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

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THE DIARY OF JAMES K. POLK 

1845-1849 



VOL. III. 



^'■"■i A 



THE DIARY 
JAMES K. l-v^i 



T T Q t-ut: 



iRST PRINTED FROM THE ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT 
IN TP TIDNS OF 



MILO MILTON QUAIFE 

.SSI.TAKX PKOFBSS^^Np^^^j.g^l^^.^aPj^^.O.00V 

From the original daguerreotype made in Washington in 1S4J or 1848, being one 
0] the early portraits made by this process. Owned by Mrs. 
W J T .4'«aWi ^.o(licSelij ii<ts.hvM.le, Tenn. 

ANDREW CUNNINGHAM M7'[ AUGH^ ! >: 

lENT OF HISTORY 



y? l^LUMh. 



M c C L U R 



y.L TZ2aT?':5r 



TO',"' (^<^ 




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. Ill 




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 • BY 
THE* PLIMPTON • PRESS 

[WD-O] 
NORWOOD • MAaS • U 'S -A 



THE DIARY OF JAMES K. POLK 

1845-1849 



493625 



DIARY OF 

JAMES K. POLK 

III 

Saturday, Ist May, 184J. — This was the regu- 
lar day of the meeting of the Cabinet. The attorney 
General is absent from the City on a visit to his fam- 
ily in Maine. The Secretary of State & the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury sent me messages that they were 
prevented from attending in consequence of indispo- 
sition. The other members of the Cabinet attended 
at the usual hour. The Vice President of the U. 
States (Mr. Dallas) called about 11 O'Clock A. M. 
This being the day appointed for laying the corner 
stone of the building for the Smithsonian Institution, 
no business was transacted in the Cabinet. About 
12 O'clock a large procession, consisting of the mili- 
tary. Masons, the order of Odd Fellows, and citizens 
appeared before my door. Accompanied by the 
members of my Cabinet who were present, I took the 
place which had been assigned me in the procession, 
and moved with it to the site of the building of the 
Smithsonian Institution on the public mall, south 
of Pennsylvania Avenue. The Vice President, The 
Secretary of War, & my Private Secretary took seats 

in my carriage. Delegations of the Masonic lodges 

I 



2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i May 

of Pennsylvania & Maryland were present, as also a 
large number of the Masonic fraternity & the Odd 
Fellows of the District of Columbia. The occasion 
on the ground opened and closed with prayer. The 
ceremonies of laying the corner-stone of the building 
were performed chiefly by B. B. French, Esq'r, 
Grand Master of the Mason fraternity of the D. C. 
The Vice President, after this ceremony was over, 
delivered an address to the multitude assembled on 
the occasion. A large crowd of ladies & gentlemen 
were present. About 2>4 O'Clock P. M. the cere- 
monies were concluded & I returned to the Presi- 
dential Mansion. The Vice President took a Fam- 
ily dinner with me to-day. 

About 5 O'clock P. M. the Masonic fraternity 
from Philadelphia, headed by Col. James Page, their 
Grand Master, called to pay their respects. There 
were between 20 & 30 of them. I received them in 
the Circular parlour. After spending half an hour 
in pleasant conversation with me they retired. 

I received to-day a short letter from Charles J. 
Ingersoll of Phila. in answer to mine of the 28th ult. 
(See letter Book.) In his letter Mr. Ingersoll de- 
nies that he sought the French mission from me. In 
this he states what he knows to be untrue. I affirm 
that he did solicit the mission in private interviews 
with me, and that he was importunate on the sub- 
ject. He sought it also through Vice President Dal- 
las. There was no witness present & Mr. I. has now 
the baseness to deny it. It is also false, as stated by 
him, that I got him to give up the Russian Mis- 
sion & suggested the French mission in its stead. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3 

Sunday, 2nd May, 184'/. — I was indisposed this 
morning from the effects of cold, and much fatigued 
by the labours of the past week, and remained quietly 
at home. It was, moreover, a damp uncomfortable 
day and unusually chilly for this season. Mrs. Polk 
& her niece. Miss Rucker, attended church. The 
quiet rest of the sabbath day is always desirable to 
me, but has seldom been more acceptable than on this 
day. When Mrs. Polk returned from church 
she complained of being very cold, and it was mani- 
fest she had a chill. In a short time afterwards [a] 
re-action took place and she had a fever. She had 
slight symptoms of a chill on friday last, which had 
not attracted much attention as she had casually men- 
tioned it, but had not complained of much indisposi- 
tion in consequence of it. 

Monday, 3rd May, 1847. — I entered my office 
this morning somewhat indisposed, and entered upon 
the laborious duties of another week. Before noting 
any of the events of this day, I deem it proper to 
place more distinctly upon this record than I have 
heretofore done the conduct & course of Charles J. 
Ingersoll of Phila., in reference to his application to 
me to be appointed Minister to France. This be- 
comes necessary in consequence of his extraordinary 
letter to me of the 25th of March last, and his reply 
to mine of the 28th ultimo (see my file of letters and 
my letter Book). I do this also because I am now 
satisfied that any confidence I have heretofore placed 
in Mr. Ingersoll was undeserved, and because others 
who may come after me may have occasion to refer 



4 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 May 

to the facts, as they are known to me to exist. Early 
after my election as President, Mr. IngersoU's desire 
to go abroad in the character of Envoy to some one 
of the Principal courts of Europe was made known 
to me. Indeed before I left Tennessee I received a 
letter from him from which his wishes in this re- 
spect might have been inferred. During the first 
Session of Congress under my administration his 
wishes were made known to me by Mr. Dallas and 
others. He professed great friendship for my ad- 
ministration and often visited me. In the early part 
of that Session (I cannot call to mind the precise 
date) I cannot be mistaken in the fact that he made 
known to me his wishes in a personal conversation. 
He desired the French mission. Mr. King was then 
the U. S. Envoy at Paris, though it was said he in- 
tended shortly to return. I gave Mr. IngersoU no 
encouragement to hope for that mission. He con- 
tinued his visits to me at short intervals, & professed 
great zeal in the support of my administration. 
Finally, the Russian Mission being vacant by the re- 
call of Mr. Todd, I concluded to let him have it, 
and informed him that I would nominate him to 
the Senate near the close of that Session of the Sen- 
ate. He repeated his preference for the French 
mission, but I told him distinctly that I could not 
give it to him. Subsequently he joined me in one of 
my evening walks (see this diary of July 9th, 1846) 
and personally again importuned me for the French 
mission. That upon these as well as other occasions, 
which I did not deem it necessary to note in this 
diary not dreaming that it would ever be of any im- 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 5 

portance, he solicited the French mission is most 
certain. After 1 had promised him the Russian mis- 
sion, he had his quarrel with Mr. Webster, upon 
which it is unnecessary that I should remark, fur- 
ther than to say that he got the worse of that afifair. 
On the 3rd of August, 1846, Mr. IngersoU called 
(see this diary of that day) to know when I would 
nominate him to the Senate for the Russian mission, 
& I informed him that I proposed to do so on the 
friday or Saturday following, and mentioned to him 
the danger of his rejection by the Senate. On Satur- 
day morning, the 8th of August, 1846, Mr. IngersoU 
called and requested me not to nominate him to the 
Senate as Minister to Russia. In my diary of that 
day I had no time to state his reasons for that re- 
quest (see Diary of that day). These reasons I dis- 
tinctly remember. They were the belief on his part 
that if nominated he would be rejected by the Sen- 
ate. In this I fully concurred with him. I founded 
my belief on information received from members of 
the Cabinet, and from conversations which I had held 
a day or two previously with Senator Cameron & 
Senator Benton, with both of whom, as they in- 
formed me, Mr. IngersoU had conversed & had re- 
quested them to ascertain whether, if nominated, he 
would be rejected. I became satisfied from the con- 
versation I had with these Senators that he would be 
rejected. Their information as communicated to 
me I gave to Mr. IngersoU. He was himself satis- 
fied that if nominated he would be rejected, and for 
this reason he requested that his name should not be 
sent to the Senate. Believing him, at that time, to 



6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 May 

be an honourable man, I felt a sympathy for him, 
and when he rose to leave my office, I remarked to 
him that I appreciated his situation, and said to him 
that it might yet be in my power during my ad- 
ministration to gratify his wishes to go abroad. 
From this general remark (for I know of nothing 
else) he must have assumed that I had promised to 
give him the French Mission. Congress at that 
Session adjourned on the loth day of August, 1846. 
On the 19th of August following, I left Washington 
on a short excursion to Old Point Comfort. In my 
absence a letter was addressed to me by Mr. Inger- 
soU, which he subsequently requested should be re- 
turned to him through Mr. Buchanan, and which 
was returned to him, but which I now regret I did 
not retain (see letter Book containing my note to 
Mr. Buchanan of October 23rd, 1846). The sub- 
stance of this letter was to know whether I intended 
to appoint him Minister to France. This fact he 
wished to ascertain before the 27th of August, the 
day on which he stated the delegates of his Congres- 
sional District were to assemble to nominate a candi- 
date for Congress. He wished the information 
because, if it was my intention to send him to France, 
he would not be a candidate before the convention 
for the nomination. He took ofifense that I did not 
answer this letter, and through Mr. Buchanan re- 
quested leave to withdraw it. I accordingly en- 
closed it to Mr. Buchanan in my note of the 23rd of 
October. I now from subsequent developments see 
that it was important that I should have retained 
that letter, for if I had it it would have contra- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 7 

dieted a palpable untruth which Mr. IngersoU in his 
recent correspondence with me unblushingly affirms, 
viz., that he had never personally solicited the 
French mission from me. I heard nothing more on 
the subject from Mr. IngersoU until after the next 
Session of Congress convened. He then repeated 
his visits to me, & professed great zeal in supporting 
my administration, and expressed himself in the most 
obsequious manner as being desirous to be personally 
useful to me in Congress. On the 23d of December, 
1846 (see this Diary of that day) Mr. IngersoU 
most importunately and indelicately again intro- 
duced the subject of the French mission & personally 
solicited it from me. His conduct on the occasion 
was so indelicate & annoying to me that I made a 
note of it in this Diary at the time. I gave him no 
encouragement, for the truth is I had not then made 
up my mind to appoint him. His visits continued 
to be frequent, and upon another occasion (after 
night) he again introduced the subject, and being 
annoyed at it I promptly replied to him that I pre- 
ferred not to converse with him on the subject, & 
remarked that I did not know what I could do on 
the subject, but would determine before the end of 
the session. 

A few days before the close of the Session I made 
up my mind to nom.inate Mr. IngersoU to the Sen- 
ate as minister to France, and thus gratify his most 
ardent wishes as repeatedly expressed to me. I sent 
for him & informed him that I had made up my 
mind to do so. He expressed his deep gratitude to 
me for it. I conversed with him on the subject of 



8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 May 

Mr. Webster's probable opposition to him, & the 
danger of his rejection. He expressed apprehen- 
sions of opposition from Mr. Webster, but still 
thought he could be confirmed by a majority of the 
Senate. I sent in his nomination to the Senate, and 
on the last night of the Session and within its last 
hour he was rejected. I then nominated Mr. Rich- 
ard Rush for the mission & he was confirmed. Mr. 
Ingersoll called at my office on the 4th of March 
(the day after the adjournment of Congress) and I 
expressed to him my regret at his rejection, and he 
gave no intimation of any dissatisfaction with me, for 
he had no cause to do so: (see also this diary of the 
3rd of March, 1847). Mr. Richard Rush called to 
see me a few days after the adjournment of Congress, 
to pay his respects to me & thanked me for his ap- 
pointment as Minister to France, which had been 
unexpected to him. He expressed his regret at Mr. 
Ingersoll's rejection; and informed me that Mr. In- 
gersoll immediately after the adjournment of Con- 
gress, had actually prepared a challenge to Mr. 
Webster to fight a duel, charging as he did his re- 
jection by the Senate to Mr. Webster. Mr. Rush 
informed me that he had advised him strongly 
against it & had induced him to abandon it. Up to 
this time, & until I received Mr. Ingersoll's most 
wanton & extraordinary letter of the 25th of March, 
I had no conception that he was dissatisfied with me. 
On the 7th of April, 1847, and after I had received 
that letter, but before I had answered it, Mr. Inger- 
soll to my great surprise called at my office. For 
my interview with him see this diary of that day. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 9 

To Mr. IngersoU's letter of the 30th of April in an- 
swer to mine of the 28th April I shall make no 
reply. In his letter of the 25th of March he states 
several palpable untruths, among which is his denial 
that he had solicited the French mission from me, 
and his statement that I had denounced the Senate as 
a faction. After all that has transpired 1 am com- 
pelled to regard him as a base & unprincipled man. 
The Attorney Gen'l, Mr. Clififord, called this 
morning, having returned from his visit to his resi- 
dence in Maine, as he informed me, on yesterday. 
I transacted official business with the Secretary of 
State and the Secretary of the Navy to-day. I 
opened my doors for the reception of company at i 
o'clock P. M. to-day. A number of persons called, 
generally seeking office. I was so much indisposed 
to-day that I disposed of but little of the business on 
my table. 

Tuesday, 4th May, 184^. — I rose this morning 
as usual about 6 O'Clock, and while I was shaving 
in my chamber (for I am my own harbour) Mrs. 
Polk, who had not arisen, asked me if it was a cool 
morning and complained of being very cold. I an- 
swered her that I thought it was more chilly than 
usual. I soon discovered that she had a chill, and 
threw more covering on the bed. Her chill con- 
tinued for more than three hours. I have never seen 
her suffer or complain more than she did for sev- 
eral hours after the chill subsided and her fever rose. 
My family physician (Dr. Miller) I learned was 
absent from the City, and I sent for Dr. Hall, who 



10 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 May 

is one of the most eminent physicians of the City. 
He prescribed for her. She spent a restless & un- 
comfortable afternoon & night though her medicine 
had its desired eflfect. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of the Treasury, 
who was detained by indisposition. I have ob- 
served that he has been sinking for several weeks 
past under the immense labours of his Department. 
He has not been able to speak above a whisper for 
the last month, and there is danger that he may lose 
his voice entirely, and that his general health may 
be destroyed and his life endangered, if he continues 
to apply himself as he has heretofore done to the 
very laborious duties of his office. 

The Secretary of War presented and read in Cabi- 
net the official despatches ^ from Col. Donophan of 
the Missouri Volunteers, giving an account of the 
battles he and his brave forces had fought at the 
Passo & at Sacramento, in which, in the latter es- 
pecially, he had obtained decisive victories over 
vastly superior forces of the enemy. The battle of 
Sacramento I consider to be one of the most decisive 
and brilliant achievements of the War. The de- 
spatches of Gen'l Kearney and Commodore Stock- 
ton giving an account of events which had occurred 
in California were considered. The despatches of 
Commodore Stockton had been brought to the Navy 
Department by Lieut. Gray of the Navy some days 
ago, and those of Gen'l Kearney to the War Depart- 
ment by Lieut, (now Major) Emery, a day or two 

^ -S". Ex. Doc. I, 30 Cong. I Sess. 497-502. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ir 

ago. It appears that an unfortunate collision had 
occurred between Com. Stocicton and Gen'l Kear- 
ney. Upon a full examination of the whole of the 
correspondence of both, I was fully satisfied that 
Gen'l Kearney was right, and that Com. Stockton's 
course was wrong. Indeed both he and Lie[u]t. 
Col. Fremont, in refusing to recognize the authority 
of Gen'l Kearney, acted insubordinately and in a 
manner that is censurable. A reference to the offi- 
cial Documents will show this. I expressed a de- 
cided opinion on the subject to the Cabinet. All the 
Cabinet agreed that Gen'l Kearney [Commodore 
Stockton] & Lie[u]t. Col. Fremont had been in the 
wrong, but all agreed as I did that they were both 
gallant & meritorious officers, and all regretted the 
occurrence. None of the Cabinet censured Gen'l 
Kearney. The two former have subjected them- 
selves to arrest & trial by a Court Martial, but as 
all collision has probably been since that time 
avoided, I am disposed not to pursue so rigorous a 
course. The Secretary of War thought in answer- 
ing Gen'l Kearney's despatches he ought to express 
the approbation of the Government of his course. 
The Secretary of the Navy thought this inadvisable, 
because this would be to pass a censure on Com. 
Stockton; and he desired that no opinion should be 
expressed and that the matter should be passed over 
as lightly as possible. Such seemed to be the incli- 
nation of the Cabinet, and was my own, as far as it 
could be done with propriety. The subject was post- 
poned for further consideration. 

Some other matters relating to our Foreign affairs 



12 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 May 

were presented by Mr. Buchanan & considered. 
The Cabinet retired about 3 O'Clock. 

This being reception evening I met the company 
who called in the parlour. An unusual number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. Mrs. Polk 
was unable to be present. 

Wednesday, Sth May, 184J. — This morning Mr. 
McCulloch, the ist Comptroller of the Treasury, 
called to see me in relation to the critical state of 
health of Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury. 
He informed me that he had been present in Balti- 
more a few days ago when Mr. Walker had con- 
sulted Dr. Butler, an eminent physician of that City, 
and that he had learned from Dr. Butler that unless 
Mr. Walker abstained from the labours of his office 
& took some recreation, at the same time submitting 
to medical treatment, he considered his case not only 
a critical one, but that his life was in danger. I 
concur in this opinion and said to Mr. Walker some 
weeks ago that he ought to leave his office & take 
an excursion into the country. He is now, I learn, 
confined to his house. I have serious apprehensions 
that his health has given way, and that he may be 
unwilling [unable] to perform the duties of his of- 
fice. This I should deeply regret for he is a very 
able & indefatigable man. 

Mr. Richard Rush, who is in Washington prepara- 
tory to his departure as minister to France, called to- 
day. I communicated to him the extraordinary 
course of Mr. Charles J. Ingersoll in reference to 
the French mission. I read to him Mr. IngersoU's 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 13 

letter to me of the 25th of March last, & my answer 
of the 28th of April (see this diary of the 3rd In- 
stant'i. Mr. Rush expressed his strong disapproba- 
tion of Mr. Ingersoll's course and was much aston- 
ished at it. Indeed he expressed the opinion that he 
must have been partially deranged to have written 
such a letter as he had addressed to me. 

Mrs. Polk was much better to-day. She was vis- 
ited by Dr. Hall and was still under treatment ac- 
cording to his prescription. I transacted official 
business with the Secretaries of War & the Navy to- 
day. I attended also to some of the business on my 
table. 

I opened my office at i O'Clock P. M. to-day. A 
number of persons called and among others Mr. 
Jones (Gen'l Benton's son-in-law) who informed me 
that it was rumoured in the New" Orleans papers, 
that the Post Master of that City was to be removed, 
and that he was to be appointed. He said he did 
not ask for the removal of the P. M. at New Orleans, 
but if he was to be removed the place would be 
agreeable to him. I promptly replied that there was 
no foundation for the rumour & that I had no inten- 
tion to remove the P. M. at New Orleans, that he 
was a faithful officer and I knew of no reason to 
disturb him in his office. He then repeated the re- 
quest which he had previously made to me, to be 
appointed Charge d' affaires abroad, and wished to 
know if I could give him any encouragement. I 
told him, as I had previously done, that I could not. 
I note the case of Mr. Jones particularly among the 
numerous office-seekers who annoy me daily, because 



14 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 May 

I predict that he will violently oppose my adminis- 
tration because of his disappointment. Some weeks 
ago Gen'l Benton applied to me in person for the 
appointment of Charge for Mr. Jones, then just mar- 
ried to his daughter. I gave him no encourage- 
ment, and I predict that he too will be excited at my 
refusal. Indeed almost the whole of my embarrass- 
ment in administering the Government grows out 
[of] the public patronage, which it is my duty to 
dispense. 

Thursday, 6th May, 184J. — I transacted busi- 
ness with several of the public officers to-day. 
Among others the Secretary of War called on busi- 
ness. He read to me a draft of a letter which he 
had prepared to Gen'l Taylor in reference to his 
future operations in the enemy's country. I sug- 
gested some alterations, one of which was that Gen'l 
Taylor, being second in command in the field, should 
be subject to the orders and directions of Gen'l 
Scott, who is first in command. It is true the re- 
spective columns of these generals are operating sev- 
eral hundred miles apart, but still it would produce 
infinite confusion if both were not under the orders 
of the Gen'l in chief in the field. The Secretary of 
War then suggested that if any accident should hap- 
pen to Gen'l Scott in conducting the operations of 
the main army from Vera Cruz to the City of Mex- 
ico, that Gen'l Taylor should be directed to take 
command of it in his place. The reason assigned 
for this was that it might not be advisable to place 
so large a body of troops under the orders of Maj'r 



I847J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 15 

General Patterson, who was second in command in 
Gen'l Scott's column. To this 1 objected, and told 
the Secretary that I had quite as much confidence 
in Maj'r Gen'l Patterson with the aid of Gen'ls 
Twiggs, Worth, Pillow, Quitman, & Shields as I 
had in Gen'l Taylor & indeed much more. Gen'l 
Taylor is a good fighter, but I do not consider him 
a great General. I feel perfectly safe with the com- 
manders who are with Gen'l Scott, if any accident 
should happen to him, and prefer that Gen'l Taylor 
should remain on his present line of operations. 
Mrs. Polk had another violent chill this morning 
& was quite sick all day to-day. 

Friday, yth May, 184J. — I saw the Secretary of 
the Navy and the attorney General on business this 
morning. After the business was transacted I re- 
marked to them that, having a trust fund for a small 
amount in my hands, I had early in March author- 
ized Mr. Wm. W. Corcoran, of the firm of Corcoran 
& Riggs, brokers in this City, to purchase for me 
from the holders the amt. of $3,000 in U. S. Stock; 
and that on the next day they transferred to me on 
the Books of the Treasury stock for this amt. and 
the certificates of stock were sent to me accord- 
ing[ly], and that I paid them a premium of one per- 
cent or $3,030, for the same. I stated to them that 
the stocks stood in my individual name & not as 
Trustee, though it was intended as an investment for 
my ward, Marshall T. Polk, & for the heirs and 
devisees of my brother, Samuel W. Polk deceased, 
for whose estate I am Executor. I remarked to 



i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 May 

them that though I did not doubt my legal right to 
make such an investment in my individual name, 
that yet, in view of my official position, I had come 
to the conclusion to relinquish it to Mr. Corcoran 
& Riggs by re-transferring the Stock to them. The 
Attorney Gen'l said he had been investigating the 
question whether the clerks & other officers of the 
Treasury Department had the legal right to make 
such investments, and that in this way his attention 
had been called to the subject. He expressed a clear 
opinion that there was no legal impediment or re- 
striction which would prevent the President from 
making such an investment if he chose to do so. 
Judge Mason was of the same opinion ; but both con- 
curred with me in thinking that it might be as well 
for me to dispose of it, & thus prevent illiberal politi- 
cal opponents from attempting, as they possibly 
might [seek] to do, to make political capital out of 
the fact that the President of the U. S. had become 
the owner of public stocks. I then [sent] for Mr. 
Corcoran, and in the presence of Judge Mason stated 
to him the reasons why I desired him to take back 
the $3,000 of stock which he had sold to me in March. 
He said he would do so if I desired it. He said I 
had paid him a premium of one per cent., and that 
the stock now commanded a premium of between 
four & five per-cent. I told him that I wished to 
make no speculation or profit by the transaction and 
that I would not accept the increased premium or 
any interest which had accrued on the stock during 
the time I had held it; that all I wanted was simply 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 17 

to rescind the contract by retransferring the stock 
back to him, and to receive the precise sum which I 
had paid him for it. He said very well, but added 
that he would make a donation of the increased pre- 
mium & the interest to the Orphan Asylum of Wash- 
ington. I told him he could, of course, do with it 
what he pleased. At my table I addressed a note to 
Mr. Corcoran, to the effect of the foregoing state- 
ment (see my letter Book). I then transferred to 
Corcoran & Riggs the certificates of Stock, which 
transfer was witnessed by Mr. Gillet, the Register of 
the Treasury, in the presence of Judge Mason. 
After this transaction was over, and about i O'Clock, 
I opened my doors for the reception of Visitors. 
Several persons called, and while they were in my 
office I received a Telegraphic despatch from Fred- 
ericksburg, Va., in advance of the Southern mail, 
announcing a victory achieved by our army in Mex- 
ico under the immediate command of Maj'r Gen'l 
Scott. The battle was fought at the mountain pass 
called Cerro Gordo, between Vera Cruz & Jalappa, 
on the 17th & i8th of April, and resulted in the tri- 
umph of our arms and the total route [rout] of the 
enemy. I communicated to the persons who were 
present the information which I had received. The 
Southern mail in the evening confirmed the news, 
but brought no despatches from the army. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. Mrs. Polk was 
still quite indisposed & did not receive the company. 
I was in the parlour. 



i8 JA:\IES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 May 

Saturday, 8th May, 1847. — The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury, who is, I under- 
stood, quite unwell, having almost entirely lost his 
voice. Mr. Buchanan complained of being indis- 
posed and remained but a short time. Several mat- 
ters, principally of details connected with the public 
business, were considered and disposed of. The 
Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock P. M. I re- 
quested Judge Mason to walk with me to the House 
of Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, as I 
was becoming concerned for the state of his health 
from what I learned of his condition. We walked 
to Mr. Walker's house. I found him in appearance 
enjoying usual health except that his throat was ban- 
daged and he had almost entirely lost his voice. 
He conversed with me by writing on a slate. In a 
very low & indistinct whisper he attempted to con- 
verse with me, but was compelled to give it up. I 
told him that he required rest & recreation, & advised 
him to leave his office & travel for a few weeks, say- 
ing to him that his Department could be conducted 
in his absence by Mr. Young, his chief clerk. He 
replied in writing on his slate, that he thought he 
would do so. My opinion is that he will live but a 
short time, unless he relaxes his labours in his office. 

On our return Judge Mason & myself called at 
the office of Gov. Marcy, the Secretary of War. 

This evening had been designated by the citizens 
of Washington for the illumination of the City, in 
honour of the triumph of our arms by land and sea 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 19 

in the pending war with Mexico. I learned that 
some of the officers of some of the public Depart- 
ments were preparing to illuminate. Some of these 
buildings, and especially those of the War, Navy, 
and State Departments, are not fireproof, are very 
combustible, & contain the most valuable public rec- 
ords of the Government. I thought there was dan- 
ger from fire to have them illuminated, and after 
consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury, when 
I visited him, and afterwards with the Secretaries 
of War & the Navy, who concurred with me that it 
might be unsafe, I gave directions that none of the 
public offices should be illuminated. I illuminated 
the Presidential Mansion, & each of the Heads of 
Departments illuminated their respective residences. 
Many houses in the City were also illuminated. Of- 
ficial despatches giving an account of the battle of 
Cerro Gordo were received from Gen'l Scott to- 
night. Mrs. Polk fortunately missed her chill this 
morning & was better to-day. 

Sunday, gth May, 1847. — Mrs. Polk has been 
closely confined to her chamber for several days past 
but [by] a violent attack of intermittent fever. She 
is much better to-day. I attended the first Presby- 
terian church to-day and was accompanied by my 
niece, Miss Rucker. 

Monday, lOth May, 1847. — I sent for the 
Secretary of War this morning & conferred with 
him in relation to the military operations in Mex- 



20 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo May 

ico. He retired, and returned about i O'Clock 
and read to me a despatch which he had prepared to 
Genl Kearney, commanding in California. I sent 
also for the Adjutant General of the army and gave 
him an order correcting a mistake or omission he 
had made in organizing the lo regiments, authorized 
to be raised by the act of the last Session [of] Con- 
gress, into Brigades & Divisions. He returned to 
his office & prepared a despatch to Gen'l Scott, and 
returned & read it to me. I expressed my opinion 
also that Gen'l Scott's column of the invading army 
should be re-inforced as speedily as possible by send- 
ing to him the new recruits & volunteers as fast as 
they were ready to move. This seemed to me to be 
proper if not indispensible, for the reason that Scott's 
is the advancing column, with an enemy in front, 
& Taylor's is to be, for a time at least, stationary. 
Both the Secretary of War & the Adjutant Gen'l, to 
whom I made the suggestion, concurred with me in 
this opinion. They are to look into the subject and 
see me in a day or two. I saw the Secretary of the 
Navy & the Atto. Gen'l on business to-day. At i>4 
O'clock I opened my office. A number of persons 
called, chiefly office seekers. 

Senator Yulee called to see me to-day. He read 
to me a part of a letter from the Hon. Charles A. 
WicklifTe of Kentucky, suggesting that possibly he 
might be a candidate for Congress from his District. 
Mr. Yulee, I thought, seemed to be desirous to as- 
certain whether it would be agreeable to me to see 
Mr. Wicklifife in the next Congress. I told him it 
would be so. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 21 

Tuesday, nth May, 1847. — The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury, who is still con- 
fined to his house by indisposition. Some matters of 
minor interest, introduced by members of the Cabi- 
net, were the subject of conversation, when I brought 
to the notice of the Cabinet, and particularly of the 
Secretary of War, the importance of re-inforcing the 
column of the army under the immediate command 
of Gen'l Scott, now on the march from Vera Cruz 
to the City of Mexico. I had brought the same mat- 
ter to the notice of the Secretary of War some days 
ago; and also to the adj't Gen'l of the army, and on 
the 8th Instant handed to the latter a written mem- 
orandum, the object of which was to ascertain from 
the records of the War Department the precise 
amount of force in Gen'l Scott's column, and also in 
Gen'l Taylor's column. As Gen'l Scott's is the ad- 
vancing column & must be constantly diminished as 
it advances into the enemy's country from causalties 
and in order to keep his rear open, and as Gen'l 
Taylor in one of his late despatches gives it as his 
opinion that he cannot advance with his column be- 
yond his present position without at least 2,000 vet- 
eran troops of the regular [army], which amt. of 
force cannot be spared to him by Gen'l Scott, I in- 
formed the Cabinet that I was of opinion that all 
our available force should be ordered without delay 
to join Gen'l Scott's column, leaving with Gen'l Tay- 
lor all his present force, and such additions as would 
[render] his present position secure. The Cabinet 
concurred with me in these views. I requested the 



22 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 May 

Secretary of War to call on to-morrow, and bring 
the Adj't Gen'l with him, who could give in detail 
the actual position of each detachment of our forces 
now in the field, as well [as] of those which have 
been recently called out & are expected shortly to be 
en route for the Seat of War. I impressed upon the 
Secretary of War the importance of immediate ac- 
tion on the subject. Mr. Moses Y. Beech, Editor of 
the N. York Sun, called and had a long conversa- 
tion with me on Mexican affairs. He had recently 
returned from the City of Mexico, where he had 
gone several months ago in the character of a secret 
agent from the State Department. He gave me val- 
uable information. 

This was reception evening. But a few persons 
called. I met them in the parlour. Mrs. Polk was 
too feeble from her late indisposition to be present. 

Wednesday, 12th May, 1847. — I was in my of- 
fice at the usual hour this morning. Several per- 
sons called on special business, or such persons as I 
could not well refuse to see before i O'Clock, which 
is the hour at which I usually open my office for the 
reception of visitors. Between the hours of 12 and 
I O'clock the Secretary of War & the adj't Gen'l 
of the army called in pursuance of a previous ap- 
pointment. The adj't Gen'l reported the forces and 
their distribution now in the field in Mexico, and 
also those which are either en route to the seat of 
War, or are expected shortly to be so. This I had 
required with a view to ascertain whether Gen'l 
Scott's column, now advancing on the City of Mex- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 23 

ico, could be re-inforced without too much weaken- 
ing Gen'l Taylor's column. (See this Diary of yes- 
terday and the day before.) Some additional forces 
were ordered to Vera Cruz to join Gen'l Scott's 
column. A Detachment of Marines which can be 
spared from the Navy, as I am informed by the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, I will also order to join the land 
forces at Vera Cruz. I held a conference also with 
the Secretary of War & the adj't Gen'l in relation to 
retaining in service the Staflf-officers of the Volun- 
teers now in service, in proportion to the number of 
Volunteers called out to serve during the war. They 
were both disinclined to retain them. I thought the 
act of June i8th, 1846, under which they were ap- 
pointed, was clear on the subject, and expressed my 
opinion that they should be retained. The Secretary 
of War did not doubt that I had the power to retain 
[them] and thought it was a question of expediency 
simply. I disposed of much of the business on my 
table to-day. The office-seekers were no doubt dis- 
appointed for I did not open my doors to give them 
audience to-day. 

Thursday, 13th May, 184J. — The Secretary of 
the Navy called early to-day, and introduced some 
Naval officers to me. He also brought with him 
Gen'l Henderson ^ of the Marine Corps. Gen'l 
Henderson stated that 6 companies of marines could 
be spared from the navy for the land service. I gave 
a written order to the Secretary of the Navy to trans- 

^ Archibald Henderson, Brevet Brigadier General 1837, died 
1859. 



24 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 May 

fer them to the land forces under the immediate com- 
mand of Gen'l Scott. I requested Gen'l Henderson 
to execute the order without delay, as I deemed it 
important that Gen'l Scott's column should be re-in- 
forced by all our available forces with as little delay 
as practicable. The Secretary of War called and I 
had a conference with him in relation to various 
matters of detail relating to the war & its prosecu- 
tion. Indeed I find it indispensible to give my at- 
tention to these details. The Secretary of War is 
greatly oppressed with the duties of his office, and 
some of his subordinates, I fear, are indifferent and 
are fully satisfied if they go through the ordinary 
routine of their offices, and seem to think that they 
have earned their salaries & done their duties if they 
appear in their offices the usual number of hours 
each day. They do not conceive that any responsi- 
bility rests upon them. On this account I aid the 
Secretary of War in giving all the attention to de- 
tails that my time will permit. 

Among other visitors who called to-day were the 
Hon. Mr. Farran,^ a member of Congress from Cin- 
cinnatti, Ohio, and Judge Greer of the Supreme 
Court of the U. S. A number of visitors called be- 
tween I & 2 O'clock to-day. They were chiefly 
office seekers. The herd of such people annoy me 
exceedingly, especially when my whole mind is de- 
voted to the conduct of the War and the other great 
interests of the country. I give them but little com- 
fort, and indeed am compelled to be almost rude to 

^ James J. Farran, Representative from Ohio 1845-1849, one 
of the proprietors of the Cincinnati Enquirer. 



I847J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 25 

them to prevent them from occupying too much of 
my time. The Attorney General and the Secretary of 
State called on business to-day. I omitted to note 
in this Diary of yesterday that Mrs. Storms of New 
York, who accompanied Moses Y. Beech, who was a 
secret agent of the Government, on his recent visit 
to the City of Mexico, called to-day. She occupied 
my time on yesterday an hour in giving a detail of 
her visit. She is an intelligent woman, but I con- 
fess when she retired I did not feel that I was en- 
lightened by any information which she had 
given me. 

Unofficial news was received from the army to- 
day. The advance column of Gen'l Scott's command 
had taken possession of Jalappa & Perote without re- 
sistance. 

Friday, 14th May, 1847. — Before I rose from 
breakfast this morning my porter announced to me 
that 40 or 50 persons, male and female, had called in 
a body to see me. I directed him to show them into 
the parlour. On meeting them I learned from them 
that they were members of a Baptist Association now 
sitting in Washington. They were from several 
States of the Union, and belonged to the Old Bap- 
tists or the old side-Baptists ^ as they are sometimes 

' The " Old Side " or " Old School " Baptists belonged to a 
faction originating In the latter half of the eighteenth century 
which was opposed to missionary societies, Sunday Schools, and 
similar institutions. They were also called " Anti-mission " and 
"Anti-effort" Baptists. In 1844 the faction numbered 61,000 
communicants, confined to the Southern and Southwestern States; 
since then the membership has decreased. 



26 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 May 

called. I received them courteously. They had the 
appearance of plain but honest people. I spent some 
time with them and left them, directing my steward 
to shew them the House, as they expressed a desire 
to see it. 

I transacted business to-day with several of the 
Heads of Departments and officers of Government, 
but spent more time with the Secretary of War than 
with any other. The conduct of the War with Mex- 
ico devolves upon him and myself a vast amount of 
labour. The Subordinate officers at the Head of 
the different bureau[s] in the War Department are 
generally Federalists, and many of them are indiffer- 
ent and seem to think they perform their duty if they 
are in their offices the usual number of hours each 
day. They take no sort of responsibility on them- 
selves, and this renders it necessary that the Secre- 
tary of War & myself should look after them, even 
in the performance of the ordinary routine of details 
in their offices. I opened my office at i O'Clock 
P. M. to-day. A number of persons called, ladies 
& gentlemen, some on visits of ceremony and others 
seeking office. This was reception evening. The 
parlour was pretty well filled with ladies & gentle- 
men who called. Mrs. Polk had so far recovered 
from her indisposition as to be in the parlour this 
evening. 

Saturday, ISth May, 184'/.— The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury, who is still con- 
fined to his house by indisposition. His general 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 27 

health does not appear to be seriously impaired. 
His throat and organs of speech are so much affected 
that he has almost entirely lost his voice. Mr. Bu- 
chanan brought up several subjects relating to our 
foreign relations, which were considered and dis- 
posed of. They were not of such interest as to make 
it necessary to note them particularly. Several sub- 
jects also relating to the War & the manner of con- 
ducting it were considered. The conference was 
chiefly between the Secretary of War and myself. 

Col. Bankhead ^ of the army arrived in Washing- 
ton from Vera Cruz on yesterday, bringing with him 
several flags of the enemy which were captured at the 
surrender of Vera Cruz. They were exhibited to-day 
in front of the War Ofiice, for the gratification of the 
public. Col. Bankhead called and paid his respects 
to me on his arrival in the City on yesterday. He 
was in the siege at Vera Cruz. I disposed of sev- 
eral matters of business of minor importance on my 
table to-day. 

Sunday, 16th May, 1847. — Having been invited 
several days ago by Mr. Towles and some of the 
members of the Association of Old-School-Baptists, 
now sitting in this City, to attend their meeting to- 
day, I did so. The service was performed at Shiloh 
meeting-house in this City, on what is called the 
Island near the Mall & between the President's 
House and Greenleaf's Point. It was an humble 

^ James Bankhead of Virginia, Colonel of the 2nd Artillery ; 
brevetted Brigadier General for gallant conduct at the siege of 
Vera Cruz. 



28 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 May 

frame meeting House. Col. Walker, my Private 
Secretary, accompanied me. We arrived about 1 1 
O'clock & found the Rev. Mr. Barton preaching. 
After he was done the Rev. Mr. Beecher[?] preached 
a sermon. The latter enforced the doctrine of pre- 
destination more strongly than I had heard it for 
many years, and perhaps in my life. Service was 
concluded at i>4 O'Clock P.M. & was to be re- 
sumed at 2 O'clock. I did not attend the after- 
noon service. In consequence of her late indisposi- 
tion Mrs. Polk deemed it imprudent to attend church 
to-day. 

Monday, lyth May, 184J. — I was engaged this 
forenoon in disposing of the business on my table. I 
saw the Secretary of War and the Navy on business 
connected with their respective Departments. I 
have desired very much to gratify the wishes of Gen'l 
Robert Armstroag, now U. S. consul at Liverpool, 
to enter the military service of the U. S. Gen'l 
Armstrong was a gallant young officer in the war of 
1 812, was under the immediate command of Gen'l 
Jackson, & was severely wounded (see my letters to 
Gen'l A. of the 28th & 29th ultimo, and 13th In- 
stant). Gen'l Jackson shortly before his death pre- 
sented to Gen'l Armstrong the sword which he had 
worn during the war, as an evidence of his high es- 
timate of him as a military man. Gen'l Armstrong 
is my personal friend and it would have given me 
sincere pleasure to have appointed him a Brigadier 
Gen'l if I could have done so with propriety. 
When I wrote to him on the 28th ultimo, I thought 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 29 

I could have done [so]. Since that time, however, 
I have become satisfied that the public opinion of the 
country is so strong in favour of Col. Jefferson Davis 
of Mississippi, who behaved most gallantly ^ in the 
battles of Monterey and Buena Vista and was se- 
verely wounded in the latter battle, that to appoint 
any other, and especially one who had not been here- 
tofore engaged in the war, however competent and 
worthy he might be, would give great dissatisfaction. 
To-day I appointed Col. Davis a Brigadier General, 
in place of Gideon J. Pillow promoted to be a Maj'r 
Gen'l. I received company at i O'Clock P. M. to- 
day. A number of persons called. Most of them 
as usual were office-seekers. Senator Dix called to- 
night. His family have remained in Washington 
since the adjournment of Congress. He informed 
me that he would leave in a day or two. 

Tuesday, i8th May, 1847.— The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present 
except the Secretary of the Treasury, who is still con- 
fined to his house by indisposition. His general 
health does not seem to be materially affected. He 
has almost lost his voice from an affection of the 
throat. 

Official despatches from Gen'l Scott received last 
night, giving a detailed account of the battle of Cerro 
Gordo and the movements of the army since that 

^ At Monterey Colonel Davis charged Fort Leneria without 
bayonets, and then led his command through the streets of the 
city in the face of determined opposition almost to the Grand 
Plaza. At Buena Vista also his service was brilliant. 



30 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 May 

time, were read. They were very interesting in the 
minute details which they gave. Several subjects of 
minor importance were considered & disposed of. 
I disposed of much business on my table to-day. 

This being reception evening an unusually large 
number of strangers called. Among them were 
t^venty or more Presbyterian Clergymen from vari- 
ous states, who were on their way to the general as- 
sembly of their church, to be held in Richmond in 
a few days. 

Wednesday, igth May, 184J. — The Secretary 
of War called in pursuance of a previous appoint- 
ment about 10 O'clock this morning, and remained 
until near i O'Clock P. M. I was considering in 
consultation with him many matters, chiefly of de- 
tail relating to the military service in Mexico. 
Among these was the arrangement of the staff officers 
of the Volunteer forces, upon the expiration of the 
term of the 12 months men. A decision was neces- 
sary as to the members of the Staff, who should be 
discharged & who should be retained at that time. 
Several vacancies of officers of the army which had 
occurred, it was necessary to fill. I had repeatedly 
for several days past called on the Secretar\^ of War 
for a list of these vacancies. He informed me that 
he had several times called on the adj't Gen'l for 
the list, but that it had not been furnished, ^^^hen a 
vacancy occurs in the regular army, it is filled usually 
by regular promotion, down to the grade of 2nd 
Lieutenancies, and these are usually filled by the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 31 

appointment of brevet znd Lieutenants who are 
graduates of West Point, though there is no law 
requiring this to be done. I had determined to 
appoint a few private soldiers, who had greatly dis- 
tinguished themselves in battle. To this the adj't 
Gen'l & the officers of the army are generally op- 
posed, and this I suspected was the reason that the 
adj't Gen'l had failed to report a list of vacancies as 
he had been requested to do. With the assent of the 
Secretary of War I sent for him & requested him to 
furnish me with the list. He was disposed to de- 
bate the matter with me, and to urge the claims of 
the graduates at West Point. He promised, however, 
to furnish the list. He retired & returned in about an 
hour, but did not bring the list. He resumed his ar- 
gument in favour of the graduates at West Point. I 
became vexed at his hesitancy in furnishing me with 
the information which I had required. His pre- 
sumption in with-holding the information which I 
had requested from me, and in attempting to control 
my action, vexed me, & finally I spoke shortly to him. 
Among other things I remarked that as I was con- 
stituted by the Constitution commander in chief of 
the Army, I chose to order him to furnish the list of 
vacancies from the records of his office which I had 
desired. I repeated to him that he must regard 
what I said as a military order & that I would ex- 
pect it to be promptly obeyed. I cannot be mis- 
taken in his object. It was to keep open the vacan- 
cies which have occurred until the next class at West 
Point shall graduate, that they might be filled by 



32 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 May 

them. My policy is to appoint meritorious private 
soldiers when they are competent & have distin- 
guished themselves. 

Thursday, 20th May, 76"^ 7.— Having some 
weeks ago yielded to the request of the Dialectic So- 
ciety of the University of N. Carolina to sit for my 
portrait, which they wished to obtain for their de- 
bating Hall, Mr. Sully,^ the celebrated artist of 
Phila., whom the society had engaged to paint [it], 
called this morning, and commenced the portrait. 
I gave him a sitting of i]/? hours. Judge Mason, 
the Secretary of the Navy, also gave him a sitting for 
his portrait, which he was taking for the Philan- 
thropic Society of the University of N. Carolina. 
We both sit in the red parlour above stairs in the 
President's House. Judge Mason was a member of 
the Philanthropic, and I was a member of the Dia- 
lectic Society when we were at College. The Adj't 
Gen'l called to-day and made to me the report of va- 
cancies in the army, which I had given him an or- 
der to make on yesterday (see Diary of yesterday). 
The vacancies were 27 in number. This informa- 
tion I have sought for days, but was not able to ob- 
tain it until I took the decided stand I did with the 
adj't Gen'l on yesterday. I will now carry out my 
intention & appoint to 2nd Lieutancies such meri- 
torous privates in the army as have distinguished 

^Thomas Sully, 1 783-1 872; he resided at Richmond until 
1809 and at Philadelphia from this time until his death. Among 
his works are " Washington Crossing the Delaware," and a por- 
trait of Queen Victoria. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 33 

themselves. This is not only just to the gallant 
privates who have distinguished themselves, but is 
sound public policy. At i O'Clock P. M. I re- 
ceived company. A number of persons called. 
After they retired I disposed of much business on 
my table. 

Friday, 21st May, 1847. — I gave Mr. Sully, the 
artist, another sitting of two hours this morning. He 
is painting my portrait for the Dialectic Society of 
the University of N. Carolina. After I had sat for 
him I transacted public business with several of the 
Heads of Department, and other subordinate public 
officers who called. At i O'Clock P. M. I saw com- 
pany. Several persons called. I disposed of sev- 
eral matters of business on my table in the after part 
of the day. About 6 O'Clock P. M. I took a ride 
on horse back, accompanied with [by] my niece. Miss 
Rucker. This being reception evening a number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 22nd May, 184'/. — I sat again this 
morning for Mr. Sully, the artist, who is painting my 
portrait for the Dialectic Society of the University 
of N. Carolina. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, 
all the members present except the Secretary of the 
Treasury, who is still so much indisposed as to be 
confined to his House. The Secretary of War re- 
ceived by last evening's mail a detailed Report from 
Gen'l Taylor, & also detailed Reports from the sub- 
ordinate officers under his command at the battle of 
Buena Vista. They were read & were very interest- 



34 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 May 

ing. Several matters of public business were con- 
sidered & disposed of, most of them relating to our 
military operations. I find it to be necessary to give 
my personal attention to the minute details of these 
operations, as far as the other indispensible duties of 
my office will permit me to do so. 

Sunday, 23rd May, 1847^-1 attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by my 
niece, Miss Rucker, my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, 
and De Witt Clinton Y^ell, the son of my lamented 
friend, Col. Archibald Yell, who fell in the battle of 
Buena Vista. It was a damp day and Mrs. Polk 
thought it imprudent to attend church. She had 
been indisposed a few days ago and feared the ex- 
posure might bring on a relapse. 

Monday, 24th May, 184J.— I gave Mr. Sully, 
the artist who is painting my Portrait, another sitting 
to-day. I transacted much business on my table. 
At I O'clock P. M. I opened my ofiice for the recep- 
tion of visitors. Several persons called, chiefly 
young men, who from their appearance wxre able to 
labour for their living, wanting offices. I had no 
offices for them and disposed of them very summarily. 
After they retired I resumed my labours at my table. 

Tuesday, 2Sth May, 184J. — I gave Mr. Sully, 
the artist who is painting my portrait for the Dialec- 
tic Society of [the University of] N. C, another sit- 
ting this morning. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour this morning; all the members present. The 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 35 

Secretary of the Treasury attended for the first time 
in several weeks. His health is improved, though 
not restored. He cannot speak louder than in a 
whisper. 

I brought before the Cabinet the propriety of is- 
suing an order to Gen'l Scott to send to the U. S. as 
prisoners of War all Mexican officers who may be 
hereafter taken, instead of liberating them on their 
parole of honour. All agreed that this would be 
proper, and especially so as we learned that Maj'r 
Borland,^ Maj'r Gaines,^ and other prisoners of our 
army are confined in prison in the City of Mexico, 
notwithstanding several hundred Mexican officers & 
several thousand private soldiers who have been taken 
prisoner have been set at large on their parole of 
honour. The Secretary of War was directed to 
write a despatch to this effect to Gen'l Scott. I 
brought also before the Cabinet the importance of 
running an express from Mobile to Montgomery, in 
Alabama, so as to gain a day upon the regular mail 
time, and thereby receive at Washington despatches 
from the army as early as the express of the Balti- 
more Sun newspaper obtains the latest news from the 
seat of War. After some discussion and some dif- 
ference of views on the subject, I directed the neces- 
sary steps to be taken to have such an express run. 
It is very important that the Government should 
have the earliest intelligence from the seat of War. 

^ Solon Borland, Major in Colonel Yell's regiment of Arkansas 
Volunteers; member of the U. S. Senate 1848-1853, Brigadier 
General in the Confederate army. 

^ John P. Gaines, Representative from Kentucky 1847-1849, 
Governor of Oregon Territory 1850-1853. 



36 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 May 

It has happened several times recently that the 
Private express of the Baltimore Sun [came] a day 
in advance of the regular mail bringing dispatches 
to the Government. This should not be, &, more- 
over, it may be vastly important to the Government 
to get the earliest news. The Cabinet after attend- 
ing to some matters of minor importance adjourned 
about 2 O'clock P. M. 

The Atto. Gen'l, Mr. Clifford, & his wife (the lat- 
ter having arrived in Washington but a few days 
ago) Mr. Sully, the artist, Mr. Ritchie, & Mr. Bu- 
chanan dined with me to-day. 

This was reception evening but I was so much oc- 
cupied in my office that I did not meet the company 
in the parlour. A number of persons, I am informed 
by the family, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Despatches were received from Gen'l Scott to- 
night. 

Wednesday, 26th May, 184J. — I was much 
occupied in my office to-day and did not open my 
office for the reception of Company generally. Sev- 
eral persons were admitted on special business. I 
was disposing of the business on my table prepara- 
tory to my contemplated visit to the University of 
N. C. Nothing of special interest occurred during 
the day. I retired late at night, somewhat indis- 
posed & much fatigued from the day's labour. 

Thursday, 2Jth May, 184J.— During this day I 
was busily engaged in preparing to leave on to-mor- 
row on my contemplated visit to the University of 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 37 

N. C. I saw at different periods of the day all the 
members of the Cabinet, except the Secretary of the 
Treasury. I saw also several other public officers 
on business. I transacted during the day much busi- 
ness. At I O'clock I opened my office for company. 
Several persons called, most of them seeking office, 
but they were promptly answered that there were 
no vacancies to fill. At a late hour at night I closed 
the day's work. 

Friday, 28th May, 1847.— A.\. 8>4 O'clock this 
morning I left Washington on my visit to the Uni- 
versity of N. Carolina. I was accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk & her niece. Miss Rucker, and Col. Walker, my 
Private Secretary, of my own family; by Judge Ma- 
son (the Secretary of the Navy) and his son, John 
Y. Mason, jr., and his daughter, Betty, & Lieutenant 
Maury of the U. S. Navy. At the Steam Boat land- 
ing at the mouth of Aquia Creek on the Potomac, I 
was met by a committee from Fredricksburg, Va., 
who invited me to spend a day on my return from 
N. C. at that town. I declined the invitation. On 
arriving at Fredricksburg I was met by the military 
and a large concourse of Citizens. I received a 
cordial welcome from them. I did not leave the 
Rail Road car, but made my apology to them for 
not stopping longer with them. About 5 O'Clock 
P. M. I arrived at Richmond. I was met at the 
Rail Road depot at that City by the Mayor & a com- 
mittee of Citizens without distinction of political 
party, who gave me a cordial welcome to their City. 
The military companies were on parade, & a very 



38 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 May 

large number of people were present. I was placed 
in an open carriage and conducted by the mayor and 
committee to the Capitol, where many thousand per- 
sons, ladies and gentlemen, were assembled. I ex- 
changed salutations and shook hands with many hun- 
dreds of them. The artillery company fired a salute. 
Mrs. Polk was received by the ladies of the City at 
the Executive chamber in the Capitol, that being 
the place arranged by the committee of reception for 
that purpose. After remaining i;^ hours I was 
conducted in an open carriage to the Southern Rail 
Road depot, preceded by the military companies 
and a large concourse of citizens. The demonstra- 
tion of respect at Richmond was without distinction 
of party and was highly gratifying to me. From 
Richmond I proceeded on the Rail Road to Peters- 
burg, where we arrived shortly after dark. I was 
met by a committee of that town at the Rail Road 
depot. It was a clear night and the moon was shin- 
ing. I was conducted to a Hotel which was bril- 
liantly lighted up. I found there a very large crowd 
of people, ladies and gentlemen. In the Portico of 
the Hotel I was received & addressed by the Hon. 
Francis E. Rives,^ the chairman of the committee, 
to which I made a brief reply. Mr. Rives addressed 
Judge Mason also, who made a reply. Judge May 
(a leading Whig) also addressed [me], and both he 
and Mr. Rives invited me to spend the day at Peters- 
burg on my return, which I declined. After shaking 
hands with many hundreds of people, and taking 

^ Probably Francis Robert Rives, Secretar\^ of Legation at Lon- 
don during Tyler's administration. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 39 

supper, I proceeded on my journey. My reception 
both at Richmond & Petersburg was very cordial, 
and was very gratifying to me. I was received by 
both political parties with like cordiality & kind- 
ness, which made it the more agreeable. 

Saturday, 2gth May, 184J. — Proceeding on my 
journey from Petersburg, Va., in the Rail Road cars, 
I arrived at Gaston, N. Carolina, at about 4 O'Clock 
this morning. I retired to a room in the Hotel, 
shaved, & dressed. About sun-rise, on entering the 
parlour below stairs, I was received by a committee 
of Citizens of North Carolina, & was addressed by 
Col. John D. Hawkins,^ their chairman, who wel- 
comed me to my native State. I made a brief re- 
ply to this address. The committee was composed 
of leading gentlemcA of both political parties. Gov. 
Branch also joined me at this point, though he was not 
of the committee, & accompanied me on my journey. 
After taking breakfast I proceeded on my journey. 
At intervals of every few miles, & especially at all 
the Rail Road depots, many persons, mail [male]- 
and female, were assembled to see me. At most of 
these places I descended from the cars and shook 
hands with as many of them as my time would per- 
mit. Near Warrenton & near the residence of Mr. 
Nathaniel Macon,- who was greatly beloved in that 
section of the county up to the hour of his death, I 

^ John Davis Hawkins, 1 781-1858, a graduate of the University 
of North Carolina of the class of 1804. 

-Nathaniel Macon, 1757-1837, Representative from North 
Carolina 1791-1815, Senator 1815-1828. 



40 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 May 

I met a very large crowd of ladies & gentlemen. I 
observed many carriages, probably 40 or 50 in num- 
ber, in which the ladies present had come to greet 
me. At Henderson, where I dined, several thou- 
sand persons, ladies & gentlemen, old persons, mid- 
dle aged persons, young persons, & children, of both 
sexes were assembled. At this place I remained 
about i^ hours & was constantly engaged in being 
introduced to the people & shaking hands with them. 
At Franklinton, 20 miles before reaching Raleigh, a 
very large crowd of ladies & gentlemen were also 
assembled. I regretted that I could remain with 
them but a few minutes. I was met by a committee 
of Citizens of the place & its vicinity, who made a 
short address to me, to which I briefly responded. I 
was met at this place also by a committee of Citizens 
of Raleigh, who welcomed me on my approach to 
the capital of the State. I responded to them also. 
The Chairman was Mr. McCrea, accompanied [by] 
the Hon. John H. Bryan & about a dozen others. 
This committee took charge of me at this point. I 
reached Raleigh at about 5^^ O'Clock P. M. I was 
met at the Rail Road depot by the Intendant or 
mayor of the City (Mr. Wm. Dallas Haywood) the 
military on parade, & a large concourse of citizens. 
I was welcomed to the City and returned my thanks 
in a brief reply. I was taken in an open carriage, 
accompanied by the Mayor, Judge Mason, & Col. 
Hawkins, & followed by the military and citizens, 
and after passing through the principal streets of the 
City was taken to the Hotel where quarters had been 
provided for me. At this point I found a very large 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 41 

number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, assembled. 
On entering the Portico of the Hotel I was met by 
Professor Wm. M. Green ^ & a committee of Students 
from the University of N. Carolina. Mr. Green 
delivered an address to me, to which I responded. I 
was conducted into the Hotel and after being intro- 
duced to the committee of the University & a few 
other persons, I was informed that an arrangement 
had been made for me to meet my fellow citizens 
generally at the Senate Chamber in the Capitol at 8 
O'clock to-night, to which I of course yielded my 
assent. I retired to my room much exhausted by 
the fatigues of the day. At the appointed hour, 8 
O'clock, I was conducted to the Capitol by the 
Mayor, the committees of the City of Raleigh, & of 
the University. Judge Mason accompanied me. I 
spent iy2 hours at the Senate chamber, which was 
crowded with ladies & gentlemen, many of whom 
were introduced to the Secretary of the Navy & my- 
self. From the Senate chamber we were conducted 
to the front of the Capitol, where a very dense crowd 
of persons, ladies & gentlemen, were assembled. 
The Street between the Capitol & the Governor's 
House was brilliantly illuminated, & there was a 
most imposing display of fire works. About 11 
O'clock I retired to my lodgings, much fatigued. 
From Gaston to Raleigh was a continued triumphal 
procession. Salutes were fired at several places. 
My reception could not have been more gratifying 

^William Mercer Green, 1798-1887, first Episcopal bishop of 
Mississippi 1850, one of the founders and later Chancellor of the 
University of the South, Sewanee, Tennessee. 



42 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 May 

than it has been. I observed not the slightest party 
feelings, but on the contrary I was received in the 
most distinguished manner by both political parties 
as the guest of the State. 

Sunday, joth May, 1847. — Accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk, the Secretary of the Navy, & my suite, I 
attended the Episcopal church in the forenoon & the 
Presbyterian church in the afternoon to-day. Pro- 
fessor Green of the University & a number of other 
gentlemen accompanied me in the morning. In the 
afternoon Gov. Branch and others accompanied me. 
In the course of the evening Gov. Branch & Col. 
Hawkins mentioned to me the fact that Gov- 
Graham ^ had failed to call on me had been observed, 
and had given rise to some excitement among lead- 
ing Whigs and Democrats, all of whom condemned 
him in strong terms. About dark Judge Mason in- 
formed me that he had been inquired of by Ex Gov- 
ernor Moorehead,- whether I would see Gov. Gra- 
ham to-night, saying that if I would he would 
bring Gov. Graham to see me. Mr. Mason in- 
formed me that he had replied that I was not 
hide bound or strict in regard to the sabbath; & 
that, though I was in the habit of keeping the sab- 
bath, he supposed, as I expected to leave Raleigh on 
to-morrow morning, that I would see Gov. Graham 

^William Alexander Graham, 1804-1875, Senator from North 
Carolina 1840- 1843, Governor 1845- 1849, Secretary of the Navy 
1850-1852. 

