FILLMORE, Millard. Autograph letter signed ("Millard Fillmore") as Vice President, to Dr. Robert C. Wood, Buffalo, [N.Y.] 30 August 1849. 2 pages, 4to (10 x 8 1/8 in.), postscript, endorsement and signatures of the Buffalo Committee of Invitation on integral leaf, in very fine condition.
REARRANGING THE SCHEDULE OF THE AILING TAYLOR: "NOTHING IS TO BE CONSIDERED...BUT THE HEALTH AND COMFORT OF THE PRESIDENT"
In the late summer of 1849, just five months after his inauguration, President Taylor decided to leave the oppressive heat of Washington for a vacation tour of the northern states. The President, his wife, his personal physician (and son-in-law) Robert C. Wood and a small entourage planned to travel through Pennsylvania to Buffalo, New York, where they were to be greeted by Vice President Fillmore. The trip began well. The President was enthusiatically received by the residents of the Keystone State at every stop. Misfortune struck, however, four days into the trip when Taylor became ill with a severe intestinal ailment. Dr. Wood treated the President and the trip resumed, but Taylor was stricken again in Erie with a more serious ailment which included the ominous "shakes." The sickness was so severe that Mrs. Taylor was called to the President's bedside. The next day, however, the President had begun to feel better and plans to resume the trip were made.
Fillmore, who was informed of the President's condition, immediately endeavored to lighten Taylor's heavy agenda. Here, he informs Wood that a scheduled public appearance in Buffalo has been cancelled: "On consultation with the committee of invitation here and with Mr. Spaulding who has just returned from Erie, we have all come to the conclusion, that nothing is to be considered in this matter but the health and comfort of the President. All the anticipated pleasure of seeing him in public must be given up." Fillmore recommends the Presidential party take a direct route to Niagara Falls: "he should make his journey to the Falls with the least possible fatigue...he should take the boat at Erie, at night, and go directly on that boat to...within two miles of the Falls, from whence he will be taken by carriage to the hotel. The Cataract House is considered the best, but Mr. White the host of the Eagle desires him to come there, & the choice must be left to the President." Fillmore is adamant that Taylor's health is the first priority and suggests "that the President will remain at Erie, until his health is so far restored as to be out of all danger. It is impossible to describe the anxiety that is felt to see him, but that must yield to the greater anxiety of his health."
The weakened Taylor continued his trip to the Falls, Albany, New York City and Philadelphia. Upon his return to Washington, he recovered quickly but the incident showed the fraility of the President's health and foreshadowed the illness to which he would succumb the following summer.
Provenance: Mrs. Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby's, 27 March 1985, lot 164).