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Fillmore: Anti-mason

President Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), a native of Cayuga County, N.Y., was bonded as an apprentice to a cloth-maker, and remained one for a number of years. (Historians of the old apprenticeship system overlook the use of it in America; it was continued here to a time within the memory of men still living.) He was almost wholly self-educated. A lawyer friend, Judge Walter Wood, tought his indentures, and took the young man into his offiee. In 1821 he moved to Aurora, N.Y. (a name to be made familiar in after years by Elbert Hubbard), and in 1823 was admitted to the bar in nearby Buffalo. He vwas married in Aurora, practiced law, and lived there until 1830. It was in that period that he became an Anti-Mason (Morgan disappeared, or was kid1laped, or murdered in 1826) in the political party of which he was to become one of the three national leaders, along with Thurlow Weed and William H. Seward. In 1828 he became a member (thanks to Weed) of the State Assembly, where he belonged to the Anti-Masonie minority. While in the Assembly Fillmore proved himself no mere bigot, and he was one of the men who helped abolish the 18th Century British system of imprisonment for debt (the United States was a long time ridding itself of such anachronisms) and of religious tests for witnesses. In 1833 he was elected to the U. S. Congress; since with Weed and Seward he had by that time helped to vote the Anti-Masonic Party ("the hollow party") out of existence, he went to Washington as a man without a party, but in 1834 joined the Whigs. He sat in the house a total of eight years; as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee he helped to appropriate $30,000 to assist Morse in developing the telegraph.

In 1848 he was elected Vice-President; upon the death of Zachary Taylor he took the oath of office as President, July 10, 1850. He signed the notorious Fugitive Slave Law and the Compromise, both in 1850. Also, he experienced a change of heart about Freemasonry (he had broken with Seward and Weed) for he invited it to lay the corner-stone of the new wing of the Capitol, so that the nation was given the bizarre spectacle of a President originally sent to Washington as an Anti-Mason leading a procession of Masons. In 1852 he lost the Whig nomination, and, to the nation's astonishment, accepted the nomination by the American (or Know-nothing) Party; it was a surprise to see a man who had begun his career as an avowed enemy of secret societies now head the American Party, which was a political secret society. Defeated, he retired from politics, lived in Buffalo (the city which was to become the residence of another President, Grover Cleveland!, was Chancellor of its University, founded the Historical Society there, and died there in 1874.

NOTE. That section of New York in which Fillmore was born must lie not under a star but under a poltergeist, for it has been the cradle of new religions and strange heresies and a number of weird personalities: The Anti-Masonic Movement, the Millerites, Mormonism Spiritualism, hypnotism as a religion, etc.; possibly because for generations it was the cross- roads of the nation for the great movements north and south and east and west and the focus of many conflicting streams of immigration.

John Quincy Adams also was an Anti-Masonic leader but after he left the Presidency, John Adams almost became one in 1801. As it turned out in the end the whole country found that it had formed a wholly erroneous opinion of the Craft, taking it to be something it never was; for this the Craft itself was partly responsible because it published nothing by which the nation could know it character and purposes. Masons who still (a few of them take the grounds that Masonry should maintain a complete silence forget that both a people and a government have a right to know what they are harboring in the form of a powerful society of three million men.

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