- John Motley Morehead, 1 796-1 866, Governor of North Caro- 
lina 1841-1845, President of the Whig National Convention that 
nominated Taylor for the Presidency in 1848. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S UIARY 43 

if he desired it. About 8 O'Clock Gov. Graham & 
Ex. Governor Moorehead called. Gov. Moorehead 
had called on last evening. I received Gov. Graham 
courteously, but with more dignified reserve than is 
my habit. He remained near an hour. I have no 
doubt from what I have learned that Gov. Graham 
& Senator Badger ^ had by consent determined not 
to call on me, & that the latter was forced to yield 
that determination by the overwhelming fear of pub- 
lic opinion among the leading members of his own 
party. It was a matter of perfect indifiference to me 
whether he called or not. Senator Badger did not 
call. During the whole of the last session of Con- 
gress he did not call on me. He is a bitter partisan, 
and is no doubt sensible that during the Presidential 
canvass of 1844 he did me gross injustice. Among 
other things he took a leading part in propagating the 
basely false story- concerning the Revolutionary 
services of my Grand-father, Ezekiel Polk. His 
own consciousness that he had wronged me probably 

^ George Edmond Badger, 1 795-1 865, Secretary of the Navy in 
1841, Senator from North Carolina 1846-1855. 

- The story asserted that Polk's grandfather sided with the 
Tories in the Revolutionary War. Polk was extremely sensitive, 
during the campaign of 1844, to the attacks made on the Revo- 
lutionary career of his ancestors, and supplied his friends with 
facts to be used in refuting them. — Letter of J. Geo. Harris to 
George Bancroft, September 17, 1887, •" Lenox Library, New 
York. A Vindication of the Revolutionary Character and Services 
of Colonel Ezekiel Polk, by Wm. H. Haywood, was published at 
Nashville in 1844. The original of the affidavits printed in this 
pamphlet, endorsed in Polk's own hand, are preserved among the 
Polk mss. in the Library of Congress. 



44 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 May 

prevented him from calling on me last winter or on 
my present visit to N. Carolina. 

Monday, 31st May, i84j.— Ai 9 O'Clock this 
morning I set out with my family & suite for Chapel 
Hill. I was accompanied by Professor Green & the 
committee of students from the University. I was 
accompanied also by Gov. Branch, Col. Hawkins, 
and several others, ladies & gentlemen, making quite 
a long train of carriages. We stopped half an hour 
at Mrs. Jones's, 10 miles on the way, where we were 
overtaken by Ex Gov. Moorehead, Gov. Graham, 
& others. I stopped at Moring's 8 miles from 
Chapel Hill, & took dinner. Gov. Graham, Gov. 
Moorehead, & some others did not stop for dinner, 
but proceeded on to Chapel Hill in advance of me. 
At about 6 O'clock P. M. I reached the village of 
Chapel Hill. On approaching the Hotel at which 
quarters had been provided for me, I was received by 
a procession composed of the faculty & students of 
the college & citizens. I was conducted into the 
Hotel by professor Green & the committee of 
Students who had met me at Raleigh, and after re- 
maining there a few minutes was conducted on foot 
to the college Chapel, where a large assembly of 
ladies & gentlemen were collected. I was addressed 
by the Hon. D. Y. Swain, ^ the President of the Col- 
lege, tendering to me a cordial w^elcome on my re- 
turn to the classic shades of the University. I briefly 

^ David Lowry Swain, 1801-1868, Governor of North Carolina 
1832-1835, President of the University of North Carolina 1835- 
1868. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 45 

responded to his address. President Swain also ad- 
dressed Judge [Mason], who made a short reply. 
I was then introduced to the Trustees who were pres- 
ent, to the faculty and many of the students, as well 
as to many others, ladies & gentlemen. Of all the 
Professors I had left at the University 29 years ago, 
Professor Mitchell ^ alone remained. He met me 
most cordially, and I was much gratified to see him. 
These ceremonies being over, I returned to the 
[hotel] where I had the pleasure to meet many old 
college friends whom I had not seen since I grad- 
uated in June, 1818. Our meeting was delightful. 
Some of the incidents of our college life were at 
once recited. After supper I attended the chapel 
& heard a sermon preached by Bishop Ives " of the 
Episcopal church to the students. An annual ser- 
mon suited to the occasion is preached at each 
Commencement by some one of the Christian de- 
nominations. After the sermon I was kept from re- 
tiring to rest until a late hour in being introduced to 
the crowd of persons, ladies and gentlemen, who 
were present, and in conversing with old college 
friends, many of whom had come from a consider- 
able distance to see me. I have never spent a more 
pleasant or delightful afternoon & evening. I re- 
tired to rest considerably exhausted by the fatigues 
of the day. 

^ Elisha Mitchell, 1793-1857, noted for his scientific attain- 
ments. Mount Mitchell was named after him. 

* Levi Silliman Ives, 1797-1867, Episcopal bishop of North 
Carolina 1831; in 1852 he became a Roman Catholic and spent 
the remainder of his life in the service of Catholicism. 



46 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i June 

I should note also that among the Trustees who re- 
ceived me at the Chapel on my arrival were Gov. 
Graham & Ex. Gov. Moorehead. 

Tuesday, Ist June, 184J, — As soon as I rose this 
morning I found a large crowd at the Hotel desir- 
ing to see me. After Breakfast I visited the college 
buildings. They have been greatly enlarged and 
improved since my day at College. I attended the 
examination of the senior Class on International & 
Constitutional law. They were examined by Pres- 
ident Swain. I visited the Dialectic & Philanthropic 
Library rooms. I visited also the room which I occu- 
pied when I was in college. The old chapel I found 
had been converted into recitation rooms, and for the 
use of the Trustees when they attended the University. 
After dinner I took a walk with some of my old col- 
lege friends to Vauxhall Spring, and through a por- 
tion of the village. Many objects were perfectly 
familiar to me, and brought up fresh to recollection 
many of the scenes of my youth. I was constantly 
surrounded by crowds of people, & was introduced 
to hundreds, male & female. The weather was 
warm, & [I] had no rest. After night I attended 
the Chapel and heard several members of the Soph- 
omore and Freshman classes recite speeches which 
they had committed to memory. I retired to the 
Hotel when these exercises were over, and was kept 
from retiring to rest until a late hour receiving com- 
pany and being introduced to them, and in convers- 
ing with my college friends. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 47 

WeDxNESDAY, 2nd June, 184^. — The crowd in at- 
tendance was much increased to-day. I was con- 
stantly on my feet, receiving & being introduced to 
them. All seemed desirious to see the President & 
shake him by the hand. At 11 O'Clock A. M. I at- 
tended the Chapel & heard Mr. Osborne of Char- 
lotte deliver a literary address to the two Societies 
of the college. When his speech was over I attended 
a meeting of the alumni of the college. Many of 
them were present, some of whom graduated as early 
as 1801. At 2 O'clock P. M. accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, Judge Mason, & our families who accompanied 
us, I dined wath President Swain. After dinner 
Mrs. Polk & myself paid a visit to Professor Green's 
family. At Candle-lighting I attended the Chapel 
& heard Judge Mason's speech delivered to the 
Alumni of the college. It was an able & admirable 
speech. It received universal applause. On mo- 
tion, the thanks of the Alumni were tendered to 
Judge Mason and a copy of the speech requested for 
publication. After the speech was over I attended 
a meeting of the Dialectic Society, of which I was a 
member when I was in college. At the suggestion 
of Professor Green I made a short address to the so- 
ciety. During the day I shook hands with many 
hundreds of persons. During the day, too, Mrs. 
Polk accompanied me through the college buildings, 
the library rooms, and especially the room which I 
had occupied when I was in college. She was much 
interested, and especially in viewing the Dialectic 
Hall and my old room. 



48 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 June 

Thursday, jrd June, 1847.— T\\h was the com- 
mencement day of the college/ It was to me a most 
interesting occasion. The number of persons in at- 
tendance was greatly increased. Hundreds from the 
adjoining country had come in. As soon as I left 
my room in the morning I was surrounded by them, 
and, except while at breakfast, continued to receive 
them and to shake hands with them until the hour at 
which the Commencement exercises commenced. 
These exercises commenced between 10 & 11 
O'clock. About I O'clock the President an- 
nounced that there would be a recess of i]/^ hours. 
I returned to the Hotel & took dinner. The crowd 
in waiting to see me was so great that it was impos- 
sible that they could all see me if I remained in the 
House. Several of my friends who thought the peo- 
ple present, many of whom had come a considerable 
distance, ought to be gratified, insisted that I should 
go out to the grove, & I did so. I was soon sur- 
rounded by hundreds of persons, and for an hour or 
more was constantly engaged in shaking hands with 
them. At the appointed hour the commencement ex- 
ercises were again commenced. I attended. They 
were concluded and the Degree of Bachelor of arts 
conferred on 27 young gentlemen, and the whole cere- 
mony closed about 5>4 O'Clock P. M. Being very 
desirous to reach Washington on Saturday evening, 
and knowing that I could not do so unless I reached 
Raleigh on to-morrow morning in time to take the 
Rail Road cars, as soon as the exercises were over I 

^ For an account of the Commencement exercises see Battle, 
History of the University of North Carolina, I, 504-509. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 49 

took leave of President Swain & the Faculty & Trus- 
tees, went to the Hotel where our carriages were in 
waiting, & set out for Raleigh. We set out about 
6 O'clock, and reached Moring's Tavern, 8 miles 
on the road, where we remained until 2 O'Clock in 
the morning, when the carriages were brought out & 
we proceeded on the way to Raleigh. There was 
moonlight & it was pleasant traveling. We break- 
fasted at Mrs. Jones's & reached Raleigh at 9>4 
O'clock. We were accompanied from Chapel Hill 
by young Mr. Winburn ^ who graduated to-day, and 
who was one of the committee of students of the Uni- 
versity who had met me at Raleigh on Saturday last. 
We were accompanied also by Gov. Branch, Col. 
Jno. D. Hawkins, & several others. 

Friday, 4th June, 184J. — On arriving at Raleigh 
at 9^ O'clock this morning, we stopped at the Hotel 
a few minutes. Learning that the Rail Road cars 
would not leave before 12 O'Clock, Col. Hawkins, 
Mrs. Polk, Col. Walker (my Private Secretary) 
and myself, at the special request of Col. Hawkins, 
visited the house of the Hon. K. Raynor," whose wife 
is the daughter of the late Col. Wm. Polk, and whose 
health was not such as to enable her to call on us. 
Mr. Raynor had called on Saturday evening & made 
this apology for her. Mr. Raynor is a bitter polit- 
ical opponent, but had acted exceedingly well on the 
occasion of my visit to N. Carolina. Before I left 

^ Robert Henry Winborne. 

-Kenneth Rayner, 1 808-1 884, a Whig, Representative from 
North Carolina 1 839-1 845. 



50 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 June 

Washington he had invited me to make his house my 
home, and as soon as I arrived on Saturday evening 
he had called. While we were at Mr. Raynor's, 
the Hon. Wm. H. Haywood, jr., late Senator in Con- 
gress, called. He had been absent from Raleigh as 
we passed on to the University. From Mr. Raynor's 
we drove back to the Hotel, where a number of per- 
sons were collected. I got out of the carriage & 
they accompanied me on foot to the Rail Road depot. 
I there took leave of them, and at 12 O'Clock the cars 
left. We dined at Henderson, and at this point Col. 
Hawkins left us. We met many persons at the dif- 
ferent depots on the road. At Henderson there was 
quite a large number collected. We supped at Gas- 
ton & travelled all night. 

Saturday, J/A June, 184'J. — We arrived at 
Petersburg shortly after day light this morning, & 
after being detained a short time at the Hotel pro- 
ceeded to Richmond, where we took breakfast. 
Proceeding on our journey we arrived at Washing- 
ton about 5 O'clock P. M. & thus ended my excur- 
sion to the University of N. Carolina. It was an 
exceedingly agreeable one. No incident of an un- 
pleasant character occurred. My reception at the 
University, and the attentions paid me on the route 
going and returning, was all that I could have de- 
sired it to be. My visit was wholly unconnected 
with politics, and all parties greeted & welcomed me 
in the most cordial manner. Senator Badger is the 
only leading man of either party, of whom I heard, 
who failed to call and pay his respects. It was a 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 51 

matter of perfect indifference to me whether he did 
so or not. The impression among some of my friends 
was, that it was his influence which had prevented 
Gov. Graham from calling when I first reached 
Raleigh. The Governor, However, finally yielded 
to public opinion around him & called on Sunday 
evening, as stated in this Diary of that day. 

During my absence Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary 
of State, wrote to me every day, as I had requested 
him to do. Nothing occurred during my absence 
which required my presence in Washington. 

Between Gaston & Petersburg Judge Mason, the 
Secretary of the Navy, and his daughter left the cars 
at a point near the residence of his father, to whom 
they desired to pay a short visit. 

The Post Master Gen'l and the atto. Gen'l called 
on me shortly after my arrival at home this evening. 

Sunday, 6th June, 184J. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and Miss Rachel Hen- 
rietta Armstrong, the daughter of Gen'l Robert 
Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool. 

Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, called to- 
night. 

Monday, yth June, 1847. — During the day the 
Secretaries of State, Treasury, & War and the Atto. 
Gen'l called on business. Several of the Heads of 
Bureau and other public officers also called on busi- 
ness. During my absence from the City various mat- 
ters of public business, none of them of much impor- 



52 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 June 

tance, but concerning which these officers desired to 
take my direction, had accumulated. I disposed of 
them, read my letters, and disposed of many matters 
of business on my table. At i O'Clock P. M. I 
opened my office for company. Many persons 
called but none of them had any business of impor- 
tance with me. The most important business of 
most of them was that they wished to obtain offices, 
either for themselves or their friends. There were 
no vacancies to fill & I soon disposed of their appli- 
cations. Among others who called was Mrs. Fre- 
mont, the wife of Lieut. Col. Fremont of the U. S. 
army, and the daughter of Gen'l T. H. Benton. She 
introduced to me Kit Carson,^ who had been with her 
husband. Col. Fremont, and had recently returned 
from California. She informed me that Mr. Car- 
son had been waiting several days to see me, for the 
purpose of conversing with me and tendering his 
services to bear despatches to California, if any were 
to be sent. Mr. Carson delivered to me a long letter 
from Col. Fremont which had been addressed to 
Gen'l Benton. It related in part to the recent un- 
fortunate collision between Gen'l Kearney & Com- 
modore Stockton, and between the former & Col. 
Fremont in California. Mrs. Fremont seemed anx- 
ious to elicit from me some expression of approba- 
tion of her husband's conduct, but I evaded [making 
any]. In truth, I consider that Col. Fremont was 
greatly In the wrong when he refused to obey the or- 

^ Christopher Carson, 1809-1868, famous hunter and Indian 
fighter. He rendered important assistance to Fremont on the lat- 
ter's exploring expeditions. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY S3 

ders issued to him by Gen'l Kearney. I think Gen'l 
Kearney was right also in his controversy with Com. 
Stockton. It was unnecessary, however, that I 
should say so to Col. Fremont's wife, and I evaded 
giving her an answer. My desire is, that the error 
being corrected, the matter shall pass over quietly 
without the necessity of having an investigation by 
a Court Martial. I saw Kit Carson again after 
night, and had a full conversation with him concern- 
ing the State of afifairs in California, and especially 
in relation to the collision between our land & naval 
commanders in that distant region. 

Tuesday, 8th June, 184J. — The Cabinet met to- 
day, all the members present except the Secretary 
of the Navy, who is absent in Virginia on a visit 
to his father. Mr. Buchanan brought before the 
Cabinet our relations with Brazil, and stated that 
from intelligence received from Rio, it was probable 
that the Brazilian Government would disavow the 
adjustment of the difficulty growing out of the im- 
prisonment of Lieut. Davis of the U. S. Navy & two 
sailors at Rio, which had been made between Mr. 
Buchanan & Mr. Lisboa, the Brazilian Minister at 
Washington. After considering the subject, it was 
resolved that Mr. Tod, the successor of Mr. Wise 
as U. S. Minister to Brazil, should set out on his 
mission at the earliest practicable period. Several 
other matters connected with our foreign relations 
were considered. 

Information had been received that a Spanish ves- 
sel with a Mexican commission & under Mexican 



54 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 June 

colours had captured an American Merchant Ves- 
sel in the Meditteranean, and it was represented that 
other privateers with Mexican commissions had been 
fitted out to prey upon American commerce [and] 
were in those seas. It was determined to order the 
U. S. Steam Ship Princeton to proceed without de- 
lay to the Mediteranean for the protection of Ameri- 
can commerce. 

Various matters connected with the operations of 
our army and navy in Mexico & the prosecution of 
the War were considered. Among other things it 
was determined to send Kit Carson with despatches 
to Gen'l Kearney in California, & to the commander 
of our Squadron in the Pacific. All the Cabinet 
agreed that in the unfortunate collision which had 
taken place between Com. Stockton and Gen'l Kear- 
ney, respecting the right to command the land forces 
in California, Gen'l Kearney was in the right, and 
that Commodore Stockton & Lieut. Col. Fremont 
were in the wrong. One object of sending the de- 
spatches by Carson was to put an end to this most 
unfortunate controversy. Several other matters of 
minor importance were considered. 

My Private Secretary (Col. Walker) was indis- 
posed to-day and was confined to his room. 

This was reception evening & I met company in 
the parlour. An unusually large assembly of la- 
dies & gentlemen called. 

Wednesday, gth June, 1S4J. — I was busily en- 
gaged this forenoon in disposing of the business on 
my table. I saw the Secretaries of State and War 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY SS 

on business, and also several other persons whom I 
was obliged to see. Among others who called was 
the Hon. Mr. Giles, of the Ho. Repts. from Mary- 
land. At I O'clock P. M. I opened my office. An 
unusual number of persons, chiefly office seekers, 
called. Nothing worthy of special note occurred 
to-day. 

Thursday, lOth June, 184J. — This forenoon 
was chiefly occupied in transacting business with 
public officers who called to consult me & receive my 
directions. The Secretaries of State and War & 
Mr. Appleton, the acting Secretary of the Navy, 
also called on business. The Secretary of War read 
to me a despatch which he had prepared to Brigadier 
Gen'l Kearney in California, relating in part to the 
collision which has recently arisen between Gen'l 
Kearney and Commodore Stockton. At my sugges- 
tion he made two or three modifications of it. I di- 
rected Mr. Appleton, who is acting Secretary of the 
Navy in Mr. Mason's absence, to prepare a despatch 
of similar import to the commander of our Squad- 
ron in the Pacific. At i O'Clock P. M. I opened 
my office to receive company as usual. Many per- 
sons called, some on visits of ceremony and others 
on business & seeking office. After they retired I 
disposed of some of the business on my table. A 
small party took a family Dinner with me to-day. 
It consisted of Mr. Pleasonton, the 5th Auditor, his 
wife & daughter, Mrs. Watmough of Phila., and 
Daniel Graham, the Register of the Treasury, & his 
wife. 



56 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n June 

Friday, nth June, 184J. — This morning the 
Secretaries of the Treasury and of War called and 
submitted certain modifications of the regulations 
of the tariff of duties to be levied in Mexican ports 
in our military possession as military contributions, 
which they proposed. I examined the modifications 
proposed, and after making one or two changes in 
them, approved them and issued the order accord- 
ingly. Mr. Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, who 
returned to Washington last evening, called this 
morning. He submitted to me a despatch which he 
had prepared to the commander of our squadron in 
the Pacific, to be taken out by Kit Carson & Lieut. 
Beale of the Navy, as bearers of despatches. The 
despatch had been prepared by Mr. Appleton as act- 
ing Secretary of the Navy, in the absence of Judge 
Mason, under orders from me. At my suggestion 
some modification of the despatch was made. 
MajV General Robert Patterson of the U. S. army, 
who had recently returned, to-day called with his 
aide-de-camp and Brevet Col. Abercrombie. At i 
O'clock P. M. I opened my office for company. 
Several persons called to pay their respects, ladies 
& gentlemen. Others called seeking office. In the 
course of the day the Commissioner of the Gen'l 
Land Office and other public officers called on busi- 
ness. Col. Tod, U. S. Minister to Brazil, and Mr. 
Young, commissioner of the Gen'l Land office, and 
his wife, dined with me to-day. 

Despatches were received from Gen'l Scott by the 
mail of this evening. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, la- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 57 

dies & gentlemen, called. Judge Mason (Secretary 
of the Navy) returned to Washington last evening. 

Saturday, 12th June, 1847. — Maj'r Gen'l Rob- 
ert Patterson of the U. S. army called this morning. 
He had recently returned from Mexico, where he 
has been serving for the last 12 months. I had a 
long conversation with him in relation to the War 
and our military operations in Mexico. He gave 
me many facts, and some interesting views. He re- 
mained until the Cabinet met, which was at the usual 
hour, when he retired. All the members of the Cab- 
inet were present. 

Despatches received from Gen'l Scott, dated on 
the 20th ultimo, were read. They were of a highly 
exceptionable character. It appears that Gen'l 
Scott has taken offence because Mr. Trist was sent 
to his Head Quarters as a Commissioner invested 
with Diplomatic Powers & full authority to conclude 
a Treaty of peace. He desired to be invested with 
this power himself, and although Mr. Trist had been 
in his camp for six days at the date of his despatch, 
he states he had not seen him. It is clear from this 
despatch, as well as one of previous date enclosing 
a letter from Gen'l Scott to Mr. Trist, that he would 
not cooperate with Mr. Trist in accomplishing the 
object of his mission, the conclusion of an honour- 
able peace. His two last despatches are not only in- 
subordinate, but insulting to Mr. Trist and the 
Government. I gave my views on the subject, in 
which the Cabinet unanimously concurred. In ac- 
cordance with them I directed the Secretary of War 



S8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 June 

to prepare a despatch to Gen'l Scott rebuking him 
for his insubordinate course, and repeating the order 
in a peremptory manner to him to carry the despatch 
borne to him by Mr. Trist addressed to the Mexi- 
can Government to that Government, and requiring 
an immediate answer, to be returned by the bearer of 
the despatch, whether he had obeyed or intended to 
obey the former order of the Secretary of War. He 
deserves for his conduct in this matter to be removed 
from the command. I conclude[d], however, to de- 
lay action on his conduct until his answer to the com- 
munication which I have this day ordered to be ad- 
dressed to him shall be received. The Secretary of 
the Navy also read a despatch from Commodore 
Perry, commanding the squadron in the gulf, enclos- 
ing a correspondence between Gen'l Scott and Lieut. 
Sims of the Navy, of a highly insubordinate & unex- 
ceptionable [exceptionable] character. Lieut. Sims 
had been sent to Gen'l Scott's Head Quarters under 
orders from the Secretary of the Navy, with a view to 
ask Gen'l Scott's co-operation in procuring the release 
of passed midshipman Rogers, now a prisoner in 
Mexico. Gen'l Scott arrogates to himself the right 
to be the only proper channel through whom the 
U. S. Government can properly communicate with 
the Government of Mexico on any subject; which is 
an assumption wholly unwarrantable & which I will 
not tolerate. The truth is that I have been com- 
pelled from the beginning to conduct the war against 
Mexico through the agency of two Gen'ls highest in 
rank who have not only no sympathies with the Gov- 
ernment, but are hostile to my administration. Both 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 59 

of them have assumed to control the Government. 
To this I will not submit & will as certainly remove 
Gen'l Scott from the chief command, as she [he] 
shall refuse or delay to obey the order borne to him 
by Mr. Trist. My doubt is whether 1 shall delay 
to remove him until I can hear further from him. 

The Secretaries of War & the Navy read de- 
spatches which they had respectively prepared to 
our commanders of our land and naval forces in Cali- 
fornia & on the Pacific. The object of these de- 
spatches was to remove the collision which had arisen 
between the two arms of the service in regard to the 
rank of their officers. The Secretary of War also 
read a despatch which he had prepared to the com- 
mander of our forces at Santa Fe & in New Mexico. 
I approved these despatches. 

The Secretary of the Treasury reported to me that 
he had received information that the Receiver of 
Public monies at the Land office at Upper Sandusky 
in Ohio was a defaulter to the amt. of $7,100. I or- 
dered him to be removed instantly, and directed that 
Purdy McElvain ^ should be appointed in his place. 
I also directed that the defaulting Receiver should 
be prosecuted criminally for a violation of the Con- 
stitutional Treasury law. In less than three hours 
after the case was reported to me the removal was 
made, a commission issued for his successor, signed, 
and the orders issued to the U. S. Attorney for the 
District of Ohio to prosecute criminally the default- 
ing Receiver, and also to commence suit for the 

^ Purdy McElvaine, nominated to the Senate as Receiver of 
Land Sales at Upper Sandusky, Ohio, December 22, 1847. 



6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 June 

amount of the default against his securities. Some 
other public business was transacted & the Cabinet 
adjourned near 4 O'Clock. 

Maj'r Gen'l Patterson, his aid-de-camp, and Col. 
Abercrombie & the Secretary of War dined with me 
to-day. 

My Private Secretary (Col. Walker) his wife, & 
Miss Rucker set out at noon to-day on a visit to 
Phila. & New York. Mr. Currin Whitthorne,^ a 
clerk in the 6th Auditor's office, and who was a law 
Student in my office in Tennessee, took Col. Walker's 
place & will assist me in his absence in attending to 
the Clerical duties of my office. 

Sunday, IJth June, 184J. — Before church hour 
this morning Mr. Buchanan called and informed me 
that this was the last day on which letters or de- 
spatches could be mailed at this City in time to 
reach the Steamer which will leave Boston on the 
i6th Instant for Europe. He stated that he had late 
on last evening finished an important despatch to 
Mr. Saunders, the U. S. Minister in Spain, and as 
it was very desirable that he should get it at the earli- 
est practicable period, he had called to submit it to 
me for my approval. He read it & I approved it. 
It related to a recent capture of a merchant vessel 
of the U. S. in the Mediteranean by a Privateer 
under a mexican Flag and with a mexican commis- 
sion, which had been taken into Barcelona, a Span- 

^ Washington Curran Whithorne, Representative from Tennes- 
see 1871-1891 except for a brief term in the U. S. Senate 1886- 
1887. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 61 

ish Port, Mr. Buchanan's despatch ^ instructed Mr. 
Saunders to protest against the conduct of the Span- 
ish Government in permitting such a proceeding, 
and to call upon that Government to interpose and 
prevent a similar proceeding for the future. It was 
an elaborate and very able despatch. 

Mrs. Polk and myself attended the first Presbyte- 
rian church to-day. 

Monday, 14th June, 184J. — Several public offi- 
cers called on business this morning. Among others 
Mr. Buchanan called & read to me a despatch which 
he had prepared to Mr. Trist. I suggested a modi- 
fication, which he made. The Secretary of War 
called and read to me a despatch which he had pre- 
pared to Gen'l Scott in reply to the extraordinary 
despatch from that officer dated the 20th of May. 
I suggested some modifications of it, and after some 
conversation on the subject it was agreed that it was 
of so much importance that it would be proper to 
submit it to the Cabinet on to-morrow. At i 
O'clock P. M. my office was opened for the recep- 
tion of company. An unusual number of persons 
called, many of them seeking office. Gen'l Patter- 
son of the U. S. army called, and I had a long con- 
versation with him in relation to military operations 
in Mexico. Among others who called to-day was 
Mrs. Fremont, the wife of Lieut. Col. Fremont. 
Lieut. Kit Carson was with her. She expressed a 
desire that her husband should be retained in Cali- 
fornia. I informed her that the dispatches which 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 334-343. 



62 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 June 

Lieut. Carson would bear to Gen'l Kearney in Cali- 
fornia, who was the military officer highest in com- 
mand in that country, left it to the option of Lieut. 
Col. Fremont to remain in the service in California 
or to return to the U. S. & join his Regiment (the 
Mounted Rifles) now serving in Mexico. The 
after part of the day was spent in disposing of many 
matters of business of minor importance which had 
accumulated on my table. 

Tuesday, Ijth June, 184J. — Maj'r Gen'l Pat- 
terson called this morning, and I held a further con- 
versation with him in relation to the War with 
Mexico. The Cabinet met this morning at the usual 
hour, all the members present. 

Mr. Buchanan read to the Cabinet the draft of a 
despatch to Mr. Trist, having made the modifica- 
tions which I suggested to him on yesterday. The 
Secretary of War also read to the Cabinet the draft 
of a despatch to Gen'l Scott, having modified [it] 
as I suggested to him on yesterday. After some con- 
versation they were agreed to by the Cabinet unani- 
mously. Mr. Buchanan thought it better to delay 
his despatch to Mr. Trist until he heard from him 
again. In this I differed with him in opinion. On 
the contrary I thought time was important, and that 
the two despatches to Mr. Trist and Gen'l Scott 
should be borne to them with all practicable speed 
by the same messenger. I expressed in strong terms 
my disapprobation of Gen'l Scott's conduct, in fail- 
ing or refusing to communicate to the Mexican Gov- 
ernment, as he had been ordered to do by the Secre- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 63 

tary of War, the despatch addressed to the minister 
of Foreign aflfairs of Mexico by the Secretary of 
State, which had been borne to him by Mr. Trist, 
and expressed my determination, if he persisted in 
disobeying the order, to have him arrested & tried 
by a Court Martial. I expressed my disapproval of 
Gen'l Scott's insubordinate conduct as disclosed in 
his despatch of the 20th ult. & also in one which pre- 
ceded it, enclosing a copy of a most extraordinary 
letter which he had addressed on the 7th of May to 
Mr. Trist. It is manifest from these despatches that 
he has taken ofifence because he was not himself 
clothed with Diplomatic powers (an office for which 
I consider him wholly unqualified) and that he is 
now throwing obstructions in the way of the success 
of Mr. Trist's mission. Such conduct is most repre- 
hensible, and I would recall him without the least 
hesitation if I was positively sure that he had not be- 
fore this time reconsidered his course and obeyed the 
orders of his Government. I have serious fears that 
the golden moment to make a peace {viz., as our 
army approaches the City of Mexico) may be lost 
because of Gen'l Scott's arrogance & inordinate 
vanity, and because of these, his disobedience of his 
orders and his failure to act in harmony with Mr. 
Trist. I shall wait impatiently to hear what his de- 
finitive course has been, and will then act promptly 
in his case. 

It was finally agreed that the war Steamer 
Prin[c]eton, now at N. York, should be despatched 
without delay to the Mediteranean to protect Ameri- 
can commerce in those seas. 



64 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [16 June 

Some other public subjects of minor importance 
were considered. 

This being reception evening I attended with Mrs. 
Polk in the parlour. A number of persons, ladies 
& gentlemen, called. 

After the adjournment of the Cabinet to-day I 
held another conversation with Maj'r Gen'l Patter- 
son & the Secretary of War in relation to the Mexi- 
can War. 

Wednesday, idth June, 184^. — I sent a note to 
Gen'l Patterson this morning requesting him to call 
on me. He did so, and I conferred with him in 
relation to the operations of our army in Mexico, 
and especially in relation to the steps which should 
be taken with a view to obtain a speedy peace. 

The Hon. Henry Wheaton, late U. S. Minister 
to Prussia, was introduced to me by the Secretary of 
State. I disposed of several matters of business on 
my table & saw the Secretaries of War & Navy, the 
Atto. Gen'l, and several other public officers on 
business. At i O'Clock P. M. I opened my office 
for the reception of company. An unusual number 
of persons called & especially of females seeking offi- 
ces for their relations & friends. Many females 
call on the same business, under the impression, no 
doubt, that their importunities may prevail when 
those of their husbands, brothers, sons, or other rela- 
tions would not. Their applications occupy much 
of my time and annoy me very much. The office- 
seekers have fared but badly of late. There are no 
vacancies to fill, & I decline making vacancies by 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 65 

removing better men than the applicants to make 
room for the latter. Whilst my mind, too, is occu- 
pied with the war with Mexico and other impor- 
tant public matters, I give but little attention to the 
applications of the constant throng of persons who 
besiege me for place. 

Thursday, lyth June, 184J. — I saw the Secre- 
taries of State & War & the Atto. Gen'l on business 
this morning. I saw also several other public offi- 
cers on business. I disposed of the current business 
on my table. At i O'Clock P. M. I saw company as 
usual. A crowd of persons came in as soon as my 
office was opened. Among them were several ladies, 
who called to pay their respects. None who called 
had any business of more importance than an ardent 
desire to serve their country, provided they could be 
appointed to a good office. As I had none of these 
to dispose of they were, of course, disappointed. 

Nothing worthy of special notice occurred to-day. 

Friday, 18th June, 184J. — I transacted much 
business of minor importance today. Several public 
officers called, with whom I conferred on public busi- 
ness. Among them were the Secretary of State, who 
read to me despatches ^ which he had prepared to 
the U. S. consul and the U. S. Commissioner at the 
Sandwich Islands. Mr. Buchanan informed me 
that he had learned from Mr. Lisboa, the Brazilian 
Minister, that he had received unofficial information 
from Brazil that the arrangement which he had 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 346-353. 



66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 June 

made with this Government last winter for the set- 
tlement of the difficulty which had arisen between 
the two Governments in consequence of the imprison- 
ment of Lieut. Davis and two Seamen of the U. S. 
Navy by the Brazilian authorities at Rio de Janeiro, 
had been disapproved by his Government, & that he 
(Mr. Lisboa) in consequence of the settlement to 
which he had agreed, would probably be recalled. 
This rendered it [necessary], in the opinion of the 
Secretary of State & myself, that Mr. Tod, the U. S. 
minister recently appointed, should proceed to his 
post without a moment's delay. He is to go out in 
the 74 Gun ship Ohio, now at New York. The 
ship is now delayed in her departure, as I under- 
stand, because he is not ready to embark, & because 
of the additional accommodations which he requires 
for the unusually large family & attaches which he 
proposes to take with him, chiefly females. I sent 
for the Secretary of the Navy, and after consultation 
I directed the Secretarv of State to communicate to 
Mr. Tod (who is now at New York) the public im- 
portance of his sailing without a moment's delay, & 
I directed the Secretary of the Navy to communicate 
to the commander of the Ohio to sail without delay. 
Mr. Tod had requested that the ship should go by 
the way of Madeira, probably with a view to obtain 
wines. This would delay him in his arrival at Rio 
de Janeiro at least lo days, and the request cannot, 
therefore, be granted. The communications to the 
commander of the Ohio and to Mr. Tod were di- 
rected to [be] made by Telegraph. 

This was reception evening. An unusually large 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 67 

number of persons attended. All the members of 
the Cabinet & the ladies of their families, except the 
Secretary of the Treasury, were present. Mrs. 
Madison & a large number of strangers & citizens 
were also present. Among others who called were 
Mr. Wheaton, late U. S. Minister to Prussia, & Gen'l 
Leslie Combs ^ of Kentucky. 

Hon. Wm. H. Haywood, jr., late of the U. S. 
Senate, called on me to-day. 

Saturday, igth June, 184J. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour this morning, all the members pres- 
ent except the Secretary of the Treasury, who was 
detained at his residence by indisposition. I in- 
formed the Cabinet that I contemplated leaving on 
tuesday next, the 22nd Instant, on a short tour to the 
North, that I would (if the state of the public busi- 
ness did not require my return sooner) be absent 
about two weeks. I have received many invitations 
to go North, &, among others, two from the Legisla- 
tures of New Hampshire and Maine, now in Ses- 
sion, to visit the Capitals of these states. I desire 
to make the tour at some time during my adminis- 
tration, and unless I do so now I probably cannot 
do so during my administration. The Attorney 
General (Mr. Clifford) will accompany me, & the 
Secretary of State (Mr. Buchanan) may, if the state 
of the public business will permit it, join me at New 
York. I gave instructions to the Cabinet to keep me 

^ Leslie Combs, 1 793-1881. He was an earnest Whig and a 
friend of Henry Clay, for whom he made many speeches in the 
Presidential campaign of 1844. 



68 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 June 

advised daily of the State of the public business, by 
letters & through the magnetic Telegraph, and in- 
formed [them] that I would, upon receiving intelli- 
gence that my presence was necessary at the seat of 
Government, return without delay from any point on 
the tour where such intelligence might reach me. I 
shall at no time be more than two days' travel from 
Washington. 

The Secretary of the Navy submitted for my con- 
sideration the manner of executing the acts of Con- 
gress of the last Session authorizing the construction 
of 4 War Steamers. The chief question was, 
whether either of them should be built by private 
contract, or at the U. S. Navy yards. I decided 
without hesitation that they should be built at the 
Navy yards, and not by private contract. Mr. Bu- 
chanan insisted that one of them should be built by 
a Mr. Soper at Philadelphia. After a discussion of 
some length he failed to convince me of the pro- 
priety of this, and of course my directions to the 
Secretary of the Navy were unchanged. In re- 
gard to the floating docks to be built a considerable 
discussion took place, but the questions arising 
were not definitively settled. The Cabinet all agreed 
that the act of Congress on the subject was an un- 
wise one, and had probably been passed upon limited 
information and by improper influences, exerted by 
the owners of the Sectional & balance dock pat- 
ents. The matter was postponed for the present. 
Some other public subjects of minor importance 
were considered. The Cabinet adjourned about 3 
O'clock P. M. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 69 

Sunday, 20th June, 184J. — This was a wet 
morning and Mrs. Polk declined attending church 
& I remained at home with her. My Private Se[c]- 
reta[r]y (Col. Walker) and his wife and Miss 
Rucker returned this morning from a visit of a week 
to the Northern Cities. 

Monday, 21st June, 184J. — It had become gen- 
erally known that I contemplated leaving Washing- 
ton on to-morrow on a short tour to the North, and 
an unusual number of office-seekers pressed in upon 
me. When I opened my office at i O'Clock it was 
filled with them. Applications were made to me for 
all grades of office, from a mission abroad to a mes- 
senger's place in one of the public offices. The herd 
of loafers who thus annoyed me seemed to act as 
though they had concluded that the Government was 
about to come to an end because of my expected 
absence, and because [hence] in consequence of it 
they would loose their chance for that time to get an 
office. I gave none of them offices, but treated 
[them] almost harshly. 

I transacted much business with the Heads of De- 
partments to-day, preparatory to my leaving. I left 
instructions with them to keep me advised daily of 
the State of public business, and if any[thing] oc- 
curred which in their judgment would render my 
return necessary before I had contemplated it, to 
communicate with me by Telegraph, & informed 
them that upon receiving such information I would 
instantly return to Washington. I was kept up until 
a late hour at night, disposing of many matters of 



70 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 June 

the details of business and preparing to leave on to- 
morrow. 

Mrs. Polk & her niece, Miss Rucker, accompanied 
by Mr. Russmann, will go as far as Baltimore with 
me. On Wednesday morning they will take the 
Western train of cars for Tennessee, & I will pro- 
ceed North to Philadelphia. Mrs. Polk expects to 
return to Washington in about six weeks. 

Tuesday, 22nd June, to Wednesday, jth July, 
184J. — At 12 O'clock M. on Tuesday, the 22nd of 
June, 1847, I left Washington on a tour through the 
Northern and Eastern States, and returned to Wash- 
ington on the evening of Wednesday, the 7th of July, 
1847. Mrs. Polk and her niece, Miss Rucker, ac- 
companied me as far as Baltimore, where they sepe- 
rated from me on the morning of Wednesday, the 
23rd of June. At 7 O'Clock on the morning of that 
day they set out for Tennessee, accompanied by Mr. 
Russmann, and I set out for Philadelphia. I was 
accompanied by Mr. Clifford, the Atto. Gen'l of 
the U. S., Mr. Burke, commissioner of Patents, and 
Mr. Appleton, the chief clerk of the Navy Depart- 
ment, the latter acting as my Private Secretary. At 
Philadelphia Commodore Stewart of the U. S. Navy 
joined me, upon my invitation, as one of my suite, 
and accompanied me throughout my tour until my 
return to Philadelphia on the evening of the 6th of 
July, 1847. On Sunday afternoon, the 27th of June, 
1847, Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, joined 
me, and accompanied me throughout the balance of 
the tour until my return to Philadelphia, where he 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 71 

remained a day & arrived at Washington one day 
after I did. Mr. Appleton left me on my return 
journey at Portland in Maine, on the morning of 
monday, the 5th of July, and Mr. Burke left me at 
Boston on the evening of the same day. The diary 
of my tour was as follows, viz. 

Tuesday^ 22nd June, 184'/: Spent the afternoon 
at Baltimore. 

Wednesday, 2Srd June: Travelled to Phila. 

Thursday, 34th June: Spent the day in Phila. 

Friday, 2Sth June: Travelled to N. York. 

Saturday, 26th June: Spent the day in New 
York. 

Sunday, 2yth June: Spent the day in N. York 
and went to church three times, once in the morning 
with the Mayor to an Episcopalian church; in the 
afternoon with the Hon. Benj. F. Butler ^ to a Pres- 
byterian church, and in the evening with Mr. Oliver, 
the President of the Board of common council, to 
the Dutch reformed church. 

Monday, 28th June: Traveled to Springfield, 
Massachusetts, spending some hours at New Haven 
& Hartford, Connecticut, on the way. 

^ Benjamin Franklin Butler, 1 795-1 858, lawyer and politician, 
a close political friend of Martin Van Buren; U. S. Attorney 
General 1833-1838. 



72 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 JtmE 

Tuesday, 2gth June: Travelled to Boston. 

Wednesday, joth June: Travelled to Lowell, 
Massachusetts. 

Thursday, Ist July: Traveled to Concord, New 
Hampshire, & returned to Lowell the same night. 

Friday, 2nd July: Traveled to Portland in 
Maine, which place I left in the evening & pro- 
ceeded on board the Steamer Huntress to Augusta 
in Maine, the Seat of [government of] that State. 

Saturday, 3rd July: Spent the day at Augusta 
in Maine until 5 O'Clock in the evening, when I 
set out on my return journey, and reached Portland 
between 12 & i O'Clock at night. 

Sunday, 4th July: Spent the day in Portland 
and attended a Unitarian church in the morning, in 
company with the Hon. John Anderson; and a con- 
gregational church in the afternoon, in company 
with the Mayor. 

Monday, ^th July: Left Portland at 7 O'Clock 
in the morning, spent several hours at Portsmouth, 
N. Hampshire, and after stopping at other cities & 
towns for a short time, reached Fall River at Night- 
fall and went on board the Steamer Bay-State, for 
New York. The boat touched at New Port, R. Is- 
land, but I did not go ashore. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY n 

Tuesday, 6th July: Reached New York at 7 
O'clock A. M., took breakfast, and proceeded to 
Philadelphia, spending several hours at Trenton, N. 
Jersey. Reached Phila. at 8 O'Clock P. M. 

Wednesday, yth July: Traveled from Phila. to 
Washington, spending 2 or 3 hours in Baltimore, & 
arrived at Washington at 7^ O'Clock P. M. 

My whole tour was an exceedingly gratifying one. 
My reception was everywhere respectful & cordial. 
Not an unpleasant incident occurred to mar its pleas- 
ure. I saw many hundreds of thousands of my fel- 
low citizens, of all ages & sexes; I saw a section of 
my country in New England which I had never be- 
fore visited. I am much delighted with my tour & 
do not doubt but that I shall be profitted by it. 

I do not undertake to record the history of the 
tour. It would require a volume to do so. Mr. 
Appleton promised me, when I set out, to keep a 
regular journal ^ or history of it, and if he has done 
so I will insert it in this Diary. I will only state 
that no party feeling any-where manifested itself. 
On the contrary all political parties received & 
treated me kindly and with marked respect. 

One incident only will I record, viz: At New 
York, as I proceeded North, Mr. Benj. F. Butler 
delivered me a verbal invitation from Ex. President 

^ Polk left a space of forty pages in the Diary blank for the in- 
sertion of Appleton's journal. It was never copied into Diary 
however. It remained in the possession of Polk's family until 
1897, when it passed to Judge J. M. Dickinson. 



74 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 July 



Van Buren, inviting me to visit him. I declined it, 
stating that my arrangements, previously made, did 
not contemplate a visit to that part of the State. 1 
thought also (though I did not say so to Mr. Butler) 
that if Mr. Van Buren really desired me to visit him 
he would have written to me inviting me to do so, 
and that he would not have postponed this verbal 
message, delivered through Mr. Butler, to so late a 
period. I considered it a mere act of formal cour- 
tesy, which Mr. Van Buren, probably, thought pub- 
lic opinion constrained him to extend to me. 

The truth is Mr. Van Buren became ofifended with 
me at the beginning of my administration, because 
I chose to exercise my own judgment in the selection 
of my own Cabinet, and would not be controlled by 
him and suffer him to select it for me. I have pre- 
served his most extraordinary letter addressed to me 
on that subject. I made no reply to that letter, and 
since that time have had no direct correspondence 
with him further than to send him under my frank 
my two annual messages, & to receive two notes from 
him acknowledging their receipt. 

I leave a blank space In this volume in which to 
insert Mr. Appleton's journal or diary of my tour 
to the North & East, if he shall furnish it to me as 
he promised me he would do. 

On my arrival at Washington, on the 7th Instant, 
I found my brother, Wm. H. Polk, Charge d' Af- 
faires to Naples, and his wife at the President's 
House. My brother arrived in the U. S. a few days 
ago on leave of absence. I met him at New York on 
my late tour, when he informed me that he was to 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 75 

be married in two or three days to Miss Corse ^ of 
that City. He was married on tuesday, the 29th of 
June, & had come on to Washington with his wife to 
spend a few days. 

Thursday, 8th July, 184J. — Being much fa- 
tigued on my return from my Eastern tour last even- 
ing, I did not visit my office or attend to any business. 
The Post Master General called after I arrived. 
This morning on coming to my office I found many 
letters and much business which had accumulated 
in my absence, none of it, however, of much impor- 
tance, except despatches which had been received by 
the Secretary of War from the seat of War in Mex- 
ico. I disposed of many minor matters of business 
in the course of the day. All the members of the 
Cabinet called at different hours of the day, with 
whom I had full conversations. Mr. Buchanan ar- 
rived from Phila., where I left him on yesterday. 
The Secretary of War sent to me all the despatches 
which had been received from Gen'l Scott's column 
of the army during my absence. I read them care- 
fully, and resolved to call a meeting of the Cabinet 
at an early hour on to-morrow, and so notified the 
Secretaries of State and of War. 

I saw company at i O'Clock to-day. A number 
of persons called; most of them of course were seek- 
ing office. 

Friday, gth July, 184J. — I convened the Cabi- 
net this morning at 9^ O'Clock, all the members 

^ Miss Mary Corse, daughter of Israel Corse of New York. 



76 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [g July 

present. The subject which I submitted for consid- 
eration was the conduct of Gen'l Scott & Mr. Tiist, 
and the angry personal controversy into which these 
two functionaries had allowed themselves to be en- 
gaged. Despatches from Gen'l Scott to the Secre- 
tary of War, and from Mr. Trist to the Secretary of 
State, received during my late tour to the Eastern 
States, were read. They exhibited a wretched state 
of things. So far from harmony prevailing between 
these two officers, they are engaged in a violent per- 
sonal correspondence. It does not as yet appear that 
they have [had] any personal interview, although 
Mr. Trist had been in Gen'l Scott's camp for many 
days. For a Statement of the cause of their dif- 
ference, see statements contained in this diary, & par- 
ticularly of the 1 2th & 15th of June. From the last 
despatches received it appears that the breach be- 
tween them had been widened instead of being 
healed. Gen'l Scott, it appears, had returned to Mr. 
Trist the letter from the Secretary of State addressed 
to the minister of Foreign affairs of Mexico which 
had been borne to him by Mr. Trist, and [which] 
he was ordered by the Secretary of War, in a despatch 
which accompanied [it], to convey to the Mexican 
Government. Mr. Trist committed a great error in 
receiving it from his Aid-de-Camp. Gen'l Scott has 
written very foolish & bitter letters to Mr. Trist & 
Mr. Trist has written as foolish a letter to him. Be- 
tween them the orders of the Secretary of War & 
the Secretary of State have been disregarded; and 
the danger has become imminent that because of the 
personal controversy between these self important 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY n 

personages, the golden moment for concluding a 
peace with Mexico may have passed. Gen'l Scott's 
last despatch \o the Secretary of War is full of pas- 
sion & vanity & is highly insubordinate. In view of 
the whole case & of the present critical condition of 
afifairs in Mexico, I submitted to the Cabinet for 
their advice whether they should not both be recalled. 
It is due to Mr. Trist to say that the first outrage 
was committed by Gen'l Scott, who provoked the 
controversy between them which distroys the useful- 
ness of both and is likely to defeat the conclusion of 
a peace. In regard to the recall of Gen'l Scott, I 
called on the Secretary of War for his opinion first. 
He condemned the conduct of Gen'l Scott in un- 
qualified terms, but, considering the present critical 
condition of the army, being now far in the enemy's 
country, & for other reasons which he assigned at 
length, he advised against his recal[l] at present, 
though he was of opinion that his conduct fully 
justified his recal[l]. Each of the other members of 
the Cabinet, being seperately asked for their advice, 
concurred with the Secretary of War in the opinion 
he had expressed. 

I then submitted the question as to the recal[l] of 
Mr. Trist. Mr. Buchanan was asked for his opin- 
ion first. He expressed his decided disapprobation 
of a part of Mr. Trist's correspondence with Gen'l 
Scott, but for similar reasons which had influenced 
him in Gen'l Scott's case he advised against his re- 
cal[l] for the present. Each of the other members 
of the Cabinet expressed opinions agreeing with that 
given by Mr. Buchanan. I then remarked that such 



78 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 July 

insubordination & unpatriotic conduct as that of 
Gen'l Scott, in my opinion would justify his im- 
mediate recai[l] and trial by a Court martial, and 
that I was prepared to take that course. I consid- 
ered the immediate prospect of a peace defeated by 
his extraordinary conduct, and [said] that 1 was pre- 
pared to take the responsibility of dealing with him. 
As the Cabinet, however, advised unanimously a dif- 
ferent course, I stated that I would for the present 
yield to their views and conform my action to them. 
I expressed my opinion also, that although Gen'l 
Scott had committed the first wrong, yet Mr. Trist 
had fallen into some gross errors in his correspond- 
ence with him, and that if it had been decided to 
recal[l] Gen'l Scott I thought the public good would 
make it proper to recal[l] Mr. Trist also. As Gen'l 
Scott was not to be recalled, for the present at least, 
I concurred with the Cabinet that Mr. Trist should 
remain for the present. I expressed the opinion that 
it might be proper to associate some distinguished 
citizen with Mr. Trist in his mission, & suggested 
the names of Mr. Soulee ^ of Louisiana, and Col. 
Jefiferson Davis of Mississippi, as persons qualified 
for such a mission. The names of others were also 
mentioned. The Subject was discussed for some time, 
but the suggestion being a new one a decision upon 
it was postponed. It was agreed unanimously that 
the Secretary of War should address a strong de- 
spatch to Gen'l Scott reviewing his conduct and 
strongly condemning it; and that Mr. Buchanan 

^Pierre Soule, native of France, 1 802-1 870, Senator from 
Louisiana 1847, and 1849-1853, minister to Spain 1853-1855. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 79 

should address a like despatch to Mr. Trist condemn- 
ing his conduct; and that both despatches should 
command them to cease their correspondence and 
personal controversy and to act in harmony, each in 
his respective sphere, in obeying the orders, and car- 
rying out the views of the Government. It appears 
from Gen'l Scott's last despatch that he has broken 
up the post at Jalappa, and left his rear unprotected. 
Unless, being upon the spot, he has military reasons 
of which I am not possessed for taking so hazardous 
a step, I cannot approve it. It strikes me that it 
is all-important for him to keep his rear open to 
Vera Cruz. His order closes all communication, 
unless it be by a very strong force, between his army 
and Vera Cruz, and between his army and the Gov- 
ernment. 

The Cabinet adjourned between 3 & 4 O'Clock 
P. M. I disposed of some small matters of busi- 
ness on my table. 

This was one of the regular evenings for receiving 
company. A number of persons, ladies & gentle- 
men, called. 

Saturday, lOth July, 1847. — As there was a 
Cabinet meeting on yesterday it was not deemed nec- 
essary to hold one to-day, this being the regular day 
for the me [e] ting of the Cabinet. I saw, in the 
course of the day, several of the members of the Cab- 
inet at different times and transacted business with 
them. I read to the Secretary of War two letters 
which had arrived in my absence, the one from Pay- 
master Reynolds, written at New Orleans, and the 



8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo July 

other from Maj'r Gen'l Pillow, written at Vera 
Cruz, both making statements of enormous abuses 
in the Quarter-master's & commissary's Department. 
The Secretary of War stated that [he had] often 
conversed with Gen'l Jesup on the subject of abuses 
in the Quarter-master's Department, & had done ev- 
ery thing in his power to have alleged abuses cor- 
rected. He suggested to me that it would have a 
good efTfect if I would send for Gen'l Jesup and Gen'l 
Gibson, and read them these letters and converse 
with them on the subject. I told him I would do 
so. I accordingly addressed a note to Gen'l Jesup 
& Gen'l Gibson, and they called between 7 & 8 
O'clock P. M. Gen'l Gibson called first and I had 
read to him a part of the letters before Gen'l Jesup 
came in. When Gen'l Jesup came I stated to him 
that I had received such letters from two officers, 
representing great abuses and frauds in his Depart- 
ment and in the commissar>^'s Dept., at New^ Orleans 
& Vera Cruz. I told him I had sent for him and 
Gen'l Gibson that I might read such parts of these 
letters as related to the subject to them, with a view 
to call their attention to the facts stated, that the 
proper corrective might be applied if it was found 
that such abuses and frauds existed. I opened one 
of the letters & was about to read, premising doing 
so by stating that they were from officers in whom 
I had confidence, and that it was unnecessary to give 
their names. Gen'l Jesup seemed to be excited and 
spoke very petulantly, and required the names, and 
seemed to be averse to hearing the letters without 
the names. I promptly replied in an emphatic and 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 8i 

Spirited tone that I was the judge of that, and that 
it was his duty, if the President of the U. S. gave 
him information of alleged abuses by the subordinate 
officers of his department, to take prompt steps to 
correct them. I told him that the names of my in- 
formants were not necessary to enable him to do this ; 
that if false information had been given to me and 
I as[c]ertained the fact to be so, I would judge of 
the propriety of arresting and trying officers who 
gave the information. I told him that I withheld 
the names because, if it was understood in the army 
that any officer who gave information to me in un- 
official letters of abuses which he had observed, was 
to have his name given up before an investigation 
could be had, that many officers who might not de- 
sire to become accusers, would with-hold the infor- 
mation. Such officers, too, might observe general 
abuses which ought to be known, in order to be cor- 
rected, but might not be able to adduce proof fixing 
the fault on any particular officer. If the names 
were given, moreover, they would be persecuted by 
those [who] perpetrated the abuses & frauds. I 
spoke in such a tone that Gen'l Jesup said he was 
satisfied. I read the letters and had a full conversa- 
tion with Gen'l Jesup & Gen'l Gibson in relation to 
the management by their subordinates of their re- 
spective Departments. I told them that I had not 
sent for them to find fault with the conduct of either 
of them, but to place them in possession of com- 
plaints which had reached me against the careless 
and wasteful, if not corrupt conduct, in the conduct 
of some of their subordinates. I told them that I 



82 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [u July 

desired them to exercise vigilance, & prevent, as far 
as it was practicable, the perpetration of such abuses 
as were alleged. They retired, & I hope my in- 
terview w^ith them may do some good. 

In the course of the day I saw several persons who 
called, and attended to the business on my table. 

Sunday, nth July, 184^. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day in company with the 
w^fe of my brother, Wm. H. Polk, who is spending 
some days at the Presidential mansion with her hus- 
band. They were married in N. York on the 29th 
ultimo. 

Monday, 12th July, 1847. — I was occupied to- 
day in attending to the business on my table. I saw 
several of the members of the Cabinet and other pub- 
lic officers, & transacted public business with them. 
The Secretary of State & the Secretary of War called 
together and read to me despatches which the former 
had prepared to Mr. Trist and the latter to Gen'l 
Scott, in pursuance of the resolve of the Cabinet on 
friday, the 9th Instant (see this diary of that day). 
I approved these despatches. 

The Secretary of War laid before me despatches 
which he had received from Gen'l Taylor at Mon- 
terey, of as late date as the i6th of June. In one 
of these despatches Gen'l Taylor repeats the opinion 
which he had previously expressed that he could not 
march with his present force on San Louis Potosi, and 
advises that he shall not attempt it, but occupy a de- 
fensive line. He states further that he will encamp 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 83 

the forces not required to maintain his present posi- 
tion at the town of Muir [?], and intimates that a 
part of his forces may be spared to re-inforce Gen'l 
Scott's column. I informed the Secretary of War 
that I approved this suggestion, and that I thought 
an order should be given to Gen'l Taylor to send all 
the forces which he did not require to maintain his 
present position to Gen'l Scott's column. No posi- 
tive direction was given, but I will bring the subject 
before the Cabinet on to-morrow. I saw many visit- 
ors to-day, office seekers & others. 

I gave a small dinner-party to my brother & his 
wife to-day. Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Marcy & his wife, 
Mr. Mason & his wife, Mr. Daniel Graham & his 
wife. Senator Downes of Louisiana & two young la- 
dies who were with him (Miss Barrett & Miss Mc- 
Caleb) Judge Woodworth of N. Y., & Mr. Arnold 
Harris of Arkansas, were of the party. 

The weather is extremely warm, & after dinner I 
transacted but little business. 

Tuesday, 13th July, 184'/. — The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour to-day, all the members present. 
The Secretary of War read a despatch which he had 
prepared to Gen'l Scott, in pursuance of the decision 
of the Cabinet at a special meeting on friday last. 
The Secretary of State also read a despatch which 
he had prepared to Mr. Trist, now with the Head 
Quarters of Gen'l Scott. This was also prepared in 
pursuance of the decision of the Cabinet at its special 
meeting on friday last (see this diary of that day). 
Both despatches were fully discussed, and modified 



84 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 July 

in some particulars, not very important. Othier mat- 
ters connected with Mexico & the prosecution of the 
War were considered. Gen'l Scott has undoubtedly 
committed a great military error by breaking up the 
post at Jalapa & leaving his whole rear exposed to 
the enemy. Our latest accounts are that Gen'l Cad- 
wallader was marching with a reinforcement of 
some 1,500 or 1,800 men, and that Gen'l Pillow was 
marching some days in Gen'l Cadwallader's rear 
with a force of 1800 or 2000 men, both from Vera 
Cruz, to Gen'l Scott at Puebla, and that both had 
been several times attacked by large guerrilla parties 
& were fighting their way through them. The guer- 
rillas were undoubtedly encouraged to make these 
attacks by the fact, which was known to them, that 
Gen'l Scott had left his rear unprotected. 

The Secretary of War read a despatch from Gen'l 
Taylor of the i6th of June, in which he represents 
the impracticability of his making a forward move- 
ment upon San Louis Potosi, and recommends that 
he should occupy a defensive line and send all the 
troops destined for his immediate command to Gen'l 
Scott's column. In these views of Gen'l Taylor in 
this respect I fully concurred, as did the Secretary, 
and the Secretary of War was directed to prepare a 
despatch to Gen'l Taylor directing him to send to 
Gen'l Scott's column all the troops which he did not 
require to [maintain] the defensive line which he 
proposed to hold. Col. Lewis D. Wilson ^ of N. 
Carolina, who is the Colonel Commandant of one of 

^ Louis D. Wilson, Colonel of the Twelfth Infantry, died 
August 12, 1847. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 85 

the 10 Regiments raised in pursuance of the act of 
Congress of February last, called to-day. He had 
returned from Mexico a few days ago, and was now 
on his return. Being engaged when he called, I 
requested him to call again in the evening. He did 
so about 8 O'clock P. M. The Secretary of War 
was present. I had a full conversation with him in 
reference to the present state of things in Mexico, 
and communicated to him confidentially the facts, 
as far as they are known, of the unfortunate contro- 
versy between Gen'l Scott and Mr. Trist. I deemed 
it proper to do this in the hope that when he arrived 
at the Head Quarters of Gen'l Scott he might be 
enabled to interpose between them & induce them to 
act in harmony, with a view to the conclusion of an 
honourable peace. I expressed to him my convic- 
tion that this unjustifiable and foolish conduct of 
Scott in the first place, and the error of Trist in the 
second place, in his foolish correspondence with him, 
had been the cause of suffering the propitious mo- 
ment for making a peace to pass. 

