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AMERICAN HISTORY

12th President:  Zachary Taylor
Years in Office:  1849 -- 1850  ( 1 yr )
Party:  Whig
Vice President:  Millard Fillmore
First Lady:  Margaret Smith Taylor
Year Born:  1784
Year Died:  1850  ( 66 yrs old )

Zachary Taylor was an American hero straight out of the golden age of warfare, and when he was talked into running for president by the Whigs, he had never even voted in a presidential election.  He became the first president to possess no prior knowledge of the political process, and he wore his ignorance like a badge.

    Taylor grew up on the family plantation near Louisville, Ky., the son of an officer in the American Revolution.  During the War of 1812, he served under General William Henry Harrison, and in 1816 he was promoted to major by President James Madison.  He distinguished himself defending the western frontier, and Abraham Lincoln served under him.  When President James K. Polk feared a Mexican invasion of the newly-annexed Texas, he sent Taylor to defend the border area.  Elevated to major general and commander of the Army of the Rio Grande, he commanded such men as Ulysses S. Grant and Jefferson Davis, his future son-in-law.

    At the 1848 Whig convention, he was nominated over Daniel Webster and Senator Henry Clay.  He was swept into office in a spirit of patriotism.

    The high point of his administration was the signing of the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty with Britain,  establishing joint control of any canal built across the Central American isthmus and paving the way for the Panama Canal 50 years down the line.