What If?

“May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.” While many of us may echo the sentiment expressed as we contemplate the upcoming presidential election, our 13th president, Millard Fillmore, beat us to the punch. With the huge sums allotted to my Musings research team ($0), I didn’t uncover exactly what precipitated these words. But a cursory review of Fillmore’s career did remind me that this isn’t the first time that we humans are making a mess of things.

A favorite theme of science fiction literature imagines how history would have changed had certain things happened or not happened. What would have occurred if an assassination attempt against Hitler had succeeded? What if John Wilkes Booth had failed to kill Abraham Lincoln?

Millard Fillmore is one of our least known presidents. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the majority of fans of the comic strip Mallard Fillmore have no idea of the word play involved in the duck’s name. While I would have recognized President Fillmore’s name a month ago, and probably could have even told you who preceded and followed him, I admit to knowing little about him. But one side effect of my year of mourning for my father is becoming a little more educated. Since I am not listening to music during this year I downloaded a number of podcasts, including one about our presidents.

I learned that although Zachary Taylor, the president before Fillmore, was a southern slave-owner he was leaning with sympathy towards the abolitionists. When he died in office, Vice-president Fillmore signed legislation that included the Fugitive Slave Act. With this act, every citizen of the country became responsible for returning runaway slaves to their owners. Imagine! A government demanding that people violate their beliefs and religious principles in order to remain within the nation’s laws. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)

In many ways, this legislation was one of the major sparks that lit the conflagration that became the Civil War. As passionately as many northern abolitionists felt, the reality of the sin of slavery hit home harder when they were turned into unwilling accomplices.

What would have happened if Zachary Taylor hadn’t died in office? Is it possible that he might have shown greater wisdom and understanding, possibly averting a tragedy that the founders foresaw when the United States declared independence and that is still making headlines today? We don’t know.

Both choices for president this year are so deeply flawed that, indeed, we must say, “May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.” Let us hope that like in the 1800s the country does survive, while praying that it does so with less devastation and death than took place previously.


11 thoughts on “What If?”

  1. It is not difficult to visualize the prophetic questions you evoke in this week’s apt Musing. Who will be our next Millard Fillmore? What will be the coming straw to break the camel’s back?
    To begin, I cannot forget the crowning remark of a renowned talk-show host: “Barack Hussain Obama is not the problem. The problem is an American electorate dense or blind enough to elect somebody like him.” In no wise have we as a nation prospered since his dys-election. Now we fear a significant fraction of an electorate would elect one candidate solely on basis not of her ‘race,’ but of her primary and secondary sex characteristics (*not good enough: the majority of Americans are female, I’ll wager*) and I know some women for whom gender is the deciding factor. Still more I fear a generation of Millennials who receive their news and digests of current events solely from propagandist media that are entirely in the pocket of Progressive Socialists. These national media offer us propaganda slanted like Pravda and Izvestia in the old Soviet Union, and some are becoming as vile and corrupt as Lord Haw Haw during the London Blitz (most Millennials are blissfully ignorant of such inane historical ‘trivia’…’give me my little electronic box for the news report!’). These media ignore and soft-pedal the historical manifold corruption of the Clinton Machine. And they will stoop to any falsehood and outrage to undermine, neutralize, or even destroy Clinton’s challengers. Objective journalism in these United States is dead. And some ‘friends’ I used to know have helped murder it, alas!
    The moderate Democrats are no more. The Democratic Progressive Socialists who have replaced them like Body-Snatchers would return us all to slavery on Government Plantations. They would accomplish this by enlisting anyone as a ‘minority,’ by pandering to these ‘minorities’ and reconfiguring each common man / woman as a ‘victim’ in class warfare. They would induce us to concentrate our souls upon soft, touchy-feely ‘straw-man’ issues and climb on board the bandwagon of victimhood: ‘Help us, Big Government!’ But the world-at-large consists of both Butter and Guns. While Americans line up to satiate our mouths, bellies, pockets and feel-good souls with the Progressive Butter of gender equality, racial equality, political correctness, open borders and FREE STUFF, what is happening outside? The Islamic world, Russia, China and Iran, perhaps North Korea, are reaching for the Guns. Wake up and do the math, folks!

  2. James, aside from the fact the Fillmore (and Pierce after him) didn’t seem to have the wisdom/guts/principles to help solve a crucial problem and instead exacerbated the situation, I was struck by how no one expected Taylor to die and Fillmore to be president. We are not in control and we must behave as if our actions and choices have consequences, as they do. That’s a dichotomy with which we live.

  3. Don’t I know it! In this marvelous age of extended life spans, corrective surgery and antibiotics, we tend to forget the wisdom of the Middle Ages, ‘In the midst of life we are in death (I will spare your readers the Latin).’ Still the solemn truth remains, that the Lord can take any one of us at any time. And the Lord controls all. He can use Death as a trump card (no pun intended) in a manner that upsets and transforms history. Well I remember the novelist of the early 1970’s Kurt Vonnegut, who through the mouth of Bokonon said something like ‘You’re a fool and I’m a fool and any man’s a fool who thinks he knows what God is doing.’ Ain’t it the truth? The Lord is wiser than all of our little theories, blessed be the name of the Lord.

