Since the office was established in 1789, 45 persons have served as president of the United States. Of these, eight presidents have died in office: four were assassinated and four died of natural causes; on each occasion, the vice president has succeeded to the presidency. This practice is defined by Section One of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1967 (which superseded and augmented Article II, Section 1, Clause 6).
The first incumbent U.S. president to die was William Henry Harrison, on April 4, 1841, only one month after Inauguration Day. He died from complications of what at the time was believed to be pneumonia. The second president to die in office, Zachary Taylor, died on July 9, 1850 from acute gastroenteritis. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to be assassinated. He was shot by John Wilkes Booth on the night of April 14, 1865 and died the following morning. Sixteen years later, on July 2, 1881, James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau, surviving for over two months before dying on September 19, 1881.
Re-elected to a second term in November 1900, William McKinley died eight days after being shot twice by Leon Czolgosz on September 6, 1901. Next, Warren G. Harding suffered a heart attack, and died on August 2, 1923. On April 12, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt (who had just begun his fourth term in office) collapsed and died as a result of a cerebral hemorrhage. The most recent president to die in office was John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald with two rifle shots on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
|Presidents of the United States who died in office|
William Henry Harrison
April 4, 1841
July 9, 1850
April 15, 1865
James A. Garfield
September 19, 1881
September 14, 1901
Warren G Harding
August 2, 1923
Franklin D. Roosevelt
April 12, 1945
John F. Kennedy
November 22, 1963
On March 26, 1841, William Henry Harrison became ill with a cold after being caught in a torrential downpour without cover. His symptoms grew progressively worse over the ensuing two days, at which time a team of doctors was called in to treat him. After making a diagnosis of right lower lobe pneumonia, they proceeded to place heated suction cups on his bare torso and to administer a series of bloodlettings, to supposedly draw out the disease. When those procedures failed to bring about improvement, the doctors treated him with ipecac, Castor oil, calomel, and finally with a boiled mixture of crude petroleum and Virginia snakeroot. All this only weakened Harrison further.
Initially, no official announcement was made concerning Harrison's illness, which, the longer the he remained out of public view, fueled public speculation and concern. By the end of the month large crowds were gathering outside the White House, holding vigil while awaiting any news about the president's condition. On April 4, 1841, nine days after becoming ill, and exactly one month after taking the oath of office, Harrison was dead; the first U.S. president to die in office. His last words were to his attending doctor, though assumed to be directed at Vice President John Tyler:
Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more.
A 30-day period of mourning commenced following the president's death. Various public ceremonies, modeled after European royal funeral practices, were held. An invitation-only funeral service was also held, on April 7 in the East Room of the White House, after which Harrison's coffin was brought to Congressional Cemetery in Washington, D.C., where it was placed in a temporary receiving vault.
That June, Harrison's body was transported by train and river barge to North Bend, Ohio. Then, on July 7, 1841, the nation's 9th president was buried in a family tomb at the summit of Mt. Nebo, overlooking the Ohio River – now the William Henry Harrison Tomb State Memorial.
Harrison's death sparked a brief constitutional crisis regarding succession to the presidency, as the U.S. Constitution was unclear as to whether Vice President John Tyler should assume the office of president or merely execute the duties of the vacant office. Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to carry out the full powers and duties of the presidency and took the presidential oath of office, setting an important precedent for an orderly transfer of presidential power when a president leaves office intra-term.
Coincidentally, all but one of the presidents who later died in office had, like Harrison, won a presidential election in a year ending in a zero (1840 through 1960). This pattern of tragedies came to be known as the Curse of Tippecanoe, or the Curse of Tecumseh, the name of the Shawnee leader against whom Harrison fought in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe. Also sometimes referred to as the Zero Factor legend, the pattern was disrupted by Ronald Reagan, who survived an assassination attempt in 1981 (69 days after taking office) and lived to complete two full terms.
On July 4, 1850, Taylor was known to have consumed copious amounts of ice water, cold milk, green apples, and cherries after attending holiday celebrations and the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument. That same evening, he became severely ill with an unknown digestive ailment. Doctors used popular treatments of the time. On the morning of July 9, the president asked his wife Margaret not to grieve saying:
I have always done my duty, I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me.
Taylor died late that evening, five days after becoming ill. Contemporary reports listed the cause of death as "bilious diarrhea or a bilious cholera". He was succeeded by Vice President Millard Fillmore.
