“Zachary Taylor was simple in habits, frank in manners, and possessed a genuineness which impressed all who came in contact with him. He had a firmness that did not shun danger. Though not by genius or habit a statesman, Taylor saw more clearly than those around him the bold headlands of national policy. He discerned correctly that what the country wished and needed was not pacification or bargaining of principles but loyal acquiescence in nature and the right.

A slaveholder who stood firm against his own interest, Taylor believed the institution of slavery undermined the Constitution and jeopardized the nation. A lifetime soldier, Taylor stood ready to lead the Union–even against his own section of the country if it rebelled. Taylor inspired firmness for freedom’s cause. He was the one man before whom the false idealists of a slave power quaked with fear. The saying had long been current before he died: “General Taylor never surrenders.” So fittingly his first surrender was his last.

He fell on the 74th anniversary of his country’s independence, just hours after dedicating the Washington Monument. Taylor’s memorial must remain forever an unfinished shaft.”

American Historical Association President James Schouler in 1904


(Top)–1849 Inauguration of Zachary Taylor (Davis seated next to Taylor behind decanter)