Portraits: Zachary Taylor   2 comments

Zachary Taylor, daguerreotype

Zachary Taylor daguerreotype, circa 1843-45

The 12th President of the United States, 1849 – 1850

AKA: Old Rough and Ready

From: Virginia, Kentucky, Louisiana

College: One of 8 US Presidents not to attend college

Married to: Margaret Smith

Children: Margaret Smith, Sarah Knox, Ann Mackall, Octavia Pannell, Mary Elizabeth, Richard

Party: Whig

Previous Jobs: US Army officer

In His Words: “In conclusion I congratulate you, my fellow-citizens, upon the high state of prosperity to which the goodness of Divine Providence has conducted our common country. Let us invoke a continuance of the same protecting care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence we this day occupy.”

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

“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.”

“I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country.””I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.

Not true: On the 4th of July, 1850, Taylor was diagnosed with cholera morbus.  Ultimately, he died with a diagnosis of gastroenteritis.  Was it a snack of iced milk, cold cherries and pickled cucumbers eaten on July 4th?  We’ll never know, but he was dead 5 days later.

About 25 years ago, Clara Rising (an author with a theory) convinced Taylor’s closed living descendants as well as the coroner of Jefferson County, KY, to exhume Taylor’s body to see if he had been poisoned. Over 140 years later, we had the answer: no poisoning.


Soon after his election, Taylor was drawn into conversation with a fellow passenger aboard a ship. Taylor realized the stranger did not recognize him when he began discussing politics and indicated he had not voted for him. When the stranger asked him if he was a Taylor man, the newly elected president replied, “Not much of one––that is, I did not vote for him––partly because of family reasons and partly because his wife was opposed to sending ‘Old Zack’ to Washington, where she would be obliged to go with him.”

Despite his 40-year military career, Taylor viewed war dismally, having stated, “My life has been devoted to arms, yet I look upon war at all times, and under all circumstances, as a national calamity to be avoided if compatible with national honor.”

Prior to 1848, Taylor had never voted, nor had he revealed his political thoughts publicly.

He was selected as a Presidential candidate because of his bifurcated appeal: northerners would like his long military record, and his ownership of 100 slaves would lure southern votes. Taylor was the last President to own slaves while in office.

His only son Richard was a general in the Confederate army.

The Official Portrait: Kentuckian Joseph Henry Bush painted this portrait of Zachary Taylor in 1848.

Zachary Taylor, official White House Portrait

Zachary Taylor signature


The Taylor File, by Clara Rising

Big Mo

New York Times Letter to the Editor, 1991

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