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Full text of "Chicago historical society's collection. v. 1-12"

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http://www.archive.org/details/chicagohistorica07chic 



THE DIARY OF JAMES K. POLK 

1845-1849 



VOL. II. 



.*.. -L. » 



.'f kiNr PRESIDENCY, 



ORIGINAL 
C.V i.IONS OF 

TORICAL SOCIETY 



ATED BY 

• From'thfportrau by Thomas ^,M,%lni?ri^m]rort}if Dialectic Society of the 

University uj North Larolina. 

Of this portrait, Mr. Kemp Ph.mmer Battle, the historianctlON BY 

iJ^T^"^'^^^^^^^^^^ Mclaughlin 

PolV when he visited us in lS47- 

THE DHPARTMi;: THE UNIV. 



4t10 



THE DIARY OF 
JAMES K. POLK 

DURING HIS PRESIDENCY, 1845 to 1849 



NOW FIRST PRINTED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT 
IN THE COLLECTIONS OF 

THE CHICAGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY 



EDITED AND ANNOTATED BY 

MILO MILTON QUAIFE 

ASSISTANT PROFESSOR IN THE LEWIS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY 



WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY 

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM McLAUGHLIN 

HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 

IN FOUR VOLUMES 

VOL. II. 




A. C. McCLURG & CO, 
CHICAGO 

I 9 I o 



Copyright 

By a. C. McClurg & Company 

A. D. 1910 



Entered at Stationers' Hall, London, England 



This work forms volumes VI-IX of The Chicago Historical 
Society's collection, a special issue of 500 copies being printed 
for the purposes of that Society. 



PRINTED • AND • BOUND • BT 
THE* PLIMPTON • PRESS 

[WD-o] 
NORWOOD • MASS • U 'S -A 



THE DIARY OF JAMES K. POLK 

1 845 -1 849 



DIARY OF 

JAMES K. POLK 

II 

Wednesday, ist July, 1846. — Had a crowd of 
visitors until 12 O'Clock to-day. The importunity 
for office it would seem will never cease. There 
were many visitors this morning upon the patriotic 
errand of seeking office for themselves. My mind 
was occupied about more important matters and I 
gave them no countenance. 

About I O'clock Mr. Buchanan called, and I had 
a full conversation with him on the subject of his 
transfer from the State Department to the Supreme 
Court Bench. I told him I had received his note 
of the 28th ult. expressing his preference for the 
Bench. I told him that I was satisfied to retain him 
in the Cabinet, and that I would leave it entirely to 
himself to decide whether he remained in the Cab- 
inet or took the Judgeship. He indicated at once 
his preference for the Bench. I then said to him 
that I would part with him with reluctance, but that 
I knew that he had long desired a seat on the Su- 
preme Bench, & that if he did not get it now no other 
opportunity might occur, and that I would not 



•2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i July 

Stand in the way of his wishes. He then expressed a 
wish to be nominated immediately. I told him I 
did not see how I could dispense with his services in 
the State Department until near the close of the pres- 
ent Session of Congress, and expressed a desire that 
he should remain until that time. To this he as- 
sented, but with seeming reluctance because of his 
extreme anxiety to go on the Bench. In answer to 
an enquiry from him as to his successor in the State 
Department, I told him my mind was directed to 
Lewis McLane, at present U. S. Minister at London. 
He approved of the selection. After much conver- 
sation, he remarked that he supposed the matter was 
now settled and understood between us that he would 
go on the Bench at the close of the present Session of 
Congress. I told him he might consider it so set- 
tled. In the course of the conversation I told him 
that there had been some differences of opinion, and 
some unpleasant occur[r]ences between us in rela- 
tion to offices, but they were at best small matters 
and I was content to overlook them and let them 
pass. 

The Secretary of War came in on business shortly 
after Mr. Buchanan retired, and I informed him of 
what had transpired between Mr. Buchanan and my- 
self. He remarked that he had expected that Mr. 
Buchanan would go on the Bench, from conversa- 
tions with Mr. Buchanan, and from what he had 
heard from other sources. I then asked his opinion 
about Mr. McLane as Mr. Buchanan's successor in 
the State Department. He thought he was to be pre- 
ferred to any man in the country. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3 

At 5 O'clock P. M. Between 40 & 50 chiefs and 
braves of the Comanche and other bands and tribes 
of wild Indians from the prairies in the North of 
Texas, were presented to me by M. G. Lewis, Esq'r, 
who had been sent ^ with Gov. Butler last fall to 
visit these tribes. I received them in the Ladies 
Parlour above stairs, in the presence of a few ladies 
and other persons. I held a friendly talk with them 
through an interpreter, assuring them that they 
might rely upon the friendship and protection of the 
U. S. as long as they would remain peaceable and 
friendly. Their orator made a speech in which he 
said they had made [a] Treaty of peace and friend- 
ship and they would keep it. The interview was a 
very interesting one. Santa Anna, their principal 
chief, is a fine looking man of good size and middle 
age, and is evidently a man of talents. A delegation 
of the Miamis of Indiana were also present. They 
had visited Washington on the business of their tribe. 
I held a talk with them also through their interpreter. 
Among the Comanches and other wild Indians of the 
pra[i]ries were several women or squaws, and 
among others the wife of Santa Anna, the Comanche 
chief, was present. After the reception and talk 
were over Miss Pleasanton performed for them on 
the Piano. They were afterwards conducted to the 
East Room and through all the parlours below stairs. 
The large mirrors in the parlours attracted their at- 
tention more than anything else. When they saw 
themselves at full length, they seemed to be greatly 
delighted. They came to Washington nearly in a 

^ See Diary entry for September 11, 1845. 



4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 July 

naked state, with little more than a breech clout on 
them. They were dressed in American costume to 
visit me and, as I learned, it was with difficulty some 
of them could be restrained from tearing their clothes 
off themselves, & especially the squaws. I was in- 
formed that the Chief, Santa Anna, had said that he 
thought before he came to the U. S. that his nation 
could whip any nation in the world, but that since 
he came here he found the white men more numerous 
than the stars, and that he could not count them. 
Their visit to the U. S. will no doubt have a fine ef- 
fect in impressing them with our numbers and 
power, and may be the means of preserving peace 
with them. After going through the parlours below 
stairs, they passed into the grounds South of the 
President's House, where the Marine band were 
playing (this being the evening for music on the 
grounds) in the presence of many hundred ladies & 
gentlemen. The Indians attracted much more at- 
tention than the music. Many of the Indians, as I 
learned, who had on shoes to visit me took them off 
and walked barefooted as soon as they got into the 
grounds. 

Thursday, 2nd July, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Closed my doors 
at that hour and gave my attention to the busi- 
ness on my table. About i O'Clock P. M. Mr. 
Buchanan called, and said it was rumoured all 
over the City that he was to go on the Bench 
of the Supreme Court of the U. S., & again 
expressed his desire to be nominated at once, say- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 5 

ing if he was not that there would probably be 
opposition in the Senate to his confirmation. I 
told him there could not, I thought, be any such 
danger, and reiterated to him the reasons I had as- 
signed on yesterday why I thought it important that 
he should remain in the Cabinet until near the close 
of the present session of Congress. He said if he 
was not now nominated he feared England or 
France might offer a mediation, or otherwise inter- 
fere in the Mexican war, and put it out of his power 
to go on the Bench with propriety, and that he might 
lose his chance to go there altogether. I told him I 
thought there was no such danger. He acquiesced 
in my views, but with great reluctance, and retired 
manifestly disappointed that I had not yielded to his 
desire to be nominated at once. 

Col. Benton called this morning, and held a long 
conversation with me in relation to the manner of 
conducting the Mexican war. I had promised him 
a few days ago to furnish him with a copy of a Proc- 
lamation in the English & Spanish language ad- 
dressed to the Mexican people by Gen'l Taylor, but 
had failed to do so. I had the printed copy in both 
languages on my table, and gave it to Col. Benton. 
Col. B. said he would submit to me soon his views in 
writing as to the manner of conducting the Mexican 
war, as I had requested him to do at our last inter- 
view. Col. B. informed me that some complaints 
had been made in Executive Session in the Senate, 
that I had so long delayed to nominate a Judge of 
the Supreme Court of the U. S. in Judge Baldwin's 
place. I explained to him the reasons of the delay, 



6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 July 

which seemed to be satisfactory. He spoke of a con- 
versation he had held with Mr. Buchanan, from 
which I drew the inference that he may have called 
at Mr. Buchanan's instance, to prevail upon me to 
make the nomination at once. I informed Col. B. 
confidentially that I expected to nominate Mr. Bu- 
chanan, but that I could not spare him from the 
Cabinet until towards the close of the Session. He 
seemed to be satisfied. 

Senators Crittenden & Morehead of Ky. called and 
requested me to appoint Col. Clarkson of Ky., who 
is a Whig, a Paymaster in the army. I happened to 
have a vacancy to fill in the temporary service with 
the Volunteers, & I told them I would at once ap- 
point Clarkson. They seemed to be much gratified 
and pleased. I was gratified myself that I had it in 
my power promptly to meet the wishes of these gen- 
tlemen, and thus to prove to them that I was not 
proscriptive in my appointments. 

Mr. Buchanan informed me to-day that he had 
been called on by Mrs. Maury,^ an English lady re- 
siding at Liverpool, who informed him that she had 
held a conversation with Mr. Calhoun and that she 
was very anxious that Mr. C. should succeed Mr. 
McLane as Minister at London, that she had held a 
conversation with Mr. C. and thought he would ac- 
cept the mission if I would tender it to him. 

^ Sarah Mytton Hughes Maury, wife of William Maury, son of 
James Maury, U. S. consul at Liverpool 1 789-1 837. She trav- 
elled in the United States in 1846 and afterward published The 
Englishwoman in America and The Statesmen of America. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 7 

Friday, Jrd July, 1846. — Had the usual round of 
company until 12 O'Clock this morning. Fewer 
office seekers applied for places than usual, though 
several of them appeared and made known their 
wishes. Mr. Buchanan called and advised me, if I 
had made up my mind to appoint Mr. McLane as 
his successor in the Department of State, not to inti- 
mate such intention until near the close of the Ses- 
sion, when he would be nominated for the Judge- 
ship according to our understanding. He advised 
me not to give an intimation of my intention to ap- 
point Mr. McLane, because in the present condition 
of the party it might have an important influence on 
the tariff question and some other leading measures 
of my administration now pending before Congress. 
I told him that his advice accorded entirely with my 
own judgment; and I added that I thought the pub- 
lic should know nothing of my intention to appoint 
him to the Judgeship, or who his successor would be, 
until I was ready to act by sending the nominations 
to the Senate. The understanding between us was 
that nothing was to be said about my intentions in re- 
lation to either appointment, until near the close of 
the Session when I was ready to act. 

Mr. Buchanan informed me that Mrs. Maury, an 
English lady residing at Liverpool, had again called 
on him, and urged the appointment of Mr. Calhoun 
as Mr. McLane's successor as minister to England. 
He said he had informed her that he knew nothing 
on the subject, but at her request informed her that 
she must call on me. He said she would call to-day, 



8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 July 

if I would see her. This Mrs. Maury is an English 
woman of talent and education, and one who has seen 
much of the world. She is the daughter of the 
former U. S. consul at Liverpool of her name. I 
told Mr. Buchanan that I thought she was inter- 
meddling in matters which did not concern her, but 
that I could not refuse to see her if she called. About 
I O'clock P. M. she called. I received her civilly 
and as a lady of her character and intelligence en- 
titled her to be received. She had not been in my 
office many minutes until she introduced the subject 
of Mr. Calhoun's appointment as Minister to Eng- 
land; she expressed her desire that I would appoint 
him. I heard her patiently, and reflected in my own 
mind whilst she was speaking, what could induce her 
to take an interest in such a matter. She said she had 
seen and conversed with Mr. Calhoun, and had 
urged him to accept the English mission. She said 
Mr. Calhoun told her that if any great public in- 
terest pending between the two countries required it, 
his sense of public duty would induce him to accept 
the mission, if I called on him to do so. She went 
on to speak of the high character Mr. Calhoun sus- 
tained abroad & of the great consideration he would 
receive in England. She said that Mr. Calhoun, in 
her interviews with him, had finally agreed that she 
might upon her own responsibility communicate to 
me that he would accept the English mission, if I 
thought the public interest required his services and 
should invite him to do so. It struck me as being 
very strange that Mr. Calhoun's willingness to ac- 
cept the Mission should be communicated to me 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 9 

through such a channel. I was very guarded in my 
reply to Mrs. Maury. I said to her that when the 
English mission became vacant and it became my 
duty to select a successor to Mr. McLane I would 
bear in mind what she had said to me. I told her 
Mr. McLane was yet in England, and that if the state 
of our relations with that country should be such as 
to require it he would remain as long as it was impor- 
tant for him to do so. I told her that Mr. McLane 
desired to return during the next autumn, and that if 
he did so I must of course select a successor. I told 
her that my personal relations with Mr. Calhoun 
had at all times since I knew him been of a friendly 
character, and that I admired his talents, but I was 
very careful to deal in general terms in speaking of 
him and to say nothing from which Mrs. Maury 
could infer whether I would appoint him to the 
mission to England or not. At length she asked me 
what she should say to Mr. Calhoun. This inter- 
rogatory I evaded by a general observation that of 
course until Mr. McLane returned I could not be 
casting about me for his successor. She then said she 
would repeat to Mr. Calhoun what I had said, that 
I would bear in mind her request when the mission 
became vacant. It was rather an embarrassing in- 
terview. Here was an English woman of undoubted 
talents and great intelligence intermeddling in a mat- 
ter with which she had no concern, and yet I felt con- 
strained to give some answer to what she said, and 
that answer I had every reason to believe would be 
communicated to Mr. Calhoun. My only course 
therefore was to answer her in general terms, and to 



10 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 July 

say nothing which if published could in any way em- 
barrass me. I was careful, too, to say nothing which 
could either encourage or discourage Mr. Calhoun, 
if he had a desire to go to England, or that could give 
him any ground to take exceptions to what I said. I 
was glad when Mrs. Maury retired. I knew she 
would report to Mr. Calhoun all that transpired. 

About i>4 O'clock P.M. Senator Dickinson of 
N. Y. called, and whilst I was in conversation with 
him the Secretary of War came in. I expressed to 
Mr. Dickinson my great desire that the Bill to mod- 
ify the tariff, upon which the vote was to be taken in 
the Ho. of Repts. to-day, should pass, and expressed 
to him the opinion that its fate would probably de- 
pend on the course of the Democratic portion of the 
N. Y. delegation. The Secretary of War joined in 
the expression of the desire that the Bill should pass, 
and said he had so expressed himself to several of the 
N. Y. democratic members within the last two days, 
and he hoped they would vote for it. Mr. Dickin- 
son said he would go to the Capitol and use what in- 
fluence he could to induce them to do so, and left 
for that purpose. 

Senator Chalmers of Mississippi called about 2^ 
O'clock P. M. on business, and left after a few min- 
utes conversation to go to the Capitol to see Col. 
Tibbatts of Ky., whose vote was considered doubtful 
on the tariff bill, saying that he thought he could 
induce him to vote for it. About 4 O'Clock P. M. 
Mr. Chalmers returned, and in less than a minute 
after he entered my office Senator Dickinson of N. Y. 
came in. They reported to me that they were di- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY n 

rectly from the Capitol, and that the Bill to modify 
and reduce the tariff had just passed the House by a 
majority of nineteen votes. I was much gratified 
to hear the result, as this was one of the leading and 
vital measures of my administration. It was in truth 
vastly the most important domestic measure of my 
administration, and the vote of the popular branch 
of Congress, which had fully endorsed my opinions 
and recommendations on the subject of the tariff, 
could not be otherwise than highly gratifying. 

This was reception evening. There was a light 
fall of rain during almost the whole day, & it con- 
tinued at night. Some fifty or sixty persons, ladies 
and gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 4th July, 1846.— Th\% being the sev- 
entieth anniversary of American Independence 
neither House of Congress sat to-day. The firing of 
Cannon at daylight announced that the anniversary 
was at hand. According to custom the President's 
Mansion was open for the reception of company at 
12 O'clock to-day. A large number of persons 
called, though the crowd was not so great as on many 
former occasions. The day was damp and unfa- 
vourable, it having rained the greater part of the 
morning. The company retired about 2>4 O'Clock 
P. M. 

Whilst I was at dinner, about 4 O'Clock P. M., 
and without any previous notice of their intention to 
call, the porter announced to me that a large number 
of sabbath school children in procession, conducted 
by their instructors, awaited at the door. I directed 



12 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 July 

that they [be] shown in and immediately repaired to 
the Circular parlour and received them. An ad- 
dress was made to me by one of their instructors, to 
which I responded in a brief address. There were 
near 200 children of both sexes under 12 years of 
age. They sang a hymn and retired in good order. 

About 5 O'clock P. M. another procession of Sab- 
bath School children called. This school numbered 
about 250, male and female. They were conducted 
by their instructors. I received them in the circular 
parlour, but the number of persons in attendance was 
so large that I caused them to be conducted to the 
East Room, where I delivered to them a brief ad- 
dress, to which one of their instructors responded. 
Both these Sabbath Schools were under the care of 
two Methodist churches in this City; the one was at- 
tached to the Foundry church, and the other to a 
church in the northern limits [?] of the City. Both 
schools presented most interesting exhibitions. In 
both schools the youth of both sexes are brought up 
under lessons of moral instructions, which is well 
calculated to make them good citizens. I spent the 
balance of the evening in disposing of the business on 
my table. 

Sunday, 5M July, 1846. — Attended Divine wor- 
ship to-day in the Hall of the House of Represent- 
atives, accompanied by Mrs. Polk and her niece, 
Miss Rucker. The Rev'd Mr. Baker, whom I had 
heard several times in Tennessee, preached. His 
text was the 6th verse of the 28th chapter of the 
Gospel by Matthew. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 13 

Monday, 6th July, 1846. — Saw company until 
12 O'clock to-day; and was much vexed and 
harassed by persons who called about unimportant 
matters, and others who were seeking office. 
There seems to be no end to the applications for 
office. 

I devoted the day to the business on my table. 

At 8>4 O'clock P. M. Mr. Senator Johnson of 
Maryland called. My Private Secretary had at my 
instance requested him to do so. I informed Mr. 
Johnson that a Resolution had been passed by the 
Senate on the 29th ult. and I had understood that he 
was the mover of it, calling on the Secretary of War 
to report to the Senate " whether any individual has 
been authorized by the Department to the Executive 
of any State, to be authorized to raise volunteers to 
serve in the war with Mexico, or whether the Gov- 
ernor of any State has been authorized by the De- 
partment to receive into service volunteers raised by 
any individual named by the Department; and if 
so that he Report the facts to the Senate, together 
with copies of any instructions or correspondence re- 
lating to the same, and state under what power such 
authority has been given, or such recommendation 
has been made." I stated to Mr. Johnson that the 
Secretary of War had [made] copies of all corre- 
spondence in the Department on the subject and had 
submitted them to me. I read them to Mr. John- 
son, and, as they showed on their face, they disclosed 
the plans of the Government of a projected cam- 
paign by land and sea into Upper California, and 
I submitted to Mr. Johnson that if made public it 



14 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 July 

would probably defeat our objects & be most preju- 
dicial to the public interests. This publication 
would excite the jealousy of England and France, 
who might interfere to prevent the accomplishment 
of our objects. Mr. Johnson at once said that their 
publication would be improper and highly injurious 
to the public interests. I remarked to him that the 
Secretary of War thought that he had no discretion 
in the matter, and felt it to be his duty to respond 
to the call of the Senate, but was at the same time 
of opinion that it would be highly improper to give 
publicity to these papers at this time, and therefore 
he had brought them and submitted them to me. I 
told him that concurring with the Secretary in opin- 
ion I had requested this interview with him (Mr. 
Johnson) understanding that he was the author of 
the Resolution. Mr. Johnson said he regretted that 
he .had not known more on the subject before he 
moved the Resolution, but that seeing the impro- 
priety of answering the call, as he now did, he would 
advise that it should not be answered, and went on 
to say that if anything was said about it in the Sen- 
ate he would take pleasure in stating that he had seen 
the papers and deemed it improper that the call 
should be answered. I then told him that I would 
direct the Secretary of War to withhold his answer, 
at least for the present. There is nothing in the 
correspondence which could injure the administra- 
tion or show any violation of law. The objections 
to the publication were that it would be proclaiming 
to Mexico and the world our plans of conducting the 
war, and particularly in regard to California. I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 15 

will place the Report of the Secretary and the cor- 
respondence on my files for future reference should 
it become necessary. 

Tuesday, //A July, 1846. — The Cabinet held a 
regular meeting to-day; all the members present ex- 
cept the Attorney General, who was detained at his 
residence by continued indisposition. Various ques- 
tions connected with the manner of conducting the 
war with Mexico were considered. Among other 
questions which arose, was one in relation to the 
municipal & commercial regulations to be estab- 
lished in any Mexican port or town which should 
be taken by our Navy. After this question was con- 
sidered, or rather during its consideration, Mr. Bu- 
chanan expressed the opinion that our naval forces 
should be instructed to take and hold Monterey on 
the Pacific, and the Bay of San Francisco. Farther 
South than these ports he insisted we should not take 
or hold, because as he said we intended to hold Cali- 
fornia permanently & he was opposed to taking or 
holding permanently the country South of these 
places. This was the substance of the reason as- 
signed by him for not being in favour of taking and 
holding the country South of Monterey on the Pa- 
cific. He was opposed, too, to giving to the inhab- 
itants of Tamaulipas or of any of the Provinces South 
of New Mexico any encouragement to annex them- 
selves to the U. S. or that we would receive [them]. 
It was clear from the general tenor of his remarks 
on this, as well as on former occasions, that he was 
unwilling by Treaty with Mexico, or in any other 



i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 July 

manner to acquire any part of the Mexican Terri- 
tory South of New Mexico & Upper California. 
Mr. Walker discussed the matter with him, differ- 
ing from him in opinion and insisting upon having 
a more Southernly line of boundary, if it could be 
obtained. Finally I remarked that if when we came 
to make a Treaty I found that I could obtain a 
boundary from the Mouth of the Rio Grande West 
to the Pacific by paying a few millions more for it 
than for the boundary mentioned by Mr. Buchanan, 
I should certainly make such a Treaty, but that if 
I could do no better I would take the boundary men- 
tioned by him. It was very manifest that Mr. Bu- 
chanan desired to avoid acquiring any Southern 
territory below the boundary indicated by him. I 
differed with him in my views, and was sorry to find 
him entertaining opinions so contracted & sectional. 
This being reception evening, near loo ladies and 
gentlemen called and were received in the parlour. 

Wednesday, 8th July, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Nothing of special 
interest occur[r]ed. I had a long interview with the 
Secretary of War. I submitted to him the draft of 
instructions to Gen'l Taylor in relation to the man- 
ner of conducting the Mexican war. A part of this 
draft was prepared by Col. Benton at my request, 
and the latter part of it, and that which I regard 
as most important, was prepared by me. It was in 
the form of a letter to be addressed by the Secre- 
tary of War to Gen'l Taylor. The Secretary of 
War approved it, & [I] told him I would have it 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 17 

copied in a fair handwriting for him. I will pre- 
serve the original draft for future reference, should 
it become proper. I do this because it is a document 
of more than ordinary importance. 

My old college friend, Hardy L. Holmes of N. C, 
took a family dinner with me to-day. I had not 
seen him since he left the University of N. C. in 
1817. The Hon. George C. Dromgoole of Va., an- 
other college friend, Hon. Cave Johnson, P. M. 
Gen'l, and David Currin, Esqr., of Tennessee also 
dined with me. 

The Marine band played on the grounds south of 
the President's House this evening. Several hun- 
dred persons, male and female, were present. Near 
sunset I took Mr. Holmes and Mr. Dromgoole in 
my carriage & visited Judge Mason, the Attorney 
General, who is confined to his house by an attack 
of gout in the feet; and who was at College with 
Mr. Holmes, Mr. Dromgoole, and myself. 

Thursday, gth July, 1846. — I closed my doors 
to-day about 1 1 O'Clock, being an hour earlier than 
usual, to enable me to prepare a message in answer 
to a call of the Senate for information in relation 
to the mineral lands on Lake Superior, and an Ex- 
ecutive message making nominations, &c. I spent 
some time to-day on official business with the Secre- 
tary of War, in relation to the Mexican War. The 
Secretary of State and of the Treasury were also 
with me on public business. 

At about 3 O'clock the Rev. Mr. Donelan of the 
Catholic church called at the head of about 500 chil- 



i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo July 

dren of St. Matthew's and St. Patrick's Sunday 
Schools. I received them in the East room. Many 
of the children I was informed were orphans, poor 
and destitute, who were under the care of the Cath- 
olic church. One of the boys delivered a patriotic 
speech of his own composition, another presented me 
with a bouquet of flowers. I made a short address 
to them. 

During my walk around the grounds of the Presi- 
dent's square I was joined by the Hon. C. J. Inger- 
soU of Pennsylvania. I had some three or four 
months ago intimated, indeed said to Mr. IngersoU, 
that it was my intention near the close of the present 
Session of Congress to nominate him to the Senate 
as Minister to Russia. Mr. IngersoU this evening 
requested me to appoint him Minister to France in- 
stead of Russia. This I declined to do, for reasons 
which I assigned to him. My pledge to appoint 
Mr. IngersoU to Russia was made to him some time 
before his late controversy with Mr. Webster, a con- 
troversy which in the estimation of some has resulted 
to the prejudice of Mr. IngersoU. It has, I learn, 
arrayed against him bitter opponents in and out of 
the Senate, and it is possible he may be rejected by 
the Senate. I am bound however by my pledge to 
him to nominate him. 

Friday, loth July, 1846. — Saw company until 12 
O'clock to-day. After that hour I was closely con- 
fined to my table, and despatched a mass of business 
which had been accumulating on my hands. After 
transacting business with the Secretary of War, I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 19 

consulted him as to the Mission to England, shortly 
to be vacated by the return of Mr. McLane. I 
told him that I inclined to tender the mission to 
Senator Dix of N. York, and asked his opinion on 
the subject. He concurred with me in opinion that 
Mr. Dix was well qualified, and advised his appoint- 
ment. I had previously consulted Mr. Buchanan 
on the subject. 

I requested my Private Secretary to invite Mr. 
Dix to call on [me]. Mr. Dix called about 6 
O'clock P. M., when I tendered the mission to Eng- 
land to him. It evidently took him by surprise. 
He expressed his gratitude for the honour done him 
by the ofifer of the mission. He said he would give 
me an answer in the course of a week or ten days. 

This was reception evening. More than 100 per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. Among others my 
neighbour and friend, Maj'r Boling Gordon of Ten- 
nessee, and his family were present. 

Saturday, nth July, 1846. — This was the regu- 
lar day for the meeting of the Cabinet. No meeting 
however took place. The Secretaries of State, 
Treasury, War, and Navy, severally called at dif- 
ferent times during the morning, but as I had noth- 
ing important to bring before the Cabinet each re- 
tired. The P. M. Gen'l and Atto. Gen'l did not 
attend. The graduation land Bill was pending be- 
fore the House to-day, and the Ware House bill 
before the Senate, the fate of both of which bills 
was considered doubtful. The members of the Cab- 
inet who called, after remaining a few minutes with 



20 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n July 

me left with the intention of conversing with mem- 
bers of Congress in relation to these two Bills, and 
effecting if possible such a compromise of opinion 
among the Democratic members as would effect their 
passage. Great doubt at this moment exists of the 
passage of these tsvo Bills, and also of the tariff Bill, 
or rather the Bill to reduce the tariff. Upon the 
latter Bill Senator Semple of Illinois, I learn, ex- 
presses opinions which render it doubtful how he 
will vote. Mr. Semple, I learn, has been for some 
time dissatisfied with the administration, I know of 
no cause, unless it be that I did not appoint him a 
Brigadier or Maj'r Gen'l of Volunteers, which he 
sought to obtain from me. I learned, too, to-day 
that Senator Dickinson of N. Y. is in a bad humour 
with the administration, and that his complaint is 
that his friends in N. Y. have in his opinion been 
overlooked in appointments to office. Several other 
members have similar griefs. They have either been 
disappointed themselves or have not obtained offices 
for their favourites and friends, and at this moment 
the great Domestic measures of the Session are en- 
dangered from these causes. I sincerely wish that 
I had no offices to bestow. I cannot gratify all who 
apply, and it is certain from my experience that the 
dispensation of the public patronage is a weaken- 
[ing] operation. There is more selfishness among 
members of Congress which is made to bear upon 
great public measures, than the people have any 
knowledge of. The danger now is that the great 
measures of the Session will be defeated from this 
cause more than any other. If their constituents un- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 21 

derstood the true cause of the course of some of their 
Representatives & Senators, they would not fail to 
rebuke them for it. 

Sunday, 12th July, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. 

I sent for Mr. Buchanan this evening. He called 
about 8 O'clock P.M. I told him that having made 
up my mind to appoint Mr. McLane, now at Lon- 
don, his successor in the Department of State, in the 
event he elected, as he had informed me he would, 
to go on the bench of the Supreme Court of the U. 
States, I had sent for him for the purpose of saying 
that if on reflection he had changed his mind the 
matter was still in his own hands. I told him I 
would be satisfied to retain him in my cabinet, but 
that if he desired, as he did when I last conversed 
with me [him], to go on the bench, that I desired to 
know the fact at this time, that I might take proper 
steps for the selection of his successor in the Depart- 
ment of State. I informed him that if he left the 
Department of State I had made up my mind to ap- 
point Mr. Louis McLane, now U. S. Minister to 
England, in his place, and that I desired to know 
his definitive decision now, that I might write to Mr. 
McLane by the Steamer which would leave Boston 
on the i6th Instant. Mr. Buchanan expressed a 
strong desire to be nominated to the Senate for the 
appointment of Judge of the Supreme Court of the 
U. States immediately. To this I objected, and as- 
signed as my reasons that if he was nominated at 



22 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 July 

this time (a month probably before the adjournment 
of Congress) it would in my opinion put in jeopardy 
the reduction of the tariff and all the leading meas- 
ures of my administration now pending before Con- 
gress. I told him he saw the want of harmony and 
[the] factious spirit which prevailed among the 
Democratic members of Congress. I told him that 
the moment it became known that his place as Sec- 
retary of State was vacant, that all the factions and 
sections of the Democratic party in Congress would 
immediately set to work to press upon me their re- 
spective favourites as his successor; that they would 
probably be getting up petitions signed by members 
of Congress for this purpose. I told him that I 
knew that it was impossible to select any man who 
breathed who would be satisfactory to all the fac- 
tions of the Democratic party, and that if by any 
means, by public rumour or otherwise, it became 
known whom I was likely to appoint, I would be 
annoyed by protests against him be him [he] whom 
he might, and that my position would be one of per- 
fect torment & vexation until the close of the Session. 
I told him further that at the present critical mo- 
ment, when all my leading domestic measures were 
pending before Congress, it was not difficult to fore- 
see that to change the head of the Cabinet would 
probably have the effect to defeat them all. Mr. 
Buchanan said if I believed that such would be the 
effect I ought not to make the change at this time. 
He expressed some apprehension that violent opposi- 
tion would be made to the confirmation of his nomi- 
nation for the Judgeship, if it was postponed until 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 23 

the end of the Session. I told him I apprehended 
no such danger. 1 added also that I needed his 
services in the Department of State during the Ses- 
sion of Congress, and repeated my unwillingness to 
nominate him to the Bench until towards the close of 
the Session of Congress. He then said that [if] I 
was determined not to nominate him to the Bench 
until the close of the Session, he saw no necessity of 
writing to Mr. McLane at this time, as it was pos- 
sible that something might occur between this and 
that time to change his mind on the subject, and 
induce him to retire from public life altogether. I 
told him I did not desire him to retire from the De- 
partment of State unless it was to gratify his own 
wishes to go on the Bench of the Supreme Court. 
He then remarked that he was friendly with Mr. Mc- 
Lane and entertained a high opinion of his talents, 
but that in his opinion his appointment would be an 
unpopular one. I told him that if I selected him 
I was sure of one thing, and that was that I would 
have in my Cabinet a gentleman of high character 
and unblemished honour, a man of talents, and a 
man that the whole country would pronounce to be 
qualified and fit for the place. This he admitted, 
but still thought that he would be unpopular, and 
added that he lived, too, in a Southern State, which 
would give the preponderance in the Cabinet to that 
section of the Union. I asked him if he knew any- 
one else who was qualified that I could select, and 
he said he did not. I then told Mr. Buchanan that I 
would write to Mr. McLane that it was probable he 
would retire from the Cabinet at the close of the Ses- 



24 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 July 

sion, and that in that event I would desire him to suc- 
ceed him in the Department of State. To this he 
thought there would be no objection. It was mani- 
fest from the whole tenor of the conversation that 
Mr. Buchanan's anxiety to be nominated to the bench 
immediately arose from his apprehension that it be- 
ing now publicly rumoured that he would go on the 
bench, an opposition might be arrayed against him 
before the end of the Session, that might reject him. 
I think, although he did not say so, that he feared the 
publication of his Oregon correspondence with Mr. 
McLane, which had been called for by a Resolution 
of the Senate, would array against him the 54° 40' 
men, and that the discussion of the tariff might array 
against him a portion of the free-trade men. I did 
not inform Mr. Buchanan of the letter which I had 
written to Mr. McLane on the 22nd ultimo, because 
I did not deem it to be necessary to do so. (For that 
letter see my letter Book.) 

Monday, 13th July, 1846. — Saw company as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Wrote a letter to 
Mr. McLane to-day, of the purport which I in- 
formed Mr. Buchanan on yesterday I would write. 
(See my letter Book.) 

I sent for Senator Semple of Illinois by my Pri- 
vate Secretary. He called between i & 2 O'Clock 
P. M. I had a friendly conversation and explained 
to him why I had not appointed him a Brigadier 
General of Volunteers. The Illinois Delegation in 
Congress had recommended him for the command 
of the Illinois Brigade. Many members of Con- 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 25 

gress had applied for commands and I appointed 
none of them. After a full conversation Mr. Sem- 
ple appeared to be in a pleasant humour and to be 
satisfied. I sent for him to make a frank explana- 
tion to him, to the effect that my failure to appoint 
him was not because of any unkind feeling towards 
himself personally, but for other reasons. Since his 
disappointment I had learned that he had given in- 
dications by his votes and declarations that he was 
dissatisfied with the administration, & great fears 
were entertained that in consequence of his personal 
disappointment he would vote with the Whigs 
against the reduction of the tariff, and some other im- 
portant measures now pending before Congress. I 
felt it to be my duty to conciliate him, if I could do 
so honorably, by a frank statement of the truth, and 
thus possibly prevent him from uniting with the 
Whigs and defeating the great democratic measures 
of the Session. 

Senator Jarnegan of Tennessee called this morning 
on business, and after it was transacted I introduced 
the subject of the tariff Bill which had passed the 
House and was now before the Senate. He at once 
informed me that he would vote for the Bill. He 
said he had informed many of his friends at home 
that he considered the tariff question settled by my 
election, and that moreover he was instructed to give 
the vote by the Tennessee Legislature. 

Tuesday, 14th July, 1846. — This was the regu- 
lar day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury failed to attend. The Atto. 



26 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 July 

Gen'l was also absent in consequence of indisposi- 
tion. The other members of the Cabinet remained 
about an hour, during which time some matters of 
minor importance were attended to. I devoted the 
balance of the day to the business on my table. 

This was reception evening. The circular par- 
lour was filled with visitors, ladies & gentlemen. 

Wednesday, iSth July, 1846. — The usual num- 
ber of visitors called to-day. At 12 O'Clock I 
closed my doors, and devoted the balance of the day 
to the business on my table. At 2 O'Clock P. M. 
Senator Heywood of N. C. called. After convers- 
ing with him about an appointment in N. C. the sub- 
ject of the tarifif Bill now before the Senate was 
[mentioned]. I found him indisposed to support it 
without amendment. I told him that I thought it 
was a choice between the Bill of the House now be- 
fore the Senate & the tariff of 1842, and that my 
opinion was that if the House bill was amended the 
result would be that it would be defeated. I had a 
long conversation with him on the subject & he left, 
leaving me in doubt how he will vote. 

At 5 O'clock P. M. my Private Secretary returned 
from the Capitol, and reported to me that Senator 
Semple of Illinois had been absent from the Senate 
chamber to-day, and that it was understood that he 
was packing his trunk to leave for Illinois this even- 
ing or to-morrow morning. I immediately sent Col. 
Walker to see Judge Douglass and Mr. Smith ^ of 

^Robert Smith, 1802-1867, Representative from Illinois 1843- 
1849. 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 27 

the Illinois delegation and get them if possible to 
detain Mr. Semple to vote on the tariff bill. My in- 
formation is that the fate of that Bill in the Senate 
will depend on a single Democratic vote, and that 
if Mr. Semple is absent it will probably be lost. 
After Col. Walker left, the P. M. Gen'l called and 
I requested him to go and see Mr. Semple, if he had 
not left the City, and prevail on him if possible to 
remain. About sunset I learned that Mr. Semple 
had been at the Rail Road depot at the hour of de- 
parture of the cars this evening, with his baggage 
on his way to Illinois, but had been prevailed upon 
by Mr. Ficklin ^ of 111. to remain until to-morrow 
morning. About the same time the P. M. Gen'l re- 
turned and reported that he had seen Mr. Semple, 
and requested him to call on me tonight. About 8 
O'clock P. M. Mr. Semple called. He showed me 
a letter which he said he had received from 111. stat- 
ing that judgements had been recovered against him 
in the Courts of that state for between five and six 
thousand dollars, and that his property would be 
levied on to satisfy them. I made an earnest appeal 
to his patriotism and for the sake of the country to 
remain & vote on the tariff bill. After a conversa- 
tion of near an hour he agreed to remain and to vote 
for the Bill. I can but remark that Mr. Semple has 
been disappointed in not getting an office in the 
army, and has been dissatisfied for some time past. 
(See the notice of him taken in this diary.) The 
most tremendous efforts I understand are being made 
by the Capitalists who are engaged in manufactures 

^Orlando B. Ficklin, Representative from Illinois 1843-1849. 



28 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 July 

to defeat the Bill of the House now before the Sen- 
ate to reduce and modify the duties imposed by the 
tariff act of 1842. Scores of them I understand are 
flocking to Washington for that purpose. The ab- 
sence of a single democratic Senator will probably 
enable them to effect their object. I considered the 
passage of the bill before the Senate the most impor- 
tant domestic measure of my administration, and 
therefore I take so great an interest in it. 

Thursday, 16th July, 1846. — Had the usual 
number of visitors this morning; was greatly annoyed 
by importunities for office and by beggars for money. 
I am applied to almost daily & sometimes half a 
dozen times a day for money, by persons who do not 
ask it for charitable purposes, but by well dressed 
persons, men and women. They call on me to con- 
tribute to build Academies, to aid colleges, and for 
churches in every part of the Union. Except in the 
District of Columbia I am compelled to decline con- 
tributing except for charitable purposes; otherwise I 
should be utterly bankrupt. The idea seems to pre- 
vail with many persons that the President is from his 
position compelled to contribute to every loafer who 
applies, provided he represents that the sum he wants 
is to build a church, an academy, or a college. The 
persons who apply to me in the great majority of cases 
are wholly unknown to me, and though their applica- 
tions are very annoying to me, I am compelled to 
decline a compliance with their wishes. They may 
censure and slander me, but better this than to be 
rendered bankrupt without contributing to the pub- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 29 

lie good, or receiving any thanks from the scamps 
who in a majority of cases apply to me for money. 

After night saw Senator Lewis and had a long 
conversation with him on the subject of the tariff 
and the prospect of the passage of the bill now be- 
fore the Senate. 

Friday, lyth July, 1846. — Saw a few persons 
who visited me this morning up to 103^ O'Clock A. 
M. At that hour about forty Comanche and other 
wild tribes from the prairies on the border of Texas 
called and had a talk with me. They had become 
dissatisfied with their detention in Washington and 
desired to return home. I gave them a kind talk and 
they retired satisfied, as their interpreters reported to 
me. M. G. Lewis, their former agent, was dismissed 
from the service of the Government on yesterday. 
Senator McDuffie of S. C. was present and remained 
until the Indians retired, when I had a full conver- 
sation with him on the subject of the tarifTf bill now 
before the Senate. 

I devoted the day to the disposal of the business 
on my table until about 3 O'Clock P. M., when 
Senator Bagby called and informed me that notwith- 
standing all the eflforts of his friends he found Sena- 
tor Haywood would separate from his party on the 
subject of the tariff bill now before the Senate, and 
propose and vote for amendments which would de- 
feat it. Senator Bagby informed me that every ef- 
fort had been made by himself and a few others to 
prevent Mr. Haywood from taking this course, but 
he feared without effect. 



30 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 July 

This was reception evening. The parlour was 
crowded with ladies & gentlemen. Among others 
the Atto. Gen'l, Mr. Mason, was present. He in- 
formed me that he had just called on Mr. Haywood, 
and that he feared that his course on the tariff bill 
could not be changed. In his conversation with Mr. 
Mason he had avowed his intention to move amend- 
ments to the Bill now before the Senate, & if they 
did not prevail Mr. Mason feared he would vote 
against the Bill. 

Saturday, i8th July, 1846. — Saw Senator Niles 
of Connecticut this morning & had a long conversa- 
tion with him on the subject of the Bill to reduce the 
existing tariff now before the Senate & urged him 
to give it his support, but I fear without effect. 

At 1 1 O'clock A. M. Lieut. Col. Payne ^ of the U. 
S. Army called in company with Gen'l Scott and 
all the principal officers of the army stationed at 
Washington to exhibit to me several Mexican flags 
as the trophies of the victory of the 8th & 9th May, 
on the Rio Grande. These flags were captured from 
the enemy in the battles on those days, & two of them 
had been perforated by balls in these battles. They 
had been sent by Gen'l Taylor to Washington as 
trophies of the victories of the American arms. Col. 
Payne himself was in these battles and had been se- 
verely wounded. He walks now on his crutches. 
The officers of the army who were present to-day 

^ Nathan Mountjoy Payne, Lieutenant Colonel of the 4th 
Artillery. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 31 

were in full uniform. A number of ladies and citi- 
zens were present on the occasion. 

This was the regular day of meeting of the Cabi- 
net. The Cabinet did not meet until about 12 
O'clock. The Secretary of the Treasury and the 
Atto. Gen'l did, not attend. The Cabinet after at- 
tending to some matters of importance connected 
with the war with Mexico adjourned about lYz 
O'clock P. M. In consequence of a letter received 
at the War Department from the Governor of Mis- 
souri, giving information that a larger Mexican force 
than had been anticipated were assembled in New 
Mexico to resist the approach of the U. S. forces 
under Gen'l Kearney, I directed the Secretary of 
War (he and the Cabinet concurring with me in its 
propriety) to despatch an officer of the army with 
orders to Gen'l Shields of Illinois to proceed with 
one of the Regiments of Illinois volunteers after 
Gen'l Kearney to Santa Fe. It was apprehended 
that Gen'l Shields may have left for the lower Rio 
Grande before this order could reach him, and in 
that event a requisition for an additional Regiment 
of 1000 infantry was directed to be forwarded to 
the Gov. of Missouri. If Gen'l Shields had moved 
to the South before the messenger reached Illinois, 
then the requisition was to be made on the Governor 
of Missouri, but not otherwise. 

Sunday, igth July, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk. 



32 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 July 

Monday, 20th July, 1846.— The usual round of 
company called this morning, among whom were 
several office seekers, a circumstance which is by no 
means unusual. Among others Col. Benton, to 
whom I had addressed a note this morning request- 
ing it, called. I informed him of a letter which the 
Secretary of War had received from the Governor 
of Missouri suggesting the necessity of calling out 
an additional 1000 volunteers to march to Santa Fe, 
in consequence of information which he had received 
that a large Mexican force would defend that place 
and the Province of New Mexico. I consulted Col. 
Benton on the subject. He had no idea that so large 
a force as 3000 or 5000 men could be brought to the 
field by Mexico, that being the number mentioned 
by the Governor of Missouri as the probable Mexi- 
can force under the command of the Mexican Gen'l 
Urrea. He approved the order which I informed 
him had been given, to march one of the Illinois 
Regiments, if they had not left for the Rio Grande, 
in the direction to [of] Santa Fe to join Gen'l Kear- 
ney. 

I had a conversation with Col. Benton in relation 
to the probability of the passage of the Bill of the 
Ho. Repts. through the Senate to reduce and modify 
the tariff act of 1842. He thought it would pass 
the Senate by a very close vote, and agreed with me 
that it would probably depend upon the vote of Sen- 
ator Haywood of N. C. I knew Col. B's intimacy 
with Mr. Haywood and requested him to induce him 
if practicable to vote for the Bill. He said he would 
do so. In the course of the afternoon I received a 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 33 

note from Col. Benton expressing the opinion in sub- 
stance that Mr. Haywood would not seperate from 
his political friends but would vote for the Bill. I 
also spo[ke] this morning to Senator Bagby on the 
subject of Senator Haywood's course on the Bill to 
reduce the tariff. Upon Mr. Haywood's vote, I am 
satisfied, depends the fate of the tariff-bill or rather 
the Bill to reduce the tariff, and therefore the great 
solicitude I feel on the subject. Senator Bagby said 
he had a day or two ago conversed with Mr. H. on 
the subject and had great doubt how he would vote. 
He promised me to see him again on the subject. 

At 12 O'clock a delegation of 8 or lo persons 
from Berks County, Pennsylvania, called upon me. 
Among them were the Hon. E. B. Hubley (former 
member of Congress) Dr. Muhlenberg (son of 
the late Henry A Muhlenberg) & Mr. Saladay. 
The names of the others I do not remember. They 
stated that they had come to Washington to see if 
some compromise on the Bill now before Congress 
in relation to a reduction of the tariff could not be 
effected. They expressed great alarm, if it passed 
the Senate in the form it had passed the House, that 
it would prostrate the iron and coal interest in Penn- 
sylvania and reduce the Democracy of that State to 
a minority, and they appealed to me to know if such 
a compromise in relation to iron & coal could not be 
effected. I told them that my views on the subject 
of the tariff were before Congress & that these views 
I had not changed. They asked me if I would give 
my assent to a compromise in relation to these lead- 
ing interests in Pennsylvania and thus save the Dem- 



34 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 July 

ocratic party in that State from overthrow. I told 
them I must leave the matter in the hands of my 
Democratic friends in Congress, but if they could 
agree upon a compromise within the principles em- 
braced in my message to Congress on the 2nd of 
December last I would be rejoiced at it. They said 
all they wished was adequate protection on iron & 
coal. I asked them what protection they would con- 
sider adequate on these articles. They said a reduc- 
tion of 20 per cent on the present rates of duty, and 
that 33 1-3 per cent had been mentioned by some of 
the manufacturers. I told them that this was a mat- 
ter wholly for the consideration of Congress. They 
still urged a compromise & said they had been ad- 
vised to call on me on the subject by some democratic 
Senators. I then told them that I was not author- 
ized to speak for any democratic member of Con- 
gress on the subject, but that I would express an 
opinion on one point. It was this, viz., " that [if] 
a proposition such as they had suggested was made, 
it must come from the Pennsylvania Senators, and 
that if made by them, before it would probably be 
entertained by the other Democratic members of 
Congress they must pledge themselves that if the 
amendment of Compromise was adopted they would 
vote for the Bill as amended & that the Pennsylvania 
Democratic members in the Ho. Repts. would 
vote for it also. I told them that if such a compro- 
mise could be agreed upon I should be rejoiced at 
it, but repeated that this I must leave to Congress, 
and could not myself take the initiative in the matter. 
They retired apparently In a good humor. I sent 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 35 

immediately for the Secretary of the Treasury and 
informed him of what had occurred. He left to go 
to the Senate Chamber to confer with some of the 
Southern Senators on the subject and to advise them 
of what had occur[r]ed. About 8 O'Clock P. M. 
the Secretary of the Treasury called again, and in- 
formed me that he had conferred with Senator 
McDufiie of S. C. and informed him of the inter- 
view between the gentlemen from Penn. and myself. 
Whilst Mr. Walker and myself were in conversation 
on the subject, Senators Lewis and Yulee called, and 
I informed them of all that [had] occur[r]ed. They 
both agreed that if it was ascertained with certainty 
that Senator Haywood would vote against the Bill 
as it now stood, that it would be better to accept the 
Penn. compromise, if it was made, than to lose the bill. 
They agreed also that it would be better to agree to 
the amendment suggested by Mr. Haywood to post- 
pone the commencement of the operation of the Bill 
to the 5th of March next than to loose the Bill. 
They said they would ascertain with certainty from 
Mr. Haywood what his course would be and be gov- 
erned in their action accordingly. 

Tuesday, 21st July, 1846. — This was the regu- 
lar day for the meeting of the Cabinet. Before the 
hour of assembling of the Cabinet arrived Andrew 
Johnson, one of the Representatives from Tennessee, 
called. He had not been in my office or at the Presi- 
dent's Mansion for many weeks, indeed months, ex- 
cept once for a few minutes about 2 months ago in 
company with the Hon. John Blair and some other 



2,6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 July 

East Tennesseeans who called and remained for a 
few minutes. After stating a trivial matter of busi- 
ness which I suppose was his apology or pretext for 
calling, he said there was a matter that he wished to 
talk about with me. He said he had held a con- 
versation with Mr. Cave Johnson (the P. M. Gen'l) 
a few days ago, and was surprised to learn from him 
that his course in opposition to the administration, as 
he said Mr. C. Johnson informed him, was under- 
stood and marked by the administration. He was 
very much agitated in his manner. He said he did 
not wish to be understood as making an apology, 
and then went on to say that he was a democrat & 
had spent a great deal of time and money in my sup- 
port in Tennessee, and particularly in 1844, and 
complained that his politics should now be suspected. 
He said he thought it best to come and hold a frank 
conversation with me at once. I told him I was 
glad he had done so, and that I would be equally 
frank with him. I told him that having belonged 
to the same party and having acted with him politi- 
cally in Tennessee, I had no other thought at the 
opening of the present Session of Congress than that 
he would be a friend & supporter of my administra- 
tion, that I was pleased at his election and expected 
to be on terms of free intercourse with him, but that 
I had heard from members of Congress, that he and 
Geo. W. Jones of Tennessee were, from some cause 
unknown to me, dissatisfied, and were often finding 
fault with my administration. I told him that mem- 
bers of the House had come to me and enquired what 
they meant by their course; and had stated to me 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 37 

that upon some occasions when they had expostulated 
with them against their course, and had urged them 
to support particular measures because they were 
administration measures, that they had replied that 
they were independent men and were not under the 
dictation of anybody. I told him that he knew I 
had not attempted to dictate to them, or in any way 
to control their course, and that I thought this strange 
language to come from Representatives from my 
own State who had been elected as democrats. I 
told him that I did not know that it was necessary 
to specify instances of his opposition, but that I 
would mention one, and more if necessary. It was 
this, that when some weeks ago a bill was before the 
House concerning the appointment of Clerks in the 
public offices at Washington, Mr. Douglass of Illi- 
nois remarked that the President would be poorly 
employed in the pitiful and little business of ap- 
pointing clerks & messengers, or to this purport, he 
(Mr. Johnson) in a sarcastic and bitter tone as I was 
informed, rose and asked Mr. Douglass if the Presi- 
dent was not at the very moment engaged in that em- 
ployment. Much surprise had been expressed to me 
by members of Congress at such an attack from a 
Tennessee democrat. I told him I had seen the re- 
port of what he had said in the Newspapers of the 
City and that I had never seen it corrected. I told 
him that he knew he had done me injustice, and that 
he himself had importuned me early in the Session 
about appointing clerks, and especially about pro- 
moting Mr. Russell of East Tennessee, and I sup- 
posed had been dissatisfied because it was not done. 



38 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 July 

I told him that I regarded this occur[r]ence as evi- 
dence of his hostility, and this added to the many 
instances in which he had been found acting with 
my political opponents, coupled with the facts that 
I had heard he had often made complaints publicly 
of my Tennessee appointments, and that he had kept 
himself away from me for three or four months, had 
confirmed me in the opinion that he was acting in 
hostility to my administration. He had mentioned 
the fact in the course of his conversation that George 
W. Jones and himself had been marked by the ad- 
ministration & their course condemned. I told him 
that Mr. Jones's course had been highly exception- 
able; that among other things Mr. Jones had in the 
early part of the Session, in a speech in the House, 
made a violent and unwarranted attack on the Post 
Master Gen'l and the Attorney Gen'l, and had upon 
other occasions given conclusive evidence of his op- 
position to the administration. I told him that Mr. 
Cave Johnson had informed me that a few weeks ago 
in his office Mr. Jones had broken out in a violent 
strain in the presence of strangers who were present, 
and said that the only way to get an office from this 
administration was to become doubtful in politics, 
and then be bought up. I told Mr. Johnson that I 
had not given either him or Mr. Jones any cause for 
their extraordinary course. I told him that in con- 
sequence of it, when I came to make the late military 
appointments in Tennessee, I had sent for and con- 
sulted the other democratic members from the State, 
but had not sent for them. He said if he was to be 
a victim he wished to know it. I told him the ad- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 39 

ministration had not attempted to make a victim of 
him, but that his course was a matter to be settled 
between him and his constituents. I told him that 
though I had reason to be dissatisfied with his course, 
I had never mentioned it to any of his constituents, 
although John Blair and several others of them had 
been here. He said that Jones was a good democrat 
and that he was one. I told him I had always re- 
garded them as such, but that certainly their course 
at the present Session was a very singular one. I 
told him that I had been the friend of Jones and 
of himself and that I had expected to receive from 
them that support which all preceding administra- 
tions had received from the members of Congress of 
their own party from their own State, but that in- 
stead of that not a word had been said in my vindi- 
cation by either of them at times when I had been 
violently assailed by the Whigs in the Ho. Repts. 
He said he thought Mr. Martin and Mr. Stanton 
had my confidence. I told him that at the beginning 
of the Session I had confidence in all the democratic 
representatives from Tennessee, and that I had now 
in these two gentlemen and in Mr. CuUum and Mr. 
Chase, and that it was only because of the unaccount- 
able course of Mr. Jones & himself that I had been 
most reluctantly compelled to regard them as being 
unfriendly to me and to my administration. It was 
a conversation of more than an hour's length, and it 
was manifest from the tenor of it that he wished to 
play the demagogue at home, and to assume that the 
administration intended to attack him and make a 
victim of him. This I repelled at once, and told 



40 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 July 

him I should pursue my public policy, and submit 
my public conduct to the country, that I sought to 
control no man's course, that he had a perfect right 
to differ with me if he chose to do so, and that if he 
did so the people and especially his democratic con- 
stituents, who were my friends, would judge between 
us. In the latter part of the conversation he was 
subdued in his tone, and recounted the political serv- 
ices he had rendered me in Tennessee, and alluded to 
and dwelt on the abuse he had received from the 
Whigs in his district & especially from Brownlow ^ 
in his paper at Jonesborough. I told him that his 
course and that of Mr. Jones, coming as they did 
from my own State, had given me great concern and 
pain, and that I had no desire to have any collision 
with them, but that their course had almost forced it 
upon me. He left professing to be a good democrat 
and denying that he was opposed to me or my ad- 
ministration. The truth is that neither Johnson or 
Jones have been my personal friends since 1839. 
They were in the Baltimore Convention in 1844, and 
were not my friends then. I doubt whether any two 
members of that convention were at heart more dis- 
satisfied with my nomination for the Presidency than 
they were. This I learned from members of the 
convention from Tennessee. Mr. Johnson, I was in- 
formed, said at Baltimore when my nomination was 
suggested that it was a " humbug." There are no 

^ Rev. William G. Brownlow, began publishing the Whig at 
Jonesborough in 1837, but soon removed it to Knoxville. Noted 
for the bitterness of his political invective; better known as Par- 
son Brownlow. 



i846] JAMES K, POLK'S DIARY 41 

two districts in Tennessee more democratic or in 
which I have more devoted friends than those repre- 
sented by Johnson and Jones, and though I have it in 
my power, as I believe, by communicating the truth 
to their constituents to destroy them politically, I 
have not done so. They seem to assume to them- 
selves the right to judge of the appointments in Ten- 
nessee, and to denounce them among members of 
Congress and in boarding houses as though they were 
responsible for them. I think it fortunate that they 
have now learned that their course has not been un- 
observed by me. Perhaps their course may here- 
after be better, but I am satisfied if it is so it will 
only be from the fear of their constituents. I would 
almost prefer to have two Whigs here in their stead, 
unless they act better than they have done at the pres- 
ent Session of Congress. 

The Cabinet met between 1 1 & 12 O'Clock to-day, 
all the members present except the Secretary of the 
Treasury. Nothing of importance was brought up. 
I sent to the Senate to-day the correspondence be- 
tween the Secretary of State & Mr. McLane, U. S. 
Minister to England. I sent the whole of the in- 
structions and correspondence of the Secretary of 
State, and such extracts from Mr. McLane's de- 
spatches as I thought compatible with the public in- 
terest to communicate. 

This was reception evening, and about 100 per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. 

Wednesday, 22nd July, 1846. — Had the usual 
round of Company to-day, and the usual annoyance 



42 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 July 

from office seekers until 12 O'Clock, when I closed 
my doors. Among others the Hon. James M. 
Porter ^ of Pennsylvania, late Secretary of War, 
called. He desired to see me on the subject of the 
Bill which had passed the Ho. Repts. and is now be- 
fore the Senate to reduce and modify the tariff act of 
1842. I held a conversation with him of the same 
substance and import of the conversation which I 
held with certain gentlemen from Pennsylvania on 
the same subject on monday, the 20th Instant (see 
this diary of that day). He informed me that the 
democratic members of Congress from Pennsylvania, 
and certain citizens of Pennsylvania, of whom 
he was one, held a caucus in this City on mon- 
day last on the subject of the tariff, but had come 
to no definite understanding of the precise terms of 
compromise they would offer. This was a rainy 
evening, & the marine band which usually plays on 
the President's grounds on each Wednesday evening, 
did not appear. 

I omitted to state that this morning the Secretary 
of the Navy, attended by about 20 Captains of the 
Navy in full uniform, called and paid their respects 
to me in my office. They were headed by Commo- 
dore Stewart, the Senior Commodore among them. 
These officers are assembled here to consider and re- 
port to the Secretary of the Navy concerning certain 
regulations proposed to be adopted in relation to 
promotions in the Navy, viz., whether in their opin- 
ion it should be by seniority or by merit. 

^ Secretary of War 1 843-1 844, and a prominent jurist of 
Pennsylvania. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 43 

Thursday, 23rd July, 1846. — Saw company to- 
day until 12 O'clock. Nothing worthy of note oc- 
curred. At about 2 O'clock P. M. Mr. Pakenham, 
the Brittish Minister, called and delivered to me an 
autograph letter from Victoria, Queen of the United 
Kingdom of Great Brittain and Ireland, [which] 
announced the birth in the month of May last of a 
Princess. I told Mr. Pakenham that I congratu- 
lated her Majesty, and added that it was not prob- 
able that there would be any failure in the lineal 
line of a successor of her Majesty to the Throne. 
Mr. Pakenham remarked that he had made a similar 
annunciation to the President every year since her 
Majesty had been married. 

Senator Haywood called during the time I was 
receiving Mr. Pakenham in the parlour and re- 
mained in my office until my interview with Mr. 
Pakenham was over. I had addressed a note to Mr. 
Senator Haywood on yesterday morning requesting 
him to call. He called about the time that Mr. 
Pakenham did. I met him in the hall below stairs 
on my way to the parlour to see Mr. Pakenham. He 
remained in my office until I returned. I made an 
earnest appeal to him in regard to what was under- 
stood to be his intended course on the Bill of the Ho. 
Repts. to modify and reduce the tariff of 1842, and 
urged him to give it his support. I found him much 
opposed to the Bill. Indeed he used the strong ex- 
pression, " I would rather die than vote for it." He 
said if the Senate would agree to vote in an amend- 
ment to postpone the commencement of its operation 
from the ist of December next until the 4th of March 



44 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 July 

next he would vote for it. I told him that the prin- 
cipal objection to such an amendment would be that 
it might put in jeopardy the fate of the Bill in the 
Ho. Repts. He seemed to have no other objection 
to the Bill, except that he thought it would be too 
sudden a revolution of the existing system. I told 
him that the Senate in my opinion had to choose be- 
tween the Bill of the Ho. Repts. and the act of 1842, 
and that if he voted against the House bill he would 
be voting in effect to rivet & continue the act of 1842 
on the country, which was manifestly oppressive and 
unjust. I had a long conversation with him, but it 
would be too tedious to repeat the arguments I used 
to induce him to vote for the Ho. Bill. He left leav- 
ing me satisfied that unless he changed his mind he 
would vote against the Ho. Bill. After he left I 
addressed him a note requesting him to call again, 
and he did so about 9 O'Clock P. M., when I had a 
further conversation with him on the subject. I told 
him that I regarded it as the most important domes- 
tic measure of my administration, and that from all I 
had learned its fate would depend on his vote. I 
suggested to him whether he could not vote for it, 
as a choice between it & the tariff act of 1842, and if 
it passed bring in a Bill, if he chose, postponing its 
operation until the 4th of March next as he desired. 
I told him that if he voted against it, he would be 
the only Democratic member of either House from 
the South who would do so, that the 6 Democratic 
members from his own State had voted for it. I 
told him if he voted against it he would strike a 



1S46] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 45 

severe blow upon my administration, inflict great 
injury on the country, and as a friend I must say to 
him that I thought he would ruin himself. I begged 
him for his own sake, for the sake of the country, and 
for the success of my administration to consider well 
before he voted against it. He was manifestly 
deeply impressed with the appeal which I made to 
him, and left saying that he would think of it to the 
last moment before he voted. Before he left I told 
him I had been informed that a rumour was abroad 
that he had spoken of resigning his seat in the Senate, 
and I begged him not to do so. I told him if he re- 
signed the effect would be the same as if he voted 
against the Bill, for it was understood that if he 
voted for the Bill the Senate would be equally di- 
vided and that would enable the Vice President to 
give his casting vote for the Bill. 

After Mr. Haywood left at about 9>4 O'Clock 
P. M. I saw Senators McDuffie & Lewis and Gen'l 
McKay of N. C, and had a full conversation with 
them about the prospects of passing the House Bill 
to reduce the tariff. They agreed that it depended 
on Mr. Haywood's vote, unless Senator Jarnegan 
of Tennessee voted for the Bill, as he had repeat- 
edly said he would do, in which event the Senate 
would still be tied even if Mr. Haywood voted 
against it. The Secretary of the Treasury came in 
during the conversation and participated in it. All 
agreed that they would ascertain on to-morrow 
whether the Bill in its present form could pass, and 
if they ascertained it could not, they would en- 



46 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 July 

deavour to effect some compromise with the Pennsyl- 
vania Senators, and if possible to pass it in some 
modified form. 

Friday, 24th July, 1846. — Saw company until 
12 O'clock to-day. Saw in the course of the morn- 
ing Senators Bagby and Dix, and had an earnest 
conversation with each on the subject of the tariff 
Bill and the probabilities of Mr. Haywood's vote, 
upon which they thought the fate of the Bill de- 
pended. Each of them said he would see him again 
and urge him to vote for it. I devoted the day un- 
til the evening in disposing of the business on my 
table. 

At 6>4 O'clock the Comanche and other wild In- 
dians, about 40 in number, called to take leave of 
me before they left for their homes. The Secretary 
of War, the commissioner of Indian affairs, and sev- 
eral other persons were present. I presented to each 
of the Chiefs, about 18 in number, a Silver Medal as 
a token of friendship, with which they seemed to be 
well pleased. The Secretary of War & Commis- 
sioner of Indian affairs had presented to each Indian 
some presents before they called on me. They left 
apparently well pleased, promising to keep the peace 
and be friendly with the U. States. 

This was reception evening. About the usual 
number of persons, ladies and gentlemen, attended. 

After the company retired Vice President Dallas 
& the Secretary of the Treasury retired to my office 
to talk with me about a proposed compromise of the 
tariff question, which had been suggested by a lead- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 47 

ing manufacturer to the Secretary of the Treasury. 
It was to reduce now all the existing duties one- 
fourth of the excess above 30 per. ct. ; at the end of 

5 years another 34? & ^t the end of 10 years to bring 
the duties down to the rates of the pending Bill. 
Mr. Dallas was in favour of the proposition. I did 
not encourage it, fearing it might produce confusion 

6 be the means of losing the Bill. Mr. Dallas said 
if the Democrats did not agree to it he would let 
them know, if it came to his casting vote they might 
loose [lose] the Bill as it was. 

Saturday, 2Sth July, 1846. — This was cabinet 
day; all the members present except the Secretary 
of the Treasury. Some unimportant business was 
transacted. The Secretary of the Navy left early to 
attend to business at his office. 

About I O'clock P. M. Senator Jarnigan and Mr. 
Wheaton of the Ho. Repts. called as a committee on 
enrolled Bills, and presented to me several Bills for 
my approval, & among the[m] the Harbour and 
River Bill. On presenting them Mr. Jarnagan 
jocosely remarked, now you have a chance for a 
veto, and to that purport. 

Mr. Buchanan in a familiar and jocose manner 
inquired of Mr. Jarnegan about the prospects of 
passing the tariff Bill now before the Senate, and 
said there were speculations abroad in the City to 
know how the Senators from Tennessee would vote. 
Mr. Jarnegan immediately replied in a serious & 
emphatic tone that his vote was no secret, that he was 
instructed to vote for just such a Bill as this was, and 



48 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 July 

that he should do so. I have heretofore doubted 
Mr. Jarnegan's vote, though he had before declared 
to me that he would vote for the Bill, but I have now 
no doubt from his positive declaration in the pres- 
ence of the Cabinet and of Mr. Wheaton that he will 
do so. 

After the Cabinet adjourned, and about 3>4 
O'clock, I was astonished to learn that Senator Hay- 
wood had to-day addressed a letter to the Vice Presi- 
dent resigning his seat in the Senate of the U. S.^ 
It was a great error, and I am sure he will deeply 
regret it. The fate of the tarifif-bill will now de- 
pend on the vote of Senator Jarnegan. If he votes 
as he declared he would to-day, the Bill will still 
pass. I sincerely regret Mr. Haywood's course. I 
was at college with him and have ever been his 
friend. I believe him to be an honest and pure man, 
but a man of great vanity and possessing a good deal 
of self esteem. He is, I think, ambitious, and had 
probably a desire to have some participation or 
authorship in effecting the contemplated tariff re- 
form. From some feeling of this sort and without 
due reflection, I conjecture, he took ground against 
the tariff bill, and having committed himself was of 
too proud a spirit, when he found himself separated 
from all his friends and that none of them would go 
with him, to recede. He is moreover nervous, & in 
an excited state, no doubt, tendered his resignation. 
I give not the slightest heed to the painful insinu- 

^ Haywood issued an address, August 10, 1846, to the people 
of North Carolina, giving the causes and a defence of his resigna- 
tion. Printed in Globe, 29 Cong, i Sess. A pp. 107. 



iS46] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 49 

ations which I learn this evening are made by illib- 
eral persons as to the motives & causes which have in- 
duced his course. I dififer with him in opinion and 
think he has erred in resigning, but that he has done 
so from good motives and from the causes stated 
above I have as little doubt. 

About 6 O'clock the Secretary of the Treasury 
called and informed me that he had just been in- 
formed that Mr. Senator Jarnegan had spoken this 
evening about resigning his seat also. Should he do 
so, and Mr. Haywood's successor reach here in time, 
the tariff bill will be lost by one vote. On hearing 
this I immediately sent for Senator Turney and in- 
formed him of it. He left for the purpose of seeing 
Mr. Jarnegan, but before he did so he inform.ed me 
of a very important fact. It was this, that a manu- 
facturer who was in the City a few days ago had 
urged him to vote against the tariff-bill and had 
called to see him on the subject two or three times; 
that in his last conversation this person (whose name 
he did not mention) had described the prosperity 
which would prevail if the pending Bill did not 
pass, and had said to him, Turney, that if it did not 
pass he could loan to him (Turney) any amount of 
money which he might want. Turney was indig- 
nant at it, and considered it an attempt in this indi- 
rect way to induce him to vote against the Bill ; or in 
other words an attempt to bribe. Turney expressed 
the opinion to me that money would be used, if it 
could be, to defeat the Bill. I was shocked at the 
story, and said nothing but to express my astonish- 
ment. 



so JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 July 

Sunday, 26th July, 1846. — I was unwell to-day 
and did not attend church. Mr. Cave Johnson 
called early in the morning and took breakfast with 
us. Mrs. Polk & Miss Rucker attended church ac- 
companied by Mr. Johnson. 

Senator Turney called about i^ O'Clock and took 
dinner with us. He told me he had seen Senator 
Jarnegan who told him he would not resign his seat 
in the Senate, but would vote for the tarifif-bill now 
before the Senate ; that he had read to him the speech 
which he had written out, and which he intended to 
deliver to the Senate before he gave his vote, & he, 
Turney, had no doubt he would do as he said he 
would. 

Col. Benton called this evening, having been re- 
quested by Mr. Cave Johnson to do so. I read to 
him a despatch ^ to the Mexican Government pro- 
posing to renew negotiations with a view to peace, 
which Mr. Buchanan had prepared, and asked him 
his opinion as to the policy of sending it. He ap- 
proved it & advised that it be sent. I told Col. Ben- 
ton that if Congress would pass an appropriation of 
two millions of dollars, such as was passed in 1803 
to enable Mr. Jefiferson to purchase Louisiana, or 
in 1806 to enable him to purchase the Floridas, I 
had but little doubt that by paying that sum in hand 
at the signature of a Treaty we might procure Cali- 
fornia and such a boundary as we wished, and that 
in the present impoverished condition of Mexico the 
knowledge that such a sum would be paid in hand 
might induce Mexico to Treat, when she might not 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 40. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 51 

otherwise do so. Col. Benton approved the sugges- 
tion and advised that I should see some members of 
the committee of Foreign affairs on the subject. 

We had some conversation in relation to Senator 
Haywood's resignation of his seat in the Senate. We 
both thought it was a great error, but agreed that he 
was an honest and pure man, but that he was nervous 
and had acted hastily. 

Monday, ZJth July, 1846. — I was occupied as 
usual until 12 O'Clock to-day in seeing company, 
ofBce seekers and others. I spent the balance of the 
day in writing a veto message on the Harbour and 
River Bill, appropriating between one and two mil- 
lions of dollars, which has passed Congress and was 
presented to me by the committee on enrolled Bills 
on Saturday last, the 25th Instant. As I cannot ap- 
prove this Bill and have resolved to veto it, I was 
occupied to-day in examining the subject and pre- 
paring a message assigning my objections to its 
passage. 

About 6 O'clock P. M. my Private Secretary re- 
turned from the Capitol and informed me that the 
Bill of the House to reduce the tariff had been com- 
mitted to the committee on Finance after a stormy 
and violent debate by a majority of one vote, Mr. 
Jarnegan having disregarded his instructions and 
voted with his Whig friends. Jarnegan holds the 
fate of the Bill in his hands and there [is] no reliance 
to be placed upon him.. He declared on Saturday 
last in presence of the Cabinet, when he called on me 
as a member of the committee of enrolled Bills to 



52 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 July 

present to me some Bills which had passed Congress, 
that he would vote for the Bill, and yet to-day he 
voted to embarrass and defeat it. The folly and 
great error of Senator Haywood in resigning his 
seat in the Senate has put the control of the Bill in 
the hands of Mr. Jarnegan and he may defeat it, not- 
withstanding his pledges repeatedly made to vote 
for it. 

Tuesday, 28th July, 1846. — Saw several mem- 
bers of Congress this morning, who were much con- 
cerned about the fate of the Bill to reduce the tariff 
which it was expected would be decided by the Sen- 
ate to-day. All agreed it would depend on Mr. 
Jarnegan's vote. The Cabinet held a regular meet- 
ing to-day at the usual hour, all the members pres- 
ent except the Secretary of the Treasury. No busi- 
ness of importance was brought before the Cabinet, 
and after a short sitting the Cabinet adjourned. 

About 2 O'clock I received a note from Senator 
Bagby informing me that the tarifif bill had been 
ordered to a third reading by the casting vote of the 
Vice President, Mr. Jarnegan declining to vote. A 
slight amendment had been made to the Bill. At 
5 O'clock P. M. Mr. Ritchie called and informed 
me that the Bill had passed its final reading by a ma- 
jority of one vote, Senator Jarnegan voting for it. 
If the amendment be concurred in by the Ho. Repts. 
the Bill will only require the approval of the Presi- 
dent to become a law. 

This was reception evening and an unusually large 
number of persons attended, ladies and gentlemen, 



1846J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 53 

among whom were an unusual number of members 
of Congress, all of them I believe of the Democratic 
party, who were exchanging congratulations on the 
passage of the tariff bill in the Senate to-day. They 
seemed to be confident that the Ho. Repts. would 
concur in the amendment made by the Senate, but 
I had my doubts and expressed them to several 
members. 

After the company had nearly all retired Mr. 
Woodworth of N. Y. of the Ho. Repts. called and in- 
formed me that the N. Y. Democratic members of 
the Ho. Repts. had held a caucus to-night at which 
he was present. He informed me that five of them 
who had voted in favour of the Bill, viz., Rathbun, 
King, Wood, Grover, and Goodyear would, he 
thought, vote against concurring in the amendment 
of the Senate to the tariff Bill, with a view [of] de- 
feating the Bill by a disagreement between the two 
Houses. This gave me great uneasiness especially 
as I learned that the Whigs with the same object in 
view would vote against it, and that the Democratic 
portion of the Pennsylvania delegation would unite 
with them and make great efforts to defeat the Bill. 
Upon hearing this, after the violent struggle which 
had taken place in the Senate on yesterday & to-day, 
I had great fears that there might be a sufficient de- 
fection in the Ho. Repts. to defeat it. The City is 
swarming with manufacturers who are making tre- 
mendous exertions to defeat it. The truth is that 
such a struggle has rarely been witnessed in Con- 
gress, as that between the Capitalists engaged in man- 
ufactures on the one hand, and the advocates of mod- 



54 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 July 

erate and reasonable taxes. The deepest anxiety 
prevails & will continue to prevail until the decision 
of the House on the Senate's amendment shall take 
place. 

Wednesday, 2gth July, 1846. — Saw company 
this morning. Fewer persons than usual called. 
After 12 O'clock I was occupied in disposing of the 
business on my table, and in examining the provisions 
of the Harbour and River Bill, which passed Con- 
gress some days ago and was presented to me for my 
approval on Saturday last. Upon the first examina- 
tion of the Bill I was satisfied that I could not con- 
sistently with my opinions give it my approval, and 
the more I have examined the more important ques- 
tions of constitutional power which it involves, the 
more I am confirmed in that opinion. I have ac- 
cordingly written a portion of what I propose to in- 
corporate in a veto message to Congress. 

About 2 O'clock P. M. Senator Bagby called and 
informed me that the Ho. Repts. had concurred in 
the amendment of the Senate to the Bill to reduce 
the tariff of duties. The five N. York democratic 
members named in yesterday's Journal voted, as I 
learn, with the opponents of the Bill (the Whigs) 
upon all the collateral & incidental questions which 
arose, the vote on some of which was very close, be- 
ing decided by a single vote in favour of the Bill. 
It is certain from what I learn of the proceedings of 
the House, that Messrs. Grover, Goodyear, King, 
Rathbun, & Wood of the N. York delegation desired 
to defeat the Bill, and yet feared upon a direct vote 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY S5 

to record their votes against it. This great measure 
of reform has been thus successful. It has given rise 
to an immense struggle between the two great po- 
litical parties of the country. The capitalists & mo- 
nopolists have not surrendered the immense advan- 
tages which they possessed, and the enormous profits 
w^hich they derived under the tariff of 1842, until 
after a fierce and mighty struggle. This City has 
swarmed with them for weeks. They have spared 
no effort within their power to sway and control! 
Congress, but all has proved to be unavailing and 
they have been at length vanquished. Their effort 
will probably now be to raise a panic (such as they 
have already attempted) by means of their combined 
wealth, so as to induce a repeal of the act. The 
Pennsylvania Democracy have been placed in a false 
position upon this subject. Her public men have not 
had the moral courage to take bold ground and pro- 
claim the true doctrines to her people. Pennsyl- 
vania is essentially an agricultural state, & as a com- 
munity cannot be interested in imposing enormous 
taxes on the many for the benefit of the few. I do 
not doubt that Pennsylvania will continue to be dem- 
ocratic if her public men and presses shall have the 
independence and moral courage to avow the truth 
as they know it to exist. 

Thursday, 30th July, 1846. — Was engaged in 
receiving company this morning until 12 O'Clock. 
Fewer persons than usual called. 

About I O'clock P. M. the committee of enrolled 
Bills of Congress called and presented to me the Bill 



56 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 July 

to reduce the tariff of duties which had passed Con- 
gress. As soon [as] the Committee retired 1 read 
the Bill carefully and approved and signed it. 

I devoted some time to-day to a further examina- 
tion of the Harbour and River Bill, which was pre- 
sented to me for my approval on Saturday last. 

Senator McDuffie (Ch. of the Com. of Foreign af- 
fairs) called this morning to see me on the subject 
of our relations with Mexico, and other foreign mat- 
ters. I told [him] my object in the existing war was 
not conquest, but that in concluding a peace I desired 
in consideration of a fair equivalent to acquire Cal- 
ifornia and otherwise adjust a suitable boundary. 
This he approved. I then told him that in the pres- 
ent state of the Mexican finances, I had but little 
doubt if I possessed some $2,000,000 of dollars to pay 
down on the signature of the treaty, that the matter 
could be settled. He concurred in this opinion. 

Friday, Jlst July, 1846. — I received no company 
to-day except a few persons on special business. I 
devoted the greater part of the day in writing and re- 
vising my message assigning my objections to the 
River & Harbour Bill, and giving my reasons for 
withholding my approval of the Bill. Senator Cass 
(a member of the committee of Foreign affairs of 
the Senate) called to-day, and I saw him. We had 
a long conversation on the subject of our Mexican 
relations, in which I made the same suggestions 
which I had done to Senator McDuffie on yesterday. 
I called his attention to the act of Congress of 1803 
placing $2,000,000 of dollars at the disposition of 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 57 

Mr. Jefferson to enable him to purchase Louisiana; 
and to a similar act in 1806 with a view to the pur- 
chase of the Floridas. I expressed my opinion of 
the importance of Congress passing a similar act ap- 
propriating $2,000,000 to be used if necessary in a 
Treaty with Mexico, by which a suitable & satisfac- 
tory boundary should be obtained, including Cali- 
fornia as well as New Mexico, and perhaps further 
South if practicable. I expressed my opinion that if 
I was authorized to pay such a sum as a part of the 
price, that the Government of Mexico in the present 
straightened condition of her finances might be in- 
duced to treat, when without such prompt payment 
she might not be willing to do so. In all this Gen'l 
Cass fully concurred. I suggested that I might send 
a message to the Senate in Executive Session, and if 
the suggestion was approved that the Senate could in 
open Session passed [pass] such an act. This he also 
approved. I authorized him to consult with a few 
Senators confidentially on the subject. He advised 
me to see Mr. Archer (a member of the com. of for. 
affairs of the Senate) on the subject. 

When my private Secretary went to the Capitol I 
told him to request Senator Archer to call at 7 
O'clock. He did so and at that hour Mr. Archer 
called. I made the same communication to him on 
the subject of our Mexican affairs, which I had made 
to Gen'l Cass this [morning]. We had a full con- 
versation on the subject, and Mr. Archer was in- 
clined to concur in my views. T told him I did not 
desire to make such a movement, or that Congress 
should attempt to make the appropriation, if it was 



58 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY H Aug. 

to be a party question. Mr. Archer said he would 
consult with some of the Whig Senators and let me 
know their views. 

This was reception evening. The usual number 
of persons, ladies and gentlemen, attended. 

Saturday, Ist August, 1846. — The Cabinet held 
a regular meeting to-day, all the members present. 
I informed the Cabinet that I had made up my mind 
to put my veto on the Harbour and River Bill, which 
had passed Congress and was presented to me for my 
approval and signature on Saturday last. I told 
them that I had prepared the draft of [a] message 
assigning my reasons for withholding my approval 
of the Bill. I read the message. I had not before 
shown it in its revised form to any member of the 
Cabinet, except to Judge Mason, to whom I had sub- 
mitted my first rough draft, which he took at my re- 
quest and suggested some modifications in a draft of 
his own, but at the same time adopted the principal 
part of mine. This occurred on Wednesday last. I 
took the two drafts and rewrote it. I did not con- 
sult the Cabinet to ascertain their opinions on the 
subject. Having made up my mind that I could not 
sign the Bill under any circumstances, it was unneces- 
sary to consult the Cabinet on the subject. No one 
of the Cabinet expressed an objection to my course; 
though I have a strong impression that, if they had 
been consulted, Messrs. Buchanan, Marcy, Bancroft, 
& perhaps Walker would have advised me to ap- 
prove and sign the Bill. Mr. Johnson and Mr. Ma- 
son I know concurred in opinion with me, and I 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 59 

am not positively certain as to the opinions of 
Messrs. Bancroft and Walker. They all, however, 
expressed the opinion that the draft of the message 
which I had read was a strong paper & was well 
drawn. 

I brought before the Cabinet the present condition 
of our Mexican relations, and submitted to them 
whether they would advise me to make a message on 
the subject to the Senate in Executive Session, com- 
municating with it a copy of Mr. Buchanan's last 
despatch to the Minister of Foreign affairs of Mex- 
ico proposing to renew negotiations, written some 
week or ten days ago, and submitting to the Senate in 
my message the importance of Congress making an 
appropriation similar to that made in 1803 in refer- 
ence to the acquisition of Louisiana & that in 1806 
in reference to the acquisition of the Floridas. At 
first there appeared to be some division of opinion 
on the subject. Mr. Walker expressed his doubts. 
Mr. Buchanan went to the State Department and 
brought his dispatch addressed to the Minister of 
Foreign affairs of Mexico referred to above. I ex- 
plained the objects which I had in view, as I had 
done to Senators Cass & Archer on yesterday, and to 
Senator McDuffie on thursday last (see this diary for 
those days). I stated that if it was advised by the 
Cabinet I proposed to make the communication in 
the first instance to the Senate in Executive Session ; 
that my object in this was, that if it was not approved 
by the Senate that It need not be made public, but if 
approved with an approximation to unanimity, a law 
similar to the acts of 1803 & 1806 could be introduced 



6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Aug. 

& passed through the Senate with little or no debate. 
After a very full discussion of the subject Mr. 
Walker expressed himself entirely satisfied of the 
wisdom of the course. All the other members of 
the Cabinet expressed their approval, and advised 
that such a message be sent to the Senate. I then re- 
quested Mr. Buchanan, as my time would be much 
occupied, to prepare the draft of a message & submit 
it to me on monday next. 

This morning the Post Master Gen'l informed me 
that he had held a conversation with Mr. Buchanan, 
and that he thought he had made up his mind to re- 
main in the Cabinet, and not to go on the bench of 
the Supreme Court of the U. S. I had some weeks 
ago informed Mr. Buchanan that he could have the 
judgeship or remain in his present position in the 
State Department as he might [think] proper. I 
had no doubt at that time that he would elect to go 
on the bench, and indeed at one time it was so under- 
stood between us, but I would not agree that he 
should retire from the State Department until near 
the close of the present session of Congress (see 
this diary). 

After the Cabinet adjourned Mr. Mason & Mr. 
Johnson remained a few minutes, and I informed 
Mr. Mason of what Mr. Johnson had communi- 
cated to me. As Mr. Johnson was leaving I re- 
quested him to ask Mr. Buchanan to call in the 
course of the afternoon. 

After Mr. Johnson retired I informed Mr. Mason 
that Mr. Bancroft desired to retire from the Navy 
Department and take the mission to France at the 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 6i 

close of the next Session of Congress, and that I had 
informed him that I would gratify his wishes. I 
informed him also that Mr. Bancroft had intimated 
to me a preference for the English over the French 
Mission. I then said to Judge Mason that if Mr. 
Buchanan decided to remain in the Cabinet, that I 
would tender the English mission to Mr. Bancroft, 
and that if he accepted it I would desire him (Judge 
Mason) to take his place as Secretary of the Navy. 
Judge Mason responded that he had no desire to 
change his position in the Cabinet, but intimated 
that he would be disposed to yield to my wishes & 
aid me in my administration in any situation that I 
might desire him to occupy. 

