In 1784, on this day celebrated two-term President of the United States Zachary Taylor was born in Barboursville, Virginia.
Birth of President Zachary TaylorHis term of office was very nearly truncated by an unexpected event in 1850. Having smelled something funny in his dinner, he decided to throw it away rather than eat it. He complained to the White House kitchen, and the chef, upset that his cooking might be unacceptable, was somewhat surprised to find the dish he prepared still sitting on a counter.
The staff immediately searched the mansion and found Cletus Earl Hargrove, a Kentuckian like the president, who had slipped poison into the president's food in retaliation against Taylor's anti-slavery stance. Hargrove, terrified at being caught, named four co-conspirators, one of whom was a southern senator.
The resulting trial on assassination charges rocked the nation, and made Taylor a revered figure even in the south. Abolitionists used the trial to advance their agenda, and President Taylor introduced his Slow Freedom Initiative at the beginning of his second term in 1853. Under the terms of the initiative, all those born to slaves after the passage of the act would be free Americans; their parents would be freed once the free children reached the age of 18 years.
A new article by Robbie TaylorAlthough many Freedmen and abolitionists thought this was far too long a process, the south grudgingly accepted it as a way to hold onto a dying institution for a few more years. The last living American slave, Nathan Thomason of Cold Pork, Alabama, was given his freedom by presidential decree in 1937 at the age of 85 - he had been born the year before the SFI, and had never had children. He died shortly afterwards, but one of his cousins said, "At least he didn't have to die bound to that dastardly Thomason blackguard".
Following the passing of this dark chapter in American history, the country moved forward fairly united. Although racism against African-Americans was still quite strong in some pockets of the country, the long process of the SFI had made most Americans take a hard look at themselves and question why they had ever thought that one race of people should hold another captive. African-American Congressman Malcolm Little of Michigan proposed a national holiday to honor President Taylor in 1961, and the motion passed almost unanimously.