The Death of Zachary Taylor
Fillmore's Succession Confirms the Tyler Precedent
On Independence Day 1850, President Zachary Taylor consumed a large amount of good at a celebration of the holiday, including milk, cherries, and a wide variety of other dishes presented to him by well-meaning citizens. Almost immediately the nation's chief executive would fall increasingly ill, and five days later he'd be dead - largely believed to have succumbed either to gastroenteritis or cholera.
In the late 1980's, conspiracy theorists surmised that Taylor was, in fact, murdered by poisoning. After some cajoling of Taylor's descendants, an exhumation of his body was authorized, and on June 17, 1991, the remains of our nation's 12th President were exhumed in a solemn ceremony.
Hair, fingernail and tissue samples were taken and analyzed, and ultimately as a result assassination by poisoning was subsequently ruled out. But the exact means of Taylor's death could not be ascertained.
One mystery, or at least a potential controversy, was laid to rest along with Taylor's body in 1850 however: upon his death, Vice President Millard Fillmore was almost immediately sworn into office as the nation's thirteenth President. The inauguration was conducted with none of the hue and cry that surrounded John Tyler's ascent to the presidency nine years earlier. Fillmore's inauguration would confirm the Tyler Precedent and, in effect, made it de facto law.