Mr. Buchanan called about 6 O'Clock P. M. and 
informed me that he had decided to remain in the 
Cabinet and not to accept the offer which I had 
made him to appoint him Judge of the Supreme 
Court. He said that he did this cheerfully, al- 
though he had long desired a seat on the bench, and 
that now he would stick to me & go through my 
administration with me. I then told him that I 
would nominate Judge Greer of Pittsburg to the 
vacant seat on the bench on monday next. He re- 
plied that he would be entirely satisfied with Judge 
Greer's appointment. 

At 7 O'clock P. M. the Hon. Mr. Dromgoole of 
Va. of the Ho. Repts. called, as I had previously 
requested him to do. I informed him of my inten- 
tion to veto the River & Harbour Bill, and read 
to him the message which I had prepared, which he 
approved. 



62 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Aug. 

Sunday, 2nd August, 184b. — My nephew, Mar- 
shall T. Polk, who has been with me for more than 
two years, and since September last has been at 
Georgetown College, left this morning to pay a visit 
to his mother at Morganton, N. Carolina. It is va- 
cation in the college at Georgetown, and he will re- 
turn at the commencement of the next Session, which 
will be about the middle of September next. 

Attended the dedication of a Baptist church on E 
Street, near the Gen'l Post office to-day in company 
with Mrs. Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. Heard 
an excellent sermon from the text " For I am not 
ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." 

I saw Mr. Bancroft (the Sec. of the Navy) this 
morning and informed him that if he preferred the 
English to the French Mission as he had intimated 
to me some weeks ago that he did, that he could 
have it, but informed him at the same time that if 
he accepted it he would have to go out in September. 
He received the offer I thought favourably, but said 
he would like to think of it for twenty four hours. 
I had previously promised him to appoint him Min- 
ister to France towards the close of the next Session 
of Congress. 

My Private Secretary at my request invited 
Messrs. McKay of N. C, McClernand of 111., Boyd ^ 
of Ky., and Martin of Tennessee, members of the 
Ho. Repts., to call this evening at 8 O'Clock. They 
called at that hour., I informed them that I would 
put my veto on the Harbour and River Bill, and read 

^ Linn Boyd of Kentucky, Speaker of the House of Repre- 
sentatives 1851-1855. 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 63 

to them the message which I had prepared. I did 
this that they might be prepared to vindicate my 
course if I should be assailed on the floor of the 
House. They approved of my course. Mr. Mc- 
Kay said he would have gone further than I had 
done in the message, but was satisfied with it. The 
provisions and principles of the Bill were the sub- 
ject of a conversation of some length, and I explained 
to them the objections to particular items in it. 
They retired between 9 & 10 O'Clock. 

Monday, Jrd August, 1846. — Saw company until 
1 1 O'clock this morning. Between 1 1 & 1 2 O'Clock 
my Private Secretary went to the Capitol with my 
message to the Ho. Repts. putting my veto on the 
Harbour and River Bill. I sent to the Senate also 
a nomination of Robert C. Grier of Pittsburg, Penn., 
as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of 
the U. S. to fill the vacancy occasioned by the death 
of Judge Baldwin. 

Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll called and inquired at 
what time I proposed to send in his nomination to 
the Senate as minister to Russia. I answered him, 
not before friday or Saturday next. I had promised 
to appoint Mr. Ingersoll some months ago, and be- 
fore his difficulty in Congress with Mr. Webster 
concerning the Secret service fund. Since that time 
I had learned from one or two members of my Cabi- 
net (to whom alone & to the Vice President I had 
made known my intention to appoint Mr. Ingersoll) 
that Mr. Ingersoll since his controversy with Mr. 
Webster had become unpopular in the Senate, & 



64 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Aug. 

would probably be rejected. Before I made the 
pledge to Mr. Ingersoll I had consulted the Cabinet, 
and they had concurred in the opinion that he was 
a suitable person & that I could not make a better 
selection. I felt it to be my duty this morning to 
communicate to Mr. Ingersoll what I had heard of 
the danger of his rejection by the Senate & I did 
so. He seemed to be surprised and said he would 
make some inquiry about it. 

About 2>^ O'clock P. M. Mr. Kaufman of the 
Ho. Repts. from Texas called and informed me that 
my veto Message was under discussion in the House. 
He was in great difficulty about his course, & called 
to get information about the provisions of the Bill 
from me. Red River, for the Improvement of which 
there is an appropriation in the Bill, runs through 
his District. I gave him the information which he 
desired. Whilst he was with me I received a note 
from Mr. McKay of N. C. requesting me to send to 
him the papers explanatory of the different items of 
the Bill which I had caused to be prepared at the 
Treasury and War Departments, and which I had 
showed to him and the gentlemen who were with him 
last evening. I told Mr. Kaufman that as they were 
addressed to me as President it would not be proper 
that I should furnish them to be used in the House, 
in any other way than by a Message. Mr. Kauf- 
man said he desired to have them also, and that if 
I would let him have them he would take them to 
Mr. McKay, and would tell him that they were not 
to be used in the House. I told Mr. Kaufman that 
any member could readily procure copies by address- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 65 

ing a note to the Secretaries of the Treasury and of 
War, and in whose Departments they were of record. 
Mr. Kaufman said he would not vote against the 
veto, though he was very anxious to have the ap- 
propriation for Red River. 

Tuesday, 4th August, 1846. — Saw a number of 
members of Congress this morning. Though it was 
Cabinet day it was so near the close of the Session 
of Congress that I could not with propriety refuse 
to receive them. 

Mr. Bancroft, the Secretary of the Navy, was the 
first of the Cabinet who attended. Referring to my 
conversation with him on the subject, I enquired 
of him whether he had made up his mind to accept 
the English Mission. He enquired of me, if he ac- 
cepted, at what time I would desire him to leave for 
London. I told him that Mr. McLane would prob- 
ably leave London on his return by the Steamer 
which will leave Liverpool on the 19th of August 
or the 4th of September, and that I supposed it would 
be time enough for him to sail from this country by 
the Steamer of the ist of October. He then agreed 
to accept it. The understanding was that he was 
to remain in the Navy Department until Mr. Mc- 
Lane's arrival in the U. States, when I would ap- 
point him. 

The Cabinet assembled at rather a later hour than 
usual; all the members present. Whilst considering 
some matters of inconsiderable importance, I re- 
ceived information from the House of Representa- 
tives that the vote on the Harbour and River Bill, 



66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Aug. 

the President's objections to the contrary notwith- 
standing, stood yeas 95, noes 91. There not being 
two-thirds in favour of the Bill it was of course re- 
jected. I w^as informed by my Private Secretary 
that the Whig members from Tennessee, except Mr. 
Crozier, who had voted against the Bill on its origi- 
nal passage through the House, had to-day declined 
to vote. I can conceive of no reason for this, un- 
less it was the apprehension on their part if they 
voted consistently against the Bill there would be a 
majority sustaining the veto. A number of Demo- 
crats opposed to the Bill, I learn, were absent from 
the House by accident. About i>^ O'Clock A. M. 
[P. M.] I sent to the Senate a confidential message ^ 
concerning our relations with Mexico. It was con- 
curred in unanimously by the Cabinet. After trans- 
acting some other business the Cabinet at about 25^ 
O'clock adjourned. 

I requested Judge Mason to remain and he did 
so. I informed him that Mr. Bancroft had accepted 
the English Mission & would retire from the Navy 
Department some time in the month of September. 
I then tendered the office of Secretary of the Navy 
to Judge Mason, upon Mr. Bancroft's retirement. 
He expressed himself as being entirely satisfied with 
his present office of Atto. Gen'l, but said he would 
go into the Navy Department if I desired it, and 
thought that it would advance the success of my ad- 
ministration. It was understood between us that 
when Mr. Bancroft retired I would appoint him 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 456. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 67 

Secretary of the Navy. This was reception evening. 
The usual number of persons attended. 

Wednesday, J/A August, 1846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'clock to-day. Many members of Con- 
gress called, some of them after that hour on busi- 
ness. As the Session of Congress approaches its 
close, I am kept exceedingly busy in my office. 
Gen'l Rob't Armstrong, special bearer of despatches, 
arrived this morning from London, bringing with 
him the exchange of ratifications of the Oregon 
Treaty. In the course of the day I had a message ^ 
prepared, and transmitted it with the ratified Treaty 
to Congress, and recommended the establishment of 
a Territorial Government in the Oregon territory. 

I transacted much business to-day, some of it of 
an important character. 

The Marine band played on the President's 
grounds this afternoon. 

Thursday, 6th August, 1846. — Company called 
as usual to-day, and I saw them until 12 O'Clock. 
Had a very busy day, saw many members of Con- 
gress, but nothing occurred worthy of special note, 
except the presentation to me by a committee of 
Congress of a Bill appropriating $5,000,000 to be 
paid in land scrip for the payment of claims for 
French spoliations prior to 1800. I had heard much 
of these claims & had given them some examination 
when I was a Representative in Congress. I ex- 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 456. 



68 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Aug. 

amined the Bill and made up my mind that I ought 
not to approve it. At my request the Atto. Gen'l 
& [the] P. M. Gen'l agreed, as I was exceedingly 
occupied & was subjected to constant interruptions 
by persons calling, to give to it a further examina- 
tion and prepare the draft of a message for me as- 
signing my reasons for withholding my approval. I 
handed to them a hasty sketch, in the form of full 
notes, indicating the points of my objection to the 
Bill, which I had prepared. Anticipating that the 
Bill would come to me and having learned its pro- 
visions, I had requested them on yesterday to aid me 
in preparing a veto message. In the afternoon 
Judge Mason called with my draft or notes and one 
of his own. I suggested some changes and he took 
them to his house promising to call on to-morrow 
morning. Senator Dix, who had made a very able 
speech ^ in the Senate against the Bill, called in the 
evening, and knowing that he was perfectly familiar 
with the subject from a recent examination, I in- 
formed him of my intention to veto the Bill, and 
requested him to prepare for my use a condensed 
statement of the objections to it. He promised me 
that he would do so. 

Col. Benton, whom I had requested to call on 
other business, called after night. After conversing 
about other business, I informed Col. Benton that I 
intended to put my veto on the French Spoliation 
Bill. He expressed himself to be delighted to hear 
it, and said when I returned it to the Senate he 
would block it. He denounced the Bill in strong 

^ Globe, 29 Cong, i Sess. App. 514. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 69 

terms. He told me that he had addressed me a note 
on the subject to-day, but I had not received it. I 
told him if he found he had leisure to-night or on 
to-morrow to furnish me a statement of his objec- 
tions to the Bill, I would be obliged to him if he 
would do so. He promised me to do so. Quite a" 
number of other members of Congress called to- 
night, & without knowing anything of my intentions 
urged me to veto the French Spoliation Bill. Some 
of them, and among others Mr. Chapman of Al. & 
Mr. Wick of Indiana, expressed the opinion that 
members of Congress had been made interested in 
these claims and that the Bill had been passed by 
corrupt means. I did not inform them what my in- 
tentions were. 

Friday, ph August, 1846. — Saw many members 
of Congress and others who called this morning. 
Senator Dix called & handed to me a brief statement 
of his objections to the French Spoliation [Bill] as 
he had promised me to do on last evening. Judge 
Mason called & I handed to him Senator Dix's state- 
ment, to aid him in preparing the paper which he was 
drawing up. After an absence of two or three hours 
Judge Mason returned & read to me his draft. I 
suggested some changes, which he made & left the 
papers with me. After dinner I took all the drafts, 
my own notes or draft inclusive, and resolved to pre- 
pare a paper for myself. I was occupied in writing 
it, subject to occasional interruptions, until 10 
O'clock P. M. when I finished it.' 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 466. 



70 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Aug. 

On tuesday last, the 4th Instant, I communicated 
a confidential message to the Senate in Executive 
Session giving them information of the existing 
state of our relations with Mexico, and of my desire 
to treat with that Power. For the reasons assigned 
in that message, I recommended, if the Senate ap- 
proved my policy, that an appropriation might be 
made by Congress to facilitate negotiations with 
Mexico. The message will explain itself. On the 
6th Instant the Senate in Executive Session passed 
two Resolutions, with a copy of which I was fur- 
nished, approving my recommendations. I learned 
from several Senators that it was expected by the 
Senate that I would now send in a confidential mes- 
sage to both Houses asking the appropriation. I ob- 
jected to this course as unnecessary, and well calcu- 
lated to defeat the object I had in view altogether. 
To send a confidential message to so numerous a 
body as the Ho. Repts., composed as that body un- 
fortunately is of so many discordant factions, and 
expect my message to be kept a secret, would be as 
I thought a perfect farce. No confidential message 
has been made to the House for more than a dozen 
years, and to do it now would excite universal curi- 
osity in our own country, and ultimately give to the 
proceeding greater publicity than if a public mes- 
sage were at once sent in. It would, moreover, excite 
the jealousy and alarm of Foreign Powers as to our 
designs upon Mexico. I advised the Senators with 
whom I conversed, as the Senate had approved the 
object in view, to pass the appropriation through the 
Senate in Legislative Session without debate, and I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ^^ 

had no doubt by seeing and explaining to a few lead- 
ing members [of the House of Representatives] the 
object of the appropriation, it would pass that House 
also, without attracting much public attention. This 
course I hoped would have been adopted. I learned 
last evening and this morning that certain Whig Sen- 
ators objected to the appropriation unless I first took 
the responsibility of recommending it. To this I 
answered that I had done so in my confidential mes- 
sage. In order to remove all pretext, however, to re- 
sist the appropriation on such grounds, I saw Mr. 
Buchanan, and upon consultation with him it was 
agreed that he as Secretary of State should ad- 
dress a letter (a mode not unusual in the intercourse 
between the Executive Departments & Congress) to 
the Chairman of the committee of finance in the 
Senate [and] of Ways and Means in the Ho. Repts., 
asking the appropriation. He prepared such a let- 
ter ^ accordingly in which he spoke in my name, & 
took it to the Capitol to deliver it in person. About 
9 O'clock P. M. he returned and informed me that 
both Houses were in Session, and that before he had 
delivered the letters he had read them to Col. Ben- 
ton, who still advised that I should send a confiden- 
tial message to the Ho. Repts., and that he, Mr. 
Buchanan, had returned to consult me, before he de- 
livered the letters to Mr. Lewis & Mr. McKay. I 
told him I would not send a confidential message to 
the House, that I had done my duty, and that if the 
factious spirit prevailing in Congress prevented 
them from making the appropriation, I regret[ted] 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 52. 



72 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Aug. 

it on account of the country, but that the responsi- 
bility would not be mine. Mr. Buchanan returned 
to the Senate & as he afterwards informed me de- 
livered the two letters which he had written (being 
copies of each other) to Mr. Lewis & Mr. McKay, 
to be used if they thought proper in Legislative Ses- 
sion in the two Houses. 

Saturday, 8th August, 1846. — This was the day 
for the regular meeting of the Cabinet. All the 
members of the Cabinet called at different periods 
of the day, but were not together at any one time. 
Congress had passed a Resolution to adjourn on mon- 
day next, the loth Inst, and the members of the 
Cabinet had business with members of Congress, and 
were looking after bills pending before the two 
Houses connected with their respective Departments. 

Early in the day I was informed by a Senator that 
the Whig Senators, although committed by their 
votes in Executive Session to vote for the appropria- 
tion which I had asked in my confidential message to 
the Senate to enable me to make peace with Mexico, 
were now interposing objections & saying that they 
would not do so unless the President took the re- 
sponsibility of the measure. While they made this 
objection as a pretext for withholding the appropria- 
tion, they knew well that I had taken the responsi- 
bility, I St, in a confidential message, and 2nd, in the 
official letter addressed on yesterday by the Secre- 
tary of State to the Chairman of the Committee of 
Finance in the Senate, and the Committee of Ways 
& Means in the Ho. Repts. I was now informed 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 73 

that in Executive Session last night they had taken 
the ground that the President must communicate a 
message in confidence to the House as well as the 
Senate, before they would vote the money. I sent 
for Mr. Buchanan & informed him of what I had 
learned, & told him that to send a confidential mes- 
sage to the House, a thing which had not been done 
for near 20 years, would be a farce, that it would 
be to give it more publicity & more consequence than 
to send it in in Legislative Session. I expressed the 
opinion that a message should be immediately pre- 
pared & sent in to both Houses in open Session ask- 
ing for the appropriation, and thus place the re- 
sponsibility of refusing it, if it was not made, on 
Congress. Mr. Buchanan agreed to this suggestion. 
A message ^ was accordingly prepared & sent in to 
both Houses before 12 O'Clock to-day. 

At about 7 O'clock P. M. I went to the Capitol 
as is usual on the last nights of the Session. This is 
done for the convenience of Congress, and especially 
of the Committee of enrolled bills. I occupied the 
Vice President's Room. All my Cabinet were with 
me. A large number of enrolled bills were pre- 
sented to me, which I examined, approved, and 
signed. I sent to the Senate a veto message on the 
French Spoliation bill. I sent in also a number of 
nominations, some of them to fill new offices created 
by laws which I had just approved. About 103^ 
O'clock I learned that the Ho. Repts. had adjourned 
for the day. The Senate adjourned about 11^ 
O'clock P. M. 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the PresidentSj IV, 459. 



74 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Aug. 

Great confusion, I learned, prevailed in both 
Houses during this night's Session and what is deeply 
to be regretted several members as I was informed 
were much excited by drink. Among others I was 
informed that Senators Webster & Barrow ^ were 
quite drunk, so much so that the latter gentleman, 
it was said, was noisy and troublesome. From all I 
learned it was a most disreputable scene. At 11^ 
O'clock I left the Capitol. Both Houses adjourned 
to meet, the House at 8, & the Senate at 8>4 A. M. 
on Monday next. 

Mr. Charles J. IngersoU called & requested, for 
reasons which I have no time to state, that his name 
should not be sent to the Senate as Minister to Rus- 
sia. He would probably have been rejected by the 
Senate. 

Sunday, gth August, 1846. — In consequence of 
my constant confinement to my office and great labour 
for many days past, I was much enfeebled and pros- 
trated to-day. I did not attend church and remained 
quietly at home and rested. Mrs. Polk & Miss 
Rucker attended church. 

Monday, lOth August, 1846. — The House of 
Representatives having adjourned to meet at 8 and 
the Senate at 8^ O'Clock this morning, I attended at 
the Capitol as is usual at the close of a Session of 
Congress. I was at the Capitol with my Cabinet a 
few minutes after 8 O'Clock. I approved and 

^ Alexander Barrow, Senator from Louisiana. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 75 

signed a number of enrolled bills which were pre- 
sented to me. 

The two Houses had by a joint Resolution agreed 
to adjourn for the Session at 12 O'Clock. At pre- 
cisely that hour by the House Clock the Speaker 
adjourned the House. The House clock was 10 min- 
utes faster than the Senate clock, and the Senate re- 
mained in Session that much longer, when the Pres- 
ident of the Senate adjourned that body also. Many 
important measures were lost by this summary and 
prompt adjournment of the two Houses. Several 
Bills which had passed both Houses were not signed 
by the Speakers. The appropriation for $2,000,000, 
to enable the President to negotiate a peace with 
Mexico came up in the Senate some 30 or 40 min- 
utes before 12 O'Clock. Senator Davis ^ of Mass. 
took the floor and spoke until the time had expired, 
so as to defeat action on it. The history of this 
measure is given up to that time in this diary of 
the 7th & 8th Inst. 

Late in the evening of Saturday, the 8th, I learned 
that after an excited debate in the House a bill 
passed that body, but with a mischievous & foolish 
amendment^ to the efifect that no territory which 
might be acquired by treaty from Mexico should 
ever be a slave-holding country. What connection 
slavery had with making peace with Mexico it is 
difficult to conceive. This amendment was voted on 
to the Bill by the opponents of the measure, and 

^ John Davis, 1787-1854, Senator from Massachusetts, 1835- 
1841, and 1845-1853. 

^ The Wilmot Proviso, Globe, 29 Cong, i Sess. 1214-1218. 



y6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Aug. 

when voted on, the original friends of the Bill voted 
against it, but it was passed by the Whigs and North- 
ern Democrats, who had been opposed to making 
the appropriation. In this form it had gone to the 
Senate. Had there been time, there is but little 
doubt the Senate would have struck out the slavery 
proviso & that the House would have concurred. 
Senator Davis however resorted to the disreputable 
expedient of speaking against time & thus prevented 
the Senate from acting upon it, until the hour of ad- 
journment arrived. 

My object in asking this appropriation has not 
been fully stated in this diary. It was this. Mex- 
ico is indebted to the U. S. in a large sum, which 
she is unable to pay. There is also a disputed ques- 
tion of boundary. The two countries are now en- 
gaged in War. When peace is made the only in- 
demnity which the U. S. can have will be a cession 
of territory. The U. S. desires to acquire Upper 
California, New Mexico, and perhaps some territory 
South of these Provinces. For a suitable cession 
of territory we are willing to assume the debts to our 
own citizens & to pay an additional consideration. 
My information induces the belief that Mexico 
would be willing to settle the difficulty in this man- 
ner. No Government, however, it is believed, is 
strong enough to make a treaty ceding territory and 
long maintain power unless they could receive, at the 
time of making the treaty, money enough to support 
the army. Whatever party can keep the army in 
its support can hold the power. The present Gov- 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ^^ 

ernment is without any regular revenue, & without 
a prompt payment as a part of the consideration 
would not venture to make a Treaty. Having no 
doubt that I could effect an adjustment of the pend- 
ing war if I had the command of $2,000,000, I felt 
it to be my duty to ask such an appropriation. This 
I did in the first instance by a confidential communi- 
cation made to the Senate in Executive Session on 
the 4th Instant. The Senate on the 6th Inst, passed 
resolutions approving my views and declaring that 
it was proper to make the appropriation asked. The 
Resolution approving my views passed the Senate 
by a vote of ayes 43 to nays 2, and the Resolution 
approving the appropriation by yeas 33 to nays 19 
(see Executive Journal, from which the Injunction 
of Secrecy was this day removed). With a full 
knowledge of all this Senator Davis had recourse to 
the desperate resort of speaking against time, to de- 
feat a measure which he had been unable to defeat 
by his vote. Had the appropriation been passed I 
am confident I should have made an honorable peace 
by which we should have acquired California, & such 
other territory as we desired, before the end of Octo- 
ber. Should the war be now protracted, the respon- 
sibility will fall more heavily upon the head of Sena- 
tor Davis than upon any other man, and he will 
deserve the execrations of the country. I desired 
when I made the communication to the Senate in 
Executive Session, to consult that body in secret Ses- 
sion, to the end that the appropriation, if approved, 
should have been passed quietly and without attract- 



78 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Aug. 

ing public attention, or exciting the jealousy of the 
Powers of Europe; but contrary to my wishes great 
publicity has been given to it by Congress. 

After the two Houses had adjourned I learned 
that a Resolution had passed each House & that a 
committee in each had been appointed [to] wait on 
the President and inform him that the two Houses 
were ready to adjourn, but the Committees did not 
wait on me. 

A few minutes after the adjournment I left the 
Capitol and returned to the President's House. 
Shortly after I reached my office Senator Atchison 
of Mo., President Pro Tempore of the Senate, in 
company with Senator Chalmers of Miss, called and 
stated to me that a committee had been appointed to 
wait on me by both Houses, but that it was done in 
the Senate so short a time before the hour of 12 
O'clock fixed for the adjournment that they had not 
come together and waited on me until the two Houses 
had adjourned. Mr. Atchison said he made this ex- 
planation and had called expressly to make it, fear- 
ing that I might take up an impression that as 
presiding officer of the Senate he had neglected his 
duty. On leaving, Mr. Atchison remarked that he 
had been excited on the Oregon question, but that 
he was my personal and political friend. 

During the afternoon a number of members of 
Congress of both Houses called to take leave of me 
before leaving the City. 

Tuesday, nth August, 1846. — Before the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet to-day, several members of Con- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 79 

gress called on me to take leave before their departure 
for their homes. 

The Cabinet met at 11 O'Clock; all the members 
present. A question arose as to the power of the 
President to appoint a Deputy Post master at Buf- 
falo in New York. The facts are these. During 
the last recess of the Senate I appointed Philip Dor- 
sheimer, whose commission under the Constitution 
would expire at the end of the next Session of the 
Senate. During the Session of the Senate, I nomi- 
nated W. L. Smith to be Dep'y P. M. in place of 
Mr. Dorsheimer & the Senate rejected the nomina- 
tion. I then nominated Henry K. Smith for the 
same office, & the Senate adjourned without acting 
on the nomination. The question now was whether, 
as Mr. Dorsheimer's commission had expired with 
the adjournment of the Senate and the office was now 
vacant, it was such a vacancy as could be filled by a 
temporary appointment by the President. The Atto. 
Gen'l was clearly of opinion that the President pos- 
sessed the power. Mr. Buchanan was of a different 
opinion. A long discussion ensued, during which 
all the members of the Cabinet except Mr. Buchanan 
expressed the opinion that the President possessed 
the power and ought to exercise it. The Atto. Gen'l 
cited the opinions of Atto. Gen'ls Wirt & Taney in 
similar cases in favour of the existence of the power. 
Though I did not myself doubt the power, it was 
yet an important question, and without expressing 
my opinion I required the Atto. Gen'l to give me his 
opinion in writing before I decided. No other busi- 



go JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Aug. 

ness of importance was transacted and the Cabinet 
adjourned. 

This was the regular evening for receiving com- 
pany. A few gentlemen and ladies called, the com- 
pany being much smaller than usual. 

Wednesday, 12th August, 1846. — At 6 O'Clock 
this morning my Private Secretary, J. Knox Walker, 
left on a visit to Tennessee. He expects to be ab- 
sent five or six weeks. The Post Master Gen'l left 
at the same time for Tennessee to visit his family, 
and expects to be absent about the same length of 
time. 

Several members of Congress who still remain in 
the City called this morning. I occupied the day 
in disposing of a mass of business which had ac- 
cumulated on my table. The Marine-band played on 
the President's grounds this afternoon. Feeling no 
particular interest in the performance, I took a ride 
on horseback in company with the Secretary of the 
Navy. 

Thursday, 13th August, 1846. — I saw no com- 
pany to-day until 12 O'Clock, but devoted the morn- 
ing to the business on my table. At 12 O'Clock I 
opened my office & received company for an hour. 
During that time a crowd of persons called seeking 
small offices. I had one answer for all, which was, 
" there are no vacancies." I am resolved not to be 
annoyed as I have been by this class of persons. 

About I O'clock, the Cherokee Chiefs, including 
those of the Ross-party, the Treaty-party, and the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 81 

Old Settlers, called in a body to take leave of me, 
being about to depart for their home in the West. 
They had to-day given their assent to the amend- 
ments made by the Senate to the Treaty lately con- 
cluded with them. They had settled all the diffi- 
culties between themselves, and between the nation 
and the Government of the U. States. John Ross, 
the Principal Chief, addressed me & said they were 
all now in harmony and were satisfied. I told them 
that I congratulated them upon the happy adjust- 
ment of the difiiculties which had distracted and di- 
vided them for more than a dozen years, and that I 
was rejoiced to learn that they were returning to 
their nation to live as brothers and friends. They 
were all in a pleasant humour and well satisfied. 
This event in my administration I consider an im- 
portant one. From the commencement of Gen'l 
Jackson's administration down [to] the present time 
this tribe (which is probably the most enlightened 
on the Continent) has been torn by factions arrayed 
in deadly hostility against each other. Ross's party 
resisted with great stubbornness the wise policy of 
Gen'l Jackson to remove all the Indian Tribes re- 
siding within the States to the West of the Missis- 
sippi. This party constituted the majority of the 
Nation, and since their removal West have pursued 
and persecuted the Treaty party, so called because 
they made the Treaty of 1835.^ Many murders have 
been committed among them, and even this year sev- 

^ U. S. Stat, at Large, VII, 478. For an account of the 
troubles between the Creek Indians and the State of Georgia, 
which led to this treaty, see Schouler, History of the United 



82 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Aug. 

eral of the Treaty party and old settlers have been 
slain by the Ross party. The Treaty which I have 
caused to be made recently has put an end to all 
these troubles, and I hope they may hereafter be a 
united and happy people. 

About 2 O'clock P. M. some 20 or 30 young men 
from Philadelphia called to pay their respects. 
They were plain looking young men. They in- 
formed me that they had come round in a vessel, and 
were on a tour of pleasure and recreation. 

Friday, 14th August, 1846. — I saw no company 
until 12 O'clock to-day. Saw company for an hour 
commencing at 12 O'Clock, when I again closed my 
office. I cleared my table or nearly so, of the busi- 
ness upon it. In the course of the day I examined 
several applications for pardon, and the proceedings 
of Courts Martial, Naval and Military, and decided 
upon them. 

This was the regular evening for receiving com- 
pany. Not more than a dozen persons called. 

Nothing worthy of special notice occurred to-day. 

Saturday, isth August, 1846.— The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Post Master Gen'l, who is absent from 
the City on a visit to his family in Tennessee. The 
Secretary of War laid before me the finding of the 
Court of Enquiry lately convened at Fortress Mon- 
roe in the case of Gen'l Gaines. The Court find 

States, III, 233. For the treaty of August 6, 1846, which Polk 
concluded with the Creeks, see U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 871. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 83 

Gen'l Gaines guilty of violating orders and acting 
illegally in several instances, in ordering out volun- 
teers in Louisiana and other Southern States and 
mustering them into service; but the Court recom- 
mend, in consideration of his long service & the sup- 
posed patriotism & purity of his motives, that no 
further proceedings be had in his case. It is evi- 
dent from the finding of the Court, that they have 
laboured to give a construction to General Gaines's 
[conduct] most favourable to him, and if possible to 
excuse him. Gen'l Gaines is now a very old man 
& although guilty of acts which cannot be justified, 
and for the commission of which, if brought before 
a general Court Martial he would without doubt be 
punished, yet I determined in lenity to him to yield 
to the recommendation of the Court of Enquiry and 
take no further proceedings against him. His late 
conduct at New Orleans greatly embarrassed the 
Government & will cost the Treasury many hundreds 
of thousands of dollars. He is now however re- 
moved from that command & cannot repeat the mis- 
chief. The whole cabinet concurred in my views 
and decision. I directed the Secretary of War to 
issue a general order based upon the finding of the 
Court, condemning his conduct, but for the reasons 
stated by the Court discharging him from further 
prosecution. I directed further that he be ordered 
to the North and stationed there, so as to put it out 
of his power further to embarrass the Government 
during the pendency of the Mexican War. Some 
other matters connected with the War & the move- 
ments of our army were considered. I directed the 



84 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Aug. 

Secretary of War to have the New York Regiment, 
under the command of Col. Stephenson,^ despatched 
for California at the earliest practicable period. 

At 4 O'clock P. M. I took a ride with the Secre- 
tary of the Navy in his carriage to the country. We 
drove to the residence of Francis P. Blair, Esqr. 
(late Editor of the Globe) some six miles from 
Washington. His residence is in Maryland. It was 
the second time I had been without the District of 
Columbia since I came to Washington in February, 
1845. In May, 1845, I visited Mount Vernon and 
viewed the tomb of Washington. Mr. Blair was 
alone, his family being absent from home. He re- 
ceived me very cordially and was very friendly. 
During our stay of an hour, he took occasion to re- 
mark to me that I had been eminently successful in 
my administration, and that he approved all my lead- 
ing measures. In speaking of the tarifif he said he 
entirely approved the act which had recently passed, 
and had been more anxious for its passage than some 
of the members of Congress who had voted for it. 
He said he had argued with Senator Ha5rwood, and 
had endeavoured to convince him that he ought to 
vote for it; & that he had dissuaded him from re- 
signing his seat in the Senate. I told him I thought 
Mr. Haywood had committed a great error, that I 
thought him an honest and pure man, but one of 
peculiar organization of mind. In this he agreed 
with me, and said he had a kink in his head. We 
returned to Washington about dark. 

^ Colonel Jonathan D. Stevenson of the Seventh New York 
Volunteers. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 85 

Sunday, idth August, 1846.— I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Mrs. J. Knox 
Walker. 

Monday, lyth August, 1846.— I gave orders to 
my porter this morning to admit no company until 12 
O'clock. Having occasion however before that 
hour to pass from my office to that of my Private 
Secretary, I encountered a number of persons in the 
passage in waiting to see me, and was compelled to 
see them or seem to act rudely. They were shown 
in. As I anticipated they were on the patriotic busi- 
ness of seeking office. Some of them were my old 
customers who had made frequent calls upon me for 
more than a year past. I concluded that it was use- 
less to be annoyed by them any longer, and I was 
more than usually stern and summary with them. I 
said no! this morning with a free will and a good 
grace. The truth is that the persons who called to- 
day, with but few exceptions were a set of loafers 
without merit. They had been frequently here be- 
fore, and I find as long as I treat them civilly I shall 
never get clear of them. 

At 121/2 O'clock P. M. the Envoy Extraordinary 
and Minister Plenipotentiary from Chili was pre- 
sented to me by the Secretary of State. He pre- 
sented to me his letter of credence & made me an 
address to which I responded. He was accompanied 
by his Secretary of Legation. I received him in the 
parlour below stairs. 



86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Aug. 

I devoted the remainder of the day to business in 
my office. 

My relation, Maj'r Ezekiel P. McNeal of Boli- 
var, Tennessee, his wife & daughter and Miss Wil- 
liams, the sister of his wife, called. Maj'r McNeal 
is an especial friend as well as a relation, and upon 
the invitation of Mrs. Polk and myself, he & his 
family took apartments in the Presidential Mansion 
during their stay in Washington. 

Tuesday, l8th August, 1846. — This was the reg- 
ular day of the meeting of the Cabinet. Senators 
Bagby & Benton & Mr. Rhett of the Ho. Repts. and 
a few other persons called before the regular hour of 
the meeting of the Cabinet. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour, all the members present except the P. 
M. Gen'l, who is on a visit to his family in Tennessee. 

The Secretary of War read the order which he had 
prepared based on the proceedings of the Court of 
Enquiry in the case of Gen'l E. P. Gaines. Some 
alterations were made in the paper, and as amended 
I approved it. 

Mr. Buchanan communicated a letter to me which 
he had received from a person known to him to be 
respectable written at New Orleans, representing 
that great extravagance & abuses existed in the pur- 
chase of horses in the Quarter-Master's Department 
at N. Orleans. I endorsed the letter, referring it 
to the Secretary of War, and directed an immediate 
inquiry to be made into the charges preferred against 
Col. Hunt, the Quarter master at New Orleans. I 
endorsed further on the letter, that from representa- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 87 

tions made from various sources I apprehended that 
there was a want of economy and great abuses in the 
Quarter master's Department, and that I feared the 
wasteful extravagance of the Florida War was be- 
ing repeated in the existing war with Mexico. I 
directed the Secretary of War to investigate the 
matter. 

Several other subjects of no great importance 
were considered. The Cabinet adjourned about 2 
O'clock P. M. 

Wednesday, igth August, 1846. — This morning 
at 9 O'clock I went on board the Steamer Osceola 
with Mrs. Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and two 
servants to take an excursion to Fortress Monroe. 
We took with us two servants. Maj'r E. P. McNeal, 
his wife, daughter, and Miss Williams, the sister of 
Mrs. McNeal, all of Tennessee, who had been a day 
or two at the Presidential Mansion, accompanied us. 
My intention is to take an excursion of only three or 
four days. It is my first absence from Washington 
since I have been President, except a single day in 
the spring of 1845 when I visited Mount Vernon, 
going and returning on the same day. My long con- 
finement to my office has considerably enfeebled me 
& rendered some recreation necessary. After having 
looked into the laws passed by the last Session of 
Congress and given the necessary directions for 
carrying them into effect, no public interest will, I 
think, sufifer by my absence for a few [days]. All 
the members of the Cabinet agreed to remain at their 
posts, except Judge Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, who at 



88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Aug. 

my request accompanied me. Mr. Buchanan prom- 
ised me to call at my office daily and examine my 
letters, and if anything should occur requiring my 
personal attention I am to be immediately advised of 
it. The mail passes daily from Washington to For- 
tress Monroe, so that in less than 24 hours I can hear 
from Washington. In the absence of my Private 
Secretary from Washington, I left William V. Voor- 
hies, Esqr., a confidential and trust-worthy young 
man, in charge of my office. At 9 O'Clock I went 
on board the Osceola. I found the Secretaries of 
the Treasury, War, and Navy at the Steam-boat. 
They accompanied me as far as Alexandria & re- 
turned to Washington. The passage down the po- 
tomac was a pleasant one. Before dark the wind 
rose, and after passing the mouth of the Potomac we 
found the Bay very rough. Always [almost] every- 
one on board was affected by sea-sickness. Mrs. 
Polk, Miss Rucker, & Mrs. McNeal were very sick, 
I was not myself sick. Between i & 2 O'Clock 
A. M. of Aug't 20th we reached the Fortress, where 
I was received by Col. Derusser ^ and conducted to 
the Quarters which had been provided for me. Col. 
Totten ^ of the Engineer corps with his wife accom- 
panied me. Col. Totten had written to Col. Derus- 
ser to provide quarters for me. Col. Totten was very 
polite and attentive and caused every necessary pro- 
vision to be made for our comfort. My quarters 

^ Rene Edward De Russ}-, Lieutenant Colonel of Engineers 
1 838-1 863; in charge of the defences of the Pacific coast during 
the Civil War. 

^ Joseph Gilbert Totten, Chief of Engineers. 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 89 

were in a comfortable cottage with four rooms near 
the sea-beach, being the same heretofore occupied by 
President Tyler when visiting this Post. 

Thursday, 20th August, 1846. — This morning I 
had many calls. Col. Walker, the Commandant of 
the Post, called with all the officers now at the Post. 
He caused a salute to be fired, and the fine band at- 
tached to the Post played. During the day a num- 
ber of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. Many 
strangers are here, it being a place of resort for fash- 
ionable person[s] & those seeking health. 

Commodore Wilkinson,^ who is in command of 
the Navy Yard at Portsmouth, came up to-day and 
invited me to visit the Navy Yard, tendering to me 
a Government Steamer to carry myself and my party 
to the Yard at such time as might suit my conven- 
ience. He had with him several Naval officers. I 
agreed to go down on to-morrow. In the course of 
the afternoon a number of visitors at the post called. 
About sun-set, I walked around the fortress and ex- 
amined the defences.^ I was accompanied by Col. 
Derusser, Col. Totten, Col. Walker, Gen'l Brooke, 
and several junior officers. The area enclosed 
within the walls is about 70 acres, and the officers 

^ Jesse Wilkinson, Commandant of the Norfolk navy-yard 
1843-1847. 

^ The construction of Fortress Monroe, begun in 1819, cost 
the government two and one half million dollars. It vv^as de- 
signed to constitute the most extensive military work in America ; 
an area of nearly seventy acres was enclosed by granite walls 
thirty-five feet in thickness, mounting in 1861 four hundred heavy 
guns. 



90 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Aug. 

who accompanied me informed me that the works 
were constructed for 345 Guns, and more might be 
used if necessary, and that it would require 5,000 
men to man the fortress, besides an infantry force 
which, in the event of war, it would be prudent to 
have within the walls. Most of the guns are 
mounted, and are all 32 pounders, except a few Bax- 
ion guns which are 64 pounders. The distance 
around the fortress and the exterior wall is one & a 
third miles. There are no soldiers now here except 
less than a single company, and between one & two 
hundred raw recruits. All the soldiers who were 
usually stationed here have been ordered to the Rio 
Grande and are now with General Taylor's army. 
After night the Band of Music attached to the 
Post played in front of my quarters. Several hun- 
dred persons assembled with the band. All were 
orderly and remained without the enclosure. A few 
friends came in. 

Friday, 21st August, 1846. — About 9 O'Clock 
A. M. an officer commanding a small Government 
Steamer called the Engineer, reported to me that he 
had come up from the Navy Yard to carry myself 
and party to that place, according to the arrangement 
made with Commodore Wilkinson on yesterday. 
About 9^ O'clock our party went on board. We 
were accompanied by Col. Totten & lady. Col. De- 
russer, Gen'l Brooke, and several other officers, mili- 
tary and naval. The Hon. Mr. Hopkins of Va. & 
the Hon. Mr. Brokenborough of Florida, members 
of the Ho. Repts. of the late Session of Congress, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 91 

Mrs. Brokenborough, and several other persons ac- 
companied me. About five miles from the post we 
met a Steam-boat from Norfolk having on board a 
committee of gentlemen from that City, who had 
been deputed to invite me to visit Norfolk. They 
were taken on board and returned with us. They 
were introduced to me and made known the object 
of their visit. I informed them that my absence 
from the seat of Government would be a very short 
one, intending to return on monday next; that after 
close confinement to my office for nearly eighteen 
months I had sought only a few days of recreation; 
that I was not on a tour of ceremony, and desired no 
parade or public attentions. I informed them that 
I had promised Commodore Wilkinson on yester- 
day to visit the Navy Yard and public armed vessels 
to-day, and intended nothing more. I begged them 
under the circumstances to excuse me from visiting 
Norfolk. They insisted that I should appoint some 
other day (Saturday or monday next) to visit Nor- 
folk, which I declined to do. As, however, Norfolk 
was immediately opposite to the Navy Yard, I 
agreed, upon their earnest importunity, to pass over 
to Norfolk to-day for half an hour in an informal 
manner. On reaching the Navy Yard a salute was 
fired from the ship Pennsylvania & a Revenue Cut- 
ter, which were lying at anchor near the Yard. Our 
party were conducted on board the Pennsylvania 
where I was received by Commodore Wilkinson and 
the Naval officers attached to this station. After ex- 
amining this fine ship, we were conducted on shore, 
examined the dry-dock, and were conducted from 



92 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Aug. 

there on foot through a broiling sun (it being one of 
the hottest days of the season) to Commodore Wil- 
kinson's House where refreshments were furnished. 
After spending three-fourths of an hour at the Com- 
modore's House, we went on foot through the sun 
several hundred yards to the Steamer which had 
brought us down, and were taken to Norfolk. On 
landing a salute was fired from a battery of brass 
field pieces. I was met on board by the Mayor and 
civil authorities of Norfolk, who welcomed me to 
their City. Some companies of military were pa- 
raded on the wharf. A large crowd of citizens were 
also assembled. On going on shore the ladies of our 
party (Mrs. Polk & others) were provided with car- 
riages. At the request of the Mayor I walked with 
him on foot, surrounded by a dense crowd of citizens 
and preceded by the military, to the Hotel at which 
I was to be received. The Hotel was situated more 
than a fourth of a mile from the wharf where we 
landed. On reaching it, I found a large crowd as- 
sembled. I was conducted into a parlour, where I 
was introduced to several hundred persons. I was 
almost overcome with excessive heat, for it was one 
of the hottest days I ever felt, but still I made an 
effort and endured the fatigue, though it was any- 
thing but pleasant to me. The ladies had been con- 
ducted to a different apartment in the Hotel. After 
remaining in the Hotel an hour or more, constantly 
on my feet receiving and shaking hands with persons 
who were introduced to me, I spoke of returning to 
the steamer, when to my surprise I learned that a 
dinner was being prepared. This I regretted as my 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 93 

fatigue and suffering from heat were great. There 
was, however, no alternative but to remain or to act 
with seeming rudeness. I was kept an hour and a 
half longer when I was shown to the dinner-table. 
About an hundred persons sat down. Through my 
friend, the Hon. Mr. Hopkins, and the Hon. Mr. 
Loyall I prevailed on the Mayor & those who con- 
ducted the entertainment to have no toasts or cere- 
mony at the table. It was an excellent dinner to 
have been gotten up upon such short notice. 

After dinner I was conducted on foot, accom- 
panied by the military and a crowd of citizens, from 
the Hotel to the Steam-boat, where the Mayor and 
civil authorities took leave of me. Another salute 
was fired on shore as the Steamer left. My reception 
at the Navy yard and at Norfolk was highly gratify- 
ing to me. Every mark of respect was paid to me. 
I found myself on returning to Fortress Monroe in 
the evening, greatly fatigued & perfectly wet with 
perspiration. We reached the Fortress about sun- 
set, and I was heartily rejoiced to get into my quar- 
ters where I could have some repose and rest. 

Judge Mason (the Atto. Gen'l) who accompanied 
me from Washington, was taken with an attack of 
gout in the feet last evening and was unable to ac- 
company me on the excursion to day. He was con- 
fined to his bed all day. This he regretted very 
much. 

After night the band of music attached to the Post 
assembled and played in front of the cottage which 
I occupied. There was also an exhibition of fire- 
works, or sending up of rockets near my cottage. 



94 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Aug. 

The ladies crossed the street to Col. Derusser's House 
to have a fairer view of the fire-works. I was so 
much fatigued that I retired but could not rest. I 
spent a restless and uncomfortable [night], sleeping 
but little. 

Saturday, 22nd August, 1846. — I rose this morn- 
ing feeling quite unwell. My stomach was deranged 
& I felt a soreness & aching in my limbs. This was 
caused by the excessive fatigue of yesterday which 
was one of the hottest days I ever felt. I felt so 
unwell that I declined receiving many visitors who 
called, and requested a friend to let it be known that 
I was too unwell to see company to-day. 

About 10 O'clock a Steamer from Norfolk arrived 
with Gov. Tazewell,^ the Hon. Geo. Loyall, his wife 
and two daughters and some other persons on board, 
who had come expressly to see me. I invited Mr. 
Loyall on yesterday to visit me, and to bring Gov. 
Tazewell with him, and of course however unwell 
I was I felt bound to receive this party. They 
called at my cottage. I was much gratified to meet 
them and especially Gov. Tazewell. I had not seen 
Gov. T. since he retired from the Senate of the U. S. 
in March, 1833. I had lived several winters in the 
same boarding house at Washington with him, had 
become intimate with him, and admired him for his 
talents and as a man of great purity and uprightness 
of character. I then thought him, and still do, one 
of the greatest men I have ever known. I was glad 

^ Lltdeton Waller Tazewell of Virginia, 1790-1860, Gov- 
ernor of Virginia in 1834. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 95 

to see him and made an effort to entertain him, 
though I was compelled occasionally to retire to my 
room & rest. Gov. Tazewell, Mr. Loyall, his wife, 
& two daughters dined with us at our cottage. 
Judge Mason, who was better of his attack of gout, 
also dined with us. I was able to sit at the table 
but eat nothing. 

After dinner Gov. Tazewell talked freely of pub- 
lic affairs, and among other things took occasion to 
remark that it had been my fortune to meet more 
great and important questions in the early period 
of my administration than any of my predecessors 
had done. He said that my administration had suc- 
cessfully disposed of and settled more important pub- 
lic subjects of great interest in the first eighteen 
months of my term than any of my predecessors had 
ever done in eight years. A part of these questions, 
he said, I had brought forward myself, while others 
may have come up for action by accident, or without 
any immediate and direct agency of mine. He enu- 
merated the great questions which had been settled, 
viz., the Annexation of Texas; the Settlement of the 
Oregon question by a definitive Treaty, a question 
which preceding administrations had been endeav- 
ouring to settle for more than thirty years; the re- 
duction of the tariff; the establishment of the Con- 
stitutional Treasury; and the establishment of [the] 
Ware-house system ; any one of which he remarked 
would have been sufficient to mark the success of any 
one administration if nothing else had been done dur- 
ing its term. He spoke in terms of approbation also 
of my two vetoes on the Harbour and River Bill, 



96 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Aug. 

and the French Spoliation Bill. He spoke in strong 
terms against the latter Bill, said that he was per- 
fectly familiar with the origin of the claims, and that 
they had no foundation in equity, none whatever. I 
was surprised but of course gratified to hear these 
opinions from such a man as Gov. Tazewell, and ex- 
pressed my gratification to him. He approved, too, 
my action in relation to Mexico. In the course of 
the conversation he remarked that upon the Oregon 
question he thought that both Mr. Pakenham and 
Mr. Buchanan had conducted the negotiation bun- 
glingly, but did not specify in what particulars and 
I did not ask him. 

Gov. Tazewell, Mr. Loyall, & his family returned 
to Norfolk in the evening, and I retired to my cham- 
bers. 

After night the band of music attached to the Post 
again played in front of the cottage which I occu- 
pied. Mrs. Polk received company this evening. 
My relation, Maj'r McNeal of Bolivar, Tennessee, 
his wife and daughter, & Miss Williams, his sister- 
in-law, who accompanied us from Washington, oc- 
cupied a part of the cottage with me, & formed a 
part of my family. They accompanied us to the 
Navy Yard and to Norfolk on yesterday. We found 
them very pleasant and agreeable. 

Sunday, 2Jrd August, 1846. — Continuing to be 
quite indisposed to-day, I did not feel able to attend 
church. I saw no company, but remained quietly in 
my Cottage all day. Many visitors at the Hotel, I 
was informed, desired to call, but I declined to re- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 97 

ceive them. Col. Totten & his wife, and Col. De- 
russer called after night to see how I was. Two or 
three other persons called in the course of the day, 
who were probably not apprised that I had declined 
to see company. I told Col. Totten to-night that I 
was resolved to return to Washington by the Steamer 
Osceola which would leave here on to-morrow 
evening. 

Monday, 24th August, 1846. — I was much im- 
proved in my health this morning. I remained at 
my cottage and saw company during the day. Many 
persons called. About 4 O'Clock P. M. I walked 
with Judge Mason to the Hotel, where I was in- 
troduce[d] to many persons, ladies and gentlemen, 
who had visited this point and were spending some 
time here for their health or for recreation. It is a 
fine Hotel and a pleasant place for a summer recre- 
ation. After spending an hour at the Hotel I re- 
turned to my cottage. Among other persons who 
visited me to-day was Gen'l E. P. Gaines of the U. S. 
Army. It was his first visit since my arrival. He 
delivered to me a letter which he had written to me 
(which I Vv^ill place on my files) assigning as a reason 
why he had not called sooner that he had not learned 
the result of the proceedings of a Court of Enquiry 
recently convened at this point upon his late conduct 
in calling volunteers into service without authority 
of law, but that having learned that the case had 
been disposed of before T had left Washington he had 
called. He also in his letter asked to be informed on 
the subject and for orders. In the afternoon when I 



98 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Aug. 

visited the Hotel I again met him, and took occasion 
to inform him that the proceedings of the Court of 
Enquiry in his case had been acted on and disposed 
of by me before I left Washington, and that he would 
be duly informed of the result through the War 
Department. I informed him that I had supposed 
he would have been officially informed of the result 
before this time, and that I did not know the cause 
of the delay. I had resolved on yesterday to return 
to Washington this afternoon in the Steamer Osceola. 
The wind blew briskly nearly the whole day, and 
the sea was rough, & as the hour of her departure 
approached, which was six O'Clock P. M., several 
Naval officers and others advised me not to go on 
board of her, as they were sure that, although she 
was a safe boat, she was yet small and that I would 
have a very uncomfortable passage in her. They 
represented also that if the wind should continue she 
would be compelled to put into some harbour and 
there remain until the wind fell. These representa- 
tions induced me to abandon the idea of taking 
passage in her. At 9 O'Clock I took passage in the 
Steamer Augusta for Richmond in company with 
Mrs. Polk and the party who came down with me on 
Wednesday last, calculating that I would reach 
Washington by this route on to-morrow in the after- 
noon. Col. Derusser, Col. Walker, and other offi- 
cers accompanied me to the Boat and remained until 
she left. When I left my cottage the Band of Music 
attached [to the Post came to] my cottage [and] 
were playing in front of it. As I passed them on 
my way to the Boat I thanked them for their polite- 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 99 

ness in playing every evening in front of my cottage 
except on the Sabbath since I had been at the Post. 
My visit to Fortress Monroe was a very pleasant 
one. I received all the attention I expected and 
more than I desired. My indisposition on Saturday 
and Sunday prevented me from enjoying the visit 
as much as I should otherwise have done. 

Tuesday, Z^th August, 1846. — Having left For- 
tress Monroe at 9 O'Clock P. M. on yesterday on our 
return to Washington via Richmond on board the 
Steamer Augusta, this morning at 4 O'Clock we were 
landed a few miles from Petersburg, where we took 
the Rail Road to Richmond. It rained during the 
morning. We breakfasted at Richmond. No one 
was expecting me. After I rose from breakfast I 
was introduced by Judge Mason to a few persons 
who had accidentally learned that I was at the Hotel 
and had come through the Rain to see me. They 
invited me to spend the day in Richmond, but I de- 
clined and informed them that it was only in con- 
sequence of the roughness of the Bay on last evening 
that I was returning to Washington by that route. 
We remained at Richmond only during breakfast, 
and proceeded by the Rail Road via Fredericksburg 
to Washington where we arrived between 4 & 5 
O'clock P. M. About 20 miles after leaving Rich- 
mond my relation, Maj'r E. P. McNeal, his wife & 
daughter, & his sister-in-law, Miss Williams, sepe- 
rated from us, and proceeded on their way to their 
home in Tennessee via the White Sulphur Springs in 
Va., where they contemplated spending a few days. 



100 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Aug. 

Judge Mason & Col. Totten & his wife, who had left 
Washington with me, returned with me. Judge Ma- 
son had entirely recovered from his indisposition. 
We found the family at the White House well. Mr. 
Bancroft & Mr. Buchanan called in the course of the 
evening & I learned from them that nothing requir- 
ing my personal attention had occurred during my 
absence. 

Judge Grier, whom I appointed an Associate Jus- 
tice of the Supreme Court of the U. S., called with 
Mr. Buchanan to pay his respects to me. 

Wednesday, 26th August, 1846. — I opened my 
office for the reception of visitors and persons on 
business immediately after breakfast this morning. 
Among the first of my visitors were two of my old 
customers on the patriotic business of seeking office. 
One of them had been annoying me since March, 
1845. ^^s name is Grindale[?] from Accomac 
Cty, Va. I gave them very prompt & flat de- 
nials, & I hope for the future I may not be troubled 
by them. 

The Secretaries of the Treasury and War called 
this morning to pay their respects after my return 
from Fortress Monroe. Mr. Wm. V. Voorhies, 
whom I had left in charge of my office, gave me a full 
account of all that had occurred during my absence. 
My letters, which he had opened by my direction, 
were all properly endorsed indicating their contents, 
and every thing as far as I have learned has gone on 
well in my absence. 

Twelve months ago this day, a very important con- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY loi 

versation took place in Cabinet between myself and 
Mr. Buchanan on the Oregon question. This con- 
versation was of so important a character, that I 
deemed it proper on the same evening to reduce the 
substance of it to writing for the purpose of retain- 
ing it more distinctly in my memory. This I did 
on seperate sheets. It was this circumstance which 
first suggested to me the idea, if not the necessity, of 
keeping a journal or diary of events and transactions 
which might occur during my Presidency. I re- 
solved to do so & accordingly procured a blank book 
for that purpose on the next day, in which I have 
every day since noted whatever occurred that I 
deemed of interest. Sometimes I have found my- 
self so much engaged with my public duties, as to 
be able to make [only] a very condensed and imper- 
fect statement of events and incidents which oc- 
curred, and to [be forced to] omit others altogether 
which I would have been pleased to have noted. 
The statement of the events which occur[r]ed on the 
26th of Aug't, 1845, were never transcribed into the 
bound book, but will be found on the seperate sheets 
on which they were written preceding Book No. i. 

Thursday, 2'/fh August, 1846. — I did not see 
company until 12 O'Clock to-day. After that hour 
and until dinner at 4 O'Clock P. M. I was occupied 
with company, many of them office seekers. I had no 
offices to give and made short work with them by 
saying no! 

Nothing of much interest occurred to-day. I dis- 
posed of several small matters of business. 



102 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Aug. 

I addressed a letter in the evening to the Hon. 
Franklin Pierce of N. Hampshire, tendering to him 
the office of Attorney Gen'l of the U. S. A vacancy 
of that office will occur by the transfer of the Hon. 
John Y. Mason to the office of Secretary of the Navy, 
which latter office will be vacated by the appoint- 
ment of Mr. Bancroft as Minister to England. 
These changes will probably take place during the 
month of September next. 

Friday, 28th August, 1846. — I resolved this 
morning not to be annoyed by company, and kept my 
doors closed until after i O'Clock P. M. Several of 
the subordinate officers of the Government called on 
official business, whom I saw. Col. Benton of the 
Senate called. I had a long conversation with him 
in relation to the Mexican War and the proper man- 
ner of conducting it. I had resolved before Col. 
Benton called to tender to him the Mission to 
France, and had written a note to him requesting 
him to call, but had not sent it before he called. I 
informed him that I had written the note, which was 
still on my table. I then informed him that Mr. 
King, the U. S. Minister to France, would return 
during the next or the succeeding month, and I in- 
vited him to accept that mission. He thanked me, 
and said it would not suit him to accept it. He told 
me that Gen'l Jackson and Mr. Van Buren had both 
tendered him a mission abroad, but that he had de- 
clined both offers as he had never desired to engage 
in the Foreign service. He seemed to be gratified 
& again thanked me for the offer. 



i«461 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 103 

During the time Col. Benton was in my office my 
porter announced to me that a Foreign minister had 
called and was in the parlour below desiring to see 
me. Mr. Buchanan had informed me on yesterday 
that the charge d'affaires of Sweden recently ap- 
pointed would call to-day at 12 O'Clock to be pre- 
sented to me. I excused myself to Col. Benton, and 
leaving him in my office went below and received 
the charge d'affaires from Sweden. Mr. Swift 
[Trist], the chief clerk of the Department of State, 
accompanied him and presented him to me. I re- 
ceived him and for some time he stood looking at me 
without uttering a word, until he must have felt em- 
barrassed, and I know I did. He at length ad- 
dressed Mr. Trist, the ch. Clk., in French, which be- 
ing communicated to me, I responded in English. 
The Minister was either alarmed or much embar- 
rassed. Take it altogether it was a very awkward 
interview. Mr. Trist appeared to be quite as much 
embarrassed as the Minister. I returned to my office 
and after some further conversation with Col. Ben- 
ton he retired. 

This was reception evening. But few persons 
called; among them the Secretaries of State & Navy 
& the charge d'affaires from Sweden. 

Saturday, 2Qth August, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a regular meeting to-day; all the members pres- 
ent, except the P. M. Gen'l, who is absent on a visit to 
his family in Tennessee. Several matters of minor 
importance were considered, when I brought up the 
subject of the Mexican War. I expressed to the Sec- 



104 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Aug 

retary of War my dissatisfaction at the delay which 
had occurred in the departure of Col. Stephenson's 
Regiment in New York, destined for California. I 
directed the Secretary to have them embarked and 
sent ofif with the least possible delay. I next brought 
up the plan of conducting the War, in the event 
peace should not be made before the setting in of the 
healthy season (say in November next) and sug- 
gested the importance of taking Vera Cruz by a 
land force to be landed out of reach of the fortress, 
who could invest the town of Vera Cruz in the rear 
and by cooperating with the blockading squadron 
by sea, and submitted whether by these means the 
Fortress of San juan de UUoa would not be com- 
pelled to surrender for want of supplies in a very 
few days. I suggested further that if this could 
be done the fortress after surrendering could be dis- 
mantled and blown up, and that our troops on land 
might then march on the City of Mexico. These 
suggestions met with a favourable consideration in 
the Cabinet. The propriety of taking Tampico 
was also considered, and the impression of all was 
that it should be done if peace was not made before 
the healthy season set in. Whilst considering these 
questions, Mr. Bancroft for the first time informed 
me that he had received letters giving information 
on some of these points from Commodore Conner 
commanding the Gulf Squadron. I requested him 
to go to his Department & bring them to the Cab- 
inet. He did so, and on reading them they were 
found to be very important. Mr. Bancroft had not 
communicated them to me or to the Cabinet, be- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 105 

cause as I suppose he had not appreciated the great 
importance of the information which they conveyed. 
I directed a letter to be addressed to Commodore 
Conner, based upon the information which he had 
given in these letters, asking him to be more specific 
upon certain points, and also to give information 
upon certain other points. The Cabinet adjourned 
about 23^ O'clock P. M. 

Sunday, joth August, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day, accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker, and Wm. 
Voorhies, Esqr., who is acting as my Private Secre- 
tary during the absence of J. Knox Walker, who is 
at present on a visit to Tennessee. 

Monday, 31st August, 1846. — I did not open my 
office to-day for the reception of visitors generally 
until 12 O'clock. At that hour my doors were 
opened and quite a number of persons appeared, a 
majority of whom were upon the patriotic business 
of seeking office. I was ready to exclaim, will the 
pressure for office never cease. I have been in office 
within a few days of eighteen months, a long ses- 
sion of Congress has intervened, and still the pres- 
sure for office and place is unabated. I have long 
since come to the conclusion that the most impor- 
tunate seekers for place are not the most worthy. I 
have much less difficulty in giving a positive & flat 
refusal to those who personally importune and an- 
noy me for office than I had when I first came into 
office. To-day I said no! with a free will and a good 



io6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Aug. 

grace to several persons who have been annoying 
me for months, and to whom I had no time given any 
encouragement. I was resolved to get clear of 
them, and to do so I have been compelled to be al- 
most rude to them. 

About dark this evening Mr. Buchanan brought 
over and left with me for my examination the draft 
of a letter which he had prepared, and which he 
proposed to address to Morris Longstreth, Esqr., of 
Pennsylvania, on the subject of the tariff. Mr. Bu- 
chanan desired my opinion whether he should ad- 
dress such a letter or not, expressing his own opin- 
ion to be that after so much time had elapsed since 
the passage of the tariff [act] of 1846, that it would 
do no good & might do harm to write such a letter. 
After reading it I am free to say that my opinion is 
that such a letter would do great harm. The views ^ 
presented in the proposed letter I cannot approve. 
He expresses his opposition to the tariff of 1842 and 
so far I agree with him. His opposition to the 
tariff of 1846, and his remarks and reasoning on the 
subject I do not approve. A reasonable modifica- 
tion on coal & iron I would assent to, to conciliate 
Pennsylvania, though I think that 30 per cent added 
to freight, insurance, & charges is sufficient incidental 
protection to these or any other articles. The gen- 
eral scope of Mr. Buchanan's proposed letter ad- 
heres too much to the protective principle. It is a 
letter of considerable length & I cannot undertake 
to state its contents more at large. I will advise 

^ For Buchanan's views on the tariff question at this time, see 
Moore, Buchanan, VII, 43 and 46. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 107 

Mr. Buchanan not to write such a letter, as it would 
put him in conflict with the declared views of the 
administration on the subject, & do great harm by 
keeping the tariff open for political agitation. 

Mr. Bancroft, the Secretary of the Navy, I learn 
is quite ill to-day, being confined to his house by a 
bilious attack. 

Tuesday, Ist September, 1846.— Thh was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. At the 
usual hour four members of the Cabinet attended. 
The Post Master Gen'l is absent on a visit to Ten- 
nessee, and the Secretary of the Navy is confined to 
his house by sickness. The Secretary of State re- 
mained but a few minutes, remarking that unless 
something important was expected to be brought be- 
fore the Cabinet to-day, he would retire, as he was 
much engaged in preparing to leave the City for a 
few days. I followed Mr. Buchanan to the door 
as he left, and informed him that I had read the 
draft of his proposed [letter] on the subject of the 
tariff, and that I advised him not to write such a let- 
ter, as it would necessarily put him in conflict with 
myself & the declared policy of my administration 
on the subject of the tariff. He promptly said he 
entertained the opinions expressed in the letter, but 
thought himself it would be better not to send it, and 
he would not do so. The other members of the Cab- 
inet remained for an hour conversing in relation to 
public matters, but nothing of importance was taken 
up for consideration. 

About 2 O'clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan returned 



io8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Sept. 

and informed me that he had just received a note 
from the Secretary of the Brittish Legation (Mr. 
Pakenham being at present absent on a visit to 
Canada) which he read. On last evening it appears 
a special messenger arrived in Washington from the 
City of Mexico bearing despatches to the Brittish 
Minister here. The substance of the information 
brought by this messenger, as far as communicated 
to Mr. Buchanan, is that Commodore Sloat, com- 
manding the U. S. Squadron in the Pacific, took 
Monterey on the 6th of July last and hoisted the 
American flag; the same thing had been done by 
another naval officer at a point South of Monterey. 
Commodore Sloat had issued a Proclamation declar- 
ing California to be in the possession of the U. S. &c, 
a copy of which the Brittish Secretary of Legation 
had submitted to Mr. Buchanan, but to be returned 
to him. Mr. Buchanan read the Proclamation to 
me. Further intelligence was also communicated 
that Col. Fremont ^ with his men had been attacked 
near St. [San] Francisco, by Castro, the Com- 
mandant Gen'l of Mexico in California, and that 
after a short skirmish Castro had retreated. This 
important intelligence comes to us through no other 
channel, and we are indebted for it to the courtesy of 
the Brittish Legation. 

About dark Mr. Buchanan called again & seemed 
to be deeply concerned at the removal of a clerk to- 
day named King, by Mr. Piper, the acting commis- 
sioner of the Public Lands, and asked me if I knew 

^ For an account of Fremont in California in 1846, see Garrison, 
Westward Extension, 235-239. 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 109 

when I advised it that he felt a deep interest in 
having Mr, King retained. I told him I had not 
advised the removal; but Mr. Piper had informed 
me that King was so negligent and inattentive to his 
duties that he was of no use in the office, and that 
his services were much needed. I told him further 
that King was a Whig. I informed him that upon 
receiving Mr. Piper's representations I had re- 
marked to him that the clerks employed in the pub- 
lic offices must do their duty, and that if King had 
failed to do his duty he could exercise his own judg- 
ment in the matter. I told Mr. Buchanan that Mr. 
Piper had mentioned to me that he had understood 
that he (Mr. Buchanan) took a particular interest 
in King, and had when Judge Shields was Commis- 
sioner caused him to be retained when Judge S. 
thought he ought to have been dismissed, and that I 
had told Mr. Piper that perhaps he ought to see Mr. 
Buchanan before he was dismissed, but that I had 
left it to Mr. Piper to act in the premises as he might 
think proper. Mr. Buchanan replied that King's 
wife was a Democrat and that he did not believe that 
King had any politics or interfered in any way in 
political matters. I told him that the ground of his 
removal was his inattention to business. He then 
said that he and Col. Wm. R. King ^ of Alabama 
had boarded with King (the elk.) for seven years, 
and that his life, when he had a severe attack of ill- 
ness whilst boarding with King, had been saved by 

^William Rufus King, Senator from Alabama, 1819-1844, and 
1 846-1 852. Elected Vice-President of the United States in 
1852, but died before entering upon the duties of the position. 



no JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Sept. 

Mrs. King by her kind attentions to him in his ill- 
ness. He said he had just been to King's house and 
had left his wife and children in tears, while King 
himself was lying ill of an attack of fever. Mr. Bu- 
chanan said he had no relation in office at Washing- 
ton, that it seemed he had no influence, & could not 
keep even a poor Clerk in office. I then said to Mr. 
Buchanan that as he seemed to take the matter so 
much to heart, Mr. King should be restored or ap- 
pointed to some other place, but upon the express 
condition that he should hereafter do his duty. He 
said he desired it very much & I told him it should 
be done. With this he was satisfied & immediately 
assumed a cheerful tone in his conversation. Mr. 
Buchanan is a man of talents & is fully competent 
to discharge the high duties of Secretary of State, but 
it is one of his weaknesses (and perhaps all great 
men have such) that he takes on & magnifies small 
matters into great & undeserved importance. In 
this instance I have never known any one to be seem- 
ingly so much concerned or to take on more, and 
with so little reason. I discovered this and although 
I had no doubt King ought to be dismissed I thought 
it too small a matter upon which to make a grave 
issue with my Secretary of State. The truth is that 
King had been dismissed some months ago by Judge 
Shields, and had been restored at Mr. Buchanan's 
earnest request, and Mr. Piper informed me that he 
thought this circumstance induced him to think that 
he was secure in his position, that he relied on Mr. 
Buchanan to keep him in and was therefore indiflfer- 
ent to his duty or any orders that were issued to him 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY m 

by the Head of the General Land office. I did not 
think it necessary to inform Mr. Buchanan of this. 
I agreed to restore King solely because Mr. Bu- 
chanan manifested so much feeling about it, and be- 
cause I was unwilling to give him pain about so 
small a matter; but I told him expressly that I did so 
only on the condition that King should hereafter 
perform his duty faithfully. My steward (Henry 
Bowman) left here this morning for New York with 
funds which I had furnished him to purchase oil, 
candles, and other articles needed in the President's 
House. 

This was reception evening and a number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called, though there was 
not a large crowd. Among others Mrs. Madison 
was present. 

Wednesday, 2nd September, 1846. — Kept my 
doors closed until 1 2 O'Clock to-day. At that hour a 
number of persons called, but nothing of particular 
interest occurred. I attended afterwards to the busi- 
ness on my table and cleared it off. 

I sent for the Secretary of the Treasury & Mr. 
Piper, the commissioner of Public Lands, and stated 
to them the very great interest which Mr. Buchanan 
took in Mr. King's restoration to his clerkship (see 
this diary of yesterday). They at once agreed, in 
order to gratify the wishes of Mr. Buchanan and for 
that reason alone, to appoint Mr. King to another 
clerkship in the Land [office], but upon the express 
condition that he would hereafter do his duty. I di- 
rected Mr. Piper to address a letter to Mr. King in- 



112 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Sept. 

forming him that he was again employed, only on 
the condition that he would hereafter attend to his 
duty, and perform it as other clerks did. 

I sent for Mr. Buchanan and informed him of 
what had been done. I told him that Mr. King's 
place had been filled by the appointment of the 
Rev. Mr. Matthews, the pastor of the Presbyterian 
Church at Lexington, Kentucky, during the Presi- 
dential canvass of 1844, who had been discharged by 
that church solely for the reason that he had voted 
the Democratic ticket. I told him that Gen'l Jack- 
son had spoken to me before I left Tennessee, and 
shortly before his death had written to me in Mr. 
Matthews' behalf, that Gen'l Jackson regarded him 
as a good christian who was persecuted by Mr. 
Clay's friends simply because he had voted for me, 
and that as Mr. Piper had appointed him in King's 
place, I could not discharge him so as to enable 
King to take his old place, but that another place 
would be given to King, who would be taken on 
trial. With this Mr. Buchanan expressed himself 
as being entirely satisfied. 

Mr. Buchanan left to-day at 12]/! O'Clock for 
Saratoga and other places in the North, where he 
proposes to spend a few days and take some recre- 
ation from the labours of his office. 

I visited Mr. Bancroft this afternoon at his house, 
and found him quite ill of a bilious attack. 

Thursday, Jrd September, 1846. — Saw no com- 
pany until 12 O'clock to-day. A number of per- 
sons called at that hour, but I am happy to say they 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 113 

were persons on visits of ceremony or old friends, 
among whom was my old acquaintance Col. Andrew 
A. Kincannon of Mississippi, now U. S. Marshall 
of that State. What is very remarkable, not a single 
office seeker made his appearance, a thing which 
I believe has not happened before any day since I 
have been President when I saw company. 

Gen'l Edmund P. Gaines of the U. S. Army called 
and paid his respects to-day. He was in a pleasant 
humour & I had a pleasant interview with him. He 
was on his way to take command of the Northern 
Division to which he had been ordered. 

Friday, 4th September, 1846. — Saw but few per- 
sons to-day; kept my office closed until 12 O'Clock. 
The pressure for office has been less for the last two 
or three days than usual. The truth is, those who 
have recently called on that business have met with 
no encouragement, and I begin to have some relief 
from the importunities of office-seekers. 

I informed Mr. Wm. Noland, the commissioner 
of Public Buildings, on yesterday that I had kept 
him in his office for 18 months & in doing so had re- 
sisted a great and almost a constant pressure for his 
removal. I told him that this pressure proceeded not 
only from citizens of Washington but from the ad- 
joining districts in Maryland, and from many Mem- 
bers of Congress during the late Session. I in- 
formed him that for these and other considerations 
I felt it to be my duty to make the change, but that 
as I did not desire unnecessarily to wound his feel- 
ings, he could resign to take effect on a future day 



114 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY U Sept. 

between this time and the meeting of the next Ses- 
sion of Congress. A final decision on the subject 
was postponed on yesterday until to-day. Mr. No- 
land called this morning, and insisted that though 
he was once a Federalist he had been a Democrat 
for many years, and that he was my friend. To the 
charge that he kept none but Whigs in his employ, 
which had been made by certain citizens of Wash- 
ington, he replied that he retained those that he had 
found in the public service when he came into office 
about 12 years ago. He partly denied the charge, 
but was not satisfactory on this point. I did not 
deem it to be necessary to enumerate to him more 
particularly than I had done on yesterday the sev- 
eral reasons which existed in my mind which made 
his removal proper. Although not the only reason 
making the change proper, I have no doubt he is a 
Whig in all his feelings, and that his patronage is 
bestowed exclusively on the members of that party, 
as far as he thinks he can do so with safety to himself. 
I told him finally that I had made up my mind that 
it was my duty to make the change, and repeated to 
him what I had said on yesterday, that he could re- 
sign if he chose to do so. He then presented to me 
his resignation, which he had previously written to 
take efifect on the — day of — . I told him in an- 
swer to an enquiry from him that he could fill the 
blank with the ist day of Nov. He suggested a 
more distant day, for the reason that he had certain 
contracts on hand with persons employed by him, 
which he desired to have completed & executed be- 
fore he retired. I told him I thought they could be 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 115 

executed by the time named. He then filled the 
blank with the ist of November & handed to me his 
resignation. I told him I had no unkind feelings 
towards him personally, and that if it had been 
otherwise I should not have held this conversation 
with him, but would have made the removal with- 
out seeing him. I told him it was a painful duty, 
but one which I felt bound to perform. 

Senator Archer of Va. called to-day on his return 
from a tour to the North. I had a long conversation 
with him in relation to public affairs and especially 
in relation to the Mexican War. He expressed a 
great desire for peace, in which I concurred with 
him, if it could be obtained on honorable terms. 
He expressed his regret at the loss of the two million 
appropriation at the late Session of Congress, and 
in connection with it said that the proviso in rela- 
tion to slavery attached to the Bill on the motion of 
Mr. Wilmot in the House he could never approve, 
and that if such a stipulation were embraced in a 
Treaty it could not be ratified, and that he himself 
would vote against such a Treaty. He was willing 
to acquire California if it could be done for a fair 
consideration by Treaty, but beyond this seemed to 
be averse to extending our territorial boundaries. I 
asked him if I could obtain California what sum of 
money he would think I could safely stipulate to pay 
for it, to which he replied he would be willing to 
pay 10 or 15 millions of dollars. I asked him if I 
could not agree to pay 25 millions if it could not be 
obtained for less, to which he replied he would not 
stand on the amount, because, he said, if the war 



ii6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [s Sept. 

continued it would cost the country 30 millions an- 
nually. We had a long conversation; I gave him 
the information in my possession & informed [him] 
of my policy. I did this confidentially, as I felt 
safe in doing, for although differing with me in poli- 
tics Mr. Archer is an honorable man, and I have 
been upon terms of personal friendship with him 
since I first met him in Congress in December, 1825. 
Among other things he spoke of a Brittish medi- 
ation & of his personal intimacy with Mr. Paken- 
ham, the Brittish Minister, and said if such a medi- 
ation should be at any time desired with a view to 
peace with Mexico, if I would inform him of it he 
would come to Washington, and expressed great 
confidence that he could effect it through Mr. Pak- 
enham. I told him no such mediation had been of- 
fered, and that I thought that no circumstances were 
likely to arise to make it desirable. 

Judge Douglass of Illinois called to-night on his 
return from Georgia, where he had been attending 
the marriage of the Hon. Mr. Ficklin of Illinois to 
the daughter of Senator Colquitt of Georgia. 

This was reception evening. Very few persons 
called. The weather is unusually warm for the 
season. 

Saturday, 5/A September, 1846.— Thh was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. At the 
usual hour the Secretaries of the Treasury and of 
War & the Atto. Gen'l attended. The Secretary of 
State and the P. M. Gen'l were absent from the City, 
and the Secretary of the Navy was confined to his 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 117 

house by an attack of bilious fever. Several public 
matters were the subject of conversation, but none of 
them were brought up for final action. 

I repeated to the Secretary of War what I had sev- 
eral times before said to him, that I was dissatisfied 
with the long delay in the departure of the Regiment 
of Volunteers under the command of Col. Stephen- 
son from N. York, destined to California. Having 
learned from him that the delay was occasioned by 
the want of vessels in which to transport, I requested 
him to send for Gen'l Jessup,^ the Quarter Master 
Gen'l, that I might enquire into it. He did so, and 
Gen'l Jessup called. I enquired of him the cause. 
He gave no satisfactory reason, but said that orders 
had been issued to the officers of his Department at 
New York to engage and have the vessels ready. I 
expressed to him my astonishment that it should re- 
quire a month and more to do so, and said to him 
that though I did not mean to censure him that I 
thought there had been culpable delay on the part 
of the subordinate officers charged with this duty. 
I told him that many of the officers of the regular 
army had, I apprehended, been serving so long in 
peace that they had become gentlemen of entirely too 
much leisure for a period of war, and that some of 
them required to have a coal of fire put on their 
backs to make them move promptly. I directed 
Gen'l Jessup to order the officers charged with that 
duty to have the vessels ready with the least prac- 
ticable delay. I told him that the Regiment had 
been mustered into service for many days, and that 

^ Thomas Sydney Jesup. 



ii8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Sept. 

the vessels to transport them must be got ready with- 
out further delay. 

I asked Gen'l Jessup's opinion as a military man, 
as to the proper means of transportation for Gen'l 
Taylor's army as they penetrated into Mexico, re- 
marking to him that I had no military experience 
but that I had a strong conviction that the immense 
train of baggage wagons which accompanied the 
army must greatly impede its progress, if indeed it 
was practicable to take them through such a country. 
I asked him if in all the wars in Mexico which had 
preceded the present, the baggage and munitions of 
war had not been transported on mules. Gen'l Jes- 
sup gave it as his decided, opinion that baggage 
wagons should be dispensed with and mules em- 
ployed, and added that such had been the mode of 
conducting all the wars which had occurred hereto- 
fore in Mexico. I then asked of him and the Secre- 
tary of War why a similar means of transportation 
had not been provided in this instance. Gen'l Jessup 
replied that he had received no communication from 
Gen'l Taylor or the War Department on the subject, 
and said if he commanded in Gen'l Taylor's place he 
would take mules and not be encumbered with 
wagons, that he would not take a single tent with him, 
and that officers & men would cheerfully submit to 
this if the commanding Gen'l set them the example. 
I invited the special attention of the Secretary of War 
to the subject, and desired him to see me on the sub- 
ject again shortly. I find it impossible to give much 
attention to the details in conducting the war, and 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ny 

Still it is necessary that I should give some attention 
to them. There is entirely too much delay and too 
much want of energy & promptness in execution on 
the part of many of the subordinate officers, which 
must be corrected. Gen'l Taylor, I fear, is not the 
man for the command of the army. He is brave 
but he does not seem to have resources or grasp of 
mind enough to conduct such a campaign. In his 
communications to the War Department he seems 
ready to obey orders, but appears to be unwilling to 
express any opinion or to take any responsibility on 
himself. Though he is in the country with means of 
knowledge which cannot be possessed at Washing- 
ton, he makes no suggestion as to the plan of the cam- 
paign, but simply obeys orders and gives no infor- 
mation to aid the administration in directing his 
movement. He is, I have no doubt, a good subordi- 
nate officer, but from all the evidence before me I 
think him unfit for the chief command. Though 
this is so, I know of no one whom I can substitute in 
his place. After the late battles, which were well 
fought, the public opinion seems to point to him as 
entitled to the command. 

Judge Douglass of the Ho. Repts. from Illinois 
called to-night, and I had a long and free conversa- 
tion with him about public afifairs. 

Sunday, 6th September, 1846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Miss Rucker and Mr. Wm. V. Voorhies, who is act- 
ing as my Private Secretary in the absence of J. 



120 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Sept. 

Knox Walker. Mrs. Polk was somewhat indisposed 
and did not attend church. The weather continues 
unusually warm for the season. 

Monday, yth September, 1846. — This was an 
unusually quiet day with me. After 12 O'Clock a 
number of visitors called. Their visits were gener- 
ally those of ceremony. But few office seekers called, 
and such as did met with no encouragement. I dis- 
posed of much business consisting of details in the 
discharge of my duty. Much such business de- 
volves on the President of which the public knows 
nothing. 

This was the day appointed by a late act ^ of 
Congress for the meeting in Washington of the Re- 
gents of the Smithsonian Institute. The Regents, 
I learn, assembled at 12 O'Clock in a room in the 
General Post Office and organized. Senator Pen- 
nybacker of Va., one of the Regents, called this 
morning. Vice President Dallas and the Hon. 
Richard Rush, who are Regents of the Institute, 
called after night & spent an hour with me. The 
weather continues to be excessively hot for the sea- 
son. 

Tuesday, 8th September, 1846.— This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The 
Secretaries of the Treasury & War and the Attorney 
General attended at the usual hour. The Secretary 
of State and the Post Master General are absent 
from the City. The Secretary of the Navy is now, 

^ U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 102. 



18461 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY m 

as he has been for a week past, confined to his room 
by indisposition. No business of importance was 
transacted. Several public subjects were considered, 
and the members of the Cabinet who attended re- 
tired after being together about an hour. Upon 
their retirement I walked to Mr. Bancroft's House, 
which is situated on the President's square, to see 
how he was. Judge Mason accompanied me. I 
found Mr. Bancroft walking about his house and 
much better than he had been for several days. I 
held a conversation with him in reference to his 
contemplated mission to England, and it was agreed 
that I should issue his commission to him as min- 
ister on to-morrow. I informed him that I would 
commission Mr. Mason at the same time as Secretary 
of the Navy. I have received no answer from the 
Hon. Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, to whom 
I wrote on the 27th ultimo tendering to him the 
office of Attorney General. I informed Mr. Ban- 
croft of this fact, but added that when Judge Mason 
was appointed Secretary of the Navy and resigned 
the office of Attorney General I would give him a 
temporary appointment to act as Atto. Gen'l ad in- 
terim until his successor in the Atto. General's [of- 
fice] was appointed. All this occurred in the pres- 
ence of Judge Mason, and was satisfactory both to 
him and to Mr. Bancroft. 

In the course of the conversation I remarked to 
Mr. Bancroft that my intercourse with him during 
the period he had been Secretary of the Navy had 
been of a very pleasant character, and intimated to 
him my desire to address a letter to that effect to 



122 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Sept. 

him upon his retirement from the Navy Depart- 
ment, which might be published if he desired it. 
He said he would be gratified to have such a letter 
as I might choose to address to him for his private 
files, but not for publication. He thought the pub- 
lication of such a letter approving his conduct of 
the Navy Department might be construed by the 
public as being considered necessary to sustain him. 
I yielded to the suggestion. It was concluded that 
a simple announcement in the Union of his appoint- 
ment was best; and that it should be accompanied 
with a short editorial article. I told him that when 
I returned to my office I would send for Mr. Ap- 
pleton,^ his chief clerk, & request him to write a 
proper article (Mr Ritchie, the Editor of the Union, 
was absent from the City). Mr. Bancroft said he 
would save me the trouble of sending for Mr. Ap- 
pleton, by sending his servant over to the Navy De- 
partment. I told him to do so, and to send a message 
to Mr. Appleton that I desired him to call at my 
office. Mr. Bancroft said he thought he would 
leave Washington in the course of ten days or two 
weeks. I told him it was possible that I might ac- 
company him as far as New York, as I had some 
thought of relieving myself from my constant la- 
bours at Washington by making a short excursion as 
far North as New York. He expressed himself 
highly pleased at the suggestion and said he would 
be delighted to have my company. 

I returned to my office in company with Judge 

^ John Appleton of Maine, chief clerk of the Navy depart- 
ment; charge d'affaires to Bolivia in 1848. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 123 

Mason and found Mr. Appleton at the Presidential 
Mansion. 1 informed him of the article for the 
Union in relation to Mr. Bancroft's appointment as 
Minister to England which I desired him to pre- 
pare, & requested him to submit it to Mr. Ban- 
croft's inspection. He promised me to do so. 

