, to save the Union. So I don't think there was much chance of his vetoing it. Fillmore has perhaps never gotten the credit he deserves for getting the Compromise enacted and civil war delayed [1], but I don't think the lack of credit was *primarily* because of his Know-Nothing candidacy of 1856. It was more because, after all, the Compromise of 1850 was designed to *prevent* civil war, not just to delay it, and in that respect it obviously failed. (Also, the fact that Fillmore's strength, after the Compromise, was primarily among *southern* Whigs, led him to be thought of as just another of the "doughface" presidents of the 1850's, like Pierce and Buchanan, which is at best an oversimplification.)


[1] It has been argued that Taylor, though opposed to Clay's "Omnibus," would have signed the individual Compromise measures--though one wonders whether without the kind of pressure Fillmore used, they would have been enacted: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/wi-zachary-taylor-lives.322359/#post-9429316
 
[1] It has been argued that Taylor, though opposed to Clay's "Omnibus," would have signed the individual Compromise measures--though one wonders whether without the kind of pressure Fillmore used, they would have been enacted: https://www.alternatehistory.com/forum/threads/wi-zachary-taylor-lives.322359/#post-9429316

I've read that post, and it's certainly interesting. I've tried working a Taylor survival into my timeline before, but my concern is that since Taylor wanted New Mexico admitted as a state, its modern borders would be different (which is not the case in Fringe's alt-u, although the US map does have slightly different geography, just in different areas). Was Taylor's proposal for New Mexican statehood something that really had that much of a chance of getting passed anyway? Because if not, that could still open up some possibilities.

Anyway, even apart from Whig inhibitions on using the veto, Fillmore was convinced he had to sign all provisions of the compromise, the Fugitive Slave Act included, to save the Union. So I don't think there was much chance of his vetoing it. Fillmore has perhaps never gotten the credit he deserves for getting the Compromise enacted and civil war delayed [1], but I don't think the lack of credit was *primarily* because of his Know-Nothing candidacy of 1856. It was more because, after all, the Compromise of 1850 was designed to *prevent* civil war, not just to delay it, and in that respect it obviously failed. (Also, the fact that Fillmore's strength, after the Compromise, was primarily among *southern* Whigs, led him to be thought of as just another of the "doughface" presidents of the 1850's, like Pierce and Buchanan, which is at best an oversimplification.)

Fair enough. If the answer to my question in the first part of this reply is "no," and Fillmore's term happens just as it did in OTL, what else could happen that would lead to Fillmore being honored on currency? Could the history books sort of underplay his ambivalence towards slavery just as history underplays Lincoln's relative ambivalence as well?
 
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