Background/Early Life

• Zachary Taylor was born in Virginia but grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, which in the late 1700s was a frontier outpost. He aspired to a career in the military.

• Taylor began his military career in 1808 at Fort Pickering, in what is now Memphis, and moved between different forts over the years.

• He was nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready” by the men he led because he was willing to endure the hardships of fighting with them. He spent much of his time — and became well-known for — fighting Native Americans throughout the Southern and Midwestern parts of the present-day United States.

• Taylor became most famous for his victories in the Mexican-American War, and he was held in the same high esteem as American generals before him such as George Washington and Andrew Jackson.

• It was this popularity that helped launch him to the presidency in 1848.

How he defined the office

• Taylor let Congress handle most domestic matters, believing the role of the president was to veto any laws he deemed unconstitutional.

• He did not believe slavery should be allowed to expand westward as the United States did, and had he lived, based on his strong nationalist views and desire to avoid a situation involving secession, many speculate how history would have unfolded differently.

Successes and failures

• When Taylor took office there were 30 states, evenly split between slave and free. He wanted the new territories applying for statehood to decide for themselves whether to be free or slave states, anticipating they would decide to be free, which upset Southern states.

• In his short time in office he also kept an eye on issues that he had fought over during his time in the military: border disputes in Texas and Native American disputes in the southern part of the country.

• Taylor died July 9, 1850, after just 16 months in office, from a severe stomach ailment that most historians believe to have been cholera.

notable quote

• “I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish — nothing to serve but my country.”