Taylor's funeral took place on July 13, and like Harrison's nine years earlier, was held in the East Room of the White House. Afterward, an estimated 100,000 people gathered along the funeral route to Congressional Cemetery where his coffin was placed temporarily in the Public Vault; that October it was transported to Louisville, Kentucky. On November 1, 1850, Taylor was buried in his family's burial ground on the Taylor estate, Springfield – now the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.
Almost immediately after his death, rumors began to circulate that Taylor had been poisoned by pro-slavery Southerners, and various conspiracy theories persisted into the late-20th century. The cause of Taylor's death was definitively established in 1991, when his remains were exhumed and an autopsy conducted by Kentucky's chief medical examiner. Subsequent Neutron activation analysis conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed no evidence of poisoning, as arsenic levels were too low. The analysis concluded Taylor had contracted cholera morbus, or acute gastroenteritis, as Washington had open sewers, and his food or drink may have been contaminated.
The assassination of Abraham Lincoln took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865, as the American Civil War was drawing to a close. The assassination occurred five days after the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia, Robert E. Lee, surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant and the Army of the Potomac. Lincoln was the first American president to be killed by an assassin (an unsuccessful attempt had been made on the life of Andrew Jackson 30 years earlier, in January 1835.
The assassination of Lincoln was planned and carried out by the well-known stage actor John Wilkes Booth, a Confederate sympathizer, vehement in his denunciation of Lincoln, and a strong opponent of the abolition of slavery in the United States. Booth and a group of co-conspirators originally plotted to kidnap Lincoln, but later planned to kill him, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William H. Seward in a bid to help the Confederacy's cause. (Vice President Johnson's assailant did not carry out his part of the plan, and Johnson succeeded Lincoln as president.)
Lincoln was shot once in the back of his head while watching the play Our American Cousin with his wife Mary Todd Lincoln at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. at around 10:15 pm on the night of April 14, 1865. An army surgeon who happened to be at Ford's, Doctor Charles Leale, assessed Lincoln's wound as mortal. The unconscious president was then carried across the street from the theater to the Petersen House, where he remained in a coma for nine hours before dying the following morning at 7:22 a.m. on April 15.
The assassination of James A. Garfield happened in Washington, D.C. on July 2, 1881. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau at 9:30 am, less than four months into Garfield's term as the 20th president of the United States. Garfield died eleven weeks later on September 19, 1881; Vice President Chester A. Arthur succeeded him as president. Garfield also lived the longest after the shooting, compared to other assassinated presidents. Garfield was scheduled to leave Washington on July 2, 1881 for his summer vacation. On that day, Guiteau lay in wait for the president at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station, on the southwest corner of present-day Sixth Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.
President Garfield came to the Sixth Street Station on his way to his alma mater, Williams College, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech. Garfield was accompanied by two of his sons, James and Harry, and Secretary of State Blaine. Secretary of War Robert Todd Lincoln waited at the station to see the president off. Garfield had no bodyguard or security detail; with the exception of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War, early U.S. presidents never used any guards.
As president, Garfield entered the waiting room of the station Guiteau stepped forward and pulled the trigger from behind at point-blank range. "My God, what is that?" Garfield cried out, flinging up his arms. Guiteau fired again and Garfield collapsed. One bullet grazed Garfield's shoulder; the other hit him in the back, passing the first lumbar vertebra but missing the spinal cord before coming to rest behind his pancreas.
Garfield, conscious but in shock, was carried to an upstairs floor of the train station. One bullet remained lodged in his body, but doctors could not find it. Young Jim Garfield and James Blaine both broke down and wept. Robert Todd Lincoln, deeply upset and thinking back to the death of his father, said "How many hours of sorrow I have passed in this town."
Garfield was carried back to the White House. Although doctors told him that he would not survive the night, the president remained conscious and alert. The next morning his vital signs were good and doctors began to hope for recovery. A long vigil began, with Garfield's doctors issuing regular bulletins that the American public followed closely throughout the summer of 1881. His condition fluctuated. Fevers came and went. Garfield struggled to keep down solid food and spent most of the summer eating little, and that only liquids.
Garfield had been a regular visitor to the shore town of Long Branch, New Jersey, one of the nation's premier summer vacation spots until World War I. In early September, it was decided to bring him to Elberon, a quiet beach town just to the south of Long Branch, in hopes that the beach air would help him recover. When they heard that the president was being brought to their town, local citizens built more than half a mile of tracks in less than 24 hours, enabling Garfield to be brought directly to the door of the oceanfront Franklyn cottage, rather than being moved by carriage from the local Elberon train station. However, Garfield died 12 days later. A granite marker on Garfield Rd identifies the former site of the cottage, which was demolished in 1950.