  4. After leaving office in 1853, Millard Fillmore ran for president in 1856 as the nominee of the “Know-Nothing” party, a political party comprised mostly of the remnants of his former Whig party which had all but disintegrated in years since Fillmore finished serving out the late Zachary Taylor’s term in office.
    The “Know-Nothing” party was the 1856 equivalent of today’s Libertarian Party; a kind of “third” party. Another way to look at Fillmore’s candidacy is like that of Ross Perot’s in the 1992 election, which siphoned off 19% of the popular vote, effectively electing Democrat president Bill Clinton over incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush.
    The beneficiary of Fillmore’s “Know-Nothing” candidacy in the 1856 election was Democrat James Buchanan who was elected with a plurality of the popular vote. Fillmore won only one state, Maryland, and the 8 electoral votes that came with it.
    Interestingly, a new party called the Republican Party made a very strong showing against James Buchanan. It was former California Senator John C. Freemont who had won the nomination for his nascent party to become the first Republican presidential candidate. It’s arguable that the Republican candidate could have defeated the Democrat had it not been for the Know-Nothing candidacy of Millard Fillmore.
    The Republican Party platform was clear; they stood for abolition of slavery. It was a party born with a backbone for respecting the rights of every American to enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
    In the end, the slave powers won out. Of the 1,342,345 popular votes that John C. Freemont received, a scant 1,200 were from the slave states. The Democrat party received virtually the entirety of the slave state popular vote.
    During his inauguration day in March of 1857, Democrat President James Buchanan was seen in whispered conversation with then Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. Just two days after Buchanan was inaugurated 15th President of the United States, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney handed down the infamous “Dred Scott” decision, effectively making slavery legal in every state of the union. This decision doubled and tripled down on the Compromise of 1850 (and its component, the Fugitive Slave Act), making the Civil War all but inevitable. Even before Democrat James Buchanan left office in March of 1861, the Confederates were already firing their canon on federal ships supplying Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, Charleston S.C.
    Roger B. Taney was a prosperous Democrat from a slave owning family of tobacco planters in Calvert County, Maryland. During his political career, he had manumitted his slaves, although by the time of the “Dred Scott“ decision, his attitude toward slavery appeared to have hardened in support of the institution, at which time he labeled the opposition to slavery as “northern aggression”.
    Another interesting footnote of American history is that Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney had been nominated for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Democrat President Andrew Jackson in 1835. And Jackson fought long and hard to put him there, having been blocked by the opposition party in the Senate during his first attempt, and succeeding only after the Jacksonian Democrats controlled the Senate after the 1834 elections. That, and the cooperation of the fickle finger of fate having created a vacancy by the death of Chief Justice John Marshall.
    And so it went. With the first shots of the Civil War having already been fired, Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860 as the first Republican president (although the second Republican candidate for president), and was sworn in by none other than . . . you guessed it, Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney on March 4, 1861.
    I’m tempted to reprise the late Paul Harvey in saying “and now you know the rest . . . of the story”, but instead I prefer to request that we all pray for a rebirth of liberty in our nation.
    Thank you for your Musings. I enjoy reading them.

  5. We could always take a devil may care attitude. It seems to have worked splendidly Democrats.
    The dates that Peter revisited, namely 1861 when Lincoln was award the office of damage control, caused me to think of 1961 and of a recently revisited episode 27 of Rabbi Lapin’s archived podcast, Drugs, Nudism, Debt & Porn: The Ghastly Peril of Short Termism of which the central theme was approximate the culture earthquake that caused all this collapse of society. This happened to be timely in helping me think through implications of the topic of my research project, religious freedom and how it relates to business enterprise. In searching for resources for my paper, I came across two stories that I’m not sure how I might utilize as they relate more to prayer in school than business enterprise, although the relevance would seem apparent to me:
    (Susan here: As a policy, I don’t post links that appear in comments. But I do encourage everyone to look for themselves for articles on these topics.)
    Subsequently, the podcast episode Losing Weight, speaking on losing physical but by addressing the relative affect of losing spirit weight, and Freud’s influence on that, also ties in perfectly, and helped to reveal a most significant pattern that has obviously emerged.
    So then, however insignificant those critical votes might seem in all this chaos, and if there is no rhyme or reason that our current situation has to do with achieving our goal of the rebirth of liberty, it is helping me get to get this “A” as if I had planned it all along.

  6. Peter: This history is interesting! Were you a history teacher or do you just know a lot about it because it interests you?
    Susan: Occasionally, I engage people in mental exercises to offer some excitement when I’m in a conversation. I’ll ask folks, “What if the fleet bombed at Pearl Harbor had never left San Diego?” People are stumped by this question! Or this other little fun test is to show a dollar bill to people and ask, “Do you know why the money states: In God We Trust?”
    We do need to pray for this wayward country, and we must do our part to share knowledge about our history and world history with others today!

  7. Hi LJ:
    You are very kind, but no, I’ve never been a history teacher. I’m just one of the hobbits in the shire who happens to share yours and Susan’s fascination with history. I will say that as I do with my friends, I make every effort to choose my books wisely. Works of truth, history, biography, if fiction, classic fiction. So many books, so little time.
    In the context of our discussion, I hope you’ll enjoy the following quotes, as they still resonate with me the way they did the day I first happened upon them:
    “History is philosophy teaching by example.”
    — Bolingbrook
    “The past stood ever at his elbow and was the counselor upon whom he most relied. He seemed to be attended by learning and history, and to carry into current events an air of ancient majesty.”
    — Sir Winston Churchill
    writing about Rosebery


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