Millard Fillmore and the U.S.-Swiss Trade Treaty of 1851

July 9, 1850:  President Zachary Taylor dies and Millard Fillmore becomes the 13th President of the United States.  Millard Fillmore is one the lesser known U.S. Presidents, but he played a major role in furthering the acceptance of Jews as full citizens of the United States.  In 1851, the United States Senate considered a trade treaty with Switzerland.  The treaty included a clause that would have allowed the governments of the individual Swiss Cantons to treat U.S. citizens in the same way they treated their own citizens.  Some of the cantons had laws that discriminated against Jews.  Ratification of the treaty would have meant that American citizens could be treated differently based on their religion.   A group of Jews from Cincinnati protested against this treaty in a letter they sent to Secretary of State Daniel Webster who used his influence to convince President Fillmore to amend the proposed treaty by deleting the discriminatory clauses. In leading the successful opposition to the treaty Fillmore declared that “neither by law, nor by treaty, nor by any other official proceeding is it competent for the Government of the United States to establish any distinction between its citizens founded on differences in religious beliefs.”

The United States issued a 22-cent postage stamp honoring President Fillmore on May 22, 1986 as part of its AMERIPEX Presidential Commemorative set (Scott No. 2217d):

Millard Fillmore - U.S.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s