Hon. Felix G. McConnell, a Representative in 
Congress from Alabama, called. He looked very 
badly, and as though he had just recovered from a 
fit of intoxication. He was sober, but was pale, his 
countenance haggard and his system nervous. He 
applied to me to borrow $100. and said he would 
return it to me in ten days. Though I had no idea 
that he would do so I had a sympathy for him even 
in his dissipation. I had known him in his youth, 
& had not the moral courage to refuse. I loaned 
him $100. in gold and took his note. His hand was 
so tremulous that he could scarcely write his name 
to the note legibly. I think it probable that he will 
never pay me. He informed me he was detained 
at Washington attending to some business in the 
Indian office. I supposed he had returned home at 
the adjournment of Congress until he called to-day. 
I doubt whether he has any business in Washington, 
but fear he has been detained by dissipation. 

Mr. Noland, the Commissioner of Public Build- 
ings, called, as he said, at the request of the Regents 
of the Smithsonian Institute, to know at what hour 
on to-morrow it would suit my convenience to ac- 
company them to the public grounds, with a view 
to select the site for that Institution. He said they 
had suggested 9 O'Clock in the morning or 6 O'Clock 



124 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Sept. 

in the evening. I told him to inform them that I 
would accompany them at such hour on to-morrow 
as they might designate. He returned and informed 
me that 9 O'Clock in the morning had been ap- 
pointed by the Regents. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons called, and among them the Vice President of 
the U. S., Senator Evans ^ of Maine, Mr. Choate^ 
of Mass., Hon. R. Rush of Phila., and Hon. Mr. 
Pennybacker of Va., Regents of the Smithsonian In- 
stitute. 

Wednesday, gth September, 1846. — At 9 O'- 
clock this morning, accompanied by the Secretary 
of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, & the Atto. 
Gen'l, I rode out in my carriage to meet the Regents 
of the Smithsonian Institute on the Public grounds 
lying West of the Capitol and South of the Presi- 
dent's House, with a view to locate the site of that 
Institution. I met the Regents on the grounds, and 
spent nearly an hour with them on foot in examin- 
ing the grounds. Opinions were freely expressed. 
The most elevated ground and, as I think, the most 
eligible site lies between 12th & 14th Street contain- 
ing about 32 acres. If more space be required 
the ground West of 14th Street may be added, which 
contains about 45 acres. If this be added the whole 
area would contain about yy acres. Most of the 
Regents expressed a preference for this location. 

^George Evans, Senator from Maine 1841-1847. 
" Rufus Choate, noted for his oratorical abilit,v. He suc- 
ceeded Daniel Webster as Senator from Massachusetts in 1841. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 125 

Mr. W. W. Seaton, the Mayor of Washington, who 
is ex officio one of the Regents, earnestly urged that 
the location should be made West of 12th Street & 
between that street and the Capitol grounds. This 
is a lower situation than that West of it, and in no 
sense, as it strikes me, so eligible. I have heard 
from private sources that the property holders in the 
vicinity of the Centre market were exceedingly anx- 
ious for their private benefit to have the location at 
the place insisted on by Mr. Seaton. I think it is 
to be regretted that any citizen of Washington was 
appointed a Regent. The Smithsonian Institute is 
a national Institution, and should be located & con- 
ducted without reference to individual or private in- 
terests. The Regents have the power to select the 
site, but it cannot be established without the approval 
of the President & his Cabinet. The Regents re- 
turned to their consultation room in the City without 
coming to a decision, and I returned to the Presi- 
dent's Mansion with the members of my Cabinet 
who had accompanied me. The Secretary of State 
& the P. M. Gen'l are absent from the City, and the 
Secretary [of the Navy] though recovering from a 
recent attack of bilious fever is still confined to his 
house. 

To-day I appointed Mr. Bancroft, the Secretary 
of the Navy, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister 
Plenipotentiary to England. Upon receiving his 
commission he sent to me his Resignation as Secre- 
tary of the Navy. Upon receiving it I appointed 
Mr. Mason, the Atto. Gen'l, to be Secretary of the 
Navy. Upon receiving his commission he resigned 



126 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Sept. 

the office of Attorney General of the United States. 
1 immediately appointed Mr. Mason Atto. Gen'l ad 
interim to act until a successor in the Atto. Gen'l's 
office shall be appointed. On the 27th ultimo, I 
wrote to the Hon. Franklin Pierce of N. Hampshire, 
tendering to him the office of attorney Gen'l but 
have received no answer from him. 

I was informed by N. P. Trist, Esqr., Chief 
Clk. in the State Department, & at present acting 
Secretary of State (during the absence of Mr. Bu- 
chanan from the seat of Government) that Madison 
Cutts, a clerk in the Treasury Department, had in- 
formed him that he desired to make an important 
communication to me, & Mr. Trist desired to know 
of me if I would see him. I informed him that I 
would do so. In the course of half an hour Mr. 
Cutts called. He informed me that in his capacity 
as clerk it had been his duty to investigate accounts 
connected with the Indian service, and especially 
had been his duty to examine the accounts connected 
with the Chickasaw Tribe. He informed [me] 
that an account had been reported by some of the 
accounting officers of the Treasury for payment 
amounting to $1 12,000 or thereabouts, and that it was 
to-day passing the dififerent offices, and that it would 
probably be paid if it was not arrested. He in- 
formed me that Dr. Gwinn of Mississippi was the 
agent pressing this claim and that he was now in 
Washington pressing it; & that Gwinn was to re- 
ceive half the amount he received. Mr. Cutts said 
it was a claim improperly allowed. He said it had 
been before Congress at the session of 1844-5, and 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 127 

was defeated at that time by Cave Johnson/ He 
showed a Report of the debate at that time in a news- 
paper, and a Report^ made in favour of the claim 
in the Senate at the same session by Mr. Walker of 
Miss., now Secretary of the Treasury. It appeared 
from his statement that the accounting officers dur- 
ing Mr. Tyler's administration had refused to allow 
it, that the claimants had applied to Congress and 
failed to succeed; that a long session of Congress 
had since intervened and Congress had done noth- 
ing on the subject, and that now the decision made 
during Mr. Tyler's administration was about to be 
reversed. Mr. Cutts said he gave me this infor- 
mation as a matter of public duty, but begged me 
not to expose his name. I told him I would not do 
so. My suspicions were excited by this communica- 
tion that all was not right, and as the claim was 
connected with the Indian service I immediately 
sent for the Secretary of War. He came to my of- 
fice in a few minutes, when I told him the informa- 
tion which I had received, when he told me that he 
had this morning had an interview and discussion 
on the subject with Dr. Gwinn & had refused to 
sign a requisition for the money. He said he had 
done so without going into the examination of the 
claim, upon the ground that there was no fund out 
of which it could be paid. I asked him how such 
a claim could have passed the accounting officers of 
the Treasury? He said he did not know. I then 
sent for Mr. Paris, the 2nd Comptroller, who came 

^ Globe, 28 Cong. 2 Sess. 394. 
^ 5. Doc. 49, 28 Cong. 2 Sess. II. 



128 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Sept. 

over. I stated the case to him and the Secretary of 
War's decision. He said he was greatly relieved, 
that he had been exceedingly pressed about the claim 
for two [ ?], and had not finally signed the ad- 
justment of it as made out and signed by the 2nd 
Auditor, but had written a letter and sent it with 
the papers to the Commissioner of Indian afifairs. 
He alluded delicately to the opinion of the Secretary 
of the Treasury that the claim ought to be paid, as 
the cause of his embarrassment in acting upon it. 
He concluded by repeating that he was much re- 
lieved by the decision of the Secretary of War not 
to pay it. It was clear that Judge Paris thought it 
wrong to pay it. This is a singular transaction, and 
it may be necessary to investigate it further here- 
after. Judge Paris said the money could not be 
paid without the requisition, if one was drawn, 
passing again through his office. I told him not to 
sufifer it to be paid, and that if it was further pressed 
by Dr. Gwinn or any one else, the whole matter must 
be fully and thoroughly investigated. 

Vice President Dallas called to see me to-night 
and spent an hour or more with me. 

Thursday, lOth September, 1846. — The Hon. 
John Y. Mason entered this morning upon the duties 
of the office of Secretary of the Navy, to which I ap- 
pointed him on yesterday in place of Mr. Bancroft 
resigned, the latter having been appointed Minister 
to England. 

I transacted business with officers of the Govern- 
ment who called as usual this morning. The Sec- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 129 

retary of War, who called on other business, re- 
marked to me that he had since yesterday examined 
the claim of Dr. Wm. M. Gwinn upon the Chicka- 
saw Indian fund, and found it to be a much worse 
case than he had supposed it was on yesterday. (See 
this diary of yesterday.) 

I opened my office as usual for the reception of 
company at 12 O'Clock. Quite a number of per- 
sons called, and among them a female beggar who 
was genteelly dressed & who represented that she 
resided at Newbern, N. C, & that she had borrowed 
money [to] bear her expenses & come to Washing- 
ton expressly to get money from me to support her- 
self and educate her two children. She brought no 
letters and I did not learn her name. She was in 
appearance between 40 & 50 years of age. She is 
either a very simple person or unworthy. I did not 
consider it charity to give her anything. I have 
many calls for money, but this was a remarkable 
case and therefore I note it. 

N. P. Trist, Esqr., Acting Secretary of State dur- 
ing the temporary absence of Mr, Buchanan from 
the seat of Government, called this afternoon and 
informed me that Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish Min- 
ister, had called on him at the Department of State 
to-day and read to him two dispatches which he had 
received from his Government (one of them dated 
Aug't 1 8th, 1846) directing him to ascertain whether 
the mediation of England would be accepted by the 
U. States with a view to term.inate the existing war 
between the U. States and Mexico, and in the event 
such mediation would be accepted to offer the same. 



130 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Sept. 

He informed me that Mr. Pakenham informed him 
that he would call on to-morrow at 12 or i O'Clock 
to receive an answer. I informed Mr. Trist that the 
mediation would not be accepted, and proceeded to 
assign to him the reasons why it could not be. For 
greater certainty, however, I requested Mr. Trist to 
call on to-morrow at 9 O'Clock A. M. and I would 
at that time furnish him in writing the answer which 
he should make to Mr. Pakenham when he called. 

About dark this evening I learned from Mr. Voor- 
hies, who is acting as my Private Secretary during 
the absence of J. Knox Walker, that Hon. Felix G. 
McConnell, a Representative in Congress from the 
State of Alabama, had committed suicide this after- 
noon at the St. Charles Hotel where he boarded. 
On tuesday last Mr. McConnell called on me and 
I loaned him $100. (see this diary of that day). I 
learn that but a short time before the horrid deed 
was committed he was in the bar-room of the St. 
Charles Hotel, handling gold pieces & stating that 
he had received them from me, that he had loaned 
$35. of them to the bar-keeper, that shortly after- 
wards he had attempted to write something, but 
what I have not learned, but had not written much 
when he said he would go to his room. In the 
course of the morning I learn he went into the City 
and paid a hack-man a small amount which he owed 
him. He had locked his room door, and when found 
he was stretched out on his back with his hands ex- 
tended weltering in his blood. He had three 
wounds in the abdomen and his throat was cut. A 
hawk-bill knife was found near him. A jury of 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 131 

inquest was held and found a verdict that he had 
destroyed himself. It was a melancholy instance of 
the effects of intemperance. Mr. McConnell when 
a youth resided at Fayetteville in my Congressional 
District. Shortly after he grew up to manhood he 
was at my instance appointed Post Master of that 
town. He was a true democrat & a sincere friend 
of mine. His family in Tennessee are highly re- 
spectable and quite numerous. The information as 
to the manner and particulars of his death I learned 
from Mr. Voorhies, who reported it to me as he 
had heard it in the Streets. Mr. McConnel re- 
moved from Tennessee to Alabama some years ago, 
and I learn has left a wife & three or four chil- 
dren. 

I wrote down to-night the substance of the an- 
swer which Mr. Trist was to give to Mr. Pakenham 
when he called on to-morrow, in relation to the 
proposed mediation of England with a view to ad- 
just the existing difficulties between the U. S. & 
Mexico. 

Friday, nth September, 1 846. — On reflection I 
considered the proposed mediation of Great Brittain 
between the U. S. & Mexico, with a view to effect an 
honorable peace between them, of sufficient conse- 
quence to consult the Cabinet in reference to it. 
Although my own mind was made up to reject the 
proffered mediation, I considered it respectful to 
inform the Cabinet of it. I desired, too, to ascertain 
what their views upon the subject were. I accord- 
ingly before breakfast this morning addressed notes 



132 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Sept. 

to each member of the Cabinet who are now in the 
City to meet me at 9 O'Clock this morning. I in- 
vited Mr. Bancroft, late Secretary of the Navy but 
now Minister to England, to attend also. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, and 
Mr. Bancroft attended. Mr. Mason, the Secretary 
of the Navy, had gone to the country last evening 
and did not return in time to attend the meeting. I 
took the opinion of the three gentlemen present, 
all of whom were opposed to accepting the profifered 
mediation. Mr. Trist was present. I then read to 
them what I proposed to instruct Mr. Trist to say 
to Mr. Pakenham when he called to-day. It was 
as follows, viz.: 

" I have communicated to the President the sub- 
stance of the conversation which occurred in our in- 
terview on yesterday, and have been instructed by 
him to say that he duly appreciates the friendly 
spirit by which the Brittish Cabinet are actuated in 
signifying their willingness to tender the mediation 
of Great Brittain with a view to terminate the ex- 
isting war between the United States and Mexico. 
He is, however, of opinion that the formal accept- 
ance by the United States of the mediation of a 
Foreign Power might rather tend to protract the 
War than to facilitate an adjustment. He is sin- 
cerely desirous to conclude a peace with Mexico 
upon terms just & honorable to both nations, and 
for that purpose on the 27th of July last he directed 
an overture to be made to Mexico to reopen negotia- 
tions. To that overture no answer has as yet been 
received. While, therefore, he would deem it un- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 133 

necessary & inexpedient to accept the formal media- 
tion of a Foreign Power, he would regard with 
favour any influence which the good offices of Great 
Brittain or any other Power might exert with the 
Authorities of Mexico to dispose them to accept the 
overture which has been made by the United States 
to enter upon negotiations with a view to an equi- 
table adjustment of the existing differences between 
the two countries and the restoration of a perma- 
nent peace." 

Upon reading this paper the members of the Cabi- 
net present and Mr. Bancroft approved it unani- 
mously. Mr. Trist was directed to communicate its 
substance wholly to Mr. Pakenham. Mr. Trist 
made a copy of it & took it with him. 

I was notified by the Clerk of the House of Rep- 
resentatives last evening of the death of the Hon. 
Felix G. McConnell of Alabama, and that his fu- 
neral would take place at 12 O'Clock to-day. He 
invited me as is usual in such cases to attend the 
funeral. At 11^ O'Clock when I was about leav- 
ing my office to do so, my porter informed me that 
the Hon. Louis McLane, late U. S. Minister to 
London, accompanied by Mrs. McLane, had called 
& were in the parlour below. I met them in the 
parlour, and after remaining a few minutes with 
them I made my apology and asked them to remain 
with Mrs. Polk until I could attend the funeral & 
return. I met Judge Mason, the Secretary of the 
Navy, in the parlour with them. Judge Mason took 
a seat in my carriage & accompanied me to the St. 
Charles Hotel, where the body of Mr. McConnell 



134 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Sept. 

was, and where appropriate funeral ceremonies were 
performed by the Rev. Mr. Slicer of the Methodist 
church. After the services were over we joined the 
procession of carriages as far as the Capitol and re- 
turned. On our return we called at the lodgings of 
Senator Bagby of Alabama, who is confined to his 
bed by an attack of bilious fever. We saw Mr. 
Bagby in his chamber. 

On returning to the President's mansion I found 
Mr. & Mrs. McLane with Mrs. Polk as I had left 
them. Mr. McLane and myself retired to my office. 
I had a long conversation with him in relation to 
his mission and public affairs in this country and 
in Europe. He had not received my letter writ- 
ten to him early in August (see letter Book) in- 
forming him of Mr. Buchanan's final decision to re- 
main in the Cabinet, and not to go on the Bench 
of the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. 
McLane expressed himself as perfectly satisfied with 
my course on the subject. He said he was my 
friend and was induced to accept my tender of the 
office of Secretary of State in the event of Mr. Bu- 
chanan's retirement from it, which in my letter of 
the 22nd of June last I had invited him to accept, 
because he was desirous of serving me and my ad- 
ministration. I inferred from what he said that he 
was not satisfied with Mr. Buchanan, not because 
he had not resigned, but because he thought Mr. 
Buchanan had desired that Col. King, U. S. Min- 
ister at Paris, should succeed him as Secretary of 
State, and finding that he could not do so, had de- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 135 

termined to retain his place in the Cabinet. I told 
Mr. JMcLane that 1 thought he was probably mis- 
taken in this opinion, and that other reasons had in- 
fluenced him in his decision. Among these reasons 
I mentioned the uncertain State of the Senate near 
the close of the late Session, rendering it uncertain 
whether I had a majority in that body on any nomi- 
nation. I told him I thought Mr. Buchanan would 
have been confirmed if he had been nominated as a 
Judge of the Supreme Court of the U. States, though 
from all I had learned he would have been violently 
opposed. I did not know that this circumstance had 
any influence with Mr. Buchanan in making his de- 
cision to remain in the Cabinet, but my impression 
was it had. Mr. McLane inclined to adhere to 
the opinion which he had expressed, and gave as 
reasons for it the fact that a short time before he 
had left London Mr. King had visited him and had 
inquired of him (Mr. McLane) if he was to go 
into the Department of State, to which he had re- 
plied that there was no vacancy; that Mr. King had 
then said that he himself had been urged to accept 
the office of Secretary of State. I told Mr. Mc- 
Lane that so far as I was concerned there was not 
the slightest foundation for such a statement; that 
I had not written to Mr. King on any subject since 
I had been President, and had never thought of in- 
viting him to take charge of the Department of 
State. I did not say so to Mr. McLane, but as Mr. 
Buchanan is very intimate with Mr. King and in 
the habit of corresponding with him, I think it prob- 



136 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Sept. 

able that without consulting me on the subject and 
without my knowledge he had written to Mr. King 
suggesting it. 

In the course of the long conversation which I 
held with Mr. McLane I called his attention to a 
passage in his answer ^ to the address of the Cham- 
ber of Commerce of the City of N. York, made on 
his arrival in that City a few days ago, and to the 
comments upon it in the National Intelligencer of 
this morning. He said at once that the construction 
placed upon his language by the Intelligencer was 
a false one. He said that what he meant to convey, 
when he said in that paragraph that in the part he 
bore in the Oregon negotiation he was carrying out 
the views of his Government & the President's 
wishes, was that though my opinion upon the ab- 
stract question of title was in favour of our right 
to 54° 40' that yet for the reasons assigned in my 
message to Congress I had in July, '45, offered to 
compromise on 49°, and that his instructions were 
to promote an adjustment on that parallel, and that 
in doing this he was carrying out the views of the 
Government and my wishes. I told him I was my- 
self satisfied on reading the paragraph that such must 
have been his meaning, for that none other would 
have been correct, but I Said to him that he would 
perceive that it would be subject to be misrepre- 
sented as it had been by the Intelligencer. I told 
him that the impression attempted to be made by 

^ McLane's address, given September 7, 1846, was published 
in The New York Herald September 8, and in the National In- 
telligencer September ii, 1846. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 137 

the Intelligencer was, that I had held one doctrine 
in my message to Congress, and another in my pri- 
vate intercourse with him, which he knew was not 
true. I told him that in all my private letters to 
him, press copies of which I had "kept, I had held 
the same doctrine that I had in my messages to Con- 
gress and before the country. He replied that he 
knew that was so, and said that he would cause the 
misrepresentation of the Intelligencer to be corrected 
by the Baltimore papers on his return to that City. 
He said he would see his son Robert & have a para- 
graph inserted in one of the Baltimore papers cor- 
recting the error. Mr. & Mrs. McLane remained 
and took a family dinner with me. On leaving he 
gave me strong assurances of his personal and politi- 
cal friendship. My interview with him was an in- 
teresting and a pleasant one. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 12th September, 1846. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The 
Secretaries of the Treasury, War, & Navy attended at 
the usual hour. The Secretary of State and the P. 
M. Gen'l are absent from the City, and the office of 
Attorney Gen'l, since Judge Mason's appointment 
as Secretary of the Navy on the 9th Instant, has not 
been filled. A full conversation occurred in rela- 
tion to the Mexican War and the manner of conduct- 
ing it. Some other business was transacted, and the 
Cabinet retired about i O'Clock P. M. 

Senator Breese of Illinois called to-night. He 



138 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Sept. 

had returned from his residence in Illinois to which 
he had gone after the adjournment of the late Ses- 
sion of Congress, to attend the meeting of the Re- 
gents of the Smithsonian Institute, of whom he is 
one. He was not notified of his appointment by the 
Vice President until after he had reached home. 
The Board of Regents adjourned before his arrival 
in this City. 

Sunday, IJth September, 1 846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. 

I received by to-day's mail a letter from the Hon. 
Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, declining to 
accept the office of Attorney General of the United 
States, which I had tendered to him by my letter of 
the 27th ultimo. 

Monday, 14th September, 1846. — Was much en- 
gaged in disposing of the business on my table until 
12 O'clock to-day. Opened my office at that hour. 
Quite a number of persons called, some seeking of- 
fice, others begging money, and others to pay their 
respects. I told the office seekers I had no vacan- 
cies to fill, and such as wanted money that I had 
none to give, unless in cases of charity or when it 
was a christian duty to relieve the wants of the needy. 
To one old man I directed Mr. Voorhies to give 
something. 

Gen'l Robert Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liver- 
pool, who had been on a visit to his family in Ten- 
nessee, called to-day. He had his son, Josiah N. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 139 

Armstrong, and his youngest daughter (Henrietta 
Rachel) with him. I invited him during his stay 
in Washington to take rooms in the President's 
House with his daughter, & he agreed to do so. 

I received to-night a letter from Rob't McLane 
of Baltimore (son [of] Hon. Louis McLane, late 
U. S. Minister to England) enclosing the Balti- 
more Republican Argus, containing an article re- 
futing the false impression attempted to be made by 
the National Intelligencer of Friday last in rela- 
tion to a paragraph in Mr. Louis McLane's late 
address to the Chamber of Commerce in New York 
upon the subject of the Oregon negotiation. (See 
this diary of Friday, nth Instant.) 

Tuesday, isth September, 1846. — The Cabinet 
held a Regular Meeting to-day; present the Secretary 
of the Treasury, the Secretary of War, and the Secre- 
tary of the Navy; the Secretary of State and the 
P. M. General being still absent from the City, and 
the OfHce of Attorney General being vacant. 

The Secretary of War read despatches which he 
had received from the army in Mexico. The man- 
ner of prosecuting the War was discussed. Great 
embarrassments exist in directing the movements of 
our forces, for want of reliable information of the 
topography of the country, the character of the roads, 
the supplies which can probably be drawn from the 
country, and the facilities or obstructions which may 
exist in prosecuting the campaign into the interior 
of the country. Gen'l Taylor though in the coun- 
try gives but little information on these points. He 



140 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Sept. 

seems to act as a Regular Soldier, whose only duty 
it is to obey orders. He does not seem to possess 
the resources & grasp of mind suited to the re- 
sponsibilities of his position. He seems disposed 
to avoid all responsibility of making any suggestions 
or giving any opinions. Some other public sub- 
jects were considered and the Cabinet retired about 
I O'clock P. M. 

This was reception evening. A few persons 
called. 

Gen'l Armstrong & his son, whom I had invited 
to take rooms in the President's House, declined to 
do so, preferring to remain at the Hotel. Miss 
Armstrong is a part of our family during the stay of 
her father in Washington. 

Wednesday, l6th September, 1846. — Nothing 
worthy of note occurred to-day. I was in my office 
as usual an hour before breakfast and throughout the 
day, taking my daily walk on rising in the morning 
and about sun-set. I opened my office as usual 
at about 12 O'Clock. A number of persons 
called, some of whom were seeking office, and one 
(a female) begging money, but these are such 
common occurrences that they are scarcely worthy 
of remark. 

My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, who had been 
several weeks absent on a visit to his mother in N. 
Carolina, returned to-day. He will resume his 
studies at the Georgetown College on to-morrow. 
The Session of the College commenced on yester- 
day. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 141 

Thursday, IJth September, 1846. — I was occu- 
pied as usual this morning in disposing of the busi- 
ness on my table until 12 O'Clock, when I opened 
my office for the reception of visitors. But a few 
persons called and there was no importunity for 
office. 

My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, who returned 
from a visit to his mother in N. Carolina on yester- 
day, was taken with a chill last night, and I thought 
it prudent that he should remain with me to-day. 
If he should have no return of his chill he will go 
to the GeorgetowrrcoUege on to-morrow. Mr. Ban- 
croft called and informed me that he would leave 
Washington on Saturday next, and embark for Eng- 
land in the Steamer of the 8th of October. He ex- 
pressed a desire that Mr. Boyd might be retained as 
his Secretary of Legation for the present, saying that 
if after he became acquainted with him he desired 
a change to be made he would make it known to me. 

Friday, iSth September, 1846.— The Secretary 
of War called this morning on business, and while 
in my office Judge Mason (the acting attorney Gen- 
eral) called to state some difficulties which existed 
in his mind in placing a construction on the Con- 
stitutional Treasury law of the last Session of Con- 
gress. The question of construction had been 
referred to him by the Secretary of War or of the 
Treasury or both, upon the following point, viz.: 

Whether a disbursing officer having drawn money 
from the Treasury for disbursement can legally de- 
posite the same with the Treasurer or Assistant 



142 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Sept. 

Treasurer, and draw checks upon the same to be 
paid in gold or silver and pass such checks to the 
public creditor in payment. As this was an impor^ 
tant question affecting the operations of the Treas- 
ury I sent for the Secretary of the Treasury, 
who called and the subject was fully discussed. 
Mr. Mason stated the question and the difficulty in 
his own mind in coming to a satisfactory decision. 
The Secretary of the Treasury was of opinion that 
a disbursing officer might deposite his funds with 
the Treasurer or Assistant Treasurer and draw 
checks on the funds thus deposited to his credit to 
be met by gold & silver and make payment in that 
mode. The Secretary of War expressed no distinct 
opinion, but my impression from what he said is 
that he agreed with the Secretary of the Treasury 
in his construction of the law. Judge Mason said 
he had not examined the law as critically as he de- 
sired to do; but that he would give it further con- 
sideration and be prepared to make his decision on 
monday next. I expressed no opinion, not desiring 
in any way to influence the Attorney General in the 
decision to which he might come. I only remark 
that if the construction insisted on by the Secretary 
of the Treasury be not admissible, it will be almost 
impossible for the disbursing officers to pack the 
Specie for the army and Navy to distant and widely 
seperated points so as to pay it out. Whatever the 
inconvenience or embarrassment may be, the law 
must be construed according to its meaning as this 
is to be collected from its language. 

Mr. & Mrs. Bancroft took a family dinner with 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i43 

me to-day. Mr. Bancroft expects to leave Wash- 
ington on to-morrow afternoon for Boston, and ex- 
pects to sail on his mission to England by the 
Steamer of the 8th proximo. 

My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, returned to 
Georgetown College to-day. 

This was reception evening. Mrs. Madison and 
two or three dozen other persons, ladies & gentle- 
men, called. 

Saturday, igth September, 1846. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The 
Secretaries of the Treasury, of War, and of the Navy, 
attended at the usual hour; the Secretary of State 
and the P. M. Gen'l being still absent from the City, 
and the office of Attorney Gen'l being vacant, in 
consequence of the transfer of Mr. Mason to the 
Navy Department in place of Mr. Bancroft, ap- 
pointed Minister to England. Mr. Bancroft being 
about to depart this afternoon for Boston preparatory 
to sailing on his mission, spent an hour with the 
Cabinet. The utmost harmony and good feeling 
prevails between Mr. Bancroft and the Cabinet as 
far as I know. He took his leave and all seemed to 
regret that he would no longer constitute a part of 
the Executive council. 

The Cabinet were engaged in considering various 
details connected with the operations of the army in 
Mexico, and also as to the manner of executing the 
Constitutional Treasury act passed at the last Ses- 
sion of Congress. The Cabinet adjourned, and be- 
tween 2 & 3 O'clock Mr. Bancroft returned, and 



144 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Sept. 

I had a free conversation of an hour with him on 
the subject of his mission, and the State of political 
parties in the U. States, and particularly in the 
State of New York, where the Democracy seemed 
to be torn and distracted by factions. Mr. Ban- 
croft informed me that he would stop a short time 
in the City of New York and would probably spend 
a few hours at Kinderhook and Albany on his way 
to Boston, and would wa-ite to me what he ascer- 
tained to be the true state of things and of feeling 
towards the administration among the leading men 
whom he might see. 

Mr. & Mrs. Bancroft, I learn, left in the evening 
cars for Baltimore. 

About dark this evening the Secretary of the Navy 
and the Secretary of War called. Mr. Mason in- 
formed me that he had received a despatch from 
Commodore Conner off Vera Cruz, transmitting the 
answer ^ of the Mexican Secretary of Foreign Af- 
fairs to the overture made by the Secretary of State 
on the 27th of July last, proposing to re-open nego- 
tiations with a view to conclude a peace just and 
honorable to both countries. Mr. Trist, ch. Clk. of 
the State Dep't, and during the Temporary ab- 
sence of Mr. Buchanan the acting Secretary of State, 
came in to deliver to me some despatches received 
by the last Steamer. The answer from the Mexican 
Government was in the Spanish language. Mr. 
Trist read it, translating it into English. It is in 
substance a postponement of any definitive decision 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 82. For Buchanan's overture of 
July 27, ibid, 40. 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 14S 

until the meeting of a new Congress in Mexico on 
the 6th of December next, to whom the overture will 
be submitted for their decision. I directed Mr. 
Trist to prepare a written translation and furnish 
it to me to-night or early on to-morrow. I then 
stated to the Secretary of War & of the Navy, that 
our overture for peace having been in effect de- 
clined, my strong impression was that the character 
of the war which we were waging in Mexico should 
be in some respects changed. For the purpose of 
conciliating the Mexican people in the Northern & 
Eastern Provinces, we had heretofore deemed it to 
be our policy to pay liberally for the supplies drawn 
from the country for the support of the army. This 
was rather a helping than an injury to them & my 
opinion now was, seeing that their Government re- 
fused to negotiate for peace, to quarter upon the 
enemy by laying contributions upon them, or seizing 
the necessary supplies for the army without paying 
for them, making proper discriminations in favour of 
such Mexicans as were ascertained to be friendly to 
the U. States. In these opinions they concurred, 
but as this was an important subject and as but two 
members of the Cabinet were present, it was ad- 
journed until to-morrow at 9 O'Clock. I suggested 
also a descent upon the coast of Mexico by land as 
well as by sea, so as to take military possession of 
Tampico and all the principal places in the Prov- 
ince of Tamaulipas. A meeting was appointed for 
to-morrow at 9 O'Clock, the Secretary of the Navy 
being in the meantime instructed to write to Pensa- 
cola to-night, ordering the commander of the 



146 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Sept. 

Steamer which brought the despatches from Vera 
Cruz to remain at that place, until he again heard 
from the Department. The object of detaining the 
Steamer was that she might carry out orders to the 
squadron off Vera Cruz. 

Sunday, 20th September, 1 846. — Addressed a 
note to the Secretary of the Treasury requesting him 
to call at my office at 9 O'Clock. He called at that 
hour, as did also the Secretaries of War & the Navy 
agreeably to the appointment made with the two lat- 
ter last evening. Mr. Trist furnished the written 
translation of the answer of the Mexican Secretary of 
Foreign affairs in answer to the overture for peace 
made by the Secretary of State on the 27th of July 
last. It was considered & the policy to be pursued 
consequent upon it was discussed. All agreed in 
the views which I had expressed last evening (see 
diary of yesterday). The Secretary of War was 
directed to ascertain what corps of the volunteers & 
regulars now on the Rio Grande, & not with Gen'l 
Taylor's & Gen'l Wool's columns marching upon 
Chihuahua, could be organized & spared from their 
present posts to make a descent by land or by sea 
to Tampico and other points in Tamaulipas. After 
some further conversation the Cabinet dispersed to 
meet again at 7 O'Clock this evening. 

I attended the Methodist Episcopal church on 
9th Street (Rev. Mr. Slicer's) to-day, accompanied 
by Mrs. Polk, Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. consul to 
Liverpool, & his daughter. 

After returning from church The Secretary of 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 147 

War called in company with Col. Stephenson, the 
commander of the Regiment of Volunteers at New 
York destined for the coast of California. I ex- 
pressed in strong terms my disapprobation at the de- 
lay in the departure of the Regiment to its destina- 
tion. Col. Stephenson gave some explanations 
which were not satisfactory, but said he would re- 
turn forthwith to New York and have the Regiment 
at sea before Wednesday evening next. I spoke in 
decided terms & told him I expect[ed] him to do 
so. He left me fully impressed with my dissatisfac- 
tion at the great & as I think culpable delay which 
has occurred. Col. Stephenson was disposed to at- 
tribute the delay to others, & said the transports had 
not been ready in time. I suppose the truth is that 
the Quarter Master's Department as well as Col. 
S. are to blame. I intimated plainly to Col. S. that 
if further delay occurred I would cause the officers 
who produced it to be arrested & tried. 

At 7 O'clock P. M. the Secretaries of the Treas- 
ury, War, & Navy called according to adjournment 
made this morning. The subject of the movements 
of the army & navy which were considered last 
evening and this morning were further discussed. 
The Secretary of the Navy read the draft of a let- 
ter which he had prepared to Commodore Conner 
instructing him to take & hold Tampico. The Sec- 
retary of War had not drafted his orders to Gen'l 
Taylor in regard to the expedition of a column of 
the Army to the Southern & Eastern part of Tamaul- 
ipas including the City of Tampico. The Cabinet 
determined that the Secretary of the Navy should 



148 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Sept. 

make some modifications of the draft of his letter, 
and discussed and agreed upon the points to be em- 
braced in the order of the Secretary of War to the 
commanding Gen'l of the army in Mexico. The 
Cabinet adjourned with the understanding that these 
documents should be prepared by to-morrow. 

Mrs. Polk on returning from church to-day com- 
plains[ed] of indisposition and did not go to din- 
ner. Her symptoms indicate that it is a bilious at- 
tack, such as is very prevalent in the City at this 
time. I proposed to send for a physician, but she 
thought it unnecessary and insisted that I should not. 

Monday, 21st September, 1846. — I ordered my 
office to be kept closed as usual until 12 O'Clock to- 
day, but was much annoyed before that hour by per- 
sons making special calls who sent in their cards and 
I was compelled to see them. At 12 O'Clock a wo- 
man begging money and several persons seeking office 
called. I gave the woman a small amount of money 
in order to get clear of her. I doubt whether she 
was a proper object of charity. To the office seek- 
ers I had but one answer and that was that there 
were no vacancies and that I had no offices to bestow. 

The Secretary of War called and read to me the 
draft which he had prepared of an order to fit out 
an expedition to Tampico & the Southern or West- 
ern part of Tamaulipas. I suggested some altera- 
tions and requested him to have it ready at th-e meet- 
ing of the Cabinet on to-morrow. As Maj'r Gen'l 
Butler and Brigadier Generals Quitman & Hamer 
of the Volunteers were with Gen'l Taylor in his ad- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 149 

vance upon Monterey, I suggested to the Secretary 
that the expedition to Tampico should be placed 
under the command of Maj'r Gen'l Patterson/ to 
be accompanied by Brigadier Generals Pillow" and 
Shields of the Volunteers. The Secretary of the 
Navy was present at this interview and concurred in 
the decision to which the Secretary of War and my- 
self had come. It was concluded that the despatches 
to the army and Navy should be prepared & revised 
& submitted to the Cabinet on to-morrow. 

Gen'l Armstrong took his daughter, who had been 
spending a few days in my family, & place[d] her 
at Miss English's boarding school in Georgetown. 

Mrs. Polk continues slightly indisposed & took 
medicine to-night. 

Tuesday, 22nd September, 1846. — Mr. Bu- 
chanan, the Secretary of State, returned from his 
Northern tour last evening, and called on me before 
the meeting of the Cabinet this morning. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, present the 
Secretaries of State, War, & Navy. The Secretary 
of the Treasury did not attend. The P. M. Gen'l 
is still absent on a visit to Tennessee. The Secretary 
of War read the draft of his letter to Gen'l Taylor 
and one to Gen'l Patterson. Several modifications 
of them were suggested and made. The responsi- 

^ Robert Patterson, native of Ireland, served in the War of 
18 1 2 and in the Mexican War. 

^ Gideon J. Pillow of Tennessee, served in the Mexican and 
the Civil Wars; in the latter he opposed Grant at Belmont, and, 
as second in command, at Fort Donelson. 



ISO JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Sept. 

bility was taken of ordering an expedition to Tam- 
pico and Eastern Tamaulipas to consist of a column 
of three or four thousand men, provided such a 
movement did not interfere with the plan of cam- 
paign previously ordered by Gen'l Taylor. This 
column to be under the command of Maj'r Gen'l 
Patterson who will be accompanied by Brigadier 
Generals Pillow & Shields. The letters of the Sec- 
retary of War to Gen'ls Taylor and Patterson will 
fully set forth the decisions made in Cabinet. The 
Secretary of the Navy read the draft of a letter to 
Commodore Conner, ordering him if practicable to 
take Tampico, and to co-operate in that enterprise 
with the land forces. A slight modification of it 
was suggested and made. I sent for General Jes- 
sup, the Quarter Master Gen'l, after the Cabinet 
adjourned, and held a conversation with him in re- 
lation to the proper provision for transportation, in 
view of this new movement of a part of the army. 
Maj'r Eastland, one of the Brigade Quarter Mas- 
ters of Volunteers, was present, and upon consulta- 
tion with him & Gen'l Jessup, I advised the purchase 
of two additional Steam Ships for the Gulf. I find 
that I am compelled to give some attention to these 
details or the movements of the army will be de- 
layed and embarrassed. The Secretary of War is 
overwhelmed with his labours and responsibilities, 
and is compelled to rely for the execution of many 
details of his Department to [on] his subordinate 
officers, some of whom I fear do not feel that they 
have any responsibility, and others seem to act as 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 151 

though they were indifferent about the success of our 
military operations. Several of these officers are po- 
litically opposed to the administration and there is 
reason to apprehend that they would be willing to 
see the Government embarrassed. With these ap- 
prehensions I shall for the future give more atten- 
tion than I have done to their conduct. Gen'l Scott 
is of no aid to the Department, but his presence at 
Washington is constantly embarrassing to the Secre- 
tary of War. I will observe his course, and if neces- 
sary will order him to some other post. I addressed 
a private and unofficial letter to-day to Brigadier 
Gen'l Pillow on the subject of the War in Mexico ; 
(see letter Book). 

Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. Consul at Liverpool, left 
this afternoon on his return to England. Mrs. Polk 
continues[ed] to be so much indisposed this evening 
that I prevailed upon her to permit me to call in a 
physician. I had several times in the course of the 
day proposed it, but she had insisted that it was not 
necessary. She had fever this evening and upon 
making an earnest appeal to her she yielded that a 
physician should be sent for. I accordingly sent for 
Dr. Miller, who called and prescribed for her. She 
took the medicine prescribed but rested badly 
through the night. 

Several of our servants are affected with chills and 
fevers, and I understand there are many cases of the 
kind in the City. 

This was reception evening, A few persons, all 
gentlemen, called. 



152 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Sept. 

WeDxNESDAY, 23rd September, 1 846. — Having 
many matters of business on my table requiring my 
attention, I instructed my messenger this morning to 
admit no visitors and bring no cards to me. When- 
ever a card is brought to me and I refuse to see the 
person I am apt to give offense. If I refuse to re- 
ceive cards and do not know who calls I am more 
likely to avoid giving offense. Though this was my 
general order to-day, my porter acted with proper 
discrimination by bringing to me the card of the 
Hon. Ralph I. IngersoU ^ of Connecticut, recently 
appointed U. S. Minister to Russia. Mr. IngersoU 
informed me that he had concluded to accept the 
Mission, and that he had visited Washington in order 
to make the necessary arrangements, receive his in- 
structions &c, preparatory to leaving the country. 
I had a conversation with Mr. I. upon the subject 
of his mission. He retired, and after having visited 
the Secretary of State, returned and informed me 
that he found he would not have time at present to 
attend satisfactorily to the object of his visit, and that 
he had concluded to leave this afternoon and return 
to Washington again in October. He informed me 
that he expected to leave the country on his mission 
in November. 

After night Mr. Conner, a leading citizen of 
Charleston, S. C, called. Mr. C. is President of one 
of the Banks at Charleston. He is a native of 
Mecklenburg County, N. C, the same County in 
which I was born. His family are distantly related 

VRalph Isaac IngersoU, 1 789-1 872, minister to Russia 1846- 
1848. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY iS3 

to mine, and I remember to have called at his father's 
house near Beatty's Ford in the fall of 181 5, when I 
was on my way to College. Mr. C. is a democrat 
upon principle, and I had a pleasant and interesting 
conversation with him. He expressed his full ap- 
probation of the leading measures of my administra- 
tion. Mrs. Polk is still indisposed, but is better this 
evening. 

Thursday, 24th September, 1846. — I had scarce- 
ly got into my office this morning until I received a 
note from a man signing his name F. E. Bramhall 
begging money. Similar applications are made to 
me almost daily. I cannot supply all their wants, 
and if I could a large majority of such beggars I 
have no doubt are unworthy. I am compelled to 
decline giving, except in a few cases where I am sat- 
isfied that the persons applying are objects of charity 
or are in great distress. Since it has become known 
that I gave the unfortunate Felix G. McConnell of 
Alabama $100. a few days before he committed sui- 
cide, these applications have become much more 
numerous than heretofore. I opened my office & 
received visitors at 12 O'Clock. Among others who 
made their appearance was Mr. Bramhall from 
[whom] I had received the note this morning beg- 
ging for money. He told me his name and asked 
me if I had received his note. I told him I had but 
could not accommodate him. He was a person ap- 
parently about 30 years old and was well dressed. 
He stepped out of the office and returned in a minute 
or two and introduced his wife to me. She was as 



154 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Sept. 

well dressed as my wife is when she goes to church. 
Whilst he was in the office another strong & athletic 
looking young man applied for money. I gave him 
the same answer. I have every reason to believe 
that my kindness to poor McConnell has brought 
these trifling loafers upon me. 

I sent for the Secretary of War this morning and 
told him it was necessary that he should give his per- 
sonal attention to the Quarter-Master's and Commis- 
sary's Departments and see that the necessary pro- 
vision was made on their part to supply the column 
of the army recently ordered to move to Tampico 
and other points on the coast. I told him that I 
feared some of the lower officers at Washington cared 
but little what disasters happened, provided they 
could avoid censure or responsibility. The Secre- 
tary expressed his distrust of their fidelity to the ad- 
ministration, and said he would return to the De- 
partment and issue stringent orders such as I had 
suggested at once. 

I disposed of the current business on my table. 

I was somewhat indisposed to-day. Much sick- 
ness prevails in the City. Mrs. Polk is still indis- 
posed and has been taking medicine yesterday and 
to-day. 

Friday, 2Sth September, 1846. — I was engaged 
as usual in my office until 12 O'Clock to-day when I 
opened my doors for the reception of visitors. Sev- 
eral office seekers called. I soon disposed of them 
by telling them that I had no vacancies to fill. A 
female called to beg money. She was no object of 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 155 

charity and I refused to give her any. My kind- 
ness to poor McConnell of Alabama has brought 
upon me a horde of beggars who seem to think it is 
a fine opportunity to supply their wants. 

Mr. Buchanan called and read to me despatches 
from Mr. Harris, U. S. charge d'affaires to Buenos- 
ayres. I Had a long conversation with him in re- 
lation to our foreign affairs, and particularly with 
the South American States. The conduct of Mr. 
Wise at Brazil and Mr. Brent at the Argentine Re- 
public in interfering in the internal contests of the 
South American Governments, and especially in the 
tender of the mediation of their Government, was 
not only unauthorized, but is calculated to do much 
mischief. Mr. Brent has been superseded by Mr. 
Harris, and Mr. Wise will return during the next 
winter. Their successors will be instructed to avoid 
embarrassing & involving their Government in a sim- 
ilar manner. It is indeed provoking that any for- 
eign representatives should have acted with so little 
discretion and judgment as Mr. Wise and Mr. Brent 
have done. 

My Private Secretary, J. Knox Walker, returned 
to-night, having been absent on a visit to Tennessee 
since the morning of the 12th of August last. I 
shall hereafter be relieved from the labour of signing 
land Patents which I have had to perform during 
his absence. 

I learn from Col. Walker that Mr. Johnson, the 
P. M. Gen'l, who left at the same time, returned with 
him. 



156 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Sept. 

Saturday, 26th September, 1846. — Mr. Cave 
Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, having been absent on a 
visit to Tennessee since the 12th day of August last, 
returned to the City last night and called on me this 
morning. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of the Navy, the 
Atto. GenTs office being vacant. The Secretary of 
State read a letter^ which he had prepared in reply 
to that of the Secretary of Foreign affairs of the 
Mexican Government received on the 19th Instant 
(see this diary of that day) in answer to the letter 
of the Secretary of State of the 27th of July last 
proposing to renew negotiations with a view to con- 
clude a peace just & honourable to both nations. As 
the Mexican Government had, as appears by their 
answer, postponed a definitive decision upon the 
proposition made by the Secretary of State until the 
meeting of the Mexican Congress on the 6th of De- 
cember next, and had placed a false construction 
upon his language, it was deemed proper to make 
a response. The letter in reply prepared by Mr. 
Buchanan having been read by him, he remarked 
that he desired the opinion of the Cabinet and then 
of the President. I remained silent until the views 
of the Cabinet were expressed. The Secretary of 
War objected to that part of the letter which an- 
nounced that the expenses of the War must be de- 
frayed by Mexico, as impolitic to be announced at 
this time, because it would be likely to prevent Mex- 
ico from entering into negotiations. He was in fa- 

^ Moore, Buchanan, Yll, 87. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 157 

vour of securing indemnity for the expenses of the 
war in a treaty of peace, but doubted the policy of 
announcing that fact in this preliminary stage of the 
proceedings. The Secretary of the Treasury was in 
favour of retaining this part of the letter. A dis- 
cussion ensued in which I took no part. The P. M. 
Gen'l seemed to concur with the Secretary of State 
and the Secretary of the Treasury that the part of 
the letter claiming indemnity for the expenses of the 
war should be retained. The Secretary of War 
after the discussion had proceeded for some time 
seemed willing to yield his objections. Mr. Bu- 
chanan then addressing me said, " and what is the 
President's opinion?" I remarked to him that I 
should insist when a Treaty was made upon being 
indemnified for the expenses of the War, and that 
in arranging a boundary these expenses must be 
taken into the account, but that I had serious doubts 
whether this fact should be announced at this time, 
and that my opinion inclined that it would be time 
enough to insist upon it after negotiations were 
opened, and we came to settle the terms of a Treaty. 
I remarked further that whatever indemnity was 
acquired for the claims of our citizens, for the out- 
rages committed by the Mexicans for a long series of 
years, as well as for the expenses of the war, must be 
in the acquisition of territory on our part, because 
it was well known that Mexico had no money to pay. 
My opinion was further, that to announce the fact 
now that Mexico was to pay the expenses of the 
War, would excite that stubborn and impracticable 
people and prevent them from entering into negotia- 



IS8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Sept. 

tions. I suggested that this paragraph of the letter 
should be modified so as to state that the delay on the 
part of Mexico in acceding to our overture to open 
negotiations would render a satisfactory adjustment 
more difficult because of the increased expenses of 
the War. This suggestion was acceded to, and Mr. 
Buchanan said he would modify the letter accord- 
ingly. I requested him to submit it to me before he 
sent it off, and he said he would do so. 

Before the meeting of the Cabinet this morning 
Gen'l Jessup, the Quarter Master Gen'l, called & 
informed me that so great were the responsibilities 
of his Department that he was not satisfied to rely 
upon his subordinates at so great a distance from him 
to make the proper provision for the army and that 
he thought he ought to go in person to the seat of 
operations. He said he did not ask to go to the 
army with any rank giving him the right to take 
command, but in his capacity as a stafif officer. He 
satisfied me that this was necessary and proper for 
the efficiency of the service, and I so expressed my- 
self, but told him before I decided I would con- 
sult the Secretary of War. After other business was 
disposed of, I brought this matter before the Cab- 
inet, and after assigning the reasons for it which 
General Jessup assigned to me, the Secretary of 
War and the other members of the Cabinet present 
assented to its propriety. I then directed that Gen- 
eral Jessup should be ordered to the army, as he 
had suggested. 

The Secretary of War complained of being In- 
disposed & retired before the Cabinet adjourned. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 159 

Some other business not worthy of note was attended 
to. 

Before the Cabinet adjourned, I remarked to 
them that as the Hon. Franklin Pierce to whom I 
had tendered the office of attorney Gen'l had de- 
clined to accept it, that I must select some other 
person for that office. I informed them that the 
Hon. Nathan Clifford ^ of Maine had been recom- 
mended to me, but that I had very little knowledge 
of him and did not know his qualifications as a 
lawyer, and added that I did not desire to bring 
any one into the Cabinet who would be exception- 
able to any of its members, as I desired to preserve 
the harmony which had hitherto prevailed in our 
councils. All the members present expressed their 
entire satisfaction with Mr. Clififord, but none of 
them were able to inform me what his legal attain- 
ments were. They knew him to be a man of talents 
and to stand high in Maine, but they had not suffi- 
cient knowledge of him as a lawyer to speak with 
confidence. At my request the Secretary of the 
Treasury agreed to consult Judge Paris of Maine 
confidentially (the 2nd Comptroller of the Treas- 
ury) as to Mr. Clifford's standing in Maine as 
[and] especially as to his legal attainments. The 
Cabinet adjourned & in about an hour the Secretary 
of the Treasury returned and informed me that he 
had seen Judge Paris, who informed him that Mr. 
Clifford was a man of very high standing; that he 
had filled the office of attorney Gen'l under the 

^ Nathan Clifford, 1804-1881, U. S. Attorney General 1846- 
1848, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court 1858-1881. 



i6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY Ui Sept. 

State Government of Maine for several years, and 
that his attainments as a lawyer were respectable. 
I sent for Mr. Appleton of Maine (ch. Clk. in the 
Navy Department) and consulted him confidentially 
as to Mr. Clififord & his legal attainments. He 
gave me about the same account of him which Judge 
Paris had given to the Secretary of the Treasury. 

Sunday, 2Jth September, 1846. — General James 
Hamilton ^ of S. C. addressed me a note this morn- 
ing stating that he was compelled to leave the City 
to-day, and that he desired to see me at 9 O'Clock. 
He called at that hour. In the course of a conver- 
sation of half an hour he expressed in very strong 
terms the opinion that it was the duty of the whole 
South to give to my administration an ardent & 
hearty support, approving as he said he did of all 
the leading measures of my administration, and he 
enquired with some anxiety & great earnestness 
whether there was any alienation or unkind feelings 
between Mr. Calhoun and myself. I told him that 
there was none, not the slightest on my part. He 
said he disapproved Mr. Calhoun's course in refer- 
ence to the Mexican War, that he had written him 
at the time on the subject, and that on his return 
to the South whither he was now going, having 
spent some weeks at the North, he would see Mr. 
Calhoun and urge him to give to my administration 
a zealous support. He expressed the opinion that 
the Whigs of the North would violently assail my 

^Governor of South Carolina 1 830-1 832, an advocate of 
free trade and State rights. 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i6i 

administration & repeated that it was the duty of 
the whole democracy and especially of the South to 
sustain me. Whilst Gen'l Hamilton was with me 
it was announced by my porter that Gov. Brown ^ 
of Tennessee and my old friend, Daniel Graham,^ 
of Tennessee had called and were in the parlour 
below stairs. As soon as Gen'l H. left I went to 
the parlour & saw them. I learned from them that 
their wives accompanied them. After spending a 
short time with them they left, with the understand- 
ing that I would drive by Brown's Hotel, where they 
stopped, and take them with me to church. 

General Jessup sent a message to me by my porter 
that he wished to see me on special business. 
Though contrary to my practice to see company on 
this day, I directed him to be shown into my office. 
After conversing with him for a few minutes in 
reference to his departure for the army (see this 
diary of yesterday) he retired. 

Mrs. Polk although convalescent, was too feeble 
from her late indisposition to attend church to- 
day. 

My [her] niece. Miss Rucker, and myself at- 
tended the first Presbyterian church. We called on 
the way at Brown's Hotel, and Mr. & Mrs. Graham 
accompanied us to church. Gov. Brown & his wife 
did not attend church. I invited Gov. Brown and 
Mr. Graham, being both of them old and intimate 

^ Aaron V. Brown, Governor of Tennessee 1845-1847, and for 
many years an influential leader of the Democratic party. 

-Appointed Register of the Treasury in 1847 to succeed Ran- 
som H. Gillett. 



i62 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Sept. 

friends, to take rooms in the President's House dur- 
ing their stay in Washington. 

About dark the P. M. Gen'l called and shortly 
afterwards Gov. Brown & Mr. Graham called. 
Mrs. Polk saw the ladies in her chamber, and I saw 
the gentlemen in my office. I spent an agreeable 
evening with these old friends. In the course of the 
evening Mr. Buchanan called and spent half an 
hour. I saw the ladies in the parlour before they 
left. 

Monday, 28th September, 1846. — Had several 
special calls before 12 O'Clock this morning, and 
among them several genteel strangers who called sim- 
ply to pay their respects. At 12 O'Clock agreeably 
to previous arrangement I received in my office a 
delegation [of] about twenty Head men and braves 
of the Winnebagoe tribe of Indians, accompanied by 
Gen'l Fletcher, the U. S. Sub Agent. They were 
the largest and finest looking men of any tribe who 
have visited me. I made them a short address 
through Mr. Lowry, the U. S. Interpreter, to which 
one of the chiefs responded. I informed them that 
I would appoint commissioners to meet them in 
council and hold a talk with them on the subject of 
their business, on the day after to-morrow. One 
[of] the chiefs then made an address to me and 
presented to me a pipe with a flat wooden Stem 4 
or 5 feet long richly ornamented with beads and 
feathers & with a silver band around it, on which 
was the following inscription, viz., " Wee-no-Shick, 
Head Chief of the Winnebagoes, to James K. Polk." 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 163 

This pipe was presented by the brother of the chief 
who, he said, was old and could not come so far, but 
had sent it as an emblem of friendship for his Great 
Father. One of the chiefs struck fire with flint and 
steel and lighted the Pipe, when the brother of the 
chief presented it to me to smoke. I smoked it, and 
he then passed around the room and presented it to 
each chief and Brave, who also smoked it. I then 
made a short address to the brother of the absent 
chief, returned my thanks for the Pipe, & told him 
I would send his brother, the Principal chief, a 
present in return. I urged them to preserve peace 
with the White men, told them that as long as they 
did so I would be their friend & the friend of their 
people. I requested them to call that I might shake 
them by the hand again before they left the City. 
They appeared to be well pleased. 

After they retired I saw a number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, who called. After night Gov. 
Brown and Mr. Daniel Graham spent an hour or 
two in my office. 

Tuesday, 2gth September, 1846. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The 
Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, and 
the P. M. Gen'l attended at the usual hour. The 
Secretaries of War and the Navy I learned were 
confined to their houses by indisposition. 

The subject of a loan or issue of Treasury notes 
was considered. The Secretary of the Treasury ex- 
pressed the opinion that a loan or an issue of Treas- 
ury notes would be necessary, as there was now in 



i64 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Sept. 

the Treasury only a fraction over Four millions of 
Dollars, which in his opinion was too small a sum 
for a period of War. The income into the Treasury 
is greatly diminished in consequence of the prospec- 
tive reduction of the rates of duty on the ist of 
December next, under the tariff of 1846, and in con- 
sequence of the operations of the Warehousing Bill. 
The necessity of the loan being settled, the mode & 
form of affecting [effecting] it was next considered. 
The issue of Treasury notes redeemable in 12 
Months bearing an interest of 6 per Cent was the 
plan approved by me. Mr. Buchanan favoured this 
mode and the Secretary of the Treasury inclined to 
the same opinion. At the same time that I inti- 
mated my opinion I informed the Secretary of the 
Treasury that as the responsibility would fall in 
great part on him, I would leave it to him to adopt 
this mode or to resort to a funded debt for the 
amount needed. He said he would give the subject 
his immediate attention. 

My steward (Henry Bowman) who has been ab- 
sent from the City near a month returned to-day. 
During his absence he laid in supplies for the 
President's House at New York & Baltimore. 

Gov. Brown of Tennessee & his wife, Mr. Daniel 
Graham and his wife of Tennessee, Mr. Buchanan, 
Mr. Cave Johnson, and Mr. Ritchie, Ed. of the 
Union, took dinner with me to-day. 

This was reception evening. A few persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called, & among others Mrs. 
Madison. 



1846I JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 165 

Wednesday, ^Oth September, 1846. — Saw com- 
pany at 12 O'clock to-day. A number of persons 
called, and among them several office seekers for 
whom I had no offices. 

Nothing worthy of note occurred during the day. 
After night Gen. Jessup, the Quarter Master Gen'l, 
called and I had a long conversation with him in 
relation to the operations of the army in the Mexican 
War. Gen'l Jessup will leave on to-morrow for 
the Rio Grande in his staflf character of Quarter 
Master General, with a view to make prompt and 
more effective provision for the army, so far as his 
Department is concerned. I requested him when 
he reached the seat of War to write to me unofficially 
and give me information and also his opinions in re- 
lation to the prosecution of the War. 

This afternoon I rode with Gov. Brown & Mr. 
Daniel Graham of Tennessee to visit Judge Mason, 
who had been indisposed. We found him conva- 
lescent. 

Thursday, Ist October, 1846. — I opened my 
office for the reception of company as usual at 12 
O'clock to-day. A number of office-seekers at- 
tended as usual, and retired without having their 
wishes gratified. I had no vacancies to fill, and did 
not choose to turn out better men to put them in. 
My greatest annoyance is the constant stream of per- 
sons seeking office & begging money. 

To-day I wrote some paragraphs for my message 
at the meeting of the next Session of Congress. 



i66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Oct. 

They were upon the subjects which I foresaw it 
would be proper to bring to the notice of Congress, 
but subject of course to such modifications as a 
changed state of facts may render proper. 

I received a note about noon to-day without date 
from the Hon. Rob't J. Walker, Secretary of the 
Treasury, informing me that he had " found it neces- 
sary to go on immediately to the North to effect the 
nego[tia]tion " (of a loan) "on twelve months 
Treasury notes" (see his note on my files). I was 
greatly surprised at this, and especially that he had 
not informed me before leaving. I immediately 
sent for Mr. McClintock Young, the chief clerk in 
the Treasury Department, in order to obtain further 
information. Mr. Young informed me that Mr. 
Walker left last evening, and did not desire it to be 
known to the public that he was gone to the North; 
that he intended to stop at Princeton, N. Jersey, and 
send for Mr. Lawrence,^ the collector at New York, 
& Mr. Newbold[?] with a view to negotiate the 
loan through their agency. I cannot understand 
the necessity of all this secrecy and mystery in the 
movements of the Secretary, and still less can I un- 
derstand why he should have left the City on public 
business of so much importance without at least ad- 
vising me of it, if not consulting me before he left. 
I am wholly at a loss to understand the necessity of 
such a movement. There could have been no neces- 
sity to conceal it from me. How it happened that 
his note to me, without date, was not delivered until 

^ Cornelius Van Wyck Lawrence, capitalist and banker of New 
York. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 167 

noon to-day remains to be explained. I told Mr. 
Young that I would appoint him acting Secretary 
of the Treasury ad interitn. He said it would not 
probably be necessary as he expected Mr. Walker to 
return in two or three days. 

I omitted to state in yesterday's Diary that I ad- 
dressed a letter on that day to the Hon. Nathan 
Clifford of Maine, tendering to him the office of 
Atto. Gen'l of the U. S. in place of Judge Mason, 
appointed Secretary of the Navy: (see letters to Mr. 
Clifford & to the Hon. John Fairfield, U. S. Senator 
from Maine, by whom among others Mr. Clifford 
was recommended). 

Mr. N. P. Trist, the ch. Clerk in the Department 
of State, handed to me some days ago two letters 
from Mr. Richard Rush, the one dated Sept. 19th 
and the other Sept. 21st, whilst he was acting Sec- 
retary of State, during Mr. Buchanan's temporary 
absence from the City. They treated of the Oregon 
negotiation, and controverted Mr. McLane's state- 
ment in his late response to the address made to him 
by the Chamber of Commerce of N. York. The 
statement the correctness of which Mr. Rush con- 
troverts is as follows, viz., " Having some knowl- 
edge from my official position at that time of the 
policy and objects of the Convention of 1828, I am 
quite persuaded that its main design was to lead, in 
a future partition of the territory, to the recognition 
of our claim to the country not North, but South of 
the 49th parallel, and between that and the Colum- 
bia River." Mr. Rush says this was new to him; 
that he was a member of Mr. Adams's Cabinet when 



i68 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Oct. 

the Treaty of 1828 was concluded and ratified, and 
that he did not understand the object of the Conven- 
tion as Mr. McLane presents it. He states that Mr. 
Adams's opinion[s] of title were then the same as 
those expressed in debate on the floor of Congress 
last winter. The object of Mr. Rush's letters to Mr. 
Trist (acting Secretary of State) was to ascertain 
whether there was any evidence in the State Depart- 
ment which he may have overlooked favouring Mr. 
McLane's idea. The closing paragraph of Mr. 
Rush's letter of the 21st Sept., 1846, to Mr. Trist is 
as follows, viz.: 

"For one, I am unshaken in the belief that it was 
the President's opening message to the first Congress 
he met, on the second of December last, that pro- 
duced the settlement of the Oregon difficulty. It 
was like a great bumb-shell thrown into the Brittish 
Cabinet. It took them by surprise and first roused 
them to the unavoidable necessity of a settlement. 
I thought when it appeared that it would lead to 
War, so bold was it, though every word was just; 
whereas it lead [led] to peace." 

I was much engaged when Mr. Trist handed to 
me these letters of Mr. Rush. Not knowing their 
importance I laid them aside & did not examine 
them until to-day. I think Mr. McLane's statement 
in his address was not only erroneous as the public 
have understood it, but was ill-timed and calculated 
to do mischief rather than good. I regret that he 
made it. He has explained that he referred only to 
his instructions now published. (See this diary some 
two or three weeks ago.) 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i6g 

Friday, 2nd October, 1846. — I did not open my 
office for the reception of company generally to-day, 
though a number of persons were admitted at differ- 
ent periods of the day. 

At 10 O'clock this morning the Secretary of War 
and commissioner of Indian affairs called. They 
were accompanied by Albion K. Parris, 2nd Comp- 
troller, Col. Abert, and Maj'r Andrews of the army, 
whom I had appointed commissioners to treat with 
the Delegation of the Head men & chiefs of the Win- 
nebagoe Tribe of Indians, now on a visit to this City. 
The object of the call of these gentlemen was to con- 
sult with me and receive my directions as to the terms 
of the Treaty which they should propose, and par- 
ticularly as to the country which they should offer 
to give to the Winnebagoes in exchange for the coun- 
try which they now occupy in the Iowa Territory. 
After examining a carefully prepared map presented 
by Col. Abert and discussing the various matters 
connected with the subject with the commissioners, 
I gave my views to the commissioners and they re- 
tired. 

The Secretary of War remained. He had been 
indisposed for some days past, and, although feeble, 
was recovering. He had received letters from Gen'l 
Taylor and Gen'l Kearney, which I read. Gen'l 
Taylor's letters were under date of Sept. 4th, 1846. 
He was about leaving Carmaga [Camargo] for 
Monterey, and the probability was that a battle 
would take place at the latter place. Gen'l Kearney 
on the i8th of August had taken possession of Santa 
Fe without firing a gun or shedding blood, and had 



170 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Oct. 

proclaimed New Mexico to be a conquered Prov- 
ince and a part of the U. States. He expected to 
leave with a part of his command for Upper Cali- 
fornia early in September, leaving a sufficient force 
to hold Santa Fe and New Mexico. Gen'l Kearney 
has thus far performed his duty well. 

I held a conference with the Secretary of War on 
various matters connected with the War, and the 
manner of conducting it. 

Mr. Buchanan called and read to me two articles. 
No. 3 & 4, which he had prepared for the Pennsyl- 
vanian of Phila. in vindication of the administration 
on the Oregon question. He informed me that the 
ist of the Series had been published in the Pennsyl- 
vanian} He informed me that there would be four 
or five additional numbers, & that when completed 
he intended to have them printed in pamphlet form 
and circulated. The numbers which he read to me 
I thought were well prepared & presented correct 
views. 

Mr. Ritchie called and I told him I regretted ex- 
ceedingly the appearance of an article in the Union 
of last evening on the Oregon question, because it 
did not present the position of the administration 
truly, and because I feared it would be misunder- 
stood by Mr. McLane, & was well calculated to make 
an unnecessary issue with that gentleman. I pointed 
out to him the errors in the article & the false posi- 
tions which it had assumed. Mr. Ritchie said the 
article was written by his assistant Editor, Mr. Ames, 

^ For the series see the Pennsylvanian, October i to November 
26, inclusive. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 171 

that he was very busy at the time, and that it had 
been inserted without much examination. I ex- 
pressed my regret that more care had not been 
taken. 

This was reception evening. It was raining and 
only half a dozen gentlemen called. 

Saturday, jrd October, 1846. — At the usual 
hour to-day the Secretary of State, the Secretary of 
War, & the P. M. Gen'l met in Cabinet. The Secre- 
tary of the Treasury is absent from the City & the 
Secretary of the Navy is still indisposed as I under- 
stand. The subject of the prosecution of the war and 
the state of the finances were topics of consideration. 

I had been examining for a day or two past the 
subject of making appropriations for the Improve- 
ment of Harbours & Rivers, and expressed to the 
Cabinet my decided impression that the whole sys- 
tem should be checked, and informed them that I 
was seriously examining the subject and that I would 
probably in my next annual message take strong 
ground against all such appropriations as not war- 
ranted by the Constitution and wholly inexpedient. 
The subject was discussed at some length. I was 
surprised, because I did not expect it, to find that 
Mr. Buchanan concurred with me in my views, and 
thought it indispensable that the practice of making 
these improvements by the Federal Government 
should be checked, if not totally arrested. Mr. 
Marcy & Mr. Johnson also expressed their concur- 
rence in my views. I then stated that I would ex- 
amine the subject further, & that with my present 



172 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Oct. 

impressions I would probably take strong grounds 
in my message against the whole system. 

Robert M. McLane, Esqr., of Baltimore (son of the 
late Minister to England) called, and after some 
general conversation he introduced the subject of an 
article which appeared in the Union on the evening 
before the last on the Oregon question. He said it had 
annoyed his father very much, and that he apprehen- 
ded that Mr. Ritchie would force an issue upon him. 
I at once told Mr. McLane that I had not seen the 
article until 10 O'Clock on the day after it was pub- 
lished, and that on reading it I at once condemned 
and disapproved it. I told him I had seen Mr. 
Ritchie and informed him so. (See this diary of 
the 2nd Instant.) Mr. McLane added that the three 
preceding articles on the Oregon question which ap- 
peared in the Union some days previous to the last 
article were entirely satisfactory to himself and his 
father; that at the close of these three articles the 
case stood well ; but that the last article took erro- 
neous ground and was most unfortunate. I told him 
that Mr. Ritchie had informed me that the last 
article was written by his assistant, Mr. Ames, and 
that it had been hastily inserted without much ex- 
amination. Mr. McLane expressed himself to be 
satisfied. I told him that I had no doubt Mr, 
Ritchie would be ready to make any proper expla- 
nation of the article, and that I had no idea that he 
sought or desired to make any issue with his father. 
He said he had better write nothing more on the sub- 
ject, unless the course of the Whig press should make 
it necessary. Mr. McLane did not say that his visit 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 173 

to Washington to-day was on the subject of the 
article in the Union, but I have no doubt it was so. 

I saw Mr. Ritchie in the afternoon and informed 
him of my interview with Mr. McLane. He re- 
gretted the publication of the article. The truth is 
Mr. McLane's language in his New York address 
was susceptible of being misinterpreted, and that has 
given rise to the whole controversy. The Whig 
press has seized upon it for political capital, and 
[this] has made it necessary to set forth in the Dem- 
ocratic papers the true State of the facts. It is much 
to be regretted that Mr. McLane employed the lan- 
guage that he did in that address, for although he 
has [in] the Baltimore Argus, and in a personal 
conversation with me shortly after* his return from 
England, explained what he meant by it, still stand- 
ing alone & without explanation it is subject to be 
misunderstood. (For Mr. McLane's personal ex- 
planation to me, see this diary of the nth of Sept. 
last.) 

Gov. Brown of Tennessee called to-night and spent 
two or three hours with me in my office. 

Sunday, 4th October, 1846. — Attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and Governor and Mrs. Brown of Tennessee. 
We drove to the Indian Queen Hotel on our way to 
church, where Governor & Mrs. Brown joined us. 

Monday, 5//1 October, 1846. — I occupied the 
morning until 12 O'Clock in disposing of the busi- 
ness on my table. At that hour I opened my office 



174 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Oct. 

for the reception of visitors and persons on business. 
A number of persons, ladies and gentlemen, called on 
visits of ceremony. A number of ofRce-seekers 
called as usual, but I had no offices to give them. 

The Secretary of the Navy called, & I had a con- 
versation with him in relation to the operations of 
the Navy in the Mexican w^ar, and upon other 
branches of the service connected with his Depart- 
ment. He had been indisposed for several days and 
was still feeble, but was recovering from his attack. 

Gen'l Robert Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liver- 
pool, called unexpectedly. I supposed he was on 
his voyage to Liverpool. He informed me that he 
had taken passage in the Steamer Great Western for 
the 8th Inst., & having a day or two of leisure had 
concluded to come to Washington. 

Tuesday, 6th October, 1846. — The Hon. Ralph 
I. IngersoU of Connecticut called on me on yester- 
day. He visits Washington preparatory to his de- 
parture on his mission to Russia. 

The Cabinet met to-day at the usual hour, all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, who is absent from the City on a visit to New 
York on business connected with his Department. 
The Attorney General's office has not yet been filled. 

The Secretary of State presented and read a cor- 
respondence between the U. S. Consul & the French 
consul at Tripoli upon their respective claims to 
precedence in rank, together with a communication 
from the French Minister here transmitting a de- 
spatch from Mr. Guizot, the French Minister of 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i7S 

Foreign affairs, upon the subject. It was a mere 
question of etiquette & ceremony between the consuls 
at Tripoli, & but for the consequence attached to it 
by Mr. Guizot's [despatch] would be unworthy of 
notice. An anecdote is told of Mr. Jefferson to the 
effect that the French minister, whom he invited to 
Dinner with the Diplomatic corps, had taken of- 
fence because he had not been assigned his proper 
place at the table. Mr. Jefferson had been informed 
that he was dissatisfied & that he intended to call for 
an explanation. While in his office his porter an- 
nounced to him that the French minister was in wait- 
ing. Mr. Jefferson was in his shirt sleeves but said 
promptly, show him in. The French minister en- 
tered in State attired in his Court dress & found Mr. 
Jefferson with one foot up in the act of drawing on 
his boot. Mr. Jefferson turned his head as he en- 
tered & said, " Come in. Sir; we have no ceremonies 
here." The Frenchman was astonished, sat a few 
minutes & retired with [out] making known his 
business, and afterwards said it was useless to raise 
any question of etiquette or ceremony with such a 
people. This anecdote illustrates the folly of the 
quarrel between the American and French consuls 
at Tripoli. I told Mr. Buchanan I was not a man of 
ceremonies, & that he and Mr. Guizot might settle 
the dispute between the consuls in any way they 
pleased.^ 

The Mexican war was the subject of conversation. 

^ For Buchanan's action In this affair see his letters to Joshua 
L. Martin, acting charge d'affaires at Paris, in Moore, Buchanan, 
VII, 96 and 102. 



176 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Oct. 

A letter from Gen'l Tomson to the Secretary of 
War, giving his opinion of the proper mode of pros- 
ecuting it, was read. Gen'l Tomson's plan is to 
seize and hold the part of the country which we in- 
tend to retain, to indemnify our citizens for their 
claims on Mexico and to defray the expenses of the 
War, and not to prosecute a war of invasion beyond 
this point. It was the subject of conversation but 
the Cabinet came to no decision upon it. Some other 
matters of minor importance were considered. 

This was reception evening. More persons called 
than has been usual since the adjournment of Con- 
gress, ladies & gentlemen. Mrs. Polk was too much 
indisposed to be in the parlour. 

Wednesday, yth October, 1846. — I was engaged 
this morning as usual in disposing of the business on 
my table until 12 O'Clock. Before that hour I sent 
for Mr. Buchanan and requested him to accompany 
me to the Commencement of the Columbia College 
to-day, to which I had been invited. He readily 
answered me that he would call at that hour and ac- 
company me. A few minutes before 12 O'Clock 
Mr. Marcy, the Secretary of War, called on busi- 
ness, which being transacted he inquired of me if I 
intended to attend the commencement of the College 
to-day. I answered him that I did and invited him 
to take a seat in my carriage and accompany me, 
stating to him that I had invited Mr. Buchanan to go 
also. Mr. Marcy agreed to do so. A few minutes 
after the hour of 12 O'Clock Mr. Marcy, my 
Private Secretary, and myself proceeded to the front 



i846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 177 

door where my carriage was in waiting and where 
we met Mr. Buchanan, who had just come from his 
office. Mr. Buchanan was invited to take a seat in 
my carriage, but declined doing so, saying that he 
had not been invited by the President or authorities 
of the college. I could not avoid the conclusion that 
this was not the real reason, and feared that what I 
had heard was true, viz., that there was some cool- 
ness between Mr. Marcy and himself growing out of 
the selection by Mr. Buchanan of the Albany Atlas 
instead of the Albany Argus ^ as one of the papers 
in which to publish the laws of the U. States. I 
shall deeply regret if any serious misunderstanding 
shall exist between these two members of my Cab- 
inet in consequence of so trivial a cause. Mr. Bu- 
chanan returned to his office, and we proceeded to 
the Baptist church on E Street and attended the com- 
mencement. The exercises were interesting, the 
young men acquitting themselves well. The Secre- 
tary of the Navy was also present. I returned to my 
office about 2 O'Clock. 

After night Mr. Cave Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, 
Mr. Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, Gov. Brown, 
and Maj'r Graham of Tennessee called, and I spent 
a very agreeable evening with them. They left 
about 10 O'clock P. M. 

Mr. Buchanan left with me for my examination 
to-day the 4th No. of the articles which he is pre- 

^ The Jrgus was the organ at this time of the faction of the New 
York Democraq' opposed to Wright and Van Buren. For an 
account of the political affiliations and management of the two 
papers, see Hudson, History of Journalism in the United States. 



178 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Oct. 

paring and which are in course of publication in the 
Pennsylvanian vindicating the course of the admin- 
istration in the Oregon negotiation. 

Thursday, 8th October, 1846.— Thh morning at 
10 O'clock, the Secretary of War, the commissioner 
of Indian afifairs. Judge Paris, Col. Abert, & Maj'r 
Andrews, the three latter being commissioners ap- 
pointed to treat with the Head men and chiefs of 
the Winnebago Tribe of Indians now in this City, 
called. They stated to me the propositions which 
had been made by themselves & the Indians in ref- 
erence to the terms of cession of the Indian Territory 
in Iowa at present occupied by that tribe, and stated 
to me that they desired to receive my directions on 
the subject. After conversing with them for a con- 
siderable time & understanding the subject I gave 
them my views & they retired. 

At 12 O'clock I opened my office for the reception 
of visitors. But few persons called. Among them 
was an old visitor who has been seeking an office from 
me since March 1845. I think in self-defense I shall 
be compelled to give him one & thus get clear of him. 

Nothing of interest occurred during the remainder 
of the day. 

I returned to Mr. Buchanan the article for the 
Pennsylvanian on the Oregon negotiation, which he 
left with me for my examination on yesterday. I 
made no suggestion of change in it. 

Friday, gth October, 1846.— W2i% occupied in 
business until 12 O'Clock to-day. At that hour I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i79 

opened my office and saw company. A number of 
persons called, but nothing worthy of notice occurred. 
Mr. Daniel Graham of Tennessee and his wife took 
a family dinner with me to-day. This was reception 
evening and a number of persons, ladies & gentle- 
men, called, & among others Gov. Brown of Ten- 
nessee & his wife. Gov. Brown and Mr. Graham 
have been in the City for several days on business 
with the War Department relating to disbursements 
made by the State of Tennessee for the Volunteers 
from that State who are now with the army in 
Mexico. 

Saturday, loth October, 1846.— This, was the 
Regular day of the meeting of the Cabinet. All the 
members attended at the usual hour except the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, who is still absent from the 
City, having gone to the City of New York on busi- 
ness connected with his Department, and especially 
for the purpose of negotiating a loan for the Gov- 
ernment. The office of Attorney General has not 
yet been filled, no answer having been received from 
Mr. Clifford of Maine, to whom I had tendered the 
office on the 30th ultimo (see this diary of the ist 
Instant). The manner of prosecuting the Mexican 
war was the chief subject considered. The expedi- 
tion to Tampico having been heretofore resolved 
upon, the question of extending that expedition to 
Vera Cruz was discussed. From information re- 
cently received it appears that an army may land 
near Sacraficias within 3 & [or] 4 miles of Vera 
Cruz, and invest the town of Vera Cruz in the rear. 



i8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Oct. 

This was information not heretofore known, & fear- 
ing that it might not be correct I requested Mr. Bu- 
chanan to write to the late U. S. Consul at Vera 
Cruz (Mr. Dimond) now in Rhode Island, & re- 
quest him to come immediately to Washington, be- 
lieving that from him reliable information could be 
obtained. It is believed that if an army of a few thou- 
sand men can land at the point suggested that they 
could by besieging the City in the rear cut off all 
supplies from it, and that by keeping up a strict 
blockade by sea, the City and fortress of San Juan de 
Ulloa must in the course of a very few days surren- 
der. If this be practicable, it is of the greatest im- 
portance that it be done. In this the Cabinet agreed, 
but postponed a final decision until Mr. Dimond 
arrived, who from his long residence in Vera Cruz 
could probably give much valuable information not 
only of the practicability of landing at the point sug- 
gested and of the topography of the country in the 
rear of Vera Cruz, but also much other information 
important to be known before such an expedition is 
resolved upon. This Dimond it is believed may be 
here before the meeting of the Cabinet on tuesday 
next. 

Sunday, nth October, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church in company with Mrs. Polk to- 
day. We drove by the Indian Queen Hotel & took 
Maj'r Graham of Tennessee & his wife with us to 
church. I learned from Maj'r Graham that Gov. 
Brown of Tennessee and his wife left the City this 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 181 

morning for New York from which they would re- 
turn home by the Northern route. 

About dark Capt. Eaton of the U. S. Army called 
in company with the Secretary of War & the Ad- 
jutant General. Capt. Eaton was the bearer of de- 
spatches from Gen'l Taylor, having left Monterey 
on the evening of the 25th ultimo. These despatches 
announced that a battle had been fought between the 
two armies at Monterey commencing on the evening 
of the 20th ultimo & continuing for between three 
and four days. The result was a capitulation by 
which the American army were left in possession of 
the City, and the Mexican army permitted to retire 
with their arms, except the larger part of their ordi- 
nance & munitions of war which were delivered over 
to the American forces. An armistice was also 
agreed upon to continue for eight weeks. In agree- 
ing to this armistice Gen'l Taylor violated his ex- 
press orders & I regret that I cannot approve his 
course. He had the enemy in his power & should 
have taken them prisoners, deprived them of their 
arms, discharged them on their parole of honour, 
and preserved the advantage which he had obtained 
by pushing on without delay further into the coun- 
try, if the force at his command justified it. Our 
troops fought well, though with some loss of officers 
& men. It was a great mistake in Gen'l Taylor to 
agree to an armistice. It will only enable the Mex- 
ican army to reorganize and recruit so as to make 
another stand. 

Besides Capt. Eaton, the adjutant Gen'l & Secre- 



i82 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Oct. 

tary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, the Post 
Master General, Maj'r Graham of Tennessee, & my 
Private Secretary were present in my office while 
the official report from Gen'l Taylor was reading. 
Some opinions were expressed, but disapproving of 
the armistice I remained silent and was careful to 
express no opinion, except to regret the loss of the 
brave officers and men who had fallen and to say that 
they had fought bravely. The Adjutant Gen'l 
seemed anxious to justify Gen'l Taylor for having 
entered into the armistice. I expressed my disap- 
probation of it to the Secretary of War aside, & he 
agreed with me. Mr. Ritchie came in after the 
papers were read. When the Gentlemen were re- 
tiring I requested the members of the Cabinet to meet 
me at my office on to-morrow at 1 1 O'Clock at which 
hour a special meeting of the Cabinet I informed 
them would be held. 

After they had retired Mr. Buchanan called, & 
condemned Gen'l Taylor in strong terms for having 
entered into the armistice. I informed him that 
there would be a meeting of the Cabinet on to-mor- 
row at 1 1 O'clock. 

I received to-night interesting letters from Brig- 
adier General Shields, commanding the Brigade of 
Volunteers from Illinois now on the Rio Grande, in 
relation to an expedition to Tampico. These letters 
I will preserve. There is a remarkable coincidence 
between the views which they present & the orders 
which were issued here on the 22nd ultimo ordering 
an expedition upon the Department of Tamaulipas 
including Tampico. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 183 

Monday, 12th October, 1846. — I gave orders to 
my porter this morning that I would see no company 
to-day. I carefully examined the correspondence 
between Gen'l Taylor & the War Department since 
the commencement of hostilities with Mexico. At 
II O'clock A. M. the Cabinet met, the Secretary of 
the Treasury being still absent in New York. What 
detains him so long I cannot imagine. 

Gen'l Taylor's despatches from Monterey re- 
ceived last night were read in Cabinet. They were 
fully considered and discussed. The Cabinet were 
unanimous in the opinion, judging from all the in- 
formation which Gen'l Taylor had communicated, 
that he had committed a great error in granting the 
terms of capitulation to the enemy which he had, and 
in agreeing to an armistice for the term of 8 weeks. 
But two reasons could have justified the terms 
granted to the enemy in the capitulation. The first 
is, if he believed that he could not capture them; & 
the 2nd. is, that Gen'l Ampudia may have induced 
him to believe that in consequence of the recent 
change of rulers in Mexico that Government was 
disposed to make peace. If the first reason existed 
Gen'l Taylor has not stated it in his despatches, and 
we have no information to justify the existence of 
this reason, though it may have existed. If the sec- 
ond reason was the one upon which he acted, then 
Gen'l Ampudia has overreached & deceived him. 
From all that appears in Gen'l Taylor's despatches 
it would seem that the U. S. Army had been suc- 
cessful during more than three days fighting, and 
had taken & held nearly all the strong positions of 



i84 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Oct. 

the enemy, and by prosecuting their successes a lit- 
tle longer might have captured the whole Mexican 
army. Gen'l Taylor in his despatches states nothing 
of what Gen'l Ampudia had assured him of the dis- 
positions of the Mexican Government for peace, but 
makes a general allusion to that point. The Cabinet 
were united in the opinion that the reasons assigned 
by Gen'l Taylor (as far as any reasons are assigned) 
for granting the terms of capitulation he did and for 
granting the armistice of eight weeks, are not satis- 
factory. Further information and explanations may 
be hereafter given by him. The Cabinet were 
united in the opinion that if Gen'l Taylor had cap- 
tured the Mexican army, deprived them of their 
arms, and discharged them upon their parole of hon- 
our not to bear arms during the war or until they 
were regularly exchanged, that it would have prob- 
ably ended the war with Mexico. As it is, he has 
permitted them to retire from Monterey, each officer 
and soldier with his arms, and with 6 pieces of artil- 
lery, not as prisoners of war on parole, but at perfect 
liberty to reorganize and renew the war at their own 
time and place, and by granting the armistice has 
given them 8 weeks to effect this object. 

