Lot 8022: Millard Fillmore Signed Handwritten Letter
28th June 2018
ALS, one page, 5 x 7.75, August 29, 1856. Letter to “Haven.” In full: “I have yours of the 26 and herewith return the letters of Robt. K. Taylor of Texas for your advice. My own impression is that I had better write nothing. If you think best you can show Senator Houstin [sic] my letters to you in which I gave my views about squatter sovereignty and the restoration of the Missouri Compromise. It seems a pity that Congress should adjourn without a further attempt to settle matters in Kansas, but you can judge better than I.” Affixed at the left edge to a slightly larger sheet. In fine condition, with intersecting folds (one vertical fold passing through a single letter of the signature) and light scattered soiling. The Missouri Compromise of 1820, which established the line between ‘free states’ and ‘slave states’ as the United States expanded westward, was effectively repealed by the Kansas–Nebraska Act passed in 1854. It called for the legality of slavery to be determined by ‘popular sovereignty’—what Fillmore calls “squatter sovereignty”—resulting in the ‘Bleeding Kansas’ violence between pro- and anti-slavery factions. Disagreement over the Kansas-Nebraska Act within Fillmore’s Whig party led to its demise, with Southern Whigs supporting the act and Northerners against it. The party was irreconcilably fractured and Fillmore and his supporters broke off as the Know-Nothing Party. The great Texas leader Sam Houston, who Fillmore mentions here, was then serving as a Democrat in the Senate and unlike most of his Southern colleagues spoke out adamantly in opposition of Kansas-Nebraska, warning that it would ‘convulse the country from Maine to the Rio Grande.’ Alienated from his party, Houston too joined the Know-Nothings. A letter of great historical interest, especially as it pertains to the issues concerning states’ rights in the years leading up to the Civil War.
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