American Presidents

Millard Fillmore American Presidents Teacher Guide

Millard Fillmore Historical Interpreter
June 11, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Elementary Level

Before Viewing American Presidents
Tell students they are about to meet "Millard Fillmore." Students will view C-SPAN's American Presidents program on Millard Fillmore in which an historical interpreter discusses the life of the 13th president from Forest Lawn Cemetery, the site of President Fillmore’s grave. Millard Fillmore's first wife and daughter are also buried at this site. You may wish to explain the job of a historical interpreter before showing the videotape to students.

Tell students they are going to watch the program for information about Millard Fillmore’s life, so that they can make predictions about how he might want to be remembered at his grave site. You may want to introduce students to the time period in which Millard Fillmore became president: the years leading to the Civil War, the debates about the future of slavery and the purpose of the Fugitive Slave Act. Review biographic web page on Millard Fillmore on the American Presidents web site.

Preview some questions students will answer while viewing the tape:

  • When and why did Millard Fillmore meet Queen Victoria?
  • Why did Millard Fillmore call himself a "know-nothing"?
  • What did Millard Fillmore have to do with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA)?
  • What epitaph is on his tombstone?
  • Have students consider the last question in a broader context. What information is usually found on tombstones? Define the word epitaph. What information should be included in an epitaph? Discuss the significance of a presidential epitaph as an artifact. What information might a former president’s tombstone convey?

    While Viewing American Presidents
    Directions: Answer the questions below with information from the Millard Fillmore program. For each question, either fill in the blank, circle the correct answers, or give a short answer from the viewpoint of Millard Fillmore.

    1. I am the (oldest/youngest) son.

    2. I was born in (Montpelier,VT/Buffalo, NY).

    3. I helped pay for law school by working as a (teacher/ farmer)

    4. I held the following jobs before becoming president:

    a. Lawyer
    b. Congressman
    c. Mayor of Buffalo
    d. Comptroller of the State of New York
    e. Vice President of the United States

    5. There were no books in the _____________ so I started a _________________.

    6. I passed and enforced the Fugitive Slave Act which had these direct consequences:

    a. New states could allow slavery
    b. Northerners had to return runaway slaves
    c. All slaves were free
    d. I did not receive the nomination in the next presidential election
    e. My wife died

    7. My wife died from ______________________ .

    8. My daughter died from ______________________ .

    9. In order to get my mind off of their deaths, I traveled to __________ where I met _________________ .

    10. When I returned I (remarried/lived alone).

    Note to teachers: Pause the tape here and make a prediction about the epitaph.

    11. What epitaph should be on Millard Fillmore’s tombstone?

    Resume the tape

    12. What epitaph is actually on Millard Fillmore’s tombstone?

    After Viewing American Presidents
    Review and check students’ answers. Then as a class, make two lists: 1) Millard Fillmore’s accomplishments, and 2) aspects of Millard Fillmore's life he may have regretted. Individually or in groups, students can write a new epitaph for Millard Fillmore using information they have gathered. They can refer to Millard Fillmore's tombstone while working on this assignment.

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