While in office, Zachary Taylor sought to preserve the Union by discouraging slavery in new territories and states. Possessing a strong military background, he threatened the use of military force to keep slave states from receding. He died suddenly while in office before he was able to see many of his presidential endeavors to fruition.
Although an uneducated man, Zachary Taylor experienced a long, successful military career prior to his presidency. He fought in several wars, including the War of 1812. It was during the Mexican War in 1846 that he received national attention and popularity because of his military leadership.
In 1848, he ran in the presidential election as a Whig candidate. A slaveholder and a military leader, he appealed to both the North and the South. He won the presidency and took office in 1849 as the nation experienced the rumblings of discord that eventually led to the Civil War.
Although he possessed slaves, President Taylor understood the national debate over slavery threatened the preservation of the Union. He opposed Congress legislating pro-slavery laws for New Mexico and California. This angered slavery supporters who then encouraged pro-secession sentiments.
President Taylor showed his commitment towards the preservation of the Union by promising military force if any state tried to secede.
His legacy as the nation's 12th president was cut short when he died following a gastrointestinal illness. He was succeeded by Millard Fillmore.