Before I concluded the conversation with Col. 
Wilson I was called to the parlour to see company, 
this being my regular evening for seeing company. 
After the company dispersed Col. Wilson returned 
to my office & I finished the conversation with him. 
Col. Wilson will leave here on to-morrow morning, 
& will be the bearer of the despatch of the Secretary 
of War to Gen'l Scott, and of the Secretary of State 
to Mr. Trist. He will proceed with the least pos- 
sible delay to Vera Cruz. 

Quite a number of persons, ladies and gentle- 



86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 July 

men, called this evening & I received them in the 
parlour. 

Wednesday, 14th July, 1847. — Col. Wilson of 
N. C. left for Vera Cruz this morning, bearing with 
him the despatches from the Secretary of War to 
Gen'l Scott and from' the Secretary of State to Mr. 
Triste (see this diary of yesterday). I transacted 
business in my ofBce until 11 3/2 O'Clock A.M., 
when, accompanied by the Atto. Gen'l, I attended 
the annual commencement of the Columbian college 
in this City. I returned about 3 O'Clock P. M. and 
found many persons in waiting for me. They were 
chiefly office-seekers. None of them had any busi- 
ness of importance. In the course of the day I 
had official interviews with the Secretaries of State, 
War, and the Navy on official business relating to 
their respective Departments. Late in the day the 
Secretary of War sent to me the draft of a despatch 
to Gen'l Taylor, prepared in pursuance of my direc- 
tions on yesterday. I read it hastily, but postponed 
a more careful examination of it until to-morrow. 
At 8 O'clock P. M. Gen'l Jesup called, & I had a 
conversation with [him] in relation to the business 
of his Department, and in reference to the matters 
which I had brought to his notice on Saturday even- 
ing last (see this diary of that day). He was in a 
pleasant humour and seemed to be desirous to cor- 
rect alleged abuses and, so far as his duties were con- 
cerned, to promote the public interests. 

Thursday, ISth July, 184J. — I was engaged 
this morning in transacting various matters of busi- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 87 

ness which was [were] on my table, and with sev- 
eral of my Secretaries & other officers of Govern- 
ment. At 12 O'clock M. I received Mr. Bodisco, 
the Russian Minister, who called on an official visit, 
in the parlour below stairs. He delivered to me an 
official letter from the Emperor, his sovereign, an- 
nouncing the important event of the birth of a grand- 
child. This ceremony which has been often re- 
peated since I have been President by the Repre- 
sentatives of Foreign [governments] is to a plain 
American citizen a most ridicilous one. I said to 
Mr. Bodisco jocosely that I was sorry I could not 
reciprocate the civility by making a similar an- 
nouncement on my part. When Mr. Pakenham, the 
Brittish Minister, announced to me some months ago 
that Victoria, his sovereign, had given birth to an- 
other child, I congratulated him upon the fact that 
there was no likelyhood of a failure in the direct line 
of a successor to the Throne. He replied humour- 
ously, " Oh ! No Sir ; I have made a similar announce- 
ment to this Government every year since Her 
Majesty has been married." I have of course to 
sign a stereotyped answer to all such communica- 
tions. Had I not found such to be the settled 
practice I never would have signed or sent such 
answers. 

Col. Anthony Butler, former Minister of the U. 
States to Mexico, called at 12^ O'Clock and held a 
long conversation with me about Mexican afifairs, 
and with a view to obtain from the Government com- 
pensation for certain information which he had ob- 
tained about a passage from the Gulf of Mexico to 



88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 July 

the Pacific through the Istmus of Tehuantepec. 
[T]he conversation was of no sort of interest to any 
one but himself. He occupied my time, however, 
for an hour or more. It is not the first time I have 
been thus annoyed. He called on yesterday, and in- 
sisted that I should appoint a time when he could 
have a private interview with me, and I granted his 
request under the impression that he wished to see 
me on some matter of great public importance. I 
revised with the Secretary of War the draft of his 
letter to Gen'l Taylor, the rough draft of which he 
sent me on yesterday. Some slight modifications in 
it were suggested and made. 

I received a letter this evening from Maj'r Gen'l 
Pillow of the U. S. army, dated at Jalapa on the 28th 
of June. He was on his march from Vera Cruz to 
join Gen'l Scott with re-inforcements at Puebla. He 
disapproves Gen'l Scott's order breaking up the post 
at Jalapa & leaving his rear unprotected ; and recom- 
mends that additional re-inforcements be speedily 
sent to the army. 

After night Mr. Buchanan called and informed 
me that he had received by this evening's mail a de- 
spatch from Mr. Trist. 

The Adj. [General] in pursuance of my direction 
furnished me to-day a statement of the amt. of force 
which had arrived at Vera Cruz & were in Gen'l 
Scott's column up to the date of the latest returns re- 
ceived at his ofBce. They amounted to over 17,000 
men. Other forces have been ordered to that column 
& are en route, besides the re-inforcements which will 
soon join him from Gen'l Taylor's column. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 89 

Friday, lOth July, 184J. — I sent for the Secre- 
tary of War this morning and conferred with him 
upon the necessity of speedily re-inforcing Gen'l 
Scott's column, and especially of opening his com- 
munication with Vera Cruz. With this view I sug- 
gested that the mounted Regiment from Texas under 
the command of Col. John C. Hays, who has a high 
character as an officer, be ordered to proceed with- 
out delay to Vera Cruz to co-operate with other 
troops in dispersing the bands of guerrillas who in- 
fest the road from Vera Cruz in Gen'l Scott's rear. 
He concurred in the suggestion, and in the course 
of the day sent to me the draft of a letter to Col. 
Hays to that effect. I suggested one or two modi- 
fications & returned [it]. I conferred very fully 
also with the Secretary of War in relation to many 
other details of military operations, all looking to 
the speedy strengthening of Gen'l Scott's column & 
opening his communication with his rear, which I 
cannot but think he acted very unwisely in closing. 

I sent to Mr. Buchanan for the despatch which he 
had informed [me] last evening he had received 
from Mr. Trist. It conveyed very important in- 
formation. Gen'l Scott & himself up to its date 
(13th of June) had held no personal intercourse. 
Mr. Trist had written to the Brittish Minister in 
Mexico, informing him that he was with the Head 
Quarters of the army and that he w^as invested with 
full Diplomatic Powers to negotiate for peace, & en- 
quiring of that Minister if he would be the medium 
of delivering the despatch from Mr. Buchanan ad- 
dressed to the minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, 



90 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 July 

if it was forwarded to him. The Brittish minister 
without the least delay sent Mr. Thornton, his Sec- 
retary of Legation, to Puebla, where Mr. Trist was, 
who took the despatch and returned with it to Mex- 
ico. This was the same despatch which Gen'l Scott 
was ordered by the Secretary of War to convey to 
the Mexican Government, but who after having re- 
tained it several days after it had been conveyed to 
him with the Secretary's order by Mr. Trist, had 
failed to do so & returned it to Mr. Trist. Mr. 
Trist learned from Mr. Thornton that had it been 
delivered at the time Gen'l. Scott first received it, 
which was shortly after the battle of Cerro Gordo, 
there was but little doubt that peace would have been 
made. The protraction of the war may properly be 
attributed to the folly & ridiculous vanity of Gen'l 
Scott. He deserves to be recalled & tried for his dis- 
obedience of orders in refusing to forward the de- 
spatch by the first opportunity after he received it. 
Upon this point I have yielded my own opinion to the 
unanimous opinion of my Cabinet, at least for the 
present (see this diary of the 9th Instant). 

I saw company at i O'Clock to-day. A large 
number attended. I transacted much business in 
the afternoon. 

This was reception evening. A considerable num- 
ber of ladies and gentlemen attended. 

Saturday, lyth July, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour this morning, all the members pres- 
ent. An hour or more was taken up in considering 
measures relating to the war, and to the orders which 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 91 

had been issued within the last three days for with- 
drawing a part of Gen'l Taylor's forces & strength- 
ening Scott's column. I am devoting all my time & 
energies to these matters, & am examining all the de- 
tails of everything that is done, as far as it [is] pos- 
sible for me to do so. The Secretary of War is al- 
most overwhelmed with his labours, seems to be care- 
worn, and is almost broken down with his great 
labours. 

The Cabinet concurred in what had been done 
since the last meeting by the Secretary of War with 
my concurrence. 

Mr. Buchanan read the despatch of Mr. Trist of 
the 13th of June, which I had examined on yester- 
day. The Cabinet were all of opinion that the 
golden moment for effecting a peace may have been 
lost by the failure of Gen'l Scott to forward the de- 
spatch of the Secretary of State to the Mexican Gov- 
ernment, which had been borne to him by Mr. Trist 
and which he was ordered to forward by the Secre- 
tary of War as soon as it came into his possession 
(see this diary of the 9th & i6th Instant). 

Some other matters connected with our Foreign 
relations, and particularly a difficulty which had 
arisen between the French consul in California & 
Li[eu]t. Col. Fremont, were brought forward by 
Mr. Buchanan & considered. 

After the Cabinet adjourned, I transacted busi- 
ness as usual. 

At 6 O'clock this morning my brother, William 
H. Polk, and his wife, who have been in my family 
for several days, left for New York. 



92 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 July 

There was music as usual on the President's 
grounds this afternoon, after which Mrs. Madison, 
Miss Payne, Mr. Buchanan, Judge Mason, Mr. 
Cave Johnson, & his wife, took tea with my family. 

Sunday, l8th July, 184-/.— I attended the Meth- 
odist Church (The Rev'd Mr. Slicer's) to-day. I 
was accompanied by Daniel Graham, Esqr., of Ten- 
nessee, now Register of the Treasury. It was 
a Quarterly meeting of the church. Mr. Slicer did 
not preach. The Presiding Elder, whose name I 
did not learn, preached a good sermon from the text 
found in the 3rd verse of the 63rd Psalm. 

The Secretary [of War] called to-night with a 
despatch which he received by this evening's mail 
from Mr. Dimond at Vera Cruz, transmitting a 
printed copy in Spanish of Mr. Buchanan's despatch 
of the 15th of April last to the Minister of Foreign 
affairs of Mexico, which was taken out by Mr. Trist 
and which Gen'l Scott has refused to forward as he 
has been ordered by the Secretary of War to do (see 
this diary). Gen'l Scott's course is deeply to be de- 
plored as the delay in transmitting that despatch 
may defeat a peace. 

Monday, igth July, 1847,— I sent for Mr. Bu- 
chanan this morning, and after consultation with 
him it was concluded to publish a copy of his de- 
spatch to the Mexican Government of the 15th of 
April, as it appears from a despatch received by the 
Secretary of War by last night's mail that it has been 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 93 

published in Spanish in Mexico (see this diary of 
yesterday). 

The Secretary of War called and read to me a 
despatch which he had prepared to Gen'l Scott in 
pursuance of a previous consultation with me, which 
I approved. 1 transacted other business with the 
Secretaries of State, War, and the Navy to-day. 

I disposed of much business of an unimportant 
character which had accumulated on my table. At 
I O'clock P. M. I opened my oflice for the recep- 
tion of company. Many persons called, but none of 
them had any business of importance. Col. John 
D. Hawkins of N. C. happening to call near my 
Dinner Hour, I invited him to take a family Din- 
ner with me and he did so. Judge Mason, who was 
in my office when dinner was announced, also dined 
with me. 

By this evening's mail the Secretary of the Navy 
received despatches of the 4th Instant from Com- 
modore Perry, who was at Vera Cruz, which I read. 

Tuesday, 20th July, 184J. — I disposed of much 
business of detail which was on my table this morn- 
ing. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the 
members present. 

Mr. Buchanan read despatches which he had re- 
ceived from [the] U. S. ministers to Denmark & 
Constantinople, and a private letter from the U. S. 
Minister to Prussia. They were not important. 
Some other subjects, chiefly relating to the War with 
Mexico, were considered. There being nothing 



94 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 July 

very important presented for consideration to-day, 
the Cabinet held a shorter session than usual. They 
adjourned between i & 2 O'Clock P. M. 

This being reception evening a number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 21st July, 1847.— Th\^ morning 
was occupied as usual in attending to the business of 
my office. I conferred severally with the Secretaries 
of State, War, and the Navy, and transacted business 
with them. At i O'Clock P. M. I opened my office 
for the reception of company. A number of per- 
sons called, but they had no more important business 
than to seek office. As I had no offices to fill, I de- 
spatched [them] very summarily. In the afternoon 
I continued to dispose of various matters of business 
in my office, but nothing of much importance was at- 
tended to. 

Mr. Whitaker of N. C, a bearer of despatches to 
Gen'l Taylor, left this morning for his Head Quar- 
ters. 

Thursday, 22nd July, /c?^/.— Nothing of in- 
terest transpired to-day. I attended as usual to vari- 
ous matters of business with some of my sec[r]e- 
taries and other public officers. Despatches were 
received by last evening's mail from Gen'l Kearney 
in California and from Commodore Shuberick ^ 
and Commodore Biddle in the Pacific, from which 
it appears that the unfortunate collision between the 

^ William B. Shubrick, on duty with the Pacific Squadron in 
1847. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 95 

officers of the army and Navy in that distant region, 
in regard to their respective rank, had been adjusted, 
& that they were acting in harmony. I opened my 
office at I O'clock P. M. when a number of persons 
called. None of them had any business of impor- 
tance. I disposed of several matters of business on 
my table in the course of the day. 

Mr. Lisboa, the Envoy Extraordinary and Minis- 
ter Plenipotentiary from Brazil, called at 12 O'Clock 
and presented a letter from the Emperor of Brazil, 
his sovereign, recalling him from his Mission. The 
cause of the recall of Mr. Lisboa he did not state, 
but I understand it to be in consequence of the ad- 
justment made by Mr. Lisboa with Mr. Buchanan 
last winter in relation to the imprisonment by the 
authorities of Brazil of Lieut. Davis and three sail- 
ors of the U. S. Navy at Rio in November last. 
In answer to Mr. Lisboa's speech which expressed 
his kind feelings for the Government & people of 
the U. S., & his gratitude for the manner in which 
he had been received & treated during his residence 
here, I expressed to him my regret at his recall, and 
assured him of the good feeling of the Government 
& people of the U. S. towards him. I informed him 
that in answer to the Emperor's Letter which he had 
just delivered to me I would take pleasure in ex- 
pressing these opinions. He appeared to be much 
affected & deeply grateful to me for the expression 
of these sentiments. 

The Secretary of the Treasury (Hon. Rob't J. 
Walker) left Washington this m_orning with the in- 
tention of spending a few days on the sea-shore for 



96 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2^ July 

the benefit of his health, which has been for some 
time very feeble. Intending to attend to some pub- 
lic business during his absence, he took two clerks 
of his Department with him. 

Friday, 2jrd July, 184J. — The Secretary of the 
Navy called at an early hour this morning and read 
to me despatches which he had received from Com- 
modores Biddle, Shubrick, & Stockton in the Pacific. 
They related to affairs on the West coast, and partic- 
ularly in California. I read to him a despatch re- 
ceived by the War Department from Gen'l Kearney, 
commander of the land-forces in California. 

At I O'clock P. M. my office was opened as 
usual for the reception of company. Quite a num- 
ber of persons called; almost the whole of them were 
seeking office. As there w^ere no vacancies to fill I 
disposed of them quite summarily. I disposed of 
several matters of business on my table. 

This was reception evening. A few persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

The Secretary of War, I learn. Is confined to his 
house by indisposition to-day. 

Saturday, 24th July, 184/.— My brother, Wil- 
liam H. Polk, reached Washington from New York 
in this morning's train of cars, and took up his 
quarters at the Presidential Mansion. He left his 
w^fe with her friends in N. York and is on his way 
to visit his relations in Tennessee. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of the Treasury, 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 97 

who is absent from the City for the benefit of his 
health, and the Secretary of War, who is confined 
to his house by indisposition. Some matters of 
minor importance were considered and disposed of. 
One incident occurred in the Cabinet which I will 
note. It was this. — I called Mr. Buchanan's atten- 
tion to a letter which had been prepared at the De- 
partment of State and sent to me for my signature, 
addressed to the Emperor of Brazil, in answer to 
the Emperor's letter notifying me of the recall of 
Mr. Lisboa as Envoy Extraordinary & Minister 
Plenipotentiary to the U. S. (see this diary of the 
22nd Instant). To one part of it I took exceptions 
& remarked that I thought it was unusual in similar 
cases and improper. It was that part of the letter 
which informed the Emperor that he might place 
full credence in whatever Mr. Lisboa might say to 
him in my behalf. I told Mr. Buchanan that this 
w^as usual in a letter of credence given to our own 
Ministers who went abroad, but that I was not aware 
that it had ever been done with a Foreign Minister 
on his return to his own country. I told Mr. Bu- 
chanan that that part of the letter which expressed 
my satisfaction with Mr. Lisboa's conduct as the rep- 
resentative of his Sovereign near this Government, 
and that part of it which expressed my respect for the 
Emperor & my desire that the most amicable rela- 
tions should exist between the Governments of 
Brazil & the U. S. should continue, was proper; but 
that I objected to that part of it which informed the 
Emperor that he should give full credence to what- 
ever Mr. Lisboa might say to him on my part. Mr. 



98 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 July 

Buchanan replied that the part of the letter which 
I objected to was the usual form of such letters in 
such cases, that it was indeed the Stereotype form, 
from which Mr. Hunter, one of his clerks, had pre- 
pared it for my signature. I repeated that such was 
not my recollection, and that if it was so it was 
wrong. He insisted that he was right. I then 
jocosely said to him, I will stand you a basket of 
champaign that this letter is not in the usual form as 
you insist, and that the precedents in the State De- 
partment will not sustain it. He promptly said, 
Done, I take you up, and rising in a fine humour, 
said, now I will go over to the Department & bring 
the precedents. I replied, very well. He left my 
office and after some time returned with a bound 
letter book, remarking as he entered the office, I 
think I have got you. He said, now I will read you 
a letter from Gen'l Jackson to the King of the 
French. When the letter was read it did not sus- 
tain Mr. Buchanan, and had no such paragraph in 
it. Mr. Buchanan admitted that they were not sim- 
ilar. He searched the letter book for sometime and 
could find no such precedent. He seemed to be con- 
founded & disappointed & said, Well, if I don't find 
such a precedent to-day, I will send you the basket 
of champaign. I smiled and told him I would not 
accept it, and that I had been jesting when I pro- 
posed [it], and had done so only to express in an 
earnest manner my conviction that I was right. But, 
he said, if I had won it I would have made you pay 
it, & I will pay it to you. I repeated that I would 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 99 

not accept it. I record this incident for the pur- 
pose of showing how necessary it is for me to give 
my vigilent attention even to the forms & details of 
my [subordinates'] duties. The truth of the matter 
is that Mr. Buchanan had trusted the preperation 
of the letter to his clerk, in whom he had confidence, 
and concluded that it was, of course, in the usual 
form. The Clerk no doubt made the mistake be- 
cause Mr. Buchanan [said] that I desired in my let- 
ter to the Emperor to express my satisfaction with 
Mr. Lisboa's conduct as minister of Brazil since I 
had been President. The members of the Cabinet 
laughed heartily at this incident. Mr. Buchanan, 
after the Cabinet adjourned, took the draft of the 
letter back to the Department and had another pre- 
pared omitting the exceptionable paragraph, and 
sent it to me and I signed it. 

I disposed of some unimportant business after the 
Cabinet adjourned. 

Sunday, 2Sth July, 184J. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day and was accompanied 
by Mrs. J. Knox Walker and her little daughter 
and by Mrs. Daniel Graham. The clergyman who 
preached was a very young man. His name was 
Dashield. He is, I understand, the son of a clergy- 
man of that name who had a congregation for some 
time at Franklin, Tennessee, and who now has a con- 
gregation at Shelbyville, Tennessee. I knew the 
father when he resided at Franklin. The son, I un- 
derstand, has just finished his course at one of the 



100 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 July 

Theological Seminaries at the North, and has just ob- 
tained orders to preach. His sermon to-day was a 
fair one for a man of his age. 

MOx\DAY, 26th July, 184J. — Nothing of much 
importance transpired to-day. Before 10 O'Clock 
A. M. I was called upon to know what decision I 
had made on the application of a man named 
Krouse[?] of D. C, convicted of an assault with in- 
tent to kill, for a pardon. On the papers before 
me, I had on Saturday night declined for the pres- 
ent to grant the pardon, and so endorsed on the 
papers. The Mayor of Georgetown called about 12 
O^'Clock, and made an earnest appeal to me to inter- 
pose. I still declined, thought [though] not with- 
out some doubts. The Mayor (Mr. Addison) left 
me & in the course of one or two hours returned 
with a note from Judge Crawford, who had tried the 
case, somewhat modifying the views expressed in a 
letter addressed to me on Saturday last. I then re- 
quested him to go and request Judge Crawford and 
Mr. Key, the U. S. Attorney, to call on me. They 
did so, & I held a personal conversation with them, 
the result of which was a change, in my decision on 
the case made on Saturday, & I granted the pardon. 
I have endorsed on the papers the reasons for the 
action which I finally took. I note this case, among 
the hundreds of applications for pardons which are 
presented to me, because I became satisfied upon a 
personal conference with the Judge & U. S. Attor- 
ney, and with the Mayor [of] Georgetown, that the 
ends of the law had been vindicated in this case, and 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY loi 

being satisfied of this I did not hesitate to change my 
first decision & grant the pardon. 

I opened my office for the reception of company at 
I O'clock P. M. to-day. An unusual number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called; and, what is not 
usual, most of them had no business but to pay their 
respects to me. A few of them wished to obtain 
office. The Secretaries of State and of the Navy 
called in the course of the day on business. I dis- 
posed of the business on my table, but none of it was 
of such importance as to require special notice. 

Tuesday, 2yth July, 1847. — My brother, Wil- 
liam H. Polk, left this morning on a visit to his 
mother and other relations in Tennessee. He left 
his wife with her relations in New York a few days 
ago. 

This was the regular day for the meeting of the 
Cabinet. All the members attended at the usual 
hour except the Secretary of the Treasury, who is 
absent from Washington for the benefit of his health, 
and the Secretary of War, who has been confined to 
his house for several days by indisposition. As soon 
as the Cabinet assembled I informed them that I 
had nothing of importance to lay before them to- 
day, & enquired of them if either of them had any- 
thing requiring attention to submit. Each answered 
that he had not. I then informed them that I had 
accepted an invitation to attend the annual com- 
mencement of Georgetown College, D. C, to-day, if 
my public duties would permit, & that I would leave 
them in my office, unless they would accompany me. 



102 JAMES K, POLK'S DIARY [28 July 

They all declined except the Secretary of the Navy, 
who did accompany me. The exercises at the Col- 
lege were quite interesting. The young gentlemen 
who delivered speeches acquitted themselves well. 
Mr. Semmes, an alumnus of the college, delivered an 
able address. At the request of the President of the 
College I took a seat with him on the elevated plat- 
form after the speaking had closed, and delivered 
the Diplomas to the graduating class, and the medals 
& premiums to those who had distinguished them- 
selves in their respective classes. I returned about 
3>^ O'clock P. M. The Hon. John Blair & Mr. 
Boyce of Tennessee dined with me to-day. 

This was reception evening. A number of ladies 
& gentlemen called. 

Wednesday, 28th July, i84J.— ^\\^ Summer 
Session of the Georgetown College closed its Ses- 
sion on yesterday, and DeWitt Clinton Yell, the son 
of the gallant Col. Yell of Arkansas, who fell at the 
battle of Buena Vista, came from the college where 
his father had placed him and remained at the Presi- 
dential mansion last night. He left this morning to 
visit his relations in the West, and would proceed 
directly to his Uncle, Gen'l. William Moore's, of 
Lincoln County, Tennessee. I gave him $50 to bear 
his expenses, and wrote a letter to Gen'l Moore (see 
my letter Book). 

I transacted business with several of my Secre- 
taries & other public officers to-day, and also dis- 
posed of several matters of business on my table; 
but nothing of much importance occurred. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 103 

The Secretary of War called at my office to-day 
for the first time in several days, having been de- 
tained at his home by indisposition. 

Thursday, 2gth July, 184^. — I transacted busi- 
ness as usual in my office this morning. Between 1 1 & 
12 O'clock the Secretary of the Navy called on busi- 
ness, and shortly afterwards the Post master Gen- 
eral & the Secretary of War, the latter having been 
indisposed for several days past. The subject of a 
publication of a letter of the Rev. Wm. McCalla in 
the newspapers, relating to the employment of two 
Catholic Priests to attend the army, was one of con- 
versation. The letter of Mr. McCalla contains a 
positive and absolute falsehood, to wit, that in con- 
versation with him I had informed him that I had 
sent them to the army nominally as chaplains, but 
really as spies. It was stated that the letter Vs^as at- 
tracting much public attention, would likely produce 
some excitement, and the question was whether the 
falsehood should not be contradicted in the news- 
papers. Upon this point there was doubt. The 
Statement made by Mr. McCalla I knew to be false, 
but whether the President of the U. S. could with 
propriety enter into a controversy with him upon a 
point necessarily involving a question of veracity, 
was very questionable. I sent for the Secretary of 
State, who thought no notice should be taken of it, 
but if there was, it should be a very positive but 
short denial of his statement by the Editors of the 
Union. The matter was finally left open & unde- 
cided. The conduct of Mr. McCalla in this matter 



104 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 July 

is of the basest character. He called on me some 
time ago and applied to me to appoint him a chap- 
lain in the army. I had not before known him, & 
treated him, as I do all persons who call on me, cour- 
teously. I told him I could not gratify his wishes. 
He wished to know why I had appointed two Cath- 
olic clergymen to attend the army in the character 
of Chaplains. I told him that by law I had no 
power to appoint & commission chaplains, but that 
there were always many employes in an army, such 
as teamsters, labourers, bearers of despatches, couri- 
ers to bear & bring back information, &C. I in- 
formed him that early after the war with Mexico 
broke out, great efforts had been made to impress 
the mexicans with the belief that our object was to 
destroy their churches & make war upon their re- 
ligion; that if this false impression should prevail 
generally among the mexicans, it would make the 
war one of ferocity & fanaticism. I told him that 
for the purpose of satisfying the mexican people 
that such was no part of the object of the War, it 
was deemed prudent to employ these Catholic 
Priests, who professed the same religion with the 
mexicans, to accompany the army, that they might 
disabuse their minds on this subject, & thereby not 
only mitigate the horrors of the war, but facilitate 
peace. Mr. McCalla manifested in the conversa- 
tion much excitement, & a spirit of persecution and 
religious fanaticism against the Catholics. Indeed 
he seemed occasionally to speak like a deranged man 
on the subject. He left my office, having failed to 
get the office which he called to seek, and after the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY los 

lapse of several weeks had the baseness to state this 
falsehood, in answer to a letter of P. A. Brown/ a 
leading Native American of Phila., & his letter is 
published in the newspapers. I cannot adequately 
express the horror I feel for a man who can be so 
base as to veil his hypocrasy under the cloak of re- 
ligion, and state the base falsehood he has done. If 
I were a private citizen I should have no hesitation 
in exposing him to the world, but it is doubted 
whether, as President of the U. S., I should descend 
from my station to notice him at all. His object is 
to produce a religious controversy in the country. 
He is a Whig & a religious fanatic, and from 
his publication it is clear to my mind that he is un- 
principled. 

I transacted business with other public officers & 
disposed of business on my table, but nothing worthy 
of special notice occurred. 

The Hon. Mr. Hopkins,^ Charge d' affaires of the 
U. S. to Portugal, called this evening, and spent an 
hour or two with me. He is on his way to Portugal 
to enter upon the duties of his mission. 

Friday, 30th July, 184J. — A telegraphic de- 
spatch was received about 8 O'Clock this morning 
from Richmond, Va., communicating later intelli- 
gence from the army, which if true is of great im- 
portance. It is to the efifect that Gen'l Pierce had 
had an engagement with the enemy in considerable 
force at the National Bridge, and had routed them; 

^ Peter A. Browne of Philadelphia. 
^ George W. Hopkins of Virginia. 



106 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 July 

and that Gen'l Pillow had had an engagement with 
the enemy at a pass in the mountains beyond Jalapa, 
and had routed them, and had overtaken & joined 
Gen'l Cadwallader's command at Perote, and that 
the Mexican Government had appointed three com- 
missioners to meet & treat with Mr. Trist at a place 
8 leagues beyond Puebla. The telegraphic despatch 
also communicated the intelligence of an engage- 
ment of a body of our forces under Col. Derussy, 
who had formed a part of the garrison at Tampico, 
with a vastly superior number of the enemy, the re- 
sult of which was that Col. Derussy lost 30 men 
killed & wounded & that the enemy lost 270 men 
killed & wounded, and the enemy fled to the chap- 
perel. 

The mail of to-night brings despatches from Vera 
Cruz of no later date than the 13th Inst. They in 
part confirm the telegraphic news. Other portions 
of this news were brought by the vessel which left 
Vera Cruz two or three days later. The news may 
be, and probably is, substantially true, but it rests 
mainly on the unauthenticated rumours which had 
reached Vera Cruz. All communication between 
Vera Cruz and Gen'l Scott's army had been cut ofif, 
except by strong bodies of troops. 

Saturday, 31st July, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day; all the members present, 
except the Secretary of the Treasury, who is absent 
from the City for the benefit [of his health]. No 
very important subject of public policy was consid- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 107 

ered. Several questions of some importance, chiefly 
connected with our military operations in Mexico & 
the prosecution of the war, were considered and dis- 
posed of. One of these related to the relative rank 
of Volunteer officers in the service of the U. S. 
Gen'l Scott had decided in the case of the Palmetto 
S. C. Regiment, that they should take precedence 
of rank according to the priority of their being mus- 
tered into the service of the U. S. The com- 
mander ^ of the PalmiCtto Regiment insisted that 
Volunteer officers should take rank according to the 
date of their respective commissions from the States. 
The question was attended with its embarrassments 
& difficulties. After some discussion, there was 
some division of opinion in the Cabinet, but it was 
finally deemed to be inexpedient to disturb Gen'l 
Scott's decision for the present at least, he (Gen'l 
Scott) having organized the Volunteer forces under 
his command according to the decision which he had 
made, & the army was now acting under it. 

Others questions, chiefly relating to details, were 
considered and disposed of. 

I disposed of several matters of business on my 
table in the course of the day. 

The Southern mail of this evening brought no 
further news from the seat of War, except something 
of details in relation to the vague & unsatisfactory 
news of yesterday. 

Sunday, Ist August, 184^. — I was somewhat in- 
' Pierce M. Butler, killed at Cherubusco August 20, 1847. 



io8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Aug. 

disposed to-day and did not attend church as is my 
usual habit. I rested and remained quiet through 
the day, seeing no company. I had taken some cold 
& was, moreover, wearied by my unceasing labours 
& responsible duties in my office. 

Monday, 2nd August, 184J. — Monday is usually 
a busy day with me, and to-day has been so. During 
the morning & before my usual hour for receiving 
company, several persons who wished to see me sent 
in their names & I could not refuse to see them. I 
saw the Secretaries of State, War, & Navy & the Post 
Master Gen'l, & transacted business with them. I 
also disposed of several matters of business on my 
table. At i O'Clock P. M. I opened my office for 
the reception of company. An unusual number of 
persons called, most of them to pay their respects, but 
some as usual seeking office. Nothing of much in- 
terest transpired to-day. 

Tuesday, ^rd August, 184J. — I was in my office 
as usual at an early hour this morning. The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour; all the members present except 
the Secretary of the Treasury, who is absent from the 
City for the benefit of his health ; and the Post Master 
General, who left the City this morning on a visit to 
Old Point Comfort for the benefit of his health. No 
subject of general importance engaged the attention 
of the Cabinet. Upon conferrence with the Secre- 
tary of War, I made several military appointments to 
fill vacancies which had occurred. Several other 
matters of minor importance were disposed of. At 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 109 

6 O'clock P. M. I took a ride with Judge Mason in 
his buggy. 

At 8 O'clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan called & re- 
ported to me an interview which Mr. Lear/ the 
acting Charge d'affaires of Brazil, had sought & held 
with him this afternoon. The substance of Mr. 
Lear's communication was that he was instructed by 
his Government to make known that the adjustment 
of the difficulty in relation to the imprisonment of 
Lieut. Davis & two American sailors at Rio 
d'Janeiro, which had been made between Mr. Bu- 
chanan & Mr. Lisboa some months ago had been dis- 
avowed by his Government; and that his Govern- 
ment would refuse to receive & accredit Mr. Tod as 
Minister of the U. S. in Brazil, unless he went out 
clothed with authority to treat of an adjustment of 
that difficulty. Mr. Buchanan informed me that he 
told Mr. Lear that this was too grave a matter to be 
the subject of a verbal conferrence alone, & desired 
him to communicate in writing the orders of his Gov- 
ernment. Mr. [Leal] replied that he would either 
do [so] in a note, and would furnish him with a copy 
of his instructions. 

This was reception evening. Several persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 4th August, 1847. — On going into 
my office this morning I found on my table a Tel- 
egraphic letter received at Washington at " 4 
O'clock & 40 minutes " on yesterday as follows, viz : 

^ Senor Dom Felippe Pcreira Leal, charge d'affaires ad interim 
of Brazil at Washington 1 847-1 849. 



no JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Aug. 

"Wheeling, August 3rd, 1847. 

For his Excellency 
James K. Polk: 
Mrs. Polk arrived here a few minutes since. She 
may be in Washington to-morrow night 

S. RUSSMANN." 

It seems that this communication was laid on my 
table last night, but my attention was not called to it 
by my messenger. At 7 O'Clock P. M. I rode in 
my carriage in company with Mrs. Walker & my 
nephew, Marshall T. Polk, to the Rail Road depot 
and awaited the arrival of the cars, but Mrs. Polk 
did not come. She probably rested instead of travel- 
ling last night, which was what I would have de- 
sired her to do, though I was very anxious to see her. 

The Secretary of State (Mr. Buchanan) and my 
Private Secretary (J. Knox Walker) left at 12 
O'clock to-day on a visit of a few days to Old Point 
Comfort. I transacted business, but not of an im- 
portant character, and saw several public officers 
on business in the course of the day. At i O'Clock 
P. M. I opened my office for the reception of visitors, 
when quite a number of persons called; a due pro- 
portion of them as usual were seeking office. 

Thursday, j;th August, 184'/. — I was engaged 
as usual in my office to-day. I transacted business 
with public officers and disposed of several matters 
of official details on my table. I saw company at i 
O'clock P. M. The Secretaries of War and of the 
Navy called on business in the course of the day. I 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY in 

had anxiously hoped to receive intelligence from 
the army by this mail, but none was received. Mrs. 
Polk arrived at Washington this evening on her re- 
turn from her visit to Tennessee. I met her with my 
carriage at the Rail Road depot about 7 O'Clock. 
She is in good health, but much fatigued by the 
journey. 

Friday, dth August, 184J. — Nothing worthy of 
note transpired to-day. I was in my office as usual, 
and transacted business on my table and with public 
officers who called. I saw company at i O'Clock 
P. M. It was a wet day and but few persons called. 

This was reception evening, [but] being wet & 
dampj but few persons called. 

Saturday, Jth August, 184J. — This was the reg- 
ular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. The At- 
torney Gen'l called at the usual hour of meeting and 
requested to be excused, as he was much engaged in 
his office in closing the examination of claims under 
the Peruvian Treaty,^ this being the last day of the 
period limited by law for that purpose. He was ex- 
cused and retired. The Secretaries of War and the 
Navy were the only members of the Cabinet who at- 
tended. The Secretary of State and the Post master 
General are absent on a visit to Old Point Comfort, 
and the Secretary of the Treasury on a visit to Rock- 
away, N. Y., for the benefit of his health. I held a 
long conversation with the Secretary of War and the 
Secretary of the Navy on many points connected 

1 U. 5. Stat, at Large, IX, 815-817. 



112 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Aua 

with the War. The question of calling out 5,000 
more volunteers was discussed, and it was finally- 
concluded to postpone making such a call until 
further information should be received from Gen'l 
Scott, which we are expecting daily. It was decided 
to order Brigadier Generals Marshall and Lane of 
the Volunteers to proceed at once to Vera Cruz & 
join Gen'l Scott's army. It was agreed further that 
Maj'r Gen'l Butler's services were much needed in 
Gen'l Scott's army, if the State of the wound re- 
ceived at Monterey and his general health were such 
as to enable him to resume his command in the field. 
I[t] was agreed that I should write an unofficial 
letter to Gen'l Butler on the subject. I wrote the 
letter after night (see Letter Book). Gen'l But- 
ler['s] presence with the army is desirable for many 
reasons, and among them are, first, that he would be 
2nd in command, & 2nd, contingencies may arise 
soon that would require the chief command to be de- 
volved on him, & 3rd, if any accident should hap- 
pen to Gen'l Scott, or he should leave the army or 
be recalled, a question of rank might arise in the 
camp between Maj'r Gen'l Pillow and Brev[e]t 
Maj'r-Gen'l Worth. Gen'l Pillow would undoubt- 
edly be entitled to the command, but I learn 
unofficially that Gen'l Scott has without authority 
assigned Gen'l Worth to his Brevet rank, and the Sec- 
retary of War apprehends that in the event of the 
absence of Gen'l Scott a question of rank might 
arise in the camp, which might be very embarrassing 
to the service. If Gen'l Butler is there this would 
be avoided. I have great confidence in Pillow, but 



i847] JAIvIES K. POLK'S DIARY 113 

he is young in the service & the country do[cs] not 
know his merits as well as I do. 

Sunday, 8th August, 184J. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and my nephew, Marshall T. Polk. The 
youngest child of my Private Secretary, j. Knox 
Walker, named Sarah Polk, has been very ill for 
several days, and is considered by Dr. Miller, the at- 
tending physician, to be in a very critical condition 
to-day. This afternoon the child was baptized by 
the Rev. Mr. French of the Episcopal Church. At 
the suggestion of Dr. Miller, he was requested to 
call in Dr. Hall as a consulting physician to-night. 
I wrote to J. Knox Walker (who is at Old Point 
Comfort) on f riday night last, informing him of the 
extreme illness of his child and advising him to re- 
turn to Washington immediately. 

Monday, gth August, 184^. — I was in my office 
at the usual hour this morning. Between 8 & 9 
O'clock A. M. a Telegraphic despatch was received 
from Richmond to the efifect that Gen'l Scott's army 
after an engagement with the enemy had entered & 
taken the City of Mexico. On the arrival of the 
mail this afternoon the same information was con- 
tained in the New Orleans [papers]. Though it 
may be true, it comes in a questionable shape and re- 
quires confirmation. No official despatches were 
received. I saw company today at i O'Clock P. M. 
as usual. A number of persons called, some to pay 
their rcs^iects and others seeking office. Learning 



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

that the Secretary of War had been taken quite ill on 
yesterday, I called at his house this afternoon to see 
him, and found [him] in bed with a fever. This 
morning I wrote again to my private Secretary, J. 
Knox Walker, informing him that his sick child was 
no better, but was dangerously ill, and requesting him 
to return to Washington immediately. The child, I 
fear, will die. Col. Walker is at Old Point Com- 
fort, having gone down with Mr. Buchanan to spend 
a few days at that place. I transacted business in 
my office as usual to-day, but nothing of much in- 
terest occurred. 

The Secretary of War was taken quite ill on yes- 
terday. I called to see him at his house this after- 
noon and found him in his bed. He was better than 
he was yesterday, but was still quite sick. I re- 
ceived to-day a despatch prepared by Mr. Buchanan, 
who is spending a few days at Old Point Comfort, 
to Mr. Donelson, the U. S. Minister to Prussia. He 
sent [it] to me for my approval. I approved it and 
directed Mr. Derrick, the acting Secretary of State, 
to transmit it to Mr. Donelson. 

Tuesday, lOth August, 184'J. — My Private Sec- 
retary, J. Knox Walker, returned from Old Point 
Comfort this morning. His child is still very sick 
and its recovery doubtful. 

This was the. regular day for the meeting of the 
Cabinet. The Secretary of the Navy & the Atto. 
Gen'l were all who attended. The Secretary of 
War is confined to his house by sickness. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury is at Rockaway, N. Y., for 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY ns 

the benefit of his health, & the Secretary of State and 
the Post Master General are at Old Point Comfort. 
No business of importance was transacted. I saw 
some of the subordinate officers, and transacted busi- 
ness with them. I also disposed of many matters 
of detail which had accumulated on my table. 

This was reception evening. Quite a number of 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, nth August, 184J. — This morning 
I sent my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, to a school 
on the heights of Georgetown of which the Rev'd[s] 
Mr. Whittingham and Spencer, are Principal[s]. 
I have had him at Georgetown College for the last 
two years. He is idle & inattentive to his studies, 
& indeed has made very little progress in that time. 
It gives me great pain to find that he has disre- 
garded my repeated admonitions & is so inattentive 
to his studies. It is now vacation at the college, and 
I conclude to give him another trial at the school to 
which I now send him. If I find that he does no 
better than he has done, I must send him home to his 
mother. I transacted business in my office as usual 
to-day, and saw an unusual number of visitors. 
Nothing transpired which is worthy of being 
noted. 

I omitted to note in this diary of yesterday that 
among other[s] who called was the Hon. Mr. 
Leake,^ a member of the last Congress from Vir- 
ginia. He desired to obtain an appointment as 

^ Shelton F. Leake, Representative from Virginia 1 845-1 847, 
and 1859-1861. 



ii6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Aug. 

charge d'affaires abroad. There was no place va- 
cant. Such personal applications are extremely em- 
barrassing and painful to me. 

Thursday, 12th August, 184J. — This morrxlng 
I directed my porter to admit no company before 2 
O'clock, unless they were officers of the Govern- 
ment, or persons who might represent that they 
vv^ished to see me on important public business. Sen- 
ator Bagby and a few others were admitted before 
that hour. I gave this order because much of my 
time is very unprofitably consumed by the unceasing 
calls of office-seekers & persons who have no business 
with me. I wished to-day to commence the prep- 
aration of my reasons, to be communicated to the 
next Congress, for withholding my assent to a Har- 
bour Bill, presented to me on the last day of the last 
Session of Congress, and which Bill I retained in 
my possession for want of time to assign my reasons 
for not approving it. I deemed this a more leisure 
[leisurely] tim.e to prepare my message than I would 
have as the next Session of Congress approaches. I 
commenced my paper and made some progress in it. 

At 2 O'clock P. M. I opened my office, but 
few persons called. The Secretary of War is still 
confined to his house by sickness. I called to see him 
this evening & was glad to find him better than he 
had been for several diys past. I transacted busi- 
ness with the adj't Gen'l of the army to-day, which 
would have been transacted with the Secretary of 
War had his health permitted him to attend to it. 
I disposed of several matters of business which had 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 117 

accumulated on my table. Yesterday and to-day 
have been very warm days. 

Friday, 13th August, 1847. — I l^ept my office 
closed until 2 O'Clock to-day. I saw officers of the 
Government and a few other persons before that 
hour. Among them were MajV General Patter- 
son of the U. S. army and his aid-de-camp, Col. 
Abercrombie. Gen'l Patterson came to Washing- 
ton, as I presume, to receive orders for further 
service. He has been at home at his residence in 
Philadelphia since the discharge of the 12 months 
volunteers in June last. Nothing of much impor- 
tance occurred to-day. I transacted business in my 
office as usual. 

This being one of the regular evenings set apart 
for the reception of company, a number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

I called to see the Secretary of War this evening 
and found him much better. He has been confined 
to his house for several days by indisposition. 

Saturday, 14th August, 1847. — This was the 
regular day for the meeting of the Cabinet. All the 
members were present except the Secretary of State 
& the Secretary of the Treasury, who are still ab- 
sent from the City. The Post Master General re- 
turned from Old Point Comfort, where he had spent 
a few days, last evening. The Secretary of War had 
so far recovered from his illness as to be present for 
a short time. Several matters of business, chiefly 
of detail but not of general importance, were con- 



ii8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Aug. 

sidered and disposed of. I saw die adj't Gen'l on 
business. After obtaining information from tiim 
as to the present disposition of the volunteer forces 
in Mexico, I called in the afternoon to see the Sec- 
retary of War at his house, and after consulting with 
him, it was determined to order MajV Gen'l Patter- 
son to proceed to Vera Cruz, report to Gen'l Scott, 
and resume his command. I sent for Gen'l Patter- 
son after night and informed him that orders to this 
effect w^ould be issued to him on Monday next. He 
said that was what he desired, and that he w^ould 
proceed to the seat of War as soon as he could re- 
turn home and attend to some private business, which 
might require possibly a wreck's time. I had a full 
conversation wdth Gen'l Patterson in relation to the 
War and the operations of the army in Mexico. 
Despatches were received from Lie[u]t. Col. Wil- 
son, Military commander at Vera Cruz, Col. Louis 
D. Wilson of the 12th Infantry, and Mr. Dimond 
of the Quarter master's Department by this even- 
ing's mail, bearing date as late as the ist Instant. 
No despatches were received from Gen'l Scott. We 
learn from the despatches from Vera Cruz that 
Gen'l Scott was still at Puebla on the 30th of July, 
and that he w^ould probably march upon the City 
of Mexico in a day or two. Gen'l Pierce w^as at 
Perote on his march to join him, and as soon as he 
reached him Gen'l Scott would probably move for- 
ward. The prospects of peace w^ere still uncertain. 
No steps had been taken by the Mexican Govern- 
ment to meet & negotiate wath Mr. Trist, though it 
was rumoured thev w^ould do so, rather than suffer 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 119 

the American army to enter their Capital. All this 
however rests on rumour and may not be true. 

Sunday, ISth August, 184J. — I attended the 
First Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk, Mrs. Daniel Graham, & my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk. We took Mrs. Graham into the 
carriage on our way to the church. 

Monday, 16th August, 1847. — Mr. Buchanan, 
the Secretary of State, called this morning, after an 
absence of several days from the City on a visit to 
Old Point Comfort. The Secretary of War, I learn, 
is again confined to his house by sickness. I had im- 
portant business with him, but learn that he [is] so 
ill as to make it prudent for him to see no company. 
I sent for the adj't Gen'l and gave him directions in 
regard to a part of the business about which I wished 
to see the Secretary of War. I saw also some other 
public officers on business, and transacted business 
as usual in my office. I saw company at 2 
O'clock P. M. 

The information for several days past has indi- 
cated the probable defeat of Gov. A. V. Brown ^ and 
of the Democratic party in the Tennessee election. 
This is contrary to the information which I had re- 
ceived from many sources before the election. I at- 
tribute this result mainly to the following causes, 
viz., I St, The Taylor feeling, which the Democratic 

^ Aaron Venable Brown, 1795-1859, Governor of Tennessee 
1 845-1 847, Postmaster General during Buchanan's administra- 
tion. 



120 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Aug. 

party have been afraid to meet boldly by taking the 
ground that they would oppose him or any other 
man, who refused to avow his principles, and who 
was not the regularly nominated candidate of his 
party. This was the mistake committed in the can- 
vass in Tennessee. 

2nd, The dispensation of the patronage of the 
Federal Government, and especially in the appoint- 
ments to military offices, has given ofifense to many 
leading men in the State, who have been lukewarm 
& inactive. All the leading men in Tennessee know 
me personally, and many of them aspire to high com- 
mands in the army who could not be gratified. It 
illustrates beyond doubt the truth of the opinion 
which I have long since formed that the Patronage 
must necessarily [weaken] any President. Many of 
the leading [men] of the Democratic party whose 
political principles hang loosely about them, and 
who have sought office from me and have been dis- 
appointed, not [only] in Tennessee but throughout 
the Union, have taken ground & led ofif in favour of 
Gen'l Taylor. They have no higher object than to 
have another chance for getting an office if he should 
be elected. 

3rd, Another cause of the result in Tennessee, [is] 
the over-confidence of the Democratic party in their 
strength, and the consequent failure to make the 
proper exertion in the late contest. 

Tuesday, Ijth August, l84'/.— Beiort the hour 
for the meeting of the Cabinet to-day Senator Ben- 
ton called. He returned to Washington from the 



1347] JAAIES K. POLK'S DIARY 121 

West, he informed me, two or three days ago. After 
some general conversation of a pleasant character 
he introduced the subject of the ditBculty between 
Col. Fremont (his son-in-law) and Gen'l Kearney 
in California. He remarked that he had some time 
ago addressed a letter to the Adj't Gen'l demanding 
that Col. Fremont should be recalled and a Court of 
Inquiry organized in his case, as due to the Col's 
honour & military character. I replied that I had 
read his communication, but that it had not been 
deemed necessary to take any action upon it. I told 
him that there had been some difficulty between the 
officers in California, which I much regretted, and 
that I had hoped it might not be necessary to insti- 
tute any trial by a Court Martial. I also made a 
general remark to the effect that I had not deemed 
it necessary to do so. Gen'l Benton to this re- 
marked in substance, I am glad to hear from you. 
Sir, as President of the U. States, that there has 
been nothing in Col. Fremont's conduct which re- 
quires a Court Martial in his case. I instantly said 
to him that he must not understand me as expressing 
any opinion in reference to the difficulty which had 
arisen between Col. Fremont, Gen'l Kearney, & 
Commodore Stockton in California; but that what 
I meant to say was that I hoped that the difficulty 
upon the arrival of the instructions of the 5th of No- 
vember last had been settled, that they would act in 
harmony in carrying out the views of the Govern- 
ment, and that it might not be necessary to institute 
proceedings by a Court Martial in reference to the 
matter, & that I desired to avoid doing so if it could 



122 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Aug. 

be done. To this Gen'l Benton said there was of 
course no commitment on my part. I told him cer- 
tainly not, that if proceedings by Court Martial did 
take place, I would, in a certain contingency, have 
to act officially, and ought not & could not with pro- 
priety decide or express an opinion in advance in 
reference to the matter. He said he did not desire 
me to have anything to do with it, unless it should 
come regularly before me for my official action; that 
he had addressed his communication demanding a 
Court Martial to the adj't Gen'l, and not to the Sec- 
retary of War or the President, that he had done so 
purposely that the case might take the usual course, 
according to military usage & law. He then re- 
marked that he was a Senator & I was President, & 
that each would act officially in his place, without 
reference to any former friendships between us; and 
added he should introduce a resolution into the Sen- 
ate institution [instituting] a full investigation into 
this w^hole California business. I answered him 
with some spirit that so far as the administration was 
concerned I had nothing to fear from the most 
searching investigation, and indeed that [I] would 
court such an investigation as he proposed to insti- 
tute. He remarked that he did not propose it in 
reference to the conduct of the administration, but 
that investigations before Courts Martial were tech- 
nical and limited, but in the Senate they could be 
broad & full & embrace transactions & matters which 
a Court Martial could not take cognizance of. I re- 
peated that I could have no objection to the fullest 
and broadest investigation which might be instituted. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY t^i 

He said such investigations were usual in the Brit- 
tish Parliament, where all matters could be spread 
before the public. I then said to Gen'l Benton that 
he could, if he wished, have access to all the official 
correspondence between the War & Navy Depart- 
ments with Com. Stockton & Gen'l Kearney, and to 
all the records of the action of those Departments in 
relation to difficulty which had occurred between 
our officers in California. I told him that I thought 
he ought to see them before he took action in relation 
to the Court of Enquiry, & that I desired that he 
should do so if he desired it. I told him that every 
facility would be afforded him at the War & Navy 
Departments for that purpose, if he desired to do so. 
He thanked me. He was evidently much excited, 
but suppressed his feelings and talked in a calm tone. 
While we were conversing on the subject, Mr. Bu- 
chanan came in & shortly afterwards Mr. Johnson, 
& the conversation ceased. Gen'l Benton retired & 
I communicated what had occurred to Mr. Bu- 
chanan & Mr. Johnson, and whilst I was doing so 
Mr. Mason came in, and afterwards Mr. Clifford. 
This was the regular day for the meeting of the 
Cabinet; all the members present except the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, who is still absent from the 
City, & the Secretary of War, who is confined to his 
house by sickness. 

I submitted to the Cabinet whether more volun- 
teers should be called out for the Mexican War. The 
situation of Gen'l Scott's army & the whole subject 
was fully considered. Each member of the Cabinet 
present individually expressed his opinion that the 



124 JAMES K. POLK'S DIAR^ [17 Aug. 

additional force should be called out. Of the 50,- 

000 volunteers authorized by the act of May, 1846, 
there remains 6,000 who have not been at any time 
during the war called into the service. The Cabinet 
advised me to call for this force. I concurred in the 
opinion that it would be prudent to do so. The 
state of the Treasury to meet the additional expense 
was mentioned, & after a short conversation, in 
which the opinion was expressed that there could be 
no doubt on that point, I remarked that I would send 
for Mr. McClintock Young, the Chief Clerk & act- 
ing Secretary of the Treasury, and inquire of him on 
the subject, in order to be perfectly sure. I did so, 
& Mr. Young called. He represented that a con- 
siderable part of the loan had not been called for, & 
that the receipts at N. York had been very large 
lately, and that the Treasury was in good condition. 

1 requested Mr. Young to furnish me with a state- 
ment of the available means in the Treasury & also 
with the balance unexpended of the appropriations 
for the War Department, and especially under the 
head of the Pay, Quarter Master's, & Subsistence 
Departments. He said he would do so on to-morrow 
morning. 

Mr. Buchanan informed me that he had received 
from the Charge d'afifairs of Brazil the instructions 
sent by that Government disavowing the settlement 
made by their Minister, Mr. Lisboa, with Mr. Bu- 
chanan, in relation to the imprisonment of Lieut. 
Davis & two sailors of the U. S. Navy by the Brazil- 
ian authorities at Rio de Janeiro. Mr. Buchanan 
read a translation of the instructions. The subject 



1847] " JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 125 

was discussed & it was agreed by the Cabinet that 
Mr. Buchanan should prepare an answer. 

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

Wednesday, i8th August, 184J. — Shortly after 
I entered my office this morning Mr. Buchanan 
called & informed me that he had called to see Gov. 
Marcy, Secretary of War, last night, and that from 
what the Secretary of War had said he had some 
apprehensions that the appropriations for the War 
Department might not hold out until the meeting of 
Congress, if the additional volunteer force[s] agreed 
in Cabinet on yesterday to be called out, were called. 
This struck me with great astonishment, and [I] at 
once said that this could not be possible, for the ap- 
propriations had been made for the fiscal year, which 
would not end until the 30th of June, 1848. I said to 
him, however, that Mr. Young, the acting Sec. of the 
Treasury, as he knew, would Report to me this morn- 
ing. About 10 O'clock the Secretary of War sent his 
messenger to inform me that he was better, but was 
very feeble, & that he would leave to-day at 12 
O'clock for New York & desired to see me before he 
left. He had informed me some days ago that as soon 
as he was able he would go to the North for the ben- 
efit of his health and to see his mother, who was in 
bad health. I went immediately to his house, & 
found him quite feeble, but still he thought himself 
able to travel. I told him that I would appoint Mr. 
Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, the acting Secre- 
tary of War during his absence from the seat of 



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

Government, to which he agreed. I informed him 
of what Mr. Buchanan had told me of his conver- 
sation with him last evening, in relation to the ap- 
propriations for the War Department, & expressed to 
him my surprise that there should be any deficiency, 
if the fact was so, in the second month of the pres- 
ent fiscal year. He replied that Mr. Buchanan had 
probably not understood him, & expressed the opin- 
ion that there would be no deficiency before the 
meeting of Congress. I enquired particularly about 
the appropriations for the Quarter Master's Depart- 
ment. He replied that the appropriations were 12 
or 13 millions, and that he had signed requisitions, 
he thought, for about 6 millions. I then asked him 
his opinion about calling out 6,000 additional Vol- 
unteers, and informed him of the views of the Cab- 
inet as expressed on yesterday. He concurred in 
opinion that they should be called out. I returned 
to my office & sent for Judge Mason & appointed 
him acting Secretary of the Navy [of War]. I re- 
quested Judge Mason, on taking charge of the War 
Department, to examine the amount of unexpended 
appropriations under each head of the app[rop]ria- 
tion, & to ascertain the probable expenditure per 
month, if the 6,000 additional Volunteers were 
called out. After he left Mr. Young, the acting 
Secretary of the Treasury, [called] and submitted 
to me a statement of the condition of the Treasury, 
from which it appeared that there was now available 
between 9 & 10 millions of dollars, inclusive of the 
balance of the loan not yet called in. He submitted 
also a statement of balances of appropriations for 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 127 

the War Department which remained unexpended. 
I was astounded when I saw the amount which had 
been expended in the Quarter-Master's and Com- 
missaries' Departments, and had great apprehensions 
that the balances remaining would not last until the 
meeting of Congress. I immediately sent for Judge 
Mason, the acting Secretary of War, and gave him 
the information I had received. He informed me 
that he had called on the Bureau & Clerks in the 
War Department for a statement of the amount of 
expenses under each head and of the balance re- 
maining of the appropriations for the present fiscal 
Year, and was surprised to find that there was no 
balance sheet, such as was kept in the Navy Depart- 
ment, which would show at a glance the informa- 
tion which was wanted. He said he could obtain 
the information at the 2nd Comptroller's Office but 
that each Department should keep its own accounts, 
as was done in the Navy Department, as a check 
upon the accounting officers of the Treasury. The 
greatest confusion and largest expenditure is in 
the Quarter Master's Department. Gen'l Jesup, the 
Head of that Bureau, is, I learn, absent from the 
City. He is wholly unfit for his place. I sent for 
Gen'l Gibson, the Commissary Gen'l, and conversed 
with him on the subject. I am greatly troubled 
upon the subject. I had not given, as I could not 
give, my personal attention to these expenditures, 
but took if [it] for granted that the Secretary of 
War had kept an eye to them, and that all was right. 
I have serious apprehensions that the appropriations 
for the Quartermaster's Department may not last 



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

until the meeting of Congress. The Secretary of 
War, I suppose, has been so much occupied with 
other duties that he has not looked to the expendi- 
tures. I requested Judge Mason to write to Genl 
Jesup to return immediately to Washington. I will 
put a check upon him, and hereafter give all the 
attention to his operations which I possibly can, 
in the midst of my other constant & most respon- 
sible duties. The truth is that Gen'l Jesup and 
some others of the subordinate officers are wholly 
reckless and seem to act as though he [they] had no 
responsibility. 

