Compromising toward Chaos: Failure to Lead results in Civil War
David J. Chasmer
Fairleigh Dickinson University
David J. Chasmer holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Rutgers University, and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration through Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Chasmer, 1310 Morris Street, Union City NJ 07087.
This paper seeks to examine the presidency of Millard Fillmore, in the context of leadership. It is my objective to prove Fillmore to be a ‘bad leader.’ Fillmore’s actions and leadership skill will be analyzed against the five aspects of ...view middle of the document...
It is important to understand that this was a highly divisive time in American history. America was expanding at a tremendous rate, and the population was booming. The concept of manifest destiny was heavily intertwined with this growth. In conjunction with the issue of expansion was the heated subject of how slavery would come in to play with this new expansion. At the time, the issues of morality and economics were polar opposites when it came to personal beliefs on this issue. One could find slavery morally apprehensible while justifying it due to the amount of profit it was generating for the young country.
The three presidents who preceded the Civil War are repeatedly cited as some of the worse in history. It is my belief that Millard Fillmore not only set the path toward failure, he also pursued a policy of appeasement that would carry on right to the Civil War’s beginning.
Millard Fillmore’s presidency could be reduced to a belief that “all this man did along with Senator Douglas was appease the southern slave interest time and time again with the Compromise of 1850 to the Fugitive slave act” (American Civil War Forum). In my opinion, it is the job of a true leader to set the nation on the right path. At this time in American History, there is no doubt that the notion of human slavery was popularly immoral. The big drawbacks to elimination were questions of profit loss, and what would happen to the current slaves. I believe that the strong leadership of a Lincoln could have possibly averted the brother vs. brother war that was to follow. But unfortunately we did not have a Lincoln at the time. We had Millard Fillmore, the presidential version of Mr. Popularity. As opposed to having ideals and beliefs, we had a status-quo keeper of the peace. Fillmore did not possess the five qualities we know a good leader to have.
The concept of shared vision is admittedly difficult to apply to a divisive issue such as slavery. I am not clear on how a leader would share vision with two opposed parties who completely disagree on an issue. The only way I could imagine would be to steer a path toward a separate issue, which both teams could rally behind. Fillmore certainly shared vision with each side, but not in a way that displayed leadership. Fillmore agreed with both opposing sides!
Fillmore’s approach to leadership was one of appeasement. Fillmore tried to give each side enough to be happy and lead a nation that was essentially teetering on a scale, with both sides expanding equally. Fillmore’s great claim to fame was the Compromise of 1850. This was Fillmore’s answer, which he whole-heartedly backed.
Fillmore’s support for this Act was interesting to research. It should be noted that Fillmore was not elected as president, but as Vice President. As President of the senate (VP’s duty), Fillmore presided over a series of lengthy discussions and debates regarding the compromise. Fillmore’s...