Millard Fillmore


Who was his lone Supreme Court appointee?

Fillmore nominated Benjamin R. Curtiss to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1851. Curtiss had graduated from Harvard Law School in 1831, having studied under the legendary Justice Joseph Story. He also was a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Curtiss was one of only two dissenters on the Court in the infamous Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) decision in which the majority of the Court sanctioned the practice of slavery. Curtiss resigned his position on the Court later that year, it is thought partly because of dispute over the Dred Scott decision and possibly for pecuniary reasons.

After he resigned from the Court, he resumed his law practice and flourished. He argued several cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and later served as chief counsel for President Andrew Johnson during his impeachment proceedings.

During the Fillmore administration, attempts were made to establish relations with the isolationist country of Japan. Commodore M.C. Perry’s crew is shown here coming ashore to meet the Japanese in 1853.


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