Thursday, igth August, 184J. — Judge Mason, 
the Acting Secretary of War, called over this morn- 
ing & again expressed his astonishment at the large 
expenditures which had taken place in the Quarter 
master's Department, & [said] that unless a check 
was put upon Gen'l Jesup the whole fund appro- 
priated by Congress for the fiscal year commencing 
on the I St of July last, w^ould not last more than 
a month longer. I told him a check must be put 
upon his reckless extravagance. I directed him to 
write immediately by Telegraph to Gen'l Jesup at 
New York, where I understand he is, ordering him 
immediately to Washington. None of his clerks 
seem to be able to give any explanation of the ex- 
traordinary development of the probable deficiency 
of his funds, and I will upon his return require him 
to explain it & hold him to a strict accountability. 
Judge Mason informed me that in case of necessity 
there were yet unexpended about a million & an half 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 129 

of the Mexican hostility fund, which had been as- 
signed to the Navy Department, being a part of the 
10 millions appropriated by Congress in May, 1846, 
which he could transfer to the War Department. 
This relieved me somewhat, as it may enable me to 
avoid calling Congress together, though it does not 
excuse Gen'l Jesup. It is possible, & I think it can- 
not be otherwise, that the large amts. drawn from 
the Treasury by the Quarter Master's Department 
may be in the hands of disbursing officers at New 
Orleans and elsewhere, and may not have been ex- 
pended. I hope it may turn out to be so. It is, I 
think, impossible that so large an amt. can have been 
expended in so short a time. When Gen'l Jesup ar- 
rives he will be able to explain how the matter 
stands. The accounts are badly kept in his office, or 
his clerks would be able to give more satisfactory 
explanations of their actual condition. The funds 
appropriated by Congress on every head or branch 
of the service, except the Quarter master's, & per- 
haps the Commissary's, are more than sufficient to 
last until after the meeting of Congress. This sub- 
ject gives me great anxiety. I have postponed mak- 
ing a call for additional volunteers until I can see 
Gen'l Jesup, and learn more satisfactorily the con- 
dition of the State of the funds of the Quarter mas- 
ter's Department. 

Gen'l Benton called to-day to introduce Col. 
Campbell of St. Louis. He was pleasant and agree- 
able. I mention this because after my conversation 
with him on tuesday last (See this diary of that day) 
I was not certain how this would be. I handed 



130 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Aug. 

to Gen'l Benton a letter which had been addressed 
to him by Col. Fremont and which was handed to 
me by Kit Carson on the 8th of June last. Mrs. 
Fremont had written to me from Missouri request- 
ing me to return the letter. 

I opened my office at 2 O'Clock P. M. to-day for 
the reception of company. Several persons, male 
and female, called. Some of them as usual were 
office seekers. 

Friday, 20th August, 1847. — Judge Mason, the 
acting Secretary of War, called to-day and commu- 
nicated to me a Report from the 2nd Comptroller 
of the Treasury, shewing the balances of appropria- 
tions remaining unexpended for the War Depart- 
ment for the present fiscal year. This Report I had 
called for two days ago, and especially as related to 
the Quarter master's and Commissary's Depart- 
ment[s]. It exhibited an astonishingly large amt. 
in these two Departments as having been drawn from 
the Treasury within the last two months. An ex- 
planation from Gen'l Jesup, the Quarter master 
General, is indispensible. This matter continues to 
give me great anxiety. Gen'l Jesup has not yet re- 
turned to Washington, but has been addressed at 
New York by telegraph requiring his immediate 
presence here. I disposed of much business on my 
table to-day. I was frequently inter[r]upted by 
calls through the day. I saw and transacted business 
with several of the public officers. At 2 O'Clock 
P. M. I opened my office for the reception of visit- 
ors. Many persons called, but none of them had 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 131 

any business of more importance than to solicit me 
for ofHce. 

This being reception evening, quite a number of 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

I saw McClintock Young, chief Clerk and acting 
Secretary of the Treasury, to-day, and directed 
him to write to Robt. J. Walker, Esqr., the Secretary 
of the Treasury, informing him that I deemed it im- 
portant that he should return to the Seat of Govern- 
ment at his earliest convenience. The prudent 
management of the finances require[s] it. 

Saturday, 2Ist August, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour, all the members present except the 
Secretaries of the Treasury and of War, who are 
both absent from the City for the benefit of their 
health. I explained to the Cabinet the unexpected 
embarrassment which had come to my knowledge 
since the last meeting, in relation to the exhausted 
state of the funds in the Quarter master's Depart- 
ment, and that for that reason I had postponed mak- 
ing the call for additional volunteers, as the Cabinet 
had decided would be proper at their last meeting. 
The subject was discussed, and all were surprised 
at the enormous amount which had been drawn from 
the Treasury within the last two months. Judge 
Mason informed me that Gen'l Jesup, the Quarter 
Master Gen'l, had returned to Washington, and had 
informed him this morning that a large amnt. which 
had been drawn from the Treasury was yet unex- 
pended in the hands of disbursing officers at New 
Orleans & in Mexico. There being nothing else of 



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

importance before the Cabinet I immediately sent 
for Gen'l Jesup, that I might receive his explana- 
tion in person. All the members of the Cabinet re- 
tired except Judge Mason, the acting Secretary of 
War. Gen'l Jesup called. I exhibited to him the 
2nd comptroller's Report received on yesterday, 
showing the very large amounts which he had drawn 
from the Treasury, and the comparatively small sum 
appropriated for the Quarter master's Department 
which yet remained in the Treasury, and asked an 
explanation. He stated that on the ist day of the 
present month there was unexpended in the hands 
of Quarter masters at New Orleans & in Mex- 
ico upwards of four millions of Dollars, and after 
the expenditures of the present month were made 
there would still be in their hands a large sum. I 
enquired of him why so large a sum had been placed 
in their hands at one time & so long before it was 
needed. He stated that Gen'l Scott had estimated 
that he would require for his line of operations 
alone a million of Dollars per month, and that he 
had placed the funds where they would be available 
to meet the requisitions from the army in Mexico. 
I then told Gen'l Jesup that I had contemplated 
calling out 5,000 additional volunteers, but that dur- 
ing his absence from Washington, upon discovering 
the exhausted state of his funds, I had postponed 
doing so until he could return to Washington and 
give an explanation of the matter. I told him that 
on applying to the subordinate officers of his De- 
partment in his absence, they could give no explana- 
tion of the matter, and expressed to him my sur- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 133 

prise that the accounts were kept in such way that his 
books would not at all times show the amount of ap- 
propriations & expenditures under each distinct 
head. He said this could be learned at the 2nd 
Comptroller's office. I replied that each Depart- 
ment should be a check upon the other, and that the 
accounts of the Navy Department were so kept as 
to show at a glance the information which I had in 
vain sought to obtain from his office. I then told 
him that I wished to know whether, if I called out 
5,000 additional Volunteers, he would have funds 
enough in the Quarter master's Department to de- 
fray expenses of the army with this additional force 
until after the meeting of Congress in December 
next. He replied that he would by making con- 
tracts to be paid after that time. He said there was 
an exception in the act of 1820 which prohibited such 
contracts as a general rule, by which the Quarter 
master Gen'l might make such contracts. I told him 
I would not, unless in a case of great emergency, 
sanction such contracts in advance of appropriations 
made by Congress, by which the faith of the Govern- 
ment would be pledged. He said that Congress had 
cut down and reduced his estimates for his Depart- 
ment at its last session, and appropriated much less 
than he had asked for. I asked him, if a million of 
Dollars of the 10 millions appropriated for Mexican 
hostilities in May, 1846, was transferred from the 
Navy Department to the Quarter master's service, 
if the funds of his Department would last until after 
the meeting of the next Session of Congress. He 
said he thought the fund would be sufficient to do so. 



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

I then told him that I desired before I made a call 
for additional volunteers to know certainly that 
there would be no deficiency of funds in his Depart- 
ment, and directed him to examine the subject & Re- 
port to me. I told him to base his Report upon the 
number of troops now in the field and an addition 
to that number of 5 Regiments, say 4,500 men. I 
told him that I would not call for this additional 
force until I received his Report. Gen'l Jesup is 
a gallant officer, but I consider him unfit for the 
office of Quarter master General. 

I was engaged during the afternoon in disposing 
of the business on my table. 

After night my brother, Wm. H. Polk, came in, 
having just returned from his visit to Tennessee. 
He informed me that my nephew, Sam'l P. 
Walker, and my niece, Jane Barnett, and her hus- 
band had accompanied him from Tennessee & had 
stopped at Coleman's Hotel. My brother took up 
his quarters at the President's house. 

Sunday, 22nd August, 1847. — This morning I 
sent my carriage to Coleman's Hotel for my rela- 
tives, Sam'l P. Walker & Mr. & Mrs. Barnett, who 
arrived last night with my brother, Wm. H. Polk, 
from Tennessee, and brought them to the President's 
House, where upon my invitation they took up their 
Quarters. 

I attended the first Presbyterian church to-day 
accompanied by Mrs. Polk. This afternoon my 
brother, William H. Polk, left for New York, where 
his wife is. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 135 

Monday, 23rd August, 184J. — The attorney 
Gen'l called this morning on official business, and 
after disposing of it we entered into a conversation 
about the mexican war. He expressed the opinion 
strongly that I should immediately call an additional 
volunteer force into the field; and also that if the 
war was not closed before the meeting of Congress, 
it should be prosecuted with the whole strength of 
the nation if necessary. He was utterly opposed to 
with-drawing our forces, as destructive of National 
character & interests, as well as destructive of the 
Democratic party & of the administration. He 
thought there was but one course to pursue and that 
was to fight boldly through, holding all the places 
w^e have conquered until there is an honorable peace. 
In this respect he differed from the views of Mr. 
Buchanan as several times expressed by him in Cab- 
inet. Judge Mason, the acting Secretary of War, 
called and held a further conference with me in rela- 
tion to the contemplated call on the states for an 
additional volunteer force of 5 Regiments of men. 

I sent for Gen'l Jesup and Gen'l Gibson, and con- 
ferred further with them in relation to the adequacy 
of the funds in their respective Departments to de- 
fray the expenses until after the meeting of Con- 
gress. They both assured me that I could safely call 
forth the additional force proposed, and that the 
money on hand unexpended would be sufficient to 
defray the additional expense. I am greatly vexed 
by the looseness with which Gen'l Jesup has kept an 
account in his office of the funds for the Quarter 
Master's Department, and am resolved that there 



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

shall be a reform in this respect. I disposed of much 
business on my table to-day. At 2 O'Clock P. M. 
I opened my office for the reception of visitors. 
Many persons called, most of them seeking office. 
Among them were several females asking office for 
their husbands & relations. The practice has be- 
come quite common for men to send their wives to 
importune me for offices for them. I have no offices 
to confer without turning out better persons than 
those who apply, and therefore my answer was a 
very summary one. The annoyance to me of the 
loafers who hang about the City teasing me for 
office is very great. Nine out of ten of them, I have 
reason to believe, are actually unworthy. 

I took a ride on horseback in the afternoon with 
my nephew, Sam'l P. Walker of Tennessee, who is 
on a visit to me. 

Tuesday, 24th August, 184J. — This was the reg- 
ular day of the meeting of the Cabinet. The Sec- 
retaries of State & the Navy and the Atto. Gen'l at- 
tended. The P. M. Gen'l left this morning for 
New York on official business connected with his 
Department. The Secretaries of the Treasury and 
of War are still absent from the City. About the 
time the members of the Cabinet present had assem- 
bled Gen'l Jesup, the Quarter master Gen'l, called, 
and I stepped into my Private Secretary's office & 
saw him. He informed me that on examination 
with his clerks last night & this morning of the 
accounts and records of his office, he had discovered 
that there was of the appropriation for the Quarter 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 137 

master's office about Two millions of Dollars unex- 
pended more than he had reported to me on yester- 
day and on Saturday. He stated that this difference 
of the amt., as stated to me on yesterday & Saturday 
& now, grew out of the fact that about Two millions 
which had been drawn out of the Treasury had not 
yet reached the Disbursing officers at New Orleans 
and elsewhere, but was in transitu, and that he had 
discovered this fact from a private memorandum 
which he had kept. I told him that I was aston- 
ished that the accounts of his office were kept in 
such a manner that there should be any difficulty at 
any time in ascertaining the true amt. of the appro- 
priations under each head which had been drawn 
from the Treasury, and in what disbursing officer's 
hands it was. I told him that I had been for several 
days endeavouring to as[c]ertain the true condition 
of the funds of the Quarter Master's Department, 
and that it seemed to be almost impossible to get the 
true information. He said that he and one of his 
clerks had been absent from the City when I called 
for the information. I told him that his books should 
be kept in such manner that any one familiar with 
accounts should be able on inspecting to see at once 
the amounts drawn from the Treasury, in whose 
hands the funds were, and the amounts remaining 
undrawn, and should not be left to rest upon the per- 
sonal knowledge of himself and his clerks, or upon 
any private memorandum which he might keep. He 
said that much of this information could always be 
obtained at the 2nd Comptroller's office. I replied 
to this that the War & Navy Departments should 



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

keep their own accounts in such a manner as to be 
checks on the accounting officers of the Treasury. I 
told him that since I had instituted this investigation 
I had as[c]ertained that the accounts of the Navy De- 
partment were so kept, and that a balance sheet was 
made out in that Department at the end of every 
month by each Head of Bureau, and laid on the Sec- 
retary's table, by which he could at a glance at any 
time tell the amt. available under each head of appro- 
priation at the beginning of every month. I told 
him that I learned, also, that the same practice had 
been followed in the War Department until some 
time in the year 1843, when it had been discontinued, 
and that to this cause I attributed the great difficulty 
and delay which had occurred in furnishing me with 
the information which I had called for several days 
ago. I told him the accounts must be so kept here- 
after. He said he would require more clerks in his 
office to do it. I told him that was comparatively 
a small consideration & there must be a reform in 
this respect in his office. Yesterday, I informed 
him, he had reported to me the amt. of available 
funds for the Quarter master's Department, and to- 
day he had reported to me two millions more, and 
that such looseness in the manner of keeping his ac- 
counts must be corrected immediately. I called 
Judge Mason out of the Cabinet room into my Pri- 
vate Secretary's office, and he heard a part of this 
conversation. On my return to my office I reported 
to the members of the Cabinet present the conversa- 
tion which I had held with Gen'l Jesup, and ex- 
pressed strongly my dissatisfaction at the state of 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 139 

things existing in relation to the public accounts in 
both the War & Treasury Departments. In view of 
all the information we had members of the Cabinet 
were still of opinion that I should call for 5 addi- 
tional Regiments of Volunteers, as had been agreed 
upon at a former meeting. I ordered it to be done 
accordingly, viz., i Regiment from Indiana, 2 Regi- 
ments from Tennessee, & 2 Regiments from Ken- 
tucky, all to be infantry. 

After the Cabinet adjourned I sent for McClin- 
tock Young, Esqr., chief Clerk of the Treasury De- 
partment, and informed [him] of what Gen'l Jessup 
had told me, but could get no satisfactory informa- 
tion from him. I asked him if he had, as I had di- 
rected him a few days ago, requested Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, by Telegraph to return 
immediately to Washington. He said he had done 
[so]. I directed him to send another Telegraphic 
despatch to him forthwith, and inform him that I 
desired his immediate return to the Seat of Govern- 
ment. He left me saying that he would do so. 

Gen'l Benton called at 3 O'Clock P. M. & in- 
formed me that he would leave this afternoon for 
the West. I gave [him] a statement of the unfortu- 
nate collision between Gen'l Scott & Mr. Trist in 
Mexico, & [said] that in consequence of it the golden 
moment to conclude a peace with Mexico had prob- 
ably been suffered to pass, and expressed the opinion 
that the duration of the War might be indeffinite. I 
informed him of the amt. of force in the field, and 
of the present condition of things, & that I had re- 
solved to call out an additional force. He fully ap- 



140 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Aug. 

proved it, & advised that the additional force should 
be called out. 

Wednesday, 2Sth August, 184J. — Immediately 
after breakfast this morning, Gen'l Jesup, the Quar- 
ter Master General, called at my office and informed 
me that he desired to make a confidential communi- 
cation to me, but that he desired me, after I heard it, 
to consider it as confidential or not. He then w^ent 
on to state that since his conversation with me on 
yesterday, he had been investigating and tracing the 
two additional millions which had been drawn from 
the Treasury and had not been expended, of which 
he informed me on yesterday. He stated that on the 
17th of June last Mr. Young, the chief clerk of the 
Treasury Department, called on him in company 
with Mr. Corcoran of the banking house of Cor- 
coran & Riggs, and requested him to draw a requisi- 
tion on the Quarter Master's funds for Two Millions 
of Dollars to be transferred to New Orleans, and that 
he had done so, and that in the first statement he had 
made to me this amount had not been included, as it 
had not been paid over to the Quarter Master at 
New Orleans. He stated that he had not required 
the Transfer to be made, but had drawn the requisi- 
tion at the request of the Treasury Department made 
known to him by Mr. Young, the Chief Clerk. He 
stated that the Two Millions of Dollars had been 
drawn out of the Treasury about the 17th of June 
and that on the 27th of July Four Hundred Thou- 
sand Dollars of it had been paid over to the Quarter 
Master at New Orleans, and that the remaining 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 141 

Sixteen Hundred thousand Dollars remained in the 
hands of Corcoran, or Corcoran & a Banker in New 
York named Morgan. He stated further that he 
had learned that Five Hundred thousand Dollars 
of it would be paid at New Orleans during this 
month, which would still leave Eleven Hundred 
Thousand Dollars in their hands. He stated further 
that these Bankers had been and were, as he under- 
stood, using the money in speculations in stocks. He 
said he had seen the 2nd Comptroller, who agreed 
with him that this was all wrong. I told him I was 
astonished at what he told me, and that the informa- 
tion was of such a character that I could not & would 
not regard [it] as confidential, but that I would, on 
the contrary, cause the matter to be immediately in- 
vestigated. He said at once that he had no objection 
to this course and that I could use his name for the 
information which he had given me. I expressed 
in strong terms my unqualified disapprobation of the 
transaction, & my determination to probe it to the 
bottom forth-with. Gen'l Jesup seemed to be much 
concerned, & said he may have erred in drawing the 
requisition, but that he had done so at the instance 
of the Treasury Department as he had stated, and 
that he had obtained the information as to the 
use which had been made of the money last evening 
& had felt it to be his duty to communicate the facts 
he had learned to me, & leave it to me to consider it 
confidential or not. I told him it was the last thing 
on earth which should be regarded as confidential. 
Gen'l Jesup left, and 1 immediately sent for Mr. Bu- 
chanan and told him all Gen'l Jesup had communi- 



142 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Aug. 

cated to me. He was greatly surprised at it. I ex- 
pressed to him my utter astonishment at it, and told 
him, as the fact was, that I had not been so much 
troubled since my administration began, & that it 
had almost made me sick. I told him that I could 
not rest until it was investigated and explained. I 
told him that I had caused two telegraphic de- 
spatches to be sent to Mr. Walker, the Secretary of 
the Treasury, within the last two or three days, re- 
questing his immediate return to Washington, but 
that he had not yet come ; but that when he did ar- 
rive I should communicate the whole matter to him 
and require an explanation, and that I hoped he 
might be able to explain it satisfactorily. Mr. Bu- 
chanan concurred with me in the determination I 
had expressed, and in the hope that the matter might 
be satisfactorily explained. 

Mr. Buchanan then informed me that he had pre- 
pared the rough draft of a letter,^ in answer to an 
invitation which he had received to attend the Har- 
vest Home celebration in Berks County, Pennsyl- 
vania, on Saturday next, which he wished to read to 
me. It was in favour of the election of the Demo- 
cratic candidate for Governor (Gov. Shunk) and in 
favour of extending the Missouri compromise line 
on the subject of slavery West to the Pacific ocean, 
over any territory that the U. S. might acquire from 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 385. This letter defining Buchanan's 
position on the question of the disposition of the territory ac- 
quired from Mexico with respect to slavery, really constituted his 
bid for the nomination of his party for the Presidency in the fol- 
lowing year. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 143 

Mexico. The trend of the letter was to satisfy 
Northern Democrats that that Compromise line 
should be adhered to. I made some suggestions to 
him with a view to make it more acceptable to the 
South. They were not, however, very material, but 
such as to prevent his views from being misunder- 
stood or misconstrued. I do not know whether he 
will adopt my suggestions or not. 

Shortly after 12 O'Clock M. Capt. Whitfield, 
lately of the army in Mexico, Mr. Sam'l Williams 
of Hickman County, Tennessee, and one or two oth- 
ers called. While they were in my office Judge 
Mason called & they retired shortly afterwards. 

I commenced telling Judge Mason the astounding 
disclosures which had been made to me by Gen'l 
Jesup this morning, when Mr. Robert J. Walker, the 
Secretary of the Treasury, was announced. He had 
returned in the 12 O'Clock train of cars to-day. His 
health has greatly improved since he left about a 
month ago. After some general conversation I told 
him I was very glad he had returned; and proceeded 
to detail to him the vexation and trouble I had had 
for a week past in endeavouring to ascertain the state 
of the funds appropriated by Congress for the prose- 
cution of the Mexican war, and particularly in rela- 
tion to the appropriations for the Quarter Master's 
Department, being the same vexation and trouble 
which is detailed & recorded in this diary during the 
past week (which see) and informed him of the 
disclosure which Gen'l Jesup had made to me to-day, 
& told him I wished the whole matter explained. I 
told him that it seemed very large sums of money had 



144 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Aug. 

been drawn from the Treasury which had not been 
needed for disbursement, and which; according to 
Gen'l Jesup's statement to me to-day, were in the 
hands of bankers who were using it [them] in stock 
speculations, and that this I could not approve. He 
said that he had objected originally to make transfers 
at all for the War Department, but had finally 
yielded & done so. That he had effected the trans- 
fers from New York to New Orleans in several 
modes; ist, by authorizing Bills to be drawn at New 
Orleans on New York, but if these could not be sold 
at par, then, 2nd, by having the actual specie carried 
from New York to New Orleans at great risk & 
expense, and 3rd, by making arrangements with 
Capitalists to pay them the specie in New York & 
contracting with them to place it in New Orleans 
at short dates. He said he had spent sleepless nights 
on the subject when the actual specie had been sent, 
until he heard of its actual arrival, and that the 3rd 
mode had been the one attended with less risk and 
which he had adopted. I remarked to him that 
without undertaking to decide at present whether 
that mode was proper or the best mode, it certainly 
could not be right to have so large an amt. as that 
drawn from the Treasury on the 17th of June last, as 
stated by Gen'l Jesup, for so great a length of time 
out of the Treasury and in the hands of bankers who 
used it (if such should turn out to be the fact) in 
stock speculations, or otherwise for their own private 
purposes. He seemed to have no distinct recol- 
lection of the requisition of two millions drawn from 
the Treasury as long ago as the 17th of June last. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 145 

He said the time usually given was 20, 30, or 40 
days. I told him that 1 had made to him Gen'l 
Jesup's statement to me, & that I was greatly con- 
cerned about it. I told him that I regarded it, in 
the first place, to be illegal to take money out of the 
Treasury and place it in the hands of individuals 
for long periods for their private use; and secondly, 
that I hoped my administration would be saved from 
such an explosion as occurred in the defalcation of 
Swartout.^ He said it was necessary to resort to this 
mode, & that the guaranty of capitalists rendered the 
funds more secure than they could be if the actual 
specie was transferred by a messenger or officer of 
the Government. He said if such an explosion took 
place he would be blown higher than anybody else, 
and made a remark, the words used I do not retain, 
in reference to his continuing to hold the office of 
Secretary of the Treasury. I told him that I made 
no such intimation as that he should retire, but that 
I desired the astounding disclosure made known to 
me by Gen'l Jesup this morning to be immediately 
investigated & explained; and that if it was true that 
Mr. Corcoran or Morgan, or both, had^held in their 
hands $2,000,000 drawn from the Treasury on the 
17th of June, and yet held $1,600,000 of it in their 

^ Samuel Swartwout of New York, 1 783-1856, was appointed 
Collector of the Port of New York by Jackson, which office he 
held until into Van Buren's administration. His defalcation of 
over a million dollars occasioned a great political scandal which 
entered into the Presidential campaign of 1840. An account of 
the affair is given by Von Hoist, Constitutional and Political 
History of the United States, H, 350-360. 



146 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Aug. 

hands, that they must forthwith pay it over. I told 
him that the thing was wholly wrong in itself and 
that I had had no knowledge of any such transaction 
having been made at the time; that I could not rest 
easy while the matter remained in its present condi- 
tion; that bankers were rich to-day and poor to-mor- 
row, & might blow up, honestly or dishonestly, any 
day, and that the money they held must be forthwith 
paid over. He said he had never made such ar- 
rangements except when the War Department 
wished funds transferred. I repeated to him Gen'l 
Jesup's statement to me. He said if he abandoned 
this mode of transfer it would derange the money 
market, produce a pressure, bring the Independent 
Treasury into odium, & greatly diminish the receipts 
of revenue at the Custom-houses. I told him the 
first duty of the Government was to execute the law 
as it was, and that no money should ever be drawn 
from the Treasury except as it was needed for public 
use, and when it was to be disbursed at distant points 
from those at which it had accumulated it should be 
drawn out only a sufficient time in advance to make 
the transfer of it to the place where it was foreseen 
it would be wanted. I told him I could not con- 
ceive anything to justify the drawing so large [an] 
amt. from the Treasury and suffering it to remain for 
more than two months in the hands of individuals. 
The conversation continued for a considerable time, 
Judge Mason being present and hearing it all. 
Finally I repeated to Mr. Walker my request that he 
would immediately investigate the matter & Report 
to me on the subject. The matter troubles me very 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 147 

greatly. The President of the U. S. is compelled by 
his other indispensible duties to leave the perform- 
ance of all these details to the Departments and their 
subordinate officers charged with them, and cannot 
possibly give them his personal attention. I had 
every confidence that all was right and that this 
branch of the service was going on in the usual & 
legal way, until the events and developments of the 
past week, and especially that made to me by Gen'l 
Jesup this morning, have awakened my suspicions 
that all may not be right. I am resolved to have an 
immediate & searching scrutiny into the whole mat- 
ter. Mr. Mason, the acting Secretary of War, read 
to me requisitions which he had prepared on the 
Governor of Indiana for one Regiment of Infantry; 
on the Gov. of Tennessee for tw^o Regiments of In- 
fantry; and on the Gov. of Kentucky for two Regi- 
ments of Infantry. Mr. Walker approved the reso- 
lution of the Cabinet made in his absence to call for 
this additional Volunteer force. 

Thursday, 2dth August, 1847.— Tht Secretary 
of the Treasury called this morning and introduced 
a friend. He informed me that he was causing the 
investigation to be made, which I directed on yes- 
terday, and would report to me soon. I told him 
that I was impatient to have the Report, as I desired 
to learn the true condition of the public money which 
had been drawn from the Treasury by the war De- 
partment, and especially for the service of the Quar- 
ter master's Department. I told him I wished to 
learn in whose hands such portions of it as had not 



148 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Aug. 

been expended was, and how long it had been in 
their hands (see this Diary of yesterday). He said 
that no transfer of funds had been directed by the 
Treasury Dept. for the service of the War Dept. 
except upon the solicitation and request of the latter 
Dept. I told him I wished to see the Official Report 
of the whole matter. 

I transacted business with Judge Mason relating 
both [to] the War and Navy Departments to-day. 
I saw other officers on official business. I also trans- 
acted much business, chiefly of details, on my table. 
I saw company at 2 O'Clock P. M. A large num- 
ber of persons called, seeking office as usual. Among 
others, three females called. One of them had an 
infant in her arms, which she said she called James 
K. Polk. She asked me for a present for the child. 
I gave her a half-eagle. The other two wanted pres- 
ents also. 

Maj'r Gen'l Patterson called on yesterday. He is 
on his way, under orders from the War Department, 
for the seat of War in Mexico. 

Friday, 2Jth August, 184J, — My brother, Wm. 
H. Polk, and his wife, arrived this morning & took 
lodgings in the President's House. 

The Secretary of the Treasury called this morning 
and informed me that he was busily at work in hav- 
ing the Report prepared which I had requested on 
yesterday and the day preceding. I told him that 
it was strange to me that the information I wanted 
could not be furnished in an hour from the Books of 
his Department. I told him what I most wished 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i49 

to know was, how much money had been drawn from 
the Treasury upon the requisitions of the Quarter 
master's Department, when it was drawn, and in 
whose hands it was, and upon what contract or ar- 
rangement it was held; & I repeated to him the state- 
ment which had been made to me by Gen'l Jesup on 
monday last. Mr. Walker presented a written state- 
ment from Mr. Young, his chief Clerk, to the effect 
that no money had been drawn from the Treasury on 
account of the War Dept. but upon a requisition of 
that Department. I told him that might be, but still 
that was not information which I had called for. I 
told him I wanted to know upon what contract or 
arrangement the $2,000,000, which Gen'l Jesup had 
informed me had been drawn on the 17th of June, 
had been made. I told him I desired to know 
whether it or any part of it was in the hands of Cor- 
coran & Riggs, or any other Bankers, and if so how 
long it had been in their hands, & what amt. they 
still held. I again expressed to him my disapproval 
of the transaction as it had been communicated to me 
by Gen'l Jesup, and that I must have an official Re- 
port on the subject. I expressed, as [I] had done 
on monday last (see this diary of that day) my ap- 
prehension of defalcation under such a practice. 
Late in the evening Mr. Walker addressed me a 
communication, enclosing one from Mr. Young, his 
chief clerk, purporting to give the information in 
part, but it is not satisfactory. To-morrow I will 
peremptorily require the report which I have de- 
manded. 
Judge Mason, the acting Secretary of War, called 



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

to-day and spent two or three hours in my office on 
official business connected with the War in Mexico. 
Whilst he was in my office, Maj'r Gen'l Patterson 
called, and I held a conversation with him on the 
same subject, Judge Mason being present and engag- 
ing in the conversation. 

I opened my office for company at 2 O'Clock 
P. M. & but few persons called, which is not often 
the case. I transacted much business on my table 
to-day. This was the regular evening for receiving 
company in the parlour. Quite a number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 28th August, 1847. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day; all the members present 
except the Secretary of War and the Post Master 
General, who are absent from the city. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury stated that the Report which 
I had required to be made to me, in relation to the 
amt. of funds drawn from the Treasury on account 
of the War Department to be transferred to New 
Orleans and which had not yet been paid over at 
N. Orleans, was not yet completed. He stated that 
$600,000 of the $2,000,000 drawn on the requisition 
o'f the Quarter master's Department on the 17th of 
June last remained yet to be paid over, and that the 
balance of the original sum had already been paid 
over at New Orleans. He stated that by the con- 
tract the remaining $600,000 was to be paid by Cor- 
coran & Riggs on the 15th of September next, and 
that it would be paid on that day. I expressed the 
opinion that if the mode of transfer adopted was 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 151 

legal and proper, the time given had been too long 
and the amt. too large, for the safety of the funds. 
Mr. [Walker] Insisted that he had never drawn for 
any amt. except upon the requisition of the War 
Department, and read some communications to him 
from the War Department to establish that fact. I 
told him I wishe[d] to see the full report when it 
was ready, & that my only object in making the en- 
quiry I had done was to be satisfied that the trans- 
action was legal and the public money safe. Mr. 
Walker suggested that the legality of the mode of 
transfer which he had adopted had probably [bet- 
ter] be referred to the Atto. Gen'l for his opinion. 
Mr. Clifford suggested that as the mode had already 
been adopted and practiced upon, that his opinion 
would be unnecessary, and after some conversation 
among the members of the Cabinet it was not insisted 
upon by Mr. Walker. Mr. Buchanan was clearly 
of opinion that the mode of transfer which had been 
adopted was clearly legal. The policy of laying an 
export duty on specie in the ports of Mexico in our 
military possession was considered, as was also the 
practicability of furnishing the army in Mexico with 
specie by means of Bills drawn on the U. States. It 
was agreed that Mr. Walker would consider of 
the subject, and Report at the next meeting of the 
Cabinet. 

Mr. Buchanan read a long despatch ^ which he 
had prepared to the Charge d'Affaires of Brazil, on 
the subject of the imprisonment of Lieut. Davis and 
three American sailors at Rio d' Janeiro in October 

^ Moore, Buclia?mn, VII, 388-404. 



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

last, and also on the subject of the complaints of the 
Brazilian Government, of the conduct of Mr. Wise, 
U. S. Minister at that Court. It was an able paper, 
& was approved by the Cabinet. 

A telegraphic communication was received from 
Richmond this morning, and an official despatch 
from Lieut. Col. Wilson, commanding at Vera Cruz, 
dated on the 15th Instant, announcing that Gen'l 
Paredes, Ex. President of Mexico, had arrived at 
Vera Cruz in the Brittish mail Steamer on the morn- 
ing of the 14th Instant in disguise & under an as- 
sumed name, and had made good his passage through 
Vera Cruz before it was known to the commander 
or officers of the U. S. forces that he had been there. 
This was most unfortunate, as the return of Paredes 
to Mexico may protract the War. 

Maj'r Gen'l Patterson of the U. S. army called to- 
night, & I had a further conversation with him about 
afifairs in Mexico. 

I deeply regret to learn by the despatches from 
Vera Cruz that Col. Louis D. Wilson of N. C, com- 
manding the 1 2th Regiment of Infantry, died at that 
place and was interred on the 14th Instant. He was 
a patriotic and excellent man. He was a patriotic 
& highly intelligent man, and was my personal 
friend. He left this City about a month ago to as- 
sume the command of his Regiment. I had a full 
and free confidential conversation with him on the 
subject of the War & the operations of the army in 
Mexico, & gave him my views fully. He was the 
bearer of despatches to Gen'l Scott. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 153 

Sunday, 2gth August, 184'/. — I attended the first 
Presbyterian Church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, the wife of my brother, Wm. H. Polk, and my 
nephew, Sam'l P. Walker of Tennessee. 

Intelligence reached the City to-day of the sudden 
death by apoplexy of the Hon. Silas Wright,^ late 
Governor of New York. He was a great and a good 
man. At the commencement of my administration 
I tendered to him the office of Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, which he declined to accept. I was intimate 
with him when he was in Congress. He was my per- 
sonal and personal [political] friend, and I deeply 
regret his death. 

Monday, 30th August, 184J. — This was a very 
busy day. I transacted much business with public 
officers, and saw more company than usual. Though 
I did not direct my office to be open for company 
until 2 O'clock P. M., many persons were intro- 
duced by public officers before that hour. Maj'r 
Emmory of the 3rd Dragoons notified the adjutant 
Gen'l today that he declined to accept the office of 
Major in that Regiment, being unwilling to relin- 
quish his commission in the Topographical En- 
gineers which was a permanent position, whereas the 
3rd Dragoons was [were] to be discharged from serv- 
ice at the end of the war with Mexico. My brother, 
Wm. H. Polk, who has repeatedly pressed me to give 
him a position in the army, was very desirous to be ap- 
pointed to the majority relinquished by Maj'r Em- 
mory. Upon a full view of the subject I concluded 

^ Died at his home, Canton, New York, August 27, 1846. 



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

to gratify his wishes. He will have to resign his 
mission as charge d'affaires to Naples, and 1 will 
commission him as Maj'r of Dragoons on to-morrow. 
Maj'r Gen'l Patterson called twice to-day. He will 
leave for Vera Cruz on to-morrow, but will be de- 
tained a day or two at Norfolk, Va. My brother 
will leave for Vera Cruz to join his Regiment on 
thursday next, and his arrangement is to join Gen'l 
Patterson at Petersburg or some other point on the 
route and accompany him to Gen'l Scott's army. 

Tuesday, 31 st August, 184J. — The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present 
except the Secretary of War, who is still absent 
from the City. I submitted to the Cabinet a legal 
question whether I possessed the power under the act 
of June 1 8th, 1846, to appoint in the recess of the 
Senate the Staff of the Quarter master's. Commis- 
sary's, and medical Departments to serve with the 
new Regiments of Volunteers lately called into serv- 
ice. The facts are these: when the 12 months vol- 
unteers were called out I appointed, with the advice 
& consent of the Senate, the requisite number of these 
staff officers. When the term of the 12 months men 
expired in May or June last (and since the last ses- 
sion of the Senate) a portion of the staff officers were 
disbanded, retaining only a sufficient number for the 
Volunteers at that time in the service for the War. 
Since that time several Regiments of Volunteers 
have been called out, & the question was whether I 
could legally re-appoint the same officers of the staff, 
having once discharged them, or to appoint others 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 155 

in their place. Mr. Walker and Mr. Mason were 
of the opinion that they were vacancies happening 
in the recess of the Senate, and that I could appoint 
them. Mr. Clifford and Mr. Buchanan thought 
otherwise. Mr. Johnson inclined to concur with 
them in opinion, but advised me to make the ap- 
pointments, as they were indispensible for the organ- 
ization of the new Regiments. I expressed the opin- 
ion, which I had formed after careful examination, 
that I possessed the power, but disliked to exer- 
cise [it] when my Cabinet were so equally divided. 
The subject was fully discussed, when Mr. Bu- 
chanan said there was in [his] mind some doubt on' 
the subject, but the necessity for these staflf officers 
was very great, and therefore he advised me to make 
the appointments. Mr. Clifford said that entertain- 
ing his opinion he was bound when called upon to 
express it, but that if he entertained the opinion 
which I had expressed, he would advise me to make 
the appointments. At one time I intimated that I 
would desire the written opinion of the atto Gen'l 
before I decided, but I reconsidered in [the] further 
progress of the discussion. Before the Cabinet met, 
Senator Bagby had called at my office & I had sub- 
mitted the question to him. He expressed the opin- 
ion that the office still existed, had been once filled, 
and had become vacant, and he had no doubt I had 
the power to fill it, subject to the confirmation of the 
Senate at the next Session. This was my own opinion 
and my only reason for hesitating grew out of the 
divided opinion of the Cabinet. I finally concluded 
that the public necessity for the services of these staff 



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

officers was so great that I would make the appoint- 
ment. Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Johnson advised me to 
do it. Mr. Walker and Mr. Mason were clear that 
I was bound to do so; and Mr. Clifford repeated the 
opinion that with my opinions he would certainly 
do so, remarking at the same time that the opinion on 
the question of power which he had expressed was 
an off-hand opinion, and not one formed upon ma- 
ture examination. 

I next submitted to the Cabinet the propriety of is- 
suing positive orders to Gen'l Scott to exact military 
contributions [from] the Mexicans, and especially 
if he should take and occupy the City of Mexico. 
I stated that such instructions had been heretofore 
given to both Gen'l Taylor and Gen'l Scott, but leav- 
ing to them a discretion on the subject, and, as the 
Cabinet knew, neither of them had made such ex- 
actions. I thought that the orders to Gen'l Scott 
should now be more peremptory and stringent, and 
that nothing should prevent him from levying such 
contributions upon the wealthy inhabitants of Mex- 
ico to defray the expenses of his army, unless he 
should find that by adopting such a policy, his army 
could not be subsisted. The subject was discussed. 
Mr. Buchanan expressed some doubts, upon the 
ground that the wealthy inhabitants were under- 
stood to be favourable to peace and that such a policy 
might make them change their policy. I thought if 
they were made to feel the burthens of the War they 
would be more likely to be sincere in their desire to 
bring about a peace. The other members of the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 157 

Cabinet concurred in the policy of levying such con- 
tributions, or, in other words, in favour of quarter- 
ing upon the enemy. 

My brother, William H. Polk, was commissioned 
as Maj'r of the 3rd Dragoons to-day, and imme- 
diately received orders to proceed and join his 
Regiment, under the command of Gen'l Scott in 
Mexico. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

My brother, William H. Polk, upon being ap- 
pointed Maj'r of Dragoons, resigned his mission to 
the King of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies. 

Wednesday, ist September, 184'/. — I was in my 
office as usual at an early hour this morning. I saw 
several public officers and transacted public business 
with them. I disposed of much business which had 
accumulated on my table. I opened my office at 2 
O'clock P. M. Several persons called. The busi- 
ness of most of them was to seek office. It was 
known only on yesterday that my brother, Wm H. 
Polk, had resigned his mission to Naples and ac- 
cepted the commission of Maj'r of Dragoons in the 
army; and to-day I had three applications for his 
place. My nephew, Samuel P. Walker, and my 
niece, Jane Barnett, and her husband, who had been 
in my family for the last ten days, left for New York. 

This was a very busy day, in attending to very 
many details, and I did not retire to rest until a later 
hour than usual. 



158 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Sept. 

Thursday, 2nd September, 184J. — At 8 
O'clock this morning my brother, Wm H. Polk, 
left for Vera Cruz via Pensacola to join his Regi- 
ment as Major of the 3rd Dragoons. He left his 
wife with my family. She will remain for some 
weeks and then return to her friends in New York. 
Judge Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, and also 
acting Secretary of War during the absence of Judge 
Marcy from the Seat of government, received infor- 
mation last night of the dangerous illness of his 
father in Virginia, and left by the Southern boat this 
morning to visit him. I appointed Mr. Buchanan 
to be acting Secretary of War, and Mr. John Apple- 
ton, the chief clerk of the Navy Department, to be 
acting Secretary of the Navy. My Private Secre- 
tary, J. Knox Walker, left this morning on a visit 
to the North. Mr. W. C. Whitthorne, a clerk in the 
6th Auditor's office, took his place. Mr. Whit- 
thorne was a law student in my office in Tennessee 
before I was elected President. I was very busy to- 
day. I opened my office as usual at 2 O'Clock, and 
several persons called, and all, I believe, were seeking 
office either for themselves or their friends. It is 
very annoying to have my time taken up by such peo- 
ple. I sometimes almost loose my patience and good 
temper. 

Friday, Jrd September, 184J, — I was much oc- 
cupied in my office to-day though nothing of special 
importance transpired. During the absence of the 
Secretary of War much of my time is occupied with 
the details of the War Department connected with 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 159 

the Mexican War. I saw the adj't Gen'l & the 
Quarter master Gen'l to-day & conferred with them, 
and gave directions in reference of [to] many of 
these details. I saw also several other public officers 
and transacted business with them. 1 disposed of 
much business on my table. No intelligence from 
the army was received by the Southern mail to day. 
I am waiting with great anxiety for the next news. 

Thi[s] was reception evening. Quite a number 
of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 4th September, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Secretary of War and the Secretary 
of the Navy, who are both absent from the City. 
After the transaction of some business of minor im- 
portance the Secretary of the Treasury, who had been 
requested at a former meeting to examine & Report 
upon the policy and propriety of levying an export 
duty on specie, as a military contribution in the ports 
of Mexico now in our military possession. He 
made a verbal Report and recommended that an ex- 
port duty on specie be levied of the same amt. which 
had been levied by the Mexican laws before the War 
commenced. The Post master Gen'l and the Atto. 
General were in favour of the measure. Mr. Bu- 
chanan was opposed to it and assigned his reasons at 
some length for his opinion. Mr. Walker enforced 
his views in favour of the measure. The other mem- 
bers of the Cabinet participated in the discussion. 
My opinion had been decidedly in favour of the 
measure and I had so expressed myself. The views 



i6o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Sept. 

presented by Mr. Buchanan were plausable, if not 
sound, and struck me with some force. I finally 
informed the Cabinet that I would consider the 
subject further, and would not decide the question 
to-day. 

I brought before the Cabinet the importance of 
uniting the forces of Gen'l Taylor with those of 
Gen'l Scott, except a sufficient number to hold Mon- 
terey and the line of the Rio Grande. This had 
been in effect ordered by the Secretary of War under 
my direction after consultation in Cabinet, in a de- 
spatch to Gen'l Taylor dated July 14th, 1847. I sent 
to the War Department for that despatch and read 
it to the Cabinet. We have no answer from Gen'l 
Taylor, and do not therefore certainly know that it 
has reached him. It was sent out by Mr. Whitaker 
of N. C, a special bearer of despatches. Mr. Whit- 
aker wrote to the Secretary of War from Camargo 
on the 9th of August. He was at that place on his 
way to Gen'l Taylor, who was af Monterey. I ex- 
pressed the opinion that a more stringent and posi- 
tive order should be sent to Gen'l Taylor. In this 
the Cabinet concurred, but it was concluded to post- 
pone sending a second order for a few days, in the 
expectation that further intelligence might be re- 
ceived from Gen'l Taylor. 

I remarked to the Cabinet that it was time we were 
considering what was to be done and what distinct 
policy I should recommend to Congress, if the war 
should continue until the meeting of that body. I 
remarked that we should deliberately settle upon our 
plans & policy and be prepared to maintain them, 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i6i 

before Congress met. I remarked that I called the 
attention of the Cabinet to this most important sub- 
ject to-day, not for the purpose of asking a decision 
upon it at this time, but to draw the attention of the 
Cabinet to it with a view to have the aid of their 
matured advice when it did come up for decision, 
which must be before long. I then went on to state 
my present impressions, which were in brief that we 
should unite the two columns of the army, except a 
sufficient force to hold Monterey and the line of the 
Rio Grande, and press the war upon the capital and 
vital parts of Mexico by all the means which the na- 
tion could command, until a peace was obtained. I 
expressed the opinion further that as our expenses 
had been greatly enlarged by the obstinacy of Mex- 
ico in refusing to negotiate, since Mr. Trist's instruc- 
tions were prepared in April last, if a treaty had not 
been made when we next heard from Mexico that 
his instructions should be modified. I remarked 
that if we were compelled to continue the war at so 
great expense I would be unwilling to pay the sum 
which Mr. Trist had been authorized to pay, in the 
settlement of a boundary by which it was contem- 
plated the U. S. would acquire New Mexico & the 
Californias; and that if Mexico continued obsti- 
nately to refuse to Treat, I was decidedly in favour 
of insisting on the acquisition of more territory than 
the provinces named. I repeated that these were 
my present impressions, and that they were thrown 
out now that the Cabinet might reflect upon them 
by the time it would be necessary to decide upon 
them. No formal expression of opinion was made 



i62 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Seft. 

by the Cabinet, but there seem[ed] to be an acqui- 
escence in these views. 

After the Cabinet adjourned I transacted business 
on my table. When I retired at night I was much 
fatigued, having passed a week of great labour and 
responsibility, and of great solicitude & anxiety. 
With me it is emphatically true that the Presidency 
is " no bed of roses." 

Sunday, 5/A Septetnber, 184J. — I attended the 
First Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk. 

Monday, 6th September, 184J. — Nothing of 
much importance transpired to-day. The adjt. 
General of the army spent a considerable time with 
me in consultation in relation to various details con- 
nected with the military operations in Mexico, and 
in filling the staflf appointments for the new Regi- 
ments of volunteers recently called into the service. 
The Secretary of State called on business. At 2 
O'clock, when my office was opened for company, 
several persons called, all of them seeking office ex- 
cept one, and he was a hale, stout looking young man, 
who was begging money. I had neither offices nor 
money to give, and got rid of them as summarily as 
possible. 

Judge Mason returned from his visit from [to] 
his father this evening. He had been absent since 
thursday last (See this Diary of that day). 

Tuesday, yth September, 1847.— Tht Cabinet 
met at the usual hour this morning; all the members 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 163 

present except the Secretary of War, who is still ab- 
sent from the seat of Government. 

I stated to the Cabinet that 1 had considered of the 
proposition which was discussed at the last meeting 
(see this diary of the 4th Inst.) to levy an export duty 
on specie in the ports of Mexico in our military pos- 
session, and that I felt so much doubt upon the sub- 
ject that I would postpone any decision on the sub- 
ject at present. 

I submitted for consideration to the Cabinet, 
whether, as the Mexican Government had contin- 
ued stubbornly [to refuse] to enter upon negotia- 
tions for peace for several months after they had been 
notified that Mr. Trist was with the Head Quarters 
of the army clothed with full- diplomatic powers, and 
as the U. S. had been subjected to great expense since 
Mr. Trist's instructions were given to him in April 
last: whether under the changed circumstances since 
that time the instructions to Mr. Trist should not be 
modified. The distinct questions submitted were, 
whether the amt. which Mr. Trist had been author- 
ized to pay for the possession of New Mexico and 
the Californias and right of passage through the 
istmus of Tehuantepec should not be reduced, and 
whether we should not now demand more territory 
than we now did. All seemed to agree that the max- 
imum sum to be paid for the cessions above described 
should be reduced. Mr. Buchanan suggested that 
this sum should be reduced from 30 to 15 millions, 
& that the cession of the right of passage through the 
istmus of Lower as well as Upper California & New 
Mexico should be made a sine qua non. He suggested 



i64 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Sept. 

also that the line should run on the parallel of 31° or 
31° 30' of North Latitude from the Rio Grande 
to the Gulf of California, instead of on the parallel 
of 32° which Mr. Trist had been authorized to ac- 
cept. Upon the question of acquiring more territory 
than this there was some difference of opinion. The 
Secretary of the Treasury & the Attorney General 
were in favour of acquiring in addition the Depart- 
ment or State of Tamaulipas, which includes the port 
of Tampico. The Secretary of State was opposed to 
this. The Post master Gen'l and the Secretary of 
the Navy concurred with him. I expressed myself 
as being entirely agreed to reduce the sum to be 
paid from 30 to 15 millions, and to modify the line 
as suggested by Mr. Buchanan. I declared myself 
also as being in favour of acquiring the cession of 
the Department of Tamaulipas, if it should be found 
practicable to do so. The subject was fully dis- 
cussed & at full length. The Secretary of the Navy 
stated an objection to the modification of Mr. Trist's 
instructions until we could hear again from the 
army. He thought if the instructions should be 
modified, and before they reached Mr. Trist he 
should have concluded a Treaty upon the basis of 
his first instructions, it would embarrass the admin- 
istration in approving and ratifying it. He thought 
if any Treaty could be made it would probably be 
accomplished before Gen'l Scott's army entered the 
City of Mexico, and he suggested that we had better 
wait a few days, as we were in daily expectation of 
hearing the result of Gen'l Scott's advance upon the 
City of Mexico. The Cabinet finally concluded not 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 165 

to decide the question submitted to them to-day, but 
to wait a few days, and until we should again hear 
from the army. In the course of the discussion The 
Attorney Gen'l expressed the opinion that if an 
army took possession of the City of Mexico, and the 
Mexicans still refused to make peace, that Mr. Trist 
should be recalled, and that Mexico and the world 
should be informed that we had no further prop- 
ositions of peace to make, and that we should prose- 
cute the War with the whole energy of the nation 
and over-run and subdue the whole country, until 
Mexico herself sued for peace. The Secretary of 
the Treasury expressed his concurrence in these 
opinions. I dissented from the opinion that Mr. 
Trist should be recalled, but concurred with the 
Atto. Gen'l in his views in all other respects. I 
thought we should still keep our minister with the 
Head Quarters of the army ready to receive any 
propositions of overtures of peace which Mexico 
might have to make. The Post master Gen'l ap- 
peared to concur with the Atto. Gen'l in his views. 
The Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy 
were not distinct in the expression of their views. It 
was finally concluded to postpone the whole subject 
until we could hear again from the army. 

Some minor matters were considered & disposed 
of in the Cabinet. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Judge Mason, having returned from his visit to 
his father last evening, resumed his duties as Secre- 
tary of the Navy and also as Acting Secretary of 



i66 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Sept. 

War, this morning. Mr. Buchanan, who had been 
acting Secretary of War during Judge Mason's ab- 
sence, desired that Judge Mason should resume the 
duties of that office. 

Wednesday, 8th September, 184^. — I was very 
busily occupied to-day with public officers, and in 
transacting various matters of official business, but 
none of them of great importance, I spent two or 
three hours with Judge Mason, the acting Secretary 
of War, & the adjt. Gen'l of the army, in filling up 
vacancies which had occurred in the army, and in 
appointing the staflf of the Quarter master's, com- 
missary's, and medical Departments, rendered neces- 
sary by the increased volunteer forces recently called 
to the field. I disposed also of much business on my 
table. 

Thursday, gth September, 184J. — This morn- 
ing I directed no one to be admitted into my office 
until 2 O'clock, desiring to devote myself to the ex- 
amination and preparation of a message which I 
design to send in to the next Congress, assigning my 
objections to the Harbour Bill which passed on the 
last day of the last Session, and from which I with- 
held my approval. Public officers and other per- 
sons on special business called in such numbers that 
I was unable to make any progress in the paper. 
The Secretary of State and Judge Mason, the acting 
Secretary of War, occupied a considerable portion 
of my time on business connected with their respec- 
tive Departments. I disposed of some business on 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 167 

my table. A letter was received by the Southern 
mail this afternoon from F. M. Dimond, ass't Quar- 
ter master of the army, dated at Vera Cruz, Aug't 
27th, 1847, and addressed to the Secretary of War, 
giving unauthentic information in which Mr. 
Dimond had confidence, to the effect that the 
army under Gen'l Scott had on the 20th of 
August met the Mexican forces under Santa Anna 
and Valencia and defeated them, that they had re- 
tired into the City, asked a truce, and called the 
Mexican Congress to assemble to consider of Mr. 
Trist's terms of peace. The rumour at Vera Cruz 
seems to be well-founded. I sincerely hope that a 
Treaty of peace may have been concluded and signed. 

Friday, lOth September, 184J. — Nothing of 
much importance transpired to-day. I transacted 
business in my office as usual. I saw company at 2 
O'clock. Several persons called. 

This being reception evening I saw company in the 
parlour. A number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. 

Saturday, nth September, 1847.— Tht Cab- 
inet met at the usual hour; all the members present 
except Gov. Marcy, the Secretary of War, who is 
still absent from the City. In consideration of the 
information received from the army since the con- 
sultation in Cabinet at the last meeting on tuesday 
last, in relation to the proposed modification of Mr. 
Trist's instructions, that subject was not brought up 
to-day. The information from the army received on 



i68 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Sept. 

the 9th Instant (see this diary of that day) renders it 
probable that if an adjustment with Mexico could 
be concluded a Treaty has probably been concluded 
before this time, & therefore I will await further in- 
telligence from Mr. Trist before deciding upon the 
modification of his instructions as to the terms of 
peace. 

No subject of general importance was considered 
to-day. Several matters of minor importance were 
disposed of. While the Cabinet were in Session, 
Brigadier General Kearney of the U. S. army called. 
Gen'l Kearney returned recently from California. 
I received him in my office & introduced him to my 
Cabinet. He stated that he had arrived in Wash- 
ington this morning, and had called to pay his re- 
spects & to report himself to me. I received him 
kindly, for I consider him a good officer. He has 
performed valuable and important services in his 
late expedition to New Mexico & California. He 
remained but a few minutes. I invited him to call 
again. 

My nephew, Sam'l P. Walker of Tennessee, re- 
turned from New York to-day. Mr. John T. Leigh, 
who resides near my plantation in Mississippi and 
at whose house I have been very hospitably enter- 
tained, called with his son to-day. I invited them 
to take a family dinner with me, and they did so. 
Judge Mason, who is an old acquaintance of Mr. 
Leigh, also dined with me. 

Sunday, 12th September, 184J. — This was a 
damp wet day, & was so uncomfortable that Mrs. 



i847] JAxMES K. POLK'S DIARY 169 

Polk declined attending church and we remained at 
home & spent a quiet day. My nephew, Sam'l P. 
Walker, who arrived here from New York on yes- 
terday, left this afternoon for his residence in Ten- 
nessee. 

Monday, 13th September, 184J. — I gave direc- 
tions to my messenger this morning to admit no com- 
pany and to bring no cards from any one, except 
members of the Cabinet or Officers of the Govern- 
ment on public business, until 2 O'Clock P. M. I 
occupied the day until that hour in preparing my ob- 
jections to the Harbour and River Bill, which 
passed Congress at the close of the last session. The 
Secretary of War, the Secretary of State, and some 
other public officers called before that hour. I dis- 
posed of the current business on my table and at 2 
O'clock I received company. Many persons called, 
some to pay their respects & other[s] to seek office. 
Mr. Barnett, who married my niece, Jane Walker, 
returned this morning from New York and took up 
his quarters in the President's house. 

Tuesday, 14th September, 1847. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members present 
except Gov. Marcy, the Secretary of War, who is 
still absent from the City. Several matters of minor 
importance were considered and disposed of, but 
none of general interest was considered. Judge 
Mason and Mr. Walker remained after the other 
members of the Cabinet had retired. The question 
of organizing the Batallion of Volunteers raised in 



170 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Sept 

the District of Columbia & Maryland into a Regi- 
ment was brought up by them. It had been for some 
time contemplated to give this Battallion a Regi- 
mental organization as soon as a sufficient number 
of companies to compose a Regiment should be 
raised. Indeed this was contemplated before Lieut. 
Col. Hughes, who commands the Battallion, left for 
the seat of War. It appears that 3 companies have 
been raised in the D. C. and 3 companies in Mary- 
land, and are now in Mexico; and that i additional 
company has been organized in Maryland, and 2 ad- 
ditional companies are in progress of being raised in 
the D. of C. Judge Mason and Mr. Walker advised 
me to give the corps a Regimental organization at 
this time, by adding to it detached companies from 
other states; and to promote Lieut. Col. Hughes to 
the command of the Regiment and to appoint Lieut. 
Emmory of this District, of the Engineer corps, 
Lieut. Col. in Col. Hughes's place. I expressed 
doubts whether I could legally and with propriety 
appoint both the Col. & Lieut. Col. of the regiment, 
if so organized, until there were more than 3 com- 
panies from the D. C. They thought I could and 
advised me to do so. I told them I would look into 
the subject further. I should observe that I have 
heretofore appointed the Lieut. Col., and the Gov- 
ernor of Maryland has appointed the Maj'r of the 
Battallion now in Mexico. 

The Southern mail of this evening brought intelli- 
gence (which had been conveyed a part of the way 
from New Orleans by a Government express) of two 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 171 

battles ^ between the forces under the command of 
Gen'l Scott and the Mexican army, before the City 
of Mexico. They were fought on the 19th and 20th 
of August, and resulted in decisive victories of the 
American arms, though with heavy losses on both 
sides. An armistice was entered into between the 
two armies after the battles, which had been followed 
by the appointment of commissioners by Mexico to 
meet and negotiate for peace with Mr. Trist. A de- 
spatch was received from Mr. Trist, dated on the 29th 
Aug't, stating that he had had two meetings with 
the Mexican commissioners as [and] was to meet 
them again on the next day, the 30th of Aug't. 

This being reception evening, the company, ladies 
and gentlemen, had assembled in the parlour for 
some time before I met them. I had been detained 
in my office examining the despatches from Mr. Trist 
and the unofficial information received from officers 
of the army in letters addressed to persons in Wash- 
ington. Official letters were also received from Vera 
Cruz, but none from Gen'l Scott. When I met the 
company in the parlour I communicated to them the 
substance of the information which had been re- 
ceived. 

Wednesday, isth September, /<?^ 7.— Further 
details of the battle before the City of Mexico were 
received to-day through the New Orleans papers, but 
no official Report has come to hand. I fear Gen'l 
Scott has agreed to an armistice for two [too] long 

^ Contreras and Cherubusco. 



172 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Sept 

a time. Judging at this distance, I would think he 
should have improved his victories by pressing the 
Mexican Government to an immediate decision upon 
the terms of peace which Mr. Trist was authorized 
to offer to them, and if they refused these terms I 
think he should have taken immediate possession of 
the City, and levied contribution upon it for the sup- 
port of his army. I fear the armistice was agreed 
to by the Mexican Commander only to gain time to 
re-organize his defeated army for further resistance. 
The battles were fought on the 19th and 20th of 
August, and it appears that on the 29th, ^ from Mr. 
Trist's Despatch of that date, that no decision had 
been made upon the terms of peace which had been 
proposed by him. I shall wait very anxiously for 
further information from the army. 