Chester Arthur was at his home in New York City on the night of September 19, when word came that Garfield had died. After first getting the news, Arthur said "I hope—my God, I do hope it is a mistake." But confirmation by telegram came soon after. Arthur took the presidential oath of office, administered by a New York Supreme Court judge, then left for Long Branch to pay his respects before traveling on to Washington. Garfield's body was taken to Washington, where it lay in state for two days in the Capitol Rotunda before being taken to Cleveland, where the funeral was held on September 26.
When the tracks that had been hastily built to the Franklyn cottage were later torn up, actor Oliver Byron bought the wooden ties, and had local carpenter William Presley build them into a small tea house, in commemoration of the president. The red & white (originally red, white & blue) "Garfield Tea House" still survives, resting a couple of blocks away from the site of the cottage on the grounds of the Long Branch Historical Museum, a former Episcopal Church. The church is nicknamed "The Church of the Presidents", as it had been attended by, in addition to Garfield, presidents Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford Hayes, William McKinley, and Woodrow Wilson, during their own visits to Long Branch.
William McKinley was assassinated on September 6, 1901, inside the Temple of Music on the grounds of the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley was shaking hands with the public when he was shot by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. The president died eight days later on September 14 from gangrene caused by the bullet wounds.
McKinley had been elected for a second term in 1900. He enjoyed meeting the public, and was reluctant to accept the security available to his office. The secretary to the president, George B. Cortelyou, feared an assassination attempt would take place during a visit to the Temple of Music, and twice took it off the schedule. McKinley restored it each time.
Czolgosz had lost his job during the economic Panic of 1893 and turned to anarchism, a political philosophy whose adherents had killed foreign leaders. Regarding McKinley as a symbol of oppression, Czolgosz felt it was his duty as an anarchist to kill him. Unable to get near McKinley during the earlier part of the presidential visit, Czolgosz shot McKinley twice as the President reached to shake his hand in the reception line at the temple. One bullet grazed McKinley; the other entered his abdomen and was never found.
McKinley initially appeared to be recovering, but took a turn for the worse on September 13 as his wounds became gangrenous, and died early the next morning; Vice President Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him. Roosevelt was hiking near the top of Mt. Marcy, in New York State's Adirondack region, when a runner located him to convey the news. After McKinley's murder, for which Czolgosz was put to death in the electric chair, the United States Congress passed legislation to officially charge the Secret Service with the responsibility for protecting the president.
Warren G. Harding died from a sudden heart attack in his hotel suite while visiting San Francisco at around 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923. His death quickly led to theories that he had been poisoned or committed suicide. Rumors of poisoning were fueled, in part, by a book called The Strange Death of President Harding, in which the author (convicted criminal, former Ohio Gang member, and detective Gaston Means, hired by Mrs. Harding to investigate Warren Harding and his mistress) suggested that Mrs. Harding had poisoned her husband after learning of his infidelity. Mrs. Harding's refusal to allow an autopsy on President Harding only added to the speculation. According to the physicians attending Harding, however, the symptoms in the days prior to his death all pointed to congestive heart failure. Harding's biographer, Samuel H. Adams, concluded that "Warren G. Harding died a natural death which, in any case, could not have been long postponed".
Immediately after President Harding's death, Mrs. Harding returned to Washington, D.C., and briefly stayed in the White House with the new president Calvin Coolidge and first lady. For a month, former first lady Harding gathered and destroyed by fire President Harding's correspondence and documents, both official and unofficial. Upon her return to Marion, Ohio, Mrs. Harding hired a number of secretaries to collect and burn President Harding's personal papers. According to Mrs. Harding, she took these actions to protect her husband's legacy. The remaining papers were held and kept from public view by the Harding Memorial Association in Marion.
On March 29, 1945, Franklin D. Roosevelt went to the Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, to rest before his anticipated appearance at the founding conference of the United Nations in late April in San Francisco. On the afternoon of April 12, Roosevelt said, "I have a terrific pain in the back of my head." He then slumped forward in his chair, unconscious, and was carried into his bedroom. The president's attending cardiologist, Dr. Howard Bruenn, diagnosed a massive cerebral hemorrhage (stroke). At 3:35 pm that day, Roosevelt died without regaining consciousness. As Allen Drury later said, "so ended an era, and so began another." After Roosevelt's death, an editorial by The New York Times declared, "Men will thank God on their knees a hundred years from now that Franklin D. Roosevelt was in the White House".