It was agreed unanimously that orders should be 
forthwith sent to Gen'l Taylor to terminate the 
armistice to which he had agreed, and to prosecute 
the war with energy and vigor. It was agreed that 
this should be done in terms neither to approve or 
condemn his conduct in granting the capitulation 
and the armistice. All agreed that the officers & 
men had fought gallantly and deserved the thanks 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 185 

of the country, but regretted that the victory had not 
been crowned by the capture of the enemy's army. 
All agreed also that at the same time that the Secre- 
tary of War in his letter should not express appro- 
bation of Gen'l Taylor's course, he should not con- 
demn it. This question was reserved until further 
information or explanations were received from 
Gen'l Taylor. From the order to terminate the 
armistice Gen'l T. will of course infer that that part 
of his course is not approved. 

Some views in addition to those contained in the 
order to Gen'l Taylor of the 22nd. ultimo in relation 
to an expedition to Tampico and through the De- 
partment of Tamaulipas were considered and agreed 
upon, and that they should be embraced in the letter 
of the Secretary of War to be written to Gen'l T. 

The Cabinet adjourned with the understanding 
that they should meet again at 9 O'Clock to-night to 
hear the letter of the Secretary of War to Gen'l Tay- 
lor in reply to his despatches received last night, 
which he said he would return immediately to his 
office & prepare. 

Mr. Buchanan called at the appointed hour (9 
O'clock P. M.) but no other member of the Cabinet 
being in attendance he retired. 

Maj'r Daniel Graham of Tennessee and his wife 
took a family dinner with me to-day, and after din- 
ner took leave of the family, intending as they stated 
to leave the City on to-morrow morning for home. 
They will travel to Tennessee by the Southern route, 
via Charleston, S. Carolina. 



i86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Oct. 

Tuesday, 13th October, 1846.— Thi% being Cab- 
inet day, all the members attended at the usual hour 
except The Secretary of the Treasury, who is still ab- 
sent in New York. I am wholly at a loss to know 
what detains him so long. 

The Secretary of War read the draft of a letter to 
Gen'l Taylor which he had prepared in answer to 
his letters giving an account of the attack on Monte- 
rey. This letter was critically and carefully exam- 
ined. Several modifications were made at my sug- 
gestion, & others at the suggestion of Mr. Buchanan 
and Mr. Mason. The letter was finally unanimously 
agreed upon. In the present state of the war with 
Mexico, it is a very important letter. I have no 
copy of it, but it may be found on the records of the 
War Department. The Cabinet adjourned about 2 
O'clock P. M. 

This was reception evening, there had been rain & 
a strong wind almost the whole day; the evening was 
unpleasant and but a few gentlemen called. There 
were no ladies. 

Wednesday, 14th October, 1846.— Col. Medill, 
the commissioner of Indian affairs, called this morn- 
ing and informed me that a Treaty had been con- 
cluded and signed by the commissioners appointed by 
me, viz.. Judge Paris, Col. Abert, & Maj'r Andrews, 
with a delegation of Head-men and Chiefs of the 
Winnebagoe Tribe of Indians now in this City, by 
which they agreed to cede the country which they 
now occupy in the Territory of Iowa to the U. S. 
He read to me the Treaty. It had been made in pur- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 187 

suance of instructions & I approved it. At 12 
O'clock the Indians called accompanied by the U. S. 
agent & the commissioner of Indian affairs. The 
Secretary of War & the commissioners who had nego- 
tiated the Treaty were also present. I held a talk 
with the Indians, in which I impressed upon them the 
duty as well as the importance of their remaining at 
peace with the U. S. They appeared to be in a fine 
humour and well pleased with the Treaty. I then 
presented to the brother of Wee-no-Shick, Head 
chief of the Winnebagoes, a fine double-barrelled 
gun to take to his brother as a present, in return for 
the Pipe which he had sent to me and which had 
been presented to me by his brother on the 28th 
ultimo (see this diary of that day). After some 
further conversation with them they took leave, 
apparently well pleased. Before they left I told 
them that the commissioner of Indian affairs would 
furnish their agent (Gen'l Fletcher) with $500. to 
purchase presents for them. 

After the Indians left I was occupied for more 
than an hour by the Rev'd Wm. L. McCalla ^ of the 
Presbyterian church, & brother of the 2nd Auditor 
of the Treasury. His ostensible object was to be ap- 
pointed a chaplain in the army. I found him to 
be a fanatic, proscriptive in his religious opinions, 
and most unreasonable. He read to me a number 
of letters addressed to me (but which he did not 
deliver to me) from persons in Philadelphia, & 
among others from Mr. Dallas, Judge Kane, & Mr. 

^William Latta IVIcCalla, 1788-1859, a Presbyterian minister 
of Philadelphia, author of Adventures in Texas. 



i88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Oct. 

Leiper, giving him a good character and recom- 
mending him for a chaplaincy. He read also a 
most intemperate & violent petition which had been 
v^ritten and signed in a blank book, purporting to 
be addressed to me, but which he did not offer to 
deliver to me. His petition was a violent & most 
intolerant attack on the Roman Catholics & a cen- 
sure on the administration for employing, as it rep- 
resented, two or three Roman Catholic Priests with 
the army in Mexico as chaplains. The prominent 
idea, aside from its abuse of Catholics & its fanati- 
cism, was that unless I appointed the Rev'd Mr. 
McCalla a chaplain, the petitioners intended to go 
before the public & attack the administration upon 
religious grounds because of the employment of 
these Catholic Priests. I felt great contempt for 
Mr. McCalla and for his religion and gave him my 
mind freely. I told him that, thank God, under our 
constitution there was no connection between Church 
and State, and that in my action as President of the 
U. S. I recognized no distinction of creeds in my 
appointments to office. I told him that his position 
[petition] was false, and that before he had writ- 
ten it & caused it to be signed he ought, as a man 
of God as he professed to be, to have ascertained the 
facts better. He attempted to explain the petition 
and denied that it was intended as an attack on the 
administration; to which I replied that its plain lan- 
guage was not susceptible of the explanation which 
he gave. I then stated to him how it happened that 
two or three Catholic Priests had been employed 
with the army. I told him it was known that Mex- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 189 

ico was a Catholic country, that their Priests had 
great influence over that ignorant people, and that 
they would probably deceive them by representing 
that the U. S. was waging war against them to over- 
turn their religion, and that if they succeeded in 
imposing such a falsehood as this upon the people 
of Mexico they would infuriate them and induce 
them to carry on a desperate and more sanguinary 
war against our army, and that to undeceive the 
Mexicans two or three Catholic Priests who spoke 
their language, it was thought, would be useful with 
the army. I told him that these were the reasons 
and these alone which induced their employment. 
I told him that Col. Benton and other members of 
Congress who were well acquainted with the Mexi- 
can people had advised their employment for these 
reasons. I told him that they were not chaplains, 
that there was no law authorizing the appointment 
of chaplains for the army, but that they were em- 
ployees, such as armies often require, who had been 
sent out for the purposes stated. I told him fur- 
ther that in the Navy, where Chaplains were au- 
thorized by law, I had appointed several since I 
came into office, without regard to the sects of re- 
ligion to which they belonged, and that I had ap- 
pointed no Catholic Priests. He intimated that he 
wished to have an appointment of Chaplain in the 
Navy. I told him there was one vacancy, but that 
I expected to fill it by the appointment of some pious 
good Clergyman of some one of the religious denomi- 
nations residing in Ohio or some one of the Western 
States, from which section of the Union no Chap- 



190 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Oct. 

lain in the Navy, I believed, had ever been taken. 
I could not resist the conclusion that one of two 
things was true; either that Mr. McCalla expected 
to alarm me into his appointment to avoid an attack 
before the public from him, or that he hoped to be 
refused so as to give him a pretext to make such at- 
tack. If either was true I had great contempt for 
him, and I gave him distinctly to understand that 
I would not appoint him. I told him that if I were 
to appoint a chaplain of his own denomination, & 
I might do so for aught I knew, that if he really 
desired the place that I supposed he would still be 
infuriated. I told him I had appointed his brother 
2nd Auditor and that he was among the last men 
who should be engaged in such a business. He de- 
nied any intention to attack the administration. I 
consider him either a knave without vital religion 
or a fanatic without reason. I have met with no 
man during my administration, among the numer- 
ous ofRce-seekers who have beset me, for whom I 
have so profound a contempt. To attempt to con- 
nect me with religious feuds between sects, either 
for the purpose of coercing me to give him an office 
or to give him a pretext to attack me upon affected 
or pretended religious grounds if I did not, proves 
him to be a man destitute of both religion and prin- 
ciple. He delivered to me none of the letters or the 
petition which he read, & after interrupting me from 
my business for more than an hour he retired, & 
I was glad to be rid of him. I have a great venera- 
tion and regard for Religion & sincere piety, but a 
hypocrite or a bigotted fanatic without reason I can- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 191 

not bear. Whether he be the one or the other, his 
God alone is competent to judge. He has not suc- 
ceeded in getting the office & I shall not be surprised 
to be assailed & slandered by him in the newspapers. 

Thursday, ISth October, 1846. — I received this 
morning a letter from the Hon. Nathan Clifford of 
Maine, accepting the office of Attorney General of 
the United States in place of Mr. Mason resigned, 
which I had tendered to him in a letter addressed 
to him on the 30th ultimo. Mr. Clifford states in 
his letter of acceptance that he will be in Washing- 
ton in a day or two after his letter would reach me, 
ready to enter upon the duties of the office. He 
may therefore be expected in a day or two. 

I received company to-day at 12 O'Clock. Quite 
a number of persons called, some on visits of cere- 
mony and others on business & seeking office. I 
transacted business to-day with the Secretaries of 
State and the Navy. About 4 O'Clock P. M. while 
at dinner my porter announced to me that Mr. 
Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, had called, 
but finding me at dinner would call again. Mr. 
Walker left Washington on the 30th ultimo for 
New York (see this diary of the ist Instant) and 
did not return until to-day. What detained him so 
long I am wholly at a loss to know. He may ex- 
plain the cause of his long and unexpected absence 
when I see him. 

Received a note this afternoon from Mr. Cramp- 
ton,^ Secretary of the Brittish Legation, announcing 

^ John F. T. Crampton, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister 



192 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Oct. 

to me the death in Washington on the 13th Instant 
of Henry Stephen Fox, late Her Brittanic Maj- 
esty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipo- 
tentiary to the United States, and that his funeral 
will take place on to-morrow at 1 1 O'Clock. 

Friday, lOth October, 1846.— Mr. Robert J. 
Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, called this 
morning, having been absent from the City on a visit 
to New York since the 30th ultimo (see this diary of 
the ist Instant) . He reported to me that he had con- 
cluded no arrangement for a loan, that having been 
the object of his visit. The banks & capitalists in- 
sisted on terms to which he would not exceed [ac- 
cede]. He now proposes to issue Treasury notes to 
the public creditors bearing an interest of 5 2-5 per 
cent. The subject will be considered in Cabinet on 
to-morrow. 

At 1 1 O'clock to-day accompanied by my Pri- 
vate Secretary and my Cabinet, except the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, I attended at his residence the 
funeral of Henry Stephen Fox, late her Brittanic 
Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Pleni- 
potentiary to the United States, who died at Wash- 
ington on the 13th Instant. I directed my coach- 
man to turn out of the procession as it passed the 
President's mansion. The carriages of my Cabinet 
proceeded in the procession. I devoted the remain- 
Plenipotentiary of Great Britain to the United States 1 852-1 856. 
He was given his passports by the American Government in May, 
1856, because of his course in enlisting recruits for the Crimean 
War. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 193 

der of the day to the business on my table. I wrote 
some paragraphs for my message at the meeting of 
Congress in December next. My Private Secretary 
reported to me to-night that he had seen the name 
of the Hon. Nathan Clififord, to whom I had ten- 
dered the office of Attorney General of the U. States, 
on the Register at Coleman's Hotel this evening. 
On enquiring of my porter I learned that Mr. Clif- 
ford called during my absence to-day, while attend- 
ing the funeral of Mr. Fox, and that he had told 
him that I would receive company this evening. 

This was reception evening. Several persons, la- 
dies & Gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 17th October, 1846. — The Hon. 
Nathan Clififord of the State of Maine, to whom I 
had tendered the office of Attorney General of the 
United States, called this morning. I handed to him 
a letter which I had addressed to him enclosing a 
copy of a letter which I had addressed to each mem- 
ber of my Cabinet in March, 1845, when I was about 
to organize my administration (see letter Book). I 
had a conversation of some length with Mr. Clif- 
ford. I addressed a note to the State Department, 
directing a commission for Mr. Clififord as Atto. 
Gen'l of the U. S. to [be] prepared. The commis- 
sion was sent to me as directed, when I signed it 
and delivered it to him. 

This being Cabinet day I invited Mr. Clififord, 
though he had not taken the oath of office, to remain 
with me in Cabinet during the meeting to-day, & 
he did so. 



194 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Oct. 



The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. It is the first occasion on which I 
have had a full attendance of the Cabinet since the 
adjournment of Congress, on the loth day of August 
last. 

After attending to various matters of minor im- 
portance I called on the Secretary of the Treasury 
to Report the result of his late attempt to negotiate 
a loan in New York. He made a detailed statement 
of his attempt to negotiate the loan, the result of 
which was, that not being able to agree upon the 
terms he had returned without effecting the loan. 
The mode of effecting [it] became the subject of 
consideration and discussion. The Secretary of the 
Treasury at first inclined to the opinion that Treas- 
ury notes bearing an interest of 5 2-5 per cent should 
be issued, and paid to the public creditors as the pub- 
lic exigencies should require. The objection stated 
to this mode by Mr. Buchanan was that the Treas- 
ury notes thus issued would be subject to be con- 
stantly returned to the Treasury in payment of public 
dues. Mr. Buchanan proposed that a loan of four 
or five millions of Dollars should be made by the 
issue of Treasury notes to that amount bearing an 
interest of 6 pr Ct., upon condition that these notes 
should not be returned to the Treasury by paying 
them for public dues, for one year after their issu- 
ance. This proposition was the subject of some 
conversation, in which the Secretary of War and the 
Secretary of the Navy agreed with Mr. Buchanan 
and expressed their approbation of it. The P. M. 
Gen'l expressed no opinion. The Secretary of the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 195 

Treasury yielded his own suggestion and said that 
perhaps the plan proposed by Mr. Buchanan would 
[be] less embarrassing to the Treasury than his own. 
Indeed he gave his full assent to it, and expressed 
a confidence that he could obtain the loan upon these 
terms from the Banks and Capitalists in New York. 
I then told him that as he was more immediately 
responsible than any other member of the adminis- 
tration, he could negotiate the loan in this mode if 
he chose. The Secretary of the Treasury then said 
that he would take immediate steps to effect the loan 
in this mode. 

No other business of much importance was trans- 
acted. 

Mr. Dimond, late U. S. consul at Vera Cruz, 
called this morning. Mr. Dimond was invited to 
visit Washington in a letter addressed to him by Mr. 
Buchanan on the loth Instant (see this diary of that 
day) for the purpose of obtaining from him infor- 
mation of the topography of the country around the 
City of Vera Cruz, and the practicability of land- 
ing a force near that City, so as to invest it in the 
rear. Mr. Dimond at my request remained in my 
Private Secretary's office until after the Cabinet ad- 
journed. I then invited him into my office, the Sec- 
retary of State and the Secretary of war remain- 
ing. I told Mr. Dimond that our interview with 
him must be regarded as strictly confidential, to 
which he assented. Mr. Dimond, the object of the 
interview having been explained to him, then stated 
that it was perfectly practicable to land a military 
force at Sacraficias, about 4 miles from Vera Cruz 



196 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Oct. 

and out of reach of the guns of the Castle. He 
made a rough diagram representing the position of 
the Castle, the City, Sacrificias, the place of landing 
of troops, and gave much other valuable informa- 
tion. I then requested him to call again at 7 
O'clock P. M., and in the mean-time to make a more 
perfect diagram. I requested the Secretary of War 
to attend at that hour and to bring Gen'l Tomson, 
an officer of experience, with him. I requested my 
Private Secretary to call on the Secretary of the 
Navy and ask him to attend at the same hour and 
bring with him Commodore Warrington of the 
Navy. I requested the Secretary of State also to 
attend. 

At the appointed hour, 7 O'Clock P. M., The Sec- 
retary of War, the Secretary of the Navy, the Sec- 
retary of State, Mr. Dimond, Gen'l Tomson, & Com- 
modore Warrington attended. Mr. Dimond ex- 
hibited the rough diagram which he had prepared 
of the City of Vera Cruz and its defences, the Castle, 
the position of the Navy at Sacraficias, the place of 
landing, &c., and gave verbal explanations. From 
these explanations all present agreed that it was 
practicable to take Vera Cruz with a force of 3 or 
4 thousand men, to be landed and to invest it in 
the rear, whilst the Navy should keep up a strict 
blockade by sea, and threaten or attack the Castle. 
After a consultation of near two hours on the sub- 
ject the gentlemen present retired, but before they 
did so I enjoined secrecy on all present, stating to 
them that if such an expedition should be under- 
taken it was of the greatest importance that it should 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 197 

be concealed from the enemy. Mr. Dimond was 
requested to prepare a written explanation of the 
rough diagram he had drawn & to reduce to writing 
the information he had given. Commodore War- 
rington was requested to prepare a more perfect dia- 
gram from the information given by Mr. Dimond; 
and Gen'l Tomson was requested to designate the 
troops which could be spared for the expedition. 

Sunday, l8th October, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk. 

At dark this evening Gen'l Tomson called with 
a written memorandum of the force which in his 
judgment would be sufficient for the expedition 
against Vera Cruz, as I had requested him to do 
in my interview with him on last evening (see this 
diary of yesterday). Gen'l Tomson intimated a de- 
sire to be ordered to take part in the contemplated 
expedition against Vera Cruz, to which I gave him 
no answer. 

Monday, igth October, 1846. — Monday is 
usually a busy day, as I have generally more calls on 
that than on any other day of the week. It was so to- 
day. At 12 O'clock M, when I opened my office, 
I had a large number of visitors, and among them 
a woman from Fredericksburg, Va., in appearance 
and dress a lady, begging money. I gave her a small 
sum, though T doubt whether she was w^orthy of it. 

I transacted business at different periods of the 
day with the Secretaries of State, Treasury, War, & 



198 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Oct. 

Navy. I disposed of much business on my table, 
but nothing worthy of note took place. 

Tuesday, 20th October, 1846.— The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour this morning (11 O'Clock A. M.) 
all the members present. After the transaction of 
some other business I brought before the Cabinet the 
subject of the Mexican War and the manner of con- 
ducting it, & stated to them that it became necessary 
to decide the very important question whether Gen'l 
Taylor should advance with the main column of the 
army further into the interior of Mexico than Mon- 
terey where he now is, or whether he should hold 
& fortify that position and also hold the adjacent 
Northern Provinces, and send a part of his force to 
cooperate with the expedition ordered on the 22nd 
ultimo to invade Tamaulipas and by a combined 
operation of the Navy and the army to take Tampico 
and, if practicable, Vera Cruz. The subject was 
fully discussed, and the Cabinet were unanimously 
of opinion that under existing circumstances Gen'l 
Taylor should not advance beyond Monterey and 
the positions necessary to secure that City and the 
Department of New Leon of which it is the Capital. 
The reasons for this were numerous, among the most 
prominent of which were, that it was now ascer- 
tained that the population of that part of the Mexi- 
can territory were very hostile to the U. S.; that 
Gen'l Ampudia, by the terms of the capitulation of 
Monterey on the 24th ult, had been permitted to 
retire with a force estimated from 7 to 1 1 Thousand 
men, with their arms in their hands; that since that 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 199 

time Gen'l Sa[n]ta anna in his letter to Gen'l Al- 
monte of the 14th ultimo announced his purpose to 
place himself at the head of a large army which 
would undoubtedly unite with Ampudia's forces, 
and that thus united the Mexican army would prob- 
ably number four or five times Gen'l Taylor's forces; 
that it was to be apprehended that the population 
beyond Monterey would be hostile, and there was no 
assurance that Gen'l Taylor could procure supplies 
for his army, or keep open the long line to Carmargo 
in his rear. Another reason was that there was no 
object to be attained by advancing further in that 
direction towards the attainment of peace. It was 
deemed best for Gen'l Taylor to stop at Monterey, 
& indeed such seemed to be his own opinion in his 
letters to the War Dep't of the 2nd July & ist of 
August last, which were read in Cabinet. This 
point being settled it was agreed that a special mes- 
senger should be sent with dispatches to Gen'l Tay- 
lor to that effect. It was agreed also that Gen'l 
Taylor should be authorized to stop Gen'l Wool's 
expedition to Chihuahua, if he deemed it proper to 
do so. At the time Gen'l Wool was ordered to Chi- 
huahua the general belief was that that Department 
was inimical to the Central Government of Mexico 
and would be disposed to dissolve its connection with 
it. Since that time, however, Paredes had been de- 
posed, and declared in favour of restoring the con- 
federation of 1824, and our information now is that 
the people of Chihuahua arc favourable to that plan, 
and would probably be as hostile to the U. S. as the 
people of Monterey or any other part of the Mexi- 



200 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Oct. 

can Republic. This and other subsequent events 
have rendered the objects expected to be attained by 
the expedition to Chihuahua less certain, & indeed 
comparatively unimportant. Moreover the contem- 
plated expedition to Tampico and Vera Cruz is re- 
garded as much more important. It was agreed 
therefore to leave it to Gen'l Taylor's discretion to 
order Gen'l Wool to abandon the Chihuahua expedi- 
tion and join the main army, as this would enable 
Gen'l T. to spare 2000 additional troops or more for 
the Tampico and Vera Cruz expedition. 

Rob't M. McLane, Esq'r., of Baltimore, having 
tendered his services a few days ago to bear de- 
spatches to the army, or to serve in any capacity it 
might be desired, it was agreed that he should bear 
the despatches. The Secretary of War said he could 
in the course of to-morrow have the despatches pre- 
pared. I wrote a note to Mr. McLane and re- 
quested him to come to Washington to-night or 
to-morrow morning. My object was to put Mr. Mc- 
Lane fully in possession of all our views, that he 
might communicate them to Gen'l Taylor more 
fully than they could be expressed in writing. Mr. 
McLane is a graduate of West Point, was many 
years in the army, and is a very intelligent gentleman. 
His mission to the army will be more important than 
as the mere bearer of despatches. 

The subject of the loan was further discussed, and 
the Secretary of the Treasury having concluded no 
definite arrangement, I expressed the opinion which I 
entertained that he should at once issue & pay out to 
the public creditors, or to capitalists who would ad- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 201 

vance the specie for them, Treasury notes bearing 
an interest of 5 2-5 per cent. I told him, however, 
that as he was more immediately responsible I would 
not direct him. He inclined to adopt the course 
which I recommended, but did not definitely decide. 
The Cabinet after a long sitting adjourned at 3 
O'clock P. M. 

During the sitting of the Cabinet an incident oc- 
curred, which though not important, it may be 
proper to note. Mr. Buchanan handed to me a let- 
ter addressed to him by a man, if I remember the 
name correctly, named Lescure,^ complaining that 
Mr. Peacock, Post Master at Harrisburg, Penn., had 
not been removed & Mr. McKinley, the Editor of 
the paper called the Democratic Union, or Harris- 
burg Union, appointed. I read the letter & with- 
out any remark handed it back to Mr. Buchanan. 
Mr. Buchanan had several times within the last few 
months insisted upon me to remove Mr. Peacock, 
the Present P. M., and appoint Mr. McKinley. 
Mr. Peacock was admitted to be a Democrat and to 
have discharged his duties, and his removal was in- 
sisted on on the ground that he had held the office for 
more than 20 years. I had several times told Mr. 
Buchanan that I would not remove one democrat to 
appoint another, and had refused to accede to his 
wishes. To-day it seems he desired to bring me to 
a final decision, and some time after I had read the 
letter alluded to and handed it back to him, he spoke 
to me aside, or rather in a tone not intended to be 

^ McKinley and Lescure were the publishers of the Democratic 
Union of Harrisburg. 



202 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 dtx. 

heard by the other gentlemen, and asked me what 
he should write in answer to his correspondent. I 
told him that I had not changed my opinion, and 
that I should not remove Mr. Peacock. I told him 
also that if I were to remove him that I would not 
feel inclined to appoint Mr. McKinley, because in 
his paper during the late election in Pennsylvania 
he had violently opposed that great measure of my 
administration, the modification of the tariff by the 
act of 1846. I told Mr. Buchanan that he had no 
claims to be rewarded by me for opposing this lead- 
ing measure of my administration. To this Mr. 
Buchanan replied that he had not been in the habit 
of reading his paper. In the early part of my ad- 
ministration I removed some democrats from office 
to make places for others, and did this in many 
instances at the urgent request of Mr. Buchanan. I 
am now satisfied that [I] ought not to have done so, 
and that my administration was greatly weakened by 
it. The truth is that Mr. Buchanan, I am satisfied, 
is governed more by his feelings and personal friend- 
ships than by his judgement in such matters. He 
was evidently dissatisfied with my determination in 
this case, but I am sure I am right. 

This was reception evening. Twenty or thirty 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 21st October, 1846. — Before 12 
O'clock, the hour at which I open my office, I was 
a good deal disturbed by persons calling & sending in 
their cards asking the favour of personal interviews. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 203 

They were such persons as I could not well refuse 
to see. Their business was of no sort of consequence, 
and only had the efifect to consume my time without 
profit to them or to myself. At 12 O'Clock when 
I opened my ofHce an unusual number of persons 
called, chiefly office seekers, and among them one 
or two who have been occasionally annoying me for 
the last 18 months. I had no offices to give them, 
& gave them my prompt answer to that effect. 

The Secretary of War called & left with me the 
rough draft of a letter he had written to Gen'l Tay- 
lor in pursuance of the decision of the Cabinet on 
yesterday. He left it with me for rhy revision. 
Shortly after he left the Secretary of the Navy called 
on business. After transacting it I requested him 
to examine the draft of the letter of the Secretary of 
War with me. He did so & we noted in pencil sev- 
eral modifications of the letter. At my request the 
Secretary of the Navy took the letter, with the modi- 
fications suggested, and said he would see the Sec- 
retary of War & examine it with him. 

I attended to-day to several matters of business of 
minor importance on my table, though I was much 
interrupted by frequent calls. 

Rob't M. McLane, Esq'r., of Baltimore, to whom 
I had written on yesterday called to-night, and in- 
formed me that he had received my letter & was 
ready to proceed to the army in Mexico as bearer of 
despatches. I then informed him confidentially of 
the views of the Government, which he would bear 
to Gen'l Taylor. 



204 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Oct. 

Thursday, 22nd October, 1846. — I called a 
special meeting of the Cabinet for 1 1 O'Clock A. M. 
to-day. At that hour all the members of the Cabi- 
net attended. The Secretary of War read the letter 
which he had prepared to Gen'l Taylor in pursu- 
ance of the decision of the Cabinet on the 20th 
Instant (see this diary of that day) . It was fully con- 
sidered paragraph by paragraph, and after under- 
going various modifications was unanimously agreed 
to. It was a matter of so much importance that I 
was particular to take the opinion of each member 
of the Cabinet individually, commencing with the 
Attorney General. The subject was under con- 
sideration for more than two hours. I refer to the 
letter itself, which will be recorded in the War De- 
partment. The Secretary of War inquired of me 
if he ought not to inform Gen'l Scott of it, and to 
read the letter to him. I told him he ought to do 
so, but to enjoin the strictest secrecy on him as to 
its contents. Mr. Robert M. McLane, who had 
been selected to bear the letter to Gen'l Taylor, being 
in my Private Secretary's office, I asked the Cabinet 
if it should not be read to him under a strict injunc- 
tion of confidence. All agreed that it would be 
proper to do so. The Secretary of War & the Sec- 
retary of State and myself then walked into my Pri- 
vate Secretary's office where Mr. McLane [was] 
and the letter was read to him by Mr. Buchanan. 
We held a conversation with Mr. McLane and gave 
him our views fully but in confidence. This was 
done to enable Mr. McLane to confer the more un- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 205 

derstandingly with Gen'l Taylor when he reached 
his camp. 

The Secretary of the Treasury informed me to- 
day that he had made up his mind to issue Treasury 
notes bearing an interest of 5 2-5ths per cent, not ex- 
ceeding in amt. Four million of Dollars. He ad- 
dressed a communication to me stating that the 
public exigencies required a loan of this amount, & 
that in his opinion the issue of Treasury notes bear- 
ing that interest would be the best mode of obtaining 
it. I approved his suggestion & gave authority for 
the issue of the notes accordingly. 

At 8 O'clock to-night The Secretary of War 
called with his despatch to Gen'l Taylor copied and 
signed. Mr. McLane was also present. We had a 
full conversation in relation to the despatch and its 
objects. The Secretary of War stated that he had 
communicated its objects and contents to Gen'l 
Scott, who had interposed objections to the contem- 
plated Vera Cruz expedition; that he had expressed 
a desire to command the expedition himself but 
thought twenty five or [thirty?] thousand men were 
necessary before it could be undertaken with safety. 
I told the Secretary that after Gen'l Scott's letter 
in May or June last,^ I was unwilling to assign him 
to the command, and that I considered his objections 
as intended to embarrass the administration. The 
despatches were delivered to Mr. McLane. I wrote 
also private & unofficial letters to Maj'r Gen'l Pat- 
terson & Brigadier Gen'l Pillow (see letter Book) 

^ See Diary entry for May 21, 1846. 



2o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY {23 Oct. 

which I delivered to Mr. McLane. The Secretary 
of War & Mr. McLane retired about 10 O'Clock 
P. M., and I retired to rest. 

To-day the Rev. Mr. Sprole & the Rev. John C. 
Smith of the Presbyterian church, and the Rev. Mr. 
Slicer of the methodist church, the Rev. Mr. Samp- 
son of the Baptist church, and the wives of Mr. 
Smith and Mr. Sampson dined with me. The wives 
of Mr. Sprole & Mr. Slicer were also invited, but 
did not attend. The Rev. Mr. Morgan & his wife 
of the methodist church were invited, but did not 
attend. 

Friday, 2jrd October, 1846. — I devoted the 
morning to writing some paragraphs of my annual 
Message. At 12 O'Clock I opened my office for the 
reception of visitors. Quite a number of persons 
called, but nothing of much interest occurred. 
Among others the Hon Mr. Sawyer of Ohio, a rep- 
resentative in Congress, called. He said he was on 
a visit of business to the neighborhood of the City, 
and had merely called to pay his respects. He ap- 
peared to be in a much better humour than when 
Congress adjourned. He informed me that my ad- 
ministration was never stronger in Ohio than it was 
at present; that the tariff of 1846 was approved and 
sustained by the whole Democratic party of that 
State, & that he did not believe that my veto on the 
Harbour & River Bill had lost the Democracy a 
single vote in the State. 

Mr. Buchanan called and informed me that the 
Hon. Charles J. Ingersoll of Phila. was in the City, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 207 

and had asked him to request me to return to him his 
letter to me desiring to know whether I intended to 
appoint him as minister to France. Mr. Buchanan 
had informed me some days ago that Mr. IngersoU 
was offended because I had not answered his letter, 
and when 1 was informed by Mr. B. that he wished 
it to be returned to him the impression on my mind 
was that he had come to Washington in a spirit of 
hostility, and intended to make an issue with me be- 
cause I had not promised to appoint him Minister 
to France. I so expressed myself to Mr. Buchanan 
& told him if Mr. IngersoU intended to make such 
an issue that I was perfectly indifferent about it, and 
that he might take his own course. I told him that 
I intended to be respected as President of the U. 
States, & that Mr. IngersoU need not think to coerce 
me into a compliance with his wishes by appointing 
him Minister to France, by such an apparent course 
of his intended hostility to my administration. I 
spoke in strong terms and perhaps in terms of rash- 
ness of Mr. IngersoU, if such was his intention. 
Mr. Buchanan informed me that he had explained 
to Mr. IngersoU the reasons which had prevented 
me from answering his letter, and that he was in a 
good humour, and wanted his letter because he did 
not wish it to appear of record that he had applied 
to me for the mission to France. I then told Mr. 
Buchanan that I would search for his letter and send 
it to him, Mr. B., to be delivered by him to Mr. 
IngersoU. I searched for and found the letter after 
Mr. Buchanan left, and enclosed it to Mr. Buchanan 
inclosed in a note to him (see letter Book of this 



2o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Oct. 

date). The letter of Mr. IngersoU was dated on 
the 1 8th of August last. I left Washington on a 
short excursion to Old Point Comfort on the 19th 
of August and returned on the evening of the 25th 
of that month, & Mr. IngersoU's letter arrived in 
my absence, and was not answered, for the reason 
stated in my note to Mr. Buchanan of this date. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called, and among others 
Mr. Buchanan & Mr. C. J. IngersoU. I received 
and treated Mr. IngersoU courteously, as I do all 
persons who call, but no reference was made to his 
application to me to be appointed Minister to 
France, or to his letter which he had requested, 
through Mr. Buchanan, to be returned to him. I 
told Mr. Buchanan in the course of my conversation 
with him to-day, that Mr. C. J. IngersoU's hostile 
position at present was a poor requital to me for my 
offer to nominate him to the Senate as minister to 
Russia. 

Saturday, 24th October, 1846. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet, and at 1 1 
O'clock A. M. all the members attended except the 
Secretary of War, who informed [me] last evening 
that he would go to Baltimore last night, where he 
expected to meet Mrs. Marcy on her return from 
New York to Washington. 

Several public matters were the subject of con- 
versation, but nothing important occurred. The 
Cabinet after remaining together one or two hours 
retired. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 209 

Sunday, 23th October, 1846. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, her niece. Miss Rucker, and Mrs. J. Knox 
Walker and her little girl Maria. 

Rec'd to-night important despatches from our 
squadron in the Pacific. The Secretary of the 
Navy called with them. 

Monday, 26th October, 1846. — I sent for the 
Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy this 
morning and had a conversation with them in regard 
to the Mexican War. Among other things it was 
resolved to order one of the Steamers of the squadron 
to make weekly voyages between Vera Cruz and the 
Brasos Santiago, so as to keep up a regular com- 
munication bet^veen the Navy and Army. It was 
resolved also that Col. Mason ^ of the army, now at 
New York, should be ordered forthwith to Cali- 
fornia, to take command of the land forces in that 
quarter until Gen'l Kearney arrived. He will pro- 
ceed by the way of Chagres. I saw the Secretary of 
State and handed to him the paragraphs which I 
had written in relation to the Mexican war and the 
causes of it, which were designed for my next an- 
nual message. He took them and promised to [sub- 
mit] such views as he might think were proper. 
His views or draft when presented will of course be 
subject to my revision. I think it prudent to be pre- 
paring to meet Congress before my time shall be 
too much occupied, and therefore at my leisure mo- 

^ Richard B. Mason, Colonel of the First Dragoons, commander 
in California and ex officio Governor 1 847-1 848. 



210 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Oct. 

ments I write such paragraphs for the message as 
occur to me. 

Saw company at 12 O'Clock to-day. The com- 
pany that called were generally persons of respect- 
able appearance, and desired simply to pay their re- 
spects. Two women called begging money. A few 
office seekers also called, but I gave them no en- 
couragement. 

After night the Secretary of the Navy and the 
Secretary of War called. The Secretary of the 
Navy read to me a despatch which he had prepared 
to Commodore Conner commanding the Gulf Squad- 
ron. We had some conversation in relation to the 
operations of the army and navy in the Mexican 
war; and they retired about 9 O'Clock P.M. 

Tuesday, 2'/th October, 1846.— This being the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet, all the 
members attended at the usual hour. Various pub- 
lic matters were the subject of conversation, but none 
of much importance. 

The Cabinet retired about i O'Clock P. M. I 
was engaged in disposing of the business on my table 
during the remainder of the day. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons called, ladies and gentlemen. 

Wednesday, 28th October, 1846. — I desired to 
be alone to-day, and so informed my porter this morn- 
ing. It so happened however that I was almost 
constantly occupied during the day by the calls of 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 211 

officers of the Government or by persons who called 
on special business and asked the favour to have an 
interview with me. 

The Vice President of the U. States, who came 
to the City a day or two ago, called & spent an hour 
or more with me. 

Mr. Burke, the Commissioner of Patents, called 
and informed me that he contemplated resigning his 
office shortly and returning to New Hampshire, at 
the urgent request of his friends in that State, for 
the purpose of assuming the Editorial Department 
of the New Hampshire Patriot. I did not advise 
him on the subject but requested him, if he did re- 
sign, to give me a few days notice of the time he 
would retire, that I might select his successor, 

Mr. Bodisco, the Russian Minister, called at 2 
O'clock P. M. and delivered to me a letter from 
his Sovereign, the Emperor, announcing the mar- 
riage of his second daughter. 

I wTOte some paragraphs for my message this 
evening. 

I received by the Southern Mail to-night letters 
from Quarter Master R. B. Reynolds & Brigadier 
Gen'l Pillow of Tennessee, both with the army in 
Mexico. The Secretary of War called and 1 read 
them to him. They gave an account of great dis- 
satisfaction in the army at [with] Gen'l Taylor, for 
having granted the terms of capitulation he did to the 
enemy at Monterey, and for some other acts indicat- 
ing partiality among his offi.ccrs. These letters are 
confidential & I will preserve them. 



212 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Oct. 

Thursday, 2gth October, 1846. — Being much 
engaged to-day I told my porter that I desired to 
see no company. I found it impossible however to 
avoid seeing a few persons who insisted to come in, 
without being rude. I admitted them, and found 
that they had no business of any public importance. 
They took up my time about matters of their own 
in which I took not the slightest interest. This is 
a sort of annoyance that has become almost intol- 
erable. 

Mr. Calderon,^ the Spanish minister, having spent 
the summer at the North, called to pay his respects. 
I saw him in the parlour below stairs. He is a 
pleasant gentleman. Several of the Heads of De- 
partments and other officers of Government called, 
with whom I transacted business. The Secretary 
of War submitted to me a despatch to Gen'l Taylor 
which he had prepared. The Secretary of the Navy 
was present. Some amendments and alterations in 
the despatch, after consultation, were made. 

To-night I wrote some additional passages for my 
annual message, desiring as I do as far as possible 
to have it off my hands before the members of 
Congress begin to assemble, when my time will 
be much occupied & I will have but little time to 
write. 

Friday, JOth October, 1846. — I saw company at 
12 O'clock to-day. A larger number than usual 
called. I passed through the old scene of answering 

^ Senor Angel Calderon de la Barca, minister resident of Spain 
at Washington 1844-1853. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 213 

the applications of office seekers. I had no offices for 
them and made short work of it with them. 

Many persons called to pay their respects, & 
among others Gov. Coles/ formerly of Illinois. 
Gov. C. was Mr. Madison's Private Secretary dur- 
ing a part of his administration. 

The Secretary of the Treasury called and in- 
formed me that he apprehended that he could not 
raise the amount of money needed upon the issue of 
Treasury notes bearing an interest of 5 z-^ths pr. ct. 
The Secretary of the Navy & Secretary of State 
happened to come in on other business. The Secre- 
tary of the Treasury expressed the opinion that it 
would be necessary to make a funded loan. In this 
1 concurred, judging from his statement of the con- 
dition of the Treasury and the difficulty he had ex- 
perienced in raising money on Treasury notes. The 
Secretary of State and Secretary of the Navy con- 
curred in this opinion also. The Secretary of the 
Treasury then said he would to-day advertise for a 
funded loan of four or five millions of dollars, & 
take the offer of the lowest bidder. 

The Hon. Mr. Roberts," a Representative in 
Congress from the State of Mississippi, called to- 
day. He informed me that he was going North 
with a part of his family & should not return to 
Mississippi until after the next Session of Congress. 

This was reception evening. A larger number of 
persons than usual, ladies & gentlemen, attended. 

^Edward Coles, 1786-1868, Governor of Illinois 1823-1826. 
^ Robert W. Roberts of Delaware, removed to Mississippi and 
served as Representative from that State 1843-1847. 



214 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Oct. 

Saturday, 31st October, 1846. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. Nothing of importance was considered or de- 
cided on to-day. A number of matters of detail 
connected with the public service were the subject 
of conversation. 

The Cabinet dispersed at an earlier hour than 
they usually do. 

Sunday, Ist November, 1 846. — This was a wet & 
stormy day. In consequence of the weather Mrs. 
Polk declined attending church. We could have 
gone in the carriage as we always do, and been pro- 
tected from the rain; but our coachman and foot- 
man must have been exposed. They had both had 
attacks of intermittent bilious fever, or chills & 
fever, during the fall & Mrs. Polk thought it would 
be wrong to expose them. We remained quietly at 
home through the day. 

Monday, 2d November, 1846. — Desiring to de- 
vote my time to the preparation of my message & to 
the business on my table, I directed my porter this 
morning to admit no visitors to-day, except officers of 
Government on public business. 

The Secretary of War called with Col. Mason of 
the army (ist Dragoons) who had been ordered by 
my direction a few days ago to proceed to Califor- 
nia. I had a conversation with them in relation 
to the military operations in California. One object 
of ordering Col. Mason to that service was, that in 
the event Gen'l Kearney should not be able to reach 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 215 

California from Sante Fe this season, that Col. M. 
should be first in command. I had not sufficient 
confidence in Col. Stephenson of the New York 
Volunteer Regiment, who had been ordered round 
by sea, to entrust the command to him. Col. Mason 
will proceed by way of Chagres & Panama & prob- 
ably reach California by that route before Col. 
Stephenson with his Regiment, who have been now 
more than a month at sea, can arrive there. 

Mr. Pakenham, the Brittish Minister, called to 
deliver to me a letter from her Majesty, Victoria, 
in answer to my letter addressed to her Majesty re- 
calling Mr. McLane at his own request as Env. 
Ex. & min. Plenipotentiary of the U. S. at her 
Majesty's Court. I received Mr. Pakenham in the 
Parlour below stairs. He was in full court Dress 
attended by an Attache of legation, also in full 
dress. He delivered to me the letter & retired. 

A short time after Mr. Pakenham retired Mr. 
Figaniere,^ the Portuguese Minister, called. I re- 
ceived him also in the parlour below stairs. He was 
not in full Court dress, but wore a Coat with a star 
and some embroidery on it. He delivered to me a 
letter from his sovereign announcing the birth of a 
princess. He talked familiarly, and among other 
things he said that [her] Majesty had one every 
year; that she had now six or seven; and I was much 
amused at the solemn account which he gave me of 
one of which she had been delivered some time ago 
that was still-born. He seemed to regard it as a 

^ Commander de Fi'ganiere e Morao, minister resident of Portu- 
gal at Washington 1 840-1 854. 



2i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Nov. 

great misfortune, and went almost as minutely into 
the Queen's sufferings on the occasion as if he had 
been the attending physician or the mid-wife. Of 
course it was my duty to congratulate him on the 
event which he announced, & I remarked to him that 
there was no probability, I thought, of failure of 
a successor of the direct line to the throne. These 
ceremonies seem to be regarded as of Great impor- 
tance by the Ministers of the Foreign Monarchies, 
though to me they are amusing & ridiculous. 

This is my birth day. According to the entry in 
my father's family Bible I was born on the 2nd day 
of Nov., 1795, and my mother has told me that the 
event occurred as near as she could tell about 12 
O'clock, Meridian, on that day. I am consequently 
51 years old to-day. The last year has been one of 
great anxiety and labour to me. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Tuesday, 3rd November, 1 846. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members present. 
Many matters of minor importance were considered, 
though nothing worthy to be noted. After a sitting 
of one or two hours the Cabinet dispersed. I de- 
voted the remainder of the day to the preparation of 
my annual message. 

Wednesday, 4th November, 1846. — I directed 
my porter this morning to admit no company until 2 
O'clock P. M., as I desired to devote my time to the 
preparation of my annual message, and to disposing 
of the business on my table. Some of the officers of 
the Government called before that hour on business, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 217 

whom I saw. At 2 O'Clock P. M. a number of per- 
sons called, chiefly office-seekers, but as I had no 
offices to bestow I had a short answer for them. 

Thursday, Sth November, 1846. — I instructed 
my porter this morning to admit no company to-day, 
as I desired to spend the day in a minute examination 
of the facts which had occurred connected with the 
Mexican war and the causes which led to it, with a 
view to incorporate them in my annual message. I 
spent the day in the examination accordingly and in 
writing some paragraphs of my message. 

Some officers of the Government called on busi- 
ness in the course of the day, whom I saw. 

Mr. Ritchie, the Editor of the Union, called and 
expressed some concern at a statement which he had 
seen in a letter purporting to have been written at 
Washington, published in a Phila. paper, stating 
that Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, was pre- 
paring a letter for publication on the subject of the 
tariff. I told him I had heard nothing of it from 
Mr. B. or from any other source, & could not believe 
that he would publish such a letter without inform- 
ing me of it beforehand. 

After night Mr. Buchanan called & had a long 
conversation with me on public afifairs. He ex- 
pressed the opinion among other things that it was 
the tariff of 1846 which had caused the Defeat of the 
Democratic party in Pennsylvania,^ at the late elec- 

^ For Buchanan's views at this time on Pennsylvania politics 
and the tariff of 1846, see his letter to Henry D. Foster, November 
19, 1846, in Moore, Buchanan, VII, 117. 



2i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Nov. 

tion. I told him that in my next message I should 
recommend to Congress not to modify or change that 
act, until it could have a fair trial. The causes of 
the defeat of the Democratic party in the New York 
election, which had just taken place, were spoken of. 
I expressed the opinion that it was attributable to the 
bad faith of that portion of the Democratic party in 
New York opposed personally to Gov. Wright, called 
Old Hunkers. I expressed my deep regret at Gov. 
Wright's defeat, and my strong condemnation of that 
portion of the Democratic party who had suffered 
their State factions to control them, and had voted 
against him. I told him I could not regard any man 
as a true democrat who had taken that course. It is 
true that other causes existed in New York, such as 
anti-rentism, to produce the result, but the main 
cause I have no doubt was the lukewarmness and 
secret opposition to Gov. Wright of that portion of 
the Democratic party calling themselves Old Hunk- 
ers. This faction shall hereafter receive no favours 
at my hands if I know it. 

Friday, 6th November, 1 846. — I saw no com- 
pany to-day, and devoted myself to an examination 
of the Mexican question and to the preparation of my 
annual message, especially that part of it which re- 
lates to that subject. I saw some of the officers of 
Government on public business in the course of the 
day. 

This was reception evening. I[t] was a gloomy, 
wet to-night [evening], as it had been throughout 
the day. A few persons called, ladies & gentlemen. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 219 

Saturday, yth November, 1846.— This morning 
Senator Benton called, having returned to the City on 
yesterday. He had sent to me on yesterday letters 
which he had received from Col. Fremont, written 
in California, and from Gen'l Kearney in command 
of a division of the army, written at Santa Fe in New 
Mexico. He read to me from a Mexican News- 
paper printed in Spanish, translating as he read, a 
report from Gen'l Castro to the Mexican Govern- 
ment, giving an account of Capt. Fremont's expedi- 
tion into California, and attributing to that officer 
false objects and views. Col. Benton said that this 
document w^ould be published in Europe & through- 
out the world, and from the false account given of 
the objects of that officer's expedition would do great 
injury to the United States, unless it was met & con- 
tradicted in an authentic manner. For this purpose 
he proposed to answer it & correct its misstatements 
to me as President of the United States, over his own 
name, so that in this form the refutation of Gen'l 
Castro's statements might be published in the news- 
papers. I told him I saw no objections to his doing 
so. The Cabinet being about assembling, Mr. Bu- 
chanan, Mr. Walker, and Mr. Clifford having come 
in, Col. Benton retired. As he was leaving I re- 
quested him to call again to-night & he said he would 
do so. 

All the members of the Cabinet attended at the 
usual hour. The estimates of expenditures for the 
next fiscal year, commencing on the ist day of July, 
1847, required by law to be submitted to Congress 
at the commencement of the Session, was the chief 



220 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Nov. 

subject considered to-day. The Navy and War es- 
timates were much the largest and most important. 
The estimates of the Navy & [as] stated by the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, did not exceed [by] more than 
about two millions, the ordinary expenditures for 
that branch of the public service in time of peace. 
The estimates of the war Department, as stated by 
the Secretary of War, exceeded by about twenty 
millions the ordinary expenditures for that branch 
of the service in time of peace. This was so large 
an increase that it gave rise to grave consideration 
to see whether it could not be reduced. The Secre- 
tary had estimated for 15,000 regular troops and 
25,000 volunteers. The question was whether a less 
number of troops could prosecute the war with 
proper vigor. The decision of this question de- 
pended in some degree upon the plan of conducting 
the war which should be settled upon. If it was re- 
solved to hold the provinces which we have taken 
simply, a less number would be sufficient; but if a 
war of invasion was to be pushed into the heart of 
Mexico, a less number would not answer. 

Mr. Buchanan was of opinion that we should hold 
what we had. He thought the large estimate pro- 
posed by the Secretary of War would alarm the 
country and injuriously affect the public credit. 
He proposed that the estimate should be reduced, 
so as to provide for the 15,000 regular army and for 
10,000 additional troops to be enlisted to serve dur- 
ing the war & to dispense with volunteers, and that 
Congress should be called upon to pass an act to this 
effect. Without deciding the question as to the man- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 221 

ner in which the war should be prosecuted, it was 
finally agreed that the estimate for the fiscal year 
commencing on the ist of July, 1847, should be made 
for the regular army of 15,000 men, for 10,000 ad- 
ditional troops, either enlisted for the war or vol- 
unteers, and for an additional 10,000 men contin- 
gently, to be called into service if necessary. This 
would make an army of 35,000 men. To this the 
Cabinet agreed unanimously. The question was left 
open as to the manner of conducting the war here- 
after; that is to say, whether we should simply hold 
possession of the Provinces we had taken, or should 
prosecute the war into the heart of Mexico. Much 
conversation took place in regard to the loan which 
had been proposed by the Treasury Department. 
It was stated, and I have no doubt truly, that there 
was a combination of the Banks in New York and 
Boston to prevent the loan being taken, with the 
view probably to force the Government to repeal the 
Constitutional Treasury law of the last session. Mr. 
Buchanan expressed the opinion that it would be im- 
possible to conduct the war upon hard money, and 
that although he had been an advocate of the Inde- 
pendant Treasury law he was satisfied that the Gov- 
ernment could not get on during the war under its 
operations. 

After night Col. Benton called as I had requested 
him to do when the Cabinet were about to assemble 
this morning. I had a long and interesting conver- 
sation with him on the subject of the Mexican war 
& the proper manner of prosecuting it with a view 
to obtain an honorable and speedy peace. He ex- 



222 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Nov. 

pressed the opinion that a bold blow should be struck 
at once. He thought the City of Vera Cruz should 
be taken at once & with it would fall the Castle at 
that place, & that after this was done there should 
be a rapid crushing movement made from Vera Cruz 
on the City of Mexico. He said that Commissioners 
composed of the first men in the country of both 
political parties, should accompany the Head Quar- 
ters of the army, who were authorized to offer peace 
before a battle, during the battle, & after it was over. 
He said this had often been done in the European 
wars. He then said, some months ago, you offered 
me the first mission in the world. (I had offered him 
the mission to France near the close of the last Ses- 
sion of Congress) I declined that, but I am willing 
to accompany the army as one of these commission- 
ers of peace. I told him if [it] was thought ex- 
pedient to institute such a commission I would be 
most happy to avail myself of his services in that 
capacity. We had much conversation on the sub- 
ject of the war & the manner of conducting ^ it. Col. 
Benton was evidently in a fine humour & said he 
had returned to Washington to render my adminis- 
tration any aid in his power in conducting the war. 
He condemned the policy which had been suggested 
in some quarters of holding the Mexican territory 
which we had acquired, & not prosecuting the war 

^ Benton, View, II, 693, gives Benton's ideas in favor of a vigor- 
ous prosecution of the war, and tells how he won over the Presi- 
dent to this policy after the latter had already incorporated in his 
annual message a recommendation in favor of the policy of inactive 
occupation of the Mexican territory already acquired. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 223 

further into the Mexican territory. He said the 
war would be much protracted by such a policy, & 
might not be ended for years. He said further the 
late elections have gone against the administration 
& that if such a policy of inactivity was adopted the 
patriotic spirit of the country would flag & the Dem- 
ocratic party would be overthrown. He said ours 
were a go-ahead people, and that our only policy 
either to obtain a peace or save ourselves was to press 
the war boldly. 

Sunday, 8th November, 1 846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk & her niece, Miss Rucker. 

Monday, gth November, 1 846. — This was the 
day of interring the remains of Col. Cross, late of the 
U. S. Army. Col. Cross was murdered by the Mex- 
icans near Gen'l Taylor's camp on the Rio Grande in 
April last. Flis remains were removed to this City 
where his family reside. They arrived here on fri- 
day evening last. I had been invited to attend the 
funeral at his family residence, had resolved to do so, 
& had requested the members of my cabinet to do so. 
Shortly before the hour of leaving Col. Benton called 
& told me he had prepared the letter which he had 
informed me on Saturday last he would address to me, 
defending Col. Fremont's conduct in California 
against the calumnious Report of Governor Castro to 
the Mexican Government against that officer. He 
commenced reading the letter to me, but finding that 
he would not have time to conclude it before the hour 



224 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Nov. 

of attending the funeral, & one or two members of 
the Cabinet having called for the purpose of accom- 
panying me, I made my apology to him and asked 
him to call at 2 O'Clock P. M., by which time I 
would return. He said he would do so, but as he 
wished to have it published in to-morrow morning's 
papers, he would while I was gone to the funeral 
have a proof sheet of it struck ofif & meet me at the 
hour suggested. I told him I would invite the Sec- 
retary of War to return from the funeral with me, & 
we desired to converse further with him on the sub- 
ject of the Mexican War. 

Accompanied by all the members of my Cabinet, 
I attended the funeral of Col. Cross at the residence 
of his family in this City. It was attended by many 
military and Naval officers in full uniform, & by a 
large number of citizens. The services were brief. 
The procession moved towards the Congressional 
burying ground. On reaching Pennsylvania Ave- 
nue I directed my carriage to leave the procession & 
I returned to the President's mansion. The Secre- 
tary of State & of War & my Private Secretary ac- 
companied me. I informed the Secretary of War 
that Col. Benton was to call at 2 O'Clock P. M., & 
that I desired him to be at my office at that hour that 
we might converse with him on the subject of the 
Mexican war. He said he would go to his office & 
return at that hour. I told him to bring the Secre- 
tary of the Navy with him. He returned at that 
hour & some time afterwards Col. Benton called. 
Col. B. read the proof sheet of his letter ^ to me de- 

^ Published in the Washington Union, November g, 1846. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 225 

fending Col. Fremont against the attack of Gov. 
Castro of California. 

I then introduced the subject of the Mexican war, 
and after the conversation had proceeded a few min- 
utes the Secretary of the Navy came in. We had a 
full & free conversation with him and communicated 
what information we had, what orders had been is- 
sued to the army and navy, & what was contemplated. 
He repeated the views which he had expressed to 
me on Saturday, that Vera Cruz should be taken and 
a rapid & crushing movement made with a large 
force on the City of Mexico, which should be ac- 
companied by commissioners authorized to make 
peace, as he had before suggested. I told him the 
subject was engaging my serious attention & that it 
would continue to do so. No decision w^as made, & 
about 4 O'clock the conversation ended. 

Just before I started to attend Col. Cross's funeral 
to-day, Mr. Robertson, U. S. consul at Bremen, 
called and delivered to me a package which he stated 
contained a small quantity of cotton prepared as a 
substitute for gun-pow[d]er, which he had brought 
with him from Europe with instructions that it was 
only to be opened in the presence of the President of 
the United States. The package was addressed to 
me with the superscription that it was only to be 
opened in my presence. The discovery had been 
made in Germany. I told Mr. Robertson I was 
rather an unbeliever in the merits of the discovery, 
but that [as] I w^as about attending the funeral of 
Col. Cross I had no time then to attend to it. He re- 
quested me to open the outer envelope, as he which 



226 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Nov. 

[wished] to procure the specification which it en- 
closed for the purpose of filing it in the Patent office, 
with a view to have the discovery patented. I 
opened the seal and delivered to him the papers 
which he wished. The inner package which con- 
tained the cotton was still sealed & was directed, as 
was the outer envelope, that it was only to be opened 
in the presence of the President of the U. States. I 
put the inner package in my drawer & requested him 
to call on to-morrow. 

When Col. Benton was retiring from my office this 
afternoon I requested him to call again on to-morrow 
morning & he said he would do so. 

Tuesday, lOth November, 1846. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members 
present. 

Before the Cabinet assembled Col. Benton called, 
as I had requested him to do on yesterday. The sub- 
ject of the Mexican war was resumed. Col. B. re- 
peated the views which he had before expressed, but 
more in detail & enforced them. I told him if the 
movement on the City of Mexico was made, it would 
be necessary to call out a considerable number of ad- 
ditional troops. I had before informed him of the 
orders which had been issued for the contemplated 
expedition against Tampico and possibly Vera Cruz, 
but a movement on the City of Mexico had not been 
at present contemplated, nor unless it was ascer- 
tained that peace could not be obtained without it. 
He said that a small force could, he had no doubt, in 
co-operation with the Navy, starve out or take the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 227 

town of Vera Cruz, and with it would fall the Castle, 
but that would not bring peace unless it was fol- 
lowed with a large force on the City of Mexico. I 
told him I apprehended from all I had learned that 
Gen'l Taylor would not willingly spare any consid- 
erable portion of the force with him at Monterey, 
& that I apprehended he would not heartily co- 
operate with the Government in carrying into effect 
such an expedition unless he commanded it himself, 
and that I thought Gen'l Taylor a brave officer but 
not a man of capacity enough for such a command. 
In this he concurred. I asked who would be the 
proper officer to command so important an expedi- 
tion. He did not answer. I spoke of Gen'l Scott. 
He said he had no confidence in him. Some other 
officers were named by me. He then said there 
ought to be a Lieutenant General of the army who 
should be General in chief. He said it required a 
man of talents and resources as w^ell as a military 
man for such a command, & that with a view to ob- 
tain peace more depended upon the talents & energy 
of the officer than upon mere bravery. He then 
said that if such an office was created by Congress, 
he would be willing to accept the command himself. 
I remarked Generally that I would have confidence 
in him and would be pleased to see him at the head 
of the army in such an expedition. He alluded to 
what was apparent to every one, that the Whigs were 
endeavouring to turn this war to party & political ac- 
count. He said " I have been looking at events as 
they have transpired this summer, & left Kentucky 
where I have spent some weeks and returned to 



228 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Nov. 

Washington to render you any aid in my power. 
He said, You know what my position has been (al- 
luding as I inferred to his preference for Mr. Van 
Buren in the last Presidential election) but let By- 
gones be by-gones. I quarrelled & fought with 
Gen'l Jackson; I made friends with him & came to 
his support, and during the gloomy period of the 
Bank panic, I have held many consultations with 
him in this room. Now I will give you any sup- 
port in this war in my power." I expressed my 
gratification at hearing these sentiments and said 
frankly to him that I had never entertained any but 
the most [cordial] feelings for him. 

After much further conversation in relation to the 
war he left. Shortly afterwards the Cabinet as- 
sembled. The chief topic of conversation to-day 
was the Mexican war and Col. Benton's views of 
the manner of conducting it, which I communicated 
to the Cabinet, of course in the confidence which be- 
longs to all Cabinet consultations. 

No distinct question was presented for a decision 
but the views of the different gentlemen were freely 
expressed. The general impression seemed to be 
that it would be necessary to call out additional 
troops with a view to the successful prosecution of 
the campaign against Vera Cruz, & especially if an 
expedition against the City of Mexico was resolved 
upon. No answer had been received from Gen'l 
Taylor to the despatch of the Secretary of War of 
the 22nd of September, and it was deemed prudent 
before any decision was made in regard to the future 
course of the campaign to await his answer which 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 229 

must undoubtedly be received soon. Mr. Buchanan 
was in favour of taking Vera Cruz, but disinclined 
to favour the expedition against the City of Mexico. 
After much conversation on the subject, & in rela- 
tion to the state of the finances & the probability of 
obtaining a loan, the Cabinet adjourned. 

This was reception evening. A larger number of 
persons attended, ladies & gentlemen, than usually 
do; among them was Col. Benton & his daughter, 
Mrs. Fremont. The Secretary of War called & in- 
formed me that he had received by to-night's [mail] 
despatches from Gen'l Taylor. Before the com- 
pany dispersed, I retired to my office with the Sec- 
retary of War, and he read the despatches. They 
were dated from the 6th to the 13th of October in- 
clusive. They contained no satisfactory information 
upon the points on which Gen'l Taylor had been 
asked for information in the Secretary's despatch to 
him of the 22nd of September. The truth is, from 
my private letters from Gen'l Pillow and from in- 
formation from other sources, I apprehend that 
Gen'l Taylor's feelings are anything but friendly to 
the Executive Government. He is, I fear, disposed 
to cast all responsibility off himself, and not heartily 
to co-operate with the Government in prosecuting 
the war. He has no sympathies for the administra- 
tion and cares only for himself. This is most repre- 
hensible on his part for I have not only treated [him] 
with great kindness, but have given him his present 
promotion. I have known nothing of politics in my 
treatment of him, but I am forced to believe that he 
has been recently much influenced by Baylie Pey- 



230 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Nov. 

ton and other political partisans, and has suffered 
his bitter political feeling to have much more to do 
with his conduct than he should have done. I form 
this conclusion from several sources of information, 
but refer particularly to my private letters from Mr. 
Robert B. Reynolds and Gen'l Pillow. 

The Secretary of War was disappointed & dissatis- 
fied with his answer. The want of the information 
which he had asked from Gen'l Taylor, and which 
he has failed to give, is very embarrassing to him & 
to me. 

To-day at 3 P. M. I went with Mr. Robertson, 
U. S. Consul at Bremen, to the War Department, 
where the package of Gun cotton which he deliv- 
ered to me on yesterday was opened, [and] some ex- 
periments made by Col. Totten. Its explosive qual- 
ities surprised me. 

Wednesday, nth November, 1846. — I gave or- 
ders to my porter that I would see no company to- 
day, but was constrained to see a few persons on 
special business. I was occupied in preparing my 
message, and in a conference with the Secretary of 
War. 

At 3 O'clock P. M. The Brazilian Minister called 
and announced to me the birth of a Princess. I re- 
ceived him in the parlour & he delivered [to] me 
a letter from his sovereign announcing the event, ac- 
companied by quite a speech of his own as though it 
was a matter of great importance. 

Andrew Jackson, jr., of the Hermitage, the 
adopted son of Gen'l Jackson, called on me to-day. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 231 

Col. Benton called on me to-night at my request. I 
had a still further conversation with him in relation 
to the Mexican war. I told him 1 did not think it 
probable that Congress would create the office of 
Lieutenant General which he had suggested on yes- 
terday. He said he thought himself it was doubt- 
ful. After speaking about the propriety of calling 
out an increased force, I told him that in that event 
I might appoint an additional Maj'r Gen'l. He said 
that if I did so the General appointed would be the 
junior officer of his rank, and he would not desire it. 
I remarked to him that I had supposed he would not 
desire it, and that in addition to this I had come un- 
der some commitment to Gen'l Houston of Texas, if 
another Maj'r Gen'l was to be appointed. I told 
him that if the commission to treat for peace, which 
he had suggested in a former conversation should ac- 
company the army, should be created, it would give 
me pleasure to place him at the head of that com- 
mission. He said if it was settled that a large force 
was to march from Vera Cruz on the City of Mex- 
ico he would accept, for then it would be important 
& there would be dignity in it. I told him that the 
inclination of my mind was to call for eight addi- 
tional Regiments, with a view to the bold movement 
which he had suggested, & that in the course of to- 
morrow I would probably decide. I read to him 
Gen'l Taylor's last despatch & also all the orders & 
communications which had been sent to him relating 
to the contemplated expeditions against Tampico & 
Vera Cruz. He agreed with me that Gen'l Taylor's 
answer was unsatisfactory & that he was unfit for 



232 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Nov. 

command. After much further conversation of a 
free and friendly character he retired. 

Thursday, 12th November, 1846. — I did not 
open my office for the reception of company gener- 
ally to-day. Mr. Buchanan called and spent several 
hours in the room adjoining my office, in examining 
the draft of my message which I had made, in part 
from a rough draft of his, on the subject of the Mexi- 
can War. 

The Hon. Wm. R. King, late U. S. Minister at 
Paris, called. He reached the City, he informed 
me, on last evening. 

Andrew Jackson, jr., & his wife called. I saw 
them in the parlour. 

The Secretary of War called this morning & in- 
formed me that Gen'l Scott had informed him that 
he was preparing, & would deliver to him to-day, his 
views of the manner in which the Mexican war 
should be prosecuted. After night the Secretary 
sent the communication of Gen'l Scott to me and 
shortly afterwards called himself. After reading it 
I returned it to the Secretary, who said he would 
call on Col. Benton to-night and consult further with 
him on the subject & communicate to him Gen'l 
Scott's views. 

Friday, ISth November, 1846. — I occupied my- 
self chiefly to-day in revising what I had written and 
preparing additional passages of my annual message. 
Hon. Mr. Rhett of S. C. called with a friend. Col. 
Benton called and repeated his views & urged them, 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 233 

of assembling a large and overpowering force, 
taking Vera Cruz, and marching upon the City of 
Mexico, as the only mode of conducting the present 
war with Mexico to a speedy and successful termina- 
tion. The Secretary of War came in while Col. 
Benton was with me, and the conversation was con- 
tinued. 1 told Col. Benton that I had made up my 
mind to call out immediately six or eight Regiments 
of additional Volunteers, & that I should probably 
do so on to-morrow. After Col. Benton retired, the 
Secretary of War & myself had some further con- 
versation on the subject. The Secretary expressed 
his decided opinion that I should call out the addi- 
tional forces which I had proposed immediately. 
He left saying that he would hold a further conver- 
sation with Gen'l Scott on the subject to-night, & 
would inform me of the Gen'l's views & opinions on 
to-morrow. 

This evening at 4 O'Clock, Andrew Jackson, jr., 
&c his wife and daughter of the Hermitage, and Miss 
Taggart, the niece of Mrs. Jackson, of Georgetown, 
D. C, took a family Dinner with me. Mr. John- 
son, the P. M. Gen'l, also dined with me. 

This was reception evening, but being much en- 
gaged in my office, I did not go into the parlour. I 
learn from the family that quite a number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 14th November, 1846. — The Hon. 
John W. Davis of Indiana, Speaker of the Ho. 
Repts., called this morning. He informed me that 
he had arrived in Washington on the day before yes- 



234 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Nov. 

terday. I had a long conversation with him on pub- 
lic subjects. His opinion was that the administration 
and the Democratic party were never stronger than 
at present in Indiana. In the course of the conversa- 
tion he informed me that he expected to decline be- 
ing a candidate for re-election to Congress from his 
District, and expressed a desire to be appointed 
Minister to Brazil if Mr. Wise returned from that 
Court. I told him that it was probable that Mr. 
Wise would return in the course of a few months, 
but that in that event I was under some commitments 
as to his successor, and should probably feel bound 
to confer the office upon some citizen of Ohio. I 
advised him to be a candidate for re-election to Con- 
gress and continue to hold the office of Speaker. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. The chief and almost the only ques- 
tion of conversation to-day was whether there should 
be a further call upon the States for an additional 
force of Volunteers, with a view to the vigorous pros- 
ecution of the Mexican war. The subject was fully 
discussed. The Secretary of War expressed his 
opinion that it was necessary to call out such a force. 
Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, expressed his 
opinion in favour of taking Vera Cruz, but strongly 
against sending any expedition against the City of 
Mexico. He thought such an expedition would 
cost a vast sum of money, that it was doubtful 
whether it could be successful, and if it could there 
was no object to be obtained by it, as it would not, 
as he thought, facilitate peace. As, however, the 
Secretary of War thought the additional force neces- 



J 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 235 

sary, he would yield his assent to it, though reluc- 
tantly. The Secretary of the Treasury said he re- 
garded the capture of Vera Cruz as very important, 
and as the Secretary of War thought the additional 
force necessary he would yield his assent to it. All 
the other members of the Cabinet were in favour of 
it, the P. M. Gen'l saying that he assented to it as 
the Secretary of War thought it necessary. The 
Cabinet having all expressed their opinions, I then 
observed that the Secretary of War had communi- 
cated to the Cabinet all the information which he 
possessed, and that we all had the same means of 
judging of the propriety of the proposed call that 
he had. I stated that I was in favour of the call, and 
that I did not base my opinion upon that of the Sec- 
retary of War, but upon the facts which were in the 
knowledge of every member of the Cabinet. I did 
not think that the Secretary of War should be held 
solely responsible for the measure because every 
member of the Cabinet possessed the same informa- 
tion which he did, and had the same means of judg- 
ing which he had. I thought therefore that each 
member of the Cabinet should take his own full re- 
sponsibility, and not escape that responsibility by 
saying that he yielded his assent to the call because 
the Secretary of War thought it necessary, and there- 
fore it was that I made the remark I did that I was 
in favour of it because I thought it proper, and not 
because the Secretary of War thought so. It was 
then unanimously agreed that nine additional Regi- 
ments to serve during the War should be called for 
from the States. The Cabinet proceeded to consider 



236 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Nov. 

of the States from which the call should be made. 
There was some difficulty in determining this, but 
finally it was agreed upon. The Cabinet fully dis- 
cussed the conduct of Gen'l Taylor and were agreed 
that he was unfit for the chief command, that he had 
not mind enough for the station, that he was a bit- 
ter political partisan & had no sympathies with the 
administration, and that he had been recently con- 
trolled, particularly in his expedition to Monterey, 
by Bailey Peyton, Mr. Kendall,^ Editor of the 
Picayune at New Orleans, and ass't adjutant Gen'l 
Bliss,^ who were cunning & shrewd men of more 
talents than himself, and had controlled him for po- 
litical purposes. I expressed my deep regret that I 
was compelled from all the information I had re- 
ceived to come to this conclusion. I stated, what all 
the Cabinet knew, that I had never sufifered politics 
to mingle with the conduct of this war; that I had 
promoted Gen'l Taylor & treated him very kindly 
& given him my confidence as chief in command of 
the army, but that I was compelled to believe that 
he had been weak enough to suffer himself to be con- 
trolled by political partisans, who had no command 
in the army, but had attached themselves to it & had 
attended his camp for political purposes. All were 
at a loss to designate who should be the chief in com- 
mand in the expedition against Vera Cruz. I sug- 

^ George Wilkins Kendall, founder, with Francis A. Lumsden, 
of the Picayune in 1838. He accompanied the armies of Ta3'lor 
and Scott and organized a very effective news service. 

^William Wallace Smith Bliss, 181 5-1 853, General Taylor's 
chief-of-staff during the Mexican War. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 237 

gested MajV Gen'l Butler of the Volunteers, & I 
think him the best man. Nothing upon this point 
was decided. 

The Secretary of the Treasury stated that the loan 
of five millions of Dollars for which he had adver- 
tised had been all taken. He said the whole sum 
was proposed to be taken by a single individual in 
New York upon better terms than had been proposed 
by other bidders; that he had doubted whether there 
was such a person, that he had communicated by 
Telegraph with the collector of New York, who had 
answered that there was such a person in N. York, 
but that he was without credit. He said he was 
bound to accept the bid of this person if he per- 
formed what he proposed, because it was the best 
which was offered, and that he had determined to 
send the Chief Clerk of the Treasury Department 
(Mr. Young) to New York this afternoon with in- 
structions to give this person the loan, if he paid the 
money. If he failed to comply with his bid the loan 
would be given to others who had bid, but whose 
offers were less favourable to the Government. 

The Cabinet after a longer sitting than is usual ad- 
journed between 3 & 4 O'Clock P. M. 

To-night Senator Dix of New York called, with 
whom I had a long conversation in relation to the 
present condition of public affairs. 

Mr. Buchanan proposed in the Cabinet meeting 
to-day, after it had been determined upon to call out 
9 additional Regiments of Volunteers, that one of 
them should be called from Massachusetts. It did 
not strike me favourably. My first impression was 



238 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Nov. 

that we should not extend the call further North 
than the State of New York. Mr. Clifford doubted 
the policy on other grounds. He feared that the 
other New England States might feel that they were 
overlooked if Federal Massachusetts was the only 
one among them from which a requisition was made. 
Upon further reflection, however, he doubted upon 
the subject. 

Sunday, isth November, 1 846. — The more I 
had reflected upon the suggestion made by Mr. Bu- 
chanan in Cabinet on yesterday, that one of the nine 
Regiments of volunteers to be called out should be 
taken from Massachusetts, the more favourably I 
thought of it. I sent for the Secretary of War this 
morning to consult him on the subject. He inclined 
to favour the suggestion, but said it might be well to 
consult Mr. Clifford again before it was decided 
upon. The Secretary left, and I sent for Mr. Clif- 
ford. He said he thought more favourably of it, 
than he did on yesterday. It was concluded that Mr. 
Clifford should consult Mr. Burke of New Hamp- 
shire (the commissioner of Patents) & see me again 
after church to-day. 

I attended the first Presbyterian church in com- 
pany with Mrs.Tolk and her niece. Miss Rucker. 

At 3 O'clock P. M. Mr. Clifford, the Atto. Gen'l, 
called and informed me that he had seen Mr. Burke, 
who entirely approved the suggestion that one of the 
Regiments of Volunteers should be called from New 
Hampshire [Massachusetts]. If she obeyed the call 
all would be well. If she refused to obey it and 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 239 

acted as she did in the last war with Great Brittain, 
the country would know it. 

Monday, Idth November, 1 846. — The Secretary 
of War called this morning, and I informed him of 
the opinion of Mr. Clififord and Mr. Burke in regard 
to the call on the State of Massachusetts for one of 
the Regiments of Volunteers to be called into the 
public service. It was then agreed upon that one of 
the Regiments should be taken from Massachusetts 
(see this diary for the last two days) . The Secretary 
of War read the draft he had prepared of his requisi- 
tion upon the Governors of the several States, upon 
whom it had been resolved in Cabinet to call for ad- 
ditional Volunteers. I suggested some alterations 
which were made. 

Col. King, late U. S. Minister to France, called 
and spent an hour with me in agreeable conversation 
about public affairs. 

To-night I received from Col. Benton a written 
plan for the prosecution of the war against Mexico. 
My porter, who delivered it to me, informed me that 
Col. Benton said when he handed it to him at the 
door, that he would call on me to-morrow morn- 
ing. 

Tuesday, lyth November, 1846. — Col. Benton 
called this morning before the meeting of the Cab- 
inet, and held a conversation with me in relation to 
his plan of the campaign against Mexico, an outline 
of which he had communicated to me in writing last 
evening. 



240 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Nov. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. The Mexican war occupied exclusive 
attention to-day. I read to the Cabinet Col. Ben- 
ton's plan of the campaign as communicated to me 
last night. The Secretary of War read a written 
memorandum from Gen'l Scott giving a statement of 
the forces now in Mexico, and of the additional 
forces and preparations which in his opinion would 
be necessary to make an attack on the City of Vera 
Cruz and march to the City of Mexico. The force 
he proposed was about 14,000, and the whole plan 
was upon a large scale. Much conversation took 
place on the subject. It had been heretofore re- 
solved to take Vera Cruz if practicable, but it had 
not been resolved to march from that point on the 
City of Mexico. In the discussion Mr. Buchanan 
seemed to consider that such was the determination, 
and expressed his opinion strongly against it, but re- 
marked that as he was overruled he would have to 
acquiesce. Mr. Marcy remarked to him that he 
had not been overruled, for as he understood it no 
decision had been made by the President and the 
Cabinet, that he had read Gen'l Scott's plan, but the 
subject was one for consideration, not yet decided 
upon. Mr. Buchanan said he was decidedly in 
favour of taking Vera Cruz but was against march- 
ing upon the City of Mexico. Among other 
reasons which he assigned and he gave them at some 
length, he remarked that he had not yet seen the 
budget and did not know where the money was to 
come from. It being resolved upon to send an ex- 
pedition to take Vera Cruz, I myself considered it an 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 241 

Open question, to be determined according to circum- 
stances hereafter, whether a column should be sent 
from Vera Cruz against the City of Mexico. If 
peace should not be made I am decidedly in favour 
of taking the City of Mexico if we have sufficient 
force in the field to do it. Great difficulty existed 
in selecting the commander of the expedition against 
Vera Cruz. In Gen'l Taylor a want of confidence 
was expressed in his capacity, while it was known 
that he had suffered his partisan political feelings 
to render himself hostile to the administration. His 
constant effort has been to throw the responsibility 
of any disaster w^hich might happen on the admin- 
istration. In this he has been most ungrateful for 
the kindness which he has received at my hands. 
All agreed that he was unfit, after what had oc- 
curred, for the command of the expedition against 
Vera Cruz. The difficulty was in selecting a proper 
officer. Maj'r Gen'l Patterson of the Volunteers, 
who had been named for the Tampico expedition, 
it was feared had not sufficient experience. Gen'l 
Scott it [was known] was hostile to the administra- 
tion, and it was apprehended would have no sym- 
pathy with it in carrying out its plans. After much 
discussion Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker, Mr. Marcy, 
& Mr. Mason, although all of them had serious ob- 
jections to him, yet came to the conclusion that as 
he was the highest officer in command in the army, 
he should be entrusted with the conduct of this im- 
portant expedition. Mr. Johnson was opposed to 
him, and Mr. Clifford was inclined to be so, but 
expressed no decided opinion. After a long con- 



242 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Nov. 

versation I informed the Cabinet that I would think 
further on the subject before I decided. I have 
strong objections to Gen'l Scott, and after his very 
exceptionable letter in May last nothing but stern 
necessity and a sense of public duty could induce 
me to place him at the head of so important ex- 
pedition. Still I do not well see how it can be 
avoided. He is the Gen'1-in-chief of the army. If 
I had the power to select a Gen'l I would select 
Col. Benton to conduct the expedition. Without 
coming to any decision the Cabinet adjourned. 

Wednesday, l8th November, 1846. — I sent for 
the Secretary of War this morning, & held a further 
conversation with him in regard to the officer to be 
selected to command the expedition to Vera Cruz. 
He said he had had great anxiety and trouble about 
it, but upon full reflection, although he would do 
so reluctantly, he thought we would be compelled 
to take Gen'l Scott. After some further conversa- 
tion I requested him to call on Col. Benton & con- 
fer with him confidentially on the subject. He left 
and returned in the course of an hour & reported that 
he had seen Col. Benton, who thought as he did, 
that we would have to use the instruments which the 
law had given, and under all the circumstances we 
would, he thought, be compelled to take Gen'l Scott. 
I was not still [still not] satisfied, & told the Sec- 
retary that I would send for Col. Benton & see him 
on the subject myself. I sent my Private Secretary 
to invite Col. Benton to see me. Col. B. called, 
and upon a full view of the whole subject he ad- 



J 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 243 

vised that Gen'l Scott be assigned to the command 
as the best we could do, although he had no confi- 
dence in him. 1 told Col. Benton 1 must yield my 
objections to Gen'l Scott, & would sec the Secretary 
and direct that he be ordered to take the command 
of the expedition to Vera Cruz. I told Col. Ben- 
ton that if I could induce Congress to create the 
office of Lieut. Gen'l I would appoint him to com- 
mand the whole forces. He said he would take such 
a command. 

I was busily occupied until night preparing my 
message. After night upon my invitation the Sec- 
retary of the Navy called, & 1 read to him the part 
of my message which related to the Mexican war 
& the tariff. The Secretary of War came in, and 
I informed him of the result of my interview to-day 
with Col. Benton. The Secretary of War said that 
he had thought over the matter in every possible 
aspect and he was fully satisfied that we would be 
compelled to take Gen'l Scott for the command 
against Vera Cruz. The Secretary of the Navy 
concurred in this opinion. They advised me to send 
for Gen'l Scott & see him myself in the morning. 
I requested the Secretary of War to ask him to call 
on to-morrow at 9 O'Clock A.M. I have no great 
confidence in Gen'l Scott as a military commander, 
and after his very exceptionable letter of May last 
to the Secretary of War, it is with reluctance that 
I assign him to this important command. If I had 
the power I would certainly select some other, but 
I am compelled to use the officers provided by law, 
and under all the circumstances feel constrained to 



244 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Nov. 

assign him to this command. He is the highest in 
command in the regular army and it is his natural 
position. 

To-night I read to the Secretary of the Navy that 
portion of my message which I had prepared in re- 
lation to Mexico & the tariff. 

Thursday, igth November, 1846. — Gen'l Scott 
called this morning, having been invited by the Sec- 
retary of War, as requested by me on yesterday, to 
do so. I held a long conversation with him as to 
the plan of prosecuting the Mexican War. I finally 
said to him that the capture of Vera Cruz was very 
important to secure peace. To this he assented. I 
then told him that it was important that the officer 
entrusted to command that expedition should have 
confidence in the Government, and that the Govern- 
ment should have confidence in him, and that with- 
out a cordial cooperation success could scarcely be 
expected. To this he agreed. I then intimated to 
him that if I was satisfied that he had the proper 
confidence in the administration & would cordially 
cooperate with it, that I was disposed to assign him 
to the command. He appeared to be much affected 
and said at once that he had the utmost confidence in 
the administration & in myself, and that he would 
cordially cooperate with me in carrying out my 
views in the prosecution of the war. He said that 
he surrendered his whole confidence to me. I then 
told him that I had at the commencement of the 
War given him my confidence and had tendered 
him the command, but that circumstances had oc- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 245 

curred to change my determination. I was willing 
that by-gones should be by-gones & that he should 
take the command. He expressed himself as being 
deeply grateful to me & said he would show me his 
gratitude by his conduct when he got to the field. 
He was so grateful & so much affected that he al- 
most shed tears. He then said that he would take 
with him any of the Volunteer Generals whom I 
might indicate, and asked me to suggest such as I 
wished to accompany him. 1 told him that was a 
delicate matter, and that all I could do was to give 
him, as it was my duty to do, the character & qualifi- 
cations of such of them as I knew personally. I 
told him that the only three of them with whom I 
was intimately acquainted were Brigadier Gen'ls 
Pillow, Hamer,^ & Shields, and I gave him such in- 
formation as I possessed in regard to each of them. 
I spoke also of MajV Gen'ls Butler & Patterson, 
whom I knew, but not intimately. I expressed a 
high opinion of Gen'l Butler." I requested him to 
prepare a statement of the forces now in Mexico, and 
inform me what portion of them he would propose 
to take with him on the Vera Cruz expedition & 
what corps he would leave under the command of 
Gen'l Taylor. He said he would do so as soon as 
he could prepare it. He left, apparently the most 
delighted man I have seen for a long time, and as 
he retired expressed his deep gratitude to me. 

^Thomas L. Hamer of Ohio. He died December 2, 1846, at 
Monterey, Mexico. 

^William Orlando Butler of Kentucky, 1 791-1880, candidate 
for Vice President on the Democratic ticket in 1848. 



246 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Nov. 

I spent the day until 2 O'Clock P. M. in pre- 
paring my message. At that hour I opened my of- 
fice for the reception of company. A number of 
persons called. 

After night the Secretary of War and Gen'I Scott 
called & held a long conversation with me about the 
Mexican War, & especially in relation to the expedi- 
tion to Vera Cruz, the command of which it had 
been resolved to entrust to Gen'I Scott. The Gen'I 
was still in a fine humour and manifestly much de- 
lighted. He told me when he called this morning M 
that my course towards him was magnanimous, & 
that he would take care to inform his friends that 
he regarded it to be so. Among others he said he 
would communicate this to his friends in the army 
& to Senators Clayton, Crittendon, Barrow, & 
Archer. 

Friday, 20th November, 1846. — I put the rough 
draft of that part of [my] message which relates to 
Mexico & the Mexican War into the hands of Mr. 
Wm. V. Voorhies, a confidential Clerk, for the pur- 
pose of having it copied in a fair handwriting. I 
was busy during the day in preparing other para- 
graphs of the Message. Senator Dix called, and 
having one [of] these paragraphs which I had just 
written on my table, I read it to him. 

