Having joined the army as an officer in 1808, Zachary Taylor fought in several armed conflicts against Native Americans, including the Black Hawk War (1832) and the Second Seminole War (1835–42). But it was his command of troops during the Mexican-American War (1846–48) that led to the success of “Old Rough and Ready” as the Whigparty’s presidential candidate.
During Taylor’s brief term in office, Congress grappled with the many political dimensions of slavery, including whether to introduce slavery into the new parts of the country, as well as its status in the District of Columbia. Taylor, who was a wealthy enslaver, nevertheless opposed the expansion of slavery into the new territories of California and New Mexico. He died less than two years into his presidency, having served from March 1849 to July 1850, while Congress was debating the Compromise of 1850.