In his later years at the White House, when Roosevelt was increasingly overworked, his daughter Anna Roosevelt Boettiger had moved in to provide her father companionship and support. Anna had also arranged for her father to meet with his former mistress, the now widowed Lucy Mercer Rutherfurd. A close friend of both Roosevelt and Mercer who was present, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, rushed Mercer away to avoid negative publicity and implications of infidelity. When Eleanor heard about her husband's death, she was also faced with the news that Anna had been arranging these meetings with Mercer and that Mercer had been with Franklin when he died.
On the morning of April 13, Roosevelt's body was placed in a flag-draped coffin and loaded onto the presidential train. After a White House funeral on April 14, Roosevelt was transported back to Hyde Park by train, guarded by four servicemen, one each from the Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of the Springwood estate, the Roosevelt family home in Hyde Park on April 15. Eleanor died in November 1962 and was buried next to him.
Roosevelt's death was met with shock and grief across the U.S. and around the world. His declining health had not been known to the general public. Roosevelt had been president for more than 12 years, longer than any other person, and had led the country through some of its greatest crises to the impending defeat of Nazi Germany and within sight of the defeat of Japan as well.
Less than a month after his death, on May 8, the war in Europe ended. President Harry S. Truman, who turned 61 that day, dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt's memory, and kept the flags across the U.S. at half-staff for the remainder of the 30-day mourning period. In doing so, Truman said that his only wish was "that Franklin D. Roosevelt had lived to witness this day."
John F. Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 p.m. Central Standard Time (18:30 UTC) on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was fatally shot while traveling with his wife Jacqueline, Texas Governor John Connally, and the latter's wife Nellie, in a presidential motorcade. The ten-month investigation by the Warren Commission of 1963–1964 concluded that President Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald and that Oswald had acted entirely alone. It also concluded that Jack Ruby acted alone when he killed Oswald in police custody. Nonetheless, polls conducted from 1966 to 2004 found that as many as 80 percent of Americans have suspected that there was a plot or cover-up.
Most current John F. Kennedy assassination conspiracy theories put forth a criminal conspiracy involving parties as varied as the CIA, the Mafia, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the military industrial complex, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban president Fidel Castro, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, the KGB, or some combination of those entities. In an article published prior to the 50th anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, author Vincent Bugliosi estimates that a total of 42 groups, 82 assassins, and 214 people have been accused in conspiracy theories challenging the "lone gunman" theory.
The Curse of Tippecanoe (also known as Tecumseh's Curse or the 20 Year Presidential Curse) is the alleged pattern of death in office of Presidents of the United States elected in years that are divisible by 20, from William Henry Harrison (elected in 1840) through John F. Kennedy (1960). Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980 and was wounded by gunshot, but he survived. George W. Bush (2000) survived his terms in office, despite an assassination attempt.John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by initials JFK, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. He served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his presidency dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union. A member of the Democratic Party, Kennedy represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate prior to becoming president.
Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard University in 1940 before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. After the war, Kennedy represented the 11th congressional district of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, he published his book Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography. In the 1960 presidential election, Kennedy narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president. At age 43, he became the youngest person elected president.
Kennedy's administration included high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. He increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam. In April 1961, he authorized a vain attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He rejected Operation Northwoods Joint Chiefs of Staff plans for false flag attacks to gain approval for a war against Cuba. In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba; the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. Domestically, Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps and supported the civil rights movement, but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.
On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death. Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was shot to death by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission both concluded Oswald had acted alone in the assassination, but various groups contested the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act and the Revenue Act of 1964. Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable interest, following revelations of his chronic health ailments and extra-marital affairs.List of heads of state and government who died in office
This is a list of heads of state and government who died in office.
Such deaths have most often been from natural causes, but there are also cases of assassination, execution, suicide and accident.
The list is in chronological order. The name is listed first, followed by the name of the office the person held at the time of death, and the year of death.