Late in the afternoon I received from Gen'I Scott 
a note accompanying a letter which he had prepared 
to Gen'I Taylor, & desiring my permission to ad- 
dress such a letter to [him]. A part of the letter I 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 247 

did not approve, and particularly that part of it 
which disclosed the plans of the Government in the 
contemplated expedition on Vera Cruz. The suc- 
cess of that campaign may depend on keeping it a 
secret from the enemy. I addressed a note to Gen'l 
Scott and requested him to call this evening, that 
I might have a personal interview with him on the 
subject. After night Gen'l Scott called. I had a 
conversation with him in relation to his proposed 
letter to Gen'l Taylor, and he cheerfully agreed to 
omit that part of it which related to the contem- 
plated expedition to Vera Cruz. The omission was 
made from abundant caution, lest if it become 
known to the young officers about Gen'l Taylor's 
person they might not see the necessity of keeping 
it secret, and that becoming public in the army the 
knowledge of it might reach the enemy. Moreover 
an intimation [of it] had been given to Gen'l Tay- 
lor by the Secretary of War on the 13th & 22nd 
ultimo, but in the strictest confidence. Gen'l Scott 
spoke at some length of the contemplated military 
operation against Vera Cruz. Among other things 
he expressed himself willing to consult my wishes 
as to the General officers of the Volunteers whom 
he should take with him. I told him that was a 
delicate matter, and that [I] did not wish any favour 
or partiality extended to any of them over others. 
I told him it was [my] duty to give him such in- 
formation as I possessed of such of them as I knew 
personally. I did so of Maj'r Gen'ls Butler and 
Patterson & of Brigadier Generals Pillow, Hamer, 



248 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Nov. 

and Shields. I told him that my personal acquaint- 
ance with Brigadier Genl's Quitman & Marshall ^ 
was slight, and that I did not know Brigadier Gen'l 
Lane^ personally. I asked him, from the number 
of volunteer forces he would have with him, if he 
would not require the services of both the Maj'r 
Generals. He said he thought he would and also of 
4 of the Brigadiers. I[n] this I concurred with him, 
and he decided to take that number. He decided 
also to take Gen'l Worth with the Division of regu- 
lars. Gen'ls Twiggs & Wool & two of the Brigadier 
Gen'ls of Volunteers would remain with Gen'l Tay- 
lor. I told him that for the new requisition of 9 
Regiments lately made, I would probably appoint 
one Maj'r Gen'l & one Brigadier Gen'l, & that if 
he deemed it proper they also could be attached to 
Gen'l Taylor's column. To all this he agreed. He 
was in a very fine humour, appeared to be free and 
open in his conversation & was very communicative. 
This was reception evening. Quite a number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 2Ist November, 1846. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members present 
except the P. M. Gen'l, who is indisposed as I learn. 
Despatches were received last night from Gen'l Tay- 
lor, which the Secretary of War produced and they 

^Thomas Marshall of Kentucky, 1793-1853, commissioned a 
Brigadier-General of Volunteers in the Mexican War by President 
Polk. 

^ Joseph Lane, appointed Territorial Governor of Oregon In 
1848, afterward elected to the Senate from Oregon. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 249 

were read. They gave a more detailed account of 
the battle of Monterey, but contained no explana- 
tion of the reasons which induced him to agree to 
the armistice. A seperate despatch was [in] an- 
swer to the despatch from the Secretary of War of 
the 22nd of September last, in relation to the pro- 
posed expedition into the interior of Tamaulipas 
and against Tampico. It was written in bad tem- 
per, and was wholly unwarranted by the despatch 
of the Secretary of War to which it was a reply. 
The Secretary had proposed the expedition under 
the belief, which was the fact, that a sufficient force 
was left by Gen'l Taylor, who were idle in camp on 
the Rio Grande, to constitute the expedition, but 
still the whole matter had been left to the discretion 
of Gen'l Taylor. The officers left with the Troops 
on the Rio Grande were suggested to command the 
expedition. Gen'l Taylor's answer is in very bad 
taste and in worse temper, in which among other 
things he states that he places his protest on file 
against such interference with him as chief-in-com- 
mand of the army in Mexico. I refer to the 
correspondence itself as containing a more full expla- 
nation and statement of the whole matter than I can 
now give. I was very indignant at Gen'l Taylor's 
letter & directed the Secretary of War to prepare 
a proper answer. It is perfectly manifest that Gen'l 
Taylor is very hostile to the administration and seeks 
a cause of quarrel with it. This he shall not have 
unless he places himself wholly in the wrong, as in- 
deed he has already done. He is evidently a weak 
man and has been made giddy with the idea of the 



250 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY {22 Nov. 

Presidency. He is most ungrateful, for I have pro- 
moted him, as I now think beyond his deserts, and 
without reference to his politics. I am now satisfied 
that he is a narrow minded, bigotted partisan, with- 
out resources and wholly unqualified for the com- 
mand he holds. 

Gen'l Scott called in the evening, & referring to 
Gen'l Taylor's despatch which he had read, con- 
demned it and said that he ought to explain it, and 
that he would cause him to do so. Gen'l Scott in- 
formed me that he would leave for Mexico to take 
the command of the army, travelling via N. York, 
where he would take a vessel on Monday next. 
He was in a good humour and was exceedingly 
grateful to me for having assigned him to the com- 
mand. In truth it was the only alternative. I am 
now satisfied that anybody would do better than Tay- 
lor. Taylor is no doubt brave & will fight, but is 
not fit for a higher command than that of a Regi- 
ment. I have no prejudice against him, but think 
he has acted with great weakness & folly. 

Sunday, 22nd November, 1 846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk, her niece. Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. After church Judge Mason, the 
Secretary of the Navy, spent an hour with me in my 
office examining that portion of my message which 
I had written relating to Mexico & the war. 

Monday, 2Jrd November, 1 846. — I was occu- 
pied in preparing [my] message and attending to 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 251 

other business on my table until 2 O'Clock P. M. to- 
day, when I opened my office for the reception of 
company. At that hour a number of persons called, 
chiefly office seekers, but I had no places for them & 
observed but little ceremony in telling them so. 

Tuesday, 24th November, l846.— Yict Presi- 
dent Dallas called this morning. I had an hour's 
conversation with him, and read to him that portion 
of my message which I had prepared on the subject 
of the tariff. Fie expressed himself as highly pleased 
with it, and paid me the compliment to say that he 
thought it the clearest and best production which had 
ever come from my pen. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour, all the members present. I read to them 
that portion of my message which I had prepared in 
relation to the Mexican war & our relations with that 
country. The Cabinet expressed their approbation 
of it. Some suggestions were made, but not on ma- 
terial portions of it, and [they] made some correc- 
tions mostly verbal. 

The Secretary of War read the answer which he 
had prepared to Gen'l Taylor's last despatch, & it 
was with some slight modifications agreed to. 

This evening at 7>4 O'Clock P. M. I accompanied 
Mrs. Polk and the ladies of my household to Gen'l 
Tomson's and witnessed the marriage of his daugh- 
ter. As soon as the ceremony was over, I retired & 
returned to my office, leaving Mrs. Polk & the family 
to remain until after supper. The Secretary of the 
Navy & Secretary of War returned with me. The 
Secretary of the Navy had received by to-night's mail 



252 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Nov. 

despatches from our squadron in the Gulf announc- 
ing the successful expedition of Commodore Perry 
against Tobasco & the capture of a number of Mexi- 
can Vessels. 

Mr. Clifford, the atto. Gen'l, called & informed 
me that he thought it necessary to visit his residence 
in Maine, but that he would be absent but a few 
days. 

Wednesday, 2Sth November, 1846. — I saw no 
company to-day, but was busily engaged in my office. 
The Secretary of State and of the Treasury, and 
some other public officers called in the course of the 
day on public business. I revised the portions of 
my message which I had written. 

Thursday, 26th November, 1846. — This being 
a day of Thanksgiving set apart by the authorities of 
the City, I directed that the public offices should be 
closed. 

Capt. Walker ^ of the Texan Rangers, whom I 
had appointed a captain in the mounted Rifle Regi- 
ment, called to pay his respect[s]. He had been in 
the City several days and made an apology for not 
having called earlier. 

I was engaged during the day in disposing of the 
business on my table, and in the further preparation 
of my message. 

After night Judge Catron of the Supreme Court 

^ Samuel Hamilton Walker, killed in the battle of Huamantla, 
October 9, 1847. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 253 

of the United States called. He reached the City, 
he informed me, this morning. 

Friday, ZJth November, 1846. — Vice President 
Dallas, Senator Bagby of AL, & Hon. Mr. Hough, ^ a 
Representative in Congress, called this morning. I 
saw the Secretaries of the Treasury, War, & Navy 
on official business in the course of the day. Some 
other public officers called on business. I was en- 
gaged during the day in revising the passages of my 
message which I had written and in disposing of the 
business on my table. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 28th November, 1846. — Vice Presi- 
dent Dallas called this morning. I read to him a 
part of my message. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present except the Atto. Gen'l, who is absent 
from the City on a visit to his family in Maine. I 
read to the Cabinet the passages of my message on 
various subjects which I had written. But few sug- 
gestions of modification or change were made by the 
members of the Cabinet. After I had read the pas- 
sage relating to the tariff I remarked that it con- 
tained my sentiments and opinions, when Mr. Bu- 
chanan remarked that I knew it did not contain his. 
I answered that I knew we differed in opinion on 

^William J. Hough, Representative from New York 1845- 
1847. 



254 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Nov. 

the subject, and had done so when I communicated 
my last message to Congress. When I read a para- 
graph recommending to Congress to make provision 
for ascertaining and marking the dividing line be- 
tween the U. S. & Great Brittain in the Oregon ter- 
ritory, in pursuance of the convention of the 15th 
of June last, Mr. Buchanan expressed the opinion 
that it was unnecessary, and that it would revive an 
angry discussion in Congress on the Oregon ques- 
tion. Upon this suggestion I struck the paragraph 
out. Mr. Buchanan spoke of the long delay and the 
expenses of completing the survey of the North East- 
ern boundary line, and the expense it had cost the 
country, and intimated that it ought to be enquired 
into. Upon this remark Mr. Walker seemed to be 
excited & put a question to Mr. Buchanan to know 
[what] abuses had occurred, remarking that he felt 
some interest in that matter as he had a friend & a 
relative who had been connected with that survey. 
It was evident that Mr. Walker was excited, & to 
avoid anything unpleasant between the gentlemen I 
caused the conversation to cease by calling the atten- 
tion of the Cabinet to the subject before them. All 
the paragraphs of my message which [I] designed 
to submit to-day having been read, Mr. Buchanan 
asked me if I had read the draft of an answer which 
he had prepared, & which he had sent to me on yes- 
terday, to a communication addressed to me on the 
23rd Instant, by a person named Aelaria de Masa, 
M. D., who represented himself to be a Mexican 
citizen residing in Tamaulipas. I told him I had 
read it, but requested him to read it again. He did 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 255 

so. The letter of this person represented that in- 
habitants of the Northern Provinces of Mexico were 
ready to revolt & establish an indepcndant Republic, 
& would do so if they could have a guaranty from 
the U. S., I St, that they w^ould not be annexed to 
the U. S., and 2nd, that we would protect & defend 
them in their contemplated revolution as long as the 
war lasted with the U. S. Mr. Buchanan's answer 
gave in substance the guarantees requested. After 
he had read it, I remarked that I was not satisfied of 
the propriety of giving su(^h an answer, or any an- 
swer at all. I had doubts of giving such an answer 
as he had prepared, because it might seriously em- 
barrass the U. S. when we came to make peace with 
Mexico. When that peace is made we must obtain 
a cession of territory to indemnify us, & if New Mex- 
ico and the Californias, which we expected to obtain, 
if not a greater extent of territory, should declare 
their independance, we would be bo[u]nd if this 
guaranty was given not to accept a cession of them 
from Mexico. Mr. Buchanan said he would insert 
a paragraph excepting New Mexico and the Cali- 
fornias from the guaranty. I told him still I would 
not like to bind myself in advance not to accept any 
other territory which we might obtain by a Treaty 
from Mexico. Mr. Buchanan expressed his opin- 
ion strongly against acquiring any more Southern 
territory, & said he thought if we did it would be 
the means of dissolving the Union. He added that 
he thought if it was believed by the people that our 
object was to make a conquest of Tamaulipas & New 
Leon & annex them to the U. S. the war would be 



256 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Nov. 

Utterly odious. He expressed himself in favour of 
acquiring New Mexico & New Leon, but opposed to 
going further South. I told him I did not feel will- 
ing to decide the question in advance what we would 
deem it proper ultimately to acquire, that I wished 
to leave that an open question. In this Mr. Walker 
concurred with me in opinion, and was unwilling 
to make any such guaranty as that proposed. I told 
Mr. Buchanan that another objection to giving any 
answer at all to Dr. Masa's letter to me was, that I 
knew nothing of him; that he came to Washington 
with no credentials or authority or letters from any 
of his countrymen, and that I was unwilling to hold 
an official correspondence with a private individual 
of whom we knew nothing upon so important a sub- 
ject, and upon full reflection I thought it was the 
wise course to give no answer to his letter to me, & 
that he should be informed in a courteous manner 
that as he had no credentials I declined to do so. 
Mr. Buchanan differed very widely with me in opin- 
ion. He asked me if I would see Dr. Masa and 
give him the verbal answer. I told him if it was nec- 
essary I could do so, but that I preferred he should 
do so. He said it was so much against his opinion 
that he would prefer to be excused from doing so. 
Much more conversation took place on the subject, 
when he suggested that Mr. Trist, the ch. Clk. of 
the Dep't of State, could give him the verbal an- 
swer, to which I assented. It was clear to my mind 
that Mr. Buchanan desired to have me committed 
against accepting a cession or annexing the Prov- 
inces on the lower Rio Grande to the U. S. under 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 257 

any circumstances. Though I did not at this time 
contemplate such annexation, I desired to keep this 
an open question, & was unwilling to be committed 
in advance when it was unnecessary to be so. 

The Cabinet after a long sitting adjourned at y/2 
O'clock P. M. 

After night Hon. Lynn Boyd of Ky. & Hon. Mr. 
Kennedy of Indiana, members of the Ho. Repts., 
called. 

The Secretary of the Navy also called & read to 
me despatches received to-night from Commodore 
Conner, announcing that he had captured Tampico 
without firing a gun. 

Sunday, 2gth November, 1846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. Just before 
I started to church the Secretary of War and the Sec- 
retary of the Navy called to consult me about send- 
ing an additional force, particularly a land force, 
to Tampico, sufficiently strong to hold that place. 
They said they called to-day, because the orders 
should go out immediately. I concurred with them 
in the necessity of prompt action. I expressed my 
opinion that 1,500 or 2,000 troops should be ordered 
to proceed without delay to Tampico. They agreed 
with me in opinion and the Secretary of War said 
he would issue the order forthwith. Official infor- 
mation was received from Commodore Conner last 
night that he had Taken Tampico, and would re- 
quire a land force to hold it. 



258 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 1 30 Nov. 

Monday, 30th November, 76*^^.— Senators Tur- 
ney and Pennybacker & Representatives Stanton & 
Chase of Tennessee and Sims of Missouri called this 
morning. The Secretary of the Treasury called and 
handed to me a condensed statement of the condition jI 
of the finances, necessary to be noticed in my mes- I 
sage. I sent for the Secretary of State and conferred ■ 
with him in regard to parts of the message relating 
to our foreign affairs. 

Col. Benton called this morning. I submitted to 
him for his perusal that part of my message relating 
to the Mexican War & the tariff. He read them 
in the private room adjoining my office. He re- 
mained alone two or three hours, when he returned 
into my office and read to me the observations which 
he had written down upon that portion of the mes- 
sage relating to the Mexican War. They were not 
very material except in relation to the disposition 
to be made of the conquered territory, but I will 
preserve them for future reference. He said he had 
not had time to examine the tarifif part of the mes- 
sage, but on leaving said he would return on to-mor- 
row morning. 

To-night I prepared the financial part of my mes- 
sage, from the statement handed to me by the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury to-day. 

Tuesday, Ist December, 1846.— Col. Benton 
called again this morning & resumed the examination 
of that part of my message which I submitted to him 
on yesterday in relation to the war with Mexico. I 
had proposed in my draft to submit to Congress the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 259 

propriety, at the same time that the war should be 
vigorously prosecuted, to establish a line of boundary 
securing to the U. S. a sufficient territory to afford 
indemnity for the expenses of the war, and to our 
citizens who hold pecuniary demands against Mex- 
ico. I proposed, also, that a more permanent Gov- 
ernment should be provided by Congress over the 
conquered provinces than the temporary Govern- 
ments which had been established by our Military 
and Naval commanders according to the laws of 
war. Col. Benton thought these passages should be 
omitted, and submitted to me in writing the reasons 
for this opinion. This paper I will preserve. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the mem- 
bers present except the Atto. Gen'l, who is absent on 
a visit to his residence in Maine, and the Secretary 
of the Navy, who was prevented from attending by 
indisposition. The sitting was a short one, each 
member of the Cabinet being much engaged in his 
office in preparing his Report preparatory to the 
meeting of Congress. I read the paragraph of my 
message relating to the finances. Several subjects 
were briefly considered, but nothing of importance 
occurred. After Mr. Buchanan retired Mr. Walker 
read that part of his annual report which related to 
the tarifif. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 2nd December, 1846.— A number 
of members of Congress called to-day. The Secre- 
taries of State, Treasury, & Navy and the Post Mas- 



26o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Dec. 

ter Gen'l called on business at different periods of 
the day. I informed them severally of Col. Ben- 
ton's views in relation to that part of my message 
relating to Mexico (see this diary of yesterday) and 
read to them his written observations in relation to 
it. Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Walker differed with him 
in opinion & preferred to retain the passages ob- 
jected to by him. Mr. Mason was strongly inclined 
to concur in opinion with him. All agreed, how- 
ever, that it was inexpedient to retain the passage[s], 
if for no other reason [than] that if they were op- 
posed by Col. Benton they would not probably pass 
Congress. Mr. Buchanan proposed a substitute for 
them which I will consider. Mr. Buchanan pre- 
pared also a paragraph for the message in relation 
to the letters of marque which had been issued by 
Mexico. This also I will revise. Mr. H. C. Wil- 
liams, a confidential clerk, was engaged to-day in 
the private room, copying the parts of my message 
which were finished. After night the Secretary of 
the Navy occupied an hour with me in aiding me 
in preparing & correcting parts of my message. 

On yesterday Vice President Dallas enclosed to 
me a letter from Judge Jno. K. Kane, suggesting 
the importance of my promising to appoint Gov. 
Shunk of Penn. to an office at the expiration of his 
present term, in order that he might not be a candi- 
date for re-election, & thereby promote the harmony 
of the Democratic party in Pennsylvania. I re- 
turned the letter to Mr. Dallas as requested. This 
morning Mr. Dallas called to see me on the subject. 
I told him that I did not know what would be in 



1846] JAxMES K. POLK'S DIARY 261 

my power, but that I considered Gov. Shunk a 
worthy man and that I would be willing to give 
him an appointment, if at the expiration of his term 
there should be any that would suit him. I told 
Mr. Dallas that as Mr. Buchanan was a member of 
my Cabinet he ought to be consulted on the subject 
before I decided upon it, to the propriety of which 
he readily assented. He said that he would write 
to Judge Kane to come to Washington, that he might 
consult Mr. Buchanan on the subject. I made no 
promise & authorized none to be made on the sub- 
ject. 

Thursday, Jrd December, 1846. — A number of 
members of Congress called to-day. Several of the 
members of the Cabinet also called on business. I 
occupied a considerable part of the day in revising 
my message, and in writing additional paragraphs for 
it. Two confidential Clerks, viz., H. C. Williams 
and W. V. Voorhies, were engaged in preparing 
copies of my message. The[y] occupied the pri- 
vate room adjoining my office. 

To-day Judge Catron, Hon. Cave Johnson, Mr. 
Stanton & Chase of Tennessee, and Hon. Lynn Boyd 
of Ky. took a family dinner with me. After night 
Senators Benton and Dix called. I submitted to 
Mr. Dix for his perusal the portions of my message 
relating to the Mexican War and the tariff. Whilst 
he was reading these parts of the message in my Pri- 
vate Secretary's office, I had a long conversation 
with Col. Benton. In presence of Mr. Dix I 
avowed what I had said when we were alone, which 



262 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Dec. 

was in brief that if Congress would pass a law au- 
thorizing it, I would appoint him Lieut. General of 
the army and give him the chief command in Mex- 
ico. I agreed, also, to the suggestion which Col. B. 
had made some time ago, to appoint a Commis- 
sion of three persons to accompany the army, who 
should be fully authorized to Treat for peace. Col. 
B. had previously objected to Mr. Slidell, our late 
minister to Mexico, as one of this commission. I 
told him it would embarrass me to exclude him. 
He was earnest in expressing his objections to him. 
I told him that Mr. Slidell had been appointed 
chiefly on the recommendation of Mr. Buchanan, 
who still thought well of him, and [I] thought I 
would do him great injustice to exclude him, if such 
a commission was instituted. Mr. Benton had in- 
dicated Mr. Crittendon and Gov. Wright as mem- 
bers of the Commission, and wished to know if he 
could mention the subject to Mr. Crittendon. I 
told him I would prefer that he should not until I 
could confer with Mr. Buchanan in reference to Mr. 
Slidell, which I would do on to-morrow. I re- 
quested Col. Benton to see Mr. Buchanan on the 
subject also. He said he would do so. My conver- 
sation with Col. Benton was of a free and pleasant 
character. 

Mr. Dix after reading the parts of my message 
which I handed to him, expressed his satisfaction 
with it. He suggested that an immaterial para- 
graph in relation to the Mexican war should be 
omitted, to which I at once assented, as it did weaken 
the view of the subject which I had taken. The 



1846] JAMES K. POLKS DIARY 263 

tarifl passage he approved, but suggested that in the 
part in which I expressed the opinion that the tarifl 
of 1846 should not be " changed or modified " until 
after it should have a fair trial, the word " modified " 
had perhaps better be omitted. The reason which 
he assigned was, that as the Whigs were for the 
restoration of the tariff of 1842 just as it was, they 
might charge the Democrats for being in favour of 
the tariff of 1846 just as it is. I declined striking 
out the word and he did not insist upon it. 

Friday, 4th December, 1 846. — My doors were 
closed to-day against all persons except members of 
Congress & members of the Cabinet who might call. 
My engagements rendered this absolutely necessan.'. 
A number [of] members of Congress called. Mr. 
Buchanan called at 12 O'Clock & informed me that 
Col. Benton had been at the Department of State 
this morning and informed him of the conversation 
he had held with me on last evening, in relation to 
Mr. Slidell as one of the members of the proposed 
Mexican Commission. Mr. Buchanan represented 
him as having been ver\- violent in his opposition to 
Mr. Slidell. Mr. Buchanan was strongly and ear- 
nestly of opinion that if such a commission was in- 
stituted I could not exclude Mr. Slidell as a 
member of it without disgracing him, and to that 
he was opposed. He expressed a high opinion of 
Mr. Slidell. I should have sent for Col. Benton 
to have a further conversation with him on the sub- 
ject, but I was so much occupied that I had not time 
to hold the inter\'iew with him. The two confiden- 



264 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Dec. 

tial clerks continued copying my message to-day, but 
did not finish it. 

This was reception evening. An unusual number 
of persons, members of Congress & others, called. 

Saturday, Sih December, 1846. — Up to the hour 
of the meeting of the Cabinet my office was open for 
the reception of members of Congress. A number 
of them called & among them Gen'l Cass. 

The Cabinet met at 1 1 O'Clock, being the usual 
hour, all the members present. 

Gen'l Hough of New York, one of the Regents 
of the Smithsonian Institute, [called] to submit for 
the approval of the President & the Cabinet & Com- 
missioner of Patents, in pursuance of an act of the 
last Session of Congress, the selection which had 
been made by the Regents as the site for the Institute. 
I introduced him into my office where the Cabinet 
w^ere assembled. He submitted the selection for the 
site which the Regents had made. It consisted of 
about 100 acres of land, being the greater part of 
the mall or vacant ground in the City of Washing- 
ton. Although I thought too much ground had 
been embraced, I considered that the responsibility 
devolved on the Regents, and I at once said I was 
willing to give my assent. The Secretary of the 
Treasury & Secretary of the Navy expressed similar 
opinions. Mr. Buchanan objected. He thought 
the quantity of acres was extravagant & unnecessary, 
and he could not consent to it. Mr. Burke, the com- 
missioner of Patents, objected also. As the act of 
Congress required the unanimous consent of the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 265 

President and the other members of the Cabinet & 
the commissioner of Patents, of course the Selection 
proposed by the Regents was rejected. I told Gen'l 
Hough to report to the board of Regents the result, 
& informed him that I would call the gentlemen to- 
gether again at any time when I should be notified 
that it was necessary, to hear & consider any further 
proposition which they might make in relation to 
the selection of the site. 

After Gen'l Hough retired, being about i O'Clock 
P. M., I commenced reading to the Cabinet the re- 
vised copy of my message which I had caused to be 
copied by Messrs. Williams & Voorhies, the two 
confidential clerks whom I had entrusted to make 
the copies. The reading and discussions upon vari- 
ous parts of the message occupied until 4 O'Clock 
P. M. without finishing it. Some modifications not 
afifecting principle were made. Mr. Buchanan said 
he had a dinner engagement and could not remain 
longer. I was unwilling to send in the message with- 
out submitting the whole of it to the Cabinet, and 
from the necessity of the case it was agreed to have 
a special meeting at 9 O'Clock to-morrow morning. 

Sunday, 6th December, 1 846. — The Cabinet met 
according to adjournment at 9 O'Clock this morning, 
all the members present, when the balance of my 
message was read to them. Some slight modifica- 
tions were made. I disliked having a meeting of the 
Cabinet to-day, but as Congress meets on to-morrow, 
and it was important to have the message ready, 
there seemed an absolute necessity for it 



266 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Dec. 

The Cabinet adjourned at 1 1 O'Clock A. M. when 
I attended the first Presbyterian Church in company 
with Mrs. Polk & her niece, Miss Rucker. 

Judge Catron of the Supreme Court of the U. S., 
whom we met at Church, took a family dinner with 
us to-day. 

Monday, Jth December, 1 846. — Saw a number 
of members of Congress this morning. Between 12 
& I O'clock, having learned that both Houses of 
Congress had organized, I delivered to Maj'r Heiss 
of the Union office a copy of my message to be 
printed. At i O'Clock P. M. the judges of the Su- 
preme Court of the U. States attended by their offi- 
cers made an official call. I received them in the 
parlour below stairs. 

Between i & 2 O'Clock a Joint Committee of the 
two Houses of Congress called to notify me that the 
two Houses had organized & were ready to receive 
any communication I might have to make. I in- 
formed them that I would transmit to each House 
a message in writing at 12 O'Clock on to-morrow. 

After night I was engaged in correcting the proof 
sheets of my message. Judge Mason, my Private 
Secretary, and the clerks who had copied it, aided 
by the proof reader of the Union office, assisted me. 
We did not finish until about i O'Clock A. M. of 
the 8th Dcr., 1846, when being greatly fatigued I 
retired to rest. 

Tuesday, 8th December, 1846. — Many members 
of Congress called to pay their respects this morning. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 267 

About 10 O'clock I discovered that in my message 
as furnished to the printer on yesterday I had mis- 
taken a date, having inserted in one paragraph relat- 
ing to Santa Anna's return to Mexico, the 15th, when 
it should have been the 13th of May, 1846, as the 
day on which the instructions to Commodore Con- 
ner were given not to obstruct his return if he should 
attempt to do so. I corrected the error in the two 
copies intended for Congress and sent my Private 
Secretary to the printing office to make the correction 
there also. When he returned he informed me 
that many copies had been struck off before he 
reached the office, but none of course had been cir- 
culated. 

At 11^ O'clock my Private Secretary left with 
my message for the purpose of delivering it to the 
two Houses of Congress. He returned about 2}4 
O'clock P. M. and informed me that as far as he 
could ascertain the message had been well received. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, mem- 
bers of Congress & strangers, consisting of ladies & 
gentlemen, called. Ma[n]y of them congratulated 
me upon the favourable impression which my mes- 
sage had made. 

This was the regular day of the meeting of the 
Cabinet. Several of the members of the Cabinet 
called at different hours, but no meeting was held. 
This evening Rob't M. McLane, Esqr., who had 
been despatched during the last month as bearer of 
despatches to the army in Mexico, returned bearing 
despatches from the army to the War Department. 
He brought also private letters from some of the 



268 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Dec. 

officers to me. This was reception evening. A 
number of persons, ladies & Gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, gth December, 1846. — A number 
of members of Congress called and paid their re- 
spects this morning. Col. Benton called this morn- 
ing. I had requested my Private Secretary to re- 
quest him to do so. I had a long conversation with 
him, in relation to the appointment of a Lieut. Gen'l 
to command the army, and the appointment of a com- 
mission to negotiate a peace with Mexico. I told 
him, as I had previously done, that if Congress would 
authorize the appointment of a Lieut. Gen'l who 
should be commander in chief of the army in Mex- 
ico, I would appoint him to the command. With 
this he was satisfied, but doubted whether Congress 
would do so. In regard to the commission, of 
which I had before conversed with him, to accom- 
pany the Head Quarters of the army, to be com- 
posed of distinguished men of both parties, I had a 
long conversation with him. I agreed with him in 
the propriety of instituting such a commission. A 
difference of opinion existed as to the men who 
should compose it. I felt myself bound as a matter 
of personal honour to retain Mr. Slidell as a mem- 
ber of the commission, to which Mr. Benton ob- 
jected in earnest & even violent terms. His objec- 
tions to Mr. Slidell were personal. I told him that 
I had originally appointed Mr. Slidell Envoy Ex- 
traordinary & Minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico 
more upon the information of him given me by Mr. 
Buchanan & others than upon any personal knowl- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 269 

edge of him, as my personal acquaintance with him 
was very slight. 1 told him that Mr. SlidelTs con- 
duct had been satisfactory to me while he was in 
Mexico, and that upon his return he had proposed 
to resign his commission, but upon my request had 
retained it and held himself in readiness to resume 
his duties whenever required, & that I should re- 
gard it as doing him great injustice if I were now 
to dismiss him. He was still not satisfied with him. 
The other commissioners spoken of were Gov. 
Wright of N. Y., Mr. Crittendon of Ky., & himself. 
I was agreed to all of them, but thought it was due 
to Mr. Slidell that as he was now the minister to 
Mexico he should be associated with them as one of 
the commission. Not being able to agree with Col. 
Benton upon this point, I told him I would think 
further of it, & requested him to call again to-night 
at 9 O'clock. 

Senator Bagby called shortly after Col. Benton 
left & I had a full conversation with him on the 
subject. At my request he promised to see Senator 
Dix of N. Y. on the subject, and, if deemed advisable 
by Senator Dix & himself, they would call on Col. 
Benton & see if they could reconcile him to the as- 
sociation of Mr. Slidell with the commission. I 
told Senator Bagby that I thought well of Mr. Sli- 
dell, and thought Col. Benton ought to yield his per- 
sonal objections to him. 

At 9 O'clock P. M. Col. Benton called according 
to appointment. Senators Bagby & Dix had seen 
him this evening. I found him still stubbornly op- 
posed to Mr. Slidell as a member of the commission. 



270 JA:\IES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Dec. 

I finally said to him that I \Yas anxious to appoint 
him Lut. Gen'l if Congress would give the authority 
to appoint such an officer, but that in regard to the 
commission I should still feel much embarrassed if 
I was required to dismiss Mr. Slidell & not retain 
him as a member of the commission. Inasmuch, 
however, as he still objected to him, I told him I 
was disposed to leave the question of instituting a 
commission an open question, & that I would see 
certain leading members of Congress & communi- 
cate to them my desire to be authorized to appoint 
a Lut. Gen'l of the army. Col. Benton thought Mr. 
Crittendon could render important aid in eflecting 
the object, and that it might be important to con- 
fer with him freely but confidentially. I told him 
that I had no objection that he should do so; and 
said to him, if he did so, that he might intimate to 
Mr. Crittendon that the institution of a commission, 
to be composed of members of the two political 
parties, to treat with Mexico was under consider- 
ation by the Government, but was not yet deter- 
mined upon, but that if resolved on he (Mr. 
Crittendon) would probably be looked to as one of 
the commissioners. This seemed to be satisfactory 
to Col. Benton. 

I received to-day the charge d'affaires of the 
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. He was presented 
to me in the parlour below Stairs by the Secretary 
of State. This is the first Diplomatic R.epresenta- 
tive from that Kingdom who has ever been ac- 
credited by [them to] the Government of the U. 
States. 



j846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ^ 

Thursday, loth December, 1846. — A number of 
members of Congress called and paid their respects 
to-day. Many other persons called also. I was 
engaged as usual in my ofSce during the day. 

I gave a Cabinet dinner to-day. at which all the 
Cabinet except Atto. Gen'l Clifford were present. 
Several Senators, and among them Mr. Benton and 
Gen'l Cass, were of the party. Mr. Rush of Phil. 
& rher renrlemen were also of the pam\ Mrs. 
Madison was present. The whole part}.* consisted of 
about 10 persons. 

Friday, nth December, 1846. — Both Houses of 
Congress having adjourned over on yesterday until 
monday next, a large number of members of both 
Houses, and of both political parties, called & paid 
their respects to-day. Many strangers also called. 
From 10 OClock in the morning until 3^2 O'Clock 
in the afternoon my office was not free from com- 
pany. Among the number were, of course, some 
office-seekers, who annoy me much. 

This evening my drawing room was open for the 
reception of company. iMany persons, members of 
Congress 5c strangers, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

I requested the Secretar}^ of War to consult Gen'l 
Cass this evening ic obtain his opinion as to the 
policy of appointing a Lieut. Gen'l of the army, & 
a commission to treat with Mexico. 

Saturday. 12th December, 1846. — I received 
company this morning up to the hour of the meeting 
of the Cabinet, tiz.. 1 1 O'Clock A. M. Many mem- 



272 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Dec 

bers of Congress called. At 11 O'Clock the Cab- 
inet assembled, all the members present. Several 
public subjects, chiefly connected with or relating 
to the Mexican war, were the subject of consider- 
ation. 

At I O'clock P. M. a committee of the Regents 
of the Smithsonian Institute called. The Com- 
mittee consisted of Senator Evans of Maine, of 
Representatives Hough of N. York & Owen of 
Indiana. They submitted for the approval of the 
President & the persons named in the act of the 
last Session of Congress a Resolution proposing to 
select as the site of the Smithsonian Institution that 
portion of the public grounds on the Mall lying 
between 7th and 12th Streets in the City of Wash- 
ington, containing, as they stated, about 52 acres of 
land. Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Burke (the commis- 
sioner of the Patent office) objected to the selection 
made by the Regents, and particularly to the quan- 
tity of acres of land as being unnecessarally large. 
Mr. Walker and Mr. Mason were willing to give 
their assent to the selection of the site proposed, 
though both preferred the situation between 12th & 
14th Streets, containing about 32 acres. Mr. Marcy 
preferred the site between 12th and 14th Street[s], but 
did not say positively that he would withhold his 
assent to the selection of the site which the Regents 
proposed. The Committee after considerable dis- 
cussion retired, upon the understanding that their 
board would meet again in about a week and that 
before that time a definitive answer would be given 
to them by the gentlemen whose assent was required 



1846I JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 273 

by the act. After the committee retired the matter 
was discussed, when it was ascertained that the 
opinion was unanimous that the most eligible site 
for the Institution was on the elevated ground be- 
tween i2th and 14th Street[s]. Mr. Buchanan & 
Mr. Burke were wholly unwilling to give their as- 
sent to the selection of the site between 7th & 12th 
Streets, w^iile all were of opinion that the site be- 
tween 1 2th & 14th Streets was greatly to be pre- 
ferred. Finally it was unanimously agreed that I 
should inform the committee that our assent would 
be given to the selection of the ground between 12th 
& 14th Street[s] and extending West of 14th Street to 
the Potomac River as the Site of the Institution, 
with the proviso that the Washington monument 
may be erected on that part of the ground West 
of 14th Street and between that Street & the Potomac 
River. 

The Secretary of War informed me that he had 
seen Gen'l Cass, as I had requested him to do on 
yesterday (see diary of yesterday) in relation to the 
policy or propriety of appointing a Lieut. Gen'l of 
the army and a commission to treat with Mexico. 
The Secretary reported that Gen'l Cass, though he 
did not advise it, would not withhold his assent if 
the Government desired it, but thought that others 
would object, and that such a measure could not be 
carried through Congress. His own assent, from 
W'hat the Secretary of War Reported to me, it was 
manifest would be reluctantly given, & only because 
the Government desired it. 



274 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Dec. 

Sunday, 13th December, 1 846. — Attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. 

Before church hour this morning Mr. Atto. Gen'l 
Clifford called and greatly surprised me by inform- 
ing me that he had prepared his letter of resigna- 
tion of the office of Attorney Genl of the U. S., 
and had called to confer with me on the subject. I 
at once expressed my astonishment to him, and 
told him I should greatly regret it, if he should take 
such a step. I told him that I was entirely satisfied 
with him, and hoped he would retain his place. He 
read the letter to me, which he had prepared, but 
did not offer to deliver it to me. In the letter he 
tendered his resignation, but expressed his approba- 
tion in unqualified terms of the whole course of my 
administration; and also that his personal relations 
with me, and with every member of the Cabinet, 
were of the most friendly and agreeable character. 
The letter did not contain the reasons for proposing 
to resign. I understood distinctly, however, from 
his conversation, that he had some apprehensions 
that, having come into the office but a short time be- 
fore the meeting of the Court, he might not be able 
to sustain himself reputably. It seemed to be diffi- 
dence in his own capacity, which had induced him to 
think of resigning. I told him if he resigned now 
it would be assumed by his political opponents that 
he was not qualified, & that it would ruin him as a 
public man. In the course of the conversation he 
dropped a remark to the effect that perhaps I had 
some other person in my mind who could perform 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 275 

the duties better than he could. I told him I had 
not, and that if he were to resign it would greatly 
embarrass me. I think Mr. Clififord an honest man 
and a sincere friend. He feels in his new position 
somewhat timid, fears that he will not be able to 
sustain the reputation of his predecessors, and had 
therefore brought himself to the conclusion that he 
had better resign. He finally concluded not to 
tender his resignation, and retired apparently well 
satisfied at the interview I held with him. 

Monday, 14th December, 1 846. — My office was 
open for the reception of company to-day. A large 
number of members of Congress and strangers 
called. I was receiving visitors until near 2 O'Clock 
P. M., and in consequence of it [was] unable to give 
any attention to business until after that hour. From 
that time until night I was busily employed in dis- 
posing of the business on my table. After night Mr. 
Boyd of Ky., Mr. Cobb ^ of Georgia, Mr. Douglass 
of Illinois, and Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, all mem- 
bers of the Ho. Repts., called. They had been in- 
vited by my Private Secretary at my request, to call. 
I explained to them my embarrassment in conduct- 
ing the war with the present officers, and consulted 
them as to the propriety of passing a law authoriz- 
ing the appointment of a Lieut. General to command 
the army. I explained to them the objections to 
Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Scott, and the impossibility 
of conducting the War successfully when the Gen- 

^ Howell Cobb, 1815-1868, Representative from Georgia 1843- 
185 1, Secretary of the Treasury 185 7-1 860. 



276 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Dec. 

eral in Chief of the army did not sympathize with 
the Government, and cooperate with it in the pros- 
ecution of the War. This they fully appreciated, 
but w^ere unanimously of opinion that it would be 
impossible to pass a law through Congress to author- 
ize the appointment of a Lieut. General who should 
supersede Generals Taylor & Scott. I urged them 
to pass a law promptly appropriating the two mil- 
lions of dollars for which I had asked in my mes- 
sage; and also a law as recommended by the Secre- 
tary of War to raise 10,000 men to serve during the 
war with Mexico. To these measures they agreed, 
and promised me to have these measures brought up 
in Congress without delay. Gen'l Cass met me on 
my walk this afternoon and returned with me to my 
office. I consulted him as to the appointment of a 
Lieut. General of the army. He was agreed to it, 
but thought it could not pass Congress. He in- 
formed me that the rumour was out in the City that 
it was desired by the administration to have such an 
office created, & that if it was created Col. Benton 
was to be appointed. He had himself no objection 
to this, but had heard the subject spoken of this after- 
noon by Mr. Relfe of Mo., Mr. Dawson of Georgia,^ 
& Mr. McDowell ' of Ohio, all of the Ho. Repts. & 
all of whom were opposed to the measure. 

Tuesday, ISth December, 1846. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called before the hour of the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet this morning. 

^William C. Dawson, Representative from Georgia 1836- 
1841, Senator from Georgia 1849-1855. 
^Joseph J. McDowell, Representative from Ohio 1843-1847. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 277 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour (11 O'Clock 
A. M.) all the members present. Several subjects 
of some importance were considered, but which it is 
not important to note. 

After the Cabinet adjourned I was engaged in 
disposing of the business on my table. 

After night Senator Sevier of Arkansas called. 
He had been chosen chairman of the committee of 
Foreign Relations in the Senate on yesterday. I 
had a long interview with him in relation to our 
Foreign affairs, and especially in relation to the War 
with Mexico. I communicated to him the embar- 
rassments of conducting that war without a com- 
mander who sympathized with the Government, and 
in whom I could have confidence. I told him that 
I could have no such confidence in Gen'l Taylor, 
and that I had been compelled to send Gen'l Scott to 
take the command of the army as a choice of evils, 
he being the only man in the army who by his rank 
could command Taylor. After communicating to 
him all that had transpired he fully concurred with 
me in opinion. He fully concurred, also, that I 
ought to be authorized to appoint a Lieut. Gen'l to 
command the army, and that Col. Benton ought to 
be the man selected. I told him of the objections 
which had been made by some members of the Dem- 
ocratic party in Congress at [to] such a step. He 
left me saying that he would on to-morrow converse 
with some of the Democratic Senators, and en- 
deavour to ascertain whether a law to authorize the 
appointment of a Lieut. General could be passed by 
Congress. 



278 JAxMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Dec. 

This being reception evening a large number of 
ladies & gentlemen, including many members of 
Congress, called. 

Wednesday, Idth December, 1846. — I came to 
my office as usual, immediately after breakfast this 
morning, and found a gentleman waiting in the anti- 
room to see me. From that time until my dinner hour 
at 4 O'clock P. M. my office was not clear of com- 
pany. After dinner I took my usual walk. On my 
return I found a member of Congress waiting to see 
me. Until late bed time I had company. Since 
the commencement of my Presidency, I have never 
been so harassed and annoyed as during this day. 
Among my visitors were many members of Con- 
gress, either seeking petty appointments for their 
friends or complaining of appointments which upon 
the best lights before me I had made. I am thor- 
oughly satisfied that the patronage of the Govern- 
ment greatly weakens any President of the U. States, 
so much so, indeed, that I doubt whether any Presi- 
dent will ever again be re-elected. Members of 
Congress and others occupying high positions in 
Society, make representations to procure appoint- 
ments for their friends, upon which I cannot rely, 
& constantly lead me into error.^ I begin, more 
than I have ever done before, to distrust the disin- 
terestedness and honesty of all mankind. Some self- 

^ Gillet, Life and Times of Silas Wright, 1662, says that Polk 
on several occasions showed him papers strongly recommending 
applicants for office " signed by men in New York standing high 
in the estimation of the democracy, which were followed or some- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 279 

ish or petty local feeling seems to influence even 
members of Congress in their recommendations for 
oflice, much more than principle. When 1 act upon 
the information which they give me, and make a mis- 
take, they leave me to bear the responsibility, and 
never have the manliness to assume it themselves. 
Senator Dix was here to-night, greatly dissatisfied 
with the nomination of Henry K. Smith as Post 
Master at Buffalo in N. Y., which I had sent to the 
Senate, and I think it probable will oppose his con- 
firmation. This nomination I made on the last day 
of the last Session of Congress, upon the rejection of 
a former nominee, but it was not acted upon by the 
Senate. I appointed him immediately afterwards, 
but, although a good democrat, because he does not 
suit the taste of Senator Dix I infer from the tone of 
his conversation that with the aid of the votes of the 
Federalists in the Senate he may attempt to cause 
him to be rejected. Senator Dix was also much op- 
posed to the nomination of Levi D. Slocum as a 
Purser in the Navy, which I had had sent to the 
Senate. Such petty annoyances trouble me much 
more than the great principles upon which I admin- 
ister the Government. There is more selfishness and 
less principle among members of Congress, as well 
as others, than I had any conception [of], before I 
became President of the U. S. 

times preceded by letters from one of the signers, requesting that 
no attention be paid to their names because obtained under pres- 
sure of circumstances, and not because the appointment ought to 
be made." 



28o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Dec. 

Thursday, IJth December, 1846. — I submitted 
to-day to the usual trouble and annoyance of mem- 
bers of Congress and others, who called as usual to 
apply for petty offices for their friends. Many per- 
sons called to pay their respects, both ladies and gen- 
tlemen, and I was compelled wholly to neglect the 
business on my table in receiving them. This I was 
compelled to do or give offence. The day was spent 
in this way, most unprofitably. 

At 5 O'clock P. M. I had invited the Diplomatic 
corps residing at Washington to dine with me. At 
that hour they commenced assembling. All the 
Foreign Ministers now in the City, with their wives 
& those attached to their respective legations, at- 
tended & dined with me. The Secretary of State 
(Mr. Buchanan) and his chief clerk (Mr. Trist & 
his wife) also dined with me. 

Friday, l8th December, 1846. — The Senate hav- 
ing adjourned over on yesterday until Monday 
next, several Senators called on me, some on busi- 
ness and others to pay their respects. Some mem- 
bers of the Ho. Repts. and many strangers called 
also. My whole time until my dinner hour was con- 
sumed in receiving & conversing with them. It was 
a day spent without profit. Nothing annoys me so 
much as to have my whole time occupied in seeing 
company, and conversing about petty offices or mat- 
ters that are immaterial. I would much prefer to 
be relieved from this annoyance and to attend to the 
business of the country. To avoid seeing the com- 
pany who call, however, is impossible without giving 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 281 

offence. I feel that I am compelled to yield to it, 
and to deprive myself of the ordinary rest, in order 
to attend to the indispensable duties which devolve 
upon me. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, mem- 
bers of Congress, citizens and strangers, ladies and 
gentlemen, called. 

Senator Niles of Connecticut called to-day, and 
I had a long conversation with [him] about the 
propriety of having authority from Congress to ap- 
point a Lieut. General of the army; and about the 
two million appropriation for which I had asked 
Congress, as a means of making peace with Mexico. 
He spoke in a friendly spirit, and was favourably 
disposed to my views upon both subjects. 

Saturday, igth December, 1846. — This was 
Cabinet day, but I saw company until the hour of 
their assembling. All the members of the Cabinet 
attended. I brought before them the Resolution ^ 
of the Ho. Repts. of the 15th Inst., calling for in- 
formation in relation to the Governments which had 
been established by our military and naval com- 
manders in the conquered provinces of Mexico. 
Mr. Buchanan was of opinion that the Resolution 
should not be answered. I differed with him in 
opinion, and told him I had made up my mind to 
send in all the information called for. The docu- 
ments containing the instructions upon the subject, 
and the Reports of our military and naval officers, 
were read. Among them was a document from 

^ Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. t^;^. 



282 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Dec. 

Brigadier Gen'l Kearney, containing a form of Gov- 
ernment over the conquered territory of New Mex- 
ico, which among other things declared that terri- 
tory to be a part of the U. S. and provided for the 
election of a Delegate to the Congress of the U. S. 
In these and some other respects he exceeded the 
power of a military commander over a conquered 
territory. It was agreed that in my message to Con- 
gress I must disapprove this part of the Document, 
though without censuring the Gen'l, who had mis- 
conceived the extent of his authority, but who had, 
no doubt, acted from patriotic motives. The sub- 
ject in all its bearings, as well as the principles of in- 
ternational law involved in it, were discussed at con- 
siderable length, and were fully considered. I ad- 
dressed a note to Senator Calhoun of S. C. this morn- 
ing, requesting him to call on me to-day. He called 
about 5 O'clock P. M. I stated to him my embar- 
rassment in conducting the War with Mexico, when 
I had to rely upon Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Scott, 
neither of whom had any sympathies with the Gov- 
ernment, and the former of whom had already 
thrown obstacles in the way of the prosecution of the 
plans of the Government. I expressed to him my 
desire to have authority from Congress to appoint a 
Lieut. Gen'l to take command of the army, and told 
him frankly that if I was invested with such author- 
ity I would appoint Senator Benton of Missouri 
to command. He was decidedly opposed to having 
such an officer and gave his reasons for his opinion ^ 

^ For Calhoun's views on the Lieutenant General project see 
Report of American Historical Association, 1899, II, 727. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 283 

at some length. I found that his mind was settled 
upon the subject, and chat it was useless to press it. 
I next introduced the two million appropriation for 
which 1 had asked with a view to negotiations with 
Mexico. Of this he approved, and said he would 
vote double that sum, or more if necessary. He said 
he could not vote for it with the slavery restriction 
which had been attached to a bill with the same ob- 
ject in the Ho. Repts. near the close of the last ses- 
sion of Congress, & that if such a restriction were 
contained in any Treaty with Mexico, he would vote 
against ratifying the Treaty. I told him that such 
a restriction would be most mischievous, and would 
probably defeat the object in view. I then asked 
him what boundary I ought to insist upon in a Treaty 
with Mexico, saying to him that I would be pleased 
to have his opinion upon that point. He mentioned 
Upper California as being important to us, and inti- 
mated that he would be satisfied with the acquisi- 
tion of that territory. I then told him that the 
boundary which I proposed to obtain, if practicable, 
would cede to the U. S. the Provinces of New Mex- 
ico, Upper and Lower California. He said that 
would be entirely satisfactory to him, and added 
that he attached but little value to Lower California 
and cared but little about it. I asked what sum I 
should agree to pay for such a boundary, in addition 
to the claims due to our own citizens & the expenses 
of the War. He answered that he would pay a blind 
sum, and would not stand on a few millions of dol- 
lars. I told him if such a Treaty was made Slavery 
would probably never exist in these Provinces. To 



284 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Dec. 

this he readily assented, and said he did not desire 
to extend slavery; but that if the slavery restriction 
was put into a Treaty, it would involve a principle, 
and that whatever the other provisions of the Treaty 
were, he would vote against it. My conversation 
with him was a frank & pleasant one. He was in a 
good humour, talked in a pleasant tone, and, I in- 
ferred, was pleased that I had sent for him. 

Hon. Robert Dale Owen of In. [Indiana], one of 
the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, called 
and submitted to me for my approval, and that of 
the members of the Cabinet named in the act of the 
last Session upon that subject, another selection for 
a site for the institution, which the Regents proposed. 
The site now proposed contains about 16 acres, and 
is the South half of the Mall between 9th and 12th 
Streets in the City of Washington. He said he had 
seen Mr. Burke, the commissioner of Patents, who 
was willing to give his assent to this selection. When 
the Cabinet met I submitted the proposed site to 
them & they all assented. 

Sunday, 20th December, 1846. — I attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. After din- 
ner Senator Houston of Texas called, with whom I 
had a conversation of an hour. I was not apprised 
of his intention to call, until he came into my office. 

After night the Hon. Mr. Douglass of Illinois 
& the Hon. Mr. Thompson of Pennsylvania, both 
members of the Ho. Repts., called. I stated to them 
confidentially the answer I would make to the Res- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 285 

olution of the Ho. Repts. of the 15th Inst., in rela- 
tion to the Governments established in the conquered 
territories of Mexico. I submitted to them the doc- 
uments which would accompany the message, and 
particularly the form of Government established in 
New Mexico by Gen'l Kearney, by which he had 
exceeded his authority, but no doubt with patriotic 
intentions. I communicated the facts to them, that 
they might be prepared to meet any attacks which 
might be made by the opposition when the message 
was sent in. 

Monday, 21 st December, 1 846. — Saw company 
until 12 O'clock to-day. Many members of Con- 
gress and citizens called. 

At I O'clock P. M. the Secretary of State called 
and presented to me Mr. Osma,^ Envoy Extraordi- 
nary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the U. S. from 
the Republic of Peru. I received him in the par- 
lour below^ stairs. He made an address to me in 
the French language. As I speak only the English 
language I did not understand him, but as upon 
such occasions of ceremony the interchange of civil- 
ities is always substantially the same, I addressed him 
in English, and as the Secretary of State, who un- 
derstands French, afterwards informed me, I made 
an appropriate reply. 

I was engaged to-day in disposing of the business 
on my table, and in preparing my message in answer 
to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. of the 15th Inst., 
in relation to the temporary Governments established 

^ Don Joaquin Jose Osma. 



286 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Dec. 

by our military commanders in the conquered Prov- 
inces of Mexico. I requested my Private Secre- 
tary to ask Col. Benton to call to-day. He called 
about 3 O'clock P. M. I had a conversation with 
him in relation to the propriety of creating a Lieut. 
Gen'l of the army, and expressed to him my appre- 
hensions, from what I had learned from members 
of Congress, that such a proposition if made could 
not pass Congress. Without expressing an Opinion 
upon this point, he urged that I should make the 
proposition at all events, and if Congress rejected it 
the responsibility would be theirs, and the Country 
would see that they had refused to grant to me the 
means which I had asked in order to prosecute the 
war. I found Col. B. fixed upon this point. If I 
do not propose it, it is manifest from my interview 
with him that both he and his friends will be greatly 
dissatisfied. I told him it was a matter of too much 
importance to decide without first consulting my 
Cabinet, which I would do on to-morrow. 

After dinner I spent the evening in seeing com- 
pany and in disposing of the business on my table. 

Tuesday, 22nd December, 1846. — I saw com- 
pany this morning until near the hour of the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet. Half an hour before the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet I sent for Judge Mason, the Sec. 
of the Navy, and consulted him as to the revised 
draft of the message which I had prepared in an- 
swer to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. of the 15th 
Inst., calling for information as to the Governments 
which had been established over the territories of 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 287 

Mexico which had been conquered by our arms. 
Some verbal amendments were made at his sugges- 
tion. The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour, all 
the members present except the attorney Gen'l, who 
was absent attending the Supreme Court of the U. S. 
I submitted to them the draft of my message, which 
after one or two verbal corrections was agreed to 
by all the Cabinet but Mr. Buchanan, who was in 
favour of omitting the declaration that I had not 
" recognized and approved " in its full extent the 
form of Government which had been established by 
Gen'l Kearney over the territory of New Mexico. 
I sent the message ^ to Congress. The subject of 
the two million appropriation which I had asked in 
my annual message, with a view to effect a peace 
with Mexico, was discussed. After full consider- 
ation all agreed that unless it was ascertained that it 
could pass Congress without being embarrassed with 
the slavery restriction,^ it had better not be brought 
forward. Some other matters of minor importance 
were considered. Senator Sevier of Ar. [Arkansas], 
chairman of the committee of Foreign Afifairs of 
the Senate, called during the Sitting of the Cabinet. 
I saw him for a few minutes in my Private Secre- 
tary's office, and made an appointment to see him, 
Gen'l Cass, & Senator Atherton, all of the Com- 
mittee of Foreign affairs of the Senate, at 9 O'Clock 
to-morrow^ evening. 

This was reception evening. The Circular par- 
lour was crowded with visitors, ladies and gentle- 

^ Richardson, Alessages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 506. 
^ The reference is to the Wilmot Proviso. 



288 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY {2^ Dec. 

men. Many members of Congress, several Foreign 
Ministers, and strangers were present. I observed 
that very few Federal members of Congress were 
present. This is probably to be attributed to the ex- 
citement growing out of the party debate now going 
on in the Ho. Repts., on the subject of the Mexican 
War and my course in conducting it. 

Wednesday, 2jrd December, 1846. — Many 
members of Congress as well as strangers called this 
morning. Among others Senator Archer called for 
the first time during the present Session of Congress. 
He explained to me the reason why he had not called 
earlier. He said he had waited to see my message 
in answer to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. of the 
15th Inst., in relation to the Governments established 
by our military and naval commanders over the 
Provinces of Mexico which they had conquered & 
taken possession of. He said he had read my mes- 
sage and the correspondence as published in the 
morning paper & was entirely satisfied with my 
course. He added that he could not have justified 
me if I had approved the usurpation of some of 
these officers, and as he had been personally intimate 
with me, he had declined calling upon me until he 
had learned what my course had been. Mr. Archer 
is a peculiar man; but has always professed great 
personal friendship for me. I disposed of several 
small matters of business on my table to-day. After 
night Mr. Wilmot of Pennsylvania called, and 
shortly afterwards Mr. Ch. J. Ingersoll came in. 
Mr. Wilmot called by appointment, but the pres- 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 289 

ence of Mr. Ingersoll prevented me from having as 
full a conversation with him as I desired. 1 did, 
however, hold a conversation with him on the sub- 
ject of slavery restriction, which had been attached 
upon his motion at the last Session of Congress to 
the Bill which proposed to appropriate two millions 
of Dollars, with a view to enable the Executive to 
make a Treaty with Mexico. He expressed an en- 
tire willingness to vote for the appropriation with- 
out the restriction, and said he would not again move 
the restriction, but that if it was moved by others he 
would feel constrained to vote for it. I told him I 
did not desire to extend slavery, that I would be sat- 
isfied to acquire by Treaty from Mexico the Prov- 
inces of New Mexico & the Californias, and that in 
these Provinces slavery could probably never exist, 
and the great probability was that the question would 
never arise in the future organization of territorial 
or State Governments in these territories. I told 
him that slavery was purely a domestic question, and 
to restrict the appropriation which had been asked 
for, so as to require the President to insert it in a 
Treaty with a Foreign Power, was not only inap- 
propriate and out of place, but that if such a Treaty 
were made it must be opposed by every Senator 
from a slave-holding State, and as one third of the 
Senators could reject a Treaty it could not be rati- 
fied, though it might be satisfactory in all other re- 
spects. I told him that tramelled with such a re- 
striction I could not use the appropriation at all and 
would not do so. He said he would be satisfied 
with a simple legislative declaration in the Bill of 



290 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Dec. 

the sense of Congress, without requiring it to be in- 
serted in the Treaty, or, if it was not moved by 
others, he would be willing to vote for the appropri- 
ation without such a restriction in any form. Mr. 
Ingersoll expressed himself as opposed to such a re- 
striction or declaration in any form, as being out of 
place and unwise when attached to such a Bill. Mr. 
Wilmot retired leaving Mr. Ingersoll. Mr. I. very 
soon introduced the subject of the French Mission, 
and applied to me in direct terms to appoint him. I 
told him that there were some embarrassments about 
it, and endeavoured to waive a direct answer, and 
at the same time not to give him ofifence. He how- 
ever pressed the subject, and said that when he de- 
clined being nominated to the Senate two or three 
days before the adjournment of the last Session of 
Congress (see diary of the 8th of Aug't last) he had 
calculated that I intended to nominate him to 
France. I told him that when he withdrew his ap- 
plication for the Russian Mission, that I had made 
some general remark that if it should hereafter be in 
my power to serve him I would be pleased to do so. 
It is very painful to me to have an application made 
face to face, by a gentleman of Mr. IngersoU's 
standing, for an office which I cannot with pro- 
priety bestow on him. There is great indelicacy in 
such applications. I predict that in consequence of 
his disappointment Mr. Ingersoll will be opposed 
to my administration during the balance of my term. 
Possibly this hostility may not show itself until after 
the mission to France is filled, as he may still have 
hope that he may yet get it. 



1846] JAMES K, POLK'S DIARY 291 

At 9 O'clock P. M. Senators Sevier, Cass, and 
Atherton of the committee of Foreign affairs of the 
Senate called in pursuance of an appointment which 
I made with Mr. Sevier on yesterday. I had a long 
conversation with them on the importance of obtain- 
ing the appropriation of two millions of Dollars, 
for which I had asked as a means of making peace 
with Mexico. I repeated to them the views which 
I had expressed this evening to Mr. Wilmot. The 
difficulty was the Slavery restriction which had been 
moved in the House when the subject was before 
Congress at the last Session. I informed [them] 
that so important did I regard the appropriation that 
upon it might depend a speedy peace, and that with- 
out it the war with Mexico might be protracted for 
an indefinite length of time. I gave my opinion 
that no party which might be in power in Mexico 
was strong enough to make peace and still retain 
power, without money to feed, clothe, and pay the 
army. I told them that a knowledge on the part 
of the rulers of Mexico that upon concluding a sat- 
isfactory Treaty of boundary, two or four millions 
would be promptly paid, would induce them to make 
a Treaty, because with the money they could secure 
the support of the army and be able to retain power. 
To this they all agreed. They agreed further that 
the slavery restriction would be improper in a 
Treaty, and all of them avowed their willingness to 
vote for the appropriation in its unrestricted form. 
They said they would report the Bill without the re- 
striction, but that if it was moved in the Senate 
Gen'l Cass & Mr. Atherton would be in great peril 



292 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Dec. 

with their constitutents to vote against it. Mr. 
Sevier felt no such embarrassment. He was op- 
posed to the restriction in any form or shape. Gen'l 
Cass ^ and Mr. Atherton agreed to consult the North- 
ern Democratic Senators, and if they could induce 
them to stand together & vote against the restriction 
if moved in the Senate, they would do so. Some 
further conversation occurred upon other topics con- 
nected with our Foreign affairs. 

Thursday, 24th December, 1846. — Many mem- 
bers of Congress called as usual this morning. After 
I O'clock P. M. I was enabled to devote some time 
to the business on my table. 

I had a Dinner party to-day. Between 30 & 40 
persons, members of the two Houses of Congress and 
several ladies of their families, dined with me. 
Among others the Vice President, his wife and two 
daughters, and the Speaker of the Ho. Repts. were 
of the party. Mr. Calhoun, who was also of the 
party, remained at my request after dinner until the 
company had dispersed, when he [we] retired from 

^ In the few months immediately following the first introduction 
of the Wilmot Proviso Cass changed from his first attitude of 
advocacy of the measure to one of direct opposition to it. Upon 
its introduction, in August, 1846, he expressed his regret that the 
course of events in the Senate had denied him the opportunity 
of casting his vote for it. In the following session of Congress 
he opposed it, however, basing his opposition on the ground of its 
inexpediency. Finally, in his famous Nicholson letter of Decem- 
ber, 1847, which won him the nomination of his party for the 
Presidency in 1848, he took the ground that the measure was un- 
constitutional. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 293 

the parlour to my office. I resumed the conversa- 
tion which I had with him a few days ago, about the 
proper manner of conducting the Mexican War. 1 
was particularly desirous to have his concurrence in 
the proposition to create a Lieut. Gen'l to command 
the army during the Mexican War. I found he still 
had objections to it, which I fear he will not yield. 
He expressed himself in favour of the policy of es- 
tablishing a cordon of Military Posts ^ and holding 
a sufficient territory to indemnify ourselves, instead 
of making the crushing movement with a great 
Army upon the City of Mexico. He thought there 
were almost insuperable difficulties to the latter 
policy, & that if pursued the war might be of indefi- 
nite duration. My conversation with him was of a 
friendly & pleasant character. 

Friday, 2Sth December, 1 846. — Not more than 
half a dozen persons called to-day, and they were on 
business. It being Christmas day, the family at- 
tended church. I remained in my office, attended 
to some of the business on my table, & wrote a rough 
draft of a message which I have made up my mind 
to send to Congress recommending the appointment 
of a Lieut. General of the army, who shall be com- 
mander in chief during the war with Mexico; and 
also recommending prompt action upon the recom- 
mendations of the Secretary of War in his annual 
Report. 

^ For Calhoun's views at this time on the prosecution of the 
war see his speech of February 9, 1847, Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 
^ipp- 323. Also in Works, IV, 303-327. 



294 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Dec. 

This was the regular evening for receiving com- 
pany, but as it was a holiday, and our servants de- 
sired to have it to themselves, the parlour was not 
opened. Many persons, I learn, called at the door, 
who were not received. 

Saturday, 26th December, 1846. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called this morning. The Cabinet 
assembled at the usual hour, all the members pres- 
ent. Despatches which were received this morning 
by the hands of a special messenger at the Navy De- 
partment from Commodore Stockton commanding 
our squadron on the Pacific coast, of dates coming 
up to the 19th of September, 1846, were read by the 
Secretary of the Navy. Despatches received last 
night from our late Consul at the City of Mexico 
(Mr. Black) of dates as late as the 17th of Novem- 
ber, 1846, were read by the Secretary of State. The 
latter despatches do not indicate any probability that 
a speedy peace can be effected with Mexico. Vari- 
ous matters connected with the military & naval op- 
erations in Mexico were considered. I informed 
the Cabinet that I had made up my mind to send a 
message to Congress asking for prompt authority to 
raise 10,000 men to serve as a part of the regular 
army during the war with Mexico, in accordance 
with the recommendation of the Secretary of War in 
his annual Report, and for authority to appoint a 
General in chief to command the army during the 
war. To the latter no objection was made to-day. 
The Attorney General (Mr. Clifford) who had 
been absent attending the Supreme Court when the 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 295 

subject was discussed on a former occasion, gave his 
assent. 

After night several members of Congress called, & 
I discussed public subjects with them in my office. 

Sunday, 27th December, 1 846. — I attended the 
ist Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. 

Monday, 28th December, 1846. — An unusual 
number of visitors called this morning, and among 
them many members of Congress. With but few ex- 
ceptions they wxre all on the business of seeking 
office for their friends. I closed my office at 12 
O'clock and disposed of a part of the business on 
my table. I saw Senators Benton & Dix and in- 
formed them that I would send a message to Con- 
gress on to-morrow recommending the increase of 
the regular army and the appointment of a Gen'l 
Officer to take command of the army. Mr. Buchanan 
called, and suggested some modifications in the Mes- 
sage which I had prepared on the subject. After 
night several members of Congress called. Judge 
Mason called and aided me in revising the Message 
which I propose to send to Congress on to-morrow. 
Nothing of much interest occurred to-day. 

Tuesday, 2Qth December, 1846.— TKi^ being the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet, 1 re- 
solved not to receive company this morning. Sen- 
ators and Representatives, however, called, & 



296 JAMES K. POLKS DIARY [29 Dec. 

were urgent to see me, and [I] was compelled 
to yield or give them office [offence]. When 
I did see them, I found that they were upon the very 
patriotic & never ending business of seeking office 
for their constituents and friends. Every day that I 
remain in the Presidential office satisfies me more 
and more of the selfishness and want of patriotism 
of men high in office. To accomplish their own 
selfish ends members of Congress constantly deceive 
me in their recommendations for office, and the con- 
sequence is that many bad appointments are made; 
and when they are made, the whole responsibility 
devolves on me, & those who have importuned me 
to make them never assume any portion of the re- 
sponsibility, but on the contrary in some instances 
carefully conceal the fact that the obnoxious appoint- 
ments have been made at their instance. I am dis- 
gusted with the trickery and treachery practised 
upon me by some members of Congress in their rec- 
ommendations for office. 

The Vice President (Dallas) called this morning 
and informed me that he had learned through the 
telegraph that Senator Barrow of Louisiana died at 
5 O'clock this morning at Baltimore. Mr. Barrow, 
I learn, left this City four or five days ago, appar- 
ently in good health. It is represented to me that 
the day before he left he was the bearer of a note 
from Mr. Garret Davis of Ky. to Mr. Bailey of 
Va. relating to a misunderstanding between these 
gentlemen which had arisen in debate in the Ho. 
Repts. Mr. Barrow, as I am informed, accom- 
panied Mr. Davis to Baltimore as his second or 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 297 

friend, it being expected that Mr. Bailey would fol- 
low Mr. Davis to Baltimore, where the terms of a 
duel or hostile meeting would be arranged. It was 
in the prosecution of this unchristian object, that Mr. 
Barrow was suddenly seized with disease and cut 
ofif in the prime & vigour of life. I am a firm be- 
liever that it was a judgment of Heaven upon the 
immoral, unchristian, and savage practice of duel- 
ling. Mr. Bailey, I learn, was arrested by the civil 
authorities of this City and did not meet Mr. Davis 
at Baltimore as the latter had anticipated he 
would do. 

My Private Secretary went to the Capitol to-day 
with several Executive messages, and a message to 
both Houses upon the subject of increasing the mil- 
itary establishment & the appointment of a com- 
manding Gen'l of the army, but before he reached 
the Capitol, the Senate had adjourned (though he 
reached [it] before i O'Clock P. M.) in consequence 
of the intelligence of the death of Mr. Barrow, 
though the event was not formally announced to the 
Senate. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour to-day, all the 
members present. Nothing of much importance 
was considered to-day. Several matters of minor 
importance were considered, and the members of the 
Cabinet retired at an early hour. 

This being the regular evening to receive com- 
pany, a large number of persons, ladies and gentle- 
men, called. The Circular parlour was quite filled. 

The body of Senator Barrow, I learned, was 
brought from Baltimore, where he died this morn- 



298 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Dec. 

ing, in the evening train of cars & was placed in one 
of the committee Rooms of the Capitol. 

Wednesday, JOth December, 1846. — My office 
was visited as usual by many persons this morning, 
& among them were many members of Congress. 
At 12 O'clock I directed my messenger to close my 
door and to bring me in no names or cards of any 
persons who called. I find this is the only plan by 
which I can be permitted to have any time to attend 
to my necessary public duties. As long as I keep my 
doors open I am tormented by members of Con- 
gress and others seeking for office. By refusing to 
receive names or cards I may avoid giving ofifense, 
because I do not know who calls. I had to-day sev- 
eral hours of steady labour at the current business on 
my table, in which time I disposed of several pardon 
cases and despatched other business. No business, 
I learn, was transacted in either House of Congress 
to-day. Immediately after the meeting of the two 
Houses the death of Senator Barrow of Louisiana 
was announced, and both Houses adjourned. I was 
notified by Mr. Mangum, chairman of the commit- 
tee of arrangements, that the funeral ceremonies 
would take place at the Capitol at 12 O'Clock on to- 
morrow. 

I had a Dinner party to-day, numbering between 
30 & 40 persons. Among the guests were the Judges 
of the Supreme Court of the U. S. and the ladies of 
their families who were in the City; several Senators 
and Representatives were also of the party. 



1846] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 299 

Thursday, Jlst December, 1846. — I saw com- 
pany until ii}4 O'clock this morning. At that 
hour, accompanied by the members of my Cabinet, 
I repaired to the Senate-chamber, where I attended 
the funeral ceremonies of Senator Barrow of Lou- 
isiana, who died at Baltimore on the morning of 
tuesday last. The Rev'd Mr. Slicer, chaplain of the 
Senate, performed [the] service, assisted by the 
Rev'd Mr. Sprole, chaplain of the Ho. Repts. I 
attended the remains of the deceased to the Con- 
gressional burial ground, where the Rev'd Mr. Slicer 
concluded the service. The day was damp and un- 
pleasant, though not cold. The Secretary of State 
and my Private Secretary rode with me in my car- 
riage. It was near 3 O'Clock P. M. when I re- 
turned to the President's mansion. 

After night the Hon. Mr. Wilmot called & held a 
long conversation with me on public subjects. 

Friday, Ist January, 1847. — The morning was 
clear, and unusually mild for this season of the year. 
According to an invariable custom which has been 
observed by all my predecessors, the President's 
mansion is thrown open for the reception of visitors 
on the first day of every year. Neither House of 
Congress ever sits on that day, and accordingly both 
Houses adjourned over on yesterday. Between 11 
& 12 O'clock A. M. the company commenced as- 
sembling. In the course of an hour an immense 
throng filled every hall and parlour in the House. 
The foreign ministers attended in their full Court 



3O0 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Jan. 

costumes. The Cabinet were of course present; as 
also the Judges of the Supreme Court. Many Sen- 
ators and Representatives in Congress attended, and 
among them I observed an unusual number of the 
Federal members. A large number of strangers as 
well as citizens, including the subordinate officers of 
Government were present. I stood on my feet 
shaking hands with the immense crowd from 11^ 
O'clock A.M. till 3 O'clock P.M. I observed that 
the only Federal members from Tennessee who at- 
tended were Senator Jarnagin and Mr. Cocke of 
the House of Repts. Mr. Cocke is the only mem- 
ber of the Federal party of the House who has called 
during the present Session, and he not until to-day. 
A few minutes after 3 O'Clock P. M. Miss Latimer 
called with 30 or 40 orphan children, male & female. 
I received the children and shook hands with them, 
having something to say to each one of them. About 
4 O'clock P. M. the company had all retired. I 
was very much exhausted by the fatigues of the day. 

Saturday, 2nd January, 184J. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called this morning. At 11 
O'clock A. M. the Cabinet met, this being the regu- 
lar day of meeting. The subject of the Mexican 
war was the subject of a long & free conversation, 
and especially in regard to our future policy in con- 
ducting it. Mr. Buchanan repeated the opinion 
which upon several occasions before he had inti- 
mated, that it was bad policy to think of marching 
a great army on the City of Mexico; that if we could 
do so, and take that City, we would but excite a 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 301 

feeling against us of races & religions and would 
probably be as far, if not further, from a peace than 
we now were. His policy as he expressed it was 
to hold New Mexico & the Californias & defend 
them. He wished no more territory, but thought we 
ought to encourage the other Northern Provinces to 
revolt from Mexico and form an independant Gov- 
ernment of their own, and that to effect this we 
should furnish them aid & assistance. All the other 
members of the Cabinet seemed to concur in these 
views. The Secretary of War expressed the opinion 
that he had no confidence in the success of an expedi- 
tion on the City of Mexico. Mr. Walker seemed 
to have changed his former opinion, & expressed his 
concurrence with the Secretaries of State & War. 
The P. Master Gen'l expressed his concurrence also 
in these views. The Atto. Gen'l (Mr. Clifford) was 
in favour of a bold movement on the City of Mexico, 
and gave his reasons for this opinion, but said if it 
was decided otherwise, his opinion would only be 
known in the Cabinet, and that he would cooperate 
with the other members of the Cabinet in carrying 
out whatever was resolved upon. I stated that our 
present object was to take & possess ourselves of Vera 
Cruz, and that our future operations might be left 
to be controlled by the circumstances existing after 
we should have succeeded in capturing Vera Cruz. 
The opinion was expressed by two or three members 
of the Cabinet that the proposition to appoint a 
Lieut. General of the army would fail in Congress. 
To this I replied that, having made up my mind to 
send a message to Congress asking authority to ap- 



302 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Jan. 

point such an officer, I should send the message to 
Congress which I had prepared some days ago rec- 
ommending it. This all agreed I should do, after 
what had occurred. Indeed my Private Secretary 
went with the message to Congress on tuesday last 
recommending it & an increase of the army, but did 
not deliver it in consequence of the adjournment of 
the Senate before he reached the Capitol. The Sen- 
ate adjourned on that day immediately after meeting, 
in consequence of the intelligence which had been re- 
ceived that morning of the death of Senator Bar- 
row at Baltimore. On Wednesday the death was 
announced and both Houses adjourned. On thurs- 
day the funeral took place & no business was done 
in either House, & the Senate adjourned over until 
monday next. The delivery of my message is there- 
fore necessarily delayed until monday next, which 
I much regret. 

I remarked to the Cabinet that the season for 
active operations of an army in Mexico was rapidly 
passing away; that the term of service of the volun- 
teers now in the field would expire in June next, & 
that it was very important that provision should be 
made to have troops to take their places before the 
end of the healthy season. As neither N. Carolina 
nor Massachusetts had yet responded to the requisi- 
tion upon them for Volunteer Regiments, though the 
call was made a month & a half ago, and as it was 
by no means certain that these as well as some of 
the other states called upon would furnish the troops 
called for, it becomes very important that these de- 
ficiencies should be speedily supplied. Pennsylva- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 303 

nia has acted nobly. The first call was for one Regi- 
ment, which was promptly furnished; a second 
Regiment was received, and now a third is offered. 
One Regiment called for from Virginia has been 
raised, and an additional battallion is now offered. 
I expressed the opinion that the additional forces 
tendered from these states should be received. The 
Secretary of War expressed the opinion that they had 
better not be received until Congress should act upon 
the recommendations of the Message which I pro- 
pose to send to Congress on to-morrow. I assented 
to postpone receiving these troops for a few days, to 
see whether Congress would act promptly or not. 
The state of the finances was considered. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury expressed the opinion that it 
would be with great difficulty that a loan could be 
effected, if Congress refused to levy a duty on tea 
and coffee. The Cabinet adjourned at 2 O'Clock 
P.M. 

Senator Cass & Cameron and Representatives 
Martin of Tennessee and Houston of Alabama 
called at different hours after night, with each of 
whom I held conversations in relation to the war, the 
manner of prosecuting it, and upon other public 
subjects. 

After a labourious day, and one of great anxiety 
because of the importance of the subjects which oc- 
cupied me, I retired about 1 1 O'Clock, much fa- 
tigued & exhausted. 

Sunday, Jrd January, 184J. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 



304 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Jan. 

Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Rachel Henrietta 
Armstrong, a little girl, daughter of Gen'l Robt. 
Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool. Miss Arm- 
strong is at a school in Georgetown, but frequently 
comes over and spends a day or two with us. 

Monday, 4th January, 184^. — I received com- 
pany as usual this morning. A large number of 
members of Congress called. About 11 O'Clock 
A.M. the Secretary of War called on official business, 
and I directed my porter to close my doors & admit 
no more company to-day. I was engaged more than 
an hour with the Secretary of War. I sent to the 
Senate to-day a large number of nominati-ons, some 
of them for civil offices, but chiefly for military ap- 
pointments, in the line and by brevet. I sent also 
to both Houses a message ^ recommending prompt 
action by Congress for the increase of the regular 
army, and recommending also that authority be given 
to appoint a general officer to command all our mili- 
tary forces, regular & volunteer, during the War 
with Mexico, and to be disbanded upon the conclu- 
sion of a Treaty of peace. 

My Private Secretary returned from the Capitol 
and informed me that Mr. Preston King of New 
York had introduced into the Ho. Repts. a Bill ^ on 
the subject of slavery, which had produced much 
sensation in the body. He informed me also that 
Mr. Hamlin,^ a Representative from the State of 

^ Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 104. 
^ Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 105. 

^ Hannibal Hamlin, Senator from Maine 1 848-1 861, and 
1869-1881, Vice-President of the United States 1861-1865. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 305 

Maine, had made a speech against the Bill recom- 
mended by the Secretary of War for increasing the 
Regular army to serve during the War. Mr. Ham- 
lin professes to be a democrat, but has given indica- 
tions during the present session that he is dissatisfied, 
and is pursuing a mischievous course, not only in this 
instance, but on the slavery question, as well as upon 
other matters. The slavery question is assuming a 
fearful & most important aspect. The movement of 
Mr. King to-day, if persevered in, will be attended 
with terrible consequences to the country, and can- 
not fail to destroy the Democratic party, if it does 
not ultimately threaten the Union itself. Slavery 
was one of the questions adjusted in the compromises 
of the Constitution. It has, and can have no legiti- 
mate connection with the War with Mexico, or the 
terms of a peace which may be concluded with that 
country. It is a domestic and not a foreign question, 
and to connect it with the appropriations for prose- 
cuting the war, or with the two million appropria- 
tion with a view to obtain peace, can result in no 
good, but must divide the country by a sectional line 
& lead to the worst consequences. Of course the 
Federalists are delighted to see such a question agi- 
tated by Northern Democrats because it divides and 
distracts the Democratic party and increases their 
prospects of coming into power. Such an agitation 
is not only unwise, but wicked. I sent for Mr. Clif- 
ford, the Attorney General, to-night and had a full 
conversation with [him] upon the course of Mr. 
King of N. York & Mr. Hamlin of Maine. He 
agreed with me that it was deeply to be regretted. 



3o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Jan. 

and said he would see Mr. Hamlin and some other 
Northern members to-night or in the morning, & 
expostulate with them upon their course. 

Mr. Hamlin's grievance I understand is that I did 
not appoint some friend of his in Maine, whom he 
had recommended, to some petty office last winter. 
Thus upon small and selfish personal grounds even 
members of Congress change their political prin- 
ciples. 

Owing [to] this and similar causes Congress have 
not yet acted upon a single one of my recommenda- 
tions for the prosecution of the War, and are likely 
to sufifer the favourable season for military opera- 
tions in the enemy's country [to] pass away, before 
they do so. Whilst they neglect to do this, they are 
agitating the slavery question, which has nothing to 
do with the practical business before them. The next 
Presidential election, too, has much to do with these 
agitations. The Cliques attached to their favourites 
for the Presidency in the Democratic party are at 
war with each [other], and the war, the means of 
prosecuting it, and all the other business of the coun- 
try are overlooked and neglected. While this is so, 
the Federalists are united, and delighted at the un- 
necessary and foolish divisions in the Democratic 
party. I deplore this state of things; I will do all 
I can to correct it; I will do my duty and leave the 
rest to God and my country. 

Tuesday, S^h January, 1847. — Several members 
of Congress and other persons called this morning. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 307 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour. The Secretary 
of War read despatches which had been received 
from Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Wool. From them it 
appears that Gen'l Taylor has paid no regard to the 
views of the Government, but has dispersed the troops 
in small bodies at different and distant points from 
each other, so that great apprehensions are enter- 
tained that they are so exposed that some portion of 
them may be cut off by the superior numbers of the 
enemy. It is manifest that Gen'l Taylor is wholly 
incompetent for so large a command. He seems to 
have no mind or powers of combination. The Sec- 
retary of War having learned that his forces were 
too much dispersed, wrote to Gen'l Scott some days 
ago urging that they should be concentrated, so as 
to [be] less exposed, and with the view to the expedi- 
tion against Vera Cruz. Gen'l Taylor, by dispers- 
ing his forces into small bodies, has acted directly 
against the views of the Government, and contrary 
to his own views as communicated to the Govern- 
ment, that he could not advance beyond Monterey 
with safety. 

The distracted state of the Democratic party in 
Congress was the subject of conversation and regret. 
The truth is there is no harmony or concert of ac- 
tion among the Democratic members. It is now in 
the fifth week of the Session, and they have passed 
no single act in accordance with my recommenda- 
tions to enable me to prosecute the war with Mexico 
with vigor and success. The[y] have voted in the 
Ho. Repts. that it is inexpedient to levy a war tax 



3o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [s Jan. 

on tea and cofifee/ as recommended in my message 
and strongly urged by the Secretary of the Treasury. 
The Bill for the increase of the army drags on in de- 
bate in the Ho. Repts. and its fate is even said to be 
doubtful. 

The Slavery question has been introduced in the 
Ho. Repts. by Mr. Preston King of New York and 
is a fire-brand in the body. Slavery has no possible 
connection with the Mexican War, and with making 
peace with that country. Should any territory be 
acquired by a Treaty with Mexico, Congress will 
have the full power to raise the question of slavery 
in it upon the organization of a territorial Govern- 
/ ment in it, or upon its admission as a state of the 

Union. Its introduction in connection with the 
Mexican War is not only mischievous but wicked. 
It is, moreover, practically an abstract question. 
There is no probability that any territory will ever 
be acquired from Mexico in which slavery could 
ever exist. New Mexico and California is all that 
can ever probably be acquired by- Treaty, and in- 
deed all that I think it important to acquire. In 
these Provinces slavery would probably never exist, 
and therefore the question would never arise. The 
dangers of the introduction of the subject were fully 
considered by the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan urged 
the importance and necessity of Congress declaring 
that we would hold these Provinces as indemnity, 
and establishing [establish] Governments there, sub- 

^ The vote against the measure was 105-49. H. Journal, 29 
Cong. 2 Sess. 120. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 309 

ject to the provisions of a treaty of peace. He fur- 
ther expressed his willingness to extend the Mis- 
souri compromise West to the Pacific. All the 
members of the Cabinet agreed with him in these 
views. The Post Master Gen'l was willing to ac- 
quire these Provinces & agreed that slavery should 
never exist in them. I suspended any decision on 
the subject, though it was earnestly urged by Mr. 
Buchanan and Mr. Walker. Though willing my- 
self to assent to the proposition, I was not ready, until 
I saw further developments, to recommend it to 
Congress as the policy of the administration. 

Col. Benton called after night and held a long 
conversation with me upon this and other subjects, 
I suggested Mr. Buchanan's proposition to him as 
my own suggestion, and asked his opinion^ telling 
[him] at the same time that if adopted I did not in- 
tend that it should interfere with the vigorous prose- 
cution of the War. I suggested it with a view to 
see if any compromise upon the slavery question, 
which had been introduced into the Ho. Repts. 
[would have his support]. He told me he would 
consider of it and give me his opinion hereafter. 

