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Letters for A Dead President

Losing a leader like the president is always a difficult time for the government and its people. Not only do they lose their guiding hand, but it also leads to a transition of power that can be difficult to process both politically and emotionally. Such was the case with President Zachary Taylor. Although a peaceful death, it left his successor, Millard Filmore the uncomfortable duty of announcing his death to the people of the US.

Letter to the American People

Zachary Taylor was the 12th President of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Born on November 24, 1784, Taylor was a career military officer before entering politics, earning the nickname “Old Rough and Ready” for his leadership and successes in the Mexican-American War. His military fame propelled him to the presidency as a member of the Whig Party, despite his lack of previous political experience.

However, on July 4, 1850, after participating in a series of Independence Day celebrations, Zachary Taylor overdid it in the celebrations, consuming large amounts of alcohol and food which left him with severe stomach pains that forced doctors to intervene. 

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, Zachary Taylor passed away on July 9, 1895. His Vice President Millard Fillmore assumed the presidency on July 10, 1850. His first act as president was to write a letter to the American people. This letter would explain the unfortunate passing of President Zachary and outline the plans moving forward. The purpose of this letter is to assure the people that despite this disruption, the government can still function as usual.

The letter Millard Fillmore perfectly captures the somber message of its contents.

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to you that it has pleased Almighty God to remove from this life Zachary Taylor, late President of the United States. He deceased last evening at the hour of half-past 10 o’clock, in the midst of his family and surrounded by affectionate friends, calmly and in the full possession of all his faculties.

Among his last words were these, which he uttered with emphatic distinctness: “I am not afraid to die. I have done my duty. My only regret is leaving the friends I love.”

Having announced to you, fellow-citizens, the death of the late President, Zachary Taylor, it becomes my duty to say that his numerous friends and admirers, and the whole people, while they deeply mourn his loss, will ever cherish his memory and seek to emulate his virtues.

-Former President Millard Fillmore.

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