Judge Mason and Mr. Walker called together to- 
day and renewed their recommendation that I should 
give to the D. C. & Maryland Battallion a Regi- 
mental organization, promote Lieut. Col. Hughes 
to be Colonel, and appoint Lieut. Emmory to be 
Lieut. Col. (see this Diary of yesterday). I re- 
peated the doubts which I had expressed to them 
on yesterday but said as soon as the 2 additional com- 
panies now being raised in this District were mus- 
tered into the service, I was inclined to do so, if on 
an examination of the law, which I had not yet had 
time to make, I should think that I could do so le- 
gally and properly. Judge Mason, who is at present 

^ The phrase " that on the 29th " has been crossed out, after 
having been written, in the Diary. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i73 

the acting Secretary of War in the absence of Gov. 
Marcy from the seat of Government, informed me 
that men enough had been raised to form i of the 
additional companies in this District, which would 
make 4 companies from the District & 4 companies 
from Maryland, and that he thought it important 
that they should be formed into a regiment, by at- 
taching 2 companies from other States to them. He 
urged too there was a propriety in my appointing the 
Col. and Lieut. Col. from the D. C, inasmuch as the 
gov. of Maryland had already appointed the Major 
of the Battallion now in the field, and inasmuch as 
he had appointed the Lieut. Col. of the Battallion 
of 12 months men raised in Maryland & the D. of C. 
shortly after the War broke out. Mr. Walker con- 
curred in these views and urged them. They both 
expressed the opinion that I possessed the clear legal 
authority to do so. I told them I would examine 
the subject this afternoon. After they retired I sent 
for the Atto. Gen'l, who came to my office, and Mr. 
Buchanan who had called on other business. I sub- 
mitted the question to them, stating to them all the 
facts, and also what had occurred on yesterday and 
to-day between Judge Mason, Mr. Walker, and my- 
self. The Atto. Gen'l turned to the acts of Congress 
relating to the Militia of the D. C. and after some 
conversation both he and Mr. Buchanan expressed 
a clear opinion that I possessed the legal authority 
to give the Battallion a Regimental organization, and 
to appoint the Col. and Lieut. Col. to command it, 
and they advised me to do so. 



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

I disposed of much business on my table to-day, 
saw several public officers on business, & saw com- 
pany as usual at 2 O'Clock P. M. 

Thursday, 16th September, 184J. — I sent for 
Judge Mason, the acting Secretary of War, to-day, 
and informed him that after having consulted the 
Atto. Gen'l & Mr. Buchanan on yesterday, I was sat- 
isfied that I possessed the legal power to organize the 
Battallion of volunteers from the D. C. and Mary- 
land into a Regiment, and to appoint the Col. and 
Lieut. Col., and that I would do so as soon as the 4th 
Company from the D. C. was mustered into the serv- 
ice of the U. S. I sent also for Mr. Walker, the Sec- 
retary [of the Treasury], and stated the same to him 
(see this diary of yesterday and the day before). 
Mr. Walker's anxiety on the subject arose from the 
fact that he desired Lieut. Emmory, who is his 
brother-in-law, to be appointed Lieut. Col. He was 
perfectly satisfied with my decision. 

I received by the Southern mail this evening a 
letter from Lieut. Col. Wilson, Governor of Vera 
Cruz, enclosing a short note to him from Gen'l Scott's 
ass't Adj't Gen'l dated at the Head Quarters of the 
army near the City of Mexico, Aug't 28th, directing 
Col. Wilson by order of Gen'l Scott, to have a 
Steamer in readiness to carry despatches to the Gov- 
ernment, which he expected to transmit to him in two 
or three days afterwards. 

I saw public officers & transacted business to-day 
as usual. I saw company at 2 O'Clock P. M. A 
number of persons called. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 175 

Brigadier Gen'l Kearney [of the] U. S. army 
called to-day, and [I] had a conversation of more 
than an hour with him, in relation to his late expedi- 
tion to California and to afifairs in that country. He 
is a good officer & an intelligent gentleman. He 
gave me much valuable information in relation to 
afifairs in California, and the Military operations in 
that country. No conversation took place in relation 
to his recent difficulty w^ith Commodore Stockton & 
Lieut. Col. Fremont. Col. Fremont is under arrest, 
charges having been preferred against him by Gen'l 
Kearney, & I preferred not to converse with him on 
that subject. I did not introduce the subject, and I 
was glad that he did not. My conversation with him 
was a pleasant and interesting one. 

Friday, IJth September, 184'J. — I saw and trans- 
acted business to-day with the Atto. Gen'l, the Sec- 
retary of the Navy, and some other public officers. 
Being engaged in my office, I directed no one to be 
admitted until 2 O'Clock P. M. At that hour I 
opened my door, and quite a number of persons 
called. Most of them were on the patriotic business 
of serving themselves by seeking office. I had no 
offices to bestow and dealt with them in a very sum- 
mary manner. Some beggars for money were also 
among the number. To one poor woman I gave 
something. I also made a donation towards the 
building of the Washington Monument. No news 
was received from the army to-day. Mr. Barnett, 
who married my niece, Jane Walker, left for his 
residence in Tennessee to-day. This was reception 



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

evening. A number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. 

Saturday, l8th September, 1847. — Gov. Marcy, 
the Secretary of War, returned from his visit to New 
York this morning. He had been absent from the 
seat of Government about a month. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour to-day, all the 
members present. The War and the operations of 
our arm}/- in Mexico were the chief topics of conver- 
sation. I informed the Secretary of War of the chief 
events in relation to our military operations, and the 
action which had been taken upon them by the Gov- 
ernment during his absence. Mr. Buchanan read the 
last despatches received from Mr. Trist, the last of 
them dated August 29th, '47. No action was taken 
upon any specific proposition. 

I learned last evening that Lieut. Col. Fremont 
had arrived in this City. Brigadier Gen'l Kearney 
had arrested him and ordered him to report to the 
Adj't General at Washington. Gen'l Kearney filed 
charges against him with the Adj't Gen'l some days 
ago. I was informed in the parlour last night by 
Mr. Jones, the brother-in-law of Col. Fremont, that it 
was the Col's desire to be absent for a few days to 
visit his sick mother in Charleston, S. C, but that he 
had desired him to say to me that he wished to have 
his trial speedily and that he would be ready in 30 
days. I also received a letter from Senator Benton 
on the subject this morning. Col. Fremont's case 
was the subject of conversation in the Cabinet. The 
Secretary of War sent over to his Department for the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 177 

charges which were exhibited against Col. F. by 
Gen'l Kearney. They were brought over & were 
read in Cabinet. I requested the Secretary of War 
to examine the charges and report to me as soon as 
practicable, whether in his opinion the charges pre- 
ferred by Gen'l Kearney were of such a character as 
to make it proper to order a Court martial for the 
trial of Col. Fremont, or whether he would deem it 
better to order a Court of Enquiry in the first in- 
stance. No other business of importance was con- 
sidered in Cabinet. I transacted some business on 
my table as usual to-day. 

Bishop Otey ^ of the Episcopal church, who resides 
at Columbia, Tennessee, and his wife and daughter 
(Mrs. Minor) ^ dined with me to-day. Judge Mason 
and his wife also dined with me. Bishop Otey was 
with Judge Mason and myself at College at the Uni- 
versity of N. Carolina 30 years ago. 

Mrs. Polk, the wife of my brother, Wm. H. Polk, 
who has been a part of my family since her husband 
set off to Mexico as a Major of Dragoons, left this 
morning on a visit to her mother and other relations 
in the City of New York. 

No further news was received from the army in 
Mexico to-day. 

^ James Hervey Otey, 1 800-1 863, first Episcopal bishop of 
Tennessee, founder of Columbia Institute (Tennessee) and one 
of the founders of the University of the South at Sewanee. 

' Virginia Maury Minor was the daughter of James Hervey 
Otey and the wife of Benjamin Blake Minor, editor of the 
Southern Literary Messenger 1 843-1847. 



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

Sunday, igth September, 1847. — It rained this 
morning and the day was so inclement that Mrs. Polk 
declined attending church. I took my carriage and 
drove to the residence of Mr. Clififord, the atto. Gen'l, 
and Mr. Daniel Graham, the Register of the Treas- 
ury, who took seats with me and accompanied me to 
church. We attended Trinity church, and heard a 
very eloquent and able sermon delivered by Bishop 
Otey of the Episcopal church. 

The Southern mail this afternoon brought nothing 
beyond Georgia, and of course no further intelligence 
was received from the army in Mexico. 

Monday, 20th September, 184J, — Nothing of 
sufficient interest to be noted occurred to-day. I was 
busy in my office as usual, transa[c]ted business with 
public officers, disposed of business on my table, and 
at 2 O'clock P. M. saw company. 

Tuesday, 21st September, 1847. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members being 
present. No business of importance was transacted. 
Several subjects of minor interest were considered. 
The Cabinet dispersed at an early hour and I gave 
my attention to the business on my table. This was 
reception evening. A number of persons, ladies & 
gentlemen, called. 

I had some conversation with the Cabinet to-day, 
in which I directed that the annual estimates of ap- 
propriations for the next fiscal year should be pre- 
pared at as early a period as practicable. I directed 
the Secretaries of War & the Navy to make their esti- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 179 

mates upon the basis of the military and naval force 
now employed. 

Wednesday, 22nd September, 184'/. — I was en- 
gaged to-day chiefly in preparing a message which 1 
design to send to the Ho. of Repts. at the next Session 
of Congress assigning my reasons for with-holding 
my approval of a Bill making appropriations for 
Harbours and Rivers, which was presented to me 
near the close of the last Session of Congress and 
which I retained. I have at different times since 
the adjournment of Congress given some attention 
to the subject, had investigated it and written some 
paragraphs. I now design to put my views into 
form while I have leisure, and before it shall be 
necessary to give my attention to the preperation of 
my annual message to be communicated at the open- 
ing of the next Session of Congress. 

At 2 O'clock P. M. I saw company as usual. 
Quite a crowd of persons called, some to pay their re- 
spects, some seeking office, and one man with one 
leg begging money. To the latter I contributed 
something. In the evening I remained in my office 
until a late hour at night. 

No news was received from the army in Mexico 
to-day. 

Thursday, 23rd September, 184J. — I continued 
the preperations of my paper on the subject of Har- 
bours and River appropriations to-day, upon which 
I was engaged on yesterday, and nearly completed 
it. I transacted business with public officers as usual 



i8o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Sept. 

and disposed of the business on my table. I saw 
company at 2 O'Clock P. M. A number of persons 
called, most of whom were seeking what I had not 
to give — offices. The applications for place are un- 
ceasing. No news was received from the army in 
Mexico to-day. My anxiety to hear from the army 
is very great. Nothing of any general interest 
transpired today. 

Friday, 24th September, 184J. — This was a wet, 
gloomy day, and but few persons called. Gen'l Rob- 
ert Armstrong, U. S. consul to Liverpool, who came 
over in the last Steamer from England, called to- 
day. I transacted business in my office and saw pub- 
lic officers on business as usual. Nothing of impor- 
tance transpired. This was reception evening. It 
was a stormy, wet night, and but three or four persons 
called. 

Saturday, 2Sth September, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. Several subjects of minor importance were con- 
sidered and disposed of. No recent news having 
been received from the army, no further [measures] 
were deemed necessary, in reference to military 
movements, in the absence of later intelligence from 
the seat of War. I am waiting with great anxiety 
for the next arrival from Mexico. Shortly before 
the meeting of the Cabinet this morning Lieut. Col. 
Fremont called. Col. Fremont is under arrest but 
had [made] no allusion to that fact or to his case 
while in conversation with me. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY i8i 

Among other matters before the Cabinet to-day, 
the Secretary of War submitted a list of officers to 
compose the Court Martial in Col. Fremont's case. 
I informed him that I had not sufficient knowledge 
of the officers named to form an opinion as to their 
fitness to compose the Court, & that I left the selec- 
tion to him. 

The Secretary of War also stated a disagreement 
which had occurred among the surgeons and [at] 
Vera Cruz, viz.^ between Surgeons Barton & Mc- 
Farlane on the one hand & surgeon Porter on the 
other hand. After hearing the papers read I di- 
rected that Dr. Porter should be ordered to serv- 
ice elsewhere, and Drs. Barton and McFarlane 
should be retained at Vera Cruz. The Secretary 
of War did not seem to concur in this opinion, but 
I had no doubt on the subject & issued the order 
accordingly. 

About the time the Cabinet retired (between 2 and 
3 O'clock P. M.) I felt symptoms of a chill, and 
soon discovered that I had one. It was not severe, 
but I had some fever after it was over and spent an 
uncomfortable and restless night. The day was 
chilly for the season, and I was uncertain whether it 
was a regular attack of chills and fevers, or the ef- 
fects of a change of weather. I took some simple 
medicine, and will wait until I see whether I have a 
second chill before I send for a physician. 

Sunday, 26th September, 184'/. — I felt too un- 
well to attend church to-day. Mrs. Polk [and] Col. 
& Mrs. Walker attended Trinity Church to hear 



i82 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Sept. 

Bishop Elliott^ of the Episcopal church preach. 
The Bishop and his wife called on yesterday. Mrs. 
Elliott was Miss Charlotte Barnwell before her mar- 
riage, [and] is an old acquaintance and friend. She 
spent a winter in the same boarding house in Wash- 
ington with Mrs. Polk and myself some fifteen years 
ago. Her husband is the Bishop of Georgia. 

Gen'l Robert Armstrong called about 12 O'Clock 
and spent the balance of the day with me. I rested 
on a Sopha in my office. Gen'l Armstrong in the 
course of our long familiar conversation upon vari- 
ous subjects inquired of me how Mr. Charles J. In- 
gersoll of Phila. stood affected towards my adminis- 
tration. I told him that Mr. Ingersoll had become 
very hostile to me, and had written to me a very 
exceptionable letter, complaining of me because after 
he was rejected by the Senate as minister to France 
I had not renominated him, or kept the office vacant 
from the end of the last to the beginning of the next 
Session of Congress, so as to give him another chance 
to be confirmed. I told him that I had answered 
his letter, and that I thought Mr. Ingersoll would 
never venture to publish the correspondence. Gen'l 
Armstrong then told me that Mrs. Maury (an Eng- 
lish woman who visited the U. S. a year or two ago 
& after her return to England had published a Book 
on her travels and observations in the U. S.) had 
shown him a letter addressed to her by Mr. Ingersoll, 
complaining of me because I had not appointed his 
(Mr. Ingersoll's son) to an office in the army of the 

^ Stephen Elliott, 1 806-1 866, appointed first Episcopal bishop 
of Georgia in 1840. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 183 

U. S., that he had applied to me to do so, and that 
I had refused. I note this fact because it shows the 
want of discretion and principle on the part of Mr. 
I., an American Representative, when he can so far 
forget the proprieties of his position and his own self 
respect as to be making known his complaints of his 
own Government, and his personal griefs and dis- 
appointments, to a gossipping woman of a Foreign 
Kingdom. Doubtless he calculated to have the sym- 
pathies and condolence of this English woman & her 
English friends with him in his sore troubles & 
griefs. 

Monday, 2yth September, 184"]. — I went to my 
office at the usual hour this morning. About 10 
O'clock I discovered that I was taking a chill. It 
continued upon me for two or three hours and was 
succeeded by a considerable fever. I sent for Dr. 
Hall, who called and prescribed for me about 2 
O'clock P. M. I requested him to invite Dr. Miller 
to call with him in the evening. I retired to my 
room and took the medicine which Dr. Hall had 
prescribed. In the evening Drs. Hall and Miller 
called. I spent a restless night. 

Tuesday, 28th September, 1847. — This morning 
I was under the operation of Medicine & was quite 
unwell. The physicians called & made a further 
prescription. I was closely confined to my room, 
and about 4 O'Clock P. M. had another chill. The 
physicians called frequently and continued to pre- 
scribe. I had fever and spent a bad night. 



i84 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Sept. 

Wednesday, 2gth September, 184^. — I was 
closely confined to my bed during the whole day, and 
was very sick. The physicians called frequently. 
At night I was very ill and had no rest. 

Thursday, 30th September, 1847. — I was closely 
confined to my bed to-day, but suffered less than I 
did on yesterday. The Physicians called frequently 
in the course of the day. I rested something better 
to-night than I had done for the two preceding 
nights. 

Friday, Ist October, 184J. — I was better this 
morning, but was still closely confined to my bed. 
I continued to take medicine through the day, and 
at night rested better than I had done before. I had 
been clear of fever during the day. 

Saturday, 2nd October, 1847. — I was clear of 
fever this morning and was much better, but was 
feeble from the effects of medicine. I continued 
quietly on my bed during the day. I sat up about 
half an hour in the course of the day. My disease 
is broken, and with care I hope to resume my official 
duties in a few days. I have transacted no business 
of any kind since monday morning last. I rested 
well at night. 

Sunday, 3rd October, 184J. — I was clear of 
disease this morning, but felt very feeble. I re- 
mained on my bed most of the day. I sat up two or 
three hours in the course of the day. I rested well 
at night. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 185 

Monday, 4th October, 184^. — I felt much better 
this morning, but was still feeble. I continued to 
take some medicine. I rose & dressed myself about 
10 O'clock, and wrapping myself up walked to the 
office, but was so feeble that I returned to my cham- 
ber in a few minutes. I sat up most of the day, and 
transacted some business with the Secretaries of State, 
the Treasury, and War, whom I saw in my chamber. 

I resolved to-day to recall Mr. Trist as commis- 
sioner to Mexico, and requested Mr. Buchanan to 
prepare the letter^ of recall. 

I directed the Secretary of War to prepare another 
letter to Gen'l Scott, directing him more stringently 
than had been done to levy contributions upon the 
enemy, and make them as far as practicable defray 
the expenses of the war. 

Tuesday, 5M October, 184J. — I continued to feel 
better this morning. I walked to the office, but 
after being there but a few minutes I deemed it pru- 
dent to return to my chamber. 

When the Cabinet assembled In my office at the 
usual hour, I requested my Private Secretary to in- 
vite them to meet me in my chamber. They did 
so; all the members were present. 

Mr. Buchanan read the letter of recal[l], which 
he had prepared to Mr. Trist. All the Cabinet 
agreed that it was proper to recall him. The letter 
was discussed at some length, and by my direction 
some modifications were made In It. 

Gov. Marcy read a draft of the letter to Gen'l Scott 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VII, 425. 



i86 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Oct. 

which I had requested him to write on yesterday. 
It was not finished, but he said he would complete it 
this evening. 

The unofficial information received shows that 
Mexico has refused to treat for peace upon terms 
which the U. S. can accept; and it is now manifest 
that the war must be prosecuted with increased forces 
and increased energy. We must levy contributions 
and quarter on the enemy. This is part of the 
object of the letter to Gen'l Scott. Mr. Trist is 
recalled because his remaining longer with the army 
could not, probably, accomplish the objects of his 
mission, and because his remaining longer might, 
& probably would, impress the Mexican Govern- 
ment with the belief that the U. S. were so anxious 
for peace that they would ultimate[ly] conclude one 
upon the Mexican terms. Mexico must now 
first sue for peace, & when she does we will hear her 
propositions. 

The Cabinet remained upwards of three hours, 
and when they adjourned I found myself much ex- 
hausted & fatigued. 

Wednesday, 6th October, 184'j. — This was a 
damp & gloomy day, and from this cause, as well as 
from over-fatigue on yesterday, I did not feel so well 
as I had done on yesterday. In the course of the 
day I saw the Secretaries of State, War, & the Navy 
on business. The Secretary of War read his draft 
of a letter to Gen'l Scott. I suggested some modi- 
fications which were made. 

The Secretary of State submitted to me his re- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 187 

vised draft of his letter to Mr. Trist. I suggested 
one or two modifications of it which were made. 

I sent my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, to a school 
in Alexandria to-day. Mr. Benjamin Hallowell is 
the principal of the School. My Private Secretary 
went to Alexandria with Marshall, and on his re- 
turn gave a favourable account of the school as far 
as he was enabled to judge of it. 

Thursday, yth October, 1847. — The weather 
continued to be damp to-day, and I remained all 
day in my chamber. I saw the Secretaries of State 
and of War & the Post Master Gen'l in the course of 
the day, and transacted business with the two former. 

I was occupied a part of to-day in reducing to 
writing my views & policy in relation to the Mex- 
ican War. These paragraphs may be of use to me 
when I come to prepare my next annual Message to 
Congress. 

Mrs. Polk was unwell this evening, & thinks she 
had a slight chill. 

Friday, 8th October, 1847. — I remained the 
greater part of to-day in my chamber, having 
walked to the office two or three times & remained 
there for a short time. I felt much better than 1 
had done since I was taken unwell. I saw the Sec- 
retary of State and the Secretary of War & trans- 
acted business with them. 

Mrs. Polk, who was taken ill on yesterday after- 
noon, continued to be unwell today. She rested 
on the sofa and get [sat] up through the day. She 



i88 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Oct. 

was unwilling to send for a physician, hoping that 
her indisposition might pass off. She did not pass a 
comfortable night. 

Saturday, gth October, 184J. — Mrs. Polk had 
another chill this morning, when I sent for Dr. Mil- 
ler, who prescribed for her. Her chill was followed 
by a high fever. 

I met the Cabinet in my office to-day at the usual 
hour, all the members being present. Several sub- 
jects of minor importance were considered and dis- 
posed of. Upon returning to my chamber I found 
Mrs. Polk quite sick, and fear she may have a severe 
attack. 

Sunday, lOth October, 184J. — I spent this day 
in my chamber until about 4 O'Clock when I took [a] 
short ride in my carriage for exercise. I drove to 
the House of the Post Master Gen'l who joined me 
in the ride. I am still very weak from my late at- 
tack, and felt fatigued on my return from my ride. 
Mrs. Polk was no better to-day. She had another 
chill and suffered much and rested badly through 
the day and night. The physician (Dr. Miller) 
called several times in the course of the day and 
after night, and prescribed for her. She is very 
nervous and restless, had fever in the latter part of 
the day, and I thought her very ill. 

Monday, nth October, 1847. — Mrs. Polk, hav- 
ing spent a restless and uncomfortable night, was 
quite ill this morning. The physician called at 8 



i847l JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 189 

O'clock A. M. and several times during the day and 
night. At night he pronounced her better, but I did 
not perceive much change in her situation for the 
last two days, except that she is becoming more de- 
bilitated. The Physician left between 8 & 9 
O'clock P. M. having prescribed for her during the 
night. 

I was much better to-day and visited my office on 
business for short periods several times. I remained 
chiefly in the room with Mrs. Polk and assisted the 
servant maid in waiting upon her. I saw the Sec- 
retaries of State, War, and Navy and some other 
public officers, & transacted business with them in 
the course of the day. 

Tuesday, 12th October, 184J. — I met the Cab- 
inet to-day in my office, all the members present. 
No business of General importance was considered 
and definitely acted on. I communicated to the 
Cabinet [my] views in regard to the future prosecu- 
tion of the War in Mexico. I cannot undertake to 
state these views in detail. They were in substance 
that the war should be prosecuted with increased 
energy, that I was opposed to withdrawing the army 
altogether, or retiring to a defensive line, but that I 
was in favour of holding all the ports, towns. Cities, 
and Provinces which we had conquered, of pressing 
forward our Military operations, and of levying con- 
tributions upon the enemy for the support of our 
army. I was in favour, also, of establishing more 
stable Governments than those established over the 
Cities or Provinces which we have conquered, by the 



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

right of conquest. I was in favour, also, of avowing 
in my message to Congress in December next that the 
Provinces of New Mexico and the Californias 
should be retained by the U. S. as indemnity, & 
should never be restored to Mexico, and that in these 
Provinces permanent territorial Governments should 
be established. The Cabinet were unanimous in 
concurring with me in these views. I then told 
them that I would prepare shortly a rough draft of 
my message to Congress upon the subject, embody- 
ing these views, & would submit it to them for con- 
sideration. 

Mrs. Polk continued to be quite ill to-day, and I 
left the Cabinet two or three times during its session 
to visit her in our chamber. The physician thought 
her better than she had been. 

This was the regular evening for the reception of 
company, but none was received. Neither Mrs. 
Polk nor myself have been in the parlour on recep- 
tion evenings since I was taken ill on the 25th 
ultimo. 

Wednesday, 13th October, 184J. — I visited my 
office on business several times for short periods to- 
day. I saw several public officers on business. I 
am free from disease, but am still weak from my late 
attack. I commenced preparing today the para- 
graphs of my message in relation to Mexico & the 
Mexican War. I occupied a room near to Mrs. 
Polk's chamber. I could not remain in my office 
without being subject to constant interruptions from 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 191 

visitors. I saw several public officers on business to- 
day. 

Mrs. Polk is better to-day, and I hope will speed- 
ily recover. The physician thinks her disease is re- 
moved. 

Thursday, 14th October, 184'J. — I attended in 
my office occasionally to-day when called there on 
business. The greater part of the day I spent in my 
room near Mrs. Polk's chamber, and was engaged 
in preparing my views to be communicated to Con- 
gress on the subject of our relations with Mexico, 
and the Mexican War. Mrs. Polk continues to im- 
prove & is decidedly better to-day. 

The Secretary of State called & sent me a message 
that he had come with the Hon. Henry A. Wise, late 
U. S. Minister to Brazil, who desired to pay his re- 
spects. I went to my office, and a few minutes after- 
wards the Secretary of State and Mr. Wise came in. 
Mr. Wise appeared at first to be somewhat embar- 
rassed. I received him courteously, and he was soon 
apparently at his ease. He very soon returned to 
me his thanks, and expressed his gratitude to me for 
my kind treatment to [of] him while in Brazil. He 
said he desired to express to me his personal grati- 
tude as well as [that of] a public functionary. I en- 
tered into a free conversation with him in regard to 
affairs in Brazil. No allusion was had to his former 
hostility to me, and his unprovoked and unjustifiable 
assaults upon me when I was speaker of the Ho. 
Repts. in 1836 & 1837. He and Baylie Peyton were 



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

then acting a part for John Bell,^ who used them for 
his own malignant purposes. I can never justify Mr. 
Wise's course at that time, but it has long since passed 
& I forgive it. He is now very grateful to me for 
not having recalled him from Brazil, and for having 
approved his conduct in the recent difficulties in 
which he was involved with the Government of that 
country. I learn that he returns to the U. S. my 
friend, & his expressions of gratitude to me to-day 
were as strong & decided as human language could 
make them, so that I have lived to conquer the hos- 
tility of at least one of my political opponents & 
persecutors. This I have done by performing my 
duty in a magnanimous and liberal manner. Mr. 
Buchanan was present during my whole interview 
with him. 

To-day I continued the preparation of my views 
in relation to the Mexican War. It is an important 
subject & I desire to have the first draft of it pre- 
pared & submitted to the Cabinet before I shall be 
pressed w^ith other duties as the meeting of Congress 
approaches. 

^ Henry A. Wise and Bailie Peyton had been law partners for 
a brief time in Tennessee, but meeting with no success the part- 
nership was dissolved. Wise returned to Virginia and Peyton 
went into politics. John Bell of Tennessee was a Representa- 
tive in Congress 1827-1841, and Senator 1847-1849. In i860 
he became the nominee of the Constitutional Union party for the 
Presidency. He supported Jackson in the Presidential election 
of 1832 but turned Whig the following vear, and in 1834 was 
elected over Polk Speaker of the House. Henceforth he was the 
bitter opponent of Polk in the field of Tennessee politics. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 193 

Friday, i^th October, 184J. — I attended to busi- 
ness in my office occasionally to-day. I saw several 
public officers & transacted business with them. 
Mrs. Polk was so much better that she set [sat] up 
most of to-day. I continued the preparation of my 
views in relation to Mexican affairs to-day and 
finished the first draft, which I will submit to the 
Cabinet. 

Nothing worthy of being noted occurred to-day. 

The Secretary of the Treasury left the City to- 
day to be absent for three or four days as he informed 
me. He informed [me] he was going to Rockaway 
to accompany his wife and children, who had been 
spending the summer at that place, back to Wash- 
ington. 

Saturday, idth October, 184'/. — I attended the 
meeting of the Cabinet in my office to-day, all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, who was absent from the City, and the Secretary 
of State, w^ho was detained in his office. 

I read to the members of the Cabinet who were 
present the draft which I had prepared within the 
last few days of my views of our relations with Mex- 
ico, and our future policy in the conduct of the War. 
They all expressed their approbation of it. 

No business of importance was transacted. 

In the evening I sent the draft of my views on 
Mexican afifairs to Mr. Buchanan, for his examina- 
tion and any suggestions he might have to make. 

Mrs. Polk continues to improve in her health. 



194 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Oct. 



Sunday, 17th October, /(S*^/.— Neither Mrs. 
Polk nor myself had sufficiently recovered from our 
late attacks of fever to attend church to-day. Mrs. 
Polk set [sat] up most of the day. I consider my- 
self well, but have not yet recovered my strength. 

Monday, l8th October, 184J. — I was in my 
office almost the whole day; saw several public offi- 
cers on business & transacted business on my table. 
Senator Yulee called. He had been on a visit with 
his wife to Kentucky and was on his return to 
Florida. In the course of our conversation he sug- 
gested some modification of the boundaries which 
Mr. Trist had proposed to the Mexican commission- 
ers, & which had been rejected by them. His sug- 
gestion was that the Rio Grande should be the line to 
near the Southern boundary of New Mexico, and 
that the Mexican settlements on the River and near 
it, on both sides, should be left to Mexico. He was 
in favour of acquiring the whole of Upper Cali- 
fornia. I told him that the acquisition of Upper Cal- 
ifornia would be a sine qua non with me, in any 
Treaty that might be made. He said he was glad 
to hear it. I had a full conversation with him on 
Mexican affairs. 

At 2 O'clock P. M. I opened my office for the re- 
ception of company. Quite a number came in, all 
of whom but three were seeking office, and one of 
the three was begging money. This was the first 
day I had received company generally since I was 
taken sick, more than three weeks ago. I concluded 
that if no persons had called in that time who had 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 195 

more important business than those who had called 
to-day, that the public had lost nothing by my ab- 
sence from the office. 

Tuesday, igth October, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met to-day at the usual hour, all the members present 
except the Secretary of the Treasury, who was ab- 
sent from the City. Nothing of much importance 
was considered to-day. I transacted business with 
public officers, and at 2 O'Clock took a ride in my 
carriage with Mrs. Polk, who had sufficiently recov- 
ered to take some exercise. 

Wednesday, zoth October, 184J. — At an early 
hour this morning information was received by Tel- 
egraph from Petersburg that the Steamer Fashion 
had arrived at New Orleans from Vera Cruz, bring- 
ing dates [despatches] from the City of Mexico 
[bearing date] as late as the i8th of September. 
This intelligence is that our army was in peaceable 
possession of the City of Mexico; that Santa Anna 
had resigned the Presidency; & that Pena y Pena ^ 
who had succeeded him, had convened the Mexican 
Congress to meet at Queratero" on the 5th Instant. 
A state of great confusion prevailed in Mexico. 
The names of many officers who were killed and 

^ In 1847 Pena y Peiia, as president of the supreme court, took 
charge of the executive branch of the government, retaining it 
until the congress elected a provisional president. In 1848 he 
again assumed charge of the executive department. He died in 
1850. 

- The capital of the province of the same name, situated 1 50 
miles northwest of the city of Mexico. 



196 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Oct. 

wounded in the late engagements before the City of 
Mexico are given, some of them, indeed I may say 
all of them, very valuable officers. Among the 
v/ounded are Maj'r Gen'l Pillow severely, and Brig- 
adier Gen'l Shields. I waited with much anxiety 
for the arrival of the Southern mail in the afternoon, 
and was much disappointed that no official de- 
spatches were received from Gen'l Scott. Letters 
were received from the army and navy at Vera Cruz. 

Thursday, 21st October, 184J. — I was occupied 
in my office as usual to-day; saw several public offi- 
cers on business, and saw company at 2 O'Clock P. M. 
Nothing of much interest occurred. By the South- 
ern Mail this evening despatches were received from 
Mr. Trist from Mexico, of as late date as the 28th 
of Sept., giving an account of his negotiations with 
the Mexican Commissioners which had resulted in 
a failure to come to any agreement with them. Mr. 
Trist had exceeded his instructions, and had sug- 
gested terms to the Mexican commissioners which I 
could not have approved if they had agreed to them. 
I can never approve a Treaty or submit one to the 
Senate, which would dismember the State of Texas, 
and Mr. Trist's suggestion, if agreed to, would have 
done [this] by depriving that State of the country 
between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. Mr. 
Trist in other respects had in his conferences departed 
from his instructions and the simple duty with which 
he was charged, which was to submit and inforce the 
ultimatum of his Government. He had no right to 
depart from his instructions, and I disapprove his 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 197 

conduct in doing so. He proposed, it is true, if they 
agreed to his suggestions, to submit it to his Gov- 
ernment before he would enter into a Treaty, but 
in this he has committed himself and embarrassed 
future negotiations. His course is much to be 
regretted. 

No official despatches were received from the 
army, but many details were contained in the New 
Orleans papers. 

Friday, 22nd October, 184J. — I was in my office 
at the usual hour this morning. I had many calls 
by public officers through the day. Many other 
persons also called, and among them was Senator 
Benton, who returned to the City from the West 
last evening. I had a long & pleasant conversation 
with him about the War and upon other topics. He 
finally introduced the case of Lieut. Col. Fremont, 
who is under arrest at the instance Of Gen'l Kearney. 
Mr. Benton made a long statement of events which 
had occurred in California in which he thought Col. 
Fremont had been badly treated by his superior 
officers. He said that he had written me a letter 
some time ago, stating that events had occurred in 
California which the Government ought to know, 
and he insisted that in his approaching trial before 
a Court Martial all the events & facts to which he 
had alluded should be investigated and exposed. 
This he said could not be done under the present 
charges against Col. Fremont, and that Col. Fremont 
would on monday next apply in writing to the Secre- 
tary of War, asking that other charges, some of them 



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

having been published at the instance of officers of 
the army, should be preferred against him, so as to 
make the investigation a full and complete one. He 
said if this was not done there would be four other 
Court Martials, in order to bring out the whole of 
the facts; one against Gen'l Kearney, one against 
Capt. Emmory,^ one against Capt. Turner,- and one 
against Capt. Cook.^ He said if a full investigation 
could not be had on his (Col. F.'s) trial, he would 
file charges against these officers, but that he did not 
wish to do so if the facts could come out incidentally 
on his own trial. Mr. Benton became excited & ex- 
hibited much deep feeling on the subject. He spoke 
of the bad treatment of Col. Fremont, and said that 
his (Col. B.'s) deepest concern in this life was to see 
justice done to Col. Fremont in this matter.^ I was 
careful to say as little as possible, but listened atten- 
tively to all Mr. Benton said. I finally said to him 
that I would act justly in the matter; that I regretted 
the whole [affair] but had had no agency in produc- 
ing the difficulty. He said he knew I w^ould act 
justly. He left in a good humour towards me, as 
far as he expressed himself in relation to any action 
of mine in the matter. 

I immediately sent for the Secretary of War, and 

^ William Helmsley Emor}'. He went with Kearny to Cali- 
fornia in 1846 and became a participant in the Fremont contro- 
versy. 

- Henry S. Turner, Captain in the ist Dragoons. 

^ Philip St. George Cooke, Captain in the ist Dragoons. 

* Benton's account of the Fremont controversy is given in 
Thirty Years' View, H, 715-719. 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 199 

communicated to him the substance of Col. Benton's 
conversation. Mr. Buchanan came in whilst 1 was 
relating the conversation. 

I transacted business as usual in my office to-day. 

After night Hon. Rob't Owen of Indiana called. 

I received by this evening's mail a letter from 
Maj'r Gen'l Pillow, dated at the City of Mexico on 
the 8th, and another on the 28th of September, but 
no official despatches were received from Gen'l 
Scott. 

No official despatch has been received from Gen'l 
Scott of later date than the 4th of June last. 1 di- 
rected the Secretary of War to address him a letter 
requiring him to forward duplicates of any de- 
spatches he may have sent, & which may have mis- 
carried. 

Saturday, 23rd October, 1847, — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent except the Post Master Gen'l, who is detained at 
his house by indisposition. 

The official despatches which had been received 
at the Department of State from Mr. Trist as late as 
the 28th ult., giving an account of his negotiations 
with the Mexican commissioners, were read by Mr. 
Buchanan. Mr. Trist has managed the negotiation 
very bunglingly and with no ability. He has done 
more. He has departed from his instruction so far 
as to invite proposals from the Mexican commission- 
ers to be submitted to his Government for its de- 
cision upon them, which [can] never be accepted by 
the United States. These proposals, if made and ac- 



200 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Oct. 

cepted, would require the U. S. to surrender to Mex- 
ico the country between the Nueces and the Rio 
Grande, now a part of the state of Texas, which he 
had ought to have known could never be acceded to. 
He departed from his instructions also in intimating 
to the Mexican commissioners that the U. S. might 
not insist upon the whole of California as indemnity, 
but might surrender its Demands for a part of it. I 
expressed in strong & decided terms my disapproba- 
tion of his conduct. The Cabinet concurred with 
me in my opinions. I directed Mr. Buchanan to 
prepare a despatch expressing in strong terms my 
disapprobation, and to repeat his order of the 6th 
Instant for his immediate recal[l]. This despatch, 
with that to Gen'l Scott, which I directed the Secre- 
tary of War to prepare on yesterday, J directed to be 
forwarded by a special messenger. It is very impor- 
tant that the official despatches from Gen'l Scott 
should be received before the meeting of Congress, 
and equally important that Mr. Trist should not en- 
ter into terms of a treaty which I could not approve. 
Mr. Trist had a plain duty to perform & that was to 
submit the ultimatum of his Government, if he could 
not obtain better terms, and there he ought to have 
stopped. He has chosen upon his own responsibility 
to go further, and has, I apprehend, greatly embar- 
rassed any further negotiation with Mexico. Mex- 
ico will hereafter claim terms equally as favour- 
able as those he has suggested, & these terms I can 
never approve, & if a Treaty were signed & rati- 
fied by Mexico, I would not submit it to the Senate. 
I am much embarrassed by Mr. Trist's course. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 201 

I thought he had more sagacity and more common 
sense than to make the propositions he has made. 

Some other subjects of minor importance were 
considered. « 

The Hon. Mr. Payne/ a member of the last Con- 
gress, called to-day. The Cabinet adjourned at near 
4 O'clock P. M. 

In the evening I attended to some of the business 
on my table. 

Sunday, 24th October, 184J. — This was a damp, 
uncomfortable day; neither Mrs. Polk nor myself 
felt sufficiently recovered from our recent attacks of 
fever to attend church. We remained quietly at 
home during the day. 

Monday, 2^th October, 184J. — I transacted 
business with the Secretaries of War & the Navy, 
and with some other public officers this forenoon. I 
occupied some time in revising the rough draft of my 
views on Mexican affairs, which I had prepared 
some days ago. It was prepared with a view to 
make it a part of my Message at the opening of the 
next session of Congress. 

A special messenger left this morning as bearer of 
despatches to Gen'l Scott and Mr. Trist. The de- 
spatches which he bore were those which I directed 
to be prepared in the Cabinet meeting on the 23rd 
Instant (see this diary of that day) . 

At 2 O'clock P. M. I opened my office for the re- 

^William Winter Payne, 1807-1847, Representative from Ala- 
bama 1841-1847. 



202 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Oct. 

ception of company. Five or six persons came in 
as soon as the door was [opened], and among them 
was John Randolph Benton, the son of Senator Ben- 
ton. I received him pleasantly and kindly. In a 
manner somewhat excited he said to me that he 
wanted an appointment of Lieutenant in the army, 
and asked me if he could get it. I told him in a 
mild tone that I could not promise to appoint him, 
that there were embarrassments in the way, which I 
commenced explaining to him. He interrupted me 
& in a manner still more excited than at first, he 
said he wished to know distinctly whether he was to 
be appointed or not. I told him that in the first 
place I knew of no vacancies, & that if there were, as 
a general rule I gave the preference to privates who 
were in the ranks in Mexico (some of whom had 
been wounded and otherwise distinguished them- 
selves, and all of whom had sufifered great privation) 
when they were equally well qualified, over citizens 
who had remained at home, and had never been in 
the service. I told him that I observed this as a gen- 
eral rule, but that there might be cases of exception 
to the rule. He rose to his feet, & was impertinent 
and still excited. As he was young, and on his 
father's account, I still spoke in a mild & kind tone, 
& told him to be patient, & that I would talk to his 
father & the Secretary of War on the subject. He 
said that his father would not urge his appointment, 
& that the Secretary of War had told him this morn- 
ing that his application would be rejected. I told 
him I had seen the Secretary to-day, & that he had 
mentioned his case to me, but had not told me that 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 203 

he had so informed him. He left my office in quite 
a passion, & very rudely, swearing profanely as he 
went [out] of the door. In a loud and boisterous 
tone he used the exclamation as he passed out of the 
door '' By God " he would do something, but I lost 
the remaining words which he uttered. As soon as 
he was gone one of the gentlemen, Mr. Cable[?] of 
Massachusetts, asked me in his astonishment, if such 
occurrences were common in my office. I told him 
it was the first of the kind, I believed, which had oc- 
curred since I had been President. I enquired of 
those present, some of whom sat nearer the door than 
I did, what his last exclamation was, as I had not 
heard the latter part of it distinctly. Mr. Cable[?] 
said he thought it was " By God I will have ven- 
geance," or something to that effect. Mr. Arthur ^ 
of Baltimore, who was present, said he smelt liquor 
on his breath & thought he was drunk. All present 
expressed their amazement at his conduct. Col. 
Walker was present when he first came in, but left 
the office before he used the violent expression as he 
went out of the office. He thought he was drunk 
also. He gave evidence of his ill manners and im- 
pertinence, & I have no doubt is in all respects 
worthless. 

I note this incident, ist, because of its marked 
character, & 2nd, because I may hereafter incur the 
hostility of his family because his wishes have not 
been gratified. His brother-in-law, Jones, is also an 
applicant to me for office. I promoted Lieut. Col. 

^Timothy Shay Arthur, 1809-1855, editor of the Athenaum; 
in 1842 he founded Arthur's Home Magazine. 



204 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Oct. 



Fremont, another brother-in-law. He is now under 
arrest, & to-day Col. Benton has addressed a letter to 
the Secretary of War making requests or demands in 
reference to his trial, some of which cannot be 
granted. I have always been upon good terms with 
Col. Benton, but he is a man of violent passions and 
I should not be surprised if he became my enemy be- 
cause all his wishes in reference to his family and 
their appointments to offices are not appointed to 
office [gratified?], and especially if I do not grant 
his wishes in reference to Col. Fremont's trial. I 
am resolved that Col. Fremont shall be tried as all 
other officers are tried, against whom charges are pre- 
ferred. I will grant him no favours or privileges 
which I would not grant to any other officer, even 
though I should incur his displeasure & that of his 
friends by refusing to do so. 

Tuesday, 26th October, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. The principal matter considered to-day was a 
letter addressed by Senator Benton & his son-in-law, 
Mr. Jones, in which, as counsel for Col. Fremont, 
they request that additional charges, based upon 
anonymous newspaper publications, may be pre- 
ferred against that officer, and that the place of trial 
may be changed from Fortress Monroe to Washing- 
ton. They state also that his arrest was a surprise, as 
some of his witnesses are in [the] army and navy in 
California. After full consideration an answer was 
agreed upon and the Secretary of War was directed 
to prepare it. As the questions involved in the ap- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 205 

plication are some of them important, and as Senator 
Benton manifests much excitement on the subject, it 
was resolved that the Cabinet would meet to-mor- 
row to consider the answer to be prepared by the 
Secretary of War. I know of no reason why this 
case should produce more interest or excitement than 
the trial of any other officer charged with a military 
offense, & yet it is manifest that Senator Benton is 
resolved to make it do so. I think he is pursuing a 
mistaken policy so far as Col. Fremont is concerned, 
but that is an affair of which he must judge. I will 
do my duty in the case, w^ithout favour or affection. 
In doing so I am sensible that it will be very diffi- 
cult to avoid giving offense to Senator Benton. 
Should such be the result, I shall have the conscious- 
ness of having done my duty to the public & justice 
to Col. Fremont, and more than this I cannot do to 
secure the friendship [of Col. Benton], or his sup- 
port of my administration, or that of any one else. 

Some other business of minor importance was at- 
tended to. 

I disposed of some business on my table in the 
course of the day. 

Wednesday, 2'jth October, 184J. — A special 
meeting of the Cabinet w^as held at 11 O'Clock this 
morning, all the members present, to consider the re- 
ply of the Secretary of War to the letter of Senator 
Benton & his son-in-law, Mr. Jones, in relation to 
Lieut. Col. Fremont's case (see this diary of yester- 
day) . The Secretary of War read the letter which 
he had prepared. It was carefully considered, and 



2o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Oct. 

after undergoing some modifications was agreed to 
unanimously. No other subject was considered by 
the Cabinet. 

Mr. John Appleton of Maine, chief clerk in the 
Navy Department, presented to me to-day a Journal 
of my tour in June & July last to the Northern 
States. Mr. Appleton accompanied me on that tour 
as one of my suite, and prepared the Journal from 
the notes which he had taken. It will be interesting 
for future reference and I will preserve it. I was 
engaged to-day in revising the draft which I had 
prepared some days ago of my views of our relations 
with Mexico, designed to constitute a part of my 
next annual message. 

I did not open my office for the reception of com- 
pany generally to-day. I, however, admitted several 
persons who called. 

I disposed of business on my table as usual, to-day. 

Thursday, 28th October, 184J. — Finding that 
I was constantly subject to be interrupted by calls if 
I remained in my office, I retired to another room 
to-day, and was engaged in preparing my next an- 
nual message. The Mexican question, the war, &C., 
is the great subject of interest, & I occupied the prin- 
cipal part of the day on that subject. At 2 O'Clock 
I went to my office & saw company. Several per- 
sons called, but nothing of much interest occurred. 
Among those who called were several office seekers 
as usual. The Secretary of War submitted to me 
to-day the answer of Senator Benton & his son-in- 
law, Mr. Jones, as the counsel of Lieut. Col. Fre- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 207 

mont, to the Secretary's letter of yesterday, declin- 
ing to ask a postponment of his trial, but insisting 
that the place of trial should be changed to Wash- 
ington. I concluded to change the place & ordered 
the trial to be had at Washington. 

Friday, 2gth October, 184J. — I was occupied 
the principal part of to-day in the preperation of 
my message. I left my office, for the reasons as- 
signed in this diary on yesterday. I returned to the 
office at 2 O'clock P. M. & saw company. Several 
persons called as usual. I transacted some business 
on my table, but nothing worthy of notice occurred 
during the day. 

Saturday, 30th October, 1847. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. After transacting some business of minor im- 
portance, the Mexican war and the policy proper to 
be pursued was fully discussed. The Cabinet were 
unanimously in favour of prosecuting it with in- 
creased energy. A question which had been con- 
sidered and decided several weeks ago was again 
considered to-day. It was the proper construction 
of the act of the 13th of May, 1846, authorizing the 
President to accept the services of 50,000 Volunteers. 
In May, 1846, I accepted the services of about 23,- 
000 Volunteers for 12 months. Since that time I 
have accepted the services of about 27,000 Volun- 
teers to serve during the war. The 12 months men 
were discharged at the expiration of their term, & 
the question of construction was, whether the 



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

authority of the act had been exhausted, or whether 
it authorized me to keep the whole number of 50,- 
000 in the field. It was decided that the former con- 
struction was the proper one, though some doubts 
were expressed on the subject. All thought it was 
safest not to exercise a doubtful power, by calling 
out more volunteers, and that it would be better to 
call on Congress to legislate on the subject. 
Nothing of interest occurred to-day. 

Sunday, jlst October, 184J. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended the First Presbyterian church to- 
day. It was the first sabbath I had attended church 
since I was taken ill on Saturday, the 25th of Septem- 
ber, ultimo. 

Monday, Ist November, 1 8 47. — I spent most of 
to-day in a private room, in order to avoid the con- 
stant calls which are made daily when I am in my 
office. I was engaged in revising the draft of that 
part of my annual message which I had prepared 
on Mexican affairs, and particularly In relation to 
the war. At 2 O'Clock P. M. I went to my office 
and saw company, having directed my porter to in- 
form all who called that I would see them at that 
hour. A number of persons called, some to pay 
their respects, but most of them seeking office. 

After night Mr. Buchanan called, & complained 
that persons employed in the Customs House at 
Philadelphia were personally abusive of him, and 
that if it was not checked his friends would apply 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 209 

to me, and that he would do so, to remove Col. Page, 
the collector. He stated that he did not object that 
they should be the friends of Mr. Dallas, but he 
thought that I should not permit a member of my 
Cabinet to be personally abused by persons holding 
offices under my administration. I told him I had 
never heard of it before, & that it was certainly 
wrong. He said he had no right to object if I 
should be the friend of Mr. Dallas, but he thought 
I should protect a member of my Cabinet from per- 
sonal abuses by persons in the employment of the 
Government. He alluded, in speaking of Mr. Dal- 
las, to the rivalry between Mr. D. and himself for 
the next Presidency. I told Mr. Buchanan, in 
reference to that matter I must stand still and take 
no part between Democratic friends who might be 
aspirants for the Presidency, at least at present. Mr. 
Buchanan has of late had his mind very much fixed 
upon being a candidate for the Presidency, which, I 
fear, may embarrass my administration. I told him 
I vvould see Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, on the subject, to which he assented, and that I 
had no objection to write to Col. Page disapprov- 
ing the personal abuse of him of which he com- 
plained, but plainly intimated that [I] would take 
no part in any contest between Mr. Dallas and him- 
self. When the Democratic National Convention 
shall nominate a candidate for the Presidency I will 
support the nominee, whoever he may be. Until 
that time I shall take no part between the Democratic 
aspirants. 



210 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Nov. 

Tuesday, 2nd November, 184J. — I am fifty-two 
years old to-day, this being my birthday. I have 
now passed through two-thirds of my Presidential 
term, & most heartily wish that the remaining third 
was over, for I am sincerely desirous to have the 
enjoyment of retirement in private life. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all the mem- 
bers present. I had some conversation with them 
about the preperation of their Reports, preparatory 
to the meeting of Congress. 

Nothing of much importance was considered to- 
day. 

I spent the balance of the day in disposing of the 
business on my table and in preparing paragraphs 
of my next annual message. After the Cabinet ad- 
journed [I] told Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the 
Treasury, whom I had requested to remain, of the 
complaint of Mr. Buchanan against the Custom- 
house officers at Philadelphia for their abuse [of] 
him personally (see this diary of yesterday). I in- 
formed Mr. Walker that I should take no part be- 
tween Mr. Dallas and Mr. Buchanan, but that I 
thought it wrong that Mr. Buchanan should be per- 
sonally abused by persons employed in the custom- 
house. Mr. Walker agreed to write a general letter 
to Col. Page on the subject. 

Wednesday, 3rd November, 1847. — I spent most 
of to-day in my private chamber, preparing para- 
graphs for my next annual message. I saw Mr. Bu- 
chanan in my ofiice, and after transacting public 
business, informed him that I had seen Mr. Walker, 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 211 

the Secretary of the Treasury, in relation to the per- 
sonal abuse of which he had complained to me as 
having been heaped upon him by officers of the cus- 
tom house at Philadelphia, & that Mr. Walker had 
said to me that he would write to Col. Page, the col- 
lector, on the subject. (See this diary of yesterday 
& the day before). 

Senator Douglass of Illinois called to see me to- 
day. He is on his way with his wife ^ to visit her 
relations in N. Carolina. I opened my office at 2 
O'clock P. M. & saw company generally. Nothing 
worthy of note transpired. 

Thursday, 4th November, 1847. — I was occu- 
pied to-day in collecting the documents & preparing 
paragraphs for my message. I desire to have the 
paper in a state of forwardness before the members 
of Congress begin to arrive, for after that time I 
should have but little time to prepare. I saw and 
transacted business with public officers in the course 
of the day, disposed of some business on my table, and 
at 2 O'clock P. M. opened my office for the recep- 
tion of company. A number of persons called, but 
none of them had any business of more importance 
than to seek office. 

After night Senator Douglass of Illinois called. 
I had a long conversation with him upon public af- 
fairs. He agreed with me in my full policy, except 

^ In 1847 Douglas married Martha Martin, daughter of Col. 
Robert Martin of North Carolina. She died January 19, 1853, 
and in 1856 Senator Douglas was married to Miss Adele Cutis, 
daughter of James Madison Cutts of Washington. 



212 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Nov. 

in relation to River & Harbour improvements. He 
said, however, that he felt no great interest on the 
subject, and should oppose my views on that subject 
only by a silent vote. 

Friday, JZ/z November, 184'J. — I was engaged 
to-day in further examination & preparation of the 
matter to be embraced in my next annual message. 
In the course of the day the Hon. Mr. Clingman,^ a 
Representative in the next Congress, called and paid 
his respects. The Hon. Mr. Davis of Indiana, late 
Speaker of the Ho. of Repts., also called. He ap- 
plied to me to appoint him charge d'affairs to Naples, 
or commissioner to Naples, in place of Mr. Everett 
deceased. I told him there were embarrassments in 
the way of gratifying his wishes, & did not make any 
promises. 

About 3 O'clock P. M. The members of the Court 
martial now sitting in this City on the trial of Lieut. 
Col. Fremont, accompanied by the Secretary of War, 
called and paid their respects. It was a visit of cere- 
mony and they remained but a few minutes. They 
were all in full uniform. 

I did not open my office to see company generally 
to-day. I disposed of some business on my table. 

Saturday, 6th November, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. The Secretary of War & the Secretary of the 
Navy submitted the estimates of appropriations 

^ Thomas Lanier Clingman of North Carolina. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 213 

which had been prepared by the several Heads of 
Bureaus in their Departments for deficiencies in the 
present year & for the next fiscal year. Those of the 
Secretary of the Navy exceeded but little those ordi- 
narily required in a period of peace. Those of the 
Secretary of War greatly exceeded the amount which 
I had anticipated. In the aggregate they required 
nearly eighteen millions for deficiencies for the pres- 
ent fiscal year, and upwards of forty one millions for 
the next fiscal year, making an aggregate of near sixty 
millions. I expressed my astonishment at the 
amount & told him these must certainly be some mis- 
take. He said he had not himself revised the 
amounts estimated by the several Heads of Bureaus 
in his Department. I requested him to do so, and 
if possible, if consistent with the efficiency of the serv- 
ice, to reduce them. He said he would do so, and 
report to me on monday next. 

The Secretary of the Treasury presented certain 
modifications, which he recommended, of the rates 
of duties levied as a military contribution on 
goods entered in the ports of Mexico, in our military 
occupation. The cabinet were unanimous in rec- 
ommending the modifications proposed. I was 
disinclined to them, because I disliked the seeming 
vacillation which it would imply, but yielded my 
own impressions & told the secretary of the Treasury 
to prepare the order directing the modifications pro- 
posed & I would sanction it. 

Some other business of minor importance was 
transacted. 



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

After night Gen'l Mariott,^ the collector of Balti- 
more, called and requested me to appoint his son, 
who is a private soldier in the army in Mexico, to a 
Lieutenancy. I could not promise to do so, but told 
him I would consider his application when a vacancy 
occurred. 

Sunday, yth November, 184J. — I was suffering 
from the effects of a severe cold to-day & did not at- 
tend church. Mrs. Polk & my nephew, Marshall T. 
Polk, who had come up on a visit from his school in 
Alexandria, attended the first Presbyterian church. 
Mrs. Polk attended the afternoon service at the same 
church, it being communion day. 

Monday, 8th November, 184J. — I was in my 
office at the usual hour this morning. I transacted 
some of the current business which had accumulated 
on my table, and saw several public officers on busi- 
ness. In the course of the day Senator Dix of New 
York called. He informed me that he had brought 
his family to the City that he might Select quarters 
and be settled before the meeting of Congress. I had 
a conversation with him about the Pvlexican war & 
other topics of public interest. He did not introduce 
the subject of the divisions and defeat of the De- 
mocracy of New York at the late election. If he had 
done so, I would have given him my opinion plainly, 
that Mr. John Van Buren, Cambreling,^ Preston 

^William H. Marriott. 

^Churchill C. Cambreleng, 1786-1862, Representative from 
New York 1821-1839, minister to Russia 1840-1841. He be- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 215 

King, Rathbun, and those who acted with them in 
bolting from the regular nominations of the party and 
who attempted to agitate the slavery question, were 
wholly inexcusable, and were responsible for the de- 
feat of the party. Senator Dix belongs to the same 
section of the party that the disorganizers referred to 
do. As he did not introduce the subject, I did not. 
His conversation was in a friendly tone towards the 
administration. Among other things he recom- 
mended Mr. Niles ^ of Vermont for the Mission to 
Sardinia. 

The Hon. Mr. Cunningham^ of Ohio, who was a 
member of the last Congress, called and paid his re- 
spects. At 2 O'clock I received company generally. 
A number of persons called. 

I devoted some time to-night to the preperation of 
my annual message. 

Tuesday, gth November, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members pres- 
ent. I had a conversation with the Secretary of 
War about the estimates for the War Department for 
deficiencies of the present and appropriations for the 
next fiscal year. As prepared by the several bureaus 
in his Department they amounted to between fifty 
nine and sixty millions of Dollars. I told him that 

longed to the Van Buren-Wright faction of the New York 
Democracy. 

■^ Nathaniel Niles, appointed charge d'affaires to Sardinia, De- 
cember 29, 1847. 

^Francis A. Cunningham, Representative from Ohio 1845- 
1847. 



2i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Nov. 

they were certainly extravagant, and that they must 
be cut down & reduced wherever it could be done 
without danger of prejudice to the service, and that 
he must revise them with that view. This led to the 
discussion of the proper policy to be pursued in the 
further prosecution of the War with Mexico. This 
was an important question & one which I supposed 
had been settled unanimously in Cabinet some weeks 
ago. Mr. Buchanan spoke to-day in an unsettled 
tone, and said I must take one of two courses in my 
next Message, viz., to designate the part of the mex- 
ican territory which we intended to hold as indem- 
nity, or to occupy all Mexico by a largely increased 
force & subdue the country & promise protection to 
the inhabitants. He said he would express no opin- 
ion between these two plans, but after the despatches 
which were expected from the army were received, 
he would do so. I remarked that I thought our 
policy had been settled upon some time since, but, as 
the subject was now brought up as one that was still 
open, I would read what I had written on the sub- 
ject, & I did so. My views as thus reduced to writing 
were in substance that we would continue the pros- 
ecution of the war with an increased force, hold all 
the country we had conquered or might conquer, and 
levy contributions upon the enemy to support the 
war, until a just peace was obtained; that we must 
have indemnity in territory, and that as a part in- 
demnity the Californias & New Mexico should un- 
der no circumstances be restored to Mexico, but that 
they should henceforward be considered a part of the 
U. S., & permanent territorial Governments be es- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 217 

tablished over them; and that if Mexico protracted 
the war, additional territory must be required as 
further indemnity. Mr. Buchanan seems to have 
changed his views upon the subject. Until recently 
he had expressed his opinion against acquiring any 
other territory than the Californias & New Mexico. 
He did not positively express a distinct opinion to- 
day; but it was pretty clearly to be inferred from 
what he did say that he was now for more terri- 
ti[o]ry; and that he would favour the policy of ac- 
quiring, in addition to the Californias & New Mex- 
ico, the Province of Tamaulipas and the country 
East of the Sierra madre mountains, and withdraw- 
ing our troops to that line. The Secretary of War 
expressed his dissent to this policy and approved the 
views I had reduced to writing and read. I did not 
propound a distinct question to the Cabinet on 
the subject. The Secretary of the Treasury said 
that it would prostrate the administration & be 
condemned by the country if we withdrew the 
army from the City of Mexico & the heart of 
the country which we now occupied, with out 
making a satisfactory peace. The subject was dis- 
cussed at considerable length. My opinions were 
unchanged. Mr. Buchanan's opinions have evi- 
dently undergone a change in the course of a few 
weeks, or rather he seems to be now in an unsettled 
state of mind. Since he has considered himself as a 
candidate for the Presidency it is probable he looks 
at the subject with different considerations in view 
from those which he entertained before that time. 
His change of opinion will not alter my views. I 



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

am fixed in my course and I think all the Cabinet 
except Mr. Buchanan still concur with me, & he may 
yet do so. 

Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool, called 
after night & sat two or three hours with me. 

Wednesday, lOth November, l84y. — The Sec- 
retary of War called this morning & I had a further 
conversation with him on the subject of the estimates 
for the support of the army, in which I expressed to 
him my apprehensions that if at the meeting of Con- 
gress he presented a request for an appropriation of 
sixty millions, the amt. which he had mentioned on 
yesterday, the country would be alarmed, public 
credit might be shaken, and we might not be able to 
negotiate a loan. This apprehension was increased 
by the failures for vast amounts which had recently 
taken place in England. The financial embarrass- 
ment, almost unpallelled [unparalleled], which now 
existed in England, might reach the U. S., & whether 
similar failures occurred here or not, such would be 
the state of the money-market that it would be difii- 
cult to negotiate a loan, particularly if the amt. was 
large. I told him a sufficient sum must be asked, 
but that I thought the amt. estimated for was unneces- 
sarily large, and could be and should be reduced. 
He said he thought as I did, and would endeavour to 
effect a reduction. He suggested that I should see 
and converse with the Heads of Bureau who had pre- 
pared the estimates. I told him I had no objection 
to do so. He said he would request them to call and 
see me. In the course of an hour after he retired 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 219 

Gen'l Tomson, the Paymaster Gen'l, and Gen'l Gib- 
son, the commissary Gen'l, called at different hours, 
and I held seperate conversations with each. The 
result of which was that they were satisfied that some 
reductions could be safely made. The commissary 
Gen'l, for example, had estimated the prices of the 
next fiscal year at near double what it was estimated 
at for the present year. The reason for this was the 
price which had been recently paid for the ration in 
Mexico. I thought this an improper data, & gave 
him my reasons for this opinion. I told him that I 
wished money enough appropriated, but no more. 
He said he would examine the subject further. 

Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool, called 
to-day & took leave of me. He expects to sail for 
Liverpool in a few days. 

I saw company as usual at 2 O'Clock P. M. A 
number of persons called. I transacted business in 
my office as usual to-day. 

Thursday, nth November, 184J. — Several 
persons called on business this morning. Gen'l 
Jesup, the Quarter master Gen'l, called, as he said, 
at the request of the Secretary of War, to confer with 
me on the subject of the estimates for the service of 
the Quarter master's Department. I had a full con- 
versation with him on the subject. I told him, as I 
had done the commissary Gen'l on yesterday, that 
the appropriations asked for should be ample, but 
not extravagant or more than would probably be 
needed. He submitted to me his estimates, and I 
found that he had reduced them near seven millions 



220 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Nov 

below the sum he had first proposed. I consider 
Gen'l Jesup a worthy man, but a visionary one and 
unfit for the important Bureau which he fills, but I 
must use the officers of the army which have been 
furnished me by law. I think it probable that the 
estimates may now be brought down to a reasonable 
amount. 

I transacted business in my ofiice as usual to-day. 
At 2 O'clock P. M. I saw company. Several per- 
sons called. After night the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, who had been invited by me to do so, called. I 
submitted to him the full draft of my message on the 
subject of the Mexican war, a part of which I had 
read to the Cabinet on the 9th Instant (see this diary 
of that day) . He agreed to it, suggesting some mod- 
ifications, not important, which were made. 

Friday, 12th November, 184^. — I was occupied 
to-day in disposing of the current business on my 
table, and revising the paragraphs of my message 
which I had prepared. 

At 2 O'clock P. M. I saw company. After night 
the Secretary of the Navy and the Post master Gen'l 
called, as I had invited them to do. I read to them 
the draft of my message on Mexican affairs. One or 
two unimport[ant] modifications were suggested by 
them and were made; they concurred with me in the 
general views which it contained. 

Saturday, 13th November, 184J. — At an early 
hour this morning I learned that official despatches 
from the army in Mexico had been received at the 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 221 

war Department by last evening's mail. Before 
breakfast I addressed a note to the Secretary of War, 
enquiring if such despatches had been received and 
expressing my surprise, if the fact was so, that they 
had not been communicated to me last night. Im- 
mediately after breakfast he called & brought 
voluminous despatches with him. He had not re- 
ceived my note. I expressed my surprise that they 
had not been sent to me last night as he knew I had 
been long anxiously waiting to receive them. He 
said he had not himself seen them until 9 O'Clock 
P. M. last night, having been prevented from doing 
so by company. They were the official accounts of 
the battles near Mexico. They were very volumi- 
nous, but in the course of the day I read them. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the mem- 
bers present. I enquired of the Secretary of War if 
the estimates of appropriations for the next fiscal 
year, had [and] for deficiencies for the present year 
had been completed and delivered to the Secretary 
of the Treasury. He said they had been made out, 
and as soon as they were copied would be delivered 
to the Secretary of the Treasury. He said the amt. 
had been reduced several millions since the first es- 
timates were prepared. 

The Secretary of the Treasury expressed great 
anxiety on the subject. He said it was very impor- 
tant that the amt. should not be so large as to alarm 
the country & thereby shake public credit. He said 
that large amounts of specie had recently been ex- 
ported to England & that within a few days past a 
small amount of 6 per cent Treasury notes had been 



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

paid for duties, and expressed serious fears that a 
new loan could not be negotiated, and especially if 
the amount of appropriations asked was very large. 
He proposed and earnestly advocated the policy of 
laying an export duty on gold and silver exported 
from Mexico through the ports in our military occu- 
pation. This would not only increase the amt. of 
contributions levied on the enemy, but would, as he 
believed, enable the Treasury to exchange a large 
amt. of Treasury notes with Mexican citizens for 
specie to be used by our army. He went so far as to 
say that unless this measure was adopted he should 
feel it to be his duty to Report to me officially his 
opinion that a new 6 per cent loan could not be ne- 
gotiated at par. Mr. Buchanan had doubts upon 
the subject. Mr. Marcy approved it. Mr. Bu- 
chanan intimated that he would prefer to have some 
time to consider of the subject. My opinion was 
favourable to the levy of such an export duty on gold 
and silver. It was suggested that the decision of 
the question should be postponed until the next meet- 
ing of the Cabinet. Mr. Walker thought early 
action important. I then ordered a special meeting 
of the Cabinet to take place at 11 o'clock A. M. on 
monday next, with a view to afford time to Mr. Bu- 
chanan further to consider the subject. 

Sunday, 14th November, 184J. — I attended the 
First Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk & Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, 
the latter happening to be in my office when church 
hour arrived. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 223 

Monday, Ijth November, 184J. — In pursuance 
of my summons of Saturday, the 13th Instant (see 
this Diary of that day) a special meeting of the Cab- 
inet was held at 11 O'Clock this day; all the mem- 
bers present. The subject for consideration was the 
proposition to impose an export duty on gold and 
silver exported from Mexico through the ports in 
our military occupation. Mr. Buchanan gave his 
opinion against levying such a duty, and gave his 
opinion at some length against it. Mr. Walker was 
in favour of levying the duty & assigned his reasons 
for his opinion. I then took the opinion seperately 
of Messrs. Marcy, Mason, Johnson, and Clififord, 
each of whom was in favour of levying a duty, and 
each assigned his reasons for his opinion. I then 
decided that an order should be issued to our military 
and naval commanders directing export duty to be 
levied. I directed also that an order should [be] 
issued directing all the internal revenues, and [as] 
well as the import and export duties collected under 
the Mexican laws, to be also seized and appropriated 
to the use of our own army and navy; and directed 
the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare an order 
for my signature accordingly. Some other subjects 
were casually considered and the Cabinet adjourned 
a few minutes before 2 O'Clock P. M. It was un- 
derstood that no meeting of the Cabinet would be 
held on to-morrow, that being the regular day of 
meeting. At 2 O'Clock I saw company. Gen'l 
Armstrong, U. S. consul at Liverpool, & a number 
of other persons called. I spent the remainder of the 
day in preparing my message. 



224 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Nov. 

Tuesday, Idth November, 1847. — The Cabinet, 
having held a special meeting on yesterday, did not 
assemble to-day. 

Senator Dix called this morning on business. 

I spent the greater part of to-day in examining & 
revising the paragraphs of my message which I had 
prepared. I disposed of the business on my table in 
the course of the day. 

I did not open my office for the reception of com- 
pany to-day. 

Gen'l Armstrong, U. S. consul to Liverpool, called 
in the forenoon and again after night. He will leave 
to-morrow morning & sail from N. Y^ork for Liver- 
pool on the next day. 

The Hon. Mr. McCrate, a member of the last 
Congress from the State of Maine, called after night 
and remained an hour with me. 

Wednesday, IJth November, 1847. — Nothing of 
much interest occurred to-day. I was closely en- 
gaged in my office in attending to public business 
which presses upon me in anticipation of the meet- 
ing of Congress. I saw several public officers on 
business, and devoted a part of the day to the prep- 
eration of my message. I saw company at 2 O'Clock 
P. M. A number of persons called, but none of 
them had any business of more importance than a de- 
sire to be appointed to office. 

Thursday, l8th November, 1847. — I was oc- 
cupied in my office as usual to-day. I saw several 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 225 

of my Secretaries and other public officers on busi- 
ness. Mr. Kellogg, an artist of distinction, who 
painted my portrait at Nashville when I was Gov- 
ernor of Tennessee in 1840, called. I had not seen 
him since that time. He has spent the last six or 
seven years in different parts of Europe, but chiefly 
in Italy, pursuing his profession, and has attained a 
high reputation. 

I saw company at. 2 O'Clock P. M. A number of 
persons called. 

Nothing worthy of being noted occurred to-day. 

I had a conversation with [Mr.] Buchanan in re- 
gard to a paragraph for my message, to the effect 
that, failing to obtain a peace, we should continue to 
occupy Mexico with our troops & encourage & pro- 
tect the friends of peace in Mexico to establish & 
maintain a Republican Government able & willing to 
make peace. We agreed in opinion & I requested 
him to prepare such a paragraph. 

Friday, igth November, 184J. — I gave direc- 
tions to my porter to admit no company to-day ex- 
cept officers of Government on official business, 
whom I see at all hours when they call. The Secre- 
tary of War was the only member of the Cabinet who 
called. I had sent for him on business. I disposed 
of the current business on my table, and devoted the 
greater part of the day to the revision of the passages 
of my message which I had previously prepared. 
Mr. Buchanan sent to me the paragraph which I had 
requested him to prepare for my message on yester- 



226 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Nov. 

day. On examining it I prepared one of my own. 
I was not, however, well satisfied either with his para- 
graph or my own. 

Saturday, 20th November, 1847. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day; all the members pres- 
ent. I read to them the draft of my message to Con- 
gress w^hich I had prepared, and invited any sugges- 
tion of any modification of it which any member of 
the Cabinet might think proper to make. One or 
two immaterial modifications were suggested and 
made. The paragraph in relation to the Mexican 
war which I had requested Mr. Buchanan to prepare 
on the i8th Inst., and on receiving his draft on yes- 
terday I had prepared a paragraph of my own, con- 
stituted the principal topics of discussion. The 
Cabinet all agreed that there should be a paragraph 
to the effect that the citizens of Mexico in favour of 
peace should be protected by our army in establish- 
ing a Government able and willing to make a just 
peace, but, if we failed to obtain a peace by this 
means, the question was what I should state would 
be our policy. In Mr. Buchanan's draft he stated 
in that event that " we must fulfil that destiny which 
Providence may have in store for both countries." 
I thought this would be too indefinite & that it would 
be avoiding my constitutional responsibility. I pre- 
ferred to state in substance that we should, in that 
event, take the measure of our indemnity into our 
own hands, and dictate our own terms to Mexico. 
Both my draft and Mr. Buchanan's were read and 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 227 

discussed at considerable length. Mr. Walker pre- 
ferred Mr. Buchanan's draft. Mr. Clifford was not 
entirely satisfied with it or with mine. The other 
members of the Cabinet expressed no distinct opin- 
ion, but my impression was they were inclined to 
favour Mr. Buchanan's draft. No final decision 
was made. After the Cabinet retired I prepared a 
third draft of the paragraph, and after night sent for 
Mr. Clifford and consulted with him on the subject. 
I made some further modifications, which Mr. C. 
approved. This paragraph constituted a small but 
very important part of my message. All the balance 
of the draft of the message on the subject of Mexi- 
can affairs and other subjects were approved by tlie 
Cabinet. 

Before the Cabinet adjourned some minor subjects 
of business were disposed of. 

Sunday, 21st November, 184J. — I attended the 
first Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk. 

Monday, 22nd November, 184J. — This morn- 
ing I placed the draft of my message in the hands of 
W. C. Whitthorn, who was formerly a law student in 
my ofiice in Tennessee and is now a Clerk in the 
General Post office, for the purpose of having it 
copied. Mr. Whitthorn occupied the room adjoin- 
ing my ofiice and was entirely private, no one but 
myself being permitted to enter it. He is a worthy 
young man, and I charged him to keep profoundly 



228 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Nov. 

secret the contents of the paper and not even to let it 
be known that he had copied it, and I have confidence 
that he will be faithful. 

I revised the paragraph which was discussed in 
Cabinet on Saturday. Judge Mason was present a 
part of the time. He preferred my draft to Mr. Bu- 
chanan's. As I had modified it Judge M. approved 
it. He made some suggestions of verbal modifica- 
tions, which I made. Mr. Clifford called and I read 
it to him. He was well pleased with it as modified. 
Mr. Buchanan called and I read it to him, stating 
to him that I was not satisfied with his paragraph, 
for the reasons stated in this diary on Saturday. He 
preferred his own draft, but did not urge it. I will 
preserve all the drafts of this paragraph for future 
reference. 

I received a letter marked Private, late this even- 
ing, from Senator Benton, stating that he would de- 
cline to serve as chairman of the committee on mil- 
itary affairs at the next Session of the Senate, because 
of his opinion ^ of the conduct of Gov. Marcy, the 
Secretary of War, in relation to the trial of Lt. Col. 
Fremont, now pending in this City. He stated that 
he gave me this information to avoid misapprehen- 
sion as to the motive of his course. It is [a] singu- 
lar communication, and I will preserve it. I think 
it probable that Col. Benton intends to break with 

^ In his Thirty Years' View, II, 715-719, Benton charges that 
Marcy changed Kearny's original charges against Fremont, and 
inserted new and preposterous ones. For this reason Benton 
dech'ned to have any further intercourse with Marcy. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 229 

the administration, and will make a quarrel with the 
Secretary of War the ostensible ground for doing so. 
I am satisfied that he has no just cause of complaint 
against the Secretary of War on account of his con- 
duct in the Fremont trial. 

I saw company at 2 O'Clock P. M. A number of 
persons called, but none of them on business of any 
importance. 

Tuesday, 23rd November, 1847. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day. The Secretary of the 
Treasury read that part of his annual Report to Con- 
gress w^hich relates to the tariflf. It is a long and 
elaborate paper, & though in the main sound in its 
doctrines, I thought some parts of it speculative, and 
perhaps too highly wrought. I suppose he will re- 
vise it. His Report is by law required to be made to 
Congress, and not to the President. 

I read to the Cabinet the revised draft of that part 
of my message which had been discussed at the Cab- 
inet meeting on Saturday last (see this diary of that 
day). Mr. Buchanan still preferred his own draft, 
and so did Mr. Walker, the latter avowing as a rea- 
son that he was for taking the whole of Mexico, if 
necessary, and he thought the construction placed on 
Mr. B.'s draft by a large majority of the people 
would be that it looked to that object. I replied that 
I was not prepared to go to that extent; and further- 
more that I did not desire that anything I said in the 
message should be so obscure as to give rise to doubt 
or discussions as to what my true meaning was; that 



230 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Nov. 

I had in my last message declared that I did not con- 
template the conquest of Mexico, and that in another 
part of this paper I had said the same thing. The 
other members of the Cabinet did not participate 
much in the discussion. I know that Mr. Mason, 
Mr. Clifford, & Mr. Johnson concur with me. I de- 
termined to retain my own draft. 

After the Cabinet adjourned I requested Gov. 
Marcy to remain. I told him I felt it to be my duty 
to show him the letter marked " private," which I had 
received from Col. Benton on yesterday. Though 
it was marked " private " it related to the official 
conduct of a member of my Cabinet, whom. I thought 
it was proper for me to apprise of it. If the Secre- 
tary of War is charged by a Senator with improper 
conduct (and that is implied in Col. Benton's letter) 
it is proper that he should know it. Gov. Marcy dis- 
avowed all knowledge of having done anything to 
which Col. Benton could except. That he has done 
nothing but his duty in the Fremont trial, I am sat- 
isfied. I told Gov. Marcy that I would stand by 
him, if any improper attack was made upon him. I 
showed him Col. Benton's letter confidentially, as I 
would have felt bound to do to any other member of 
my Cabinet under like circumstances. 

The parlour was open for the reception of Com- 
pany this evening. It is the first reception evening I 
have had since I [was] taken ill on the 27th of Sep- 
tember last. Shortly after that time Mrs. Polk was 
also taken ill, & our drawing rooms were discon- 
tinued from that time until this evening. A number 
of persons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 231 

Wednesday, 24th November, 184J.— This was 
an inclement day. The rain fell slowly during most 
of the day. I was engaged as usual in my office. I 
opened my office to receive company at 2 O'Clock 
P. M. But few persons called. 

After night Mr. Whitthorne, who commenced 
copying the draft I had prepared of my message on 
monday last, having finished, I compared the original 
and the copy with him. 

Thursday, 2Sth November, 1847. — This day 
having been set apart as a day of Thanksgiving by the 
Corporate authorities of Washington ^ and several of 
the States, I ordered all the public offices in this City 
to be closed for the day, to enable the public officers 
to enjoy it as such. 

I attended the first Presbyterian church in com- 
pany with Mrs. Polk & Miss Armstrong of Tenn. & 
Miss Johnson of Arkansas, who had come over from 
Miss English's school in Georgetown to spend the 
day. We heard an excellent sermon from the Rev. 
Mr, Smith of Connecticut, a clergyman of 82 years 
of age. 

The Secretary of the Navy called in the after part 
of the day and read to me his annual Report. 

Commodore Stockton of the Navy & a few other 
persons called to-day. I w^as engaged in my office as 
usual. 

Friday, 26th November, 184J. — The Post master 
General called this morning and read to me the draft 

^ The practice of issuing Presidential Thanksgiving proclama- 
tions was instituted by President Lincoln in 1863. 



232 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Nov. 

which he had prepared of his annual report. It is 
an elaborate paper, and presents the Post office De- 
partment in a gratifying condition. 

Several members of Congress called to-day, viz., 
Mr. Stanton of Tennessee; Senators Foot ^ & Davis 
of Mississippi; Cass of Michigan & Dickinson of 
New York. The presence of so many members at so 
early a period indicates the unusual interest which is 
felt in the approaching Session of Congress. The 
Secretary of War spent several hours to-day in the 
room adjoining my office, in examining my message, 
& particularly that part of it relating to the Mexican 
War. He suggested some verbal amendments (in 
pencil) but none of them changing the sentiment 
& views contained in it. At 2 O'Clock I saw com-" 
pany. A number of persons called, most of them 
seeking office. At a time when I am so much pressed 
with important public duties, I loath an office- 
seeker when he enters my office, and have no patience 
to hear their stories. 

The parlour was open for the reception of com- 
pany this evening. A number of persons, ladies and 
gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 2yth November, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day, all the members ex- 
cept the Sec[r]etaries of War and the Navy present. 
They were detained at their offices by their official 
engagements. I read to the members present some 
additional paragraphs of my message which I had 

^ Henry Stuart Foote, 1800-1880, Senator from Mississippi 
1847-1852, Governor 1852-1854. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 233 

prepared. There being nothing important to be 
considered to-day and all the members of the Cabinet 
being much engaged in their respective Departments, 
preparatory to the meeting of Congress, they retired 
after having remained about an hour. 

I was occupied chiefly during the balance of the 
day in revising my message, 5i in comparing the copy 
which had been prepared by Mr. Whitthorne with 
the original. 

Sunday, 28th November, 184^. — I was under the 
necessity of devoting a part of to-day to my public 
duties, and did not attend church. Mrs. Polk ac- 
companied by Mrs. Walker's little girl attended the 
first Presbyterian church. The Secretary of the 
Navy & the Post master Gen'l called in the course of 
the day. 

In the evening Daniel Graham, esqr., called & 
brought with him William Bass, the son of John M. 
Bass, esqr., of Nashville, & the Grandson of the late 
Felix Grundy. The boy stated that in consequence 
of a difficulty in which he had become involved at the 
Catholic college at Emmetsburg, in Maryland, where 
his father had sent him a few weeks ago, he had left 
the institution, & having no other friends near he had 
come to Washington. His story was a reasonable 
one, & knowing all his family, I invited him to re- 
main with me until it was determined what it was 
best for him to do. He agreed to do so. He had 
nothing with him except the clothes on his person. 
I felt a sympathy for him, and knowing his father 
and mother and all his family, I will take care of him 



234 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Nov. 

until his father can be written to. Mr. Graham 
promised to write to him. 

After night the Secretary of War called, & spent 
several hours with me in examining my message. 

Monday, 2Qth November, 184J. — Many mem- 
bers of Congress called this morning. Among them 
were Senator Cass & his colleague ^ from Michigan, 
Mr. McClellan - of Ho. Repts. of Michigan, Senator 
B[r]eese of Illinois; Senator Turney of Tennessee, 
& the following members of the Ho. Repts : Thomas,^ 
Chase, Jones, & Hill of Tennessee, Fries of Ohio, 
McLane of Maryland, &C. I was closely occupied 
in my office during the day; saw company for a few 
minutes at 2 O'Clock, but no one called but office 
seekers, & these I despatched without much cere- 
mony. The Secretary of the Navy left on a short 
visit to New York last evening. The Secretary of 
State & the Secretary of War called in the course of 
the day. The latter spent an hour with me on busi- 
ness after night. 

Tuesday, 30th November, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour to-day; all the members pres- 
ent except the Secretary of the Navy, who left the 
City last evening on a short visit to New York. 

I read to the Cabinet a revised copy of my message 

^ Alpheus Felch, elected to the Senate in 1847. 

^Robert McClelland, Representative from Michigan 1843- 
1849, Secretary of the Interior during Pierce's administration. 

^ James Houston Thomas, a former law partner of Polk; Rep- 
resentative from Tennessee 1847-185 1, and 1 859-1 861. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 23s 

embracing all the topics to be embraced in it. Some 
statistical details relating to the finances had not been 
furnished by the Secretary of the Treasury, [and] 
are yet to be inserted. Several verbal modifications 
were suggested, but none of them involving the prin- 
ciples of the paper. A few of these were made, but 
none of the modifications were material. After 
night Senator Cass, who called at my request, read 
the whole paper. He approved of all the views 
which it contained. 

I received company in the parlour this evening. 
A number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, ist December, 1847. — Mr. W. C. 
Whitthorne commenced to-day preparing a copy of 
my message to be sent to Congress, from the revised 
copy which he had once prepared. 

Several members of Congress and other persons 
called. 

I was engaged as usual in my office and transacted 
much official business. 

Young Wm. J. Bass, the son of Mr. John M. Bass 
of Nashville, Tennessee, who came to me on Sunday 
last (see this diary of that day) having left the col- 
lege at Emmetsburg, Maryland, left this evening on 
his return to the college, to see if he could reconcile 
his difficulty with the faculty. He took with him let- 
ters which I procured to be written by Hon. Rob't 
M. McLane of Baltimore, Daniel Graham, Esqr., 
and J. Knox Walker, my Private Secretary, to the 
President of the college. I advised him, if the 
authorities of the college refused to restore him, to 



236 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Dec. 

return to Washington and remain with me until his 
father's wishes should be known. I let him have $20 
to bear his expenses. 

Thursday, 2nd December, 184'J. — This was a 
damp and uncomfortable day. A few members of 
Congress called in the course of the day. I sub- 
mitted the draft of my message confidentially to the 
Hon. Mr. Rhett of S. Carolina. He examined it 
alone in the room adjoining my office. He approved 
it generally, but suggested two or three modifications, 
one of which I adopted, it not changing the senti- 
ment, but rather the language in which it was ex- 
pressed. Mr. Rhett at first doubted the propriety of 
establishing territorial Governments over New Mex- 
ico and the Californias at this time. He agreed that 
we should never restore them to Mexico, and that we 
must ultimately hold them, and that it was a ques- 
tion of time as to the establishment of Territorial 
Governments over them. He thought it might be 
as well to wait another year to see if we could obtain 
a Treaty of peace, and that if we failed he would then 
establish Territorial Governments over them. I did 
not alter this paragraph, but changed the phraseol- 
ogy in which it was expressed. Mr. Rhett thought I 
had better omit saying anything about establishing 
territorial Governments over any other territories 
than the Provinces named. Mr. Rhett thought I had 
better not insert the paragraph on the subject of the 
slave-trade. After night I submitted confidentially 
to Senator Douglass of 111. that part of my message 
relating to the Mexican War. He read some other 



1847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 237 

passages also. He approved the message. Mr. 
Hampton C. Williams & Mr. W. C. Whitthorne, 
two confidential clerks, were engaged to-day in 
making fair copies of the message, as far it had 
been prepared, for the two Houses of Congress. I 
prepared one or two additional paragraphs of the 
paper to-day. The financial Statement in part was 
furnished to me by the Secretary of the Treasury to- 
day, and I put it into form as far as the data reed, en- 
abled me to do. 

I consulted the Secretary of State and the Atto. 
Gen'l about one or two passages in the paper about 
which I had doubts, but made no material change in 
them. 

Friday, Jrj December, 184J. — Many members 
of Congress called to-day, and I was much occupied 
in my office. The two clerk[s], Mr. Williams & Mr. 
Whitthorne, were engaged in making two fair cop- 
ies of my message, to be transmitted to the two 
Houses of Congress. After night I submitted to the 
inspection of Senator Turney of Tennessee, and to 
Mr. Ritchie, Editor of the Union, that part of my 
message relating to Mexico & the Mexican war. It 
was the first time Mr. Ritchie had seen any part of it, 
or knew what it would contain. The truth is that 
the old gentleman's passion to put everything he 
learns into his newspaper [is so great] that I did not 
think it prudent to entrust its contents to him at an 
earlier period. He and Senator Turney happened 
at my office together by accident, and I submitted 
the message to them at the same time. They both 



238 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Dec. 

approved it. I have the utmost confidence in Mr. 
Ritchie's honour & sound principles, but his weak- 
ness is his passion to put everything he knows into his 
newspaper. This passion has become constitutional 
v^'ith him and I do not, therefore, censure him for it. 
In Mr. Turney's prudence and discretion, I know I 
can confide. 

The Secretary of the Navy returned from the 
short visit he had made to New York to-day. I was 
glad to see him as his presence was proper immedi- 
ately before the meeting of Congress. 

Saturday, 4th December, 184J. — Many mem- 
bers of Congress called before the hour of the meet- 
ing of the Cabinet to-day. All the members of the 
Cabinet were present at the usual hour. I submitted 
to them some modifications of my message, which I 
had made since it was read to them on a former day. 
The most material of which consisted in a modifica- 
tion of a paragraph in relation to Mexico. As I had 
originally prepared it I had declared that if Mexico 
continued to protract the war & involved us in 
largely increased expenditures, that in addition to 
New Mexico & the Californias, it would become a 
grave question whether Territorial Governments 
should not be established over other of the Mexican 
provinces in addition to these. The modification of 
this paragraph which I suggested was that if Mex- 
ico continued the contest, &c, then what further pro- 
vision it would become necessary [to make] and what 
final disposition it would be proper to make of them, 
must depend on the future progress of the war and 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 239 

the course which Mexico may think proper here- 
after to pursue. My object in suggesting the modi- 
fication was that I might not be embarrassed in the 
future negotiations with Mexico. The Secretaries 
of State and the Treasury preferred the paragraph 
as it originally stood. The other four members of 
the Cabinet preferred the modification proposed, and 
it was made. 

After night I submitted that part of my message 
which related to Mexico to Hon. Mr. Stanton of 
Tennessee & Hon. Rob't M. McLane of Baltimore, 
both members of the Ho. Repts. Messrs. Chase, 
Hill, Jones, and Stanton of the Tennessee delegation 
in Congress, dined with me to-day. I was much en- 
gaged after night in preparing the financial part of 
my message. I received the statistical statements of 
the Secretary of the Treasury, some of them late this 
evening. 

Mr. Leal, the charge d'affaires of Brazil, called 
to-day and delivered to me an official letter from the 
Emperor of Brazil, announcing the birth of a 
princess. 

Sunday, J^/z December, 184J, — I was under the 
necessity to-day of remaining in my office to superin- 
tend the copying and comparing of my message. 
Mr. Whitthorne and Mr. H. C. Williams were 
copying. Daniel Graham, Esqr., & my Private Sec- 
retary were engaged most of the day in assisting me 
to compare the different copies of the message, and 
in correcting clerical & verbal errors. Hon. Lynn 
Boyd called and I showed him that part of my mes- 



240 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Dec. 

sage relating to Mexico. He approved it. After 
night Senator Dix called at my request. I informed 
him of the contents of the message & of the views 
which I had presented on the subject of the Mexican 
War. He approved them. 

Wm. J. Bass, son of Jno. M. Bass, returned from 
Emmetsburg college this evening & reported that the 
faculty of the college had refused to receive him 
back again. 

Monday, 6th December, 184J. — Congress met 
to-day. Before the hour of meeting of the two 
Houses, as well as afterwards, many members called. 
The Hon. Mr. Winthrop ^ of Massachusetts was 
elected Speaker on the 3rd trial, by a majority of one 
vote. 

The Judges of the Supreme Court of the U. S., at- 
tended by the Atto. Gen'l, Clerk, & Marshall, called 
in a body. I received them in the parlour below 
Stairs. 

It being uncertain whether the Ho. Repts. would 
be organized to-day so as to be ready to receive my 
message on to-morrow until a late hour, I did not 
give out a copy of my message to be printed until 
about 6 O'clock P. M. At that hour I entrusted it 
confidentially to Mr. Heiss of the Union of^ce, with 
a view to have it printed & in readiness for delivering 
to members of Congress as soon as it was communi- 
cated to the two Houses of Congress. I sat up in 
my ofRce until 6 O'Clock in the morning of the 7th 

^Robert Charles Winthrop. 1809-1894, Representative from 
Massachusetts 1 840-1 850, Speaker of the House 1 847-1 849. 



i847l JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 241 

Dec, superintending personally the reading & cor- 
recting the proof sheets of my message. Judge Ma- 
son, the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Whitthorne, 
& my Private Secretary aided me. Mr. Dickens, the 
Secretary of the Senate, & Mr. French, the Clerk of 
the Ho. Repts., called & read the copies intended for 
the two [Houses] so as to become familiar with the 
handwriting, and thereby be enabled to read it to 
their respective Houses with the more ease. 

Tuesday, yth December, 184J. — Many members 
of Congress called this morning. The Cabinet as- 
sembled at the usual hour, all the members present 
except the Atto. Gen'l. The Secretary of the Treas- 
ury read a paragraph which he had prepared for his 
annual Report, and said he wished my opinion and 
that of the Cabinet, whether it should be inserted or 
not. It professed to relate to the finances, but was 
in reality a recommendation to Congress in relation 
to the Mexican War. It spoke, to be sure, of mili- 
tary contributions to be collected in Mexico, but its 
main object manifestly was to express his own views 
in regard to the future occupation of the whole of 
Mexico. The Secretary of War first expressed his 
opinion against its being inserted; the Secretary of 
the Navy also stated his objections to it. The Secre- 
tary of State suggested that it might be construed to 
be in conflict to some extent with my message. I 
was engaged most of the time while the discussion 
was going on in arranging the Documents which 
were to accompany my message. I finally said to 
Mr. Walker that by law he made his Report to Con- 



242 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Dec 

gress and not to the President, but, though this was 
so, the country would hold the President responsible 
for it. I told him I had in my message very fully 
considered the Mexican war & our future policy, 
that every part of that message had been very fully 
discussed by the Cabinet, and that I thought if he 
took up the subject in a finance Report it would place 
me in a very embarrassing condition; that I would 
be charged with holding one policy in the message 
and causing my Secretary of the Treasury to hold 
another in his Report, or, if not another, to go further 
than I had deemed it prudent to go at this time, and 
that I had done this in order to avoid my proper re- 
sponsibility. Mr. Walker said that he had merely 
submitted the paper for consideration, and that he 
would not insert it in his Report. The truth is it 
was wholly out of place in a financial Report. 

A few minutes before i O'Clock P. M. a joint 
committee of the two Houses of Congress waited 
upon me and informed me that the two Houses of 
Congress had organized & were ready to receive any 
communication I might have to make. I informed 
them that I would make a communication in writing 
to the two Houses this day. Immediately after the 
committee retired my Private Secretary took the two 
copies of the message ^ with the accompanying docu- 
ments & proceeded to the Capitol & delivered them 
to the two Houses. The PIo. Repts. this day rejected 
Mr. French, the old Clerk (a Democrat) & elected 
Thos. J. Campbell (a Whig) by one vote. 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 532- 
564. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 243 

At 2 O'clock P. M. the Secretary of State pre- 
sented Gen'l Herron, as Envoy Extraordinary & 
Minister Plenipotentiary from the Republic of New 
Granada. I received him in the parlour. He de- 
livered to me his credentials, & presented his Secre- 
tary of Legation. He made a speech in Spanish. I 
received him and made some remarks to him in Eng- 
lish. After this formality was over I held a conver- 
sation with him. He speaks English tolerably well. 

This being reception evening a large number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. Among them 
were the Vice President of the U. S. and many mem- 
bers of Congress. 

Wednesday, 8th December, 184J. — I saw com- 
pany until 12 O'clock this morning. Many mem- 
bers of Congress and others called. I learn from 
the Democratic gentlemen that my message was ap- 
proved by the Democratic party. I have not heard 
of any expression of opinion from the Whig gentle- 
men. Several members of Congress called on busi- 
ness in the course of the afternoon. I was much oc- 
cupied with business in my office. I franked, too, 
some of my messages. Nothing worthy of particular 
notice occurred to-day. 

Wm. J. Bass (son of Jno. M. Bass) of Nashville 
left this afternoon for Nashville. I furnished him 
$45. to bear his expenses. 

Thursday, qth December, 1847. — Quite a large 
number of members of Congress called this morning. 
Several other persons called also. I closed my office 



244 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Dec. 

at 12 O'clock & was occupied with business in my 
office during the balance of the day. I devoted a 
part of the day to the preperation of a message to the 
Ho. Repts. assigning my reasons for having with- 
held my approval from a Harbour Bill, which was 
presented to me for my approval on the last day of 
the last session of Congress. I retained the Bill, not 
having had time to assign my reasons for not signing 
it at that time. 

About 4 O'clock P. M. I learned that Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, had been taken sud- 
denly ill & had fallen down in the Treasury build- 
ing. He was attended by his physician to his own 
house. I appointed McClintock Young, his chief 
Clerk, to perform the duties of Secretary of the 
Treasury ad interim. 

I had a Cabinet Dinner to-day. All the members 
of the Cabinet attended except Mr. Walker. Their 
families were also present. Senators Cass, Felch, 
Foote, Davis of Mississippi, Sevier, Breese, Fair- 
field,* Bradbury,^ Judge Catron of the Supreme 
Court of the U. S., Mrs. Madison & her niece. Miss 
Payne, were also of the dinner party. 

This morning Mrs. Walker, the wife of my 
Private Secretary, gave birth to a son. The fact was 
announced by the chamber maid to Mrs. Polk shortly 
after I rose & was dressing this morning, as having 
just occurred. 

^ John Fairfield of Maine, 1797-1847, Governor of Maine 
1839-1843, Senator from Maine 1843-1847. 

-James Ware Bradbury, 1802-igoi, Senator from Maine 
1847-1853. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 245 

Friday, lOth December, 184^. — Congress having 
adjourned over on yesterday until Monday next, a 
large number of members of both Houses called to- 
day. Until to-day not many of the Whig gentlemen 
had called. The whole day was devoted to receiv- 
ing company, and I was not enabled to attend to any 
business. In the afternoon I visited Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, and found him in bed, 
but better than I expected to have found him. His 
attack on yesterday probably proceeded from over 
exertion & consequent exhaustion. 

This being reception evening a number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. Among them was Mr. 
Winthrop & Mr. Campbell, the Whig Speaker & 
Clerk of the Ho. Repts. 

Among the Senators who called this morning was 
Mr. Calhoun of S. C. 

Saturday, nth December, 1847. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called this morning. The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour, all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury, who is confined at 
his house by severe indisposition, brought on un- 
doubtedly by severe labour and mental exertion. 
The subject of the Mexican war and our future 
action in reference to it were considered, but no 
action was taken. I informed the Cabinet that I had 
received information that Gen'l Scott and Mr. Trist 
had, before the City of Mexico was taken, entered 
into an agreement to pay to Santa Anna a million of 
Dollars as secret money if he would agree to make a 
Treaty of peace. I expressed in the strongest terms 



246 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Dec. 

my condemnation of such conduct. Mr. Mason and 
Mr. Marcy said they had seen a statement to the 
same effect in a New Orleans paper. Mr. Buchanan 
expressed his indignation at such conduct in strong 
[terms], and said if it was true, he would advise that 
Gen'l Scott should be immediately recalled. I fully 
concurred with him in opinion. It was suggested 
that Gen'l Shields and Gen'l Quitman were expected 
here in a few days, and that it would be prudent to 
delay action until we could obtain authentic infor- 
mation from them. After the Cabinet retired I read 
to Mr. Buchanan a Private letter which I had re- 
ceived from Gen'l Pillow giving me the information. 
Being a Private letter I did not read it to the Cabinet, 
but may yet do so, & will do so before action is had 
on the subject of Gen'l Scott's recal[l], unless the in- 
formation received from Gen'l Shields & Gen'l Quit- 
man shall render it unnecessary. 

Sunday, 12th December, 1 847. — This was a 
wet & uncomfortable day, and Mrs. Polk and my- 
self declined attending church. After night the 
Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Navy, & the 
Hon. Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, called and spent an 
hour in my office. I informed Mr. Stanton of my 
intention to send in a message assigning my reasons 
for retaining the Harbour Bill at the close of the 
last Session of Congress, and read to him a few of the 
sheets of the rough draft of the message. 

Monday, IJth December, 184J. — I saw mem- 
bers of Congress and others until 12 O'Clock to-day. 
After that hour I was engaged in discharging official 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 247 

duties. I occupied most of the day in finishing my 
veto message on the Harbour Bill, which was pre- 
sented to me on the afternoon of the last day of the 
last Session of Congress and which I did not sign. 
In the evening I put it into the hands of Mr. Whit- 
thorne & my Private Secretary, J. Knox Walker, to 
be copied. Though I had collected all the material 
I& made voluminous notes, and indeed prepared a 
rough draft of it during the summer, I found it a 
matter of great labour to complete it. Since the 
meeting of Congress my time has been so constantly 
taken up by members that I have had but little time 
to devote to it. 

Tuesday^ 14th December, 184"/ . — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called [before] the meeting of the 
Cabinet this morning. The Cabinet assembled at 
the usual hour, all the members present except the 
Secretary of the Treasury, who is confined at his 
house by sickness. I read to the Cabinet my veto 
message on the Harbour Bill of the last session, 
which I propose to send to the Ho. Repts. on to- 
morrow. All concurred that I should send in such a 
message. Mr. Mason, Mr. Johnson, & Mr. Clififord 
concurred with me in the views presented. Mr, Bu- 
chanan expressed the opinion that it was an able 
paper, &, entertaining my opinions, he would send in 
the message. He said he had been committed in 
speeches & votes, when he was a member of Congress, 
on the subject, but was satisfied of the dangers and 
excesses of the system, and that if he were now a 
member of Congress, he would not, during the Mex- 



248 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Dec. 

ican war, when we needed our revenues, vote a single 
dollar for improvements, and that if he were Presi- 
dent he would put his veto [on] any Bill of the 
kind. The Secretary of War acquiesced in the pro- 
priety of sending in the message, but expressed no 
distinct opinion upon the general doctrines which it 
contained. No other subject was considered in 
Cabinet to-day. After the Cabinet adjourned I 
wrote some additional paragraphs at the close of the 
message, and had Mr. Whitthorne & my Private 
Secretary engaged copying [it]. After night Mr. 
Thomas of Ten., Mr. Thompson of Penn., & Mr. 
McLane of Maryland called at my request, and I 
read the Message to them. This I did that some 
members of the Ho. Repts. might be advised in ad- 
vance of what it contained. Mr. Mason called while 
I was reading it to them. At 9^ O'Clock P. M. I 
went from my office to the parlour, this being recep- 
tion evening. I found an unusually large crowd of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, & among them many 
members of Congress, assembled. When the com- 
pany retired I returned to my office, and at my re- 
quest Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Clifford 
met me at the office. I was engaged with them un- 
til I O'clock A. M. in revising certain paragraphs 
of my message. I desired to send it in on to-morrow, 
that being the loth Legislative day since the Har- 
bour Bill was presented to me, on the last day of the 
last session of Congress. 

Wednesday, 75M December, 1847. — I saw no 
company to-day. I was engaged in revising my Veto 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 249 

Message on the Harbour Bill. Mr. Buchanan, Mr. 
Mason, & Mr. Gillet, the Solicitor of the Treasury, 
aided me in comparing the extracts which it con- 
tained & seeing that they had been correctly copied. 
At I O'clock P. M. I finished and at that hour my 
Private Secretary took the message ^ with the Har- 
bour Bill to the Ho. Repts. After night several 
members of Congress called. My message, I learn, 
was under debate in the House at its adjournment. 
It had been violently assailed by the Whig party. 
The debate will probably be resumed on to-morrow. 
I retired at a late hour much fatigued. 

Thursday, idth December, 184J. — Many mem- 
bers of Congress and others called this morning. 
Since the meeting of Congress the members have 
pressed me very much for offices for their constitu- 
ents. Indeed the rage for office is the besetting evil 
of the times, and does more to weaken the demo- 
cratic party than all other causes combined. Every 
President must be greatly weakened because he can- 
not gratify the craving desire of his professed polit- 
ical friends for office. This it is impossible to do, 
unless he could put 10 persons into one office, and 
even then he could not satisfy all the applicants. I 
had but a short time during the day to attend to my 
official duties. I gave a Diplomatic Dinner to-day 
at which the Representatives of all Foreign Govern- 
ments accredited at this Court, with their wives, were 
present. They numbered 35 persons. Mr. Bu- 
chanan, Sec. of State, was also of the party. 

^ H. Journal, 30 Cong, i Sess. 82-98. 



2S0 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Dec. 

Friday, Ijth December, 184'/. — I was perfectly 
overrun with visitors this morning. Among them 
were members of Congress seeking office for their 
constituents, persons seeking offices for themselves, 
and persons begging money. It is enough to exhaust 
the patience and destroy the good temper of any 
man on earth, to bear the daily boring which I have 
to endure. I keep, however, in a good humour as far 
as it is possible to do so. 

I saw Mr. Sevier, the Senator from Arkansas, and 
held a long conversation with him on public affairs. 
He is a sound Democrat and a reliable man. I saw 
Mr. Stanton of Tennessee, who voted for the Har- 
bour Bill, upon which I sent in my veto on the 15th 
Inst. He differed with me in opinion on the subject, 
but said he would not, in the present condition of 
the Treasury and pending the war with Mexico, 
vote for any similar appropriations. He said he 
might make a speech, and avow his difference of 
opinion upon the Constitutional questions, but would 
declare that at present he deemed it expedient to vote 
for such appropriations. 

This being reception evening many persons, ladies 
& gentlemen, called and were received in the par- 
lour. 

Saturday, l8th December, 184J. — I saw mem- 
bers of Congress and others until the hour of the 
meeting of the Cabinet to-day. The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour to-day, all the members present 
except the Secretary of the Treasury, who is still con- 
fined at his house by indisposition. I brought be- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 251 

fore the Cabinet the future policy in conducting the 
Mexican War, and particularly the question whether 
we should promise protection to the peace party in 
Mexico, if they would form a Government & make a 
Treaty of peace with the U. S. After much discus- 
sion the Cabinet were unanimous in the opinion that 
such a promise or assurance should be given, and that 
if such a Government was formed & such a Treaty 
made, it should contain a stipulation that a sufficient 
portion of our army should remain in Mexico for a 
year after peace w^as concluded to afford the desired 
protection, and to enable any new Government which 
may be formed to execute the Treaty. These opin- 
ions were expressed, but no definite action was had 
on the subject. 

Col. Andrews of the Voltigeurs and Lieut. Col. 
T. P. Moore of the 3rd Dragoons recently arrived 
in this City from Mexico and confirm a statement of 
a letter writer in a St. Louis paper that it had been at 
one time contemplated by Gen'l Scott & Mr. Trist 
to pay a million of Dollars to Santa Anna, in con- 
sideration that he would make peace. They do not 
give this information on their own knowledge, but 
from what they heard in camp in Mexico. I felt it 
to be my duty to read, in Cabinet confidence, a let- 
ter, a part of which alluded to the subject, dated 
Oct. 28th, 1847, which I had received from Maj'r 
Gen'l Pillow, which went to confirm the statement 
of the newspaper writer. The whole Cabinet & my- 
self condemned the proceedings unqualifiedly, and 
resolved to have the matter investigated, but before 
any decisive step was taken in the matter it was 



252 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Dec. 

deemed prudent to wait until Maj'r Gen'l Quitman 
& Brig. Gen'l Shields, who were expected in a few 
days, should arrive in Washington. From them it 
was supposed accurate information could be ob- 
tained. If any such proceeding took place it was 
wholly unauthorized & is deeply to be regretted. It 
was suggested that I should write to Gen'l Pillow on 
the subject and that Mr. Buchanan should write to 
Mr. Trist, expressing the disapprobation of the Gov- 
ernment & requiring an explanation. After the Cab- 
inet adjourned I disposed of much business on my 
table. 

Sunday, igth December, iSiJ. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended the first Presbyterian church to-day. 
I was much fatigued with my long and close confine- 
ment & constant labour, and rested during the day. 
After night I prepared the draft of a letter to Maj'r 
Gen'l Pillow on the subject considered in Cabinet on 
yesterday (see this diary of yesterday) but did not 
send it off as I desired to revise it. 

Monday, 20th December, 184J. — A large num- 
ber of persons, members of Congress and others, 
called this morning. I closed my doors at 12 
O'clock. About 1 O'clock Mr. Buchanan & Mr. 
Marcy called at my request. Mr. Mason & Mr. 
Cliflford happened also to come in. The subject of 
the proposed negotiation between Gen'l Scott & 
Mr. Trist on the one part and Gen'l Santa Anna on 
the other, was considered. I read the draft of my 
letter prepared last night to Gen'l Pillow. Mr. Bu- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 253 

chanan read one to Mr. Trist on the same subject. 
Some modifications were suggested and made in both, 
but not materially affecting their substance. It was 
thought proper that The Secretary of War should 
not write to Gen'l Scott on the subject until Gen'l 
Quitman and Gen'l Shields, who were expected 
in a few days, should arrive in Washington, as 
it was supposed that more accurate information 
could be obtained from them on the subject than 
had yet been received. I fear Gen'l Pillow has 
involved himself in the matter, so far as giving 
his assent to the proposals of Gen'l Scott and 
Mr. Trist is concerned. It seems that he assented 
with reluctance in the first instance, but that he after- 
wards protested against it, and also against the armis- 
tice agreed to by Gen'l Scott at the City of Mexico. 
Neither Gen'l Scott, Mr. Trist, or any one else had 
the slightest authority to make such a proposition as 
is imputed to them. This subject has given me great 
pain, but it must be investigated, and the censure 
fall where it is due, whatever may be the conse- 
quences to the officers concerned. 

Tuesday, 21st December, 184J. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called this morning. The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour, all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury. Mr. Buchanan 
read to the Cabinet a copy of the letter which he had 
addressed to Mr. Trist condemning in strong terms 
the reported negotiations or correspondence between 
Gen'l Scott and Mr. Trist on the one part and 
Gen'l Santa Anna on the other part. He read also 



254 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Dec. 



the copy of a private letter to Mr. Trist on the 
same subject, which he said he had addressed to him. 
The subject of the Mexican War and the policy 
proper to be pursued in its further prosecution was 
considered, but nothing definitely decided. 

This being reception evening an unusually large & 
fashionable crowd attended. Among them were 
many members of Congress & many ladies. Among 
the ladies were Mrs. Gentry & Mrs. Barrow of Ten- 
nessee. 

Wednesday, 22nd December, 184J. — I saw com- 
pany as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. I devoted 
the balance of the day in disposing of the business 
on my table. In the course of the day and after night 
several Senators & Representatives called on busi- 
ness. Nothing worthy of special remark occurred 
to-day. 

Thursday, 23rd December, 184J. — I received 
company as usual this morning. Several members 
of Congress & many other persons called. I dis- 
posed of business on my table. After the company 
had retired I sent for Mr. Buchanan. He called, 
and I informed him that I learned that an anonymous 
letter purporting to have been written in this City 
had appeared in the N. York Herald^ but which I 
had not read, to the effect that by my agency the 
Tennessee State convention, which is to meet at Nash- 
ville on the 8th of January next, would nominate 

^ New York Herald, December 21, 1847, letter signed " Tony 
Lumpkin." 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 255 

Gen'l Cass for the Presidency, and that my object 
was to produce confusion among the Democratic 
aspirants, with a view ultimately to obtain the nom- 
ination myself. I told him that the whole story was 
false, that I had written to no one in Tennessee on 
the subject, and that I thought it proper to say to 
him that the story was false. He asked me if I had 
written to Gen'l Cass in the last recess of Congress, 
requesting him to be chairman of the military com- 
mittee of the Senate. I promptly replied that I had 
not written to him on that or any other subject. He 
said he had read the letter in the Herald, and such 
was the statement made by the writer. I told him it 
was false. He then said that it was generally under- 
stood among the members of Congress that I was 
favourable to Gen'l Cass's nomination, at which he 
could not complain. I replied with some emphasis 
that I had never given the slightest indication for 
any one of the Democratic party as my successor, and 
repeated two or three times that he gave me [the] 
first intimation to that effect that I had ever heard. 
I told him frankly that I had not [taken] and should 
not take any part in [the] selection by the Democratic 
party of a candidate to succeed me; that when the 
Democratic national convention should make a nom- 
ination, I would be for the nominee, be him [he] 
whom he might. I told him that the Democratic 
party must make their own nomination of a candi- 
date, without any interference or agency of mine. I 
told him further that my own administration was to 
last fourteen months, and that I could take no part 
among the Democratic aspirants to succeed me, with- 



2S6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Dec. 

out arraying against me all the friends of other as- 
pirants than the one I might prefer; & that in this 
way all my measures connected with the war and 
other subjects would be voted down, and that I my- 
self would become of no consideration & could have 
no influence in carrying out my measures. I re- 
peated to him that I had & would preserve a strict 
neutrality in the selection of a candidate of the Dem- 
ocratic party as my successor; that for myself my 
resolution was unchanged, and that I should retire 
voluntarily at the close of my term of office. Mr. 
Buchanan no doubt considers himself a candidate for 
the nomination, and is nervous and exhibits a degree 
of weakness on the subject that is almost incredible. 
My object in holding the conversation with him to- 
day was, first, to tell him that the letter published in 
the Herald was false, and secondly, that I should act 
a neutral part and have no agency in selecting the 
candidate of the Democracy to succeed me. He 
seemed to be in a gloomy mood, &, judging from his 
manner, left me dis[s]atisfied. If this be so, I shall 
regret it, but shall not change my determination. 
^^'hile I am President I cannot become the partisan 
of Mr. Buchanan or any one else. After a regular 
nomination is made, I shall support the nominee. I 
regret to be under the impression that for some weeks 
past Mr. B. seems to have been so much absorbed 
with the idea of being President that I cannot rely, 
as formerly, upon his advice given in Cabinet upon 
public subjects. My impression is that all his opin- 
ions are formed and controlled by the consideration 
of the means best calculated to enable him to sue- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 257 

ceed in getting the nomination as my successor. He 
seems to have lost sight of the success of my adminis- 
tration & to be acting alone with a view to his own 
personal advancement. I feel embarrassed by his 
position as a member of my Cabinet, but am resolved 
not to sacrifice the great measures of my own admin- 
istration to gratify him or anyone else, & I gave him 
so distinctly to understand to-day. 

I had a Dinner party of 35 or 38 persons to-day, 
ladies and gentlemen. Among my guests were the 
Vice President of the U. S. & his family, the Speaker 
of the Ho. Repts., the Secretary of the Senate, & 
elk. of the Ho. Repts. The balance of the company 
was composed of Senators & Representatives in Con- 
gress & their families. 

Both Houses of Congress adjourned over to-day 
until Monday next. 

Friday, 24th December, 184J. — I received com- 
pany as usual this morning. Many members of Con- 
gress & others called. At 12 O'Clock I closed my 
doors, but as neither House of Congress was in Ses- 
sion to-day, several members called after that hour 
and I received them. 

I received company in the parlour this evening. 
A large number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
members of Congress & others, called. About 9 
O'clock P. M. it was announced to me that Senator 
Fairfield of Maine had died to-night suddenly. 
He was an old and intimate friend, & as soon as the 
company dispersed I sent a servant to his boarding 
House to ascertain certainly if the fact was so. The 



258 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Dec* 

servant returned & reported that he died at 7^ 
O'clock this evening. The Secretary of the Navy 
left to-night on a short visit to his residence in 
Virginia. 

Saturday, 2Sth December, 184J. — This being 
Christmas day three or four members of Congress 
were all who called. The snow fell during most of 
the day, and the weather being very inclement I re- 
mained in my office and despatched a mass of business 
which had accumulated on my table. Senator Fair- 
field, I learned, submitted to a surgical operation 
for dropsy in the knees on yesterday afternoon and 
died in three or four hours after it was performed. 
It was performed by Dr. IVIagruder, and I learn that 
a post mortem examination of the body is to take 
place. After night I learned that the post mortem 
examination of the body had taken place, but I was 
not informed what the Report of the physicians was. 
His death was very sudden and therefore the more 
melancholy. I deeply deplore it as he was one of 
my best personal & political friends. 

Sunday, 26th December, 184J, — Mrs. Polk & 
myself attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. 
My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, jr., who is spending 
the Christmas Holidays with us, accompanied us to 
church. 

Monday, zyth December, 184^. — Immediately 
after breakfast this morning Daniel Saffrons, from 
Gallatin, Tennessee, called. He had informed me 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 259 

at my drawing room on friday evening last that he 
desired to see me alone this morning. The object of 
his visit was to reconcile the former differences which 
had for some years past seperated Senator Bell of 
Tennessee & myself and had prevented all personal 
intercourse between us. He said that he came with 
no authority to do so, but in the course of his conver- 
sation it was quite clear that Mr. Bell knew he was 
coming for the purpose of opening the way for the 
renewal of our social intercourse. He said that Mr. 
Bell had expressed to him his intention of support- 
ing my policy upon the Mexican War & the tariff; 
That Mr. Bell had expressed himself as retaining no 
feelings of asperity towards me. He said he had 
told Mr. Bell it was his duty to call on me, and that 
he should do so on the ist of January, and had further 
expressed to him the opinion that if he did so, he had 
no doubt I would invite him to Dinner. He said 
that Mr. Bell had replied that he hoped if he did 
call and I should invite him to Dinner, that I would 
not put him in among an exclusive democratic party, 
but would have some other Whigs present. I told 
Mr. Saffrons that my Dinner parties were never of a 
partisan character. Mr. Saffrons said that Mr. Bell 
had said that he could say to me; and here [he] im- 
mediately caught himself and said he was not author- 
ized to say anything by Mr. Bell, but he knew that 
Mr. Bell's feelings were not unkind, & that he would 
call if he thought he would be kindly received. 
He said that something was said, too, about the 
ladies & a doubt how Mrs. Polk would receive 
Mrs. Bell if she called. He said he had held 



26o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 Dec. 

a conversation with Mr. & Mrs. Bell on the 
subject on last evening, & I have no doubt he came 
upon a special mission on the subject. I said to Mr. 
Saffrons that if Mr. Bell chose to call on me I would 
certainly receive him courteously & kindly; that it 
was true Mr. Bell & myself had for some years been 
on different sides of politics, and were perhaps re- 
garded as rivals for popular favour in Tennessee, but 
that I retained no asperity of feeling towards him, 
&, indeed, that I had not an unkind feeling towards 
him personally; that probably both of us had upon 
some occasions gone too far, but that I was willing 
that all this should be forgotten. I told him that my 
future residence would be at Nashville, and that 
when I retired fourteen months hence, I should never 
again aspire to fill any office; and that I desired in 
my retirement to live on terms of social intercourse 
with all my neighbours, of whom Mr. Bell would be 
one. In fine, I said to him that if Mr. Bell chose 
to call I would receive him courteously, and would 
suffer our past relations to be forgotten. Mr. Saf- 
frons seemed to be highly gratified. I told him that 
as to the ladies I had no doubt Mrs. Polk would re- 
ceive Mrs. Bell kindly, if she called on her. 

I was occupied during most of the day in dispos- 
ing of the business on my table. Col. Harney of 
the 2nd Regt. of Dragoons called in the morning, 
and again after night, when I had a conversation of 
an hours length with him in relation to events in the 
army and in reference to the manner of conducting 
the War. About 9 O'Clock P. M., and after Col. 
Harney had left, Maj'r Gen'l Quitman and Brig- 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 261 

adier Gen'l Shields of the army, who arrived in 
Washington to-night, called. They were accom- 
panied by the Hon. Mr. Thompson of the Ho. 
Repts. from Pennsylvania. Shortly after they came 
in Senator Foote of Mississippi called. I was glad 
to see the two Generals & held an interesting conver- 
sation with them in reference to the military opera- 
tions in which they had borne so prominent a part. 
They accompanied me from my office to the parlour 
& paid their respects to Mrs. Polk. Both of them 
expressed their entire approval of my policy in the 
future conduct of the War, as laid down in my an- 
nual message. 

