Zachory Taylor

Official White House portrait of Zachary Taylor, by Joseph Henry Bush (1848)

“It would be judicious to act with magnanimity towards a prostrate foe.”

President and Major General Zachary Taylor was born in Orange County, Virginia on November 24, 1784.  He is the only president to be born in Orange, and he was James Madison’s second cousin.  The two presidents’ great-grandfather, Col. James Taylor II, accompanied Alexander Spotswood on the Expedition of the Knights of the Golden Horsehoe.  Zachary Taylor’s father, Richard, served with George Washington in the Revolutionary War.

Taylor grew up in Louisville, Kentucky.  He received his first commission from James Madison in 1808 as first lieutenant of the Seventh Infantry Regiment in the US Army.  He was mostly uninterested in politics and had a forty year military career before his short term in office.  He fought in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, the Second Seminole War, and the Mexican-American War.  In February 1847, Major General Taylor defeated Mexican General, Antonio López de Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista, when he was outnumbered four to one.  The battle turned him into a national hero and the first choice candidate for the Whig party in the election of 1848.

Taylor was the last Southern president, until Lyndon B. Johnson took office one hundred and twenty five years later.  He was also the last president to own slaves, though he remained neutral on the subject during his presidency.  He died after eighteen months in office of unknown causes.

“The power given by the Constitution to the Executive to interpose his veto is a high conservative power; but in my opinion it should never be exercised except in cases of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of due consideration by Congress.”