Wednesday, 6th January, 184J. — On returning 
from my usual walk this morning, I received in the 
letter box at my front door a note from Col. Benton 
stating in substance that he was surprised to learn, 
on his return home from my office last evening, that 
the same thing which I had suggested to him for his 
opinion last night in relation to taking possession of 



310 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Jan. 

New Mexico & California as an indemnity for our 
claims and the expenses of the Mexican war, had 
been a subject of conversation among the members 
of the Ho. Repts. for some days past. He expressed 
the opinion that the suggestion had been used by 
members of the Ho. Repts. as an argument to defeat 
the creation of the office of Lieut. General. He ex- 
pressed the opinion that strange work had been go- 
ing on & that he would endeavour to find out the 
facts. It was a singular note, & I will preserve [it]. 
The inference which I drew from it was that Col. 
Benton suspected that I had made the suggestion in 
order to defeat the Bill to authorize the appointment 
/ of a Lieut. Gen'l. I sent my Private Secretary down 

to see him. He explained to him that he meant no 
such thing in his note. He could not have done so 
with any truth or in justice to me, and yet his note 
unexplained was susceptible of that construction. 

My office was crowded with an unusual number 
of members of Congress & others to-day. The busi- 
ness of a large majority of them was the very patri- 
otic one of seeking offices for their friends. I am 
perfectly disgusted with the unceasing and never- 
ending applications for office, which are constantly 
made to me. My whole time was occupied to-day 
in listening to such applications. During the whole 
day and until after lo O'Clock at night, I had not 
an hour to attend to the business on my table. I 
was greatly annoyed and my patience perfectly ex- 
hausted. 

Judge Douglass of Illinois called this morning to 
renew his urgent request that I would appoint Rich- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3" 

ard M. Young ^ of Illinois Commissioner of the 
General Land office, in place of Gen'l Shields re- 
signed. Senator Breese and Mr. Douglass had been 
urging me to make this appointment from the com- 
mencement of the present Session of Congress. 
Each of them had held repeated conversations with 
me & were very pressing and urgent on the subject. 
Judge Young was formerly U. S. Senator and was 
[is] at present a Judge of the Supreme Court of Illi- 
nois. They informed me that he would be univer- 
sally acceptable to the Democracy of Illinois, that 
he was eminently qualified, and a gentleman of high 
character. In answer to an enquiry made of them 
by me some days ago, whether the Illinois delega- 
tion in Congress would be satisfied with the appoint- 
ment, they answered that they would if Mr. Hoge,^ 
a member of the present Congress, who had been rec- 
ommended at the last Session, could not be ap- 
pointed. I informed them that I had decided at the 
last Session not to appoint members of Congress to 
office, unless in excepted & special cases, for instance 
to such offices as Missions abroad, members of the 
Cabinet, or Judges of the Supreme Court of the U. S. 
I took it for granted & had not the least doubt that 
they had consulted the delegation from Illinois in 
relation to the appointment which they were urg- 
ing. Certainly I had no right to think otherwise. 
On Monday last each of them called, and insisted 
on the appointment of Judge Young. I told Judge 

^Senator from Illinois 1837-1843; Commissioner of the Gen- 
eral Land Office 1 847-1 850. 

-Joseph P. Hoge, Representative from Illinois 1843-1847. 



312 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Jan. 

Douglass, as I had before told Judge Breese, that 
my own choice was Mr. John B rough of Ohio, be- 
cause of his eminent qualifications, but neither of 
them would consent to his appointment. I sug- 
gested to them that I might possibly have it in my 
power to appoint Judge Young a charge abroad, but 
they would not agree to it. This morning Judge 
Douglass called on the subject again, and I felt my- 
self constrained to yield to the appointment of Judge 
Young, not doubting for a moment but that the Illi- 
nois delegation were apprised that his appointment 
was pressed upon me by Messrs. Breese & Douglass. 
I accordingly sent the nomination of Judge Young 
for the ofhce to the Senate to-day, and, what is very 
unusual, I received a notification by the hands of the 
Secretary of the Senate that his nomination had been 
confirmed before 5 O'Clock. About dark Messrs. 
McClernand, Smith, & Ficklin of the Illinois dele- 
gation called, and were greatly excited on the sub- 
ject. I stated to them the facts as they were, and 
assured them that I supposed they had been informed 
& understood that Judge Young had been pressed 
upon me by Judge Breese & Judge Douglass. They 
declared that they had no knowledge of it until they 
heard to-day the nomination had been made & con- 
firmed. They were very indignant and spoke in 
strong terms of the conduct of Messrs. Breese & 
Douglass, and said they had slipped up to me with- 
out their knowledge and induced me to make the 
nomination. They were much excited, though they 
said they had no personal objection to Judge Young. 
I assured them that I should not have made the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 313 

nomination without consulting them, if I had not 
supposed that Messrs. Douglass & Breese had in- 
formed them of it. I now consider that Messrs. 
Douglass and Breese have acted badly towards the 
delegation and towards me. There has been a want 
of fairness and open dealing in the matter that is 
unworthy of members of Congress, but I have learned 
by painful experience that I am daily imposed upon 
in reference to appointments, by members of Con- 
gress who have their selfish ends to accomplish. In 
this case Mr. McClernand intimated that it was 
the result of a bargain between Judge Douglass and 
Judge Young to prevent the latter from opposing the 
former in the late election for the U. S. Senate in 
Illinois, at which Judge Douglass was elected; and 
that it was the result of a bargain between Judge 
Breese & Young to prevent the latter from opposing 
the former in his re-election to the Senate. I now 
regret exceedingly that I nominated Judge Young, 
and if he had not been confirmed by the Senate in 
unusual haste, on the day he was nominated, I would 
withdraw the nomination. I regret this occurrence, 
because, unexplained, I must have a bad opinion of 
the conduct of both Judge Bre[e]se & Mr. Doug- 
lass. Messrs. McClernand, Smith, & Ficklin, who 
called tonight, are among the best democrats & 
friends I have in Congress. I will upon the first op- 
portunity express my dissatisfaction at the course of 
Messrs. Douglass & Breese to those gentlemen. 

Thursday, yth January, 184J. — Many persons, 
members of Congress and others, called to-day; all 



314 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Jan. 

of them or nearly all on what they may regard as 
the patriotic, but which I consider the contemptible 
business of seeking office for themselves or their 
friends. The passion for office and the number of 
unworthy persons who seek to live on the public is 
increasing beyond former example, and I now pre- 
dict that no President of the U. S. of either party 
will ever again be reelected. The reason is that the 
patronage of the Government will destroy the popu- 
larity of any President, however well he may ad- 
minister the Government. The office seekers have 
become so numerous that they hold the balance of 
power between the two great parties of the country. 
In every appointment which the President makes 
he disappoints half a dozen or more applicants and 
their friends, who, actuated by selfish and sordid 
motives, will prefer any other candidate in the next 
election, while the person appointed attributes the 
appointment to his own superior merit and does not 
even feel obliged by it. The number of office seek- 
ers has become so large that they probably hold the 
balance of power between the two great parties in 
the country, and if disappointed in getting place 
under one administration they will readily unite 
themselves with the party and candidate of opposite 
politics, so as to increase their chances for place. 
Another great difficulty in making appointments 
which the President encounters is that he cannot tell 
upon what recommendations to rely. Members of 
Congress and men of high station in the country sign 
papers of recommendation, either from interested 
personal motives or without meaning what they say, 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 315 

and thus the President is often imposed on, and in- 
duced to make bad appointments. When he does 
so the whole responsibility falls on himself, while 
those who have signed papers of recommendation 
and misled him, take special care never to avow the 
agency they have had in the matter, or to assume 
any part of the responsibility. I have had some re- 
markable instances of this during my administration. 
One or two of them I think worthy to be recorded 
as illustrations of many others. In the recess of 
Congress shortly after the commencement of my ad- 
ministration I made an appointment upon the let- 
ter of recommendation of a senator. I sent the nomi- 
nation to the Senate at the last session & it was re- 
jected, and, as I learned, at the instance of the same 
Senator who had made the recommendation. A few 
days aftenvards the Senator called to recommend 
another person for the same office. I said to him, 
well, you rejected the man I nominated; O yes, he 
replied, he was without character & wholly unquali- 
fied. I then asked him if he knew upon whose rec- 
ommendation I had appointed him, to which he re- 
plied that he did not. I then handed to him his 
own letter & told him that that was the recommenda- 
tion upon which I had appointed him. He ap- 
peared confused and replied, Well, we are obliged 
to recommend our constituents when they apply to 
us. The Senator was Mr. Atchison of Missouri, 
and the person appointed & rejected was Mr. Hedges 
as Surveyor of the port of St. Louis. ^ Other like 

^ This sentence is crossed out after having been written in the 
Diary by President Polk. 



316 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Jan. 

cases have occurred. After 12 O'Clock to-day I was 
busily employed in disposing of the business on my 
table. Nothing worthy of note occurred. 

Friday, 8th January, 184"/. — A large number of 
persons, members of Congress and citizens, ladies 
and gentlemen, called this morning. My time was 
occupied in seeing company until near i O'Clock 
P. M. After that hour I was occupied an hour or 
more on business with the Secretary of War. I dis- 
posed of much business on my table. About 23/2 
O'clock P. M. Senator Houston of Texas called and 
informed me that Judge Bowlin ^ of Missouri & 
himself were a committee to wait on me, and invite 
me to attend the 8th of January Ball at Jackson Hall 
in this City to-night. He desired to know if I would 
attend, and at what hour they should call for me. 
He informed me that Judge Bowlin was necessarily 
detained in the Ho. Repts. & had requested him to 
say so to me. I answered that my respect for the 
anniversary of the Victory of New Orleans was 
such as to make it my duty as well as my inclina- 
tion to attend its celebration, and that I should be 
ready to accompany the committee at such hour as 
they might designate. Gen'l Houston said the 
committee would call between 8 & 9 O'Clock this 
evening. 

This being my regular reception evening, I saw 
company in the parlour until a few minutes after 9 
O'clock, when Senator Houston & Judge Bowlin of 

^ James Butler Bowlin of St. Louis, Judge of the Criminal 
Court 1839, Representative from Missouri 1 843-1 851. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 317 

Missouri called as a committee to attend me to the 
8th of Jan'y Ball at Jackson Hall. I made my 
apology to the company and retired with them. My 
Private Secretary and Mrs. Walker and Miss 
Rucker also accompanied us. The Ball was not very 
numerously attended. I observed but one Federal 
member of Congress (Senator Johnson of Louisi- 
ana) present. On entering the room most of the 
company, ladies [and gentlemen], came to me and 
shook hands with me, and I was enjoying myself 
very much when my niece. Miss Rucker, came to 
the part of the room in which I was [and] told me 
that there was smoke in another part of the room, 
as [and] that the House was on fire. At first I sup- 
posed she was mistaken, but in a very short time 
afterwards, observing a part of the company mov- 
ing towards the Door, Mrs. Judge Catron, with 
whom I was sitting on a sofa, walked towards the 
Door also. Shortly after reaching the top of the 
stairs, a person below called out for the company to 
come down. I went down with Mrs. Catron, went 
to my carriage, and we got into it. I observed a 
large volume of smoke issuing from the basement. 
The fire companies with their engines were as- 
sembling, and [after] remaining a few minutes I 
directed my coachman to drive to Coleman's Hotel 
where Mrs. Catron got out, and I returned home. 
Col. Walker, Mrs. Walker, and Miss Rucker had 
reached home a few minutes before me. The fire, 
I learn, was extinguished in a short time; a part of 
the company reassembled and continued the festivi- 
ties of the evening until a late hour. 



3i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Jan. 

Saturday, gth January, 184'/. — Saw company as 
usual until the meeting of the Cabinet this morning. 
Many members of Congress & others called. The 
Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the members pres- 
ent. Nothing of importance came up to-day. After 
spending one or two hours in general conversation 
on public subjects the Cabinet retired. Between 5 
& 6 O'clock P. M. my Private Secretary returned 
from the Capitol and Reported to me that the Ho. 
Repts. had just adjourned after a very hard strug- 
gle which had lasted for several hours on the army 
Bill. Mr. Rathbun of New York had moved an 
amendment to the Bill brought in in pursuance of 
the recommendation of the Secretary of War, which 
I had endorsed in my annual message & also in a 
special message of the 4th Inst., to raise 10 Regi- 
ments of Regular troops to serve during the War, by 
substituting therefor authority to raise the same num- 
ber of volunteers. Had this amendment prevailed 
it would have been equivalent to doing nothing, or 
rather to the total defeat of the measure, for I have 
already authority, under the act of June last, to call 
for volunteers. My Private Secretary reported to 
me that [the] whole Federal party without an ex- 
ception vote.d for Rathbun's amendment, that a small 
part of the Democratic members had voted with 
them, and that the amendment failed of being carried 
by a single vote. That part of the Democrats who 
voted with Rathbun & the united Federal party are 
almost without exception disaffected and unsound 
men. The causes of their 'disafTfection are petty 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 319 

griefs at not having their wishes gratified in ap- 
pointments to office for themselves, or not getting 
petty offices for their constituents and friends. A 
part of the New York Democratic members are in 
a bad temper, and I consider their course at the pres- 
ent session more hostile to my administration and 
calculated to do much more harm than if they were 
open political opponents. In this class are Messrs. 
Rathbun, King, Grover, & some others. The course 
in this measure of Messrs. McCiernand, Ficklin, & 
Smith of the Illinois delegation would have aston- 
ished me, if anything could after all that I have seen 
of the selfish & personal considerations which in- 
fluence members of Congress on great measures of 
the Government. These gentlemen I have regarded 
as among the truest Democrats in the House. They 
voted with Rathbun, the Federalists, & Co. on this 
occasion. The cause of it, I cannot doubt, was my 
appointment of Judge Young of Illinois a few days 
ago to be commissioner of the General Land office, 
with whose appointment they were much dissatisfied, 
(see this diary of the 6th Inst., for a statement of 
the facts attending that appointment.) What con- 
nection this appointment had with the prosecution 
of the War with Mexico no one can tell. Yet I 
have not a doubt that these Gentlemen vented their 
spite towards me in consequence of that appointment, 
by joining their political enemies and the unsound 
portion of their own party by voting against the army 
Bill to carry on the W^ar against Mexico. Mr. 
Hoge of Illinois voted with them. He was an ap- 



320 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Jan. 

plicant for the appointment of Commissioner of 
Public lands & was disappointed. He therefore 
showed his patriotism by voting against his country, 
and the furnishing the means to enable the Govern- 
ment to fight its battles against a Foreign enemy. It 
is sickening to the heart of the patriot to witness, 
as I have done during my term, the numerous in- 
stances which have occurred in which members of 
Congress elected as Democrats have voted against 
the measures of the Government because they had 
been disappointed in their selfish applications for 
office for themselves and their friends. Many of 
them are Governed by no fixed principles, but are 
sordid & selfish, if not worse, in all they do. Fortu- 
nately the combination in the House to-day failed by 
one vote to effect the defeat of this indispensable war 
measure of the Government. 

Senator Dix of N. York happened to be in my 
office when my Private Secretary informed me of the 
proceedings of the House to-day. I expressed my 
utter surprise to him at the course of Rathbun, King, 
& others of the New York delegation, and told him 
I could attribute it to nothing but some petty disap- 
pointment about some petty offices. He expressed 
his dissatisfaction also, and said he would see them 
to-night or to-morrow. My Private Secretary did 
not speak of the course of the Illinois members, 
named above, in the presence of Senator Dix. 

Sunday, lOth January, 184J. — I attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk & her niece, Miss Rucker. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 321 

Monday, nth January, 184J. — Saw company 
to-day until 12 O'Clock. Many persons, members 
of Congress and others, called. 

Immediately after 12 O'Clock the Secretary of 
War & the Secretary of the Navy called. The Sec- 
retary of the Navy read to me the rough draft of a 
despatch which he had prepared to Commodore 
Stockton in the Pacific, defining his rights and pow- 
ers over the Province of the Californias which he 
had conquered. This despatch embodies the laws 
of nations on the subject. I assented to the general 
principles which it embodied. The Secretary of 
War said he would address a similar communication 
to Gen'l Kearney as applicable to the Province of 
New Mexico, which he had conquered. The Sec- 
retary of the Navy said he would revise and copy 
the rough draft of his despatch which he had read 
to me & would show it to me before he sent it off. 
I told him that I desired that he would do so. I 
spent the balance of the day in disposing of the busi- 
ness on my table, and despatched many minor mat- 
ters which had been on my hands for some time. 
Indeed I almost cleared my table. 

After night Mr. Ch. J. IngersoU called & I had 
a long conversation with him in relation to public 
affairs, and particularly upon the subject connected 
with the Mexican War, now pending before Con- 
gress. I sent for Senator Cass to-night [and] had 
a similar conversation with him. After 10 O'Clock 
P. M. I retired from my office feeling that I had 
performed a good day's work. 



222 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Jan. 

Tuesday, 12th January, 1847. — I learned with 
deep regret that Senator Pennybacker of Virginia 
died at his lodgings in this City at 5 O'Clock this 
morning. He had been ill for some days. The last 
time he visited my office he was labouring under an 
attack of yellow jaundice and was very yellow. He 
was an excellent man, and was my personal and 
political friend. None of his friends will deplore 
his loss more than I do. I saw company until the 
hour of the meeting of the Cabinet to-day. Several 
members of Congress & others called. 

The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour. The 
Secretary of the Navy read the despatch to Commo- 
dore Stockton, commanding our Naval forces in the 
Pacific, which he had prepared, and the rough draft 
of which he read to me on yesterday. It defined 
more at length than had heretofore been done the 
powers and rights of our naval and military com- 
manders in establishing temporary Governments over 
the Californias and other provinces of Mexico which 
had been conquered by our arms. It was slightly 
modified in one or two particulars, and as modified 
was unanimously agreed to by the Cabinet. My 
Private Secretary went to the Senate to-day with sev- 
eral Executive Messages, containing an answer ^ to 
a call of the Senate for the correspondence with the 
Government of New Granada, & several nomina- 
tions, which he did not deliver in consequence of the 
adjournment of the Senate, in consequence of the 
announcement of the death of Senator Pennybacker, 
immediately after the meeting of the Senate. I was 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 509. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 323 

notified by the committee of arrangements this even- 
ing that the funeral of Senator Pennybacker would 
take place at the Senate chamber at 12 O'Clock on 
to-morrow. Neither House sat to-day in conse- 
quence of the announcement of this death. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, la- 
dies and gentlemen, called. My old Congressional 
acquaintance, Gen'l Walter Coles ^ of Va., with 
whom I served many years in Congress, took a fam- 
ily Dinner with me to-day. 

I omitted to state in the proper place that Mr. 
Buchanan in Cabinet to-day recited the substance of 
a conversation held with him last night by Col. Ato- 
cha formerly of Mexico, and recently from Havana, 
in which he professed to disclose to him the views 
and opinions of Santa Anna & Almonte, in favour 
of peace between the two countries. Mr. Buchanan 
said that Col. Atocha said he had in his pocket let- 
ters from Santa Anna and Almonte and Rigon, 
but did not show them. Atocha also told him 
that he intended to see Col. Benton on to-morrow. 
I requested Mr. Buchanan to address a note to 
Col. B. requesting him to get a perusal of the let- 
ters which Atocha professed to have from Santa 
Anna, &c. 

Wednesday, 13th January, 1847. — Saw com- 
pany until iij/' O'clock A. M., when, accompanied 
by my Cabinet, I went to the capitol and attended 
the funeral services occasioned by the death of Sena- 

^ Walter Coles, 1789-1857, Representative from Virginia, 
1835-1845. 



324 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Jan. 

tor Pennybacker of Virginia. The Rev'd Mr. Sli- 
cer, chaplain of the Senate, opened the service with 
an appropriate prayer, and the Rev'd Mr. Sprole, 
chaplain of the Ho. Repts., preached a sermon on 
the immortality of the soul. I accompanied the pro- 
cession to the Congressional burial ground, and re- 
turned to the President's Mansion about 3 O'Clock 
P. M. Judge Mason was the only member of my 
Cabinet who accompanied me to the Grave Yard. 
The other members of the Cabinet were called to 
their respective offices by their public duties. 

I devoted the remainder of the day until night in 
disposing of the business on my table. After night 
an unusual number of members of Congress called, 
who wished to see me on various matters of business, 
and to converse with me about the measures now 
before Congress with a view to the prosecution of 
the War with Mexico. At a later hour than usual 
I retired from my office. 

Thursday, 14th January, 184J. — I saw company 
until 12 O'clock to-day. I had the usual round of 
visitors, members of Congress and others, some seek- 
ing office and others on visits of ceremony. After 
12 O'clock I was not interrupted by company until 
night, except that I gave a short sitting to an artist 
named Ellis. He was taking my head on ivory or 
some kind of shell. Mr. Gillet,^ the Register of the 
Treasury, had some days ago requested that Mrs. 
Polk & myself would each give him a short sitting, 

^ Ransom H. Gillct of New York, author of The Life and 
Times of Silas Wright. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 325 

in order that he might take our likenesses for Mrs. 
Gillet. I had given him two or three short sittings 
before which I had neglected to note in this diary. 

Mr. Buchanan called about 2 O'Clock and showed 
me a note which he received to-day from Col. Ben- 
ton, stating that he had [seen] Col. Atocha, the per- 
son of whom Mr. Buchanan had spoken in the 
Cabinet on tuesday last. Col. Benton stated in the 
note that he had read letters addressed to Col. Ato- 
cha by Santa Anna & Almonte, which he regarded 
as very important, & which he had been permitted to 
retain with liberty to show them to me & to Mr. 
Buchanan. Col. B. regarded the disclosure made in 
these letters and by Col. Atocha as very important. 
Mr. Buchanan said he had invited a Dinner-party to 
his house to-day & could not see Col. Benton to-day. 
I requested him to write a note to Col. Benton re- 
questing him to call on me to-night, and to bring 
with him the letters which Atocha had given to him. 

About 6 O'clock Col. Benton called & read to me 
several letters from Santa Anna & Almonte ad- 
dressed to Atocha, and among others one from Santa 
Anna dated at San Louis Potosi on the 24th of No- 
vember, & one from Almonte dated at the City of 
Mexico on the 29th of November last. They both 
expressed a desire for an honourable peace and it is 
manifest that Atocha possesses their confidence & is 
in correspondence with them. From these letters it 
is manifest, also, that Atocha's visit to Washington 
is at their instance. His object no doubt is to open 
the way for negotiatians, and to ascertain the terms 
upon which peace would be made. The letters 



326 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Jan. 

which Col. Benton read to me were in the Spanish 
language, but he translated them to me into English. 
As an additional proof that Atocha is in the con- 
fidence of Santa Anna, he was fully advised of the 
visit made to Santa Anna by Alexander Slidell Mc- 
Kenzie ^ at Havana last summer. Col. Benton in- 
formed me in some detail of Atocha's conversation 
with him. Atocha assured him that Santa Anna, Al- 
monte, & Rejon were all anxious for peace. Upon 
being enquired of by Col. B. what terms of peace 
they would make, he answered that they would agree 
to the Rio Grande as the boundary, reserving a space 
of territory between that River & the Nueces as a 
barrier between the two countries, and that they 
would be willing to cede California to the U. S. for 
a consideration, and he named fifteen or twenty mil- 
lions of Dollars as the consideration with which they 
would be satisfied. Atocha also stated they would 
desire to have commissioners from the two countries 
appointed, who should meet at Havana to negotiate 
for peace, and added that they would desire that 
the blockade before Vera Cruz should be raised, 
pending negotiations. I asked Col. B. if he said 
anything about ceding N. Mexico to the U. S. He 
said he had asked him that question, but upon that 
point he seemed to be uninformed. Col. B. was of 
opinion that Atocha was the confidential agent of 
Santa Anna and that his representations were true. 
Col. B. was in favour of agreeing to appoint Com- 

^ For an account of McKenzie's mission to Havana and its 
results see Reeves, American Diplomacy under Tyler and Polk, 
299- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 327 

missioners to meet at Havana if Mexico would do so, 
and thought such an intimation should be given in 
some way to the Mexican Government. I told him 
I was perfectly willing to [assent to] the proposition, 
but doubted whether it would be politic for me to 
make another overture, after all that had occurred. 
I suggested to him that Atocha might be so in- 
formed through him or Mr. Buchanan, and in this 
informal way it might be made known to the Mexi- 
can Government. He seemed to assent that this 
mode would do. He said he was to see Atocha 
again on to-morrow. I told him I would consult 
Mr. Buchanan, and request him to call on him in 
the course of the day on to-morrow. This Col. 
Atocha is the same person with whom I had several 
confidential interviews during the early part of last 
year. He brought no letters, and at that time I was 
suspicious & cautious of him. I learned all I could 
from him, but communicated nothing to him. My 
interviews with him are noticed in this diary. He 
complained to Col. Benton that I had been reserved 
& had not given him my confidence. I am now sat- 
isfied that he is an agent of Santa Anna and he may 
be made useful. 

I had a further conversation with Col. B. about 
Gen'l Taylor's mismanagement of the war; and 
about a publication in the New Orleans papers of 
the contemplated plans of the campaign. This 
could only have gotten to the public through Gen'l 
Scott, who was necessarily intrusted with it con- 
fidentially before he set out from Washington for the 
seat of War. He has from his inordinate vanity or 



328 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Jan. 

from some other cause given it out, so that it has 
gotten before the public. The truth is neither Tay- 
lor nor Scott are fit for the command of the army in 
the great operations in progress and which are con- 
templated. To add to my embarrassment, & it does 
greatly do so, Congress does not strengthen the Ex- 
ecutive arm. Nearly half the session has passed and 
they are engaged in debates about slavery and party 
politics, and have passed none of the essential meas- 
ures which I have recommended as indispensible to 
the vigorous & successful prosecution of the war. 
With a large nominal majority in both Houses, I 
am practically in a minority. The several cliques 
& sections of the Democratic party are manifestly 
more engaged in managing for their respective fa- 
vourites in the next Presidential election, than they 
are in supporting the Government in prosecuting the 
war, or in carrying out any of its great measures. 
The only corrective is in the hands of the people. I 
will do my duty to the country and rejoice that with 
my own voluntary free will & consent I am not to 
be again a candidate. This determination is irrev- 
ocable. 

Friday, ISth January, 184'/. — When I entered 
my office this morning I found visitors waiting in 
the anti-room. I directed them to be shown in, and 
from that time until my dinner hour I was not alone 
for 10 minutes. The Constant pressure and im- 
portunity for office is not only disgusting, but is al- 
most beyond endurance. I keep my temper, or 
rather suppress the indignation which I feel at the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 329 

sordid and selfish views of the horde of people who 
continually annoy me about place. Members of 
Congress have caught the prevailing desire for office 
for themselves, and to-day I had another application 
for an office for one of them. It was made by Sena- 
tor Cameron of Penn. in behalf of Mr. Leib ^ of the 
Ho. Repts. He wished to have me appoint Mr. 
Leib a purser in the Navy, information of the death 
of a purser having reached the Navy Department 
last evening. I told him plainly that I would not 
appoint a member of Congress to office, unless it was 
for a high military Station in time of War, or for 
a Mission abroad, or some such station. In other 
words that my general rule was not to appoint mem- 
bers of Congress to office. Judging from what has 
occurred in similar cases heretofore, I have no doubt 
Mr. Leib will be an opponent of my administration 
during the balance of my term. At least 20 mem- 
bers of the present Congress have been disappointed 
in the same way, and in all the cases I have ob- 
served that they have afterwards voted against the 
measures which I have recommended. They have, 
however, taken special care never to assign the true 
reasons for their course. They have not openly op- 
posed my administration, but whenever they could 
do so without exposure to their constituents and the 
public, they have done so. If God grants me length 
of days and health,^ I will, after the expiration of 
my term, give a history of the selfish and corrupt 

^ Owen D. Leib, Representative from Pennsylvania 1 845-1 847. 
^ Polk lived less than three months after the expiration of his 
Presidential term, dying June 15, 1849. 



330 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Jan. 

considerations which influence the course of public 
men, as a legacy to posterity. I shall never be prof- 
itted by it, but those who come after me may be. I 
learn this evening that Congress has done nothing 
with the army Bills which are before them, and 
which I have earnestly recommended should be 
passed promptly. The Presidential Election of 
1848 seems to influence the various cliques of the 
Democratic party more than the prosecution of the 
War with Mexico, or the public good. The truth 
is there seems to be no patriotism, but all is selfish- 
ness with many of the members. The Federalists of 
course act in a body, and unite with any dissatisfied 
or corrupt faction of the Democratic party who op- 
pose the measures of my administration. I use the 
term corruption not in its personal sense, but politi- 
cally the conduct of certain persons is so. The peo- 
ple of the country do not understand the unworthy 
motives by which not a few (I am sorry to say) Of 
the members of Congress are influenced in their 
course. After night I attended to some of the busi- 
ness on my table. This evening Mr. Ellis, an artist, 
who is taking a Cameo likeness of me, called. He 
sat at my table while I was engaged in business half 
an hour & proceeded with his work. I had not time 
to give him a sitting in any other way. 
This was reception evening. 

Saturday, 16th January, 184'J. — My office was 
crowded with company, members of Congress and 
others, this morning until the hour for the meeting 
of the Cabinet. Indeed after that hour, and after 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 331 

several members of the Cabinet had come in, I saw 
several members of Congress in my Private Secre- 
tary's office. 

All the members of the Cabinet were present to- 
day. Mr. Buchanan stated that on last night he 
held a long conversation with Col. Benton, on the 
subject of the visit of Col. Atocha to this City, and 
the communications made by that person to himself 
and Col. Benton in relation to the wishes of the 
Mexican Government for peace. Mr. Buchanan 
stated, also, that he had held another conversation 
with Col. Atocha this morning, and expressed the 
clear opinion that this person was in the confidence 
of Gen'l Santa Anna and Almonte and other prin- 
cipal men now conducting the Government of Mex- 
ico, and had no doubt he had been sent to Washing- 
ton by them to prepare the way for peace. The let- 
ters which he exhibited from these persons, as well 
as the information he communicated, he thought was 
conclusive evidence of that fact. He said that Ato- 
cha had stated the terms upon which, he had no 
doubt, the Mexican Government would make peace. 
They were the same which he had communicated to 
Col. Benton, & which are stated in this diary of the 
14th Inst. I told Mr. Buchanan that we could 
not agree to the proposed reservation of a neutral 
territory between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, 
and that we must obtain a cession of New Mexico 
as well as the Californias for a consideration. Mr. 
Buchanan said he had so informed [Atocha]. He 
said Atocha earnestly insisted upon the appointment 
of commissioners by the two Governments to meet 



332 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Jan. 

at Havana to negotiate for peace, and that if the 
U. S. would agree to this, & make such a proposi- 
tion, he would proceed forthwith with it to Mexico, 
and had no doubt it would be accepted. He said 
Atocha represented that this would be flattering to 
the Mexican pride, and would enable them to recon- 
cile the public opinion of Mexico to the opening of 
negotiations for peace. Atocha also, as Mr. Bu- 
chanan said, suggested that if Mexico accepted the 
overture and appointed Commissioners to treat for 
peace, the blockade of Vera Cruz by the U. S. Naval 
forces should be raised. To this I objected because 
Mexico might not be sincere in the matter, and might 
desire to have our naval forces withdrawn from Vera 
Cruz for a time so as to enable her to import arms 
& munitions of War into Vera Cruz, and after that 
was accomplished might refuse to treat or to agree 
to such terms as we could accept, and that if this 
should turn out to be so we would be overreached, 
and Mexico would thereby obtain an important ad- 
vantage, and subject the administration to the ridi- 
cule of the whole world for its credulity and weak- 
ness. I was unwilling therefore to raise the blockade 
or to relax our warlike movements, either by land or 
sea, until a Treaty was actually concluded and 
signed. After that was done, I would be willing to 
suspend military operations for a reasonable time, 
until it was ascertained whether the Treaty would 
be ratified by the two Governments. The opinion 
of the Cabinet was then taken and they were unani- 
mously of opinion that a letter should be addressed 
by the Secretary of State to the minister of Foreign 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 333 

affairs of Mexico, proposing the appointment of 
Commissioners on the part of both nations to meet 
at Havana to negotiate for peace. All except The 
Post Master Gen'l agreed that Col. Atocha should 
be the bearer of a sealed letter to this effect, not as 
a bearer of despatches or an employee of the Gov- 
ernment of the U. S. but as an individual to whom a 
sealed letter was entrusted to be delivered. Mr. 
Buchanan took from his pocket the rough draft of 
such a communication, which he said he had pre- 
pared after his interviews with Col. Benton & Ato- 
cha, which he read. Some slight modification was 
suggested. Mr. Buchanan retired to my Private 
Secretary's office and prepared a revised draft of the 
letter. The P. M. Gen'l being unwell retired. The 
balance of the Cabinet remained near an hour, when 
Mr. Buchanan returned to my office & read the re- 
vised draft of the letter,^ which was approved by all 
present. When the Cabinet retired Mr. Buchanan, 
at my request, left the letter with me. He said he 
would call to-night about lo O'Clock for it, observ- 
ing that he had an engagement to dine out to-day. 
I told Mr. Buchanan that as Col. Benton had been 
consulted on the subject, I would show the letter to 
him, to which he made no objection, but remarked 
that he thought it would be proper to do so. I wrote 
a note to Col. Benton requesting him to call on me 
this evening. He did so about 6 O'Clock P. M. I 
showed him the letter, and he approved the policy 
of writing a letter of the kind, and approved the 
draft which Mr. Buchanan had prepared. I had a 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 198. 



334 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Jan. 

full conversation with him, repeating substantially 
the opinions which I had expressed in the Cabinet 
to-day; in all of which he concurred. I had much 
conversation with him, also, about the dilatory pro- 
ceedings of Congress on the measures which I had 
recommended for the vigorous prosecution of the 
war. The Session was now nearly half over, the 
winter season, which is the only part of the year 
favourable for the prosecution of Military operations 
in Mexico, was passing away, and Congress had not 
yet given me any one of the measures which I had 
recommended in my annual message and my special 
message of the 4th Instant. On the contrary, they 
had rejected a Bill in the Senate ^ to authorize the 
appointment of a General in chief of the army, and I 
feared were not likely to pass any of the other meas- 
ures which I had recommended. He agreed with 
me that the Democratic party in Congress were in 
a most distracted and feeble condition. Instead of 
acting upon the great measures of the country, they 
are spending day after day and week after week in 
a worse than useless discussion about slavery. This 
fire-brand was first introduced by Mr. Preston King 
of New York, and a fierce & violent discussion has 
followed. It is a mischievous & wicked agitation, 
which can result in no good, and must lead to infinite 
mischief. The pretext for it is to declare in advance 
that slavery shall never exist in any territory which 
we may acquire from Mexico. In the Cabinet to- 
day this subject was one of conversation. All depre- 

^ The bill was laid on the table, January 15, by a vote of 29 
to 28. S. Journalj 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 104. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 335 

cated the discussion now going on in Congress, but 
all feared it would be impossible now to arrest it. 
The Cabinet were unanimous, also, in opinion that 
if by treaty or otherwise the U. S. should acquire 
any territory from Mexico, the line of the Missouri 
Compromise, viz., 36° 30', should extend West to 
the Pacific and apply to such territory. This ques- 
tion was not inconsiderately decided by the Cabinet, 
but was fully discussed and deliberately considered, 
and I took the opinion of each member of the Cabi- 
net seperately. 

Several members of Congress called after night, 
and among others Senator Sevier, Ch. of the com- 
mittee of Foreign affairs of the Senate; & Mr. C. J. 
IngersoU of the House, Ch. of the committee of For- 
eign affairs of that body; with each of whom I held 
a conversation on public affairs, & particularly the 
measures now pending before Congress. 

Sunday, lyth January, 184'/. — I attended Di- 
vine services at the Capitol to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk and her niece. Miss Rucker. Service was 
performed in the Hall of the Ho. Repts. by the Rev'd 
Mr. Slicer, chaplain of the Senate. He preached 
an excellent sermon. 

Monday, l8th January, 1847. — This morning on 
going to my office immediately after breakfast, I 
found Senator Benton & the Secretary of State wait- 
ing for me. Mr. Buchanan was in the office, and 
Mr. Benton walking in the passage without. I met 
the latter on my way to the office and invited him in. 



336 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Jan. 

Col. Benton read an article from a Mexican paper 
which strongly confirmed the account which Col. 
Atocha had given of the disposition of Santa Anna 
for peace. They then informed me, sometimes one 
of them talking and then the other, that they had 
spent last evening until a late hour in conversation 
with Col. Atocha, in which Atocha disclosed more 
fully than he had done the object of his visit to 
Washington. They were both fully and entirely 
satisfied that he was the confidential agent of Santa 
Anna, sent to Washington to open the door for nego- 
tiation and the conclusion of a peace. Mr. Bu- 
chanan had read to him the despatch to the Sec. of 
For. affairs of Mexico, considered in Cabinet on 
Saturday last. To that passage of the despatch 
which declared that the War would continue to be 
prosecuted until the commissioners proposed to be 
appointed should conclude a peace, Atocha objected 
on the ground that he feared it would wound the 
mexican pride. He had insisted that instead of this 
passage one should be inserted to the effect that the 
commissioners on the part of the U. S. should be 
invested with authority in their discretion, after 
meeting the Mexican commissioners, either to raise 
the blockade of Vera Cruz or to suspend hostilities. 
To this I at once said I saw no objection. Mr. Bu- 
chanan & Mr. Benton both thought it proper, and I 
directed that the passage should be modified accord- 
ingly. Then they asked me if Atocha could be con- 
veyed from New Orleans or Pensacola in a Steamer 
(a Government vessel). I told them that the Sec- 
retary of the Navy had said on Saturday that he had 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 337 

no such vessel at either place; but that I would send 
for him & also for the Secretary of the Treasury, 
and ascertain whether either a Steamer (a vessel of 
War) or a Revenue cutter could be used to convey 
Atocha speedily to Mexico. Atocha had informed 
them that if he could have the use of such a vessel 
he could go to Mexico and return to Washington 
City before the adjournment of the present Session 
of Congress. They said that Atocha was very anx- 
ious upon the subject, and was ready to leave upon an 
hour's notice, and repeated that they were thor- 
oughly satisfied that he was the confidential agent 
of Santa Anna, and that he was fully possessed of his 
views, and also of those of Almonte and Rejan and 
other leading men now in authority in Mexico. 

After Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Benton left, my mes- 
senger informed me that a great number of persons 
were in waiting to see me, in the anti-room and in 
the passage without. I directed him to show them 
all in at once. He opened my door & my office was 
at once crowded, as though it had been levee night 
or an evening when my drawing room was open for 
the reception of visitors. Members of Congress and 
many others were of the number, and with scarcely 
an exception they were seeking office for themselves 
or their friends. Most of the members of Congress 
came with their friends, who were animated by the 
patriotic desire to serve their country provided they 
could get an office with a good salary. 

The company having left at 12 O'Clock, I sent 
for the Secretary of the Navy. He called, & in an- 
swer to the enquiry whether there was any Govern- 



338 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Jan. 

ment vessel at New Orleans or Pensacola which 
could convey Atocha to Vera Cruz, he said there 
was not. I then sent for the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury to know whether he could furnish a Revenue 
Steam cutter to convey Atocha from New Orleans 
or Pensacola to Vera Cruz. He said there was such 
a vessel (The Bibb) at New Orleans which could 
be employed in that service, and could remain at 
Vera Cruz to bring him back. I requested him to 
call on Mr. Buchanan and inform him of the fact, 
and he said he would do so. Mr. Buchanan, to 
whom I had written a note requesting it, called 
shortly afterwards. He read to me his despatch, as 
modified, to the Secretary of Foreign affairs of Mex- 
ico, and said he had seen the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, and that they would meet Atocha at Col. 
Benton's House to-night and arrange the whole 
matter. 

Mr. Buchanan had mentioned casually in Cabinet 
on Saturday, when the subject was under considera- 
tion, that he would like to go himself as one of the 
Commissioners to negotiate a peace with Mexico. 
I alluded to it to-day & he repeated the same desire. 
I told him it struck me favourably, but that if he went 
he must do so in his character of Secretary of State, 
& go alone & without being associated with others. 
I told him that would be due to his position, & that 
the administration, if he went alone, would be en- 
titled to the whole credit of the arrangement. It 
seemed to strike him favourably. Indeed I had no 
doubt he was highly delighted with the idea. I said 
to him that I would consider further on the subject, 



1847] JAMES K» POLK'S DIARY 339 

if I learned that Mexico agreed to open negotia- 
tions. 

After night several members of Congress called, 
and among them Senator Bright of Indiana, who is 
an honest man & one of the soundest and most con- 
sistent & reliable democrats in the Senate. I had a 
conversation with him about the measures relating 
to the war & now pending before Congress. 

Tuesday, igth January, 1847. — My office was 
crowded as usual this morning with visitors, almost 
all of whom were seeking office for themselves and 
their friends. I most heartily wish that I could di- 
vest myself of all the patronage attached to my office. 
If I could I would be rid of great consumption 
of my time and infinite vexation. Between 11 and 
12 O'clock the Cabinet assembled, all the members 
present. I enquired of Mr. Buchanan if he had 
seen Col. Atocha last evening. He replied in the 
affirmative & said he had delivered to him the 
despatch to the Minister of Foreign affairs of Mex- 
ico, which he had prepared. He said that Mr. 
Walker (sec. of the Treasury) and himself had met 
him at Col. Benton's and held another conversation 
with him. Mr. Walker said he had given him a 
letter to the Commander of the Revenue Cutter 
*' Bibb " at New Orleans, & had directed the captain 
to proceed with him to Vera Cruz and to remain 
there until his return from the City of Mexico, and 
to bring him back to the U. S., landing him either 
at New Orleans or Pensacola. I am the more so- 
licitous to open negotiations & conclude a peace with 



340 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Jan. 

Mexico because of the extraordinary delay of Con- 
gress to act upon the War measures which 1 have 
recommended to them. It has been now more than 
six weeks since Congress met, & they have passed 
but two laws, the one to admit the State of Iowa 
into the Union,^ and the other to allow a bounty^ 
to the enlisted soldiers of the regular army. All the 
measures recommended in relation to the War are 
dragging slowly along, and their fate is doubtful. 
Faction has made its way into the Democratic party 
in Congress, which paralises all my efforts to prose- 
cute the War vigorously. A small faction of the 
Democratic party in one House or the other opposes 
one measure, and another faction another measure, 
while the Federalists, true to their instincts in op- 
position to the War, never fail to unite as one man 
for party purposes with the minority of the Demo- 
cratic party, and thus defeat or put in danger of de- 
feat, one after another, all of my measures. The 
State of things in Congress is lamentable. Instead 
of coming up to the mark as patriots & sustaining 
the administration and the country in conducting a 
foreign War, they are engaged in discussing 
the abstract question of slavery, & gravely con- 
sidering whether it shall exist in a territory which 
we have not yet acquired & may never acquire from 
Mexico. The Presidential election of 1848 has evi- 
dently much to do with this factious state of things. 
The aspirants to the Presidency & their friends in 
Congress make all the great measures which are now 

^ Act of December 28, 1846. U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 117. 
2 Act of January 12, 1846. U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 117. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 341 

before them yield to their selfish and ambitious 
views. The Federalists stand bye & avail them- 
selves of all the party advantages which the divisions 
in the Democratic party afford them. In view of 
this State of things I remarked to the Cabinet that 
unless a corrective was speedily applied, that my 
administration and with it the Democratic party 
must be overwhelmed. I suggested, & indeed urged, 
that each member of the Cabinet should see the 
members of Congress from his own section of the 
Union, and impress upon them the great importance 
of harmony and of immediate action upon the war 
measures now before them, and especially upon the 
loan-bill in the Ho. Repts. & the army Bill in the 
Senate. They were all impressed with the impor- 
tance of these suggestions, and promised me that 
they would attend to them without delay. I in- 
formed the Cabinet that if Congress delay[ed] much 
longer to act on these and other War measures, I 
would send a Message to Congress, and make an 
earnest and solemn appeal through them to the coun- 
try, to come to the support of the Executive in a 
vigorous prosecution of the War against Mexico. 
This I told them I would do, & that I did not fear 
the result of the public opinion of the country. 

About an hour after the Cabinet retired Mr. Bu- 
chanan returned & informed me that Atocha was 
still in the City, but would leave for Mexico via 
New Orleans to-night, and that he had written a 
short letter to Mr. Black, late U. S. consul at Mex- 
ico, and also one to Mr. Beach ^ of the New York 

^ Moses Y. Beach, 1 800-1 868, editor of the New York Sun. 



342 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Jan. 

Sun, now a confidential agent of the U. S. in Mex- 
ico, which Atocha would bear to them. He read 
the letters to me. 

This was the regular evening for receiving com- 
pany, but as to-morrow evening public notice had 
been given that there would be a drawing room at 
the President's mansion, not more than half a dozen 
gentlemen attended. I met them in the parlour. 
Among them was the Vice President & Mr. Rich- 
ard Rush of Philadelphia. Mr. Rush remained for 
near an hour after the other gentlemen retired. He 
is an exceedingly intelligent gentleman, and I had a 
very interesting conversation with him about public 
affairs. He agreed with me entirely that the dila- 
tory proceedings of Congress were without apology 
or excuse, and that the spirit of the country in re- 
gard to the war was far in advance of that of their 
Representatives. 

Mr. Rush gave me some interesting details which 
occurred when he was connected with Mr. Mad- 
ison's administration & when he was a member of 
Mr. Adam's Cabinet.^ He said that he was abroad 
when Mr. Adams was elected President, that he was 
unexpectedly invited to accept a place in his cabinet 
& did so, & remarked that in the election he had been 
in favour of Mr. Crawford" as the nominee in 

^ Rush was Attorney General under Madison 1814-1817, and 
Secretary of the Treasury under Adams 1 825-1 829. 

^William Harris Crawford, 1 772-1 834, a prominent candidate 
for the Presidency In the campaign of 1824. He received the 
nomination at the hands of the Congressional caucus, but upon 
the election being thrown into the House of Representatives Adams 
was chosen President by means of the assistance of Henry Clay. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 343 

Caucus of the Republican party. He gave me a very 
interesting account of the appointment of a General- 
in chief of the army upon the death of Maj'r Gen'l 
Brown/ He said that Gen'l[s] Gaines & Scott had 
both written very exeptionable & violent letters to 
the President, each claiming the office, the one by 
virtue of his lineal & the other of his Brevet rank. 
He said that Mr. Clay^ was warmly in favour of 
Gen'l Scott; that Messrs. Barbour, Southard, & Wirt 
also expressed a preference for Gen'l Scott. He 
said that for himself he had been silent during the 
discussions, which had occasionally taken place dur- 
ing a period of more than six weeks, but that finally 
his opinion was asked in Cabinet by the President 
& he gave it in favour of Gen'l Macomb, upon the 
ground that he thought neither Gaines nor Scott 
ought to be appointed after the very exceptionable 
letters which they had written. The President (Mr. 
Adams) who had never before expressed an opinion, 
Mr. Rush said, upon hearing his opinion in favour 
of Gen'l Macomb straightened himself up in his 
seat, and in his peculiar manner said " and I think 
so too." Mr. Rush said this was unexpected and 
produced great astonishment in the Cabinet, and 
came very near breaking up the Cabinet. He said 
as the members of the Cabinet retired, on the walk 

^ Jacob Brown of New York, 1 775-1 828, distinguished for his 
services in the War of 181 2, commander-in-chief of the army 1821- 
1828. 

^ Henry Clay was Secretary of State in the Adams Cabinet, 
James Barbour of Virginia Secretary of War, Samuel Southard of 
New Jersey Secretary of the Navy, William Wirt Attorney Gen- 
eral, and Richard Rush Secretary of the Treasurj\ 



344 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Jan. 

from the President's mansion Mr. Clay was vehe- 
ment on the subject, and expressed warmly the opin- 
ion that they could not get along under such treat- 
ment from the President. He said he interposed to 
allay the excitement & advised moderation. The 
President appointed Gen'l Macomb and the matter 
here ended. 

Wednesday, 20th January, 184J. — I had a large 
number of visitors to-day as usual. Many members 
of Congress were of the number who called, to sev- 
eral of whom I expressed myself freely and without 
reserve in condemnation of the delay of Congress in 
acting upon the war measures which I had recom- 
mended, and urged them to act without delay. 

Between 12 & i O'Clock I closed my office & gave 
orders that no names or cards of persons who might 
call were to be brought to me. In this way I was 
enabled to dispose of many matters of business which 
were on my table. 

Public notice having been previously given, my 
drawing room was open. All the parlours were 
brilliantly lighted up. The Marine Band were 
stationed in the large Hall. About 8 O'Clock 
P. M. the company began to assemble. All the par- 
lours including the East Room were filled with 
ladies & gentlemen. The Foreign Corps, members 
of the Cabinet, of the Supreme Court of the U. S., 
members of Congress, citizens, & strangers were pres- 
ent. Though the snow was falling & it was a cold 
night it was a numerous and brilliant assembly. The 
Company retired between 11 & 12 O'Clock. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 345 

Thursday, 21st January, 184J. — Saw company 
as usual this morning, and was not able to get 
my office clear of visitors untill near 2 O'Clock P. M. 
It was the old story over again; office, office, office, 
was the business of most of them. I urged several 
members of Congress who called to act promptly 
upon the loan-bill and other War measures which I 
had recommended. At night I learned that the 
loan-bill had passed the Ho. Repts. I have no doubt 
but that my personal appeal to members of Congress, 
and the like appeals made by my Cabinet, as I had 
requested them to make them on tuesday, produced 
this result. Among other visitors to-day, the Hon. 
Powhattan Ellis ^ of Mississippi called. He oc- 
cupied me for more than an hour. He desired to 
be appointed minister to Brazil in place of Mr. Wise. 
Mr. Ellis is an exceedingly worthy gentleman, & it 
gave me sincere regret as well as pain to be com- 
pelled to refuse his request. I dislike nothing so 
much as personal applications for office, especially 
from old acquaintances and friends whom I cannot 
gratify. 

After 12 O'clock to-day when I had business with 
my Private Secretary, I learned with surprise that 
without giving me any notice he had gone to An- 
napolis on a party of pleasure. I was vexed at the 
occurrence, and think it so thoughtless & inexcusa- 
ble on his part that I must require an explanation 
when he returns. In truth he is too fond of spend- 
ing his time in fashionable & light society, and does 

^Senator from Mississippi 1825-1826, and 1827-1832, minister 
to Mexico 1 839-1 842. 



346 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Jan. 

not give that close & systematic attention to business 
which is necessary to give himself reputation and 
high standing in the estimation of the more solid & 
better part of the community. This I have observed 
for some months with great regret. 

Friday, 22nd January, 184J. — I passed through 
the usual scene of receiving visitors this morning. 
Several members of Congress called, all of whom I 
urged to pass promptly the measures relating to the 
War now before Congress. To several Senators 
who called I made an earnest appeal to pass the Bill 
through the Senate providing for raising 10 Regi- 
ments of the Regular army to serve during [the] 
War. This Bill has passed the Ho. Repts. & has 
been unaccountably delayed in the Senate. Senator 
Houston has moved to convert it into a Volunteer 
Corps, which would be doing nothing as I have al- 
ready the power, under the act of May last, to call 
for volunteers. An additional regular force was 
deemed indispensible for the successful prosecution 
of the War, & therefore I recommended the measure 
to Congress in my opening Message at the com- 
mencement of the present Session, & finding that no 
action had been taken, I again recommended it in a 
Message on the 4th Inst. After a great struggle it 
passed the House. A motion was made in that body 
to convert it into a Bill to raise volunteers, which 
was defeated by only one vote. A faction of the 
Democratic party, being a small minority of the 
whole number, voted for this motion, and every Fed- 
eralist in the body united with them as a party 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 347 

measure, intending thereby to embarrass the admin- 
istration. The same thing is likely to occur in the 
Senate. Senator Houston and a small faction of 
Democratic Senators will vote for it, and I fear that 
the whole Federal party will vote with them & de- 
feat a measure which I deem essential to the vigor- 
ous and successful prosecution of the War. The 
Federalists are always united and vote with the 
minority of the Democratic party upon every admin- 
istration measure. This is a part of their party tac- 
tics. Several party measures have already been lost 
in this way, and among them I may note the Bill in 
the Senate for the appointment of a Lieut. Gen'l to 
command the army. Mr. Calhoun & two or three 
Democratic Senators, aided by the United Federal 
vote, defeated that measure. The War tax on tea & 
coflfee was defeated in the Ho. of Repts. in the same 
way. The whole Federal party united with Mr. 
Wentworth ^ & others and voted it down. I have a 
nominal majority of Democrats in both Houses of 
Congress, but am in truth in a minority in each 
House. The disappointments about office among 
the members, and the premature contest which they 
are waging in favour of their favorites for the Pres- 
idency in 1848, are the leading causes of this lament- 
able state of things. The truth is the different fac- 
tions of the Democratic party in Congress are en- 
gaged in scheming & intriguing for their respective 
favourites for the Presidency in 1848, & even the 

^ John Wentworth of Ilh'nois, 1815-1888, Representative from 
Illinois 1843-1851, 1853-1855, and 1865-1867; Mayor of Chi- 
cago in 1857 and again in i860. 



348 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Jan. 

pendency of a foreign War does not seem to prevent 
this. The Federalists manifestly enjoy the divisions 
in the Democratic ranks, and make it a rule of party 
action always to unite with the minority of the Dem- 
ocratic party, because in that way they hope and ex- 
pect to make party capital for themselves. I am 
perfectly disgusted with the want of patriotism which 
seems to control the votes and course of a portion of 
the Democratic members. I am resolved to do my 
duty to the country & if I am not sustained by Con- 
gress I will fearlessly appeal to the people. 

Even the question of slavery is thrown into Con- 
gress and agitated in the midst of a Foreign War 
for political purposes. It is brought forward at the 
North by a few ultra Northern members to advance 
the prospects of their favourite. No sooner is it in- 
troduced than a few ultra Southern members are 
manifestly well satisfied that it has been brought for- 
ward, because by seizing upon it they hope to array 
a Southern party in favour of their favourite candi- 
date for the Presidency. There is no patriotism on 
either side, & it is a most wicked agitation that can 
end in no good and must produce infinite mischief. 

I omitted to note in yesterday's Diary that Senator 
Hannegan of Indiana called on me. He was in 
company with Senator Atchison of Missouri. It is 
the first time he has called since the settlement of the 
Oregon question last summer, about which he suf- 
fered himself to become unnecessarily excited. He 
had certainly no cause of complaint against me, for 
my course was a consistent one. I received him in 
a courteous manner. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 349 

Saturday, 2Jrd January, 184J. — Saw company 
this morning until the hour of the meeting of the 
Cabinet. Among others who called was Senator 
Crittendon of Ky. Mr. Buchanan had previously 
informed me that he desired to see me, and that he 
would call this morning. He desired to converse 
with me on the subject of the Mexican War, & the 
means of prosecuting and bringing it to a close. I 
told him I was happy to have a conversation with 
him on that subject, and that I would give him my 
views unreservedly. Mr. Crittendon though dif- 
fering with me in politics is an honorable gentleman, 
and in the confidence that ought to exist between a 
Senator & the President I was unreserved in my con- 
versation. It was in substance what I had said [to] 
other Senators & a few others. I informed him that 
I was sincerely desirous for peace, but that I be- 
lieved the most effective mode of obtaining it was 
by a bold and vigorous prosecution of the War; that 
while this was done I thought it important that Con- 
gress should make the appropriation of the two mil- 
lions of dollars for which I had asked at the last and 
at the present Session [of] Congress, so that while I 
presented a formidable army invading Mexico on 
the one hand, I might have the means of inducing 
her to negotiate for peace on the other. The two 
millions I would calculate to pay as a part consid- 
eration for any cession of territory which by a defin- 
itive Treaty of peace she might make to the U. S. 
I told him that I did not prosecute the War for con- 
quest, that I hoped by a Treaty of peace to obtain a 
cession of the Californias & New Mexico, and to pay 



3SO JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Jan. 

for them a reasonable equivalent. That equivalent 
would probably be the assumption of the Debt due 
by Mexico to our own citizens, to bear the expenses of 
the War, and to pay to Mexico some Millions of 
Dollars besides. He expressed his concurrence in 
these general views &c his gratification at hearing 
them. I told him I deprecated the agitation of the 
slavery question in Congress, and though a South- 
western man & from a slave-holding State as well 
as himself, I did not desire to acquire a more South- 
ern Territory than that which I had indicated, be- 
cause I did not desire by doing so to give occasion 
for the agitation of a question which might sever 
and endanger the Union itself. I told him the ques- 
tion of slavery would probably never be a practical 
one if we acquired New Mexico & California, be- 
cause there would be but a narrow ribbon of terri- 
tory South of the Missouri compromise line of 36° 
30', and in it slavery would probably never exist. 
He expressed himself highly gratified at these views. 
He expressed an opinion that he would be satisfied 
with the Rio Grande as a boundary, and with a 
smaller country including the Bay of San Francisco 
on the Pacific, than that which I had indicated. I 
urged him to have speedy action in the Senate upon 
the War measures which I had recommended. My 
interview with Mr. Crittendon was a gratifying one. 
He seemed to be well satisfied with it, but how far 
party-ties may induce [him] to act in opposition to 
my views, in which he concurred in our conversation, 
remains to be seen. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 351 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of War. The Sec- 
retary of War called this morning & informed me 
that he would be absent from the Cabinet to-day, 
in order to meet the Committees on Military afifairs 
of the two Houses of Congress, who were to be at 
the War Department at 10 O'Clock. This joint 
meeting of the two committees was to take place in 
pursuance of the request of the committee of the 
Senate, made known in a note addressed by its chair- 
man to the Secretary of War two or three days ago. 
The objects were to examine confidentially the cor- 
respondence between the War Department and 
Gen'l Taylor & Gen'l Scott, and also into other 
matters connected with the War, which it might be 
prejuducial to the public interest to make public at 
this time. The business of chief interest before the 
Cabinet to-day were our relations with Brazil, which 
from those of amity had been recently disturbed by 
an unfortunate occurrence at Rio Janeiro. A riot 
had taken place among some American Sailors on 
shore, and in the progress of the afifair Lieut. Davis 
and three of the seamen were imprisoned. The 
whole correspondence on the subject was read by 
Mr. Buchanan. After this Mr. Buchanan stated 
that Mr. Lisboa, the Brazillian Minister, had called 
at the Department of State & held a long conversa- 
tion with him on the subject, and that he (Mr. 
Lisboa) was very anxious to adjust the difficulty in a 
manner honorable to both nations, and with that 
view had promised to address a note to Mr. Bu- 



352 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Jan. 

chanan on the subject. Any decision on the matter 
was postponed until Mr. Lisboa's note should be re- 
ceived. 

After night several members of Congress called. 
About 10 O'clock at night Senators Benton &c Allen 
called together. They had been dining out. Mr. 
Benton proceeded immediately to converse in a very 
animated strain of the developments [revelations] 
to the two military committees of Congress, which 
had been made by the exhibition to them by the Sec- 
retary of War to-day of the correspondence of the 
Department with Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Scott, in- 
cluding the letters of these officers to the Depart- 
ment. He was very strong in his condemnation of 
both Taylor & Scott, and both he and Mr. Allen 
concurred in opinion that neither of these officers 
were fit for the command of the army & that they 
ought to be superseded. They were both strong & 
vehement on the subject. Col. Benton among other 
things said, I was willing to take the command of 
the army as Lieut. General, but the Senate had re- 
jected the proposition to appoint such an officer; 
but now, Sir! seeing what I have to-day I will go as 
a Maj'r Gen'l or a Lieut. Col., or in any other rank, 
provided I can have the command of the army, & if 
I can have such command I will close the War be- 
fore July. They held a conversation with me on 
the subject of more than an hour. Col. Benton said 
that every member of the two committees were as- 
tonished at the conduct of both Taylor & Scott. At 
about 11^ O'clock they retired. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 353 

Sunday, 24th January, 184J. — I attended Divine 
Worship to-day at the Capitol accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Miss Lane,^ the 
niece of Mr. Buchanan, who upon Mrs. P.'s invi- 
tation is spending a few days with my family. She 
came on yesterday. Service was performed in the 
Hall of the Ho. of Repts. by the Rev'd Mr. Sprole, 
chaplain of the House. He preached an excellent 
sermon. 

Monday, Z^th January, 184'J. — Saw company 
as usual until 12 O'Clock this morning. A large 
number of persons [called], most [of them], as 
usual, seeking ofHce. I had no offices to give and 
dispatched them as summarily as possible. 

Two or three days ago a letter bearing the signature 
of Gen'l Taylor & purporting to have been written 
near Monterey in Mexico, said to have been ad- 
dressed by him to a friend in New York, was pub- 
lished in the New York Express, and copied into the 
Herald. I read it in the Herald on yesterday. It 
is a highly exceptionable letter, assailing as it does 
the administration, uttering unfounded complaints, 
and giving publicity to the world of the plans of 
campaign contemplated by the Government, which 
it had been desired by the Government to keep con- 
cealed from the enemy until they were consummated. 
Several persons have spoken to me of the letter, and 
expressed doubts whether it was genuine or not. I 

^ Harriet Lane, Buchanan's ward, the daughter of his sister, 
Mrs. Lane, who died in 1839. During Buchanan's Presidential 
term Harriet Lane presided as mistress of the White House. 



354 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Jan. 

have myself no doubt it is genuine. Considering 
the letter not only injurious to the public interests, 
but unjust to the Government and its publication 
highly unmilitary, I sent for the Secretary of War to 
consult him as to the steps proper to be taken in ref- 
erence to it. The Secretary of War called. The 
Secretary of the Navy was also in my office. I con- 
ferred vs^ith them fully on the subject. I told the 
Secretary of War that I thought a letter should be 
immediately addressed to Gen'l Taylor enquiring 
of him whether he was the author of the letter, and 
that in the mean-time a proper article vindicating 
the Government and exposing Gen'l Taylor for 
writing such a letter should be published in the 
Union. The further consideration of the subject 
was postponed until to-morrow when the Secretary 
of War promised to have a suitable article prepared 
for publication. After the Secretary of War left, a 
card was brought to me by my porter from Gen'l 
Gaines with a letter addressed to the Secretary of 
War, which I opened and read. It was a letter from 
Gen'l Gaines in which he states that the letter of 
Genl Scott [Taylor] which had been published in 
the newspapers was addressed to him. i\bout dark 
the Secretary of War came in, &c while I was con- 
versing with him about the letter of Gen'l Taylor 
& Gen'l Gaines's avowal that it had been addressed 
to him, Gen'l Gaines was announced at my office 
door & I directed my porter to show him in. He 
very soon introduced the subject of Gen'l Taylor's 
letter, and repeated in substance what he had written 
in his letter to the Secretary of War. I told Gen'l 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 355 

Gaines that I regarded the letter as a highly im- 
proper one, and its publication as highly prejudicial 
to the success of our military operations in Mexico, 
inasmuch as by its publication information of the 
contemplated movements of our army were given 
to the enemy, as well as to our own people. I told 
him that so far as it complained of the Government 
or reflected upon it it was unjust and without the 
slightest foundation, as the public records when pub- 
lished would show. The Secretary of War expressed 
the same opinion. The Secretary left my office & 
Gen'l Gaines continued the conversation. He said 
that the Editor to whom he had given the letter had 
published more of it than he intended he should & 
had accompanied it with comments which he did 
not approve. He attempted to excuse GenU Taylor 
by saying that though the letter was not confidential 
it was not written for publication by Gen'l Taylor, 
and he was responsible for its publication. He said 
that after it was published in New York it produced 
some excitement, & he had come immediately to 
Washington. I expressed to him in strong terms my 
condemnation of the letter & of its publication. He 
left me apparently much concerned about it. The 
truth is that Gen'l Taylor is in the hands of political 
managers, and this letter is another of the many evi- 
dences that I have had that he is wholly unfit for 
the chief command in Mexico. It was this convic- 
tion which forced me in November to send Gen'l 
Scott to the field to supersede [him]. I have no 
confidence in Scott, & it was but an alternative when 
I was compelled to send him. I am held responsi- 



356 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Jan. 

ble for the conduct of the War, & yet Congress re- 
fused to give me a commander in whom I have con- 
fidence, & I am compelled to employ the officers 
whom the law has provided, however unfit they 
may be. 

Tuesday, 26th January, 184J. — Saw company 
this morning until near 12 O'Clock. Among the 
visitors were several members of Congress, to whom 
I spoke very freely of the inexcusable delay of Con- 
gress in acting upon the War measures which I have 
recommended to Congress. I condemned the de- 
lay in decided terms as embarrassing to the Govern- 
ment & prejudicial to the public service. While I 
was speaking on the subject, the Committee on En- 
rolled Bills called & presented to me for my approval 
two unimportant Bills, when I took the occasion to 
repeat my complaint of their delay to them. It is 
now near the close of the 2nd Month of the Session 
and but two laws, besides the two Bills now presented, 
have been passed. 

The Cabinet met, all the members present except 
the Secretary of the Treasury, who was understood 
to be at the Capitol pressing members to pass [push] 
the speedy passage of the loan-bill. The published 
letter of Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Gaines's avowal 
that it had been addressed to him, & had been pub- 
lished by his permission (see yesterday's diary) were 
considered. The Cabinet were unanimous in con- 
demning Taylor for writing such a letter & Gaines 
for publishing it, as being not only unmilitary and 
a violation of their duty as officers, but calculated 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 357 

seriously to embarrass & injure the pending military 
operations in Mexico. It was agreed that a letter 
should be written by the Secretary of War to Gen'l 
Taylor condemning his conduct. It was agreed also 
that as the letter had been published in several pub- 
lic journals, it should be republished in the Wash- 
ington Union/ with proper comments. The Secre- 
tary of War & the Secretary of the Navy stepped into 
my Private Secretary's office and prepared an article 
for the paper. The Secretary of State took their 
draft and prepared one from it which I thought too 
mild but assented to it in this form. The Secretary 
of War took it with him when he retired. 

This was reception evening. An unusually large 
number of visitors attended, ladies & gentlemen. 
The Circular parlour was filled. 

Wednesday, 2yth January, 1847, — A large num- 
ber of visitors called this morning and among them 
several ladies. They were generally ladies & all 
seeking office for their friends. After 12 O'Clock 
I closed my doors and despatched a considerable 
mass of small business which had accumulated on 
my table. About 2 O'Clock P. M. The Secretary 
of the Treasury called & informed me that he had 
just returned from the Capitol & that the loan-bill 

^Taylor's letter, dated at Monterey, November 9, 1846, was 
printed in the Union, accompanied by a deprecatory notice, Jan- 
uary 26, 1847. The strictures of the War Department eh'cited 
a second letter from Taylor, March 3, 1847. It was sent by the 
President to the House, in answer to a resolution calling for it, 
February 4, 1848, and was printed in the New York Herald the 
following day. 



3S8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Jan. 

had passed both houses. This is the first [of] my 
war measures which has been acted on by Congress 
during the present Session. The Secretary in- 
formed me that it required his presence at the Cap- 
itol yesterday & to-day & all his exertions to pre- 
vent mischievous amendments proposed by Federal 
members from being engrafted upon it. 

I had a small Dinner party to-day; among the 
company were Mr. & Mrs. McKenzie of St. Louis, 
Judge and Mrs. Catron, & Mrs. Benson; Gov. Mor- 
ton of Boston, Senator Mason ^ of Va., who took his 
seat in the Senate on monday as the Successor of the 
lamented Pennybacker, Hon. John McKeon of New 
York, & Hon. Mr. McDaniel of Missouri. 

After Dinner the Secretary of War called & read 
to me the draft of a letter to Gen'l Taylor, which he 
had prepared on the subject of Gen'l Taylor's letter 
published in the newspapers, and which is noticed 
in this diary of yesterday and the day before. He 
said he had submitted it to Mr. Buchanan & Mr. 
Mason, and that Mr. B. thought one part of it too 
strongly expressed. He read to me two forms of 
that part of it, the one milder than the other. I de- 
cided at once in favour of the stronger form. The 
offense was highly unmilitary, and if dealt with 
strictly would subject both Gen'l Taylor for writing 
the letter & Gen'l Scott [Gaines] for publishing it 
to arrest & trial. My opinion, therefore, was that it 

^ James Murray Mason, 1798-187 1, Senator from Virginia 
1 847- 1 86 1. A strict constructionist, he followed his State in its 
secession from the Union and was one of the Confederate com- 
missioners to England taken by Captain Wilkes in the Trent affair. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 359 

merited and ought to receive a decided rebuke from 
the Government. This I thought was the mildest 
course we could take. The Secretary agreed with 
me in opinion. The Secretary informed me that 
some of the Federal members, as he learned, had in- 
dulged in a violent party debate in the Senate to- 
day. He informed me, also, that he had received a 
note from Col. Benton informing him that a call 
would be made by the Senate for the correspondence 
between the War Department & Gen'l[s] Taylor 
and Scott, and requesting him to have the copies pre- 
pared & in a state of readiness, so as to answer the 
call promptly. The publication of Gen'l Taylor's 
[letter] will force the publication of the official cor- 
respondence, so as to expose his unfounded attack 
on the administration. Taylor is a vindictive & ig- 
norant political partisan, and after all the kindness 
and indulgence I have shown him has suffered him- 
self to be controlled & managed by bad men for po- 
litical purposes. I shall regret the necessity for the 
publication of the Official Documents, but a state of 
things has been produced by Gen'l Taylor which 
renders it necessary for the vindication of the truth 
& the good of the service. If therefore the call is 
made by the Senate I will answer it. 

Thursday, 28th January, 184J. — This morning 
my office was crowded with visitors as usual, and 
upon the usual business, viz., seeking office. I had 
directed my porter to close the doors at 12 O'Clock, 
but so many persons had gotten into the anti-room 
before that hour that my time was occupied until 



36o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Jan. 

near 2 O'Clock P. M., before I got clear of them. 
The Secretary of State & the Secretary of the Navy 
called. The Secretary of State read to me the trans- 
lation of a note of the Brazilian Minister, designed 
as a reperation of the wrong complained of by the 
U. S. in consequence of the imprisonment of Lieut. 
Davis & some American Sailors at Rio Janeiro. 
With a modification of the note which the Secretary 
of State suggested and which he supposed Mr. 
Lisboa would make, it would be satisfactory. The 
note has not been formally delivered to the Secretary 
of State, but had been informally submitted to him 
to know if delivered whether it would be satisfactory. 
I transacted some other business both with the Sec- 
retary of State and the Secretary of the Navy. 
After they retired I disposed of several matters of 
business on my table. I learned to-night that the 
Senate without disposing of the army bill, adjourned 
until to-morrow. The delay in Congress in acting 
upon the War Measures recommended is most em- 
barrassing & is inexcusable. 

It is two years ago this day since I left my residence 
at Columbia, Tennessee, to enter on my duties as 
President of the U. S. Since that time I have per- 
formed great labour and incurred vast responsibili- 
ties. In truth, though I occupy a very high position, 
I am the hardest working man in this country. 

Friday, 2Qth January, 184^. — This was an in- 
clement morning; the rain was falling & freezing as 
it fell, and yet it did not prevent a number of per- 
sons from visiting me, on the patriotic business of 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 361 

seeking office. Neither ice nor fire I believe would 
stop them. I am perfectly disgusted with the pre- 
vailing passion for place which brings crowds of 
persons to Washington. Even females, and many of 
them in the garb and appearance of ladies, call, in 
behalf of their husbands, brothers, and sons. How 
much better it would be if the horde of office seek- 
ers who infest Washington would apply themselves 
to some honest calling for a living. It was not until 
near i O'Clock that I was enabled to open a letter 
or attend to any other business on my table. Shortly 
after that hour the Secretary of War called on 
official business, which occupied my time for one or 
two hours. The Secretary of State also called & I 
spent some time with him. He informed me among 
other things that he had held a conference with the 
Brazillian Minister to-day on the subject of the im- 
prisonment of Lieut. Davis an[d] three sailors at 
Rio de Janeiro, the result of which was that Mr. Lis- 
boa would address him (the Secretary of State) a 
note making an apology for the conduct of the 
Brazillian authorities in that aflfair, which would be 
satisfactory. Mr. Buchanan read to me a translation 
of the proposed note, which had not yet been offi- 
cially delivered, but would be as soon as Mr. Lis- 
boa could revise and copy it. 

This was reception evening, A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 30th January, 184'/. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. It was 
also the last day upon which letters for Europe by 



362 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Jan. 

the Steamer which will leave Boston on the ist 
proximo could be written. Desiring to write one or 
two letters before the Cabinet met, I directed my 
porter to admit no visitors this morning. He obeyed 
my orders, but several persons, members of Congress 
with their friends, made their way to my Private 
Secretary's office & I was compelled to see them, 
much to my annoyance. They were upon the usual 
business, viz., seeking office. The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour, all the members present except the 
Secretary of the Navy, who was understood to be 
detained at his house by indisposition. The subject 
of Gen'l Taylor's late letter to Gen'l Gaines, pub- 
lished in the newspapers, was one of conversation. 
The National Intelligencer of this morning con- 
tains an unjust attack upon the administration upon 
the subject. Heretofore I have discouraged several 
members of Congress, who had consulted me on the 
subject, from calling for the correspondence between 
the War Department and Gen'l Taylor, because I 
thought its publication at this time would be preju- 
dicial to the public interest. Gen'l Taylor, how- 
ever, has chosen to write a letter to Gen'l Gaines, 
which has been published in the newspapers, dis- 
closing the plans of campaign to the world, and the 
same reason does not now exist for withholding from 
the public the official correspondence. The Cabinet 
were unanimously of opinion that the official corre- 
spondence should now be published, and that if called 
for by Congress, it should be communicated to them. 
This is the only mode in which the truth can be set 
before the public, & the administration fully vindi- 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 363 

cated against the unjust (to use no stronger term) 
attack of Gen'l Taylor in his letter. 

Mr. Buchanan brought before the Cabinet a 
Treaty ^ recently signed by the U. S. charge de af- 
fairs to New Granada and the Secretary of Foreign 
affairs of that Republic. As a commercial Treaty 
it was liberal & in all respects satisfactory, but in ad- 
dition to its commercial provisions it contained 
an article giving the guaranty of the U. S. for the 
neutrality of the Isthmus of Panama, and the sover- 
eignty of New Granada over that territory. Seri- 
ous doubts were entertained whether this stipulation 
was consistent with our long-settled policy to "culti- 
vate friendship with all nations, entangling alliances 
with none." The subject was discussed at some 
length, and was finally postponed to enable the Sec- 
retary of State to give to it a further examination 
and Report upon the subject. 

After night several members of Congress called & 
among them Senators Cass & Bagby. 

Sunday, Jlst January, 1 84'/. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by my 
niece. Miss Rucker; Mrs. Polk was indisposed and 
did not attend church. 

Monday, Ist February, 184J. — This morning my 
office was crowded with visitors. The prospect of 
the passage of the Bill before Congress to raise 10 
Regular Regiments for the War against Mexico, 
brought a large number of members of Congress with 

1 V.S.Stat, at Large, Y^.^'^i. 



364 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Feb. 

their constituents and friends seeking commissions 
in the army. I was unable to close my office at the 
usual hour without giving offense to those who were 
present, and the result was that up to my dinner 
hour at 4 O'Clock P. M. I had not a moment of time 
to devote to my business on my table. After Din- 
ner I took my usual walk around the grounds of the 
President's Mansion, and almost immediately after 
my return a member of Congress called, and shortly 
afterwards several others. At one time after night 
my office was filled with members of Congress and 
their friends who were seeking military appoint- 
ments. It was after 11 O'Clock P. M. when I re- 
tired from my office, having spent a day without any 
benefit or usefulness to the country. I retired much 
exhausted and fatigued. 

About 2 O'clock P. M. Mr. Kaufman, one of the 
Representatives from the State of Texas, called and 
had a long conversation with me about several mat- 
ters of business, but chiefly about appointments in 
Texas. Among other things he informed me that 
Gen'l Houston was dissatisfied with the administra- 
tion. I told him that I had received an intimation 
of the kind before, but that he had no cause to be 
so. The truth is that Senator Houston desires to be 
a candidate for the Presidency and probably thinks 
that I do not throw my official influence into the 
scale to promote his views. He probably thinks, 
also, that he should have been looked to instead of 
Col. Benton for Lieut. General. 

My niece, Sally Polk Walker, now Mrs. Green, 
with her husband. Dr. Green of Va., arrived from 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 36s 

Tennessee to-day & took rooms in the President's 
mansion. 

Tuesday, 2nd February, 184J. — I saw company 
this morning until between 11 and 12 O'Ciock, when 
my Cabinet met, this being the regular day of meet- 
ing, all the members present. Mr. Buchanan read a 
note from Mr. Lisboa, the Brazilian Minister, mak- 
ing explanations and expressing the regret of his Gov- 
ernment at the occurrence which had taken place at 
Rio de Janeiro on the 31st of October last, which 
had resulted in the imprisonment of Lieut. Davis 
and three seamen of the U. S. Navy. Mr. Lisboa 
gave assurance in his note that proper measures 
should be taken by his Government to prevent the 
occurrence of a similar occur[r]ence hereafter. I 
told Mr. Buchanan that the explanation & apology 
was satisfactory. He replied that he thought it was 
all we could demand or expect, and the other mem- 
bers of the Cabinet were unanimously of the same 
opinion. Mr. Buchanan then read the draft of a note 
in reply, which he had prepared, which was approved 
by the Cabinet. 

The tardy and embarrassing action of Congress on 
the war measures was freely discussed and regretted 
by all. I inquired of the Secretary of the Treasury 
concerning the state of the finances, and the meas- 
ures which he proposed to take to negotiate a loan. 
The war and the measures necessary for its vigorous 
prosecution were also the subject of free conversa- 
tion. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, but not as large a number as usual, called. 



366 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Feb. 

Wednesday, Jrd February, 184J. — I directed 
my porter this morning to exclude company after 
1 1 O'clock, which hour I had appointed for the Sec- 
retary of War to meet me at my office. Many per- 
sons called. Between 1 1 & 12 O'Clock the Secretary 
of War called. He sent for Maj'r Cooper of the 
army, who is acting as his chief Clerk. I spent the 
day until 3 O'Clock P. M. with them in examining 
the correspondence between the War Department & 
Gen'l Taylor, which had been called for by a Reso- 
lution ^ of the Ho. Repts. Not having finished the 
examination they retired at that hour, with the under- 
standing that they would return again at 6 O'Clock. 
Accordingly at that hour they returned & resumed 
the examination of the correspondence, which was 
not completed until near 11 O'Clock. I directed 
every thing to be copied to be transmitted to the 
House, except such parts as might impart to the 
enemy the plans of the pending campaign. 

Thursday, 4th February, 184^. — This morning 
I passed through the usual scene of receiving visit- 
ors until after 12 O'Clock. Many of them as usual 
were seeking office and especially military appoint- 
ments. The military Bill which proposes to raise 10 
additional Regular Regiments, still hangs in Con- 
gress. When it will pass, God only knows. Had 
it passed six weeks ago, as it ought to have done, 
it would have been of great importance. As it is, 

^ H. Journal, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 287. The President's message 
in answer to the resolution, with the accompanying documents, is 
printed in H. Ex. Doc. 119, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. IV. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 367 

the favourable season for military operations in Mex- 
ico has already nearly half passed. Mr. Buchanan 
called & read to me a despatch to Mr. Wise, U. S. 
Minister in Brazil, communicating to him the cor- 
respondence between Mr. Lisboa & himself by which 
the difficulty which arose at Rio de Janeiro on the 
31st of October last, in consequence of the arrest of 
Lieut. Davis & three sailors of the U. S. Navy, was 
satisfactorily settled. The Secretary of War called 
and spent some time with me on official business. I 
disposed of some of the business which had been 
accumulating on my table for some days past. 

After night two members of Congress called. 
Mr. Ficklin of the Ho. Repts. presented to me a 
walking cane, sent to me by Mr, Wm. Wade of 
Illinois, as an evidence of his respect and of his ap- 
proval of my administration. 

I omitted to mention in yesterday's diary that Mr. 
Calderon, the Spanish Minister, called at 12 O'Clock 
on yesterday, and delivered to me two letters [from 
his sovereign ^ which] announced her own marriage 
and that of her sister. Such matters of ceremony 
appear very ridiculous to an American citizen but 
are deemed to be important by the Monarchical 
Courts of Europe. 

Friday, J/Zt February, 1847. — I endured this 
morning the usual round of visits from members of 
Congress & others, most of the members seeking mili- 

^ Isabella II, Queen of Spain 1833-1868, mother of Alphonso 
XII and grandmother of Alphonso XIII of Spain. She married 
her cousin, the Infante Francisco, October 10, 1846. 



368 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Feb. 

tary offices for their friends, and many of the other 
visitors seeking such appointments for themselves. 
The annoyance of office seekers is very great to me. 
Whilst much of my time is daily occupied by their 
visits, I am much embarrassed by the want of sup- 
port in Congress to the measures which I have rec- 
ommended. The Military Bill still hangs in 
Congress. It is now in the third month of the Ses- 
sion and none of my war measures have yet been 
acted upon. There is no harmony in the Demo- 
cratic party. They are cut up into factions, each 
faction following their favourable [favorite] leader, 
and looking more to the Presidential election of 1848 
than to principle or the good of the country. In 
truth faction rules the hour, while principle & pa- 
triotism is forgotten. While the Democratic party 
are thus distracted and divided and are playing this 
foolish and suicidal game, the Federal party are 
united and never fail to unite with the minority of 
the Democratic party, or any faction of it who may 
break off from the body of their party, and thus post- 
pone and defeat all my measures. I am in the un- 
enviable position of being held responsible for the 
conduct of the Mexican War, when I have no sup- 
port either from Congress or from the two officers 
(Scott & Taylor) highest In command in the field. 
How long this state of things will continue I cannot 
forsee. I am seriously deliberating upon the pro- 
priety, if not necessity, of sending a message to Con- 
gress, earnestly and boldly but respectfully appealing 
to Congress, and through them to the country, and 
calling for action upon the War measures which I 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 369 

have recommended, and which are indispensible to 
maintain the honour & the rights of the county. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 6th February, 184J. — My office was 
open for the reception of visitors until the hour for 
the meeting of the Cabinet to-day. A number of 
persons, members of Congress & others, called. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. I stated fully to them the embarrass- 
ments to the Government, and especially in the 
prosecution of the War, in consequence of the failure 
of Congress to act on the war-measures which I have 
recommended. I stated to them that I was seriously 
considering of the propriety, and indeed the duty, 
of sending to Congress a message boldly and strongly 
appealing to Congress and through them to the 
country, in favour of speedy action on my war meas- 
ures. This I thought necessary to vindicate myself 
before the people & to throw the responsibility of 
the failure to act upon Congress. All the Cabinet 
approved the suggestion but Mr. Buchanan, who 
thought I had better postpone taking such a step 
until it was ascertained whether the Bill to raise 10 
Regiments of regular troops now before the Senate 
would pass. If that Bill failed to pass, Mr. Bu- 
chanan was then decidedly in favour of my sending 
in such a message. 

A question arose as to the propriety of sending to 
the Ho. Repts. certain portions of the correspond- 
ence between the War Department & Gen'l Taylor, 



370 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Feb. 



which had been called for by the House, and es- 
pecially of sending in a letter to Gen'l Taylor dated 
Oct. 22nd, i847[6]. This letter communicates to 
Gen'l Taylor the views of the Government and the 
plan of a campaign against Vera Cruz, which is 
now in progress under the command of Gen'l Scott 
and is not yet executed. All agreed that this let- 
ter was important to the full vindication of the 
course of the Government, and in connection with 
the other correspondence would place Gen'l Taylor 
in his true position & [be] much to his prejudice as 
an officer, and indeed show that he had perversely 
thwarted the views of the Government; but on the 
other hand if published it might possibly reach Mex- 
ico before the campaign which it planned was exe- 
cuted, and might embarrass if not defeat it. It was 
finally agreed to suspend any final decision on the 
subject for the present. It was thought that de- 
spatches might be expected soon from Gen'l Scott, 
showing that the campaign had progressed so far 
as to render the publication of this part of the cor- 
respondence safe and proper. 