Monarchs and Presidents for Life are excluded.William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was an American military officer and politician who served as the ninth president of the United States in 1841. He died of typhoid, pneumonia or paratyphoid fever 31 days into his term (the shortest tenure), becoming the first president to die in office. His death sparked a brief constitutional crisis regarding succession to the presidency, because the Constitution was unclear as to whether Vice President John Tyler should assume the office of president or merely execute the duties of the vacant office. Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to carry out the full powers and duties of the presidency and took the presidential oath of office, setting an important precedent for an orderly transfer of presidential power when a president leaves office.Harrison was a son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and the paternal grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States. He was the last president born as a British subject in the Thirteen Colonies before the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. During his early military career, he participated in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, an American military victory that effectively ended the Northwest Indian War. Later, he led a military force against Tecumseh's Confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Old Tippecanoe". He was promoted to major general in the Army in the War of 1812, and in 1813 led American infantry and cavalry at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada.Harrison began his political career in 1798, when he was appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory, and in 1799 he was elected as the territory's delegate in the House of Representatives. Two years later, President John Adams named him governor of the newly established Indiana Territory, a post he held until 1812. After the War of 1812, he moved to Ohio where he was elected to represent the state's 1st district in the House in 1816. In 1824, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate; his term was truncated by his appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in May 1828. Afterward, he returned to private life in Ohio until he was nominated as the Whig Party candidate for president in the 1836 election; he was defeated by Democratic vice president Martin Van Buren. Four years later, the party nominated him again with John Tyler as his running mate, and the Whig campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too". They defeated Van Buren in the 1840 election, making Harrison the first Whig to win the presidency.
At 68 years, 23 days of age at the time of his inauguration, Harrison was the oldest person to have assumed the U.S. presidency, a distinction he held until 1981, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated at age 69 years, 349 days. Due to his brief tenure, scholars and historians often forgo listing him in historical presidential rankings. However, historian William W. Freehling calls him "the most dominant figure in the evolution of the Northwest territories into the Upper Midwest today".Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor (November 24, 1784 – July 9, 1850) was the 12th president of the United States, serving from March 1849 until his death in July 1850. Taylor previously was a career officer in the United States Army, rose to the rank of major general and became a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican–American War. As a result, he won election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died sixteen months into his term, before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress.
Taylor was born into a prominent family of plantation owners who moved westward from Virginia to Kentucky in his youth. He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Army in 1808 and made a name for himself as a captain in the War of 1812. He climbed the ranks establishing military forts along the Mississippi River and entered the Black Hawk War as a colonel in 1832. His success in the Second Seminole War attracted national attention and earned him the nickname "Old Rough and Ready". In 1845, during the annexation of Texas, President James K. Polk dispatched Taylor to the Rio Grande in anticipation of a battle with Mexico over the disputed Texas–Mexico border. The Mexican–American War broke out in April 1846, and Taylor defeated Mexican troops commanded by General Mariano Arista at the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma and drove his troops out of Texas. Taylor then led his troops into Mexico, where they defeated Mexican troops commanded by Pedro de Ampudia at the Battle of Monterrey. Defying orders, Taylor led his troops further south and, despite being severely outnumbered, dealt a crushing blow to Mexican forces under Antonio López de Santa Anna at the Battle of Buena Vista. Taylor's troops were transferred to the command of Major General Winfield Scott, but Taylor retained his popularity.
The Whig Party convinced the reluctant Taylor to lead their ticket in the 1848 presidential election, despite his unclear political tenets and lack of interest in politics. At the 1848 Whig National Convention, Taylor defeated Scott and former Senator Henry Clay to take the nomination. He won the general election alongside New York politician Millard Fillmore, defeating Democratic Party candidates Lewis Cass and William Orlando Butler, as well as a third-party effort led by former president Martin Van Buren and Charles Francis Adams, Sr. of the Free Soil Party. Taylor became the first president to be elected without having served in a prior political office.
As president, Taylor kept his distance from Congress and his cabinet, even though partisan tensions threatened to divide the Union. Debate over the status of slavery in the Mexican Cession dominated the political agenda and led to threats of secession from Southerners. Despite being a Southerner and a slaveholder himself, Taylor did not push for the expansion of slavery, and sought sectional harmony above all other concerns. To avoid the issue of slavery, he urged settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage and draft constitutions for statehood, setting the stage for the Compromise of 1850. Taylor died suddenly of a stomach disease on July 9, 1850, with his administration having accomplished little aside from the ratification of the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty. Fillmore served the remainder of his term. Historians and scholars have ranked Taylor in the bottom quartile of U.S. presidents, owing in part to his short term of office (16 months), and he has been described as "more a forgettable president than a failed one."