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There are many routes to the presidency, and “I was vice president when the president ate some bad fruit and died” is among the least dignified.

Growing up poor, Millard Fillmore didn’t have a lot of opportunities to get good and properly book-learned. Historians tell us he was an avid reader who was largely self-taught. He quit several apprenticeships in pursuit of bigger and better things and wound up studying law after a few false starts.

Law practice begat a Congressional career, which in turn led to the vice presidency. Fillmore served under Zachary Taylor, a president who seemed largely to have been elected in the hopes of a quiet, uneventful four years in the executive branch. Taylor’s presidency got quieter than most when he died of stomach problems a year and change into his first term, and Fillmore took the throne.

History does not look kindly on the presidency of Millard Fillmore. He kept the Fugitive Slave Act going strong, which Southerners felt was too lenient and Northerners found disgusting. By the end of his tenure, Fillmore’s political party was disbanded, the country was well on its way to the Civil War, and the path was irrevocably laid for Bruce Tinsley to write two and a half decades of marginally funny Mallard Fillmore comics.

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