Sunday, yth February, 184J. — I attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. 

Monday, 8ih February, 184^. — A large number 
of persons called this morning, most of them seek- 
ing office, and especially military appointments. 
My daily annoyance on the subject of office con- 
tinues without abatement. Between 12 and i 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 371 

O'clock my office was closed, and I devoted two 
hours or more in preparing the draft of a message 
to Congress, such as I had suggested to the Cabinet 
on Saturday last. 

Near night Senator Cass called, and informed me 
that the Senate had rejected the Report of the com- 
mittee of conference of the two Houses on the dis- 
agreeing votes between them on the Bill to raise 10 
additional Regiments. The effect of this vote is the 
rejection of the Bill. I learn it was rejected by the 
united vote of the Federal party in the Senate, and 
by the votes of Mr. Calhoun and his peculiar friends 
in the Senate. I now regard Mr. Calhoun to be 
in opposition to my administration. He has been 
dissatisfied ever since I refused to retain him in my 
Cabinet at the commencement of my administration, 
and is now, I have reason to believe, as decidedly op- 
posed to my administration in his heart as any mem- 
ber of the Federal party. He is an aspirant for the 
Presidency, and the truth is that the next Presiden- 
tial election has divided the Democratic party in 
Congress into factions, each adhering to their fa- 
vourites, and the effect is to reduce the administra- 
tion to a minority in Congress, and to paralyze and 
defeat all my measures. In the Senate 3 or 4 Dem- 
ocrats who may dissent from the body of the party 
can defeat any measure. The Federal party never 
fail to unite with such minority and thus constitute 
the majority. Mr. Calhoun can carry with him 
that many votes, and I now consider him the most 
mischievous man in the Senate to my administration. 
The people must be made to understand this State 



372 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Feb, 

of things. With a nominal majority in each House, 
I am in truth in a minority in both. Several mem- 
bers of Congress called after night, to whom I spoke 
freely and in terms of great indignation at the un- 
patriotic course of the Senate in refusing to grant 
the means absolutely necessary to enable me to pros- 
ecute the war with Mexico with energy and vigor. 

Among others Senator Butler ^ of S. C, who had 
voted to reject the Bill, called, and to him I spoke in 
as decided terms & [as] I did to others. I think I 
satisfied him of his error, because he expressed the 
opinion that the vote rejecting the Bill would be re- 
considered by the Senate on to-morrow. 

Tuesday, gth February, 184J. — A number of 
persons called this morning, members of Congress 
and others, to whom I spoke in strong and decided 
terms of disapprobation of the course of the Senate 
on yesterday in rejecting the Bill to raise 10 addi- 
tional Regiments. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. The Mexican War, and the refusal of 
the Senate to grant the necessary means to prosecute 
it, were freely discussed. I read to the Cabinet the 
draft of the message which I propose to send to Con- 
gress, and which I prepared on yesterday. They 
approved it. I told them that since the rejection 
of the 10 Regiment Bill by the Senate on yesterday, 
I must make it stronger and more pointed in some 
of its parts. The Responsibility shall rest upon 

^ Andrew Pickens Butler, 1796-1857, Senator from South Caro- 
lina 1 846-1 85 7. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 373 

Congress of failing to furnish the means to enable 
me to prosecute the war with Mexico with vigor. 
Without the men and money for which I have asked 
I cannot do so. 

Many other subjects of some importance were con- 
sidered. Among others was a Treaty signed by our 
charge de afifaires (Mr. Bidlack)^ with the Govern- 
ment of New Granada. Mr. Buchanan had pre- 
pared a message to the Senate, transmitting it for 
their advice & ratification, for me to sign. I took 
the message to examine it before I sent it in to the 
Senate. 

In taking my usual walk this evening I met Vice 
President Dallas, who informed me that the vote of 
the Senate on yesterday rejecting the lo Regiment 
Bill had been reconsidered and referred to another 
committee of conference. 

I saw a number of members of Congress in my 
office to-night. The impression now is that the lo 
Regiment Bill will yet pass. 

This was reception evening. I was much engaged 
in my office and did not go into the parlour. Mrs. 
Polk received the company. A number of persons, 
I understand, called. 

I learn that the vote rejecting the lo Regiment 
Bill in the Senate was reconsidered to-day, and the 
subject referred to a second committee of Conference 
between the two Houses. 

Mrs. Polk's relative. Midshipman Thos. B. Child- 

^ Benjamin A. Bidlack of Pennsylvania, charge d'affaires to 
Colombia (New Granada) from 1845 until his death at Bogata 
in 1849. 



374 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Feb. 

ress of Tennessee, arrived to-day, and on my invita- 
tion took lodgings in the President's House. 

Wednesday, loth February, 184J. — The usual 
round of company called this morning. My time 
was employed in receiving them until after 12 
O'clock. Many applicants for office & especially 
military appointments called, to all of whom I re- 
plied that the Senate had rejected the 10 Regiment 
Bill, and that I had no authority to make any ap- 
pointments. At 12 O'clock I closed my office, or 
rather attempted to do so, but found it very difficult 
to prevent the intrusion of company (office seekers) 
after that hour. I was, however, enabled to devote 
some time to-day to the disposition of the business 
on my table. 

At I O'clock P. M. to-day Mr. Bodisco, the Rus- 
sian Minister, called. I received him in the parlour. 
His business was to deliver to me with great sol- 
emnity a letter from his Emperor, Nicholas, an- 
nouncing the death of one of his nieces, the daughter 
of one of the Emperor's brothers. These matters of 
ceremony are so ridiculous that I could scarcely pre- 
serve my gravity. To the very solemn manner in 
which the event was announced, and which was evi- 
dently affected, I simply remarked that such occur- 
rences would take place, and at once entered into 
familiar conversation with the Minister. 

I was much indisposed with a violent cold this 
afternoon, and directed my porter to admit no com- 
pany after night. He afterwards informed me that 
many persons called. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 375 

This evening all the parlours were opened for the 
reception of company, notice having been given in 
the newspapers to that effect. An immense crowd, 
filling the East room and all the other parlour[s], 
attended. I stood on my feet shaking hands and re- 
ceiving company for several hours, and was much 
fatigued wh.en the company dispersed. Among the 
visitors were the Vice President, Senators & Repre- 
sentatives in Congress, strangers and citizens. 

The lo Regiment Bill, I learn, passed the two 
Houses of Congress to-day. 

Thursday, nth February, 184J. — The 10 regi- 
ment [bill] having passed Congress on yesterday, an 
unusual crowd of members of Congress and others 
called this morning. The members of Congress 
called to recommend their constituents & friends for 
military appointments. Many persons called in per- 
son to seek military appointments for themselves. I 
had a ready answer for all of them, which was that 
the 10 Regiment Bill had not been officially pre- 
sented to me for my approval. In this way I shook 
them ofif for the time being. About 2^ O'Clock 
P. M. the Bill was presented to me by a committee 
of Congress. I examined it in their presence & ap- 
proved & signed it, & directed my Private Secre- 
tary to announce the fact to the House in which the 
Bill originated. 

I learn that a motion * was made to-day in the 

^ The motion to expel Ritchie was made on February 10, rather 
than February 11. — Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 395. For an ac- 
count of Ritchie's expulsion see Hudson, History of Journalism in 



376 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Feb. 

Senate by Senator Yulee of Florida to expel the 
editor of the Union from the privileged seats in the 
Senate, in consequence of the publication in his pa- 
per of a communication signed Vindicator censur- 
ing the Senate for their rejection of the 10 Regiment 
Bill, and that it had given rise to an animating and 
exciting debate in the Senate, but was undecided at 
the adjournment of the Senate to-day. 

The hoarseness in consequence of my cold greatly 
afflicted me this afternoon & I received no company 
after night. 

Friday, 12th February, 1847. — The 10 Regi- 
ment Bill having become a law I was perfectly over- 
run with company this morning, an unusual number 
seeking military appointments having called. 

I had to bear the annoyance and fatigue until 12 
O'clock, when I closed my doors. I was so much 
indisposed and fatigued that I was not able to trans- 
act much of the business on my table during the re- 
mainder of the day. I saw the Secretary of War & 
several other officers on official business. 

This morning I sent for Mr. H. C. Williams & 
Mr. George Jones, confidential clerks in the Depart- 
ments, & set them to copying the message which I 
had prepared & the rough draft of which I read to 
the Cabinet on tuesday last. The Secretary of the 

the United States, Chap. XVI. The obnoxious article was printed 
in the Union February 9. It was headed " Another Mexican Vic- 
tory," the allusion being to the rejection by the Senate of impor- 
tant features of the report of the committee of conference on the 
Ten Regiment bill. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 377 

Navy & Senator Cass called in the morning & I 
submitted it to them. They examined it in the room 
adjoining my office, [in] which I was receiving com- 
pany and enduring the importunities of office seekers. 
They informed me that they approved it. The Sec- 
retary of State & the Secretary of War called & ex- 
amined it. They also approved it. At my request 
Senators Dix, Allen, & Sevier called to-night. Sen- 
ator Bagby also called. The message having been 
copied, I read it to them & they approved it. 

The debate in the Senate to-day on the Resolution 
of Senator Yulee to expel Mr. Ritchie from the priv- 
ileged seats of the Senate was, I learn, a very ex- 
citing one. Senator Turney, I learn, made a bold 
charge ^ upon Senator Calhoun & his friends, charg- 
ing them with professing to be Democrats, but as 
being the balance of Power party in the Senate, who 
by voting with the one party or the other controlled 
the result, & that they had during this Session gen- 
erally voted with the Federalists, & thus defeated all 
my war measures. Great excitement, I learn, exists 
upon the subject, not only in the Senate, but in the 
City. The question was undecided at the adjourn- 
ment of the Senate to-day, and the debate is ex- 
pected to be revived on to-morrow. 

This was reception evening, but I remained in my 
office & did not go to the parlour. I learn that a 
number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 13th February, 184J. — Saw company 
this morning until the hour of the meeting of the 

^ Globe, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 395. 



37S JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Feb. 

Cabinet (11 O'Clock A. M.). The crowd of office 
seekers, and especially for military appointments, was 
very great. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all 
the members present. I read the message, which I 
had prepared & had [had] copied, to Congress. It 
was unanimously approved & I signed it & gave it 
to my Private Secretary to deliver to Congress. Mr. 
Buchanan left to visit the Capitol on business, but 
after an absence of about an hour returned. Most 
of the day was spent in considering of the military 
appointments proper to be made under the 10 Regi- 
ment act. 

About 6 O'clock P. M. I learned that the Senate 
had expelled Mr. Ritchie from the privileged seats 
of that body, in consequence of the publication in 
the Union a few days ago of a communication over 
the signature of Vindicator. It is a second Duane 
case, & strikes a blow at the liberty of the press. 
The foul deed was perpetrated by the votes of the 
undivided Federal Senators, and Senators Calhoun 
& Butler of S. C. & Yulee & Wescott of Florida. 
These four gentlemen constitute what Senator Tur- 
ney denominated in debate a few days ago the Bal- 
ance of Power Party. They have more frequently 
voted with the Federalists than the Democrats dur- 
ing this Session. 

After night an unusual number of members of 
Congress called. They were Democrats & were most 
excited at the expulsion of Mr. Ritchie from the 
Senate to-day. I learn that the public opinion & 
sympathies are all enlisted in his behalf, & that this 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 379 

act of the Senate is condemned by public opinion, as 
far as it has been expressed in the City. 

Midshipman Thomas B. Childress of Tennessee, 
who has been spending a few days in my family, left 
this afternoon for Annapolis, where he will join the 
Naval school at that place. 

Sunday, 14th February, 184J. — Attended the 
I St Presbyterian church to-day in company with 
Mrs. Polk, her niece. Miss Rucker, and my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. 

Mr. Cave Johnson, P. M. Gen'l, & Mr. Lynn 
Boyd of Ky. took dinner with me to-day. 

The Hon. Wm. H. Haywood, jr., of N. C. called 
after night. I had not seen him before since near 
the close of the last Session of Congress, & shortly 
after he had resigned his seat in the Senate of the 
U. S. He informed me that he was on his way to 
New York. He was in excellent health and spirits. 
He made a short visit. 

Monday, 75/// February, 184J. — I opened my 
office at the usual hour this morning. A larger 
crowd of persons filled my office than I have received 
on any day since I have been President, with the ex- 
ception of a few days immediately after I entered 
upon the duties of the office. The reason was that 
it was known that I was about to appoint the officers 
for the 10 additional Regiments authorized by Con- 
gress. Scores of persons called to press their claims 
for these appointments. Many Senators and Repre- 



38o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ti6 Feb. 

sentatives called to urge the pretensions of their 
friends for these office[s]. Take the day altogether 
I am sure I have never been so wearied and annoyed 
in my life. Though I attempted to close my door 
at the usual hour, persons would press in to see me, 
and it was not until a later hour at night than usual 
that my office was clear of company. I retired to 
rest exceedingly wearied, having been enabled to 
transact very little business during the day. I took 
time, however, to see the Secretary of War for half 
an hour in the course of the day, and prepared all 
the nominations to the Senate which my information 
enabled me to prepare. I am resolved to make all 
these military appointments as fast as possible, for as 
long as they are pending I shall have no rest. 

I made several military nominations to the Senate 
to-day, under the act of the ii Instant to authorize 
the raising of lo additional Regiments. 

Tuesday, idth February, 184J. — Though this 
was Cabinet day, the throng of members of Con- 
gress and their friends in whose behalf they had 
called seeking military offices was such that I was 
compelled to receive them. It was not until 12 
O'clock that I was enabled to get clear of them. 
All the Cabinet were present. The state of the War, 
the embarrassment produced by the failure of Con- 
gress to act upon the measures recommended to them 
with promptness, were the subjects of conversation. 
It is difficult to estimate the public injury which has 
been produced by the failure of Congress, at an early 
period of this Session, to provide for the men and 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 381 

money which were recommended in my annual mes- 
sage. The truth is that the available means in the 
Treasury were reduced to between 2 & 3 millions of 
Dollars before the loan bill passed authorizing a 
loan, and there were therefore no means in the Treas- 
ury to defray the additional expenses which must 
have been incurred by the calling out of an addi- 
tional Volunteer force. Had such force been called, 
the bankruptcy of the Treasury would have been in- 
evitable, and the exposure of that fact would have 
destroyed the public credit and greatly encouraged 
the public enemy. This fact could not be avowed 
publicly to Congress, because to have done so would 
have been to make it known to the public. The re- 
sponsibility of failing to prosecute the War with the 
energy I have desired must therefore rest on Con- 
gress. 

This was reception evening. Though much 
pressed with business, I felt it to be my duty to be 
in the parlour. The Circular parlour was pretty 
well filled with visitors, ladies & gentlemen. 

Wednesday, I'Jth February, 1847. — My office 
was very much crowded this morning with visitors, 
most of whom were seeking military appointments. 
Many Senators and Representatives were of the num- 
ber, who were pressing their friends for appoint- 
ments. I directed my doors to be closed at 11 
O'clock. The Secretary of War spent two or three 
hours with me in arranging the military nomina- 
tions, many of which I made to the Senate to-day. 
It was to me a very laborious day. After night 



382 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 Feb. 

many members of Congress called. I retired about 
103^ O'clock exceedingly fatigued with the labour 
of the day. 

Thursday, l8th February, 184J. — I was doomed 
this morning to pass through another pressure of 
importunate office seekers. The number who called 
was unusually large. I am ready to exclaim God 
deliver me from dispensing the patronage of the Gov- 
ernment. The importunities for office are exceed- 
ingly annoying to me. I spent one or two hours to- 
day with the Secretary of War, in arranging the 
nominations to the Senate of military officers under 
the 10 Regiment Bill approved on the nth Instant. 

After night several members of Congress called. 

Friday, igth February, 184J. — My office was 
crowded this morning with visitors, most of them 
seeking military appointments. For the last week 
I have been greatly annoyed by this kind of im- 
portunity. The City is crowded with young men, 
many of them loafers without merit, seeking mili- 
tary appointments. Members of Congress tell me 
that they are compelled to come with their con- 
stituents to present their claims, and some of 
the members apologize for troubling me as much 
as they do. One thing is certain, and that is 
that I could soon have an army of officers, such 
as they would be, if I could appoint all the appli- 
cants. I have endeavoured in vain to turn over the 
horde of applicants to the Secretary of War, that I 
might have his Report upon their respective merits 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 383 

but find it to be impossible, because I cannot refuse 
to give audience to my fellow citizens who call upon 
me. For more than a week I have been occupied 
three or four hours every day in hearing the speeches 
and representations of the office seekers and their 
friends who pressed their claims for military appoint- 
ments. I have pushed them off and fought them 
with both hands like a man fighting fire, and en- 
deavored to drive them to the Secretary of War as 
the regular channel of approach to the President in 
matters relating to the military service. It has all 
been in vain. I cannot, without insulting them, re- 
fuse to see Senators and Representatives who call 
in behalf of their constituents, and therefore I am 
compelled to bear their importunity with philosoph- 
ical patience. I am often exceedingly disgusted 
with the scenes which occur in my office, but keep 
my temper and endure the painful labour which is 
imposed upon me with patience. I could bear this 
labour with more patience if members of Congress 
and others were more candid, and would not, as they 
do, constantly deceive me about appointments. I 
am almost ready at some times to conclude that all 
men are selfish, and that there is no reliance to be 
placed in any of the human race. Really such would 
be the fact, if I were to judge from some of the 
impositions which have been made upon me. Even 
members of Congress have no hesitation in deceiving 
me in order to obtain appointments for their con- 
stituents, though there is every reason to believe they 
know them to be unworthy. To-day I gave positive 
orders to close my office at 11 O'Clock. After that 



384 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Feb. 

hour I saw the Secretary of War and transacted busi- 
ness with him relating to the appointments to be 
made in filling up the 10 Regiments of regular 
troops. I transacted business also with the Secretary 
of State, the Secretary of the Navy, and the Attorney 
General, relating to their respective offices. 

After night a few members of Congress called. 

This was reception evening. An unusually large 
number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 
Among them were several Foreign ministers, mem- 
bers of Congress, and distinguished strangers now 
on a visit to Washington. The Circular parlour was 
exceedingly crowded, so much so that one of the other 
parlours was lighted up and thrown open. 

Saturday, 20th February, 1847.— This was Cab- 
inet day, but such was [the] pressure of members 
of Congress and others who called that I could not 
avoid receiving company. Many persons called, 
chiefly seeking military appointments. Many mem- 
bers of Congress called on behalf of their constitu- 
ents & friends on the same business. I was glad 
when the hour for the meeting of the Cabinet ar- 
rived. All the members of the Cabinet were pres- 
ent. After devoting a short time to the considera- 
tion of military movements connected with the War, 
the Secretary of War brought up the case of Gen'l 
Scott's order detaching Col. Harney ^ of the Dra- 
goons from the command of his Regiment, and as- 
signing the command to Maj'r Sumner, a junior 

* William Selby Harney of Tennessee; brevetted Brigadier Gen- 
eral for gallantry at Cerro Gordo, and Major General in 1865. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 38s 

officer of the same Regiment. I had some days ago 
directed the Secretary of War to address a letter to 
Gen'l Scott, disapproving his order and ordering 
that Col. Harney should be restored to the command 
of his Regiment. It seems that the Secretary of 
War did not agree with me in opinion and had post- 
poned writing the letter, and now brought the sub- 
ject before the Cabinet. The Official Report of 
Gen'l Scott with the correspondence between him- 
self and Col. Harney were read. From these docu- 
ments it appears that Gen'l Scott arbitrarily & with- 
out cause ordered Col. Harney, then at the Head 
of seven companies of his Regiment on the Rio 
Grande, to turn over his command to a junior officer 
and proceed himself to Monterey and take command 
of the two remaining companies. Col. Harney is 
known to be one of the most gallant and best officers 
in the service. He was not under any charges of any 
kind. He was, however, a Democrat in politics, 
was one of Gen'l Jackson's personal friends, and was 
appointed by him. I can conceive of no reason but 
this for the arbitrary and tyrannical conduct of Gen'l 
Scott in doing such gross injustice to this gallant 
officer. Gen'l Taylor had acted with the same pro- 
scriptive spirit, not only towards Col. Harney, but 
other gallant Democratic officers. I have myself 
been wholly uninfluenced by any reference to the 
political opinions of the officers of the army in the 
conduct of the War. It has not been so with the 
•Federal commanders in the field. I have good rea- 
son to believe that Gen'l Taylor's camp has been con- 
verted into a political arena, and that great and pal- 



386 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Feb. 

pable injustice has been done to many officers of 
high merit who happen to be Democrats. Gen'l 
Scott, since he assumed command, has commenced 
the same proscriptive & tyrannical course, and I 
stated to the Cabinet that I was resolved at any haz- 
zard to check it. Mr. Buchanan, though agreeing 
that great injustice had been done to Col. Harney, 
expressed the opinion in a zealous & strong manner 
that as Col. Harney had been put under arrest for 
disobeying & protesting against Gen'l Scott's arbi- 
trary orders, that no order should be issued from 
here until the result of his trial was known. The 
Atto. Gen'l, Secretary of War, & [of] the Navy ad- 
vised delay in issuing the proposed order. The 
Secretary of the Treasury expressed in strong terms 
his disapproval of Gen'l Scott's conduct & seemed, 
as far as he spoke, to agree with me in opinion, 
though he was not very distinct. The P. M. Gen'l 
expressed no opinion. I told the Cabinet that I had 
great respect for their opinions, but that in this case 
I was sure I was right, & would take the whole re- 
sponsibility. I told the Secretary of War that if he 
was unwilling to write the letter which I had di- 
rected to be written I would do it myself. He said 
he would write the letter. I told him to state in it 
that it was written by my order. I am resolved that 
Col. Harney shall not be sacrified to propitiate the 
personal and political malice of Gen'l Scott. Were 
I not to interpose he may be tried, cashiered, & be 
out of the service & be without remedy. Gen'l 
Scott, I understand, has a personal hatred as well as 
political hostility towards him. He has availed him- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 387 

self as [of] his power as chief in command, has 
seized his victim, & is resolved to satiate his venge- 
ance by destroying [him]. This I will not per- 
mit. I directed the Secretary of War to write the 
letter & submit it to me before it was sent ofif, and 
[he] said he would do so. 

The Secretary of State informed me that Mr. 
Pakenham, the Brittish minister, had applied to 
him on behalf of a Brittish mining company in 
Mexico to relax the blockade of the port of Vera 
Cruz so far as to permit them to import a steam 
engine for the use of the company. He expressed 
his opinion that the relaxation should be done. 
The Secretary of the Treasury expressed the same 
opinion. I informed Mr. Buchanan that similar 
privileges might be asked by foreigners of other 
nations domiciled in Mexico, for permission to im- 
port other articles suited to their interest or con- 
venience, & that there was danger that oflfense would 
be taken by the nations to which they belonged if 
their applications were not granted. I inclined to 
the opinion that the strict blockade which we had 
declared & were enforcing should be adhered to. I 
informed him that I desired him to refer me to the 
laws of nations on the subject. He seemed to be 
impatient at my doubts, & became animated in in- 
sisting upon it that I should act at once. I refused 
positively to do so, & required him to refer me to 
the public law on the subject before I would act. 
The subject was fully discussed. There was mani- 
festly an unpleasant feeling on Mr. Buchanan's part 
at my refusal to accede to his wishes. Perceiving 



388 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Feb. 

this I was firm & decided in my refusal, but courte- 
ous in manner & language. 

The attack on Vera Cruz became the subject of 
conversation, when the fact was alluded to that 
from Gen'l Scott's letter of the 12th of January last 
it would probably be made about this time. The 
Secretary of the Navy expressed surprise at hearing 
this, and said the Ohio & bomb-vessels designed to 
co-operate with the land forces had not gone round, 
& said he had [not] heard of Gen'l Scott's letter. 
I expressed equal surprise at hearing him say this, 
& addressing him & the Secretary of War I re- 
marked that I had taken it for granted that they 
were constantly in conference with each other, and 
that each understood the movements & operations 
of their respective branches of the service. The 
Post Master Gen'l remarked that Gen'l Scott's let- 
ter had been read in Cabinet on last tuesday week, 
if his memory served. The Secretary of the Navy 
replied that he could not have been present. The 
Secretary of War remarked that he had supposed 
that the Secretary of the Navy knew all about it. 
Mr. Mason seemed to be much mortified & left the 
Cabinet to issue orders to-day to hasten the move- 
ment of the Naval forces to the Gulf. 

After night several members of Congress called. 
I retired at a late hour, much fatigued with the 
week's labour, which has been one of the most in- 
tense & severe I have ever performed in my life. 

Sunday, 21st February, 184J. — I attended 
Divine worship to-day at the Rev. Mr. Smith's Pres- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 389 

byterian church on 9th Street. He preached a 
charity sermon for the benefit of the orphan asylum 
of this City. I of course contributed to the object. 
Mrs. Polk & Miss Henrietta Rachel Armstrong ac- 
companied me. Miss Armstrong is the daughter 
of Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool. He 
[she] is at school at Georgetown, but occasionally 
obtains leave of absence from her school & spends a 
day in my family. 

Monday, 22nd February, 1847. — A large num- 
ber of persons called this morning. They were 
chiefly office-seekers. My time is so much occupied 
with business & the constant round of visitors which 
I am compelled to receive, that I cannot note the 
incidents of the day. They are, however, of no im- 
portance. 

About 9 O'clock P. M. I was waited upon by a 
committee consisting of Senators Sevier & Houston 
& Mr. Kaufman of the Ho. Repts., and was con- 
ducted by them to the Birth-night Ball at Carusi's 
Saloon where I remained about half an hour, and 
from thence I was conducted to Jackson Hall where 
there was another Ball. The assembly at Carusi's 
was small. That at Jackson Hall was numerously 
attended. I took supper at the latter, attending Mrs. 
Dallas to the table. After supper and about 12 
O'clock I retired & returned to the President's 
mansion. It has been customary for the President 
to attend the Birthnight Ball, and thus pay his re- 
spect to the memory of the Father of his country. 

The Secretary of War read to me to-day the draft 



390 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Feb. 



of a letter to Gen'l Scott on the subject of his con- 
duct towards Col. Harney of the Dragoons, disap- 
proving Gen'l Scott's conduct, which I approved 
(see diary of Saturday last). I directed the letter 
to be forwarded to Gen'l Scott. 

Tuesday, 2Jrd February, 184'/. — This was Cab- 
inet day but notwithstanding this a large number of 
persons called, and it was not until near an hour 
after the Cabinet had assembled that I could get 
clear of them. The visitors were on the usual busi- 
ness of seeking office. All the members of the Cab- 
inet were present. Several matters connected with 
our Foreign Relations were considered. Several 
other matters of business were also considered. My 
time is, however, so much occupied that I cannot 
give them in detail. 

This was reception evening. An unusually large 
number of persons called. Members of Congress, 
Foreign Ministers, strangers, & citizens were of the 
number. An unusual crowd of strangers at present 
throng the City. 

Wednesday, 24th February, 184J. — I was 
doomed this morning to endure the usual penance 
of submitting for hours to be bored by a crowd of 
office-seekers. They seem to me to be becoming 
more voracious & importunate in their demands. 
After I closed my doors I spent two or three hours 
with the Secretary of War in conferring upon the 
numerous military appointments which I have to 
make, numbering near 400. There is great diffi- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 391 

culty about it, as I cannot know one in ten of the 
persons appointed. I attended also to other matters 
of business. I have never in my life been so much 
oppressed with constant & most responsible public 
duties as at present. 

I had a large Dinner party to-day, among whom 
were Mr. C. W. Lawrence & his wife of N. Y., Mr. 
Jenifer of Md., Mr. Green ^ of the Boston Post, the 
authoress, Mrs. Sigourney,^ & Mrs. Stephens & 
others. Several Senators & Repts. were also of the 
party. 

Thursday, 2Sth February, 1847.— Saw the usual 
round of company to-day. As the session of Congress 
approaches its close my labours and responsibilities 
increase. When I am most pressed with important 
public duties the number of visitors & especially of 
ofEceseekers increase. I was not able to close my 
office to-day until about i O'Clock. I spent two 
hours with the Secretary of War, on business con- 
nected with his Department. The Secretary of 
State & of the Navy also called on business. After 
night several members of Congress called and oc- 
cupied my time until a late hour, when I retired ex- 
ceedingly fatigued. 

I learn from Mr. McKay of N. C. to-night that 
the Democratic members of Congress were to hold 
a caucus at the Capitol this evening, to see if it was 

^ Charles Gordon Greene, 1 804-1 886, editor of the Boston Post 

1831-1875. 

- Lydia Huntley Sigourney, 1791-1865, widely known in Eu- 
rope as well as in America for her literary works. 



392 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Feb. 

possible to produce harmony among them and thus 
secure the action of Congress upon the important 
war Measures which I have repeatedly recom- 
mended. The truth is that the Contending factions 
of the Democratic party are more engaged in Presi- 
dent-making than in attending to the business of the 
country. The party is torn by factions & so divided 
that I am not sustained in either House of Congress. 
The Federalists avail themselves of this unfortunate 
state of things, and by being united are enabled to 
defeat almost all my measures. The people elected 
a majority of both Houses to sustain my policy, but 
their Representatives do not do so. 

Friday, 26th February, 184J. — Received com- 
pany as usual this morning. There was no abate- 
ment of the pressure which has been upon me for 
several days for appointments, and especially in the 
Military service. I directed my office to be closed 
at II O'clock, but it was not until near i O'Clock 
P. M. that I got clear of company. I spent one or 
two hours with the Secretary of War, who had re- 
ceived despatches from the army last night. I was 
occupied during the balance of the day in arranging 
the military appointments under the 10 Regiment 
Act of the nth Instant. I had an interview with 
Commodore Perry ^ of the U. S. Navy, who has 
been ordered to relieve Commodore Conner in the 
command of the Gulf Squadron. After night several 

^ Matthew C. Perry, 1794-1858; he served in the War of 1812 
and the Mexican War, and in 1 853-1 854 commanded the expedi- 
tion which opened the ports of Japan to American commerce. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 393 

members of Congress called, and among them were 
Senators Dix & Benton, who called at my request. 
At 7 O'clock P. M. I had another interview with 
the Secretary of the Navy and Commodore Perry. 
Com. P. will leave on to-morrow to take command 
of the Gulf Squadron. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. The Circular parlour 
was filled. There are many strangers at present in 
the City. 

Saturday, 2Jth February, 184J. — I received 
company this morning until the hour of the meeting 
of the Cabinet. Many persons called. All the 
members of the Cabinet were present. The P. M. 
Gen'l after remaining a short time retired, having 
official business requiring his attention. I sent a 
message to the Ho. Repts. communicating the infor- 
mation called for by their Resolution of the ist 
Instant in relation to military operations in Mexico, 
and embracing the correspondence with Gen'l Tay- 
lor. A part of this correspondence relating to the 
plans of campaign would have been withheld had 
not the information which it contains been conveyed 
to the enemy by the publication of Gen'l Taylor's 
letter to Gen'l Gaines, and by publication in a New 
Orleans paper printed in Spanish, and through vari- 
ous other channels from Gen'l Scott's camp. Gen'l 
Scott has acted with so little discretion since he as- 
sumed the command that the confidential plans of 
the Government which were confided only to himself 
have been made so public that every Mexican may 



394 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Feb. 

know them. I have no doubt the Mexican Govern- 
ment and Military commander are as well apprised 
of the secret instructions which were given to Gen'l 
Scott when he left Washington as he is himself. His 
vanity is such that he could not keep the most im- 
portant secrets of the Government which were given 
to him. He is, moreover, wasting himself in most 
extravagant preparations, and is making such a 
parade before the public in all he does that there is 
danger that the objects of the campaign may be en- 
tirely defeated. I[t] was only an alternative when 
I ordered him to supersede Gen'l Taylor and assume 
the command. Neither of them are fit for so im- 
portant a command. I have asked Congress for 
authority to select a commander in whom I have 
confidence, and some weeks ago they refused it. 
To-day, I learn, the Ho. Repts. passed a bill ^ by a 
vote of ayes 1 12 to noes 87 giving me such authority. 
What may be its fate in the Senate is uncertain. My 
situation is most embarrassing. I am held respon- 
sible for the War, and yet I am required to entrust 
the chief command of the army to a Gen'l in whom 
I have no confidence. 

Several matters of some public importance were 
considered by the Cabinet to-day, but I have not 
time to give a detailed statement of them. The pres- 
ent political condition of Yucatan was among the 
subjects considered, in view of the question whether 
that State should be treated as a neutral, or as a part 
of Mexico and of course at war with the U. S. I in- 
clined to the latter opinion, though there was some 

^ Passed February 26, 1847. H. Journal, 29 Cong. 2 Sess. 434. 



i847] JAIVIES K. POLK'S DIAR\' 395 

difference of opinion in the Cabinet. I devoted the 
latter part of the day to disposing of the great mass 
of business which had accumulated on my table. 
Mr. H. C. Williams, acting as my confidential clerk, 
has been for several days past opening & endorsing 
my letters so great has been my correspondence. 

Sunday, 28th February, 184J. — I did not attend 
church to-day. The near approach of the adjourn- 
ment of Congress, and the immense importance of 
the public business yet to be transacted, made it ab- 
solutely necessary that I should give my attention to 
several public matters, and therefore contrary to my 
habit I did not attend church. 

Monday, Ist March, 184J. — Immediately after 
breakfast this morning a large crowd of members of 
Congress and others called. My office continued to 
be thronged with company until after 12 O'Clock. 
After that hour I spent some time with the Secre- 
tary of War in conferring with him in relation to 
the Military nominations which it was necessary to 
make to the Senate. I sent to the Senate several 
nominations for civil appointments, which it was 
necessary to make before the close of the Session of 
the Senate. I remained in my office until a late hour 
at night, having spent a very laborious day. I have 
not time to note the events of the day, some of which 
were important. When I retired I was much ex- 
hausted by the fatigues of the day. 

Tuesday, 2nd March, 184J. — My office was 
crowded as usual this morning with members of Con- 



396 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Mar. 

gress and others. The numerous Military appoint- 
ments rendered necessary before the adjournment of 
Congress brings upon me a crowd of applicants and 
their friends which is perfectly overwhelming. The 
Cabinet met to-day, all the members present except 
the Secretary of the Treasury, who wrote me a note 
stating that the pendency before Congress of several 
important measures connected with his Department 
made it necessary that he should attend the Capitol 
and watch their progress through the two Houses. 
I informed the Cabinet that such was the pressing 
character of the numerous appointments, military 
and civil, to be made before the adjournment, that I 
had not time to give my attention to any other busi- 
ness to-day. I informed them also that if the Bill 
which had passed the Senate a day or two ago ap- 
propriating half a Million of Dollars to be donated 
to the Government of Great Brittain for the relief 
of the suffering poor of Ireland and Scotland should 
pass the Ho. Repts. and be presented to me, I could 
not approve it. I stated my reasons at some length, 
the chief of which was the want of Constitutional 
power to appropriate the money of the public to 
charities either at home or abroad. I did not form- 
ally ask the opinion of the Cabinet on the subject, 
but no dissent was expressed to the opinion which 
I had given. After one or two hours all the mem- 
bers of the Cabinet retired except Mr. Mason and 
[Mr.] Clifford, who remained and were engaged in 
conversation with each other. Whilst they were 
conversing I wrote down very hastily my opinions 
on the subject, and read to them what I had written, 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 397 

which they approved, I informed [them] that if 
the Bill received the sanction of the Ho. Repts. I 
would be compelled to put my veto upon it. I have 
all the sympathy for the oppressed Irish & Scotch 
which any citizen can have. A few days ago I con- 
tributed my mite ($50.) for their relief, but my 
solemn conviction is that Congress possesses no 
power to use the "public money for any such purpose. 
I will, if I can possibly have time, revise what I have 
written, & if the Bill comes to me will send in a 
message containing my reasons for withholding my 
sanction of the Bill. 

This was reception evening, but I was so much en- 
gaged in the business of my office that I did not go 
into the parlour. Several ladies & gentlemen, who 
were from a distance (Boston I believe) and who 
had never seen me, were shown into my office by the 
Post Master General, who had previously called in 
and informed me of their desire to see me. They 
remained but a few minutes. I retired at a late 
hour much fatigued. 

Wednesday, 3rd March, 184'j. — A crowd of 
visitors called at an unusually early hour this morn- 
ing. It was the last day of the Session of Congress; 
it was known that I had many military nominations 
to make to the Senate, and the office seekers were 
more importunate and voracious than usual. I re- 
ceived them with all the patience and fortitude which 
I could command, but it was very annoying to me. 
I sent for Mr. Buchanan and informed him that I 
had apprehensions that the Irish relief Bill which 



398 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

had passed the Senate would also pass the House, 
and that with my opinions of its unconstitutionality 
(see Diary of yesterday) I could not sign it. I gave 
him the draft of the message very briefly embodying 
my views, which I had written on yesterday, and re- 
quested him, as every moment of my time was occu- 
pied with company and business, to take it into the 
private room adjoining my office and revise it, 
making such suggestions as might occur to him. 
He did so, and after very hastily examining his sug- 
gestions I lay upon my sopha and from the two 
drafts dictated one to Mr. H. C. Williams, a confi- 
dential Clerk, who wrote what I dictated to him. 
My intention was, if the Bill was presented to me, 
not to retain [it] in my hands, but to put my veto 
on it, even though it had been very hastily prepared. 
It turned out that the Bill did not pass the House 
and there was no occasion to do so. I will preserve 
my own, Mr. Buchanan's, and the revised draft for 
future reference if need be. 

In the afternoon, as near as I can judge between 
4 & 5 O'clock, the Committee of Enrolled Bills pre- 
sented to me a Bill making appropriations for the 
improvement of numerous Harbours. It was in 
principle a similar Bill to that upon which I had 
put my veto at the last Session of Congress, and con- 
tained many of the same items. I could not approve 
it, but it was not possible for me to prepare a message 
assigning my reasons, and I determined to retain it 
& give my reasons at the next Session of Congress. 
Many other Bills were presented to me which I ap- 
proved. In the course of the day I made many 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 399 

nominations to the Senate, chiefly for military ap- 
pointments. My old friend, James Brown of Mis- 
sissippi, his two daughters, and Mrs. Porter, the 
widow of Thos. J. Porter dec'd, dined with me to- 
day. The Hon. Jacob Thompson & his wife also 
dined with me. They had been invited by Mrs. 
Polk. I remained but a short time at the table, made 
my apology, and returned to my office. 

About 6 O'clock I left with my Cabinet for the 
Capitol as is usual with the President on the last 
night of every Session of Congress, for the conven- 
ience of the Committee of enrolled Bills in pre- 
senting Bills to him for his approval and signature. 
I occupied the Vice President's room, where I re- 
ceived the committee from time to time as they had 
Bills to present. 

A painful and unpleasant occurrence took place. 
A Bill was pending between the two Houses and 
was expected to pass, authorizing the appointment 
of two Maj'r generals and three Brigadier generals 
to command the forces to be raised under the lo Reg- 
iment act. I went to the Capitol resolved to avoid 
the conflict which I anticipated would take place 
between the two factions of the Democratic party 
in New York, in the selection of one of these Gen- 
erals from that state, by passing over that state and 
making the selections from other parts of the Union. 
I knew from past experience that it would be impos- 
sible to make any appointment in the state without 
giving great offense to one or the other of these fac- 
tions. I had kept my determination to myself. 
About 8 O'clock the Secretary of War (Mr. Marcy) 



400 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

introduced the subject with great apparent feeling 
& excitement, & said it was of great importance to 
him & his friends in N. York that I should appoint 
a General Clark of that state a Brigadier General. 
I told him promptly that I could not do so, however 
anxious I was to gratify his wishes, which I would 
certainly do if it was a mere personal matter. I 
told him that I had never heard of this Gen'l Clark 
until he came to Washington a few days ago seeking 
this office, and that from what I had seen and heard 
of him I did not think [him] qualified for such a 
command, if there were no other objections. But 
I told him that the truth was that I had anticipated, 
what I had no doubt was true, that it would be im- 
possible for me to make any appointments in N. 
York that would be satisfactory to both sections or 
parties of the Democratic party in that State, and 
that I had determined to make my selections from 
other parts of the Union. He was very greatly ex- 
cited, but used no harsh or offensive expression, but 
insisted that it would break down him & his friends 
if I did not appoint Gen'l Clark. I repeated that 
I could not do so. He left the room shortly after- 
wards, returned, and left again several times. His 
countenance was sad. His whole mind was evi- 
dently absorbed by this matter. It was soon ap- 
parent that the members of Congress who belonged 
to his faction had been informed of my determina- 
tion. Senator Dickinson & some of the members 
of the House came into the room repeatedly, con- 
versed with Mr. Marcy aside in the deepest appar- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 4oi 

ent concern, & would then retire. The Cabinet 
were ail informed of the difficulty (except Mr. 
Johnson who was indisposed & had retired) all of 
whom were much concerned at the state of things. 
At my suggestion Mr. Clifford went to the Senate 
Chamber and conversed with Senator Dix, who 
stands at the head of the faction in N. York opposed 
to Mr. Marcy & his faction. Mr. Cliflford returned 
& reported to me that Senator Dix said that this 
Gen'l Clark was the most obnoxious man in N. York 
to the Sound Democracy in the State of New York, 
and that Gen'l Dix & his faction were bitterly & un- 
compromisingly opposed to him. This was what I 
had anticipated. Senator Dix and his faction had 
their candidate, and Mr. Marcy & his faction were 
as bitterly and uncompromisingly opposed to him as 
Mr. Dix & his faction were to Gen'l Clark. It was 
utterly impossible to satisfy both sections of the 
party by any appointment I could make. Things 
continued in this state for near two hours after Mr. 
Marcy had first introduced the subject to me. I was 
perfectly cool, observing what was going on. 
Finally I determined to make a proposition to Mr. 
Marcy, which I thought would certainly satisfy him 
and his friends & could not give ofifense to the fac- 
tion of Gen'l Dix & his friends. I did so accord- 
ingly. It was so far to yield to his position in my 
Cabinet and to his wishes as to abandon the determi- 
nation with which I had come to the Capitol this 
evening, viz., to pass over N. York and make no se- 
lections of a General from that State, and to say to 



402 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

him that I was willing to appoint Gen'l Enos D. 
Hopping^ of N. York who belonged to his (Mr. 
Marcy's faction) a Brigadier General. I did this 
because some days ago when I was about to appoint 
a Colonel in N. York a fierce contest had arisen be- 
tween the two factions in Congress from N. York 
between Gen'l Hopping & Gen'l Temple," Mr. 
Marcy and his friends having advocated the former 
& Mr. Dix & his friends the latter. Gen'l Hopping 
had in that contest obtained the written recommen- 
dation of all the Democratic members of the Ho. 
Repts., except perhaps one, embracing both factions. 
Subsequently Gen'l Temple was recommended by 
about half this number, upon the ground, as I was 
verbally informed, that when they signed Gen'l 
Hopping's recommendation they were not aware 
that Gen'l Temple desired the Colonelcy, as he had 
been previously presented by them for Brigadier 
Gen'l. I had decided to appoint Gen'l Temple Col. 
& Gen'l Hopping Lieut. Col. As both factions had 
endorsed Gen'l Hopping in writing in the first in- 
stance for Col. and as he was a member of Mr. 
Marcy['s] faction, I supposed that as all were com- 
mitted in writing in his favour for Col, that neither 
could object to him now as Brigadier General. I 
told Mr. Marcy that I was ready to appoint Gen'l 
Hopping, & that [I] did so because of my regard 
for him & his position in my Cabinet, and because 

^ Enos D. Hopping of New York, 1805-1847; served in the 
Mexican War and was appointed Brigadier General in 1847. 

- Robert Emmet Temple; became Colonel of the loth Infantry 
in 1847. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 403 

I had learned from him that Gen'l Hopping was his 
personal & political friend. Mr. Marcy objected to 
his appointment, and insisted on the appointment of 
Gen'l Clarke. 1 replied to him that in proposing 
to appoint Gen'l Hopping I had yielded much to 
gratify him, and that I would not appoint Clarke, 
under any circumstances. I repeated to him that 
from what I had seen and heard of Gen'l Clark since 
he came to Washington (for I had never heard of 
him before) I did not think him qualified. 1 told 
him, moreover, that I had heard that he had been 
an a[n]ti-Jackson [man], a Bank man up to 1837 
or 1838, and that in other respects he had been un- 
sound in politics. I closed the conversation by tell- 
ing him that I would appoint Hopping, whom he 
had informed [me] was his friend, in deference to 
him if he desired, and that if I did not appoint Hop- 
ping I would take no one from the State of N. York. 
He was much excited and immediately left the room, 
as I supposed for the purpose of consulting his 
friends in Congress. When he returned he in- 
formed me that he could not, and his friends in Con- 
gress could not consent to the appointment of Hop- 
ping, but must insist on Clark. I instantly replied 
that my decision was irrevocable. He said if I had 
proposed Hopping for Gen'l when I appointed 
Temple Col. over him it would have been a different 
case and might have been satisfactory. I told him 
if that was so there was no reason why his appoint- 
ment should not be satisfactory now. Mr. Marcy 
continued to be moody, with a sad [countenance], 
and frequently passed in & out of the room, consult- 



404 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

ing, as I have no doubt, his friends. Senator Dick- 
inson, who belongs to Mr. Marcy's faction, came in 
& sought a conversation with me aside, in which he 
informed me in an excited manner that if I did not 
appoint Gen'l Clarke he would resign his seat in the 
Senate, and that Mr. Marcy's friends of the N. York 
delegation in the Ho. Repts. would demand of him 
that he should resign his seat in my Cabinet. I felt 
very indignant at this attempt to bully, but restrained 
my temper & said to him, when you get cooler you 
will probably think better of it. He repeated what 
he had said and I turned away from him. I in- 
formed Mr. Mason & some other members of the 
Cabinet of what had occurred, & told them that I 
felt very indignant at [it], and was resolved not to 
be driven from my purpose. Near 12 O'Clock the 
Military Bill was brought to me for my approval. 
As soon as I had examined & signed it, I directed my 
Private Secretary to prepare a message nominating 
the Maj'r & Brigadier Generals which it authorized. 
When he came to New York I directed him to in- 
sert the name of Gen'l Hopping, and turning to Mr. 
Marcy said to him, "I shall appoint him. Sir!" 
He said it must be understood that he did not advise 
it. I told him I understood that, & also my own re- 
sponsibility. The nominations were sent to the Sen- 
ate & were in a few minutes confirmed by the Senate, 
without objection. During the whole evening Mr. 
Marcy was wholly absorbed with this appointment, 
and gave me no aid in examining Bills presented to 
me for my signature, though some of them, related 
to his Department; and [nor] was he of any service 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 40S 

Upon any other matter. I expressed my indignation 
at the scene which had been enacted in my presence. 
I had become perfectly indifferent whether Mr. 
Dickinson and Mr. Marcy resigned or not. I knew 
that neither of them could be sustained in such a 
course for such a cause. 

A scene somewhat similar to this, but not [of] 
such violence, or carried to such an extent, occurred 
in the same room on the Saturday night preceding 
the adjournment of the last Session of Congress, viz., 
on the 8th of August last, about the appointment of 
a petty Post Master at Bufifalo in N. York. In that 
case I yielded to the wishes of Messrs. Dickinson & 
Marcy and greatly dissatisfied the faction opposed 
to them. I am perfectly disgusted with the petty local 
strife between these factions. There is no patriotism 
in it on either side. I have in many instances re- 
fused to lend myself to either & have alternately 
given offense to both. 

I was notified by the Secretary of the Senate about 
12 O'clock to-night that the Senate had rejected 
Charles J. Ingersoll, whom I nominated to-day as 
U. S. Minister to France. This I deeply regretted, 
as Mr. Ingersoll is eminently qualified for the Mis- 
sion. He was rejected, I learn, in a thin Senate, 
by a party vote & by a majority of one vote. It was 
necessary to fill the place, and without consulting 
the Cabinet I directed my Private Secretary to pre- 
pare a message nominating Richard Rush for that 
mission. In a few minutes I was notified by the Sec- 
retary of the Senate that Mr. Rush had been con- 
firmed unanimously. 



4o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 

About I O'clock a committee of the Senate waited 
on me and informed me that the Senate were ready 
to adjourn, unless I had some further communication 
to make to them. I informed them I had none. A 
committee, I learn, was appointed by the House for 
the same purpose, but they did not call on me. Mr. 
Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, I understand, had 
moved the Resolution in the House and was at the 
head of the Committee. Why they did not call on 
me I am not informed further [than] that in the con- 
fusion of the close of the session they did not get to- 
gether. Both Houses adjourned a few minutes after 
I O'clock. 

Mr. [My] Private Secretary had provided some 
refreshments in my room. Many members of the 
Senate & House, Whigs and Democrats, came in & 
partook. Good feeling prevailed. I returned to 
the President's mansion a few minutes past 2 
O'clock. 

In the course of the evening I tendered the office 
of Maj'r General in the army to Senator Houston 
of Texas, who declined accepting it. I then ten- 
dered the same office through Mr. Houston & Mr. 
Kaufman of the Ho. Repts. to Senator Rusk of 
Texas, who also declined accepting it, as Mr. Kauf- 
man reported to me. I saw Senator Benton & had a 
few minutes conversation with him. He knew that 
I had intended to appoint him Lieut. General if a 
law had been passed creating that rank. As no such 
law had passed, he said to me that if I chose I could 
nominate him as Maj'r General. I told him [I] 
would do so. I did so accordingly & he was con- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 407 

firmed by the Senate with the other general officers 
whom I nominated to-night. 

Thursday, 4th March, 184J. — Senator Bright 
of Indiana, one of the committee on Enrolled Bills 
of the Senate, called immediately after breakfast 
this morning in company with Senator Atchison of 
Mo., who had been chosen last night President Pro 
tempore of the Senate. Mr. Bright presented to me 
a Bill which had been signed by the Presiding offi- 
cers of the two Houses, entitled '' An act for the re- 
lief of the Heirs of John Paul Jones," which had 
not been presented to me on last evening & of course 
had not been approved & signed by me. They in- 
formed me that it had been picked up in the Senate 
Chamber, where it had been accidentally dropped 
either by the Secretary of the Senate or by the Com- 
mittee on enrolled Bills. They desired to know 
whether I could approve & sign it to-day. I told 
them I had no power to do so. They left the Bill 
on my table. I will return it to the Secretary of the 
Senate. 

I kept my office open throughout the day. Many 
members of Congress of both political parties called 
to take leave of me. A great crowd of members of 
Congress & others called, seeking military appoint- 
ments. I gave up the whole day to company and re- 
tired late at night much exhausted and fatigued. 

The Secretary of War did not call to-day & I 
heard nothing of his resigning his office, as was 
threatened by Senator Dickinson last night (see 
diary of yesterday) . 



4o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Mar. 

Friday, 5M March, 184J. — I ordered my doors 
to be open this morning. Many members of [Con- 
gress] called. A crowd of persons, chiefly young 
men, seeking Captaincies & Lieutenancies in the 
army also called. I was greatly wearied by their 
importunities. I referred all of them to the Secre- 
tary of War, but still they would consume my time 
by pressing their claims. The Secretary of the Navy 
called and requested me to call the Cabinet together 
to-day, as he desired to submit to a Cabinet con- 
sultation the manner in which he should execute an 
act of Congress passed on the last day of the late 
Session, in relation to furnishing to Commodore 
Key ^ & Mr. Forbes two of the Vessels of War to 
transport provisions donated by Private contribution 
to the famishing poor of Ireland & Scotland. I ac- 
cordingly summoned the Cabinet to meet at i 
O'clock P. M. The Cabinet met accordingly, and 
after considering the subject submitted by the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, decided unanimously that the 
vessels of War should be turned over to the persons 
named in the Resolution of Congress, instead of be- 
ing commanded by officers of the Navy. 

Before the Cabinet met this morning Gen'l Ben- 
ton called and informed me that he would address 
me a letter, in which he would neither accept or 
[nor] decline the office of Maj'r General which had 
been conferred upon him, but remarked that [he 

^ The persons designated in the resolution were Captain George 
C. DeKay of New Jersey and Captain Robert B. Forbes of Bos- 
ton. — U. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 207. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 409 

would accept] if he could be placed in a position to 
render efficient service & control the operations in 
Mexico, & that he had no desire to go to Mexico 
simply to have a plume & bunch of feathers in his 
hat; which I understood to mean that if he could be 
General in-chief of the army he would accept, but 
not otherwise. When he informed me on the night 
of the 3rd Instant that I had his assent, if I chose to 
do so, to nominate him as Maj'r General, he did not 
mention this as a condition of his acceptance of the 
office. After disposing of the business submitted 
by the Secretary of the Navy, I reported to the Cab- 
inet what Gen'l Benton had said this morning, and 
desired their advice, whether I could under the ex- 
isting laws, place Gen'l Benton chief in command 
of the army in Mexico in any other way than by re- 
calling all the Maj'r Gen'ls Senior in rank, now in 
Mexico, viz., Gen'ls Scott, Taylor, Butler, & Pat- 
terson. An examination of the Rules & articles of 
War took place & after some discussion the opinion 
was expressed by several members of the Cabinet, 
that I possessed no power to supersede the Senior 
Maj'r Gen'ls now in the field so as to place Gen'l 
Benton in command, in any other way than by with- 
drawing them. I requested the members of the 
Cabinet & particularly the Secretary of War & Atto. 
Gen'l to examine the legal question before the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet on to-morrow, when I desired to 
have the question decided. After the Cabinet re- 
tired, I continued to see company through the day. 
This was reception evening. Though much fa- 



410 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Mar. 

tigued I attended in the parlour. Many persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 6th March, 184'/. — A crowd of per- 
sons called this morning, until the hour of the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet. All the members of the Cabi- 
net were present. After a full discussion & exam- 
ination of the laws I took their opinions seperately 
and individually, and they were unanimous that the 
only mode in which I could place Gen'l Benton in 
the chief command of the army in Mexico was to 
withdraw or order to seperate posts all the Senior 
Maj'r Generals now in Mexico. In this opinion I 
concurred (see diary of yesterday). 

It was stated by Mr. Mason that he had under- 
stood that if Gen'l Benton accepted he would only 
do so upon condition that he was invested with Dip- 
lomatic as well as military powers. Mr. Walker 
objected to employing him in this capacity. The 
other members of the Cabinet appeared from their 
remarks & their acquiescence to concur with Mr. 
Walker in his views. I remarked that if Mexico 
agreed to re-open negotiations I desired that the Sec- 
retary of State should go out in the character of 
Commissioner & conduct the negotiation on our part. 
Mr. Buchanan said he would be willing to do so, if 
I desired it, but that I must not be embarrassed on 
his account; that he was perfectly willing to entrust 
the negotiation to any one whom I might select; & 
that he had no desire or feeling about it. 

After the Cabinet adjourned, which was not until 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 411 

about 4 O'clock, I continued to see members of Con- 
gress & others until a late hour at night. 

Sunday, yth March, 184'J. — Attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk. The balance of the day I rested from my 
labours, which have been unusually great for the 
last month, indeed during the whole of the late Ses- 
sion of Congress. 

Monday, 8th March, 184'J. — I directed my 
porter this morning to admit no visitors until i 
O'clock to-day, except members of Congress who 
might still be in the City, and officers of Govern- 
ment who might call on official business. He obeyed 
my orders, but still it was but little relief to me, be- 
cause it turned out that almost my whole time was 
occupied until i O'Clock by members of Congress 
and the friends whom they brought with them, who 
were seeking office. More members of Congress, 
it seems, are still in the City than I supposed were 
here. At i O'Clock my doors were opened for the 
reception of visitors generally & a great crowd rushed 
into my office. I referred them one after another to 
the Heads of the several Departments, saying to 
them that I could not perform the duties of Presi- 
dent, Heads of Departments, Auditors, & clerks. I 
was stern and absolute in my manner & language 
and thus got clear of the annoyance. 

To-night I found on my table a letter from Gen'l 
Benton dated on the 6th Instant. When it was 
placed there by my messenger I do not know. There 



412 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Mar. 

was a large mass of papers and letters on my table 
to which I have [had] no time to give any attention, 
such have been my pressing engagements. This, 
with many other letters with the seals unbroken, was 
among the number. On opening it I found that the 
conditions on which Gen'l Benton would accept the 
appointment of Major General of the army, which 
I had conferred upon him by & with the advice & 
consent of the Senate, on the last night of the Ses- 
sion, were, ist, that he should have the chief com- 
mand of the army in Mexico, and 2nd, that he should 
be invested with plenary Diplomatic powers to con- 
clude a Treaty of peace. Shortly after I opened 
this letter the Secretary of State called in & I sent 
for the Secretary of War. I had fully examined 
my authority under the existing law and was satis- 
fied that I possessed no power to assign the chief 
command of the army on Gen'l Benton, unless it was 
by recalling four senior Maj'r Gen'ls, viz., Scott, 
Taylor, Butler, and Patterson. The two former I 
should have no hesitation in recalling, but I know 
of no reason to justify the recall of the two latter. 
The Secretaries of State and of War concurred in 
this opinion. (See this diary of the 5th & 6th In- 
stant.) After these gentlemen retired I drew up the 
draft of a letter to Gen'l Benton, expressing the 
opinion that I was not invested with the power by 
the existing law to assign him, a junior Maj'r Gen'l, 
to the chief command, without superceding the 
Senior Generals of the same rank. Gen'l Benton's 
letter was in a kind and friendly spirit & the draft 
of my answer was in the same spirit. The truth is 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 413 

that if Congress at its late Session had conferred 
upon me the power to designate a Gen'l in chief, as 
I asked them to do, I should have selected Gen'l 
Benton for that important command. 

Tuesday, gth March, 184J. — This being Cab- 
inet day I directed my porter to admit no company. 
A few members of Congress, who still remained in 
the City, called. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, 
all the members present. Mr. Buchanan called be- 
fore the Cabinet met. I submitted to him the draft 
of the letter which I had prepared in answer to Gen'l 
Benton's letter (see Diary of yesterday). Mr. Bu- 
chanan took my draft and prepared one from it at 
my request. When the Cabinet met both drafts were 
submitted for their consideration. The subject mat- 
ter of Gen'l Benton's letter and the proposed answer 
were fully discussed. Several modifications of the 
two drafts were suggested, and finally a draft was 
made which received the unanimous approval of the 
Cabinet. After the Cabinet adjourned I addressed 
the revised draft to Gen'l Benton and sent it by my 
messenger. (See my letter Book.) I will preserve 
all the drafts which were prepared. This was re- 
ception evening. I attended in the parlour. A few 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, lOth March, 184J. — I saw no com- 
pany until I O'clock P. M. to-day. Having seen 
in the New Orleans papers which arrived last night 
that Maj'r Gen'l Butler was in New Orleans, and 
thinking it probable that he had leave of absence 



414 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Mar. 

from the army in consequence of his wound or from 
bad health, and that possibly he might not be able 
to resume his command, it occurred to me, if this 
was so, that the difficulties which had interposed of 
placing Gen'l Benton in the chief command would 
be partially removed. I did not still see my way 
entirely clear to remove three Senior Maj'r Generals 
who had rank of Gen'l Butler, but thought it prob- 
able that I might do so in a short time. With a 
view to such a contingency I requested my Private 
Secretary immediately after breakfast to call on 
Gen'l Benton and request him to postpone any final 
decision as to his acceptance of his commission as 
Maj'r General for a few days, and until I could con- 
fer with him. My Private Secretary returned in 
about an hour & reported to me that Gen'l Benton 
had informed him that he had addressed letters to 
the adj't General &c myself declining to accept the 
commission. His letter to me had not reached me, 
but came in in about an hour after my Private Sec- 
retary returned, and shortly afterwards his letter to 
the adjutant General was sent to me from the War 
Department with the following endorsement in pen- 
cil upon the envelope, viz., " Rec'd five minutes be- 
fore II O'clock, March loth, 1847, R. Jones, A. 
Gen'l." 

I sent for the Secretary of War, and the Secretary 
of State happening to come in, I read to each the 
letter which I had received from Gen'l Benton & 
had some conversation with them. After a con- 
ference with them I addressed a note to Gen'l Ben- 
ton requesting him to call on me between 7 and 8 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 415 

O'clock this evening. A few minutes after 8 
O'clock Gen'l Benton called. I informed him that 
I had sent him a message this morning by my Pri- 
vate Secretary requesting him to suspend any de- 
cision whether he would accept or decline the 
appointment of Maj'r Gen'l of the army for a few 
days, and until I could have further developments 
from the seat of War. 1 stated to him the fact that 
Gen'l Butler had arrived at New Orleans on leave 
of absence, in consequence of ill health produced by 
his wound, and that he might possibly not be able 
to return to the army. I told him that I had no 
power to place him in command but by recalling 
four senior Maj'r Generals, but that if Gen'l Butler 
should not be able to return to the army, there would 
be less difficulty in placing him in the position he 
desired. He replied that he could not postpone his 
decision. He spoke in a tone of great indignation 
at the speculations of some of the letter-writers con- 
nected with some of the Departments at Washington, 
to his prejudice. I replied that I had seen none of 
their letters, & did not know that there were any 
letter writers connected with any of the Depart- 
ments. He then mentioned the name of Mr. Grund^ 
as one of them, & gave a bad character of him. I 
told him that Mr. Grund was not connected with 
any of the Departments, and that I had no inter- 
course with him, except that he had occasionally 
called into my office when it was open for the re- 
ception of the public, and that on such occasions I 
had treated him courteously, as I did all who visited 

^ Probably Francis J. Grund. 



4i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Mar. 

me in my own office. The result of our conversation 
was that he declined suspending his decision to de- 
cline accepting the office of MaJT General. He was 
in a pleasant humour & his conversation was in a 
friendly tone. I had a long conversation with him 
in which he gave his views fully of what he con- 
sidered to be the proper operations of the army in 
Mexico under existing circumstances. He had great 
apprehensions from the Vomito.^ He was in favour 
of raising the blockade at all the ports in our mili- 
tary possession, & levying a tarifif of duties, as a con- 
dition upon which importation should be allowed. 
I had, in the first instance, stated to him that such 
was my policy and enquired of him if in his opinion 
I possessed the power under the laws of War to es- 
tablish such regulations. He said he had no doubt 
that I possessed the power and ought to exercise it. 
I enquired of him if he would make any discrimina- 
tion between the productions of the United States 
imported into the ports of Mexico in the possession 
of our arms, and those of foreign countries imported 
in Foreign bottoms. He said that he would not. 

His decision was positive that he would not accept 
the office of Maj'r Gen'l, & that he would not post- 
pone a decision of that question to await further de- 
velopments as I had requested him to do. I then 
asked him who he would recommend to me as his 
successor. He replied that he was not prepared to 
answer the enquiry. He retired after a long conver- 
sation. 

^ The yellow fever ; vomiting is one of the characteristics of this 
disease. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 417 

Shortly after he retired Mr. Buchanan came in & 
I repeated to him what had occurred. In the course 
of the conversation Col. Benton intimated very dis- 
tinctly that some of my Cabinet had not been in 
favour of the recommendation which I had made at 
the late Session of Congress to create a General offi- 
cer who should have the chief command of the army. 
He said that I was sincere, he knew, and so were 
the body of the Cabinet, but there was a part of the 
Cabinet, as his friends informed him, who were not 
so. I told him he must be mistaken; and that I 
was sure they had all been in favour of the measure. 
He insisted that he was not mistaken. I replied that 
I was still sure he was mistaken. 

Mr. Buchanan informed me that he would leave 
the City on to-morrow on a short visit to Harrisburg, 
Pennsylvania. 

Thursday, nth March, 184J. — I gave orders 
to my porter not to admit company to-day until i 
O'clock P. M. except officers of the Government on 
business or members of Congress who might still be 
in the City. The Vice President, Senator Bagby, 
and several others called, and I had scarcely a mo- 
ment of time to attend to any other business until the 
hour of I O'clock. At that hour my doors were 
opened, when a crowd of office seekers rushed in. 
I was very stern & absolute with them. I gave them 
no encouragement. I am heartily disgusted as well 
as greatly fatigued with such importunities. All 
those who were seeking military & small civil offices 
I turned over to the Heads of the several Depart- 



4i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Mar. 

ments to which their respective applications related. 
My office was not clear of them until near 3 O'Clock. 

I requested my Private Secretary to call on Gen'l 
Benton & say to him that I left it to him whether the 
correspondence which had passed between us on the 
subject of his accepting his appointment as Maj'r 
Gen'l should be published or not. My Private Sec- 
retary returned bringing with him a printed letter 
from Gen'l Benton embracing the correspondence. 
This printed letter was addressed as a circular to the 
Senators of the U. S. About dark I received a 
friendly note from Gen'l Benton accompanied with 
one of the printed circulars. He informed me that 
he had published it in order to vindicate himself 
from the aspersions of Washington letter-writers. 

After night the Hon. Mr. Fries of the Ho. Repts. 
from Ohio called. 

Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, left this 
morning on a visit to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I 
appointed Mr. N. P. Trist, chf. clerk, to be acting 
Secretary of State in his absence. The Secretary of 
War, of the Navy, & the P. M. Gen'l & the Atto. 
Gen'l severally called on business in the course of 
the day. 

Friday, 12th March, 1847. — I directed my 
porter to admit no company until i O'Clock P. M. 
to-day, unless members of Congress or officers of the 
Government called, whom I would see. Gen'l 
Benton called & held a conversation with me about 
the military operations now in progress of execution 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 419 

in Mexico. He gave me his views at some length. 
He was still much excited at the Statements made by 
letter-writers from Washington to the Baltimore 
Suti and other newspapers, in relation to his appoint- 
ment as Maj'r Gen'l of the army. He said these 
letters bore upon their face the evidence that they 
proceeded indirectly from some of the Executive 
Departments, and were regarded by the public as 
semi-ofHcial. He expressed his opinion that the 
Secretary of State and Secretary of War had been 
opposed to the recommendation which I made to 
Congress at its late Session in favour of the appoint- 
ment of a Gen'l in-chief, or Lieut. Gen'l of the army. 
He spoke in terms of some excitement of the course 
of Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Marcy on this subject. I 
replied to him that these gentlemen, as well as the 
other members of my Cabinet, had uniformly ex- 
pressed themselves to me in Cabinet council and in- 
dividually in favour of the measure. He seemed to 
be fixed, however, in the opinion which he had ex- 
pressed. He spoke also of some numbers which 
Mr. Buchanan had written for the Pennsylvanian 
newspaper last fall on the Oregon question, to which 
he took exception. I thought he was more excited 
towards Mr. Buchanan than towards Mr. Marcy. 
He remarked in the course of his conversation that 
he and all his friends were fully satisfied that I had 
been sincere & had done all in my power to induce 
Congress to confer the authority on the Executive 
to appoint a Gen'1-in-Chief of the army, but re- 
peated that some of my Cabinet (alluding to Mr. 



420 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Mar. 

Buchanan & Mr. Marcy) had not cooperated with 
me. I still expressed to him my belief that he was 
mistaken, but I could not satisfy him. 

I informed Gen'l Benton that I was seriously con- 
sidering of the policy of raising the blockade of all 
the ports of Mexico which were or might [be] in 
our military possession, and opening them to the 
commerce of the world, levying such a tarifif of 
duties as would be reasonable as a condition of ad- 
mitting commerce in a conquered town in possession 
of our arms. I expressed to him the opinion that 
a large amt. of revenue might in this way be col- 
lected & applied to defray the expenses of the War. 
I asked his opinion as to my power to adopt such a 
measure & as to its policy & propriety. He con- 
curred with me in opinion that I possessed the power 
under the laws of nations defining the rights of a con- 
quer[or] over a town or province in his military oc- 
cupation, and that it would be wise to do so. I 
afterwards saw the Hon. Mr. Douglass of Illinois, 
who was of the same opinion & gave the same advice. 
I sent for the Atto. Gen'l after I had consulted these 
gentlemen & requested him to collect the authorities 
on the subject & give me his opinion informally. I 
requested Mr. Trist, the acting Secretary of State, 
also to examine the authorities, which he did & sent 
me the books in the course of the afternoon. In the 
course of the evening I examined them with some 
care, and was perfectly satisfied that I possessed the 
power & that it would be wise to exercise it. I saw 
the Secretary of War, who concurred in this opinion. 
I informed him that I would bring the subject be- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 421 

fore the Cabinet on to-morrow. I called the atten- 
tion of the Secretary of War to the propriety of in- 
structing Genl Scott not to keep his forces on the 
coasts of Mexico after the season of the black-vomit 
commenced. He concurred in opinion with me & 
I directed him to prepare a despatch accordingly. 
He said he would do so, and would have it ready to 
submit at the Cabinet meeting on to-morrow. 

This was reception evening. But few persons 
called, almost all the members of Congress and 
strangers having left the City. I was in the parlour 
during the evening. 

Saturday, 13th March, 184'J. — This being Cab- 
inet day I directed my porter to admit no company. 
A few persons were introduced by officers of the 
Government who called. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour, all the members present except the Sec- 
retary of State, who is absent from the City on a 
visit to Pennsylvania. The Secretary of War read 
the rough draft of a despatch to Gen'l Scott, which 
he had prepared in pursuance of my instructions on 
yesterday, in relation to the removal of the troops 
under his command from the region of the vomito 
or yellow fever, during the unhealthy season. It 
embraced also other matter relating to military and 
naval operations, and particularly in regard to an 
attack on the Castle at Vera Cruz. The Secretary 
of the Navy suggested some modifications of the 
paper, and after some discussion, being satisfied that 
the modifications suggested were proper, I requested 
the Secretaries of War & of the Navy to confer to- 



422 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Mar. 

gether this evening and prepare a modified paper, 
and requested them to submit it to me before it was 
sent off. 

I submitted to the Cabinet the propriety of raising 
the blockade of such of the ports of Mexico as may 
be in the military possession of our arms, & of levy- 
ing a tax or tariff of duties on commerce to such 
ports, to be applied to defray the expenses of the 
War (see this diary of yesterday). The Atto. Gen'l, 
whom I had requested on yesterday to examine the 
authorities as to the executive power, brought with 
him the books containing the doctrine on the subject, 
and gave his opinion that I possessed the undoubted 
power, and advised that it should be exercised. All 
the Cabinet concurred with the Atto. Gen'l, & I my- 
self was clear in my opinion that the power existed, 
and that it would be wise to exercise it. Some dis- 
cussion upon the details of the measure took place. 
My impression had been that a duty of 25 per cent 
upon all imports from our own and all other coun- 
tries, to be collected by officers of the army and navy, 
would be proper. The Secretary of the Treasury 
was of opinion that we should adopt the Mexican 
tariff in such ports as were in our military possession. 
He said he had a copy of that tariff in the Spanish 
language. I requested him to have it translated & 
to prepare the order which would be necessary to 
carry out our views, at his earliest convenience, so 
that the subject in its details might be submitted to 
the Cabinet. 

I learn this afternoon that Mrs. Allen, the wife 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 423 

of Senator Allen of Ohio, died to-day at Brown's 
Hotel in this City. 

Sunday, 14th March, 184J. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church this forenoon in company with 
Mrs. Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Henrietta 
Rachel Armstrong. In the afternoon I attended 
the methodist church called the Foundary church, 
in company with Mrs. Polk and her niece, Miss 
Rucker. 

The Secretaries of War and of the Navy called to- 
day, and submitted to me the revised draft of the de- 
spatch to Gen'l Scott which I requested them to pre- 
pare on yesterday. They called to-day because it 
was deemed important to send off the despatch by 

the mail of to-night. 

I 

Monday, I^th March, 184'J. — I saw a few offi- 
cers of the Government this morning on official 
business but did not open my doors for the reception 
ol visitors generally. At 12 O'Clock accompanied 
by Mrs. Polk & Miss Rucker, I rode to Brown's 
Hotel and attended the funeral of Mrs. Allen, the 
wife of Senator Allen of Ohio. Mrs. Allen died in 
this City on Saturday last. We attended the funeral 
ceremony at the Hotel, & joined the procession & ac- 
companied the body to the Congressional burying 
ground, where it was placed in a vault. I returned 
to my office about 2}^ O'Clock P. M. and devoted the 
balance of the afternoon in disposmg of the business 
on my table. 



424 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Mar. 

Brigadier General Franklin Pierce of N. H. & 
Col. Caleb Cushing ^ of Massachusetts called on me 
to-day and again after night, with both of whom I 
had much conversation in relation to the War. 
Gen'l Pierce expressed deep regret that Gen'l Ben- 
ton had declined to accept the office of Maj'r Gen'l, 
and said he had utterly ruined himself with the 
masses of the people of the country, at least such he 
thought was the public sentiment at the north. Col. 
Cushing concurred in this opinion. I think myself 
that Gen'l Benton will have reason to regret his 
course. 

Tuesday, idth March, 1847.— Thh being Cab- 
inet day I saw no company. The Cabinet assembled 
at the usual hour, all the members present, Mr. Bu- 
chanan, who had been absent for a few days on a 
visit to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, having returned 
this morning. I informed Mr. Buchanan of the de- 
cision of the Cabinet at its last meeting to raise the 
blockade of the Mexican coasts at such ports as were 
in the actual possession of our arms, to permit com- 
merce with all nations, to levy and collect a duty to 
be applied to defray the expenses of the War. I told 
him that I had understood from him that he con- 
curred in these views. He replied that he did so. 
The Secretary of the Treasury then stated that the 
Mexican tariff was being translated into the English 
language, and that it would require several days to 
adjust the details of the system and the instructions 

^ Caleb Cushing, 1800-1879, statesman and lawyer, Attorney 
General during Pierce's administration. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 42s 

which should be given to our naval and military 
commanders. I told him that I wished as little de- 
lay as possible in preparing & issuing the orders. 
He said he would make every effort in his power to 
facilitate them. 

Our relations with Yucatan was the next subject 
of consideration. The instructions to be prepared 
by the Secretary of the Navy to our squadron in the 
Gulf were agreed upon. 

This being reception evening, a number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. I received them in 
the parlour. 

I suggested to Mr. Buchanan to-day the propriety 
of sending a copy of the Three Million Act to Mr. 
Black, late U. S. Consul at Mexico. He thought it 
unnecessary, but agreed to do so. 

Wednesday, 17th March, 1847. — Kept my 
doors closed until i O'Clock to-day, at which hour 
they were opened for the reception of visitors. All 
who called were office seekers. I treated them with 
the courtesy which I always observe in my office, but 
firmly & very unceremoniously informed them that 
there were no vacancies, and that I had no offices 
for them. Whilst the room was crowded with them, 
my messenger announced that the Rev'd gentlemen 
of the methodist conference, now sitting in this City, 
had called in a body and were in the parlour below 
stairs. I made my apology to the company present 
& left my office to receive them. Mrs. Polk accom- 
panied me. In the red Parlour I found Mr. Bu- 
chanan and Mrs. Walker & Miss Rucker. On en- 



426 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Mar. 

tering the Circular parlour I found about 150 Min- 
isters of the Gospel standing in a circle around the 
room. The Rev'd Mr. Slicer introduced me & also 
Mrs. Polk to them generally. Immediately after- 
wards a Rev'd gentleman made an address to me, to 
which I responded. Mr. Slicer then gave a general 
introduction to Mr. Buchanan & Mrs. Walker & 
Miss Rucker. The whole body then came up & 
shook hands with me. I accompanied them to the 
East Room and to other parts of the building. On 
leaving they all shook hands with me. I was pleased 
to meet them, and they seemed to be gratified with 
their visit. 

The Secretary of the Navy called & read to me his 
despatch to the commodore of our squadron in the 
Gulf in relation to Yucatan, which I approved. 
Mr. Buchanan sent to me to-night a draft of a letter 
to Mr. Black, late U. S. consul at Mexico, which was 
agreed upon on yesterday, which I approved. 

After night Senator Breese called. He has al- 
ways an axe to grind. He is perhaps the most 
troublesome and inveterate seeker for office for his 
friends in either House of Congress. He has caused 
me to make some bad appointments. He has no 
sooner procured an appointment than he sets to work 
to procure another. I am compelled to conclude 
that he is governed more by his personal and political 
interests than by the public good, in his recommen- 
dations, and I have now much less confidence in the 
correctness of his recommendations than I had some 
months ago. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 427 

Thursday, l8th March, 184J. — My office was 
kept closed to-day until i O'Clock P. M. During 
the morning I disposed of much business relating to 
applications for pardons & other business, which had 
accumulated on my table. At i O'Clock when my 
doors were opened a crowd of loafers rushing 
[rushed] in seeking office. I felt great disgust at 
their importunity, and the reflection was on my 
mind, how much better it would be for them if they 
were at their respective homes pursuing some hon- 
est business for a livelihood [rather] than to be 
hanging on at Washington as mere place seekers, in 
order that they might be supported at the public ex- 
pense. The Secretary of War fortunately came in 
half an hour after my doors were opened, and re- 
lieved me from their importunity. I had a fair 
apology to say, as was really the case, that I had 
official business with the Secretary of War. Upon 
this announcement they all, of course, left my office. 
I felt that I had been fortunately relieved of them, 
and that I was enabled to attend to the more impor- 
tant business of the country. 

Mr. Buchanan called to know if I approved the 
draft of his letter sent to me on yesterday, addressed 
to Mr. Black, late U. S. consul at Mexico. I told 
him that I did approve it, and returned it to him. 
He said that he would send it ofif this evening. 

To-night at 8 O'Clock I accompanied Mrs. Polk 
and the other ladies of the family to the residence of 
Gen'l Thos. H. Benton in this City, & witnessed the 
marriage of his eldest daughter, Miss Eliza Benton, 



428 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Mar. 

with Mr. Jones ^ of New Orleans. I waited on the 
bride to the supper table and shortly after supper I 
retired & returned to the President's mansion, leav- 
ing Mrs. Polk & Mr. & Mrs. Walker and Miss 
Rucker enjoying themselves with the bridal com- 
pany. 

Friday, igth March, 184J. — I opened my doors 
at I O'clock to-day. Several officers of the Govern- 
ment and a few other persons were, however, ad- 
mitted before that hour. I had an interview with 
the Secretary of War and the adjutant Gen'l in re- 
lation to military operations in Mexico. Among 
other things I directed that the several companies 
authorized to be raised by the 10 Regiment act, as 
soon as there should be 64 men rank & file inlisted, 
should be moved to the seat of War. I ordered also 
that Brigadier General Cadwallader- should be or- 
dered to proceed at once to the Brazos Santiago to 
be in readiness to receive and command the troops as 
they arrived at that point. The organization of 
these companies into Regiments & Brigades will be 
made after they arrive at the theater of War. A 
lieutenant of each of these companies, which do not 
consist of the full compliment of 100 men, will be 
left behind to recruit the balance & take them on. 
The old officers of the army have insisted that the 
10 Regiments should each be filled and organized 

^ William Carey Jones. 

"George Cadwalader of Pennsylvania, 1804-1879, brevetted 
Major General in 1848 for distinguished services in the Mexican 
War. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 429 

& drilled for some time in the U. States before they 
are moved to the seat of war. If this were done 
they would not be on [the] theater of action until 
mid-summer. Col. Andrews ^ of the Voltigeurs 
Regiment is disposed to move at a snail's gait, and 
requires to have a coal of fire put on his back to rouse 
him to a proper sense of his duty. 

Col. John C. Hays of Texas, the Hon. A. O. P. 
Nicholson of Tennessee, the P. M. Gen'l, & Mr. Lee 
of Texas took a family dinner with me to-day. 

I requested the Secretary of War to call at 10 
O'clock to-morrow morning and bring with him 
Col. Stanton, the acting Quarter Master Gen'l, as I 
wished to enquire into the operations of that branch 
of the public service, and to correct some errors 
which, I had understood, existed in its manage- 
ment. 

The Rev. Mr. Slicer called [and] introduced to 
me this afternoon thirty or forty ministers of the 
Gospel of the methodist church, who had not called 
before, and who were in attendance upon their Con- 
ference in this City. The body of their number had 
called a few days ago. 

Saturday, 20th March, 184J. — This was Cabinet 
day and I closed my doors against all visitors ex- 
cept officers of the Government on official business. 
The Secretary of War accompanied by Col. Stanton, 
acting head of the Quarter-master's Department at 

^Timothy Patrick Andrews, 1794-1868. He resigned his posi- 
tion as paymaster in the arm.v to accept the command of the Vol- 
tigeur regiment, serving until the close of the war. 



430 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Mar. 

Washington, called. I held [a] conversation with 
Col. Stanton in relation to the operations of the Quar- 
ter-masters Department. I condemned the purchase 
& employment of the thousands of wagons for which 
I learned requisitions had been made by the com- 
mander of the army in Mexico. I told him that I 
would issu[e] no positive order on the subject, but 
expressed the opinion that long trains of miles of 
wagons in such a country as Mexico, in which, in 
all the wars which had ever occurred in that coun- 
try, they had never been used, could only have the 
effect of retarding the movements of the army and 
rendering it inefficient in its operations. I ex- 
pressed the opinion that pack-mules should be 
chiefly employed for the transportation of the army, 
instead of the cumbrous appendage of a long 
wagon-train, which would require an army for a 
guard. I learned from Col. Stanton that contracts 
had been recently made for the purchase of 1000 
horses in Ohio, to be transported to Mexico upon 
which to mount the 3rd Regiment of Dragoons, and 
that mules were being purchased in the U. S. for 
the use of the army. I expressed the opinion 
strongly that this was great folly, as well as involv- 
ing the country in a vast expense. I asked them why 
horses & mules in Mexico, which were to be had in 
great numbers & which were accustomed to the cli- 
mate & which could be had at one-fourth the price 
which must be paid in the U. S., were not procured. 
To this he could give no satisfactory answer, except 
that he thought the horses & mules in the U. S. 
larger & better than those in Mexico. I was much 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 431 

vexed at the extravagance & stupidity of purchasing 
these animals in the U. S. and transporting them at 
vast expense to Mexico. He left with my direction 
to look into the subject more fully than he had done. 
The truth is that the old army officers have become 
so in the habit of enjoying their ease, sitting in par- 
lours and on carpeted floors, that most of them have 
no energy, and are content to jog on in a regular 
routine without knowing whether they are taking 
care of the public interest or not. I shall find it 
to be necessary to give more of my attention to these 
matters of detail than I have heretofore had it in 
my power to do. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of State, who did 
not come in until about i O'Clock P. M. The Sec- 
retary of the Navy read despatches which he had re- 
ceived from Commodore Conner in the gulf of Mex- 
ico, and from Commodore Stockton in the Pacific. 
They contained intelligence of considerable interest. 
The Secretary of the Treasury stated that he was 
preparing, but had not yet completed, [the] pro- 
posed orders with a view to the collection of duties 
on all commerce at such of the ports of Mexico as 
were or might be in our military possession. This 
he was doing in pursuance of the decision of the 
Cabinet and my order made a few days ago (see 
this diary). He stated that he would be ready to 
report the result of his investigation of the subject 
at the meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday next. 

About I O'clock the Secretary of State came in, 
& stated that he had been detained until that hour 



432 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Mar. 

in consequence of the arrival from Mexico of Mr. 
Atocha, who had been sent to Mexico as bearer of 
despatches about the 20th of January last. The an- 
swer of the Mexican Government to the renewed 
overture of the U. S. to re-open nego[tia]tions, 
which Mr. Atocha had borne to them, was presented 
by Mr. Buchanan. It was in the Spanish language. 
Mr. Buchanan stated its substance & also the con- 
versation which he had held with Mr. Atocha. As 
none of the Cabinet read the Spanish language with 
perfect accuracy, I sent for Mr. Trist, chief clerk 
in the Department of State, who translated the an- 
swer into English & read it to the Cabinet. It was 
in substance that the Mexican Government refused 
to re-open negotiations, except upon the condition 
that the squadron of the U. S. should be withdrawn 
from the coasts, and the army from the territories of 
Mexico which are now in the possession of our arms. 
I at once declared to the Cabinet that the prelimi- 
nary conditions required were wholly inadmissible, 
and that no alternative was now left but the most 
energetic crushing movement of our arms upon 
Mexico. Mr. Buchanan expressed the opinion that 
our army should not attempt to march to the City 
of Mexico. I replied that I differed with him in 
opinion, & that I would not only march to the City 
of Mexico, but that I would pursue Santa Anna's 
army wherever it was, and capture or destroy it. I 
expressed the opinion that if I had a proper com- 
mander of the army, who would lay aside the tech- 
nical rules of war to be found in books, which 
required a long train of baggage wagons ; one who 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 433 

would go light & move rapidly, I had no doubt 
Santa Anna & his whole army could be destroyed 
or captured in a short time. Much other conversa- 
tion occurred which it is not important to note. 