Tuesday, 28th December, 184J. — The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour this morning; all the members 
present except the Secretary of the Treasury, who is 
still confined to his house by indisposition, and the 
Secretary of the Navy, who is absent on a visit to his 
residence in Virginia. Shortly after the Cabinet 
met Brigadier Gen'l Shields of the army called. I 
invited him into my office where the Cabinet were. 
He remained an hour or more, and conversed freely 
about our military operations in Mexico, and our 
future policy in conducting the war. Some minor 
subjects were considered and disposed of by the Cab- 
inet, but nothing worthy of special notice occurred. 
After the Cabinet retired I found Gen'l Shields in 
my Private Secretary's office in conversation with 
him. Among other things Gen'l Shields voluntarily 
spoke of Gen'l Pillow, and accorded to him high 
merit as an officer. He said that certain letters from 



262 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Dec. 

the army which had been published in the U. States, 
had done injustice to other officers, & had done Gen'l 
Pillow an injury in the estimation of the army; but, 
he added, no one doubts his bravery & gallantry, 
and that he was a good officer. I told him that he 
had been very much abused by some of the opponents 
of the administration, and that I had heard last even- 
ing that CoL Haskell ^ of the Ho. Repts. was exert- 
ing what influence he had to have him rejected as a 
Maj'r Gen'l by the Senate. Gen'l fields at once 
said he ought to be confirmed, that it would be doing 
him great injustice to reject him, and that he would 
freely express this opinion to Senators. He spoke 
of the story in the newspapers of the alleged council 
of war held at Puebla, and the proposition to bribe 
Santa Anna. He said that he had not seen the news- 
paper publication. I repeated to him, as well as I 
could remember, its substance. He said it was not 
true that any consultation had been held about a 
proposition to bribe. He said there was a confi- 
dential conference at Gen'l Scott's Head Quarters, 
not about bribing, but whether it would be proper, 
if it was a[s]certained that a satisfactory Treaty 
could be obtained, to pay a part of the consideration 
for a cession of Territory in advance of the ratifica- 
tion of such a Treaty. He repeated that the idea of 
bribery was not suggested or considered, but the ques- 
tion was that stated by him, & whether, if deemed 
proper, there was any legal authority to apply any 

^William F. Haskell, Representative from Tennessee, 1847- 
1849. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 263 

part of the public money in that way. He did not 
mention the names of the officers present at this coun- 
cil, but said Mr. Trist was not present. He said 
he made no such speech as I informed him was at- 
tributed to him in the newspapers. I told him that 
Mr. Trist was furnished with written instructions, 
& that he had none other & that by them he had no 
authority to use a dollar of the public money until 
after a Treaty was concluded and ratified on the 
part of Mexico, and that if such Treaty, when so 
ratified, stipulated for the payment of a consideration 
for a cession of Territory, then, & not till then, was 
Mr. Trist authorized to make such payment. He 
said Mr. Trist had never exhibited to him his instruc- 
tions. I told him that I had said to Mr. Trist be- 
fore he left that he could, if he deemed it necessary, 
show his written instructions confidentially to him- 
self & Gen'l Pillow, & to such other of the Gen'l 
officers as he might think proper, with a view to 
cou[n]sel with them on the subject of his mission. 
I expressed to him my disap[p]robation of Mr. 
Trist's conduct in intimating to the Mexican com- 
missioners that if they would submit a proposition 
to make the Nueces the boundary, he would trans- 
mit it to his Government for consideration. I did 
not proceed to detail to him the many other objec- 
tions which I had to his conduct since he has been in 
Mexico. They are numerous. I informed him that 
he had been recalled. 

I received company in the parlour this evening. 
Many persons, ladies & gentlemen, were present. 



264 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Dec. 

Wednesday, 2Qth December, 184/.— My office 
was open as usual this morning. Many persons 
called. The press by members of Congress and 
others for small offices, chietiy in the army, for their 
constituents and friends, is very great. Mr. Daniel 
Saf]frons of Tennessee called and had another con- 
versation with me in relation to my future social in- 
tercourse with Senator Bell of Tennessee (see this 
diary of Monday, 27th Instant). He said he had, 
since he saw me, held another conversation with Mr. 
Bell, and that Mr. B. had told him he intended to 
support my war-measures, that the taritl of 1846 was 
working well enough, & that he did not intend to 
vote to disturb it. In reference to the War, he said 
Mr. Bell had declared his determination to vote for 
any amt. of money or men the administration might 
want. He said Mr. Bell had informed him he would 
call on me and, forgetting the past, renew our per- 
sonal intercourse, but that he would delay doing so 
for some time, as he thought it best not to attract at- 
tention by doing so too soon. I repeated to Mr. 
Saffrons that when Mr. Bell thought proper to call 
on me I would treat him courteously, & was prepared 
to meet him half way in renewing our personal inter- 
course. Mr. Saffrons visit to me on monday and to- 
day, I cannot doubt, was at Mr. Bell's instance. I 
was engaged through the day in disposing of the 
business on my table. After night Senator Turney 
of Tenn. called and informed me that Senator Bell 
of Ten. had sought a conversation with him this 
morning, in which he had expressed a desire to be 
on terms of social intercourse with me. Mr. Turney 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 265 

informed me he told him he had no doubt I would be 
willing to be so with him. It was understood, as 
Mr. T. said, between them that he was to carry this 
information to me. Mr. T. gave me a detailed ac- 
count of what Mr. Bell said to him, which was in 
effect that he bore no malice and had no asperities to 
indulge, and wished to be on friendly terms with 
me. He told Mr. Turney that he should act with 
the Whig party, and that he apprehended that Mr. 
Saffrons, who had, as he informed Mr. T., held a 
conversation with me on the subject, might not fully 
understand his position on the war question. He 
intimated, as Mr. T. said, that he would not 
go as far on that subject as Mr. Saflfrons had un- 
derstood him to go. He made this explanation, 
as Mr. T. said, for the purpose, as he avowed, of 
having no misunderstanding bet^veen himself and me 
as to his course in the Senate. Mr. T. said he 
asked him to explain to Mr. Saffrons what his posi- 
tion and opinions were, and that he, Mr. T., de- 
clined to do this, but told him he had better make 
the explanation to Mr. Saffrons himself. I told 
Mr. T. that he could say to Mr. Bell that if he 
called I was willing to let bye-gones by bye- 
gones, & to receive and treat him kindly; that 
I had no other feelings towards him personally; 
and that as we would probably reside near to- 
gether after my term was out I desired to be on 
good terms with him, and with all my neighbours. 
Mr. Cave Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, was present 
during this conversation between Mr. Turney & 
myself. 



266 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Dec. 

Thursday, 30th December, 184J. — I received 
company as usual this morning. At 12 O'Clock I 
closed my office. Mr. Buchanan sent over to me 
despatches which he had received by last night's 
mail from Mr. Trist. He had received his letter of 
recal[l], and is manifestly displeased at it. The 
Secretary of War called and handed to me despatches 
which he had received by last night's mail from Gen'l 
Scott. Among them were charges preferred by 
Gen'l Scott against Maj'r Gen'l Pillow, Brevet 
Maj'r Gen'l Worth, & Brevet Col. Duncan ' of the 
U. S. army. He left the despatches with me & I 
read them carefully. I deplore the unfortunate col- 
lisions which have arisen between the Gen'l officers 
in Mexico, as they must prove highly prejudicial to 
the public service. They have been' produced, as I 
have every reason to believe, more by the vanity and 
tyrannical temper of Gen'l Scott, & his want of pru- 
dence and common sense, than from any other cause. 
I read his despatches with sincere regret. The offi- 
cers whom he arraigns upon charges, and for whose 
trial he demands a Court martial, have each of them 
been presented in Gen'l Scott's own official Reports 
as having acted a gallant and praiseworthy part in 
all the late battles in Mexico. The whole difficulty 
has grown out of letters written from the army and 
published in the newspapers of the U. S., in which 
Gen'l S. is not made the exclusive hero of the War. 
Without expressing any opinion upon the merits or 
truth of these letters, there seems to have been no 

^ James Duncan, thrice brevetted for distinguished and gallant 
service during the Mexican War. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 267 

necessity to make so serious an affair of them as to 
break up the harmony and efficiency of the army 
while in the enemy's country. The whole matter is 
most unfortunate. Mr. Trist, from all I can learn, 
has lent himself to Gen'l Scott and is his mere tool, 
and seems to be employed in ministering to his ma- 
lignant passions, in persecuting Gen'l Pillow and 
others who are supposed to be friendly to me. 1 am 
much troubled upon the subject, but will reflect 
further upon it before I decide upon my course. 

I had a dinner party to-day consisting of the 
Judges of the Supreme Court of the U. S., the Judges 
of the District of Columbia & their families (such 
of them as are in Washington) & of Several Senators 
& Representatives, making in all 35 or 36 persons. 
A few minutes before the party were about to go to 
the table, I received a note in the parlour from Sen- 
ator Davis of Mississippi (who was, as the servant 
informed me, in my office) desiring to see me, & in- 
forming me that he had received to-day an impor- 
tant letter from Mexico which he desired to submit 
to me. I could not leave the company in the par- 
lour, but sent my Private Secretary to request Sen- 
ator Davis to call on to-mor.row morning. The 
Dinner party was a very pleasant one. 

Mr. Seaton, Mayor of Washington, & Senator 
Douglass of Illinois called this morning & informed 
[me] that they were a committee to invite me to at- 
tend a complimentary Dinner to be given in this 
City on to-morrow to Maj'r Gen'l Quitman & Brig- 
adier Gen'l Shields. I informed [them] that it 
would give me personal pleasure to attend the Din- 



268 JAMES K. POLKS DIARY [30 Dec. 

ner, as [it] would a similar dinner to any other of 
our distinguished officers who might return from the 
army in Mexico, but at first blush I had some doubt 
of the official propriety of doing so, and I asked them 
their opinions upon the subject, and whether any of 
my predecessors had ever attended similar entertain- 
ments. Mr. Seaton said the only instance he remem- 
bered was a dinner given by the National Institute, 
at which Mr. J. Q. Adams presided, when he was 
President of the U. S., and a public dinner ^ at which 
Gen'l Jackson was present when he was President of 
the U. S., and at which he gave his celebrated toast 
"Our Federal Union; it must be preserved." I re- 
marked that the first of these occasions was a meeting 
of a literary & scientific society of which the Presi- 
dent of the U. S. was a member; & that the latter was 
on the occasion of Mr. Jefferson's birth day, which 
was celebrated by a public [dinner]. I remarked 
that I was myself present on the latter occasion, and 
heard Gen'l Jackson deliver his celebrated toast, but 
it struck me that the present was not a similar occa- 
sion to that. After a free conversation both Mr. 
Seaton and Mr. Douglass concurred with me that 
there was no precedent or usage of my predecessors 
which would make it consistent with official pro- 
priety for me to attend the dinner, & I finally told 
them I would not do so. They concurred with me in 
the correctness of my decision, but suggested that I 
might write a letter & send a toast to the Dinner 
party. 

^ The Jefferson birthday dinner, April 13, 1830. 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 269 

Friday, Jlst December, 184'J. — I sent for Sen- 
ator Douglass of Illinois this morning, & told him 
that upon further reflection I was of opinion that in- 
stead of sending a written answer & a toast to the 
public dinner to be given to-day to Gen'ls Quitman 
and Shields, I had better authorize him to express 
to the company the personal gratification it would 
have afforded me to be present, but that the pro- 
prieties of my station & the usage always observed 
by my predecessors must prevent me from doing so. 
He concurred with me in the propriety of this course 
& agreed to make my apology to the company (see 
this Diary of yesterday). This morning Senator 
Davis of Mississippi, who called about my Dinner 
hour on yesterday and could not see me (see this diary 
of yesterday) called in company with Senator Cass 
of Michigan. Mr. Davis read me a short passage 
from a letter which he had received on yesterday 
from Gen'l Twiggs of the army in Mexico, express- 
ing the opinion that if a commissioner with power 
to treat was now in Mexico a Treaty might be con- 
cluded. This lead to a conversation of some length 
in relation to the state of affairs in Mexico. Both 
Mr. Davis and Gen'l Cass deplored the collisions 
which had arisen between the General officers of our 
army in Mexico, both condemned in strong terms 
the published general order of Gen'l Scott, which 
was the immediate precursor, if not the cause, of the 
arrest of Gen'ls Pillow & Worth and Col. Duncan; 
and both expressed the opinion in strong and decided 
terms that Gen'l Scott should be immediately re- 
called from the command of the army in Mexico. 



270 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 Dec 

They expressed the opinion, also, that it would be 
ruinous & disastrous to the harmony & efficiency of 
the army to try the three officers. Pillow, Worth, & 
Duncan, in the camp in Mexico. Mr. Davis ad- 
vised that Gen'l Scott should be recalled & that Gen'l 
Taylor should be put in command. I remarked to 
Mr. Davis that Gen'l Taylor was now in the U. S. 
on a leave of absence from the army for six months, 
and that it would be with reluctance that I would 
order him back to the field before his leave of ab- 
sence had expired. Gen'l Cass expressed the opin- 
ion that Maj'r Gen'l Wm. O. Butler, who was next 
in rank, would be competent to take the command. 
This point was not further pressed. They were 
both of opinion, whoever might succeed to the com- 
mand, that Gen'l Scott should be immediately re- 
called. They concurred also that the officers, Pil- 
low, Worth, and Du[n]can, should be ordered home 
& be tried in the U. S. They thought, too, that 
power should be conferred upon some person to con- 
clude a peace in Mexico. Mr. Davis said that if 
commissioners should be appointed by Mexico to 
come to the U. S., the Government which appointed 
them would probably be overthrown before they 
could come here, execute their mission, and return, 
and that as likely as not they might be shot as trai- 
tors to their country when they did return; and that 
the only hope of peace was to have a person in Mex- 
ico authorized to avail himself of any favourable op- 
portunity which might arise to make it and have it 
ratified at once. Mr. Davis & Gen'l Cass retired. 
My office was crowded with members of Congress 



i847] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 271 

(neither House was in Session to-day) and others, 
until after 2 O'Clock P. M. About that hour Sen- 
ator Cass called again & said to me that if Gen'l 
Scott was recalled he would not advise that Gen'l 
Taylor should succeed him in command, but thought 
that Gen'l Butler, who was now second in command 
with Gen'l Scott's column of the army, should take 
the command. I sent for the Secretary of War, and 
informed him that I had carefully considered Gen'l 
Scott's despatches which he had left with me on yes- 
terday. I informed him, also, of the conversation 
I had held with Senators Davis & Cass. I told him 
my impression was that Gen'l Scott and the officers, 
Pillow, Worth, & Duncan, should be ordered to the 
U. S., and that the trials should be had at Fortress 
monroe or at New Orleans or some point to be desig- 
nated, and that Gen'l Butler should be put in com- 
mand of the army. He did not give any express as- 
sent to my views, but expressed doubts & suggested 
some objections to them. He saw the embarrass- 
ments of a trial in the army, and also of having it in 
the U. S. He did not enter fully into the subject, 
but said he would see me to-morrow morning on the 
subject. I held a conversation with Senator Turney 
on the subject, who advised that Gen'l Scott should 
be immediately recalled & Gen'l Butler put in com- 
mand of the army. A most embarrassing state of 
things exists in the army, all produced by Gen'l 
Scott's bad temper, dictatorial spirit, & extreme jeal- 
ousy lest any other Gen'l Officer should acquire more 
fame in the army than himself. The arrests which 
have taken place have grown out of no official mis- 



272 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Jan. 

conduct of the officers arrested, in the line of their 
duty, but out of letters written in the army & pub- 
lished in the newspapers of the U. S., in which Gen'l 
Scott was not made the sole hero of the battles which 
have been fought. 

This was reception evening, but a wet night, & 
very dark [and] but few persons attended. 

Saturday, Ist January, 1848. — The Secretary 
of War called this morning and held a further con- 
versation with me in relation to the difficulties which 
have grown up among the Gen'l officers of the army 
in Mexico. He said he had reflected on the subject 
since his conversation with me on yesterday. He 
now thought that we would be obliged to supersede 
Gen'l Scott in the command, & devolve the command 
on Gen'l Butler. He thought that if Pillow, Worth, 
& Duncan were ordered to the U. S. for trial, we 
might have to order almost half the other officers of 
the army home with them as witnesses. His opin- 
ion, therefore, was that the trials must take place in 
Mexico. I told him that among the papers left with 
me by him on yesterday was one from Gen'l Worth, 
preferring grave charges against Gen'l Scott, and 
appealing to the President to take the proper orders 
in the case, and I asked him what was to be done 
with it. Before we concluded the conversation, I 
was notified by a servant that company had begun to 
assemble in the parlour below stairs. I told him I 
was obliged to go below stairs to receive the com- 
pany, and requested him to call again this afternoon. 
The President's mansion was, according to custom, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 273 

thrown open for the reception of visitors to-day. All 
the Halls & apartments on the first floor were filled. 
The Representatives of Foreign Governments, many 
members of Congress, officers of the army & navy, 
and a great crowd of citizens were present. I shook 
hands with many thousands of persons. Among 
others whom I received was Senator Webster of 
Massachusetts. I note this fact especially, because 
during the last session of Congress Mr. Webster did 
not call on me. I suppose he was ashamed to do so 
for the reason that shortly before the meeting of the 
last Session of Congress he had made a Speech on the 
subject of the Mexican War, and on other topics, in 
which he spoke of my impeachment, because of my 
course in reference to the War. I accosted him, 
when he approached me, formally but courteously. 
Col. Haskell, a Whig member of Congress from Ten- 
nessee, also approached & shook hands with me. I 
mention this because it is the first time he has called. 
About 3 O'clock P. M. the company dispersed. I 
was considerably wearied, having been constantly on 
my feet shaking hands for near four hours. 

After night the Post Master Gen'l & the Atto. 
Gen'l called, having been requested to do so by me. 
I consulted them freely upon the subject of the diffi- 
culties of the army in Mexico, stated the substance 
of the despatches which had been received; the ar- 
rest of Gen'ls Pillow & Worth & Col. Duncan; & 
the charges preferred by Gen'l Worth against Gen'l 
Scott. I stated, also, the consultations I had held 
with the Secretary of War and with Senators Davis 
of Miss. & Cass of Michigan (see this diary of yes- 



274 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Jan. 

terday) & after full consideration of the whole sub- 
ject, they were of opinion that it was indespensible 
for the good of the service that Gen'l Scott should 
be superseded in the command of the army & that 
Gen'l Butler should be placed in command. They 
were further of opinion that under all the circum- 
stances Pillow, Worth, & Duncan Should have the 
charges preferred against them at Vera Cruz, in- 
stead of in the camp of the main army, and instead 
of being brought to the U. S. By withdrawing the 
trial from the camp of the main army, they were of 
opinion that the excitement and embarrassment to the 
public service which would likely be produced by 
it, would be avoided whilst Vera Cruz w^ould be a 
more convenient place for the parties & witnesses to 
attend than any point in the U. S. They were of 
opinion, also, that the officers composing the Court 
martial should as far as practicable be taken from 
the U. S., of officers who had taken no part in the 
excitement of the camp. They were of opinion, also, 
that Gen'l Butler should be invested with power to 
make a Treaty. I will consult the balance of my 
cabinet on monday & decide upon my course. 

Sunday, 2nd January, 1848. — I attended Divine 
worship in company with Mrs. Polk, my Private 
Secretary, Col. Walker, & my nephew, Marshall T. 
Polk, Jr., at the Hall of the Ho. Repts. to-day. The 
service was performed by the Rev. Mr. Slicer, Chap- 
lain to the senate. He preached the funeral ser- 
mon on the occasion of the late death of Senator 
Fairfield of the State of Maine. On returning from 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 275 

this service I saw Mr. Buchanan at my office & had 
a short conversation with him on the subject of the 
difficulties among our Gen'l officers in Mexico, and 
in relation to the terms of peace to which we ought 
now to agree. He retired with the understanding 
that he would call again at 7 O'Clock this evening, 
and in the mean time I agreed to visit Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, whose health is too 
feeble to enable him to visit me, and confer with him 
on the subject. I accordingly visited Mr. Walker 
at his house at 5 O'Clock P. M., and had a full con- 
versation with him on the subject. He concurred 
with the other members of the Cabinet and with 
myself that Gen'l Scott should be superseded in the 
command of the army by Maj'r Gen'l Butler. He 
concurred, also, in the opinion that the Court martial 
for the trial of Gen'ls Pillow & Worth & Col. Dun- 
can should convene at Vera Cruz, and be composed 
as far as practicable of officers taken from the U. S. 
who had not participated in the strifes of the army. 
He agreed, also, that a Court of enquiry should be 
organized at Vera Cruz to investigate the charges 
preferred by Gen'l Worth against Gen'l Scott. Mr. 
Walker at first had some doubt whether Gen'l Tay- 
lor or Gen'l Butler should succeed Gen'l Scott in 
command of the army, but finally concluded that, as 
Gen'l Butler was now with the army & Gen'l Taylor 
was in the U. S. on leave of absence at his own re- 
quest, it would be best to devolve the command on 
Gen'l Butler. I read to Mr. Walker despatches 
from Gen'l Scott & Mr. Trist of the 27th of Novem- 
ber, both stating that the Mexican Government at 



2ye JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 Jan. 

Queretaro had appointed commissioners to treat for 
peace, & expressed to him that we should have a 
commissioner in Mexico authorized to meet them. 
After fully considering the subject he came to the 
conclusion, in which he concurred with me, that 
Gen'l Butler should be invested with the power to 
conclude a Treaty if suitable terms were proposed 
by Mexico. I had suggested Brig, Gen'l Shields as 
the commissioner, but the objection to his selection 
which seemed to have weight was, that the officers 
of the army who were his Seniors in rank might take 
ofYence that he had been preferred to them. The 
terms of a Treaty to which we could now agree were 
considered, but no definite result arrived at. I 
informed Mr. Walker that I would convene the Cab- 
inet at I O'clock on to-morrow to consider & 
decide these grave questions, & requested him to at- 
tend if his health would permit. I returned to my 
office and at 7 O'Clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan called. 
I had a full conversation with him on the subject. 
He agreed that Gen'l Scott should be recalled, that 
Gen'l Butler should be placed in command, & that 
the military trials should take place at Vera Cruz, 
as had been suggested. He was not decided as to 
the propriety of investing Gen'l Butler with power 
to conclude a Treaty. I conversed with [him] as 
to the terms to which we should agree. He at first 
declared that we should secure Tamaulipas & all 
the country East of the Sierra mountains. I ex- 
pressed a doubt as to the policy or practicability of 
obtaining a country containing so large a number of 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 277 

the mexican population; & reminded Mr. Buchanan 
that his original opinion had been against acquiring 
any territory South of New Mexico. This he ad- 
mitted & added that he had been opposed to the cam- 
paign of our army to Vera Cruz & the City of Mex- 
ico. I told [him] that campaign was my own 
measure & that I remembered his opposition to it. 
He said, however, that this campaign had been car- 
ried out against his opinion, that we had spent much 
money & shed much blood since Mr. Trist's instruc- 
tions were given to him in April last, & that he 
would not now be willing to agree to the terms then 
proposed. I replied that I would not be willing to 
agree to those terms after all that had occurred since 
that time. I suggested that we might accede to a 
cession of New Mexico, the Two Californias, & the 
passage across the Istmus of Tehauntepec, paying 
for them a much less sum than Mr. Trist had been 
authorized to offer, & that we should in addition se- 
cure the port of Tampico. I told him I would be 
glad to acquire all the country he suggested, but that 
1 apprehended that would not be practicable after 
the terms which Mr. Trist had already offered. The 
conversation ended, & I invited him to attend a 
special meeting of the Cabinet to consider the sub- 
ject further, at i O'Clock to-morrow. 

Immediate action upon these important subjects is 
necessary, and this is the reason why I held these con- 
versations with Mr. Walker and Mr. Buchanan on 
this day. They are very important & weigh heavily 
on my mind. 



278 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Jan. 

Monday, 3rd January, 1 848. — Saw company 
until 12 O'clock to-day. Many persons, members 
of Congress and others, called. I convened a special 
meeting of the Cabinet at i O'Clock P. M. to-day; 
all the members attended except the Secretary of the 
Navy, who is absent from the City on a visit to Vir- 
ginia. The Subject submitted for consideration was 
the unfortunate collision among the General officers 
of the army in Mexico, & the steps proper to be 
taken. These difficulties have been already stated 
(see this Diary for the last three or four days) from 
which it appears that Gen'l Scott has arrested Gen'ls 
Pillow & Worth and Col. Duncan, & that Gen'l 
Worth has preferred charges aganst Gen'l Scott. 
After a full discussion the Cabinet were unanimous 
that Gen'l Scott should be superseded in the com- 
mand of the army. Upon the question whether the 
command should devolve upon MajV Gen'l Butler, 
who is next in rank now with the army; or whether 
Gen'l Taylor, who is now in the U. S. on leave of ab- 
sence for six months, shall have the option of pro- 
ceeding to the City of Mexico & taking command, 
there was division of opinion and some discussion. 
Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker, Mr. Marcy, & Mr. 
Johnson, though each of them expressed themselves 
with some hesitancy and doubt, were in favour of 
sending Gen'l Taylor to take command, if he was 
willing to go. Mr. Clifford expressed his opinion 
strongly against it, and was in favour of placing 
Gen'l Butler in command. My opinion was that 
Gen'l Butler should take command, and I so ex- 
pressed [myself], but remarked that I would post- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 279 

pone a final decision until to-morrow. After full 
discussion it was decided that the charges preferred 
by Genl Scott against Gen'l Worth were not such as 
to require a Court martial for his trial, & it was 
unanimously decided that Gen'l Worth should be re- 
leased from arrest and that a Court of Enquiry 
should be instituted to examine and report upon the 
cases of Gen'l Scott's charges against Gen'l Worth 
& Gen'l Worth's charges against Gen'l Scott. It 
was also finally agreed that a court martial must be 
appointed to try the charges preferred against Gen'l 
Pillow & Col. Duncan. Under the law, it is my 
duty to appoint these Courts. In consideration of 
the fact that almost every officer in Mexico has taken 
sides, or had his feelings excited, in the quarrel be- 
tween the General officers, it was decided, first, that 
it would be difficult to procure an unbiased Court 
composed of the officers of the army in Mexico, & 
therefore it was determined that the Court should 
be composed of officers now in the United States, who 
had not been involved in the feuds or quarrels in the 
camp, and from Gen'l Taylor's column of the army. 
The place of trial was also discussed. I suggested 
Vera Cruz, as that point would remove the trial from 
the immediate presence of the army, for if it took 
place in the presence of the army there was danger 
of producing great excitement & perhaps disorgan- 
ization. To have the trial in the U. S. would be to 
withdraw many officers from Mexico as witnesses 
whose services could not, without great injury to the 
service, be dispensed with. The names of the offi- 
cers proper to compose the Court was the subject of 



28o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Jan. 

conversation. I requested the Secretary of War to 
prepare & submit to me the names of officers to com- 
pose the Court, whom he would deem proper. This 
whole difficulty among the Gen'l officers of the army 
might have been avoided but for the folly, the van- 
ity, and tyranny of Gen'l Scott, but the difficulty has 
arisen and it is my duty to take the legal steps to 
have it settled. Information has been received from 
Mr. Trist that the Government of Mexico at Quere- 
tero have appointed Commissioners to re-open 
negotiations for peace, but that, his letter of recall 
having reached him, he possessed no power to meet 
them. Information received through other channels 
leads to the opinion that possibly peace might be 
concluded if a person vested with Diplomatic powers 
were now in Mexico. The question of conferring 
such powers was considered. There seemed to be 
an acquiescence in its propriety by the Cabinet; but 
there was a difference of opinion whether such 
powers should be conferred upon a commissioner ap- 
pointed for that purpose, or upon Gen'l Butler, who 
would be Gen'l in chief of the army. Mr. Bu- 
chanan thought a Civilian should be appointed. I 
thought it would be best to clothe Gen'l Butler with 
the authority. No decision was had on the question, 
but it was agreed to adjourn it over for further con- 
sideration. The terms of a Treaty of peace to which 
we could now agree were not considered. The Sec- 
retary of the Treasury was present in the Cabinet 
meeting to-day, after having been confined to his 
house for several weeks by indisposition. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 281 

Tuesday, 4th January, 1848. — Saw company as 
usual this morning. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour; all the members present except the Secretary 
of the navy, who is still absent in Virginia. The 
subject of the difficulties among the officers of the 
army in Mexico was reconsidered at the instance of 
the secretary of War, who suggested that if Gen'l 
Butler was put in command & Gen'l Scott recalled 
that then Gen'l Butler might appoint the Court 
martial for their trial. After a further discussion 
the decision of yesterday was adhered to by the unani- 
mous [vote] of the Cabinet, the secretary of War 
seeming to yield the suggestion he had made. The 
Castle of Perote was mentioned as the place of trial, 
instead of Vera Cruz, but that point was not decided. 
The P. M. Gen'l was called to the Capitol early after 
the Cabinet met, on official business. The Secretary 
of War was not prepared to submit the names of 
officers enough to compose a full Court martial. 
The names of some of them were submitted and ap- 
proved. I requested him to see me again on the 
subject this evening. I informed the Cabinet that 
I had fully considered the proposition to place Gen'l 
Taylor in command of the army upon Gen'l Scott's 
recal[l], and that my judgment was still against it. 
The Secretary of the Treasury assigned some rea- 
sons in favour of his selection, & so did the Secre- 
tary of War. I finally decided positively against it, 
& assigned my reasons at some length. I cannot re- 
peat them here. They were, in brief, ist, that Gen'l 
Taylor was now at home, on leave of absence at his 



282 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Jan. 

own request, & that I was unwilling either to require 
him or to invite him to return, if he chose to do so, 
before his leave of absence was out; 2nd, because 
Genl Taylor was originally superseded in the chief 
command by Gen'l Scott only because he would not 
co-operate with the Government, and had no 
sympathies with it in conducting the War. I stated 
to the Cabinet that they all remembered the trouble 
he had given and our dissatisfaction with him at the 
time we were reluctantly compelled to send Scott 
to supersede him; 3rd, that I had applied to Con- 
gress a year ago to grant authority to appoint a 
Lieut. Gen'l who could command both Scott & Tay- 
lor, and that I had done this upon the express ground 
that it was deemed important that the Gen'l in chief 
command should harmonize in his opinions & views 
with the Government at home; 4th, Congress had re- 
fused to grant this power, & I was still compelled to 
employ the officers whom the law had furnished me ; 
that now Scott in his turn had acted badly, and we 
were compelled to recal[l] him; 5th, because Gen'l 
Butler, who is now with the army, is altogether com- 
petent for the command; was a man of more mind 
and more information than either Scott or Taylor; 
that he [a] greed with me in his General opinions, & 
that I could rely on him to carry out my views and 
plans in good faith. When I had assigned my views 
the dissenting members of the Cabinet were silent, 
and did not express their assent to my views. I, 
however, made my decision on this point absolute. 
The Secretary of War read a letter which he had re- 
ceived, dated at Vera Cruz on the i6th ult., stating 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 283 

that the Brittish courier had just arrived at that place 
from the City of Mexico without bringing down 
any letters, a most unusual thing; and that the writer 
(Col. Wilson) had learned confidentially from the 
Courier that negotiations had been renewed by Mr. 
Trist with the mexican commissioners recently ap- 
pointed. This information is most surprising. Mr. 
Trist has acknowledged the receipt of his letter of 
recal[l], and he possesses no diplomatic powers. He 
is acting, no doubt, upon Gen'l Scott's advice. He 
has become the perfect tool of Scott. He is, [in] 
this measure, defying the authority of his Govern- 
ment. His conduct in the former negotiations has 
been disapproved. He is, no doubt, offended be- 
cause it has been disapproved, & because of his re- 
cal[l]. He seems to have entered into all Scott's 
hatred of the administration, and to be lending him- 
self to all Scott's evil purposes. He may, I fear, 
greatly embarrass the Government. 

I had a large dinner party of 40 persons, ladies & 
gentlemen, to-day. Gen'l Quitman, his wife & 
daughter; Gen'l Shields; Col. Harney [and] Col. 
Andrews, all of the army, and the rest composed of 
Democratic members of the Ho. Repts. and the wives 
of several of them, constituted the party. It is the 
first large dinner party I have had where all pres- 
ent were democrats. After the company dispersed 
Gen'l Shields retired with me to my office, and I 
had a long conversation with him about the dissen- 
tion in the army and military operations in Mexico, 
& obtained some valuable information from him. 
He approved the course I proposed to take in relation 



284 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [4 Jan. 

to the trial of the cases of Gen'ls Scott, Pillow, & 
Worth, & Col. Dun[c]an. He recommended the 
castle of Perote as the place of trial. I consulted 
him as to the members of the Court &, in consultation 
with him, made out a list of the names of the officers 
to compose the Court, which he approved. He re- 
tired near 12 O'Clock at night. 

This morning about 10 O'Clock, the Hon. John 
Bell of Nashville, Tennessee, recently elected to the 
Senate of the U. S., called. I received him courte- 
ously. He appeared at first somewhat embarrass- 
ing [embarrassed], but by my manner and conver- 
sation I soon put him at ease. I had not spoken to 
him since the contest between us for speaker of the 
Ho. Repts. in 1834 & i^SS- ^^ June, 1834, he was 
elected over me, when Mr. Stevenson ^ resigned, & 
in Dec, 1835, I was elected over him, and again in 
1837. About the same period Judge White- was 
brought out for the President [Presidency], and ever 
since that time Mr. Bell and myself had belonged, 
& still belong, to different political parties. The 
contests between us in Tennessee had been violent 
and even been bitter for years. He had now called 

^Andrew Stevenson of Virginia, 1784-1857, Speaker of the 
House of Representatives 1 827-1 834, minister to England 1836— 
1841. 

- Hugh Lawson White, 1773-1840, Senator from Tennessee 
1 825-1 840. In the internal dissensions of the Democratic party 
in Tennessee following Jackson's election to the Presidency Polk 
adhered to the fortunes of Jackson and to the candidacy of Van 
Buren for the Presidential succession while Bell threw his influ- 
ence with the White faction. White received 26 Whig electoral 
votes for President in 1836. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 285 

on me, and I knew in advance that he was desirous 
to be on terms of social & personal intercourse with 
me (see my conversations with Mr. Daniel Saffrons 
and Senator Turney, noted in this journal some days 
ago) and I, therefore, shortly after he came in, said 
to him that I was glad to see him, and that so far as 
I was concerned I was willing to let bye-gones be 
bye-gones, to let the past be forgotten, and to renew 
with him our personal intercourse. He said that 
was his desire, that we were to live neighbours when 
we retired from public life, and that he desired to be 
on terms of friendship. I expressed similar desires 
on my part. He enquired for Mrs. Polk and I for 
Mrs. Bell. My whole interview with him was of an 
agreeable character. He remained half an hour or 
more, and conversed freely about the Mexican war 
and other subjects. Before he left I told him Mrs. 
Polk would be glad to see Mrs. Bell. He intimated 
that there had been some difficulty on that point, but 
that Mrs. Bell would call soon. I suppose the diffi- 
culty consisted in the pride which ladies sometimes 
feel, which makes them reluctant to yield to each 
other, and the fact that the established etiquette of 
the Presidential office required the first call from 
Mrs. Bell. He left apparently well pleased with his 
interview with me. 

Wednesday, 5//! January, 1848. — Saw company 
as usual this morning. Many persons called. The 
Secretary of War called, & we agreed upon the Court 
martial to be ordered for the trial of the charges pre- 
ferred by Gen'l Scott against Gen'l Pillow & Col. 



286 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Jan. 

Duncan; & upon the Court of Enquiry to be organ- 
ized to examine & Report upon the charges preferred 
by Gen'l Worth against Gen'l Scott; & that the same 
Court should inquire into Gen'l Scott's complaint 
against Gen'l Worth. It was agreed also that the 
castle at Perote should be the place of these trials. 
The Secretary of State called & informed me confi- 
dentially that he had been shown a letter from Mr. 
Trist to his wife, which contained a post-script in 
cipher which he had requested her to show to Mr. 
Buchanan in confidence, the substance of which was, 
that on the day he wrote (4th Deer.) at 12 O'Clock, 
he would open negotiations with the Mexican com- 
missioners, and would offer to agree to a Treaty with 
them upon the ultimatum which he was authorized 
to propose in April last, taking the parallel of 32" 
from the Rio Grande as the boundary, & that he 
would ofifer to pay them $15,000,000 in addition to 
the $3,000,000 appropriated by Congress at the last 
cession for this cession of territory. His conduct 
astonishes both the Secretary of State and myself. 
He has acknowledged the receipt of his letter of re- 
cal[l] & has no power to treat. I fear he may greatly 
embarrass the Government. 

The Clerk of the Ho. Repts. presented to me to- 
day at i>4 O'clock P. M. a Resolution of the House 
calling for information respecting the return of 
Santa Anna & Paredes to Mexico, & calling for Mr. 
Slidell's instructions. 

Thursday, 6th January, 1848. — I saw company 
as usual this morning. The Secretary of War called 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 287 

about 2 O'Clock & brought with him despatches from 
the army in Mexico, of date the loth Deer., but they 
contained no important information & no mention 
of Mr. Trist or the negotiations with the Mexican 
commissioners (see this diary of yesterday and the 
preceding day). They contained some additional 
and frivolous charges by Gen'l Scott against Gen'l 
Pillow, which prove his vindictiveness & his malice. 
Brig. Gen'l Pierce, we learned from the N. Orleans 
papers, had arrived in that City on his way home 
with the intention of resigning. The Secretary of 
War suggested that he should delay the orders for 
Gen'l Scott's recal[l] & for the Courts martial in 
Mexico, until Gen'l Pierce's arrival in this City & 
he could converse with him. The Secretary of State 
called, and I consulted him in regard to the answer 
to the Resolution ^ of the Ho. Repts. presented to 
me on yesterday, calling for information respecting 
the return of Santa Anna & Paredes to Mexico, and 
calling for Mr. Slidell's instructions. He was of 
opinion that I could not and ought not to communi- 
cate Mr. Slidell's. instructions; & that to do so would 
be greatly to the prejudice of the public interests. 
He thought also that I ought not, for the same rea- 
son, to communicate anything relating to Com- 
mander Slidell's [Slidell] McKenzie's visit to Ha- 
vanna, in July, 1846. I concurred with him in 
opinion & told him I had been examining the sub- 
ject, and found that Gen'l Washington had, in 1796, 
refused - to answer a Resolution of the Ho. of 

^H. Journal, 30 Cong, i Sess. 193. 

^ Jay's treaty with England, ratified October 28, 1795, necessi- 



288 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Jan. 

Repts. calling for the instructions to the minister to 
England who had negotiated a Treaty with Great 
Brittain. I was engaged most of the day in dispos- 
ing of the business on my table; & after night I pre- 
pared a draft of a message to the Ho. Repts. in 
answer to their resolution relating to Santa Anna, 
&c. I retired at my usual hour, considerably wearied 
with my day's labour. 

Friday, ph January, 1848. — Saw company as 
usual this morning. I examined, in the course of 
the day, the last despatches received from the army 
with care. I examined, also, several private letters 
received by Col. Walker and myself ; and in view 
of the additional information which they impart in 
relation to the feuds & strifes in the army, I am in- 
clined to the opinion that instead of a General Court 
martial as heretofore resolved on, it would be better 
to have a Court of Enquiry in the first instance, and 
that the conduct of Gen'l Scott, Gen'l Pillow, Gen'l 
Worth, Col. Duncan, and of such other officers as are 
involved in the unfortunate difficulties which exist 
in the army, should be examined into and reported 

tated an appropriation of money for carrying its provisions into 
effect. The party in the House which was opposed to the treaty, 
dissatisfied with the President's course in connection with it, se- 
cured the passage of a resolution calling on Washington for the 
instructions given to Jay and for the correspondence and docu- 
ments relating to the treaty. Washington submitted the question 
of compliance with the resolution to his cabinet, which advised 
unanimously against his doing so. For his message to the House 
on the subject, March 30, 1796, see Ford, Writings of George 
Washington, XIII, 177. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 289 

upon by the Court, so as to enable me to determine 
which of them, if any, should be put on trial before 
a General Court Martial. This is at present my 
opinion, but I will consult my Cabinet on the sub- 
ject on to-morrow. I was engaged as usual in dis- 
posing [of] the business on my table to-day. 

This being reception evening many persons, la- 
dies & gentlemen, called. The Secretary of the Navy 
returned from his visit to Virginia to-day. 

Saturday, 8th January, 1848. — I saw company 
to-day until the hour of meeting of the Cabinet. 
The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour; all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury. I called the attention of the Cabinet to a Res- 
olution of the House of Representatives presented to 
me on the 5th, Instant, calling for information in 
relation to the return of Santa Anna and Paredes to 
Mexico; and calling for the instructions to Mr. 
Slidell as minister Plenipotentiary to Mexico. I 
called the attention of the Cabinet to the manifest 
injury to the public interests which would be pro- 
duced by communicating the instructions to Mr. 
Slidell, and I referred to a message of President * 
Washington to the Ho. Repts. in 1796, declining to 
comply with a like call. The subject was fully dis- 
cussed, and the Cabinet were unanimously of opinion 
that it was my duty to refuse a compliance with the 
request of the House, so far as the instructions to 
Mr. Slidell were concerned. Mr. Buchanan gave 
his opinion to this effect first, and then, on being sev- 
erally called, each member of the Cabinet present 



290 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Jan. 

gave his opinion. I fully concurred with the Cab- 
inet. All were agreed that the order issued by the 
Secretary of the Navy to the Commander of our 
squadron in the Gulf of Mexico on the 13th of May, 
1846, the day on which Congress declared war, not 
to obstruct the passage of Santa Anna into Mexico 
should he attempt to return, should be communi- 
cated. All concurred, also, that all the correspond- 
ence which had taken place in relation to the return 
of Gen'l Paredes into Mexico, should be communi- 
cated. Another question of some importance arose 
as to the propriety of sending to the House a com- 
munication ^ made by Alexander Slidell McKenzie 
of the U. S. Navy, made in July, 1846, to the De- 
partment of State. This communication is of a 
highly confidential character, and was made under 
the following circumstances, viz., some time after 
the war was recognized by Congress on the 13th of 
May, 1846, it was deemed important to send a con- 
fidential agent to Havanna, where Santa Anna then 
was, to ascertain whether any Mexican privateers 
had been commissioned to cruise against American 
commerce. This agent was Commander McKenzie. 
He was secondly authorized, if practicable, to ascer- 
tain in a prudent way what Santa Anna's views were 
in regard to peace with the U. S., and whether, if 
restored to Mexico, there w^as a reasonable prob- 
ability that he would make peace. If he ascertained 
that his views were favourable to peace, as it was 
believed they were, he was then authorized to in- 

^ Printed in Reeves, American Diplomacy under Tyler and 
Polk, 299-308. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 291 

form him that the U. S. desired peace, and to inform 
him also of the order which had been issued to 
Com. Conner not to obstruct his passage to Mexico 
if he desired [to go there]. Our object was, in per- 
mitting him to return, as I afterwards fully ex- 
plained it in my annual message of the 8th of 
December, 1846. Mr. McKenzie visited Havanna 
without any written instructions. He had an inter- 
view with Santa Anna, and reported to him the order 
which had been issued to Com. Conner on the 13th 
of May, 1846, and, as appears from his confidential 
despatch to the Secretary of State, exceeded his au- 
thority, by having reduced to writing and read to 
Santa Anna what purported to be a Message from 
me to him. In this he wholly exceeded his authority. 
I sent him no message. Mr. McKenzie, it seems, 
reduced to writing his recollection of a conversation 
I held with him in reference to the objects of his 
visit to Havanna, and this he called a Message from 
me to Santa Anna. It is fortunate, however, that 
what he puts into my mouth could do me no injury, 
if it was genuine & was published; but it would ex- 
hibit me in a ridiculous attitude. Mr. McKenzie, 
in his despatch, states Santa Anna's reply, and details 
a long conversation which he held with him, in 
which Santa Anna avowed himself to be warmly in 
favour of peace. This conversation with Santa 
Anna, he states, was understood by the former to be 
of a highly confidential character. After Mr. Mc- 
Kenzie's despatch was read, Mr. Buchanan expressed 
his opinion strongly that I could not communicate it 
in answer to the call. He said there was nothing in 



292 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Jan. 

it which could injure the administration, but it would 
be a w^ant of good faith on the part of the Govern- 
ment, & that if it was made public the judgment of the 
world would condemn [us], & that no Government 
would ever again trust us. The other members of 
the Cabinet were clear and decided that I ought not 
and could not, without impairing the national honour 
and character, communicate Mr. McKenzie's de- 
spatch to Congress. After these points were decided 
I read to the Cabinet a rough draft of a message 
which I had prepared in answer to the Resolu- 
tion of the House, in which I had reserved or left 
open the points discussed and decided to-day. One 
or two immaterial modifications were suggested. 

This subject being disposed of I called the atten- 
tion of the Cabinet to the difficulties among the High 
officers of our army in Mexico, and stated that my 
impression was, on examining the despatches re- 
ceived since the subject was considered at the last 
Cabinet meeting, that the better course was to organ- 
ize in the first instance a Court of Enquiry to ascer- 
tain the whole facts, & then determine whether it w^as 
proper or necessary to organize a General Court mar- 
tial for the trial of any of the officers. Mr. Buchanan 
thought that there ought to be a Court martial, espe- 
cially in Gen'l Pillow's case, now. The subject was 
discussed, & there being some division of opinion on 
the subject & in relation to the powers and duties of a 
Court of Enquiry, I requested the Atto. Gen'l & the 
Secretary of the Navy to examine the subject & call 
on me to-night. The opinion, as far as it was ex- 
pressed, of a majority [of the Cabinet was in favor] 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 293 

of the suggestion of a Court of Enquiry instead of a 
Court Martial. This suggestion was not decidedly 
opposed by any member of the Cabinet except Mr. 
Buchanan: he opposed it chiefly on the ground that 
Gen'l Pillow was understood to be my personal 
friend, and on account of the delicacy of my relations 
to him, he thought it would be better to order a Court 
Martial for the trial of his case at once. I thought 
it was but just to place Gen'l Pillow on precisely 
[the] same footing as the other officers involved in 
the difficulties which had arisen in Mexico, & to have 
a Court of enquiry in all their cases in the first in- 
stance. The Secretary of War next introduced the 
question of Gen'l Scott's successor in command of the 
army, and went on to discuss, as if it were an open 
question, of tendering the command to Gen'l Taylor. 
I replied with some emphasis that I had distinctly 
decided that question at the last Cabinet meeting & 
that, too, upon full consideration (see this diary 
of the 4th Instant) and that if I was not then under- 
stood I would be now. I then repeated and enlarged 
upon my reasons, as given at the last cabinet meeting; 
and told him that my decision w^as that Gen'l Butler 
should succeed Gen'l Scott in command. I repeated 
that the Cabinet had been unanimous in the opinion 
that Gen'l Scott should be supersed[ed] in the com- 
mand, that the Atto. Gen'l at the last meeting had 
concurred with me that Gen'l Butler & not Gen'l 
Taylor should succeed him; that the other members 
of the Cabinet had inclined to the opinion that Gen'l 
Taylor should succeed him; that I had decided 
against their opinion and now repeated that decision, 



294 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Jan. 

& directed that the command should be devolved on 
Gen'l Butler. I said to the Secretary of War that 
I would take the whole responsibility of this decision. 
He responded that of course the Cabinet would 
support me in whatever decision I made in the 
matter. 

After night Mr. Clifford [and] Judge Mason 
called, as I had requested them to do. Judge Ma- 
son called first & I had read to him the despatches re- 
ceived from Mexico by the last arrival. Mr. Cave 
Johnson came in with Mr. Clifford. Mr. Clifford 
had examined the law in relation to Courts of En- 
quiry. Part of the charges preferred against Gen'l 
Pillow were read, and also parts of Gen'l Scott's offi- 
cial reports of the battles in which that officer had 
participated, which seemed to be inconsistent with 
them. The subject was fully considered, when Judge 
Mason, Mr. Clifford, and Mr. Johnson all expressed 
the opinion that the proper course was the one which 
I proposed, to institute a Court of Enquiry in the first 
instance. 

Sunday, gth January, 1 848. — Before church 
hour this morning the Secretary of War called ; when 
I informed him of the law regulating courts of en- 
quiry in cases of alleged military offenses, as fur- 
nished to me by the attorney Gen'l (see this diary of 
yesterday). He acquiesced in the propriety of 
having a Court of enquiry instead of a Court Martial 
in the cases of Gen'l Pillow, Gen'l Scott, and Lieut. 
Col. Du[n]can, & agreed, also, that while the inves- 
tigation by the Court of Enquiry was going on, Gen'l 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 295 

Pillow & Col. Duncan should be released from arrest. 
I requested him to prepare, at his earliest conven- 
ience, the necessary orders & despatches to carry out 
this decision and the decision made on other points on 
yesterday. I attended the first Presbyterian church 
to-day, accompanied by Mrs. Polk. Mr. Ballentine, 
the new pastor, preached. 

Monday, lOth January, 1 848. — Saw company 
as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. Many members of 
Congress and others called. I revised my message in 
answer to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. calling for 
information in relation to [the] return of Santa Anna 
& Gen'l Paredes to Mexico, & calling for the instruc- 
tions to Mr. Slidell as minister to Mexico. Mr. Bu- 
chanan called in the afternoon & I read it to him & 
he approved it. I disposed of much business on my 
table, & transacted business with several of the pub- 
lic officers who called on business. 

I sent for the Hon. George S. Houston of Alabama 
& read to him my message in answer to the Resolution 
of the House of the 4th Inst. 

Tuesday, nth January, 1848. — Several persons 
called before the hour of the meeting of the Cabinet 
this morning. The Cabinet assembled at the usual 
hour; all the members present except the Secretary of 
the Treasury & the Atto. Gen'l. The former is in 
feeble health, & the latter was probably attending the 
Supreme Court. I read to the Cabinet my message 
in answer to the Resolution of the House in relation 
to the return of Santa Anna to Mexico, the instruc- 



296 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Jan. 

tions to Mr. Slidell, &c. It was approved by the 
Cabinet, but as the documents to accompanied [ac- 
company it] were not copied it was not sent in to- 
day. The Secretary of War read the despatches 
which he had prepared to Gen'l Scott & Gen'l But- 
ler, superceding the former in [the] command of the 
army in Mexico & placing the latter in command; 
& also the order releasing Gen'l Worth, Gen'l Pillow, 
& Col. Dun[c]an from arrest, and directing a Court 
of Enquiry in their cases as well as that of Gen'l 
Scott upon the charges preferred by Gen'l Worth 
against him. The Secretary of War proposed that 
the Court should be composed of Brev't Brig. Gen'l 
Tomson, Brig. Gen'l Gushing, & Col. Butler ^ of the 
3rd Dragoons. I told him that I was satisfied with 
that Court, or any other which he might select. Mr. 
Buchanan expressed some objection [s] to Gen'l Gush- 
ing, but I was of opinion that they had no weight. 
The Secretary of War suggested that Col. Crane ^ 
might be substituted in place of Col. Butler. I told 
him to do as he pleased in that respect. Nothing 
else of importance transpired in the Cabinet meeting. 
After night I placed my message in answer to the 
Resolution of the House in the hands of Mr. Whit- 
thorne to be copied. Senator Turney called about 
dark, & I sent a message by him to Mr. Thomas & 
Mr. Chase of Tennessee, requesting them to call. 
They did so, and I read my message to them. Mrs. 

' Edward G. W. Butler, Colonel of the 3rd Dragoons March, 
1847-JuIy, 1848. He was the son of Captain Edward B. Buder 
of the noted Butler family of soldiers. 

Mchabod B. Crane of New York, Colonel of the ist Artillery. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 297 

Polk, accompanied by Mr. Buchanan & Col. Walker, 
attended a marriage at the House of Mr. Bodisco, 
the Russian minister, to-night. 

This being reception evening many persons, mostly 
gentlemen, called. It was a very cold night & but 
few ladies were present. 

Wednesday, 12th January, 1848. — I was quite 
busy this morning. Many members of Congress 
called, and a variety of official duties claimed my at- 
tention. I corrected and revised my message ^ in 
answer to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. of the 4th 
Inst., & at 2 O'clock P. M. sent it, with Reports 
from the Secretaries of State, War, & Navy, to the 
House. The secretary of War called & read his de- 
spatches to Gen'l Scott, Gen'l Butler, & the order for 
a Court of inquiry in the cases of Gen'l Scott, Pillow, 
and Col. Duncan. In constituting the Court of En- 
quiry the Secretary had doubts whether Col Crane, 
who is now a member of the Court martial on the 
trial of Col. Fremont, could be released in time to 
attend as a member of the Court of Enquiry in Mex- 
ico. The Secretary had on yesterday at first pro- 
posed that the Court of Enquiry should consist of 
Gen'l Tomson, Gen'l Cushing, and Col, Butler of 
the 3rd Dragoons. He had afterwards concluded to 
substitute Col. Crane in place of Col. Butler. To- 
day he thought it best to retain Col. Butler as he had 
originally proposed. After night Senator Rusk of 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 565. 
The accompanying documents are printed in H. Exec. Doc. 25, 
30 Cong. 1 Sess. VIII. 



298 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Jan. 

Texas called and held a long conversation with me 
about the Mexican War, and gave me many facts 
within his knowledge of the Mexican character & 
feelings, and his views of our future policy. He 
seemed to have two objects in view, ist., that I should 
not commit myself, further than I had done in my 
messages, against acquiring the whole of Mexico; 
and 2nd, to induce me to consent to be a candidate 
for re-election, expressing the opinion that I was the 
strongest man of my party & that they could not unite 
on any other. I told him that my views upon the 
first point were distinctly stated in my messages, that 
I had not changed them, and [that I] left them to 
explain themselves; and upon the second point I told 
him that I could not consent to be a candidate for re- 
election, and that the democratic party must unite 
on some other candidate, as I hoped & believed they 
could & would do. 

I gave a sitting in the dining room to-day for my 
Daguerrotype likeness. It was taken by Mr. 
Plumbe. 

Thursday, IJth January, 1848. — I saw company 
as usual this morning until 12 O'Clock, when I closed 
my office. At 2 O'Clock Maj'r Gen'l Quitman 
called an[d] held a conversation of an hour with me, 
in relation to the War and the operations of the army 
in Mexico. I informed him of the orders I had 
given for a Court of Enquiry in the case of the offi- 
cers in Mexico who had preferred charges against 
each other, viz., Gen'ls Scott, Worth, Pillow, & Col. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



299 



Duncan. He approved the course I had taken. I 
gave a sitting for a Daguarytype likeness in the din- 
ing room to-day. I had been requested to do so 
by Mr. Niles, the charge d'affaires to Sardinia. 1 
transacted business w^ith public officers & disposed 
of much business on my table. Mr. Conrad F. Jack- 
son of Penn., a bearer of despatches to the army in 
Mexico, left Washington to-night. He bore the de- 
spatches superseding Gen'l Scott and placing Gen'l 
Butler in command of the army; and also the order 
directing the Court of Enquiry in the cases of Gen'ls 
Scott, Pillow, & Col. Dun[c]an. I learn that my 
message sent to the Ho. Repts. on yesterday, in 
answer to their Resolution of the 4th Inst., in which 
message I declined to communicate the instructions 
to Mr. Slidell as Minister to Mexico, which the 
House had requested, gave rise to excited discussion, 
the Federal members denying my right to with-hold 
the information called for. 

Friday, 14th January, 1848. — My office was 
crowded with visitors this morning. The Senate did 
not sit to-day, and many members of Congress were 
of the number who called. Their chief business was 
to apply for office for their friends. The applica- 
tions for office are daily and unceasing. I trans- 
acted business with the Secretaries of State, War, & 
Navy, who called in the course of the day. I was 
occupied by company most of the day, but yet had 
time to dispose of much business on my table. 

This was reception evening. An unusually large 



300 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Jan. 



number of persons called. The large circular par- 
lour was crowded with ladies & gentlemen, and 
many persons were in the adjoining parlour. 

Saturday, ISth January, 1848. — I saw Several 
persons who called this morning. The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour; all the members present except 
the Secretary of the Treasury, who is still confined 
to his house by indisposition. I brought before the 
Cabinet the future operations of the army in Mex- 
ico, and the terms of peace to which w^e ought now to 
accede. I had stated that from present indications 
Congress would probably either refuse to increase 
the army, as I had recommended, or postpone it to a 
late period of the Session, and that we ought to de- 
cide upon our future operations with a view to the 
forces now in the field ; when the messenger from the 
State Department brought to Mr. Buchanan his mail 
containing a very long despatch from Mr. Trist. It 
was dated on the 6th of Deer, last, and is the most 
extraordinary document I have ever heard from a 
Diplomatic Representative. Though he had in a 
previous despatch acknowledged the receipt of his 
letter of recall from the Secretary of State, he an- 
nounces that he had re-opened negotiations with the 
Mexican authorities & had resolved to conclude a 
Treaty with them. His despatch is arrogant, impu- 
dent, and very insulting to his Government, and even 
personally offensive to the President. He admits he 
is acting without authority and in violation of the 
positive order recalling him. It is manifest to me 
that he has become the tool of Gen'l Scott and his 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 301 

menial instrument, and that the paper was written 
at Scott's instance and dictation. I have never in my 
life felt so indignant, and the whole Cabinet ex- 
pressed themselves as I felt. I told Mr. Buchanan 
that the paper was so insulting and contemptably 
base, that it require[d] no lengthy answer, but that it 
did require a short, but stern and decided rebuke, 
and directed him to prepare such a reply. I directed 
the Secretary of War to write at once to Maj'r Gen'l 
Butler, directing him, if Mr. Trist was still with the 
Head Quarters of the army, to order him ofT, and to 
inform the authorities of Mexico that he had no 
authority to treat. If there was any legal provision 
for his punishment he ought to be severely handled. 
He has acted worse than any man in the public em- 
ploy whom I have ever known. His despatch proves 
that he is destitute of honour or principle, and that 
he has proved himself to be a very base man. I was 
deceived in him. I had but little personal knowl- 
edge of him, but could not have believed [it] possi- 
ble that any man would have acted so basely as he 
would have [has] done. It was communicated to 
me last night that Col. Butler of the 3rd Dragoons, 
who had been named as one of the Court of enquiry 
in the cases of Gen'ls Scott, Pillow, and Worth & Col. 
Dun[c]an, was the intimate friend of Trist, and as 
Trist was to be the main witness, as we learned, 
against Gen'l Pillow, I told the Secretary of War 
that I thought he had better substitute some other 
officer on the Court in place of Col. Butler. My 
reason was that I would have no confidence that Trist 
would testify to the truth in Pillow's case; and that 



302 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Jan. 

Col. Butler, from his former knowledge of him and 
without any knowledge of his recent base conduct, 
might give undue weight to his testimony, and might 
not, on that account, be an impartial member of the 
Court. I told him if he could find some other offi- 
cer who could be spared from other duties, I thought 
it would be but fair to substitute him in Butler's 
place. He concurred with me in this opinion. 

After night the Secretary of War called & read to 
me the letter which he had prepared to GenU But- 
ler, in relation to Trist's presence with the army. 

Sunday, Idth January, 1848. — I did not attend 
church to-day. Mrs. Polk, accompanied by Mrs. 
Walker, attended the First Presbyterian church. 
Events connected with the Mexican War absolutely 
required my attention. At different periods of the 
day I saw the Secretaries of State, War, and the 
Navy, the Post master Gen'l, & the Atto. Gen'l. 
After night Gen'l Tomson of the army called. He 
will leave for Mexico on to-morrow. After he re- 
tired Brig. Gen'l Pierce of the army, who reached 
this City last night, having left the City of Mexico 
on the 9th of Deer., 1847, called and remained with 
me an hour. 

