Texas did agree to annexation, and opponents such as Stephen C. Phillips failed to prevent it. In December 1845 Texas became a US state with slavery legal. But the debate over slavery continued for another fifteen years, until the Civil War. One factor in the debate was the Underground Railroad, a network of Black and White Americans who helped enslaved Blacks escape into free states or into Mexico or Canada, both of which had abolished slavery. In 1848 Fillmore got national attention when the Whig Party nominated him as vice president. In this letter to Nathan K. Hall, his former law partner and a Whig congressman, Fillmore responds to an assertion during the campaign that he has participated in the Underground Railroad. His misspells the name of Benjamin Ogle Tayloe, a Whig who lived in Washington, DC, and enslaved Blacks on plantations in Virginia and Alabama.
MILLARD FILLMORE TO NATHAN K. HALL
Albany June 15″ 1848.
I have received a letter from my esteemed friend, Benjamin Ogle Taylor, Eq, of Washington, saying that a vile story had been circulated there, “that if I did not by my means, I countinanced the getting of greasy negroes into Canada,” and he seems to think there should be some authentic contradiction of it.
Really the charge seems to me to be too infamous to justify a denial. You know its falsity in fact and inferance, and I should as soon think of denying the charge of robbing a hen roost. If I have lived thus long without acquiring character enough to repel such a charge, then I have lived in vain, and my friends have made a most egregious mistake in presenting my name for the Vice Presidency. I hope you will see Mr Taylor, who has doubtless acted from the best of motives, and state to him the falsity of such a charge. Truly Yours,
Autograph letter signed. State University of New York, Oswego. Microfilmed in Lester W. Smith, ed., Millard Fillmore Papers (Buffalo, NY: Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society and State University College at Oswego, 1975), reel 12. Addressed to “Benjn. Ogle Taylor, Eq.”