This is a post in My Presidential Rankings series, linked here: https://sdu754.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/presidential-rankings/
Zachary Taylor was elected President due mainly to his service during the Mexican-American War, but Taylor also served during the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Second Seminole War. He died little more than 16 months in office.
Taylor surprised many people by being against the extension of slavery, and strongly pro-union, like Abraham Lincoln. Most of his presidency was spent dealing with the issue of what to do with the newly acquired territories from the Mexican-American War. Taylor wanted to allow the new Territories (California & New Mexico) to bypass the territorial phase of government, and immediately be admitted into the union as states. This would avoid the slavery question, and guarantee that they would enter the union as free states. This led some southern states to threaten secession and Texas to threaten it would take the eastern part of New Mexico. Taylor threatened to lead the army himself and to implement a plan that revolved around economic warfare, using blockades to strangle the south as a preferred method over military conquest.
During this time, longtime congressman Henry Clay came up with the Compromise of 1850 to settle all sides of the dispute. The compromise had 5 parts that would give all parties some of what they wanted, but not everything. It would immediately admit California as a free state, set up new Mexico & Utah as territories that would determine slavery when they applied for statehood. Settle the Texas-New Mexico border in New Mexico’s favor, but the US would absorb Texas’s debts. and it would replace the current fugitive slave law with a stronger one. Taylor was against the compromise and said if it passed he would veto it. His vice president Milliard Fillmore, however, favored the compromise. This has led several people to speculate that Taylor was poisoned to get the more agreeable Fillmore into office. Many scholars believe had Taylor survived, the civil war would have happened a decade earlier during his presidency. It’s hard to say whether a war in Taylors term would have been longer or shorter than the war Lincoln faced. It is true that the north grew stronger in those 10 years, but the south also had time to build up its government and defenses during the end of Buchanan’s presidency. It’s also possible Taylor would have had a smaller rebellion on his hands, due to the fact that Taylor was a southerner, so some states might have been less likely to leave the union.
During Taylors term the United States and Great Britain signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which stated that neither side would have exclusive control over a future canal built across Central America. The treaty was a major step in the foundation of our long-lasting alliance with the British.
Taylor also saw the forming of the Department of Interior during his term of office. This department manages federal lands, natural resources, territorial affairs and programs relating to native indigenous people just to name a few of it’s duties.
Had he served longer Taylor certainly had the ability and leadership skills to be a great president, but fate interceded, and Zachary Taylor didn’t live long enough to get his chance at greatness.