Seriously, when I run through the list of presidents — I can recite their names both forwards and backwards, I’ll have you know, because I’m that cool — I often leave out Millard Fillmore. I don’t know why. Maybe because Fillmore didn’t win the office (see below). Or maybe because it just seems so unlikely that the United States had a president named Millard. I mean, what’s next? Barack?

Regardless, on July 10, 1850, a day after Zachary Taylor died from consuming too many cherries and too much cold milk*, Judge William Cranch administered the executive oath of office to Vice President Fillmore. To give you some sense of Fillmore’s qualities, I’ll turn to the official narrative provided by the White House website, where you can find brief biographies of all the presidents:

In his rise from a log cabin to wealth and the White House, Millard Fillmore demonstrated that through methodical industry and some competence an uninspiring man could make the American dream come true.

“Methodical industry”? “Some competence”? “An uninspiring man”? You flatterer, you say the sweetest things. I’m left wondering what the White House webmaster has on offer about Nixon: “He wasn’t easy on the eyes, but he was a world-class paranoiac, liar, and patron of war criminals.” Or Reagan: “He wasn’t the brightest man, but even when addled, his smile could light up a room.”

In the case of Fillmore, the quoted description may actually exaggerate the man’s better points. With the nation divided in 1848 over the fate of territory acquired from Mexico, the Whig Party’s presidential nominee, Zachary Taylor, sought a milquetoast candidate for his vice president. He chose Fillmore, whose New York roots balanced Taylor’s southern heritage. Playing against type, though, Fillmore supported slavery’s spread into the West, while Taylor, a slaveholder, believed in containing the peculiar institution. Then, after becoming president, Fillmore helped push through the Compromise of 1850, including the notorious Fugitive Slave Act. Many northern Whigs never forgave Fillmore for kowtowing to the slaveocracy; they scuttled his chances at the party’s nomination in 1852.

For the rest of his career, Fillmore’s judgment remained constant. After the Whig Party dissolved in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Fillmore refused to become a Republican, preferring instead to embrace the nativist Know Nothings, who ran him for president in 1856. He later was something of a thorn in Abraham Lincoln’s side during the Civil War. Then, following Lincoln’s assassination, Fillmore expressed his lasting admiration for Andrew Johnson.

Huh, maybe forgetting Fillmore is an unconscious act of kindness.

* Really. Or at least I think so. Apparently, theories abound regarding the cause of Taylor’s death. Rest assured, the Rothschilds were involved**.

** They bought the cherries. And put the milk on ice.