The mail of to-night brought many vague ru- 
mours in the New Orleans papers, to the effect that 
a battle ^ with great loss on both sides had been 
fought between Santa Anna's army and Gen'l Tay- 
lor's forces near Saltillo. These rumours want con- 
firmation. 

Mr. A. O. P. Nicholson called to-night & spent 
two or three hours with me. 

Rumours reached [here] to-night of a battle be- 
tween Santa Anna's & Gen'l Taylor's armies, but it 
is not authenticated. 

Sunday, 21st March, 184J. — I attended church 
to-day in company with Mrs. Polk & her niece. Miss 
Rucker, at the McKendree ChapeP (methodist 
church) in this City. Bishop Hamlin[e] preached 
a most impressive sermon from the text " The carnal 
mind is enmity against God," &c. 

The mail of to-night from New Orleans brought 
more detailed rumours of the critical situation of 
Gen'l Taylor's army and of our forces on the Rio 
Grande, which cause painful apprehensions for their 
safety. Gen'l Taylor has acted imprudently and 
against his own expressed opinion & the opinion of 
the War Department in taking a position at Agua 
Nueva, so far in advance of Monterey. Gen'l Scott, 

^ The battle of Buena Vista, fought February 22 and 23, 1847. 
^ On Massachusetts Ave., between Ninth and Tenth Streets. 



434 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Mar. 

too, may have reduced his force too much, but being 
on the theater of action, Gen'l Scott, who was, as 
Gen'l in chief, vested with full discretionary powers 
as to the disposition of the whole forces, and ought 
to have formed a correct judgement on the subject. 
It is impossible for the Government at Washington 
to form a proper judgment of the disposition and 
location of the troops in the field. This we are com- 
pelled to leave to the discretion of the commanding 
General in the field. 

Monday, 22nd March, 1847. — The Secretary of 
War called this morning. Upon a full examination 
of all the newspaper accounts from New Orleans 
containing all the information from Gen'l Taylor's 
army which had reached that City in the shape of 
rumours, our conviction was that our forces on the 
Rio Grande, and especially Gen'l Taylor's advanced 
position, were in a very critical position. If Gen'l 
Taylor's army be in that condition it has grown out 
of his own imprudence in advancing without orders 
beyond Monterey & too far into the interior. Gen'l 
Scott seems to have assumed the command with the 
single idea in his head of taking Vera Cruz, & with 
this view has probably reduced Gen'l Taylor's forces 
to too small a number. We must, however, wait in 
painful suspense for more reliable & authentic intel- 
ligence. It was, upon consultation with the Secre- 
tary of War, resolved to hasten with all possible 
expedition to the seat of War such of the 10 Regi- 
ments as were already recruited, which is estimated 
[to be] from 1500 to 2000 men, in companies & 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 435 

fractions of companies. It was resolved also to au- 
thorize Gen'l Brooke at New Orleans to call upon 
the Governors of Louisiana & Alabama for such 
numbers of volunteers as he might deem necessary, 
and as could be speedily moved to the Rio Grande. 
It was also determined to write to Gen'l Scott to 
afiford to Gen'l Taylor all the succour in his power. 
These letters to Gen'l Brooke & Scott had been pre- 
pared by the Secretary of War and were read to me 
and approved by me. The mail of to-night brought 
a printed slip from a New Orleans paper containing 
a Proclamation or requisition for a very large force 
of volunteers from Louisiana & Alabama from Col. 
Curtis of the Ohio Volunteers commanding at Ca- 
margo, & stating that all communication between 
that place & Monterey & Gen'l Taylor's army had 
been completely cut off by an overpowering force 
of the enemy. I directed the Secretary of War to 
address another letter to-night to Gen'l Brooke, com- 
manding at New Orleans, to send forward with all 
possible despatch as many volunteers as could be 
brought speedily to the field from Louisiana, Ala- 
bama, & Mississippi. I have great fears for the 
safety of Gen'l Taylor's army, and for the whole line 
of our military operations in his rear & on the Rio 
Grande. Surely Gen'l Scott upon hearing of their 
critical situation will rush to their relief. All will 
be done here that it is in human power to do to 
re-inforce and rescue them from their danger, but I 
have great apprehensions that any succour from here 
will arrive too late. This subject engrossed my 
whole attention to-day. It is true [that] at i 



436 JAMES K, POLK'S DIARY [23 Mar. 

O'clock P. M. my doors were opened, and a crowd 
of officeseekers came in. No apprehensions of dis- 
asters to the army, it seems, could prevent this. I 
was almost abrupt to them, and got rid of them in a 
very short time. I had no offices for them & I told 
them promptly and discharged them. 

It is deeply to be regretted that Congress delayed 
to so late a period of the Session to authorize the 
raising the additional military force which I recom- 
mended in my annual message. It was not until the 
nth of Feb'y that the first law passed, and not until 
the night of the 3rd of March that the 2nd law was 
passed, to authorize the raising, organizing, & officer- 
ing ten thousand Regular troops to serve during the 
War with Mexico. Had these laws, as well as the 
loan & revenue bills recommended, been passed 
within the first fortnight of the Session as they ought 
to have been, the troops would probably by this time 
have been on the theater of War ready to render 
active & important service. 

Tuesday, 23d March, Z^'^/.— This being Cabi- 
net day, I gave orders to my porter that I would see 
no company. Having occasion, however, about 10 
O'clock to go into my Private Secretary's office, I 
found there an officeseeker by whom I was caught, 
and could not well avoid admitting him into my 
office. I was quite summary with him. His visit 
was short, and he retired not having profited by it 
and I judged much dissatisfied. All he wanted was 
to be a Brigadier Gen'l of the army. Gen'l Benton 
called in, but when some members of the Cabinet 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 437 

came in he retired, having remained but a few min- 
utes. The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour, all 
the members present except the Post Master Gen- 
eral, who wrote me a note that he was prevented by 
official business from leaving his office. 

The military operations in Mexico were the first 
subject of consideration. All agreed that if Gen'l 
Taylor had not violated his instructions by advanc- 
ing beyond Monterey and the passes of the moun- 
tain beyond it, he would have been in no peril. I 
urged the Secretary of War to despatch with all pos- 
sible expedition such portion of the lo Regiments 
authorized to be raised by Congress [as was ready] 
with the least practicable delay. At my suggestion 
the Secretary of War sent for the Adjutant Gen'l, 
and I saw him with the Secretary in my Private 
Secretary's office. He was directed to issue orders 
to all the companies now ready to move with all pos- 
sible expedition to the seat of War. 

The Secretary of the Treasury reported that he 
had completed the examination of the Mexican tariff 
which he had been requested to make some days ago, 
and had prepared a tariff of duties to be levied on 
all articles to be admitted into such of the ports of 
Mexico as were in the actual possession of our arms. 
The subject was further discussed, and it was unani- 
mously agreed by the Cabinet that such duties should 
be collected, as a condition upon which foreign com- 
merce as well as commerce from our own country 
should be admitted at such ports as wxre in our mili- 
tary possession. The imposition of such duties re- 
sults as one of the incidents of war belonging to the 



438 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Mar. 

conqueror of a town or province. They are not to 
be imposed under our constitution and laws, but 
under the power which belongs to a belligerent over 
a conquered town or place. The necessary orders to 
carry the measure into effect had not been prepared, 
and final action on the subject was postponed until 
they could be prepared. 

Other public subjects engaged attention and the 
Cabinet adjourned about 5 O'Clock. After night 
Dr. Jarvis ^ of the army, accompanied by an officer 
whose name I do not remember, called. Dr. J. was 
direct from the army in Mexico, and was the bearer 
of despatches from Col. Curtis of the Ohio Volun- 
teers, commanding at Camargo, dated on the 2nd 
Instant, and also a letter from the Governor of Lou- 
isiana. Col. Curtis must have been greatly and un- 
necessarily alarmed, for he called for a reinforce- 
ment of fifty thousand men. The Governor of 
Louisiana had ordered out a Regiment to be sent for- 
ward speedily to the Brazos Santiago. I had a long 
conversation with Dr. Jarvis, and became fully satis- 
fied that the rumours of the perilous condition of the 
army on the line of the Rio Grande were greatly ex- 
aggerated. If Gen'l Taylor has met with any dis- 
aster, it is certain that it has proceeded from his own 
imprudence & want of military forecast & skill, in 
advancing beyond Monterey where it was expected 
he would have taken his position. Had he taken 
that position, his rear could not have been occupied 

^ Nathan S. Jarvis of New York, became surgeon in the army 
in 1838. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 439 

by the enemy & his supplies cut off, as they have 
been. 

This was reception evening. A few persons, la- 
dies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 24th March, 184J, — I had an in- 
terview this morning with the Secretary of War, and 
delivered to him the despatches brought to me from 
the army [by] Dr. Jarvis last night. I conferred 
w^ith the Secretary of War about many details relat- 
ing to the sending forth [of] re-inforcements to 
Mexico, and the operations of the army. I find it 
to be indispensible to give my personal attention to 
many of these details. The old officers of the army 
pursue a beaten routine in their respective Bureau, 
which may be well enough for a state of peace, but 
will not answer for a state of War. Their move- 
ments are entirely too slow, & many of them con- 
ducted without judgment. 

The Secretary of State called & I had an inter- 
view with him relating to public affairs connected 
with his office. At i O'Clock I opened my office & 
endured a siege from the officeseekers for about an 
hour. I gave them no countenance or encourage- 
ment. In the course of the day I disposed of a 
mass of business which had accumulated on my 
table. 

After night half a dozen members of the Virginia 
Legislature called. They informed me that the Leg- 
islature of that State adjourned on yesterday. They 
were on their way to their homes. 



440 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Mar. 

Thursday, 2Sth March, 1847. — Much of my 
time was occupied with company to-day. Several 
members of Congress still linger in the City, and I 
cannot, without giving them offense, refuse to see 
them at any hour they call. They have no more 
business with me than other people have, and I 
heartily wish they had left the City. They gener- 
ally come in company with some loafing gentleman 
who wants an office, and who has interested them in 
his behalf, or to seek an office for some constituent 
or friend. I transacted official business to-day with 
the Secretaries of State and the Navy & with the 
attorney General. In the course of the day I dis- 
posed of all the current & small business on my table, 
and my table is more completely cleared than it has 
been at any time since the meeting of the late Session 
of Congress. Among others who called to-day was 
Senator Lewis of Alabama. I had a long conversa- 
tion with him. I informed [him] of my policy to col- 
lect a revenue from commerce at the ports of Mexico 
in our military possession. He fully approved it. 
He expressed his disapprobation of the Resolution 
of the Senate expelling Mr. Ritchie from the priv- 
ileged seats in the Senate. He took occasion to re- 
fer to the statement made by a Washington letter- 
writer to some of the Northern papers, during the 
late Session, in which the writer affirmed that he 
(Mr. Lewis) had stated in substance (I have not the 
paper before me) that the President had informed 
him that he would secure the support of the North 
to his administration by his patro[na]ge, & rely upon 
his principles to secure the South. Mr. Lewis said 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 441 

that he had never made any such declaration. He 
said Mr. Ritchie had called his attention to this state- 
ment, and that he would have contradicted it in the 
newspapers, if he had not been taken sick about that 
time. I told him my attention had been called to the 
statement at the time, and that I knew it was false, 
but that it would be an endless task to attempt to 
contradict all the falsehoods which appeared in the 
letters written for the press by hired employees at 
Washington. 

Friday, 26th March, 1847. — I was occupied as 
usual to-day, having given orders to admit no com- 
pany until I O'clock P. M. except officers of the 
Government who might call. Brigadier General 
Cadwallader called at an early hour. I had an in- 
terview with him. He was on his way to the seat of 
War in Mexico, where he was under [orders] to go 
without delay. Maj'r General Wm. O. Butler of 
the army called. I found him on his crutches, in 
consequence of the wound which he received at the 
battle of Monterey. His general health was good. 
The Secretary of War called & I transacted official 
business with him. 

Gen'l Butler, Gen'l Cadwallader, Maj'r Thomas 
of The army, the Secretary of War, and Col. Gads- 
den of S. C. took a family Dinner with me to-day. 
I had much general conversation with Gen'l Butler, 
in relation to the War and the operations of the 
army in Mexico. I found that he had but little in- 
formation but what I possessed before. I made an 
appointment to meet him at my office at 7 O'Clock 



442 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Mar. 

on to-morrow evening. This was reception evening, 
but it was a rainy evening and but two or three per- 
sons called. I was in the parlour. 

Saturday, zyth March, 184J. — This being Cab- 
inet day my doors were not opened for the reception 
of company generally. I saw some of the officers of 
the Government on official business. The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour, all the members present. The 
Secretary of the Treasury read a long paper which 
he had prepared to accompany his Report to me in 
relation to the rates of duty which he proposed 
should be levied in the ports of Mexico in our mili- 
tary possession. It was rather a popular appeal than 
a practicable business paper. I was not pleased with 
it, but did not in terms say so, not wishing to wound 
the Secretary's feelings, but suggested to him that 
the paper might be much condensed. The Secretary 
of the Treasury seems to [have] laboured under a 
mistake as to his powers and duties in drawing the 
power, [paper]. I informed him that the proposed 
duties were proposed to be levied, not by virtue of 
authority derived from the Constitution and laws of 
the U. States, but from the laws of Nations, which 
warranted the conqueror to levy contributions upon 
the inhabitants of a conquered town or province. In 
drawing the paper he seemed to have acted as though 
it was a part of his duty as Secretary of the Treasury 
to regulate a tarlfif of duties in Mexican ports in our 
military possession, and to see that the same was exe- 
cuted, whereas, being a right of War, it can only be 
done by the Military power. I disapproved the pa- 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 443 

per. The members of the Cabinet were backward in 
expressing their opinions, though it was manifest 
they disapproved it also. I told the Secretary of 
the Treasury that 1 would address an order to 
him in the form of an order, and would request 
him to respond in his report simply to the enquiries 
I might make, and repeated the opinion that the 
paper he had prepared might be much condensed. 
1 did not say so, but the truth is if the paper 
he had prepared had been received by me & 
published, it would have subjected him to severe 
attacks if not ridicule, for having wholly over- 
stepped his authority and duty. In drawing it he 
seems totally to have mistaken the scope of his 
power and authority. In disapproving it I endeav- 
oured & I think succeeded in avoiding to wound his 
feelings or self-esteem. 

Mr. Buchanan presented several matters relating 
to our Foreign affairs, which were disposed of. 
Some other public subjects of no great importance 
were considered & disposed of. 

At 9 O'clock P. M. Maj'r General Butler called 
and remained until after ii O'Clock. We had a 
full conversation in relation to the war and the 
proper manner of prosecuting it. He gave me but 
little information that was valuable. 

Sunday, 28th March, 184J. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. The pastor (Mr. 
Sprole) preached his farewell sermon to the Con- 
gregation. He had been appointed Chaplain at 



444 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Mar. 

West Point, and this was the last sabbath he would 
have charge of his congregation in Washington. 

Exciting rumours arrived this morning from Gen'l 
Taylor's army. Similar rumours had been received 
by the Southern Mails for the last two or three days. 
If Gen'l Taylor is in any danger, as I greatly fear 
he is, it is in consequence of his having, in violation 
of his orders, advanced beyond Monterey. The 
truth is that from the beginning of the War he has 
been constantly blundering into difficulties, but has 
fought out of them, but at the cost of many lives. 
I hope in this instance he may be safe, though I 
greatly fear he may have had hard fighting and may 
have lost many of his brave men. 

Monday, 2gth March, 184J. — Two members of 
Congress called at different times this morning. 
They occupied an hour or two of my time, which 
might have been much more profitably employed, 
about offices for their constituents, which I had not 
to give them. I shall be rejoiced when all the mem- 
bers get out of the City, for the few who still linger 
here annoy me exceedingly about offices. Maj'r 
Gen'l Butler called about 11 O'Clock. I sent for 
the Secretary of War, and we had a full conversa- 
tion about the manner of prosecuting the war in 
Mexico. The Secretaries of the Navy, Treasury, of 
State, and the P. M. Gen'l called at different periods 
of the day, with each of whom I transacted public 
business. Gen'l Benton called and read me a letter 
which he had addressed to the people of Oregon, 
stating to them that the agitation of the slavery ques- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 445 

tion had caused the rejection of the Bill to organize 
a territorial Government over them at the last Ses- 
sion of Congress. I disapproved the letter, but 
knowing his domineering disposition and utter im- 
patience of contradiction or difference of opinion, 
and knowing that I could not change his opinions, I 
contented myself with simply stating very briefly my 
objections to the letter and expressing my doubts of 
sending such a letter. I feared it might deceive the 
people of Oregon as to the real state of public opin- 
ion in the States in regard to them, and might incline 
them to set up an independent Government of their 
own. Gen'l Benton then asked me to appoint his 
son-in-law, Mr. Jones, who married his daughter a 
few days ago, a Charge d' Affaires abroad. I told 
him there was no vacancy, and gave him no encour- 
agement. I told him that there was a place of the 
kind which might be vacant soon, but that there were 
some commitments in regard to it; and added that I 
did not see that it would be in my power to gratify 
his wishes. He said he merely wished to present 
the application, & leave the disposition of it with 
me. Mr. Jones had made a similar application in 
person a few days ago (the day before he was mar- 
ried) and I gave him the same answer. I note this 
case, out of the thousands of applications which are 
made to me for office, because I predict if I do not 
appoint Mr. Jones that it will be the cause of a 
violent outbreak of opposition to me by Gen'l Ben- 
ton. Mr. Jones has no claims upon me for this or 
any other office. He was but a short time ago the 
editor of a Federal paper in New Orleans. 



446 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Mar. 

Tuesday, 30th March, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present. 
The Atto. Gen'l being indisposed remained but a 
few minutes. The Secretary of the Treasury read 
his revised Report to me, made in pursuance of my 
directions given verbally to him some time ago, on 
the subject of the duties proposed to be levied on 
commerce at the ports or places in Mexico in posses- 
sion of our arms as a contribution on the enemy. 
This Report omitted much of what had been con- 
tained in the first draft (see this Diary of Saturday 
last) and as now presented was a practical business 
paper. This Report having been prepared in pur- 
suance of verbal orders given some time ago, and 
deeming it proper to give these orders a more solemn 
and durable form, I had prepared a written com- 
munication directed to the Secretary of the Treasury 
embodying the substance of my verbal orders to him, 
which I read to the Cabinet and it was approved. 
I dated it on the 23rd Instant, being a day of the 
Cabinet meeting, & being the day on which the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury had presented the first draft 
of his Report, which as stated in this Diary of that 
day I disapproved. On yesterday I sent for the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury and read it to him, and in- 
formed him that in my opinion his Report should 
be a business paper & simply respond to the call for 
information made upon him. In this I was happy 
to find he concurred, after I had assigned to him my 
reasons for my opinion. I delivered this written 
communication to him, and he promised to have the 
rough draft of his revised rough draft copied and 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 447 

sent to me to-night or early on to-morrow. I told 
him that 1 was anxious to have it at his earliest con- 
venience, that I might give the necessary orders to 
the Secretary of War and of the Navy to carry into 
eflfect the policy adopted by my order to him. I 
then prepared at my table, while the Cabinet were 
conversing about indifferent matters, a hasty draft of 
the order which I proposed to issue to the Secretaries 
of War and the Navy. Before I had concluded it 
the Secretaries of State and of War had retired. I 
read this hasty draft to the members of the Cabinet 
who remained. As, however, it could not be issued 
until I had received the revised copy of the Report 
of the Secretary of the Treasury, it was not copied. 
I will revise it on to-morrow. 

I addressed a letter to Gen'l Benton after the Cab- 
inet adjournment requesting him to call on me this 
afternoon. At 7 O'Clock he called. I informed 
him that I had reflected much on the letter which 
he had read to me on yesterday, and which he pro- 
posed to address to the people of Oregon, and that 
I had strong apprehensions that it would be mis- 
understood by them, and might have the effect to 
dissatisfy them and alienate them from the U. S. & 
possibly induce them, under the influence of the 
Hudson's Bay Company, to set up an Independent 
Government for themselves. I told him that in his 
letter which he read to me on yesterday, he had in- 
formed them in substance that it was Mr. Calhoun's 
attempt in the Senate by his resolutions ^ to assert 

^ The resolutions of February 19, 1847. For Benton's opinion 
of them see Thirty Years' View, II, 711-713. 



448 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Mar. 

the principle that there should be no restriction pro- 
hibiting slavery in any territory of the U. S. that had 
caused the rejection of the Bill (or rather to have it 
laid on the table in the Senate) to establish a ter- 
ritorial Government over them. I told him that 
Oregon was a Northern territory & that slavery 
never could exist there, that I condemned Mr. Cal- 
houn's course, but this, I feared, would not be under- 
stood by the inhabitants in Oregon, who were far 
removed from newspapers and other sources of in- 
formation. I told him that I had great fears, if he 
wrote such a letter, it would produce a mischievous 
excitement among the inhabitants. Gen'l Benton 
said they would understand it at all events. I told 
him that all they would have would be common ru- 
mour; but that he (Gen'l B.) was well known in 
Oregon, and if he wrote such a letter it would be 
authentic and would alarm them on the subject, 
when we here knew there would be no cause of 
alarm. I told him frankly that I saw no good it 
could possibly produce, but that it might do much 
harm. Gen'l B. thought otherwise. He had told 
me on yesterday that he intended to retain a copy of 
the letter & publish it here, and, it was manifest to 
me from his conversation yesterday and to-day, to 
attack Mr. Calhoun. I told him if that was his ob- 
ject, such a publication in the U. S., if he wished to 
make it, would not produce the excitement and alarm 
in Oregon that a letter addressed by him to the peo- 
ple of that territory would. I told him further, as 
he knew, that the Secretary of State had a day or 
two ago addressed an official letter to the people of 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 449 

Oregon, giving them assurances that they would be 
under the protection of our laws, and expressing the 
opinion that a Territorial Government would be es- 
tablished over them early in the next Session of Con- 
gress, but that he had made no allusion in it to 
slavery. I had a conversation of some length with 
him, assigning other grounds of objection to his let- 
ter. He still inclined to send it, but finally said that 
he would consider of it to-night, and if he concluded 
to with-hold it he would see Mr. Shively, by whom 
he was to send it, and to whom he had delivered it, 
on to-morrow morning before he started, and would 
get it back from him. 

A newspaper account reached [here] to-night of 
a battle having been fought at Nueva Vista between 
the Mexican & American armies, showing great loss 
on both sides. 

Wednesday, Jlst March, 184J. — Senators Dix 
of N. Y. & Allen of Ohio [and] Mr. Sykes of the 
Ho. Repts. of N. Jersey severally called this morn- 
ing, and occupied much of my time. I was glad to 
see these gentlemen but was much pressed with 
business. They desired to obtain offices for their 
friends. The Kansas Indians called and I had an 
interview with them in the presence of Col. Medill, 
the commissioner of Indian affairs. At i O'Clock 
P. M. I opened my office for the reception of vis- 
itors generally. A crowd of persons, male and fe- 
male, came in and occupied me an hour or more 
very unprofitably. Most of them wanted offices. 

I had a conference with the Secretary of the 



450 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i April 

Treasury & Secretary of War in relation to the levy 
of contributions on the enemy by imposing a duty on 
tonnage & imports in the ports of Mexico in the pos- 
session of our military forces by conquest. The 
Secretary of the Treasury brought over his Re- 
port in answer to my letter to him of the 23rd In- 
stant. (See my letter Book for copy). I examined 
the report, and the Secretary of the Treasury took it 
back to make some modifications vs^hich were sug- 
gested. He returned with [it] again after night. I 
prepared a letter to the Secretary of War & of the 
Navy on the subject (see my letter Book for copy). 
Mr. Buchanan, Sec. of State, left this morning on 
a visit to his residence at Lancaster, Pennsylvania. 

Thursday, 1st April, 184J. — I gave a positive 
order this morning that I would see no company to- 
day, except officers of the Government on official 
business, and my messenger faithfully obeyed the or- 
der. Mr. Young, the commissioner of the General 
Land office, called, and I examined and signed two 
Proclamations for the sale of the public Lands in 
Iowa and Wisconsin. I have ordered that all the 
public lands shall be brought into market as fast as 
they are surveyed and ready for sale. I do this in 
order to raise as much revenue as possible from that 
source, and thus avoid to that extent the creation of 
a Public Debt. At 11 O'Clock the Secretaries of 
the Treasury, War, & the Navy called by appoint- 
ment, for the purpose of examining more particu- 
larly than had been before done, the orders issued 
by me and the Report to me of the Secretary of the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 451 

Treasury in relation to levying contribution upon 
the enemy in the ports of Mexico in our military 
possession. The scale of duties & the regulations 
proposed by the Secretary of the Treasury in his Re- 
port to me of the 30th ultimo were carefully revised, 
and some modifications of the regulations were 
made. While engaged in this examination Maj'r 
Gen'l Butler of the army called. I invited him 
into my office and he was present during a part of 
the conference. I asked his opinion upon some of 
the points, and he made some valuable suggestions. 
He expressed his entire approbation of the policy 
adopted to levy contributions by the proposed tariff 
of duties on the enemy. Mr. Ritchie was also pres- 
ent a part of the time. I handed to him for publica- 
tion in his paper my communication to the Secretary 
of the Treasury of the 23rd ultimo, and his Report 
to me of the same month. My orders to the Sec- 
retaries of War and the Navy of the 31st ultimo, and 
their orders based thereon will be published in his 
paper of to-morrow. The intended policy has be- 
come known by public rumour, and I deem it best 
to publish the official documents at once. 

By the Southern mail of this evening official de- 
spatches were received from Gen'l Taylor giving a 
detailed account of the battle of the 22nd and 23rd 
ultimo.^ It was a severe battle. Many valuable 
officers & men fell, and among them my old esteemed 
friend. Col. Archibald Yell, of the Arkansas 
mounted Regiment. I deeply deplore his loss. He 
was a brave and a good man, and among the best 

^ The battle of Buena Vista. 



452 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i April 

friends I had on earth, and had been so for 25 years. 
His eldest, and perhaps his only son, is now at Col- 
lege at Georgetown, and as my impression is that 
Col. Yell died poor, I will in that event educate the 
boy, and shall take great interest in him. 

A despatch from Commodore Conner was re- 
ceived to-night, communicating the information 
that Gen'l Scott's forces had landed near Vera Cruz 
on the 7th Instant without serious resistance. 

Had Gen'l Taylor obeyed his orders & occupied 
Monterey and the passes beyond it, the severe loss of 
our army, including many valuable officers, would 
have been avoided. It was great rashness to take 
the position he did in advance of Saltillo. Having 
done so he [is] indebted not to his own good general- 
ship, but to the indomitable & intrepid bravery of 
the officers and men under his command for his suc- 
cess. He exposed them to an opposing army of 
three or four times their number. The Mexican 
army were suffering for want of food, and took up 
their retreat shortly after the battle. Gen'l Taylor 
is a hard fighter, but has none other of the qualities 
of a great General. From the beginning of the ex- 
isting War with Mexico he has been constantly 
blundering into difficulties, but has fought out of 
them, but with very severe loss. His first blunder 
was in seperating his army from his supplies, which 
caused the battle of Palo Alto and Resaca de la 
Palma. His second was in moving upon Monterey 
with an inadequate force, leaving more than two 
thirds of his whole army behind him with [the] bat- 
tering [?] trains, & this caused the hard battle & 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 453 

some loss at Monterey; & the last is in taking his 
position so far in advance of Monterey, which caused 
the late sanguinary battle. 1 rejoice that our brave 
army have been successful in this battle, but deeply 
lament the severe loss they have sustained. 

Friday, 2nd April, 1847. — I was busily engaged 
in transacting public business with several of my 
Secretaries, and in disposing of the business on my 
table. At i O'Clock P. M. I directed my doors to 
be opened, and spent an hour in receiving company. 
The persons who called had but little other business 
but to apply to me for offices, which I did not have 
to give. I disposed of them very summarily. At 
2 O'clock P. M. Maj'r Gen'l Wm. O. Butler and 
the Secretary of War called, that being the hour 
which I had appointed to receive them. I had an 
unreserved and full conversation with them in rela- 
tion to the future operations of the army in Mexico, 
and the proper manner of prosecuting the War. 
Gen'l Butler expressed the opinion that Gen'l Tay- 
lor's column, to which he was attached, would re- 
quire 10,000 men, and that these should hold and 
garrison the frontier of the Rio Grande as far as 
Monterey or Saltillo, now in our possession, and 
that we should occupy a line South of Monterey to 
the coast, and have garrisons at Linares, Victoria, 
and Tampico. 10,000 men he estimated would be 
sufficient for this purpose. For the advancing col- 
umn under Gen'l Scott from Vera Cruz, he esti- 
mated that 20,000 men would be required to advance 
upon and take the capitol. Many other matters con- 



454 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 April 

nected with the war were fully discussed and con- 
sidered. In the midst of the consultation dinner was 
announced, and Gen'l Butler & the Secretary of War 
took a family Dinner with me. We returned to the 
office after Dinner and continued the discussion until 
near sunset, when they retired. I am gratified that 
the conference took place, though I do not know that 
I obtained by it much if any information more than 
I possessed before. Gen'l Butler gave me some in- 
formation about details in the operations of the army, 
derived from his personal observation, which may be 
useful. 

This was reception evening. I met a number of 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, in the parlour. 

Saturday, Jr J April, 1847. — This was the regu- 
lar day for the meeting of the Cabinet. At the usual 
hour of assembling the Secretaries of War and the 
Navy and the Post Master General attended. The 
other members of the Cabinet were absent. The 
Secretary of State is on a visit to Pennsylvania, the 
Atto. Gen'l is confined to his house by indisposition. 
The Secretary of the Treasury I presume was de- 
tained by indisposition, as he was quite unwell a day 
or two ago, when I last saw him. 

The Secretary of the- Navy read his order to the 
commanders of our squadrons in the Gulf of Mexico 
and in the Pacific carrying out my order to him of 
the 31st Instant directing the tariff of duties, which 
had been prepared in pursuance of my orders by the 
Secretary of the Treasury, in the ports of Mexico in 
our military possession to be enforced. Some modi- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK S DIARY 



455 



fications were suggested and made. It was agreed 
that my order to him, & this his order based upon it, 
should be published at once in the Union. Some 
other public matters were the subject of conversation. 
The members of the Cabinet who attended retired 
about 2 O'clock P. M. 

I dined 'to-day with the Secretary of the Navy. 
Mrs. Polk, Miss Rucker, my Private Secretary, 
Col. Walker, and Mrs. Walker also dined with 
him. The Company consisted of the Secretary of 
War & the P. Master Gen'l and his wife, Maj'r 
General Butler & Mr. Ritchie. The Secretary 
of the Treasury & the Atto. Gen'l were sick, and 
the Secretary of State was absent from the City on 
a visit to Pennsylvania. It is the second time I 
have dined out since I have been President. I dined 
onc[e] with Mr. Bancroft, while he was Secretary of 
the Navy. 

Sunday, 4th April, 1847. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. Service was per- 
formed by the Rev. Mr. Hamner of Baltimore. The 
Rev. Mr. Sprole, the late pastor of the church, 
having been recently appointed chaplain at West 
point, had relinquished his pastoral charge and was 
absent. I wish the church may select as good a Pas- 
tor as Mr. Sprole was. 

Maj'r Gen'l Butler of the army called at 7 O'Clock 
P. M. and remained until near 10 O'Clock. I had 
a full conversation with him in relation to the War 
with Mexico, and the proper manner of conducting 



456 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 April 

it. He will leave for his residence in Kentucky on 
to-morrow morning, & will proceed to the seat of 
War as soon as the condition of his wound will per- 
mit him to do so. 

Monday, 5/A April, 184J. — I was busily en- 
gaged this morning in disposing of the business on 
my table. Several petitions for pardon, and Indian 
Deeds for my approval, among other matters, had 
accumulated on my table. I disposed of most of 
these cases. The Secretary of War called and sub- 
mitted to me his order to the army in pursuance of 
my order to him of the 31st ultimo directing contri- 
bution to be levied on the enemy in such of the ports 
of Mexico as are or may be in the actual military 
possession of our arms. I suggested some modifica- 
tions, to which he agreed. The Hon. David Tod, 
who was appointed U. S. Minister to Brazil at the 
close of the last Session of Congress, called to-day. 
He stated that his acceptance of the mission would 
depend on the health of his wife, which was pre- 
carious. At I O'clock I opened my doors for the 
reception of company. Several persons called. 
The pressure of office seekers was not so great as it 
has been heretofore. This afternoon I took a ride 
on horseback. It is the first time I have mounted a 
horse for over six months. I have an excellent sad- 
dle-horse, and have been much in the habit of taking 
exercise on horseback all my life, but have been so 
incessantly engaged in the onerous and responsible 
duties of my office for many months past that I have 
had no time to take such exercise. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 4S7 

Tuesday, 6th April, 1 847.— This was Cabinet 
day and I saw no company, except officers of Gov- 
ernment on official business, several of whom called. 
At the usual hour (11 O'Clock A. M.) the Cabinet 
assembled. Mr. Buchanan is still absent in Pennsyl- 
vania and Mr. Clififord, the Atto. Gen'l, is confined 
to his house by a severe attack of illness. No gen- 
eral subject of much importance was considered. 
Several matters of detail & minor importance were 
brought up and disposed of. The Secretary of War 
and myself considered the question of the rank to be 
assigned to the several officers of the same grade 
composing the 10 Regiments recently authorized to 
be raised by Congress. The other members of the 
Cabinet present made suggestions. I finally deter- 
mined to assign to the Field officers their relative 
rank, according to my own judgement of their rel- 
ative merit; and to determine the relative rank of 
the company or subaltern officers by lot, and directed 
the Secretary of War to cause lots to be drawn ac- 
cordingly. 

Mr. Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, mentioned 
to me that he had been informed by the Hon. John 
S. Barbour of Virginia that he had recently re- 
ceived a letter from Senator Calhoun of S. C, the 
object of which was to obtain his signature to [an] 
address to the people of the U. S. on the subject of 
slavery, thus making and endeavouring to make that 
question a test in the next Presidential election. Mr. 
Barbour informed Mr. Mason, as Mr. Mason told 
me, that he had refused to sign the address; but that 
he learned that Mr. Calhoun desired that it should 



458 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 April 

be signed by leading men in all the Southern States, 
and the Hon. Mr. Seddon among others was named 
by Mr. Barbour as one of those who was expected to 
sign it. I remarked to Mr. Mason that Mr. Cal- 
houn had become perfectly desperate in his aspira- 
tions to the Presidency, and had seized upon this sec- 
tional question as the only means of sustaining him- 
self in his present fallen condition, and that such an 
agitation of the slavery question was not only un- 
patriotic and mischievous, but wicked. I told him 
further, that I had learned from a reliable source 
that the New York politicians who were favourable 
to the election of Gov. Wright to the Presidency 
would be rejoiced at the opportunity to take issue 
with Mr. Calhoun on such a question. I did not tell 
Mr. Mason my authority for this opinion, but I think 
it proper to record the fact. I derived this infor- 
mation from Gen'l Benton in a conversation with 
him a few days ago (see this diary of tuesday last) 
in which I had protested against his addressing a let- 
ter to the people of Oregon informing them that the 
Bill to establish a territorial Government over them 
had been rejected at the last session of Congress on 
account of the attempt made by Mr. Calhoun to 
leave the question of the existence of slavery in that 
territory an open one. In the course of the conver- 
sation Gen'l Benton dropped the idea distinctly that 
the New York gentlemen had gone home from Con- 
gress with a full record of all the facts & intended 
to make an issue on that question. I find I omitted 
to state this in tuesday's diary. The truth is there is 
no patriotism in either faction of the party. Both 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 459 

desire to mount slavery as a hobby, and hope to se- 
cure the election of their favourite upon it. They 
will both fail and ought to fail. The people of the 
U. States, I hope, will cast ofif all such intriguers, and 
make their own selection for the Presidency, and this 
if they are wise they will do. I now entertain a worse 
opinion of Mr. Calhoun than I have ever done be- 
fore. He is wholly selfish, & I am satisfied has no 
patriotism. A few years ago he was the author of 
Nullification & threatened to dissolve the Union on 
account of the tariff. During my administration the 
reduction of duties which he desired has been ob- 
tained, and he can no longer complain. No sooner 
is this done than he selects slavery upon which to agi- 
tate the country, and blindly mounts that topic as a 
hobby. Gov. Wright's friends in Congress as un- 
patriotically have shown by their course that they 
desire to mount the same hobby in the North and 
hope to be successful by their opposition to slavery. 
They both forget that the Constitution settles [these] 
questions which were the subjects of mutual conces- 
sion between the North and the South. I am utterly 
disgusted at such intriguing of men in high place, 
& hope they will be rebuked by the people. This 
was reception evening. A number of persons called. 
I met them in the parlour. 

Wednesday, '/th April, 184J. — I ordered that 
my doors should not be opened foi the reception of 
visitors until i O'Clock P. M. Before that hour, 
however, my messenger announced that Mr. Charles 
J. Ingersoll of Phila. had called and desired to see 



46o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 April 

me. I was surprised at this especially after the 
strange and extraordinary letter which he addressed 
to me on the 25th ultimo, and which was delivered 
to me by Mr. Buchanan. From this letter it would 
seem that Mr. IngersoU was in a great passion, be- 
cause after he was rejected by the Senate as Min- 
ister to France on the last night of the last Session of 
Congress, I had nominated Mr. Richard Rush for 
that Mission. The letter is not only an extraordi- 
nary one, but does me gross injustice. I thought at 
first of answering it, and may do so yet. I will pre- 
serve it on my files, for future reference if necessary, 
if Mr. IngersoU should make an attack on me, as he 
distinctly intimates he may do. The letter alluded 
to is a gross one, and proves one of two things, viz., 
either that Mr. IngersoU is a man of no sense or prin- 
ciple, or both, or [that he] intended when he wrote 
it, not only to do me injustice but to insult me. My 
only ofifense was that I nominated him to the Sen- 
ate as minister to France in good faith & in the hope 
that he might be confirmed, but when he was re- 
jected by the Senate, within the last hour of the last 
night of the Session, I considered it a public duty 
not to permit the French mission to remain vacant, 
and nominated a successor. The letter of Mr. Inger- 
soU to me proves beyond doubt, that he was wholly 
unworthy of the confidence which by his nomination 
I proposed to place in him. When he entered my 
office his manner was embarrassed. I received him 
courteously, but very formally, much more so than is 
my habit. He said he had come from Phila. ex- 
pressly to see me, and to request me as he did, at the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 461 

instance of a number of his constituents, to confer a 
brevet on Col. Stanton of the Quarter master's De- 
partment. This struck me as a strange errand, and 
I considered it, as 1 have no doubt it was, the mere 
pretext of his visit. 1 answered the questions or en- 
quiries which he propounded to me on the subject. 
I introduced no other topic. He did, but I confined 
myself to laconic responses. He did not allude to 
the French Mission, or to his letter to me on the sub- 
ject. Had he done so, I was ready to have given 
him my mind freely and without reserve. He left, 
and on parting I did not shake hands with him, but 
bowed to him in a cold and formal manner. Be- 
tween I & 2 O'clock P. M. he returned with a per- 
son with him whom he introduced to me and whose 
name I do not remember. They took seats. There 
was company in my office. I addressed no conver- 
sation to him, and after sitting for a few minutes he 
& the person he had introduced retired. I think 
Mr. IngersoU has acted not only an ungrateful part 
in the letter he addressed to me, but has shown that 
he is selfish & without principle. I have profound 
contempt for him, and shall never have any further 
intercourse with him, unless he withdraws his letter 
and makes suitable explanations, and then only in the 
most guarded manner. On official business I must 
of course see him, but it will be in the most formal 
manner. At i O'Clock P. M. I opened my office for 
the reception of company. Several persons called, 
chiefly office seekers, and I did not get clear of them 
until near 3 O'Clock P. M. The Secretary of War 
called on official business. The Adj't Gen'l (Jones) 



462 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 April 

called and submitted to me a General order which 
he had prepared, in substance directing the differ- 
ent corps of the army to fire a salute in honour of 
Gen'l Taylor for the battle of Buena Vista. I de- 
clined to sanction the order because, as far as I was 
informed by him, no similar order had ever been 
given before, and if given in this case it would be 
embarrassing, because if a similar order was not 
given in any future battle in which our arms were 
successful, the inferrence would be that the Govern- 
ment did not properly appreciate their success. I 
told him it would be embarrassing. I told him also 
that I was rejoiced that the battle of Buena Vista 
had resulted as well as it had, and as a citizen I 
cheerfully awarded to our brave army the merit that 
was due them, but as President I could not depart 
from the usual course pursued on such occasions. I 
told him no such thing had been done on the occa- 
sion of the battle of New Orleans, on the 8th of Jan- 
uary, 1 81 5, or on the occasion of the battle of Chip- 
pewa, Lundy's Lane, or any other that had been 
fought during the last War with Great Brittain. 
The truth is the indomitable bravery of our army 
saved Gen'l Taylor, and not his good Generalship, 
at the battle of Buena Vista. Had that battle been 
lost, he would have been condemned by the whole 
country for his rashness in violation of his orders in 
taking the advanced position he did. Gen'l Jones 
retired, having expressed his approbation of the rea- 
sons I assigned for declining to authorize the author 
[order]. 

Dr. Green, who married my niece, Miss Walker, 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 463 

and his wife, arrived this evening from Virginia, 
where they had been on a visit to Dr. Green's father. 
They took rooms in the Presidential mansion. 

I took a ride on horse-back this evening in com- 
pany with Mr. Johnson, the Post Master Gen'l. 

To-day Senator Yulee of Florida called in com- 
pany with my old friend, Walker Anderson of 
Florida. Mr. Yulee expressed his approbation of 
the measure recently adopted to levy contributions 
on the enemy by the collection of duties in the ports 
of Mexico in our military possession. He said the 
only doubt he had was as to the power to disburse 
the money by the Executive order after it was col- 
lected. He had no doubt of the power & the ex- 
pediency of levying the contribution in the manner 
proposed. 

Senator Dix called, and in conversation with him 
I understood from him that he approved the meas- 
ure. Some of the Federal papers, I see, are attack- 
ing it, & among them the New York Courier & En- 
quirer. Col. Webb,^ the Editor of that paper, is a 
disappointed office seeker. He wished to be Brig- 
adier General & I did not think him fit for it, & he 
has been recklessly bitter ever since. His partisan 
ravings give me no concern. 

Thursday, 8th April, l84'/,--The day passed 
without the occurrence of any incident of much in- 
terest. Vice President Dallas called in the course of 

^ James Watson Webb, 1802-1884, editor and proprietor of the 
New York Courier and Enquirer, He wielded a strong influence 
in public affairs. 



464 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 April 

the morning. I spent an hour or two with the Sec- 
retary of War. At i O'Clock I opened my office 
and a number of persons called, some to pay their re- 
spects & others to seek office. The latter class I 
dispatched without much ceremony, as I had no 
offices for them. Mr. Buchanan returned to-day 
from his visit to Pennsylvania. He had been ab- 
sent about a week. The balance of the day I spent 
in disposing of the business on my table. In the 
afternoon I took a ride with Mrs. Polk to the 
Heights of Georgetown. 

Friday, gth April, 1847. — This morning I di- 
rected that my office should not be opened for the 
reception of visitors until the usual hour, viz., i 
O'clock P. M. Cards were, however, sent in to me 
before that hour and I was compelled to see several 
persons who called. Among them was the Hon. 
David Tod, U. S. Minister to Brazil. He informed 
me that he had concluded to accept the Mission ; that 
he would return to his residence in Ohio, and ex- 
pected to be ready to sail about the last of May. At 
I O'clock P. M. [my] office was opened for the 
reception of visitors generally. A number of per- 
sons called, ladies and gentlemen. The visits to-day 
w^ere chiefly those of ceremony. The pressure for 
office, I am happy to say, has abated considerably 
within the last few days. I took a ride on horse- 
back this evening in company with the Post Master 
General. I disposed of several matters of business 
to-day, which had accumulated on my table. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 465 

sons called, ladies and gentlemen. 1 met them in the 
parlour. 

Saturday, lOth April, 184J. — I received a Tel- 
egraphic despatch from the office of the Baltimore 
Sun stating that by a special Express who had come 
from Pensacola, beating the mail one day, informa- 
tion had been received that the City of Vera Cruz 
and the castle of San juan de UUoa had surrendered 
on the 27th ultimo to the combined operation of our 
land and naval forces, with the loss of only 36 men 
on our part. This was joyful news. In about two 
hours afterwards a more detailed account of the 
capitulation was received, published in \}c\tSun and 
taken from a Pensacola paper. I[t] comes so well 
vouched [for] as to leave no doubt of its authenticity. 

The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour, all of 
the members present. The Secretary of the Treas- 
ury returned to his office after remaining but a few 
minutes. This was the last day for receiving pro- 
posals for the loan for which he had advertised; 
many capitalists were in Washington wishing to see 
him, & to afiford them that opportunity he asked to 
be excused from attending the Cabinet to-day. The 
subject of consideration to-day was the Mexican 
War. I had several times mentioned to Mr. Bu- 
chanan the importance of having a commissioner 
vested with Plenipotentiary powers, who should at- 
tend the head-quarters of the army ready to take ad- 
vantage of circumstances as they might arise to 
negotiate for peace. I stated to the Cabinet to-day 
that such was my opinion, and that I thought it the 



466 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo April 

more important since the news of the recent vic- 
tories, and especially since the information received 
this morning of the fall of Vera Cruz & the Castle 
of San juan D'Ulloa. All the members of the Cab- 
inet present concurred in this opinion. The embar- 
rassment in carrying it out consisted in the selection 
of a suitable commissioner or commissioners who 
would be satisfactory to the country. This was a 
great difficulty. Such is the jealousy of the differ- 
ent factions of the Democratic party in reference to 
the next Presidential Election towards each other 
that it is impossible to appoint any prominent man 
or men without giving extensive dissatisfaction to 
others, and thus jeopardizing the ratification of any 
Treaty they might make. In this also the Cabinet 
were agreed. I stated that I preferred that the Sec- 
retary of State should be the sole commissioner to ne- 
gotiate the Treaty, & that I would have no hesitation 
in deputing him on that special service if the Mex- 
ican authorities had agreed to appoint commission- 
ers on their part, but as they had refused to do this 
he could not attend the head-quarters of the army 
for an indefinite period of time and with no as- 
surance whether the Mexican authorities would 
agree to negotiate. Mr. Buchanan expressed his en- 
tire concurrence in this view. He said he would be 
willing to go in person if there was any assurance 
that negotiations would be speedily opened, but un- 
der existing circumstances & with our present infor- 
mation he could not, of course, think of going. Mr. 
Buchanan then suggested that Mr. N. P. Trist, the 
chief clerk of the Department of State, might be 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 467 

deputed secretly with Plenipotentiary powers to the 
head-quarters of the army, and that it might be made 
known that such a person was with the army ready to 
negotiate. Mr. Trist, he said, was an able man, per- 
fectly familiar with the Spanish character and lan- 
guage, & might go with special and well defined in- 
structions. The suggestions struck me favourably. 
After much conversation on the subject it was unani- 
mously agreed by the Cabinet that it would be proper 
to send Mr. Trist, and that he should take with him 
a Treaty drawn up by the Secretary of State & ap- 
proved by the Cabinet, which he should be author- 
ized to tender to the Mexican Government, and to 
conclude [a treaty] with them if they would accept 
it; but that if they would not accept it, but would 
agree to appoint commissioners to negotiate, that 
Mr. Trist should in that event report the fact to his 
Government, when Mr. Buchanan could go out as 
the commissioner. This being agreed upon by the 
members of the Cabinet present, & it being desirable, 
as it was a very important matter, that every member 
of the Cabinet should be consulted, I sent for the 
Secretary of the Treasury, who had retired. He 
came, & I laid the whole matter fully before him. 
He fully concurred in opinion with the other mem- 
bers of the Cabinet. 

After the consideration of some other matters all 
the members of the Cabinet retired except Mr. Bu- 
chanan, whom I requested to remain. I sent to the 
Department of State for Mr. Trist & in the presence 
of Mr. Buchanan I opened the matter fully to him. 
He gave his assent to go on the mission. I then 



468 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo April 

charged him to keep the matter a profound secret. 
I requested Mr. Buchanan to go to work immedi- 
ately &c with the least practicable delay to prepare 
the project of a Treaty and the necessary instruc- 
tions, and in order that it might be kept a profound 
secret, I impressed it upon him that no clerk or other 
person in his Department should have any knowl- 
edge of it. Both Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Trist said 
that Mr. Derrick,^ one of the clerks in the Dept. of 
State, could render important aid in preparing & 
copying the necessary papers. After some hesita- 
tion I agreed that he might be so employed, but that 
he should be placed under the strictest injunctions of 
Secrecy. That he might be so, I requested Mr. Bu- 
chanan to send him over to me. Mr. Buchanan & 
Mr. Trist retired & in a short time Mr. Derrick 
called. I communicated the matter to him & 
charged him with secrecy. To give publicity to 
such a movement before it was commenced, and to 
have the federal papers giving their own version of 
it, and, as their habit is, to have them by every means 
in their power thwarting the objects of the Govern- 
ment by discouraging the enemy to accede to the 
measure, would in all human probability be to de- 
feat it, & hence the necessity of secrecy. 

Col. Totten of the army arrived by the Southern 
Boat this evening direct from Vera Cruz, where he 
had been during the bombardment of the City and 
the Castle. He was the bearer of dispatches from 
Gen'l Scott, fully confirming the information re- 

^ William S. Derrick, acting Chief Clerk of the Department of 
State in 1847. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 469 

ceived this morning through the Baltimore Sun of 
the surrender of the City and Castle. The Secre- 
taries of War & the Navy called & examined the 
despatches. It was agreed that they should be 
handed to the Editor of the Union for publication. 

Sunday, nth April, 1847. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. Divine Service 
was performed by the Rev'd Mr. Bacon of the Bap- 
tist Church. He preached an excellent sermon. 
Mr. Bacon is the President of Columbia College in 
this City and is a man of letters. Being much fa- 
tigued by my constant public engagements during 
the past week, I enjoyed the rest from my labours 
which the sabbath enabled me to have. It has be- 
come so generally known that I receive no company 
on the sabbath that no one now calls on that day. 

Monday, 12th April, 184J. — I sent for Col. 
Totten, who was the bearer of despatches from Vera 
Cruz, and who arrived in this City on Saturday last. 
I held a conversation of some length with him, the 
object of which was to obtain information from him 
from the army. He gave me some valuable infor- 
mation which I had not before possessed, in regard 
to the localities about Vera Cruz and Gen'l Scott's 
probable movements. He gave it as his opinion 
that Gen'l Scott would require 15,000 effective men 
to enable him to move with safety upon the City of 
Vera Cruz [Mexico]. He stated to me that Brig- 
adier Generals Pillow & Quitman had both made 



4/0 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 April 

much character with the army by their conduct. I 
had an interview with the Secretary of State in re- 
lation to his reply to the Mexican Government [to 
the despatch] in which they had refused to open 
negotiations, a rough copy of which he had sent to 
me last night. I suggested one or two modifications 
to which he agreed. I had an interview also with 
the Secretary of War & the Navy in relation to the 
conduct of the war. I sent for the Atto. Gen'l & 
consulted him upon a legal question relating to the 
construction of the two acts of Congress of the last 
session of Congress, of the nth Feb'y & 3rd of 
March. The question was whether the volunteers 
now in Mexico, who shall re-volunteer for the war, 
will be entitled to a second or double land-bounty. 
He thought they would be, but preferred to examine 
the subject more fully before he gave a definitive 
opinion. I took a ride with Judge Mason in his 
buggy this evening. He told me that he had under- 
stood that Mr. Calhoun had come out for Gen'l Tay- 
lor for President. I had heard the same rumour this 
morning but could not believe it. If it be true, I 
have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Calhoun is 
wholly destitute of political principle. Gen'l Tay- 
lor is a Whig alias Federalist of the most decided 
character. He is a Kentuckian and a devotee of 
Mr. Clay, and holds no one of the strict construction 
opinions which Mr. Calhoun has heretofore pro- 
fessed. If the rumour be true then all Mr. Cal- 
houn's loud professions in favour of a strict construc- 
tion of the Constitution & of State rights are false. 
It was but a few years ago that Mr. Calhoun was 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 471 

ready to nullify & dissolve the Union about the 
tariff. Now that the tariff has been reduced under 
my administration & all has been effected on that 
subject which he desired, he is obliged to mount 
some other political hobby to keep himself before 
the public, and for that purpose some weeks ago se- 
lected the slavery question. Finding now that he 
cannot gratify his ambition by the agitation of that 
question, he now abandons every leading political 
principle he has ever professed, and, if the rumour 
be true, avows himself for Gen'l Taylor for the Pres- 
idency, when Gen'l Taylor is known to be the devo- 
tee of Mr. Clay & to entertain opinions directly the 
reverse of those heretofore professed by Mr. Cal- 
houn. I cannot express the contempt I feel for Mr. 
Calhoun for such profligate political [injconsistency. 
If I had retained him in my Cabinet & consented to 
yield myself up to his control, I might have secured 
his support, but not by the support of principle. 

I omitted to state that at i O'Clock to-day when I 
opened my doors an unusual crowd, male & female, 
attended. They occupied my time about an hour. 

Tuesday, 13th April, 184J. — At the request of 
Mr. Buchanan I summoned the Cabinet to meet at 
10 O'clock this morning. All the members attended 
shortly after that hour. Mr. Buchanan submitted 
for consideration the project of a Treaty with Mex- 
ico, which he had prepared in pursuance of the de- 
cision of the Cabinet on Saturday last, to be borne 
by Mr. Trist to the Head Quarters of the army in 
Mexico and to be concluded and signed by him if 



472 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 April 

the Mexican government acceded to it. The bound- 
ary proposed in the project was the Rio Grande 
from its mouth to the point where it intersects the 
Southern boundary of New Mexico, the whole of 
the Provinces of New Mexico & Upper and Lower 
California to be ceded to the U. States. There was 
a stipulation in a seperate article securing to the 
U. S. the right of passage and transit from the Gulf 
of Mexico & the Pacific Ocean across the istmus of 
Tehuantepec. The consideration which Mr. Bu- 
chanan in his draft of a Treaty proposed to pay, in 
addition to the assumption of the claims of our cit- 
izens against Mexico, was $15,000,000, in install- 
ments of $3,000,000 per annum. I expressed the 
hope that this boundary and concession might be ob- 
tained for this or even a less sum, but that I was will- 
ing to pay a larger sum for it if it could not be had 
for that sum, and that I thought Mr. Trist should 
be authorized to give more, if he found that to be 
the only obstacle in concluding a treaty. I was will- 
ing to make the consideration double that sum ($30,- 
000,000) if the cession could not be obtained for a 
less sum, rather than fail to make a Treaty. Mr. Bu- 
chanan earnestly resisted this & was in favour of 
restricting the oflfer to the $15,000,000. This point 
gave rise to much conversation & discussion. I 
stated my reasons at some length for being willing to 
enlarge the sum to $30,000,000, if the Treaty could 
not be had for that sum. Among these reasons were, 
first, that the continuance of the War for less than 
twelve months would cost more than that sum; and 
secondly, that the country ceded to the U. S. would 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



473 



be worth, in the public lands acquired & commer- 
cial advantages, more than four fold the $30,000,- 
000. The members of the Cabinet expressed their 
opinions freely. Mr. Walker attached greater im- 
portance to the free passage across the Istmus of 
Tehuantepec than to the cession of New Mexico & 
the Californias, and if that object could be obtained 
he was willing to pay $30,000,000, but without it 
he was not. Mr. Buchanan still opposed the en- 
largement of the consideration. Finally all the Cab- 
inet except Mr. Buchanan yielded to my views, and 
it was agreed that Mr. Trist should be furnished 
with confidential instructions authorizing him in his 
discretion, if the Treaty could not be obtained for a 
less sum, to stipulate to pay $30,000,000. It was 
further agreed that if the passage across the istmus 
of Tehuantepec could not be obtained, the maximum 
sum to be paid for the other cessions of the proposed 
Treaty should not exceed $25,000,000. It was 
agreed, also, that if Lower California could not be 
obtained, that then the maximum sum to be paid for 
the Rio Grande as a boundary & the cession of New 
Mexico & Upper California should not exceed $20,- 
000,000. To these several propositions all the Cab- 
inet except Mr. Buchanan agreed, and he being 
over ruled yielded and said he would modify the 
project of t!ie Treaty & prepare the instructions ac- 
cordingly. I stated, & it was understood by all, that 
the several sums mentioned were maximums to which 
Mr. Trist might go in the last resort, but that he 
would procure the Treaty for as much less a sum as 
possible. In the course of the discussion Mr. 



474 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 April 

Walker insisted that the free passage across the istmus 
of Tehuantepec should be a sine qua non to the 
making of any Treaty. To this I objected & stated 
that it constituted no part of the object for which we 
had engaged in the War. The balance of the Cab- 
inet, though agreeing that it was important, yet con- 
curred with me in opinion that it should not be a 
sine qua non to the making of a Treaty. Other pro- 
visions of the project of the Treaty were considered. 
It was then agreed that the Cabinet would meet 
again at 7^ O'Clock this evening, and that in the 
mean-time Mr. Buchanan should prepare the mod- 
ified draft of the Treaty as agreed upon. The Cab- 
inet adjourned about 3 O'Clock P. M. About 2 
O'clock P. M. it was announced to me that Gen'l 
Tom Thumb, a dwarf, who is being exhibited in this 
City & who has become quite celebrated by having 
been exhibited at all the principal Courts of Europe, 
was in the parlour below stairs & desired to see me. 
I invited the Cabinet to take a short recess & to walk 
down with me, & they did so. We found a number 
of ladies & gentlemen in the parlour. Tom Thumb 
is a most remarkable person. After spending 20 or 
30 minutes in the parlour I returned with the Cab- 
inet to my office. At yjA O'Clock P. M. the Cab- 
inet re-assembled. Mr. Buchanan read the article 
which he proposed relating to the passage across the 
istmus of Tehuantepec. It proposed that $5,000,- 
000 of the sum proposed to be paid to Mexico should 
be retained in our Treasury, and not paid to Mexico 
until that Government should have constructed a 
canal or a railroad over the istmus. I objected to 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 475 

this, because it would be in effect to appropriate from 
our Treasury this sum for external improvements, 
or improvements in a foreign country, and my opin- 
ion was that such a provision would be, or might be, 
a serious objection to the ratification of the Treaty by 
the Senate. After a full discussion it was agreed to 
omit this provision for the application of the $5,000,- 
000, and to make a simple provision securing to 
the citizens of the U. S. a free passage across the 
istmus for ever. Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker 
dissented, but yielded to the majority. The Cabinet 
adjourned about 11 O'Clock P.M. 

This was reception evening, but I did not go into 
the parlour until after the Cabinet adjourned. I 
learn from Mrs. Polk that a large number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, had attended. They had 
all retired but three or four when I entered the par- 
lour. The Secretary of War & the Navy & the Atto. 
Gen'l accompanied me to the parlour & remained a 
few minutes. 

Wednesday, 14th April, 1847. — I was slightly 
indisposed to-day. I kept my doors closed until i 
O'clock. Before that hour I had interviews with 
the Secretaries of War and the Navy on official busi- 
ness. It was agreed by the Secretary of War and 
myself that it would be necessary to call out 6 or 8 
Regiments of Volunteers for the War to supply the 
place of the 12 months volunteers now serving in 
Mexico, whose term of service would expire in May 
and June next. The Secretary of State called two 
or three times to consult me in relation to the project 



476 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 April 

of a Treaty with Mexico & the instructions to Mr. 
Trist, which he was preparing agreeably to the mod- 
ifications which were settled upon in Cabinet on yes- 
terday. At I O'clock I opened my doors. A num- 
ber of persons called & occupied my time for an hour 
very unprofitably. After night Mr. Buchanan 
called and read to me a letter which he had received 
this evening from Moses Beech of the New York 
Sun, written in the City of Mexico &c dated on the 
17th of March last. In his letter Mr. Beech de- 
scribes the revolutionary condition of Mexico, but 
expresses the opinion that a Treaty may be made 
which would be satisfactory to the U. S., & leaves the 
inference that he may make such a Treaty. Mr. 
Beech was in Washington in November last & had 
several interviews with Mr. Buchanan & one with 
me. He was then on the eve of leaving for Mexico 
on private business, but from his intimacy with Gen- 
eral Almonte expressed the opinion that he could 
[exert] a favourable influence on him and other 
leading men in Mexico, with a view to the restora- 
tion of peace. He induced Mr. Buchanan and my- 
self to believe that he could do so. Mr. Buchanan 
informed him confidentially of the terms on which 
we would treat, and it was deemed advisable to con- 
stitute him a secret agent to Mexico. He was so con- 
stituted ^ accordingly, but was not clothed with any 
Diplomatic powers. The object of constituting him 
a secret agent was that he might collect & furnish 
useful information to his Government. He may 

^ The appointment and commission is printed in Moore, 
Buchanan, VII, 119. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 477 

misconstrue his authority & it may be possible that 
he may induce the Mexican rulers, if they are re- 
duced to great straits by the pressure of the war, upon 
the production to them of the letter of the Secretary 
of State making him an agent of the Government, to 
make a Treaty with him. It is clearly to be inferred 
from his letter that he will make a Treaty with them 
if he can. Should he do so, and it is a good one, I 
will waive his authority to make it, and submit it to 
the Senate for ratification. It will be a good joke if 
he should assume the authority and take the whole 
country by surprise & make a Treaty. Mr. Bu- 
chanan's strong impression is that he may do so. So 
little impression did the conversation which I held 
with him in November make on my mind, that I be- 
lieve I made no note of it in this diary. It seems to 
have made a deeper impression on Mr. Buchanan, 
for he read to me to-night the substance of the con- 
versation which he held with him in November, & 
which he had reduced to writing at the time. There 
is nothing in the conversation, as thus reduced to 
writing, which contemplated that Diplomatic pow- 
ers were to be conferred on Mr. Beech. 

Thursday, i^th April, 184J. — About ii'>4 
O'clock Mr. Buchanan called and informed me 
that the instructions for Mr. Trist, the project of a 
Treaty with Mexico, the full power to conclude the 
same, and all the papers ^ according to the decision 
of the Cabinet were now ready, and that as Mr. Trist 
would leave Washington on his Mission on to-mor- 

• ^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 271-279. 



478 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 April 

row morning, he thought it prudent to have a meet- 
ing of the Cabinet that they might be all read over 
again. I immediately summoned the Cabinet, all 
of whom (except the Attorney Gen'l, who is absent 
from the City on a visit to Maine, having left on 
yesterday) attended in less than an hour. Mr. Bu- 
chanan read over all the papers, including the draft 
of the Treaty to be offered to the acceptance of Mex- 
ico. Some immaterial modifications were made in 
the instructions. The Secretaries of War and the 
Navy read drafts of orders which they had respec- 
tively prepared to the commanders of the land & 
Naval forces in Mexico, informing them of Mr. 
Trist's mission and requiring them to afford him all 
the facilities in their power in accomplishing its ob- 
ject. They were also instructed, if a Treaty should 
be concluded and ratified by the Mexican Govern- 
ment and they were notified of that fact by Mr. Trist, 
to suspend hostilities until they received further or- 
ders from their Government. I signed Mr. Trists's 
letter of appointment as a commissioner, & also his 
full powers to conclude a Treaty. The Cabinet ad- 
journed about 2j>2 O'clock. After night Mr. Trist 
called and I had a full conversation with him. 

Friday, lOth April, 184^. — Mr. Trist set out on 
his mission to the Head Quarters of the army this 
morning, with full powers to Treat with the author- 
ities of Mexico for peace. His mission has, as far 
as I have learned, been kept a profound secret, and 
is known only to the Cabinet. I deemed it impor- 
tant that it should be so. Had his mission and the 



I 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 479 

object of it been proclaimed in advance at Washing- 
ton I have no doubt there are persons in Washing- 
ton, and among them the Editors of the National In- 
telligencer, who would have been ready and willing 
to have despatched a courier to Mexico to discour- 
age the Government of that weak and distracted 
country from entering upon negotiations for peace. 
This they would do rather than suffer my adminis- 
tration to have the credit of concluding a just and 
honourable peace. The articles in the National In- 
telligencer and other federal papers against their 
own Government and in favour of the enemy, have 
done more to prevent a peace than all the armies of 
the enemy. The Mexican papers republish these 
treasonable articles & make the ignorant population 
of Mexico believe that the Democratic party will 
shortly be expelled from power in the U. States, and 
that their friends (the Federal alias Whig party) 
will come into power. If the war is protracted it is 
to be attributed to the treasonable course of the fed- 
eral editors & leading men. These Editors and po- 
litical leaders are guilty of " moral treason " to their 
country, and yet they have recently attempted to steal 
the war, which they have opposed and denounced, 
and appropriate the success of our arms to them- 
selves. They already boldly claim all the credit of 
the success of our battles to Gen'l Taylor and are 
proclaiming him to be their candidate for the Presi- 
dency, when the truth is that Gen'l Taylor has from 
the beginning to the end of the War displayed no 
generalship. In violation of all prudence & of or- 
ders he placed himself at Buena Vista instead of 



48o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 April 

occupying Monterey as he was expected to do, and 
had he been defeated in that battle he would have 
been universally execrated. As it is his imprudence 
cost the lives of our brave officers & men who fell in 
that battle. He is, however, a Whig and the Fed- 
eral party will make a hero of him if they can, and 
will make a candidate for the Presidency of him if 
they shall think him their most available candidate. 
They care nothing for political principle. The 
Spoils of office are all that they care for. 

I communicated to Mr. Ritchie this afternoon the 
fact of Mr. Trist's mission & the object of it. I did 
this in the strictest confidence, because it was neces- 
sary that he should know it in order to shape the 
course of his paper in reference to it. 

Saturday, lyth April, 184J. — The Cabinet met 
at 1 1 O'clock to-day; all the members present except 
the Attorney Gen'l, who is absent from the Seat of 
Government on a visit to his residence in the State of 
Maine. I brought before the Cabinet the propriety 
of calling out about 6,000 more volunteers for the 
Mexican War, to take the place of the 12 months vol- 
unteers whose term of service will shortly expire. 
The Secretary of War & myself had previously con- 
ferred upon the subject. The Cabinet agreed that it 
was necessary & proper to do so. The Cabinet ad- 
journed about 2 O'clock P. M. The Secretary of 
War remained & in consultation with him I appor- 
tioned the volunteers to be called for among the 
States, and directed him to make the requisition ac- 
cordingly. I communicated to Mr. Ritchie in strict 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 481 

confidence to-night the fact of Mr. Trist's mission 
to the Head Quarters of army. 

Sunday, l8th April, iSiJ.— Y attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. 

Monday, igth April, /c?^/.— Nothing of much 
interest occurred to-day. The Secretary of the Navy 
and several of the subordinate officers called on offi- 
cial business. At i O'Clock I opened my doors and 
a number of persons called, some of them to pay visits 
of ceremony and others seeking offices. The pressure 
for office I am happy to say has not been so great for 
a few days past as has been usual. I disposed of 
much business that was on my table to-day. Indeed 
I believe that I have less business on my table re- 
maining to be acted on than I have had at any time 
for the last year. 

Tuesday, 20th April, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept the Attorney General, who is absent from the 
seat of Government on a visit to his residence in 
Maine. Several subjects were considered & dis- 
posed of, but none of sufficient importance to be 
noted. On yesterday official dispatches were re- 
ceived from Col. Price, commanding at Sante Fe, 
announcing that a battle had been fought and a sig- 
nal victory won by the troops under his command 
over the enemy. The number of troops engaged was 
comparatively small, but I consider this victory one 



482 JAMES K. POLK'S DIAHY [21 April 

of the most signal which has been gained during the 
War. Accounts through the newspapers were re- 
ceived on yesterday, containing the Mexican account 
of a Victory obtained by Col. Donophan,^ com- 
manding [the] Missouri Volunteers, over the enemy, 
and that he had taken the City of Chihuahua. The 
truth is our troops, regulars & volunteers, will ob- 
tain victories wherever they meet the enemy. This 
[they] would do if they were without officers to 
command them higher in rank than Lieutenants. 
It is injustice, therefore, to award to the Generals 
all the credit. They are entitled to their full share 
of credit for their courage and skill, but the sub- 
altern officers & privates are entitled to their share 
of the credit also. The Cabinet adjourned about 
2 O'clock P. M. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. I met them with 
the family in the parlour. 

Wednesday, 21st April, 184J. — My attention 
was called this morning to two letters ^ purporting to 
have been written at this City and published in the 
New York Herald, in which the writer discloses 
with remarkable accuracy & particularity the fact 
of the departure of Mr. N. P. Trist, chief clerk in 
the Department of State, on a mission to Mexico. 

^ Alexander William Doniphan, Colonel of the First Missouri 
regiment. 

^ New York Herald, April 20, 1847; one letter, signed " Ma- 
heeko," is dated Washington, April 17; the other, copied from 
the Boston Post, is dated April 15, 1847. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 483 

The statement is so accurate and minute that the 
writer must have obtained information on the sub- 
ject from some one who was entrusted with the 
Secret. It was a profound Cabinet secret, and was 
so expressly declared to be by me, and was communi- 
cated to no one else but to Mr. Trist himself & to 
Mr. Derrick, a clerk in the Department of State. 
For a full statement of the importance of keeping it 
a secret, see this diary of Saturday the loth Instant. 
In disclosing the fact of the mission of Mr. Trist and 
its objects, contrary to my solemn injunction, there 
has been treachery somewhere. I cannot believe 
that any of my Cabinet have betrayed my confidence, 
and conclude, in the absence of further information 
on the subject, that the disclosure must have been 
made by Mr. Derrick, the clerk in the State Depart- 
ment recommended By Mr. Buchanan as worthy of 
all confidence, and who was employed in preparing 
the writing, I have not been more vexed or ex- 
cited since I have been President than at this occur- 
rence. The Success of Mr. Trist's mission I knew 
in the beginning must depend mainly on keeping it 
a secret from that portion of the Federal press & 
leading men in the country who, since the commence- 
ment of the war with Mexico, have been giving " aid 
& comfort" to the enemy by their course. I do not 
doubt that there are men among them who would 
incur the expense of sending a courrier to Mexico, 
& incur any other expense, to discourage Mexico 
from making a peace, for the purpose of having 
the war continued, in the hope that the Democratic 
administration might be brought into disrepute by 



484 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 April 

continuing it to a protracted length, and that they 
might gain some political advantage in the next Pres- 
idential election by it. I do not doubt that Mexico 
has been & will be discouraged from making peace, 
in the hope that their friends in the U. S. will come 
into power at the next Presidential [election]. That 
this has been the effect of the unpatriotic & anti- 
American course of the National Intelligencer & 
other federal papers, all know. Their articles 
against their own Government & country are trans- 
lated & re-published in the Mexican papers. It was 
my knowledge of this that induced my great desire 
to keep the mission of Mr. Trist a secret. In the 
course of an hour after I read the published letters 
in the Herald, Mr. Buchanan called on business. 
After it was transacted I called his attention to these 
letters. He had no knowledge how or through 
whom the matter disclosed in these letters had gained 
their way to the public. I told him that I strongly 
suspected Mr. Derrick, his Whig clerk in the State 
Dept., who he had insisted should be entrusted to 
aid in preparing the papers. Mr. Buchanan in- 
sisted that Mr. Derrick was perfectly trustworthy 
and that the disclosure could not have been made by 
him. I told him it must have gone from him or Mr. 
Trist, as it was impossible that any member of the 
Cabinet, after the solemn injunction of secrecy I had 
imposed when the matter was resolved upon, could 
have disclosed it. I told Mr. Buchanan that its dis- 
closure was a great outrage upon me, and that Mr. 
Derrick must explain it & clear himself of it, or I 
would turn him out of his office. I told him further 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 485 

that I had found that ahnost everything that trans- 
pired in the Cabinet got into the newspapers, that 1 
had been annoyed no little by it, & that 1 intended 
to put an end to it. Mr. Buchanan left, & 1 sent 
for the Secretary of War & the Secretary of the 
Navy, as Mr. Trist had been entrusted as bearer of 
despatches from their Departments to the army and 
Navy. I enquired of them if it was possible that 
any of the clerks in their Departments could have 
arrived at any knowledge of the matter, in prepar- 
ing the papers to be sent ofif by Mr. Trist. They 
both said that no clerk in either Department could 
have had any knowledge upon the subject. They 
were both indignant at the disclosure of the facts. 
I have no doubt myself that it obtained publicity 
through the State Department. I intend to probe 
it to the bottom & ascertain the guilty person if 
possible. 

I opened my doors at i O'Clock P. M. A num- 
ber of persons called. Nothing of interest occurred 
during the remainder of the day. My Private Sec- 
retary, with his wife & Miss Rucker, left this morn- 
ing on an excursion for a day or two to Baltimore. 

Thursday, 22nd April, 184'j. — I spent this day 
quietly, attending to various matters of official busi- 
ness. The Secretary of State called, & I had a fur- 
ther conversation with him in relation to the 
disclosure by letter writers from Washington of Mr. 
Trist's mission to Mexico. The manner in which 
& the agency through whom his mission had become 
a matter of publicity was still a mystery. Mr. Bu- 



486 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 April 

chanan still insisted that his clerk, Mr. Derrick, with 
whom, he said, he had conversed on the subject, was 
an innocent man. (See this Diary of yesterday.) 
I repeated to him that there had been bad faith some- 
where. Mr. Buchanan, in my conversation with 
him on yesterday, remarked that he had his own sus- 
picions how the Cabinet secrets obtained publicity. 
I did not call upon him at the time for an explana- 
tion of the remark, but to-day I did. He declined 
to make any explanation, saying that he might in- 
volve others. I told him that it was due to me that 
he should make known to me any one whom he sus- 
pected. He still declined. I then said to him, my 
Private Secretary is often in the room when the Cab- 
inet is in Session and he is the only person except 
the Cabinet who is so, and asked him if he suspected 
him. He promptly and with some excitement said 
he did not. I remarked to him that Col. Walker 
was an honourable man, and as close in keeping any- 
thing which ought not to be made public as any 
man I ever knew. I told Mr. Buchanan that it 
was proper I should inform him that on Saturday 
night last I had, in the profoundest confidence, com- 
municated to Mr. Ritchie the fact that Mr. Trist 
had gone to the Head Quarters of the army, that I 
had seen Mr. Ritchie on yesterday & again to-day, 
& he assured me solemnly that he had not as much 
as alluded to or hinted the matter to any human be- 
ing. I expressed to him the opinion also that the 
fact must have gotten out through the State De- 
partment. When he was retiring I requested him 



1847J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 487 

to send his Clerk, Mr. Derrick, over, as I wished 
to see him. In a few minutes Mr. Derrick called, 
& I expressed to him the indignation I felt at the 
disclosure which had been made. He solemnly de- 
clared that he had mentioned it to no human being, 
and I became satisfied that he had not, or rather I 
had no proof that he had done so. I could not, 
therefore, upon mere suspicion dismiss him from his 
office. I still think as I had told Mr. Buchanan that 
the disclosure emanated from some one in the State 
Department. I think the alarm is now so great in 
that Department that future state secrets connected 
with it will hereafter be kept. 

I opened my doors at i O'Clock P. M. A num- 
ber of Visitors called, most of them seeking office. 
I had no offices to confer and disposed of them in 
a very summary manner. I took a ride on horse- 
back this afternoon accompanied by the Secretary of 
War and the Post Master General. I disposed to- 
day of much business of minor importance which had 
accumulated on my table. 

Friday, 23rd April, 1847. — Nothing of interest 
occurred to-day. I transacted business with some of 
the public officers, and disposed of several matters of 
minor importance on my table. I saw company at 
I O'clock. But few persons called. The horde of 
office-seekers who have infested Washington almost 
ever since I have been President, seem to have 
learned at last that their importunities [are] of no 
avail. 



488 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 April 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. I met them in the 
parlour. 

My Private Secretary, his wife, and Miss Rucker, 
returned to-day from an excursion of a day or two 
which they had made to Baltimore. 

Saturday, 24th April, 184J. — Vice President 
Dallas called on me this morning. I showed him 
an answer which I had prepared to a most extraor- 
dinary letter which I received from Charles J. 
IngersoU bearing date on the 25th ultimo. He ap- 
proved the answer. I had previously shown him 
Mr. IngersoU's letter. I have delayed for near a 
month [answering] Mr. I's strange letter, not desir- 
ing to get into any controversy with him, and suppos- 
ing that his own sense of justice and self respect must 
ultimately satisfy him of the gross injustice he had 
done me. I do not now know that I shall send him 
the answer which I have prepared. It might pos- 
sibly lead me into a personal controversy with him, 
such as the President of the U. S. should not engage 
in with any citizen. Whether I send it or not, I 
will preserve it, as also the original letter, for future 
reference, if there should be any occasion for it. I 
nominated Mr. IngersoU as Minister to France at 
the last Session of the Senate. The Senate rejected 
him on the last night of their Session, and now he 
censures me because I did not re-nominate him, or 
keep the mission open that he might have another 
chance, by a re-nomination at the next Session of 



I 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 489 

the Senate. I thought it to be my duty to fill the 
mission, and upon Mr. I's rejection I nominated Mr. 
Richard Rush of Phila., who was confirmed by the 
Senate. 

The Cabinet met to-day at the usual hour, all the 
members present except the Attorney General, who 
is absent on a visit to his residence in Maine. Sev- 
eral matters of public business were considered and 
disposed of. After all the members of the Cabinet 
had retired except Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Mason, 1 
read to them Mr. Ingersoll's letter to me and the 
answer which I had prepared to it. They both 
thought it a matter [to be] doubted whether the 
President of the U. States should give any answer 
to such a letter as he had written to me. Mr. Bu- 
chanan said if I would permit it he would take the 
letter & the answer I had prepared and after ex- 
amining them more carefully would see me again. 
He thought if any answer was given it should be a 
very short one, simply repelling the statements and 
charges made by Mr. IngersoU. I handed to Mr. 
Buchanan the letter & the answer I had prepared, 
as he had requested me to do. 

Sunday, 2Sth April, 1847. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker. This was a day 
of rest quietly spent as it should be. 

Mr. Buchanan sent over this evening his draft of 
an answer to Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll's letter of the 
25th of March ultimo. (See yesterday's Diary). 



490 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 April 

It was much more intemperate and violent than my 
own draft. I merely read it without attempting to 
give my attention to it to-night. 

Monday, 26th April, 184J. — I was occupied to- 
day in disposing of the business which daily ac- 
cumulates on my table. At i O'Clock P. M. I 
opened my doors for the reception of company. An 
unusual crowd of persons, male & female, called. 
Some were begging money for charitable, or what 
they represented to be charitable objects, while the 
mass of those who called were seeking office. I am 
utterly disgusted with the constant and unceasing 
press for office with which I have been annoyed for 
more than two years. I had no offices to give and 
despatched the crowd one by one with but little cere- 
mony. 

Tuesday, 2'/th April, 1847. — This was the regu- 
lar day for the meeting of the Cabinet. All the 
members attended at the usual hour, except the At- 
torney General, who is absent on a visit to his fam- 
ily in Maine. Mr. Clifford has not removed his 
family to Washington since his appointment as At- 
torney General. There was nothing of importance 
before the Cabinet, and after being together about 
an hour the members retired. I devoted the balance 
of the day to the details of business on my table. 
Several of the public officers called on business, 
which I transacted with them. This being reception 
evening a number of persons called, ladies & gentle- 
men. I met them in the parlour. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 491 

Wednesday, 28th April, 1847. — At an early 
hour to-day the Secretary of War accompanied by 
the Adjutant Gen'l of the army called. They had 
done so at my request. After much consultation 
with them 1 directed the organization into Brigades 
& Divisions of the 10 Regiments of troops authorized 
by Congress to be raised to serve during the War. 
I also directed the organization into Brigades & Di- 
visions [of] the Volunteer forces called out in No- 
vember last and during the present month, which 
had not heretofore been done. I directed also the 
apportionment of these forces to the two columns 
commanded by Gen'ls Scott and Taylor. Accord- 
ing to this apportionment Gen'l Scott will have with 
him something over 20,000 men, and Gen'l Taylor 
will have with him something over i2[ooo] men. 
The Sante Fe column will be about 2,500 strong. 
The 12 months volunteers will return home in the 
months of June & July, when their term of service 
will expire. I gave directions, also, in regard to 
many other details connected with the military serv- 
ice. I spent several hours with the Secretary of 
War and the Adjutant General. After they left I 
revised and copied the answer which I had prepared 
to the most extraordinary letter of Charles J. In- 
gersoU addressed to me on the 25th of March last 
and sent it to the Post Office. Senator Bagby, who 
still remains with his family in the City, called to- 
day. 

Thursday, 2Qth April, 184J. — I gave more at- 
tention to my correspondence on yesterday and to-day 



492 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 April 

and wrote more letters than I usually have time to 
write in a fortnight. I saw company at i O'Clock. 
For an hour my time was very unprofitably occupied 
by office-seekers. I am really so much annoyed in 
this way that I loathe an office-seeker, and those who 
have been here repeatedly on the same business. 
How much better and more respectable it would be 
if many of this class who call and who appear to 
be in good health & constitution, would apply them- 
selves to some trade or honest occupation, instead of 
spending their time in attempts to get petty offices 
whereby they may live off the public without labour. 
Nothing worthy of note occurred to-day. 

Friday, 30th April, 1847. — I received a Tele- 
graphic dispatch from Baltimore before breakfast 
this morning, brought to that City by an overland ex- 
press, announcing several days later news from Vera 
Cruz. The Baltimore Sun which arrived about 11 
O'clock contained the detailed information as late 
as the 14th Instant inclusive. It is probably [prob- 
able] that a general battle may have taken place be- 
tween the two armies two or three days after that 
time. Santa Anna was reported to be in front of 
the American Army with 15,000 troops to resist their 
passage from Vera Cruz to Jalapa. I shall await 
the result with much anxiety, but have no fears of it. 
Our forces are the best troops in the world & will 
[would] gain victories over superior forces of the 
enemy, if there was not an officer among them. 
This proves the injustice of giving all the credit of 
our victories to the commanding General and none 



( 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 493 

to his inferior officers and men. I sent for the Sec- 
retary of War and had a consultation with him. He 
read to me a despatch which he had prepared to 
Gen'l Scott. He brought with him despatches which 
had been received at the War Dept. from Brigadier 
[General] Kearney in California. They are dupli- 
cates of despatches transmitted by Lieut. Emory/ 
who has not yet arrived at Washington. An unfor- 
tunate collision ^ has occurred in California between 
Gen'l Kearney & Commodore Stockton, in regard to 
precedence in rank. I think Gen'l Kearney was 
right. It appears that Lieut. Col. Fremont refused 
to obey Gen'l Kearney & obeyed Commodore Stock- 
ton & in this he was wrong. I saw Mr. Buchanan 
& several other officers to-day on official business. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, called. Among them 
was Miss Adams, the Granddaughter of Mr. John 
Quincy Adams, and daughter of his son & Private 
Secretary during his Presidency, John Adams, jr. 
I note the call of this young lady because it is the 
first that has been made by any of the family of Mr. 
John Quincy Adams during my Presidency except, 
as I understand, a card left by the female members 
of the family some months ago. Mr. John Quincy 

^ William Helmsley Emory, of the Topographical Engineers ; 
made Major General of Volunteers in 1865 for gallant service in 
the Shenandoah Valley campaign ; died 1887. 

" The trouble between Kearny and Stockton was primarily due 
to the indefiniteness of their respective instructions issued from 
Washington. For an account of the controversy together with the 
documents in the case see Harper, Encyclopedia of United States 
History, V, 221-227. 



494 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 April 

Adams has a house in this City, and resides here dur- 
ing many months of the year. He with his family 
are now residing in this City. I met the company 
in the parlour this evening and treated Miss Adams 
with marked respect, as it was her first visit. Mrs. 
Polk had a slight chill to-day, but attended in the 
parlour this evening. 



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