Zachary Taylor

by Cassie Holloway

General biography

Zachary Taylor was born on November 24, 1784 near Barboursville, Virginia. He spent most of his childhood in Kentucky where he lived with his seven siblings. He was born to a family of planters who by 1800 owned 10,000 acres in Kentucky and 26 slaves. Taylor grew up in a small woodland cabin before his family moved to a brick house. Taylor grew up having sporadic formal education. Taylor was called a quick learner. Taylor died July 9th, 1850.

Career before the Presidency

After marrying in June 1810, him in his wife Margaret Mackall Smith settled in Louisiana, keeping his southern life style like his early childhood. Though Taylor was a military man, he was also known as a slave owner from a wealthy family with estates in Louisiana, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Military was a huge aspect in Taylor's life. He first begun in U.S. Army in year 1808, receiving a commission as a first lieutenant of the Seventh Infantry Regiment,. Spent his first year in the dilapidated camps of New Orleans. He was later promoted as 1810. He defended the Fort Harrison in War of 1812. After being in numerous battles including Tippecanoe, Battle of Wild Cat Creek, Fort Johnson, and Saint Louis, he resigned from the army in 1814. Then re-entered it in a year later after gaining a commission. Then he commanded Fort Howard, 7th Infantry, Fort Jesup, Fort Robinson, Fort Snelling, Fort Crawford, then he was promoted to 1st Infantry Regiment, Black Hawk War, Second Seminole War, Battle of Lake Okeechobee (one of the largest U.S.-Indian battles of the 19th century), then the Mexican American War:

The annexation of the Republic of Texas sent Taylor in 1844 to guard against any attempts by Mexico to reclaim the territory. He served there for one year. James K. Polk directed him to deploy him into disputed territory in Texas "on or near the Rio Grande". Taylor chose Corpus Christi. He commanded at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma, Battle of Monterrey, and Battle of Buena Vista.

in late November 1847, Taylor set sail for home. His military Career was over. His popular legacy set the stage for the 1848 presidential election.

Career as President

Taylor was president March 4 1849 to July 9, 1850. Zachary Taylor was in office for 16 months. Slavery was a huge issue during this time. Being a slave owner himself, he was for slavery-although we thought. He opted antislavery implications for the south. Everyone felt he was betraying the south. He urged Congress to admit California and New Mexico to statehood as soon as their constitutions arrived in Washington, with no language from Congress about slavery. Federal courts could settle the boundary dispute between Texas and New Mexico once the latter became a state. Above all, he warned Congress, it must not attempt to organize territorial governments in the area, for that would only revive dangerous sectional conflict over congressional prohibition of slavery in them. His goal was to avert such a rancorous debate. Taylor was a firm believer in national supremacy. He opposed Clay's Compromise. He paid close attention to Indian affairs in Florida and Texas, the cholera epidemic in New York and New Orleans. Taylor delegated most patronage decisions that required firing Democrats and appointing Whigs to key positions on his cabinet. He gave great authority to his cabinet, using it like a council of war, yet he refused to develop a close working relationship with Congress. Taylor didn't have any experience in foreign affairs. His administration helped to stop the expedition filibustering Cuba. Taylor's most important foreign policy move involved delicate negotiations with Britain over American plans to build a canal across Nicaragua. The plan was opposed by the British, who claimed a special status in neighboring Honduras. The resulting treaty, known as the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, was Taylor's last act of state. It proved to be a landmark agreement. Both sides agreed to renounce control or dominion over any canal that might be built. The treaty effectively weakened U.S. commitment to Manifest Destiny as a formal policy while recognizing the supremacy of U.S. interests in Central America. It was an important step in the development of the Anglo-American alliance that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century. Zachary Taylor's sudden death shocked the nation. After attending Fourth of July orations for most of the day, Taylor walked along the Potomac River before returning to the White House. Hot and tired, he drank iced water and consumed large quantities of cherries and other fruits. The President suffered severe stomach pains for the next five days. Diagnosed as suffering from "cholera morbus" by his physicians, Taylor ate slivers of ice for relief until his body began rejecting fluids. At about ten in the morning on July 9, 1850, Taylor called his wife to him and asked her not to weep, saying: "I have always done my duty, I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me."

3 major achievements

  • Zachary fought to defend the Indiana territory with only 50 men against 400 men and Taylor won a great victory.
  • Taylor and his army were at war with Paloalto and won victory.
  • Taylor also tried to prevent the spread of slavery to new states.

3 Failures

  • Taylor died in office after only serving slightly over a year there.
  • Taylor has absolutely no government experience.
  • Taylor was a hypocrite with the slavery concept, being against slavery when he had slavery himself.


Taylor was a very popular Whig member and military commander. People believe this is the only reason why Taylor won his election. Taylor had absolute NO government experience, and solely won the election because people knew him because of his military career.

Campaign Slogan

"For President of the People"

Members of taylor's cabinet

Taylor chose men below the top tier of public notables. It proved to be a mixed lot. His secretary of state, John M. Clayton, was a nationalist who, with Taylor, would set a course for American interests that would be felt for the next 50 years. But Clayton had too many personal problems to be of too much use. The best was his attorney general, Reverdy Johnson. His secretary of war, George Crawford, the former Georgia governor, would cause some embarrassment later over an old claim stretching back to the country’s founding. The entire cabinet resigned/was fired after Taylor’s death.

My opinion on Zachary Taylor as President

I believe that Zachary Taylor was not a good president, but a very successful solider in out army. He was in many wars, and survived them all. He was a great leader and a fast learner. He was a good guy overall, but he had no idea on what he was doing in office. His opinion on things such as slavery changed so people were hating him because of that, he didn't have any knowledge on any of the foreign affairs. He wasn't really president long enough to prove himself. 14 months is not long enough to show a full term. Who knows, maybe if he didn't die her would've accomplished many great things to out weigh the bad that he did in the beginning, but that didn't happen. I would say Taylor was a forgettable.

Would he be suitable for being today's president?

Absoultely NOT! Having no government experience we would go into a war or another succession because he wouldn't know what to do. We have more major issues in this century then he did back in his time period that I don't think his head would wrap around them. He wouldn't last a day with the amount of things that he would face.

fun facts!

  • Taylor was a descendant of Elder William Brewster, the Pilgrim colonist leader of the Plymouth Colony, a Mayflower immigrant, and one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact.
  • Second cousin of James Madison.
  • Zachary didn’t vote until he was 62 years old.
  • Zachary had a horse named Whitney.
  • He chewed tobacco.
  • Zachary was named after his grandfather.
  • Zachary spent July 4 eating cherries and drinking milk at a ceremony at the Washington Monument.
  • Zachary was the second president to die while in office.
  • Zachary didn’t vote in his own election because he was a soldier.
  • Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at Zachary’s funeral.
  • Zachary rode his horse sidesaddle when he was in a battle.