Monday, lyth January, 1 848. — This was a busy 
day with me. Many persons called and I disposed 
of much business on my table. The Secretary of 
State called in the morning and again after night, to 
consult me about the propriety of sending the instruc- 
tions to Mr. Slidell, U. S. minister to Mexico (which 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 303 

I had refused to communicate to the House) to the 
Senate in Executive Session, if that body should call 
for them. He was of opinion that I should do so, and 
said, if I concurred, some Democratic Senator could 
make the call. Brig. Gen'l Pierce took a family din- 
ner with me to-day. Several members of Congress 
called after night, who remained until my usual hour 
to retire. About 7 O'Clock P. M. the Hon. Charles 
J. IngersoU called. It was the first time he had done 
so during the Session. He had taken ofifense because 
I did not re-nominate him after he was rejected as 
minister to France, on the night of the 3rd of March 
last. He wrote me a foolish and angry letter after 
he returned home, which I answered. The circum- 
stances are fully recorded in this diary during the 
past year. About the commencement of the present 
session of Congress he sent his card to Mrs. Polk and 
myself. Mr. John Sullivan, who is his particular 
friend, has held several conversations with me, the 
object of which was to restore the former relations 
w^hich existed between Mr. IngersoU and myself. I 
had signified to him that if Mr. IngersoU called I 
would treat him courteously; as I did, when he called 
this evening. I consider that he acted a very weak 
and foolish part when he wrote his letter last spring, 
but he is a democratic member of Congress support- 
ing the principles of my administration, and I was 
willing to overlook his past follies. As soon as he 
entered my office and I had received him and asked 
him to be seated, he alluded to the conversations 
which Mr. Sullivan had held with me; and immedi- 
ately proceeded to a review of the causes of complaint 



304 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Jan. 



which he still thought he had because of my course 
when he was rejected by the Senate ; and because of 
the failure of his son to get a commission in the army. 
I heard him through and then said to him that I 
thought he had no cause to complain of me; that I 
had certainly done what I regarded to be my duty, 
and that I was still not sensible of having at any time 
done him any injury, that if I had it was certainly 
not intended, and that I was willing to let it all pass. 
I remarked to him that I was glad to have seen in the 
daily papers the part he had taken in a debate in the 
House a few days ago in my support, when my mes- 
sage refusing to communicate the instructions to Mr. 
Slidell, U. S. Minister to Mexico, was assailed. He 
said he still thought he had been hardly dealt bye. 
He spoke well of Mr. Rush as a gentleman, but said 
he was unfit for the French Mission. He said that 
when I had appointed Mr. Rush and Mr. John 
Randolph Clay, both of Pennsylvania, to missions 
abroad, it was slamming the door in his face, as I 
could not well appoint 'another minister from 
Pennsylvania, and that this circumstance had excited 
him. He talked like a man who was so excited (not 
angry) that he had still the appearance of one labour- 
ing under some mental aberation. His heart had 
been set on a mission abroad, and he was doubtless 
most deeply mortified when the Senate rejected him, 
but he had not the slightest cause of complaint 
against me. The latter part of the conversation 
turned upon public subjects, and particularly upon 
the question before the House, upon my message re- 
fusing to communicate Mr. SlidelTs instructions, in 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 305 

which he was calm & rational. It was only in refer- 
ence to his personal affairs that he seemed to be ex- 
cited. 

Tuesday, l8th January, 1 848. — I saw a number 
of persons on business this morning. The Cabinet 
met at the usual hour. The Secretary of State read a 
despatch which he had received from Mr. Tod, our 
minister to Brazil. The Secretary of War presented 
several matters of minor importance relating to the 
operations of the army and the conducting [of] the 
war. Some other minor subjects were considered & 
disposed of; none of them of sufficient importance to 
require special notice. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. The annual meet- 
ing of the American colonization Society was held 
in the Hall of the House of Representatives to-night; 
at which Mr. Clay of Ky. was present and made a 
speech. 

Wednesday, igth January, 1848. — An unusual 
number of persons called this morning; and I was ex- 
ceedingly annoyed by their importunate applications 
for office. When I open my office all sorts of per- 
sons come in, and among my visitors this morning 
were three persons begging money. Having learned 
from several members of Congress that it was stated 
by some of the Whig members of the House that they 
would attempt to prove my inconsistency in refusing 
•to communicate Mr. Slidell's instructions in answer 
to the Resolution of the Ho. Repts. of the 4th Inst. 



3o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [ig Jan. 

by my votes and speeches on the question of the Pan- 
ama Mission^ in 1826, I took the opportunity, as 
soon as my doors were closed, to review my votes & 
speeches on that occasion. The result is that no such 
inconsistency can be established unless [it] be by 
taking isolated votes & sentences in my speeches & 
tearing them from the context. I feel secure against 
any attempt of the kind which may be made. I still 
hold every sentiment which I expressed in my 
speeches made on that occasion. In my late message 
I was careful not to adopt or endorse all the opinions 
of President Washington in his message in 1796, be- 
cause I did not approve them. Had I adopted them 
a case of inconsistency might have been made out. 
As it is, no such thing can be done. 

The Board of managers of the American coloniza- 
tion Society, accompanied by the Hon. Mr. Kauf- 
man of Texas, called and paid their respects to- 
night. There were about twenty persons who called. 
Mrs. Polk & myself, having been previously notified 
that they would call, received them in the parlour. 
In the general conversation which occurred it was 
suggested that the U. S. should recognize the Inde- 
pendence of the Government of Liberia, and my 
opinion was asked. I gave the proposition no 
countenance, but avoided engaging in a discussion 
on the subject. There was a disposition, I thought, 
with two or three of the persons who engaged in the 
conversation, to draw me into a discussion, and to 
extract from me my reasons for not favouring the 
recognition of the Independence of the colony of 

' Jenkins, Polk, Chap. IV. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 307 

free blacks at Liberia. I expressed my decided 
opposition, but thought any discussion on the subject 
would be unprofitable and might be unpleasant to 
my visitors, and for these reasons I desired to avoid 
it in my own parlour. 

Thursday, 20th January, 1848. — Saw company 
as usual this morning. Among others I saw several 
members of the Ho. Repts., and explained to them 
my course on the Panama mission question in 1826, 
which I understood had been referred to in debate 
in the House by Mr. Tompkins of Mississippi to 
prove that in refusing to communicate Mr. Slidell's 
instructions I had acted inconsistently with that 
course. When properly understood no case of in- 
consistency is made out. I yet entertain all the opin- 
ions which I expressed by my votes and in debate 
upon the Panama question in 1826. I have carefully 
read over my speeches on that occasion, and would 
now re-affirm all the doctrines which they contain. 
I had a large dinner party to-day, composed of Sen- 
ators and Representatives & their wives; of the 
Mayor of Washington; his wife; Mr. Ritchie, his 
two daughters, &c, in all near 40 persons. 

Friday, 2l5t January, 1 848. — Many visitors 
called this morning, almost all of whom as is 
usual wanted some office, either for themselves or 
their friends. Much of my time continues to be 
taken up without profit to the public and much to my 
annoyance by importunities for office. Bills are 
pending before Congress to increase the army; for a 



3o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 Jan. 

few assistant pursers in the Navy; and for two or 
three charge d'affaires to Rome & South America; 
and in anticipation of their passing, my office is 
thronged daily by applicants seeking places. The 
passion for office is increasing rather than diminish- 
ing. I transacted business with the Secretary of 
State and the Secretary of War to-day, and disposed 
of much of the current business on my table. 

At I O'clock P. M., in pursuance of a previous 
arrangement made by the Secretary of State, I re- 
paired to the parlour where I received Mr. Pageot, 
who had recently been promoted by the King of the 
French to the rank of Envoy Extraordinary & Min- 
ister Plenipotentiary to the U. States. On present- 
ing his credentials Mr. Pageot made a short address 
to which I responded. 

This being reception evening an unusually large 
number of persons, ladies and gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 22nd January, 1848. — I saw a few 
persons before the hour of meeting of the Cabinet 
to-day. At the usual hour the Cabinet assembled, 
all the members present except the Secretary of State 
and the Secretary of War. The Secretary of War 
wrote me a note stating that he had been taken with 
a severe chill and was unable to attend. It was sug- 
gested by the Secretary of the Navy that it would be 
proper for the President and the Cabinet to attend 
the funeral ceremonies of Lieut. Col. Wm. M. 
Graham of the army, which was to take place from 
St. John's church at 12 O'Clock to-day. No sub- 
ject was brought up for consideration in the Cabinet, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 309 

and at 12 O'Clock, accompanied by the Secretary of 
the Navy, the Post master Gen'l, and the atto. Gen'L, 
who took seats with me in my carriage, I repaired to 
St. John's church (Episcopal) and attended the 
funeral ceremonies of Col. Graham. The Rev. Mr. 
Price & the Rev. Mr. French officiated. These be- 
ing over, a large procession of officers of the army, 
the militia of the D. C, and citizens moved from the 
church to the Congressional burying ground, where 
the body was deposited. Lieut. Col. Graham was 
promoted by me from the rank of Captain in the reg- 
ular army to that of Lieut. Col in the nth Infantry 
in the month of February last. He fell in the gal- 
lant discharge of his duty, at the head of his Regi- 
ment, on the 8th of September last in the battle of 
Morino del Rey [Molino Del Rey] near the gates of 
the City of Mexico. His friends had brought his 
body to this City for interment. 

After night I saw Senator Allen & Messrs. Mc- 
Kay of N. C. and Ficklin of 111., and had long con- 
versations with them on public affairs. 

Sunday, 23rd January, 1848. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended the first Presbyterian church to-day. 

After night Senators Cass and Sevier called at my 
request. I read to them the Instructions given to 
Mr. Slidell in Nov., 1845, and which I had refused 
to communicate to the Ho. Repts. in my message of 
the 1 2th Inst., in answer to their Resolution of the 4th 
Inst., and asked their opinion whether it would be 
proper to communicate them to the Senate confiden- 
tially, in their Executive Session. They were both 



310 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Jan. 

decidedly of opinion that I ought not to communi- 
cate them even confidentially to the Senate, for the 
reason that if so communicated they would become 
public and would go to Mexico, whereby the pub- 
lic interests would be greatly prejudiced. They 
both approved my refusal to send them to the House 
in answer to the call of that body. I informed them 
of Mr. Trist's most reprehensible conduct in Mex- 
ico, and of his refusal to return after his recal[l]. 
They advised that I should at once give an order to 
Gen'l Butler, now commanding the army in Mexico, 
to send him out of Mexico, and to inform the Mex- 
ican Government that he had been recalled. They 
concurred with me that his conduct was not only in- 
subordinate but infamous, and that if there was any 
law to punish him he should be punished. They 
agreed also that if after his recal[l] he went on to 
negotiate a Treaty within his instructions given to 
him in April last, that it would present a question of 
great responsibility and embarrassment whether I 
should send it to the Senate for ratification or not. 
I inferred from what Mr. Sevier said that he thought 
I would be bound to do so. Mr. Cass said it would 
be time enough to decide that question, if such a 
Treaty was made, when it was presented to me for my 
consideration. I told them that after the blood 
which had been shed and the money which had been 
expended since the date of Trist's instructions in 
April last, that, if it was an open question, I would 
not now approve the terms of the treaty which I 
then authorized. In this they both concurred with 
me. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 311 

Monday, 24th January, 1848. — I received com- 
pany as usual this morning. As soon as 1 could get 
clear of them I sent for Mr. Buchanan & informed 
him of the interview I had last night with Senators 
Sevier & Cass. I expressed to him my opinion that 
a letter should be addressed to Gen'l Butler directing 
him to inform, the Mexican Government that Mr. 
Trist had been recalled & had no power to treat, and 
that he should no longer remain with the Head Quar- 
ters of the army. I told him to delay to have some 
decisive action, after we had received information 
of his unauthorized proceedings subsequent to his 
recal[l], would have the appearance of acquiescence 
on our part of what he might do. At my request Mr. 
Buchanan w^ent to see the Secretary of War on the 
subject, who is sick at his House. He returned and 
informed me that Mr. Marcy was too ill to-day to be 
seen. Mr. Buchanan thought such a letter to Gen'l 
Butler would be proper if I had made up my mind 
before-hand to reject the Treaty, if one should be 
made. I told him that was a question which I could 
not decide in advance and before I saw the Treaty, 
though I was very indignant at Mr. Trist's conduct, 
and my present inclination would be to reject it. 
Mr. Buchanan expressed the opinion that it ought to 
be rejected, but said he would keep himself open to 
consider further of the subject. I saw Judge Mason 
and had a full conversation with him on the subject, 
and requested him, as the Secretary of War was too 
ill to be seen to-day, to prepare the draft of a letter 
to Gen'l Butler, such as I had mentioned to Mr. Bu- 
chanan. He promised to do so, and to submit it to 



31- 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Jan. 



me for further consideration. The Conduct of Mr. 
Trist and Gen'l Scott, who seem to have entered 
into a conspiracy to embarrass the Government, 
gives me great anxiety. They have both proved 
themselves to be wholly unworthy of the positions 
which they hold, and I most heartily wish they were 
both out of Mexico. 

After night Senator Allen and the Democratic 
members of the Ohio delegation in Congress, accom- 
panied by Gov. Bartley^ & several other gentlemen 
from Ohio, called in a body and requested me to ap- 
point Col. Morgan - of Ohio, of the 15th Regt. of In- 
fantry, to be a Brigadier Gen'l in place of Gen'l Hop- 
ping deceased. I received them courteously, but 
made them no promise. 

About 8 O'clock P.M. The Secretary of the 
Treasury, the Secretary of the Navy, Mr. McKay of 
N. C, & Mr. Geo. S. Houston of Alabama, the two 
latter members of the committee of Ways and Means 
of the Ho. Repts., called. Their object was to hold 
a consultation with me in regard to the finances. 
The subject was fully discussed, and resulted in the 
conclusion that the Secretary of the Navy could re- 
duce his estimates to the amt. of $1,500,000 without 
prejudice to the service, and that the Democratic 
members of the committee of Ways & Means should 
move an amendment to the loan bill reported by the 
Whig majority of that committee, which amendment 

^ Mordecai Bartley, 1 783-1 870, Representative from Ohio 
1 823-1 83 1, elected Governor in 1844. 

' George W. Morgan, Colonel of the 2nd Ohio Volunteers, 
appointed Colonel of the 15th Infantry in 1847. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 313 

should embody the measure recommended in my an- 
nual Message & in the annual Report of the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury. This was deemed necessary 
because under the Bill reported by the Whig ma- 
jority of that committee it was not probable that the 
loan could be negotiated. If the Whig majority of 
the House should reject the measure of the adminis- 
tration and adopt one of their own which would not 
be effective, they would then have to bear the respon- 
sibility of the failure. 

Tuesday, 2Sth January, 1848. — I was much en- 
gaged and declined to see company this morning. 
The Cabinet met at the usual hour. The Secretary 
of War is confined to his house by sickness. The 
atto. Gen'l called and informed me that he would be 
engaged in the Supreme Court to-day & could not 
attend the Cabinet. The P. M. Gen'l remained but 
a short time, when he was called off on official busi- 
ness. The Secretaries of State, Treasury, & the Navy 
were all who were present at the discussions to-day. 
I brought up the subject of the letter to Gen'l Butler 
in relation to Mr. Trist's conduct. Judge Mason 
read the draft of the letter which I had requested him 
to prepare on yesterday. Mr. Buchanan expressed 
the opinion that such a letter would be proper pro- 
vided I had made up my mind to reject any Treaty 
which Mr. Trist might make, but that if I intended 
to submit the t[r]eaty, if made, to the Senate, or if 
that was an unsettled question in my mind, the let- 
ter might embarrass me and ought not to be sent. I 
replied that the present inclination of my mind would 



314 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Jan. 

be to reject the Treaty, but that I was not now 
prepared to decide that question. Mr. Walker 
concurred with Mr. Buchanan. Mr. Mason spoke 
hesitatingly, but inclined to send the letter. The sub- 
ject of the terms of a Treaty which we could now 
accept was discussed at much length. The point of 
embarrassment was, whether, if Mr. Trist had made 
a Treaty and secured our. ultimatum authorized in 
his instructions in April last, and that Treaty was 
ratified by Mexico, I ought to reject it or not. I 
repeated that if I was unimbarrassed I would not 
now approve such a Treaty, but expressed doubt what 
I ought to do if a Treaty was made in conformity to 
the instructions given in April. Mr. Buchanan re- 
peated his impression in favour of rejecting it, but 
saw embarrassments attending that course, and said 
he would not now commit himself on the subject. 
Some modifications were suggested in the draft of the 
letter to Gen'l Butler prepared by Judge Mason. 
The Cabinet adjourned without coming to a defini- 
tive decision on the subject of the letter. I accom- 
panied Judge Mason to the house of Mr. Marcy & 
saw him in his chamber. He was confined to his 
bed but was better. The subject was explained to 
him. He was in favour of sending the letter to Gen'l 
Butler, with some modifications of it which he sug- 
gested. I requested Judge Mason to make another 
draft of it this evening. Gov. Marcy condemned 
the conduct of Mr. Trist and Gen'l Scott, but ex- 
pressed the decided opinion that if a Treaty was 
made and ratified by Mexico upon the terms of our 
ultimatum in April last, that I ought not to reject it, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 315 

but should send it to the Senate for ratification. 
Judge Mason expressed the same opinion. 

After night Senator Hannegan called to inquire of 
me about the rumours of peace which were circula- 
ting in the City. I informed him of the actual state 
of things, and of the conduct of Trist & of Gen'l 
Scott and the possibility that a Treaty may have been 
negotiated by Trist. He was very indignant at their 
conduct & spoke in strong terms of condemnation of 
them. I told him what the ultimatum authorized 
in April was. He thought it would be very embar- 
rassing for me to reject a Treaty made on that ulti- 
matum, though he would not now make such an one 
if it was an open question. This was a regular even- 
ing for receiving company, but as I am to have a gen- 
eral reception or levee to-morrow, my porter was di- 
rected to receive no company to-night. 

Wednesday, 2dth January, 1848. — I saw com- 
pany as usual this morning, and was so much occu- 
pied by office-seekers that I almost lost my temper, 
and was very unceremonious & absolute in rejecting 
their applications. To one or two of them I was 
compelled to be almost rude in order to shake them 
off my hands. At 12 O'Clock I closed my doors. 
Judge Mason called and left with me a modified 
draft of the proposed letter to Gen'l Butler in rela- 
tion to Mr. Trist, which he informed me he had sub- 
mitted to Mr. Marcy, who approved it. After he 
left I sent for Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker & read 
it to them. Mr. Buchanan adhered to his opinion 
of yesterday that the letter ought not to be sent. 



3i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Jai^. 

Mr. Walker was of the same opinion, for a different 
reason than that assigned by Mr. Buchanan. Mr. 
Buchanan thought that if I should conclude to send 
any Treaty which Mr. Trist might make to the Sen- 
ate, the letter would embarrass me. Mr. Walker 
thought if I should reject such a Treaty the letter 
would embarrass me. After a long discussion we 
adjourned to Mr. Marcy's House (who is still con- 
fined to his room by sickness). After reaching Mr. 
Marcy's House, Mr. Mason was sent for, and four 
members of the Cabinet being present, the modified 
letter prepared by Mr. Mason was read and fully dis- 
cussed (I will preserve the original draft of the let- 
ter). I'he result was that Mr. Buchanan & Mr. 
Walker advised against sending it, Mr. Marcy and 
Mr. Mason advised in favour of sending it. Mr. 
Walker was not strenuous in his opposition, & Mr. 
Buchanan said that as it was my judgment that it 
should be sent he thought I ought to send it, though 
with his opinions he could not advise it. I then in- 
formed them that if we remained silent after the 
knowledge we had of Mr. Trist's conduct the public 
would construe our silence into an acquiescence of 
whatever he might do. I said to them on seperating 
that I would return to my office & send for Mr. John- 
son and Mr. Clifford, & after consulting with them 
would decide. I did so. They called at my office 
at 6 O'clock P. M., as did Mr. Mason and Mr. 
Walker. The letter was again read and fully con- 
sidered, when Mr. Clifford and Mr. Johnson both 
advised in favour of sending the letter. Mr. Walker 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 317 

said that if I determined to send in to the Senate a 
Treaty made upon the ultimatum of Mr. Trist's in- 
structions in April last, the letter could not embarrass 
me. I then decided to send the letter. Judge Mason 
took it to the Secretary of War to have it copied & 
signed by him. It was so copied and signed and Mr. 
W. C. Whitthorne, a special bearer of despatches to 
Gen'l Butler, will leave in the Southern Boat on to- 
morrow morning. Mr. Whitthorne had been en- 
gaged to bear other despatches to Gen'l Butler, and 
had been detained by me until I should determine 
upon the sending of the letter, which had been the 
subject of anxious discussion for several days past 
(see this diary) . This evening I held a levee or gen- 
eral drawing room. The East room and all the par- 
lours were opened & brilliantly illuminated. The 
Marine band occupied the outer Hall. Hundreds 
of persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. The even- 
ing was wet, but not withstanding that the parlours, 
including the East room, were all occupied, though 
not so much crowded as I have seen them on similar 
occasions. 

Thursday, 2yth January, 1848. — Many persons 
called this morning. I closed my doors at 12 
O'clock. I saw public officers on business, and 
spent nearly the whole day after that hour alone and 
transacted much business. Many matters of busi- 
ness of minor importance had accumulated on my 
table and I availed myself of the opportunity to dis- 
pose of them. I was occupied until after 1 1 O'Clock 



3i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Jan 

P. M. before 1 had my table cleared. I have not 
for many weeks had the current business on my table 
so well up as I have to-night. 

Friday, 28th January, 1 848.— My office was open 
as usual for the reception of company this morning. 
Many persons, members of Congress and others, 
called. My doors were closed at the usual hour, 
and I was occupied during the day in transacting 
public business with officers of the Government, and 
in attending to several minor matters which claimed 
my attention. I sent for the Secretaries of the Treas- 
ury and the Navy and saw them on public business. 

This being reception evening a few persons, ladies 
& gentlemen, called. The number present was not 
so large as is usual on the evenings when my doors are 
open for the reception of company. 

Saturday, 2gth January, 1848. — Col. Richard 
M. Johnson of Ky. called this morning. He is in 
fine health, and expressed his unqualified approba- 
tion of the policy of my administration. The Cab- 
inet met at the usual hour, all the members present. 
Mr. Buchanan presented some matters of no great 
importance connected with our relations with China, 
in view of the instructions which he had prepared 
for Mr. Davis, U. S. Minister to China. The Sec- 
retary of War presented certain correspondence with 
Gen'l Taylor, which he had caused to be copied in 
answer to a call of the Senate, and the scope of the 
call and the correspondence necessary to be sent to 
the Senate were the subject of conversation. The 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 319 

Secretary of the Navy called attention to a recent 
proceeding had in Louisiana by the agent of the U. S. 
for the protection of timber on the public lands 
against the settler claiming to be entitled to the right 
of pre-emption. It appears that the U. S. District 
Judge for La. had decided that the pre-emption act 
of 1 841 was suspended in consequence of the war 
with Mexico. The provision suspending the law 
was undoubtedly intended to apply exclusively to the 
distribution part of the act of 1841, in case the U. S. 
should be involved in a foreign War, and yet by its 
letter it is doubtful whether the clause does not also 
suspend the pre-emption right of settlers on the pub- 
lic lands. There was some division of opinion upon 
this point. Without deciding it, it was determined 
that the Secretary of the Navy should instruct the 
timber agent in Louisiana to abandon all similar 
prosecutions, and that Congress should be called on 
to pass an explanatory act. My attention was not 
called to the subject until yesterday, when Senator 
Downes and Mr. Harmanson ^ of La. called to see me 
on the subject. Many pre-emptions have been 
granted since the existing war with Mexico was com- 
menced, which, if the decision of the Court in 
Louisiana be correct, will be void. This would pro- 
duce great injury to settlers on the public lands, and, 
doubts having arisen, it is important that Congress 
should act promptly on the subject. 

After night Senators Bagby of Al. & Turney of 
Tenn. called. They said they had come to urge me 

^ John H. Harmanson, 1803-1850, Representative from Louisi- 
ana 1 845-1 850. 



320 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Jan. 



not to commit myself irrevocably against serving a 
second term in the Presidential office if the party 
should find it to be necessary to re-nominate me, as 
they believed they would, for a second term. I told 
them that my decision had been long since made, and 
had been often declared, that I would voluntarily re- 
tire at the close of my present term, and that this de- 
cision I could not change. I assured them that I 
had no desire to continue beyond the present term, 
and that I looked forward to the period of my retire- 
ment with sincere pleasure. They said they had no 
doubt of that, but that the condition of the country 
was such, and the divisions among the Democratic 
party, as between the present aspirants for the nomi- 
nation, that it might become indispensible to re-nom- 
inate me as the only means of restoring harmony, and 
of preserving harmony in the next election, and that 
it might become my duty to yield. They said all 
they wished me to do was to cease making the dec- 
laration, as I was in the habit of doing to all who 
conversed with me on the subject, that I would under 
no circumstances consent to be a candidate for re- 
election. They urged that when the Democratic 
National convention met at Baltimore they might be 
compelled to re-nominate me without consulting my 
wishes, & in that case it would be my solemn duty to 
yield to their wishes. They urged also the condition 
of the country being engaged in a Foreign war, and 
their conviction that I would be the strongest man 
of the party. I still adhered to my often expressed 
determination to retire at the close of my present 
term. A few days ago Senator Rusk of Texas called 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 321 

and held a similar conversation with me. Many 
members of Congress have done the same thing dur- 
ing the present session. To all of them 1 have given 
the same answer, & repeated my sincere desire to re- 
tire & my fixed purpose to do so. I cannot be mis- 
taken, from the evidences I have, in the fact that the 
growing opinion in Congress is that the Democratic 
party must insist upon running me a second time 
without consulting my individual wishes on the sub- 
ject. I sincerely hope that the Democratic party 
may yet be able to unite & harmonize on some other 
candidate. 

Sunday, 30th January, 1 8 48. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended the First Presbyterian church to- 
day. Mrs. Walker and her little girl accompanied 
us. The Rev. Mr. Ballentine, the new Pastor of the 
church, performed service last sabbath and to-day. 
He is not a great man, but, I would judge, is a pious 
man and of good education. 

Monday, 31 st January, 1 848. — Many persons 
called this morning, most of whom were seeking 
office. I continue to be greatly annoyed by office- 
seekers. I give them no encouragement, and yet 
they continue to importune me daily. I prepared 
and sent to the Senate two short messages in answer 
to Resolutions of that body requesting information 
connected with the Mexican War. I saw the Sec- 
retary of State and several other public officers on 
official business. I disposed of business on my table 
as usual. 



322 JAxVIES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Feb. 

Tuesday, ist February, 1848. — Several persons 
called this morning. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour, all the members present. My answer to the Res- 
olution of the Senate calling for the correspondence 
between Trist & the Mexican commissioners after 
the battles of Contreras and Cherubusco, was con- 
sidered. It was resolved to send to the Senate all 
the correspondence between the commissioners of 
the two Governments, and also an extract from a de- 
spatch of Trist of the 4th of September, 1847, and 
that I should state my disapproval of his invitation 
to the Mexican commissioners to submit a proposi- 
tion to make the Nueces the boundary. There was 
not time to have the copies of the correspondence 
completed in time to send the message to the Senate 
to-day. I had a conversation with the Secretary of 
the Treasury in relation to the finances & the efforts 
of the Whig party in Congress to produce a panic 
in the country so as to afifect the public credit, and 
thereby prevent a loan & embarrass the Treasury. 
The truth is that the Whig party and leading presses, 
having failed to defeat the Government in the pros- 
ecution of the war by the " aid & comfort," they 
have given to Mexico by their unpatriotic sentiments, 
are now insidiously attempting to produce a panic 
in the money market and thereby, if possible, to break 
down the Treasury, and thus compel the inglorious 
withdrawal of our army from Mexico. Means to 
counteract these assaults upon the Treasury were con- 
sidered. Some other subjects of minor importance 
were considered. I gave a dinner party to-day. 
Near forty persons, chiefly members of Congress & 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 222, 

their families, were present. Among others of the 
party were Col. Richard M. Johnson of Ky., Mr. 
Andrew Ewing of Nashville, Tennessee, and Mr. 
Kellogg, a distinguished artist, who painted my por- 
trait at Nashville in 1840, were present. Mr. Kel- 
logg at the time alluded to (1840) painted the por- 
trait of Gen'l Jackson, and has spent several years 
since that time in Italy. 

Wednesday, 2nd February, 1848. — A number of 
members of Congress called this morning. At 1 1 
O'clock the Board of Managers of the Washington 
Monument Society called according to a previous 
arrangement, & I accompanied them to the open pub- 
lic ground south of the President's House, and se- 
lected the site for the " Washington Monument." 
The site selected lies on the Bank of the Potomac 
South of the canal & West of 15th Street, embracing 
about 30 acres of land. The members of the Board 
who called and accompanied me to the ground were 
Messrs. Bent,^ Monroe,^ Force,^ Watterson,^ & Gen'l 
Henderson. They had agreed among themselves 
upon the site selected, & I gave my assent. 

I prepared & sent to the Senate a message ^ in 
answer to their call for the correspondence relating 

* William Brent. 

^ Thomas Munroe. 

^ Peter Force, editor of Force's Tracts. 

* George Watterston. 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 569. 
For the correspondence in question see S. Ex. Doc. 20, 30 Cong. 
I Sess. IV. 



324 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Feb. 



to the negotiation between the U. S. commissioner 
& the commissioners of Mexico, which took place 
after the battles of Contreras & Cherubusco in Aug- 
ust & September last. I saw public officers on busi- 
ness & transacted business in my office as usual. 
After night Mr. Thomas of Tennessee of the Ho. 
Repts. and Senator Allen of Ohio called. With 
each of them I had a long conversation on public af- 
fairs, and with Senator Allen especially in reference 
to the Mexican War, and the unpardonable conduct 
of Mr. Trist and Gen'l Scott, which he condemned, 
as I did, in unqualified terms. 

The Secretary of War sent to me this afternoon the 
proceedings of the General Court Martial in the 
case of Lieut. Col. J. C. Fremont. The record is 
very voluminous. The Court find him guilty of all 
the charges & sentence him to be dismissed the serv- 
ice. A majority of the Court recommend him to the 
Executive clemency. 

Thursday, Jrd February, 1 848. — My office was 
filled with visitors, members of Congress and others, 
as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock M., when I closed 
my doors. I sent for the Secretary of the Treasury, 
to consult him in relation to a call made by Resolu- 
tion of the Senate on the ist Instant on the subject 
of contributions levied in the form of duties in the 
ports of Mexico on merchandise imported at such 
ports by American citizens. I sent also for the at- 
torney General and consulted him on the same sub- 
ject. I was preparing a message in reply to the Res- 
olution, which involved a question of public law 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 325 

which required examination. I was engaged in my 
office as usual to-day. Nothing of much interest 
occurred. 

Friday, 4th February, 1848. — I spent the morn- 
ing as usual in receiving company, hearing their ap- 
plications for office, and transacting business with 
them. I closed my doors at 12 O'Clock. Shortly 
afterwards I was informed by my porter that the 
Hon. Henry Clay of Kentucky, who was the op- 
posing candidate for the Presidency when I was 
chosen, had called to see me, and that he was in the 
parlour below stairs. I proceeded at once to the 
parlour and received him with all the politeness and 
courtesy of which I was master. I had a pleasant 
conversation with him. He apologized for not 
having called on me earlier. He had been in the 
City several weeks, but had been very much occu- 
pied by his friends. He said he intertained no feel- 
ings towards me of an unkind character. I at once 
replied that I entertained none such towards him, & 
that I was glad to see him, and added that there was 
no citizen of the U. S. whom I w^ould be more grat- 
ified to see in my parlour than himself. Mrs. 
Polk, for whom he had also enquired, came into the 
parlour. Mr. Clay continued & intimated that 
differences in political opinion had seperated us, & 
although he had no feelings which would have pre- 
vented him from calling, he was not certain how I 
might feel, until he saw a common personal friend 
(Judge Catron) on yesterday, and after conversing 
with him he had determined to call very soon. I re- 



326 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Feb. 

peated that I was gratified that he had done so. He 
continued the pleasant conversation with Mrs. Polk 
and myself, and after remaining near half an hour 
he left. As he was leaving he remarked to Mrs. 
Polk in a very pleasant manner that he would visit 
her drawing room soon, that he had heard a general 
approbation expressed of her administration, but that 
he believed there was some difference of opinion 
about her husband's administration. She replied 
pleasantly that she was happy to hear from him that 
her administration was approved and added, if a 
political opponent of my husband is to succeed him 
I have always said I prefer you, Mr. Clay, and in 
that event I shall be most happy to surrender the 
White House to you. There was a hearty laugh, and 
he left in an excellent humour. I transacted busi- 
ness in my office as usual to-day. This being recep- 
tion evening a large number of gentlemen, chiefly 
strangers, & a few ladies called. 

Saturday, Sth February, 1848. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called before the hour of meeting 
of the Cabinet this morning. The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour, all the members present except the 
Secretary of the Treasury, who, I learn, is unable to 
leave his house to-day in consequence of indisposi- 
tion. His health is quite precarious & feeble. Mr. 
Buchanan, who had previously consulted me on the 
subject and to whom I had given full powers to con- 
clude a commercial Treaty with the Minister of 
Peru, submitted the draft of a Treaty which he pro- 
posed to conclude with that Minister. It was ap- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 327 

proved by the Cabinet, and will probably be signed 
by the parties on Monday next. Several minor mat- 
ters were considered & disposed of. Mr. Buchanan 
inquired what the finding & sentence of the General 
Court Martial in the case of Lieut. Col. J. C. F're- 
mont was. I turned to the record & read the find- 
ing & the sentence. The Court find him guilty of all 
the charges & specifications preferred against him, 
and sentence him to be dismissed the service. A ma- 
jority of the Court, including the President of the 
Court, recommend him to the Executive clemency. 
I informed the Cabinet that I would desire to have 
their advice as to my action on the case, but would 
not ask that it should be formally given to-day: but, 
if any of them were prepared with any suggestions 
or opinions, that I would be pleased to hear them. 
Mr. Buchanan remarked that though he did not 
doubt the correctness of the finding of the Court, he 
would dislike to see him dismissed the service alto- 
gether, under all the circumstances of the case, as far 
as he could understand them without having read the 
testimony. The other members of the Cabinet, ex- 
cept the Sec. of War, expressed similar opinions. 
The Secretary thought it would not do to disapprove 
the finding and sentence, but intimated that I might 
approve both, and then, if I thought it right, I might 
pardon him. A legal question arose & was discussed, 
whether I had the power to mitigate the sentence of 
dismissal from the service, and the punishment of 
suspension from rank and command for a specified 
term of time. This point was discussed, and was 
considered a doubtful question. The Cabinet, I 



328 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 Feb. 

thought, inclined* to this course, if I possessed the 
clear power to adopt it. No definite decision was 
made on the case. Indeed, I did not bring up the 
case for decision to-day, as I have not yet finished 
reading the record of proceedings, but have a gen- 
eral understanding of the principle points involved. 
Some other matters were considered and the Cabinet 
adjourned at 3>^ O'Clock P. M. 

Sunday, 6th February, 1848. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended divine worship to-day in the Hall 
of the Ho. Repts. The Rev. Mr. Matthews' of 
New York preached. Judge Catron of the Su- 
preme Court of the U. S., who has been confined to 
his chamber for some time by indisposition, was suffi- 
ciently recovered to take a family dinner with me to- 
day. 

Monday, yth February, 1848. — Saw company as 
usual this morning. Many persons, members of 
Congress and others, called. I received letters from 
the City of Mexico last night dated as late as the 
loth ult., but they contained no information in re- 
lation to the rumoured negotiations between Mr. 
Trist and the Mexican Government. I sent for the 
Secretary of War to enquire if any despatches had 
been received by him, and was informed by him that 
none had come to hand. Mr. Buchanan called 
while Mr. Marcy was with me. He had received 

^ Dr. Matthews, Ex-Chancellor of the University of New York. 
He delivered a series of discourses in the Hall of the House of 
Representatives on the connection between religion and learning. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 329 

no dispatches from Mr. Trist. He had, however, 
received a private letter dated at the City of Mex- 
ico, Jan'y 12th, '48, from Mr. Alexander Attocha. 
It was written in French and Mr. Buchanan read it 
to Mr. Marcy and myself. Attocha is a great 
scoundrel, and his letter contained the infamous sug- 
gestion that he should be furnished with money to 
bribe the Mexican Congress to induce them to ratify 
a Treaty of peace, though he does not state whether 
a Treaty had been signed by Mr. Trist or not. He 
states that he had been informed that Mr. Trist had 
said that he had such a fund, and says he had not em- 
ployed the proper person to use [it]. If Mr. Trist 
even made such a statement, it was utterly false. He 
had no fund for any such purpose. No appropri- 
ation of the kind had been made, and no such idea 
ever entered my head. After Mr. Trist's late in- 
famous conduct, I should, however, not be surprised 
to hear anything that is base of him. Attocha in his 
letter intimates that Gen'l Scott was in the scheme 
with Mr. Trist, and that he had been cheated by 
Santa Anna when he agreed to the armistice. Mr. 
Buchanan took the letter away with him. It is most 
strange that neither Gen'l Scott or Trist has written 
a line to the Government by the train that left Mex- 
ico on the 13th of January, and which brought these 
private letters. That they did not write was un- 
doubtedly from design. Mr. Trist after the receipt 
of his recal[l] is acting in violation of his orders & 
in open defiance of the Government. That there is 
a conspiracy between Scott & himself to put the Gov- 
ernment at defiance & make a Treaty of some sort, I 



330 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 Feb. 

have as [but] little doubt. A few days more will, I 
trust, develope what they have been doing. I dis- 
posed of business on my table as usual. After night 
Senator Turney of Ten., Mr. Thomas of Ten., and 
Gen'l Houston of Al. called. 

Tuesday, 8th February, 1 848. — Though this was 
Cabinet day I could not well avoid seeing members 
of Congress who called. All who did call were 
upon the important business of seeking office for their 
constituents, or the throng of persons who flock to 
Washington to get office instead of going to work 
and making a living by honest industry. I am 
obliged to be civil and patient \\'\i\\ members of Con- 
gress & others when they call on this business. 
Much of my time is taken up in this way and I am 
sometimes exceedingly worried by it. They apply 
to me not only for offices that exist, but for those 
which are expected to be created. If a Bill is intro- 
duced into Congress proposing to create an office, it 
brings upon me a crowd of applicants with masses 
of papers recommending them. It is in vain that I 
repeat a dozen times in a day that no such offices ex- 
ist by law. I am compelled to have my time taken 
up in listening to their importunities. A strong 
illustration of this is afiforded at this session of Con- 
gress. Bills are before Congress to create a number 
of assistant pursers in the Navy; to increase the mil- 
itary force; to increase the number of Clerks; and 
to institute diplomatic relations with Rome & some 
of the South American States. The consequence is 
that a great crowd of persons have rushed to Wash- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 33^ 

ington, have enlisted members of Congress in their 
behalf, and whenever my doors are opened I am be- 
sieged by them, and can do no business unless I lock 
my doors and refuse admittance to any. A large 
proportion of those who thus trouble me are un- 
worthy, & unfit for the places they seek, and many of 
them are mere loafers who are too lazy to work and 
wish to be supported by the public. If an officer is 
taken ill application is made for his office, if he 
should die. A case of this kind (one out of many 
which have occurred since I have been President) 
has occurred within a few days. The Marshall of 
this District is reported to be confined to his house 
by sickness, & I have had half a dozen applications 
for his place, // he should die. Four members of 
Congress waited on me this morning in behalf of 
one [of] these applicants. I am often disgusted with 
such scenes. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour. I submitted 
the draft of a message which I had prepared in an- 
swer to a Resolution of the Senate, calling for in- 
formation upon the subject of duties levied & col- 
lected as military contributions on vessels & cargoes 
belonging to citizens of the U. S. in the ports of 
Mexico in our military occupation. It was ap- 
proved. Some additional suggestions were made & 
paragraphs prepared by Mr. Buchanan & Judge Ma- 
son, which I took for consideration. No subject of 
importance was considered to-day. The Cabinet 
adjourned about the usual hour. All the members 
were present except the Secretary of the Treasury, 
who was detained by indisposition. 



332 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Feb. 



This was reception evening. An unusually large 
number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. 
The parlours were very much crowded. 

Hon, C. J. IngersoU called to-night before the 
company assembled & had a conversation with me 
upon public affairs. Judge Mason was present. 

Wednesday, gth February, 1848. — I passed 
through my usual conflict with the office-seekers to- 
day (see this diary of yesterday) . I had no offices to 
bestow, and yet I was compelled to have my time 
taken up by them. I w^as glad when the hour of 12 
O'clock arrived, and I closed my doors. 

I disposed of business on my table but nothing im- 
portant transpired. I finished my message in an- 
swer to the Resolution of the Senate, but had not 
time to have it copied to send in to-day (see yester- 
day's diary). 

I had a dinner party of about 20 persons to-day, 
composed in part of members of Congress and in part 
of strangers in the City. Col. Burnett,^ U. S. army, 
who had been wounded in Mexico, & his wife wTre 
of the party. 

Thursday, lOth February, 1848. — I saw com- 
pany as usual until 12 O'Clock to-day. I sent my 
message,- which I finished on yesterday, to the Sen- 
ate to-day. I sent also a message ^ to the Ho. Repts. 

^ Ward Benjamin Burnett, Captain of the 2nd New York 
Volunteers; he was severely wounded in the battle of Cherubusco, 
August 20, 1847. 

- Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 5 70. 

nbid, IV, 572. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 333 

in answer to a Resolution of that body. I disposed 
of business on my table, and was occupied several 
hours in reading the Record of proceedings of the 
General Court Martial in the case of Lieut. Col. 
Fremont. Nothing important occurred to-day. 
One incident occurred which I note in reference to 
what I recorded in this diary of the 8th Inst. After 
my office had been closed my porter announced to 
me that a member of Congress was without, who 
wished to see me on important business. I directed 
him to be shown in. He brought a man with him, 
and [the] important business was to seek an office 
for him. I had no office to bestow, but more than 
half an hour of my time was occupied in hearing his 
story. I am often annoyed in this way. I became 
impatient and perhaps a little petulant. The mem- 
ber and his man both left, as I thought, dissatisfied. 
About dark Senator Cass called. He was con- 
cerned at the statements of a letter writer from Wash- 
ington in the N. York Herald, signing himself Gal- 
vienses, said to be a man named Nugent, derogatory 
to him, Gen'l C, as chairman of the military com- 
mittee of the Senate. This writer has for some time 
past been abusing and misrepresenting me as well 
as Gen'l C, & falsely stating that I was dissatisfied 
with Gen'l C. as chairman of the military committee. 
This letter writer is said to be a daily visitor at the 
State Department, and from this circumstance it is 
inferred that his course is not disapproved, but en- 
couraged, by Mr. Buchanan. I expressed no opin- 
ion upon this point to Gen'l C. I am satisfied, how- 
ever, that this wTiter is prompted from some source 



334 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo Feb. 

to disparage me, probably from the fear that from the 
conflict between the aspirants to succeed me, the 
Democratic party might be unable to agree, and 
might ultimately fall back and require me to run. 
I am no candidate, but shall retire voluntarily at the 
end of my term, and those who entertain fear that I 
may be in their way may cease to be troubled on the 
subject. I cannot but suspect, however, that under 
the influence of such fears there is an object in some 
quarters to have me assailed by this hireling letter- 
writer and others. Should I obtain proof of this I 
will expose it. Gen'l Cass told me that Senators 
Hannegan and Atchison had to-day called him out 
of the Senate chamber & told him they had heard 
that I had expressed dissatisfaction with him as chair- 
man of the military committee, & that I had said 
I relied upon Senator Houston of Texas to manage 
the military measures of the administration in the 
Senate. I told [him] it was false. He said he knew 
it was, & had told them so. I asked him from whom 
they had heard such an absurd story. He replied 
that he did not knov/, but that he had told them he 
knew it was false. I told him he could tell them it 
was false upon my authority. An allusion was made 
to his position and Mr. Buchanan's as candidates for 
the nomination for the Presidency, I took the oc- 
casion to say that I took no part in the selection of a 
candidate to succeed me, which my political frends 
might m.ake, but that I would support the nominee 
of the Democratic national convention, whoever he 
might be. He said he had understood that to be my 
position, & that he was satisfied with it. The truth is 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 335 

that Gen'l C. has given to my administration an hon- 
est and hearty support, and if he is the nominee 1 will 
support him with great pleasure. There is no other 
whom I would support with more pleasure. 

Friday, Ilth February, 1 848. — I saw company 
as usual to-day until 12 O'Clock. Many persons 
called, & among them many office seekers. I de- 
voted several hours in reading the proceeding of the 
court martial in Lieut. Col. Fremont's case. I dis- 
posed of business on my table as usual. Nothing of 
much interest transpired to-day. 

This being reception evening a large number of 
persons, ladies and gentlemen, attended. 

Saturday, 12th February, 1848. — This morning 
Herschcl V. Johnson,^ the recently appointed Sen- 
ator from Georgia in place of Senator Colquitt re- 
signed, called. He reached Washington last even- 
ing. The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury, who is confined at his house by indisposition. 
The case of Lieut. Col. Fremont, who has been re- 
cently tried by a Court martial and sentenced " to be 
dismissed the service," was the subject of consider- 
ation to-day. A part of the proceedings were read. 
The Cabinet all advised that he should not be dis- 
missed, but there was much difficulty in arriving at a 
satisfactory conclusion whether, in remitting the 

^ Herschel V. Johnson, 1812-1880, Senator from Georgia 
1848-1849, Governor 1853-1857, Vice Presidential candidate of 
the Democratic party on the Douglas ticket in i860. 



336 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Feb. 

sentence of the Court, I should approve or disap- 
prove the finding of the Court. He had been found 
guilty of, I St, mutiny, 2nd, disobedience of orders, & 
3rd, of conduct prejudicial to the public service. I 
had doubts, & so had the Cabinet, whether the facts 
as proved amounted to the legal definition of mutiny. 
That he had been guilty of disobedience of orders all 
agreed. After much discussion a decision of the 
case was postponed, but as it was absolutely neces- 
sary to decide it soon, I requested the Cabinet to meet 
at my office at 8 O'Clock to-morrow night. 

After night Gen'l Houston of Al. of the Ho. 
Repts. called and spent two hours with me in con- 
versing about public affairs. He is an excellent 
man, a sound democrat, & a good personal & political 
friend of mine. 

Sunday, 13th February, 1848. — Mrs. Polk and 
myself attended the Rev. Dr.' Laurie's church (Pres- 
byterian) to-day. 

In pursuance of the understanding on yesterday, 
a special meeting of the Cabinet took place at 8 
O'clock this evening; all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Treasury, who is confined 
to his house by indisposition. The case of Lieut. 
Col. Fremont was resumed. The Atto. Gen'l read 
from many authorities which he had collected to 
show what acts constituted mutiny. The Secretary 
of War also read some authorities on the same sub- 
ject. The Secretary of the [?] returned to his office 
and brought an authority which he had examined. 
Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Clifford were clear that the 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 337 

facts proved in this case were not mutiny. The Sec- 
retary of War doubted whether some of the specifi- 
cations upon which Lieut. Col. Fremont had been 
committed [convicted] amounted to " mutiny." 
Mr. Johnson and Mr. Mason inclined to the opinion 
that they did not amount to mutiny. All agreed that 
he had been guilty of disobedience of orders; and 
conduct to the prejudice of good order & military 
discipline. There were, however, mitigating cir- 
cumstances in the case. Mr. Buchanan & Mr. 
Cliflford advised that I should disapprove the sen- 
tence of dismissal from the service upon the ground 
that it was too severe. Mr. Marcy, Mr. Mason, & 
Mr. Johnson advised that I should approve the sen- 
tence & remit the penalty. Some sharp remarks 
were made, in the course of the discussion, between 
Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Marcy. In speaking of Gen'l 
Kearney, who preferred the charges, Mr. Buchanan 
used the word pusalimity [pusillanimity] as applied 
to him, if he believed he had the authority, he yielded 
it to Com. Stockton & did not enforce it. To this 
Mr. Marcy took exception and said that Gen'l 
Kearney had no forces to command obedience to his 
orders & had acted with great forbearance & pro- 
priety. After hearing the discussion I gave my 
opinion. It was that I was not satisfied that the 
proof In the case constituted " mutiny," that I 
thought the proof established disobedience of orders 
& conduct to the prejudice of good order and mili- 
tary discipline; & that I ought to approve the sen- 
tence, but that under all the circumstances of the case 
& in consideration of the recommendation of a ma- 



338 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [14 Feb 

jority of the Court, I ought to remit the penalty and 
restore Lieut. Col. Fremont to duty. At a late hour 
the Cabinet retired. 

Monday, 14th February, 1848. — An unusual 
number of persons, members of Congress & others, 
called. I closed my office at 12 O'Clock and de- 
voted the greater part of the remainder of the day to 
a further examination of the record of the proceed- 
ings of the Court Martial in Lieut. Col. Fremont's 
case. The record embraces many hundred pages. 
I prepared my opinion & decision [in] the case, 
which I submitted to Mr. Mason & Mr. Clifford, 
who called at my request. I will submit it to the 
Cabinet on to-morrow. I disposed of some other 
business on my table to-day. 

After night Senator Houston of Texas called & 
conversed an hour with me about public afifairs. 

Tuesday, I^th February, 1848. — I issued orders 
that I would see no company this morning, but sev- 
eral members of Congress called and I was con- 
strained to see them or give them offense. I directed 
them to be shown in, and their business was to solicit 
office for some loafers who had come to the City from 
their districts. The Cabinet met at the usual hour; 
all the members present except the Secretary of the 
Treasury and the Secretary of War, both of whom 
were detained at their houses by indisposition. I 
read to the Cabinet the decision ^ I had made in 
Lieut. Col. Fremont's case. Some suggestions of a 

^ 5. Ex. Doc. Z3,, 30 Cong. I Sess. V. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 339 

verbal character, but not affecting substance, were 
made by Mr. Buchanan, to which I assented. Some 
other subjects of minor importance were considered. 
After dinner I called at the House of the Secretary 
of War and found him confined to his chamber. I 
read to him the decision I had prepared in Lieut. 
Col. Fremont's case, and he approved it. 

This was reception evening. A large number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. After night the 
Hon. Charles J. IngersoU called and, after adverting 
to severarpublic subjects, introduced what I have no 
doubt was the object of his visit. He said he had 
been rejected by the Senate as minister to France at 
the close of the last Session of Congress by accident, 
that injustice had been done him, and he thought the 
injury could only be repaired by his nomination to 
the same office, and added that it was a point of hon- 
our with him. I told him Mr. Rush had been ap- 
pointed, and I saw no reason why I should recal[l] 
him and that I could not do so w^ithout dishonouring 
him. He said Mr. Rush was poor and could not 
support himself at Paris on his salary, and he thought 
\vhen his outfit was exhausted, as it would be at the 
end of his first year, he would be willing to return. 
I told him I could not recal[l] him or intimate to 
him that I wished him to return. He then said he 
would not have the place unless he returned volun- 
tarily. He intimated that if the proposed mission to 
Rome was made a full mission it w^ould be agreeable 
to him. I made him no promise. He spoke of his 
deep mortification at his rejection by the Senate as 
minister to France & of the indiscreet letter, as he 



340 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Feb. 

characterized it, which he had written to me on the 
subject last spring (see this diary of that period). 
To this I made no reply, except that I thought the 
Senate had done him a wrong by rejecting him. It 
struck me very strangely that after the correspond- 
ence which had taken place between us on the sub- 
ject (which I have preserved) that he should ever 
have introduced the subject to me again. 

Wednesday, lOth February, 1848. — An un- 
usually large number of persons, members of Con- 
gress and others, called this morning, but, what is 
rarely the case, but few of them were seeking office. 
I copied my decision in the blank pages attached to 
the record of proceedings of the Court martial in the 
case of Lieut. Col. Fremont, & the Secretary of War 
being confined to his house by indisposition, I sent 
for the Secretary of the Navy and Lieut. Col. 
Cooper, ass't Adj't Gen'l & read it to them. I then 
sent for Mr. Campbell, the chief clerk of the War 
Dept., & delivered it to him with directions to de- 
liver it to the xA.dj't Gen'l to have my decision car- 
ried into effect. The decision in this case has been 
a painful and a responsible duty. I have performed 
[it] with the best lights before me, and am satisfied 
with what I have done. My decision is appended 
to the record of proceedings of the Court martial 
and will speak for itself. The Chief Clerk of the 
War Department brought to me to-day a letter re- 
ceived from Maj'r Gen'l Pillow, dated at the City 
of Mexico on the i8th of January, in answer to a 
letter of the Secretary of War addressed to him in re- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 341 

lation to certain proceedings of Gen'l Scott & Mr. 
Trist at Puebla in July last, covering an attempt to 
use money, without any authority or sanction of the 
Government, to bribe the authorities in Mexico to 
procure a peace. This letter discloses some astound- 
ing facts in relation to that infamous transaction, and 
must lead to a further investigation. It is most re- 
markable that nothing on the subject has been re- 
ceived from Gen'l Scott. The letter of the Secre- 
tary of War to Gen'l Pillow was sent to him through 
Gen'l Scott. 

1 had an interesting Dinner party to-day. Near 
40 persons, ladies & gentlemen, were present. The 
Chief guest was the Hon. Henry Clay of Ky., who 
was the opposing candidate for the Presidency when 
I was chosen in 1844. The dinner party was com- 
posed of about an equal number of each of the politi- 
cal parties. Without enumerating all who were 
present, the following may be named, viz.. Senators 
Berrien ^ & Johnson of Georgia; Senators Dayton - 
of N. Jersey & Cameron of Penn. ; Hannegan, In- 
diana, Representatives Morehead, Ky., Dickson,^ 
Ct., Murphy, N. Y., McLane, Del., Burt, S. C, 
Gayle, AL, Tallmadge, N. Y.,^ Nichol,^ N. Y., Wil- 
liams, Maine, Brown,^ Miss., Meade, Va., Marsh, 

^ John Macpherson Berrien, 1781-1856, Senator from Georgia 
1824-1829, and 1840-1852. 

2 William Lewis Dayton, Senator from New Jersey 1842-1851. 
^ James Dixon, 1814-1873, Representative from Connecticut 

1845-1849, Senator 1857-1869. 

* Henry Nicoll, Representative from New York 1847-1849. 

^Albert Gallatin Brown, 1813-1880, Representative from Mis- 
sissippi 1839-1841, and 1848-1853, Senator 1853-1861. 



342 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Feb. 

Vt. There were also present Hon. George Evans 
of Maine, Hon. Daniel Jenifer of Md., Judge Ca- 
tron of the Supreme Court, Judge Patton & Mr. 
McCandles of Penn., Mr. O. Sullivan [O'Sullivan,] 
of N. Y., Thompson, N. Jersey. There were also 
eight or ten ladies. The Party was an exceedingly 
pleasant [one], & I was much gratified to have it in 
my power to pay this mark of respect to Mr. Clay. 

Thursday, lyth February, 1848. — A large num- 
ber of persons called this morning; among them many 
members of Congress. It was the same scene of 
office seeking which I have to endure every day. 
About 12 O'clock Madame Iturbide, the widow of 
the former Emperor ^ of Mexico of that name 
called. I saw her in the parlour. She was accom- 
panied by Miss White, the niece of the late Mrs. 
Gen'l Van Ness of this City. Madame Iturbide 
did not speak English, & Miss White interpreted for 
her. Her business was to see me on the subject of 
her pension from the Mexican Government, which 
had been granted to her on the death of her husband, 
and of which, in consequence of the existing war, 
she had been deprived. Her object was to have it 
reserved and paid to her out of the military contri- 
butions levied by our forces in Mexico. I gave her 

^ Augustin de Iturbidq, 1783-1824; he made himself Emperor 
of Mexico in 1822 but was forced to give way before the move- 
ment for a republic in 1823. He was shot by order of the Mexi- 
can government in 1824 for disregarding an order not to return 
within the h'mits of the Republic. His family established itself 
in Philadelphia, where the ex-Empress died in 1861. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 343 

no distinct answer, but told her I would see the Sec- 
retary of State on the subject & requested her to call 
on him on to-morrow. I do not see how I can grant 
her request. Upon the death of her husband she 
left Mexico and has been residing for the last 20 
years near Philadelphia, and has received her an- 
nual pension from Mexico during that period, until 
the breaking out of the present war, by which she has 
been deprived of it. She is an interesting person. 
One of her sons was a Major in the Mexican army, 
was recently taken prisoner, & [is] now in the U. S. 
on his parole of honour. 

I transacted much business on my table to-day. I 
called on the Sec. of War at his house. He is still 
sick, but is much better, and will, I hope, be able to 
resume the duties of his office in a day or two. I 
saw the Secretary of State on business. After night 
the Hon. Arnold Plumer, formerly a member of 
Congress from Penn., called & spent an hour 
with me. 

Friday, l8th February, 1848. — Saw company 
this morning as usual, and on the usual business, 
seeking office. The importunities for office have be- 
come so numerous and so unceasing that I at once 
form an unfavourable opinion of any man who enters 
my office & makes personal application to me. The 
members of Congress annoy me excessively with ap- 
plications for their constituents and friends, many 
of whom are loafers and are wholly unworthy. 
About 2 O'clock P. M. Mr. Buchanan called and 
brought with him a Telegraphic despatch which he 



344 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Feb. 

had just received, dated at Charleston, S. C, to-day. 
It was in cipher. The figures had been confused 
in the transmission and there was great difficulty in 
deciphering it. As well as it could be made out it 
was from Mr. Trist, though his name was not signed 
to it, announcing that he had arrived at Charleston 
from Mexico, with a Treaty which had been signed 
and ratified. It is not certain that this is the pre- 
cise substance but it is the best that can be made 
of the cipher. I submitted the letter of Maj'r 
Gen'l Pillow, addressed to the Secretary of War, to 
the perusal of Mr. Buchanan to-day (see this diary 
of the i6th Inst.). I transacted much business on 
my table to-day. This being reception evening, 
many persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, igth February, 1848. — Before the 
hour of meeting of the Cabinet this morning. Sen- 
ator Ashley of Ar., and the Hon. Mr. Rockwell 
of the Ho. Repts. from Connecticut, called and in- 
formed me that they were a committee to invite me to 
attend the birth-night ball on the 22nd of February 
Instant. I informed them that it would give me 
pleasure to attend. It has been usual for the Presi- 
dent to attend the Ball on this anniversary of the 
birth of Washington. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour; all present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury & Secretary of War, who are indisposed. Noth- 
ing of much importance was considered to-day. 
After a short sitting I rode in my carriage, accom- 
panied by Mr. Buchanan, to Mr. Walker's house 
and saw him on business. From Mr. Walker's we 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 345 

rode to Mr. Marcy's house and saw him on business. 
I found them both convalescent and hope they will 
be able in a short time to attend their respective De- 
partments, where they are much needed. After 
night a messenger arrived from Mexico bearing de- 
spatches from the army, and a Treaty of peace en- 
tered into on the 2nd Inst, by Mr. Trist with mexican 
plenipotentiaries appointed for that purpose. This 
messenger was Mr. Freanor, who has been with the 
army for some time in the capacity of a correspond- 
ent of the New Orleans Delta, over the signature of 
Mustang. About 9 O'Clock Mr. Buchanan called 
with the Treaty. He read it. Mr. Trist was re- 
called in October last, but chose to remain in Mexico 
and continue the negotiation. The terms of the 
Treaty are within his instructions which he took out 
in April last, upon the important question of bound- 
ary and limits. There are many provisions in it 
which will require more careful examination than a 
single reading will afford. Mr. Trist has acted very 
badly, as I have heretofore noted in this diary, but 
notwithstanding this, if on further examination the 
Treaty is one that can be accepted, it should not be 
rejected on account of his bad conduct. Mr. Bu- 
chanan left the Treaty with me. The same messen- 
ger (Mr. Freanor) who brought the Treaty was 
the bearer of despatches from Gen'l Scott. They 
are not important, except upon one point. One of 
his despatches is in answer to the letter of enquiry 
addressed to him in December, in relation to an al- 
ledged meeting of General officers at Puebla in July 
last, which had been published in certain newspapers 



346 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 Feb. 

in the U. S. & which purported to give an account of 
an arrangement to pay money to Santa Anna to in- 
duce him to make a Treaty. Gen'l Scott's answer 
is evasive, and leaves the irresistible inference that 
such a transaction took place and that it will not 
bear the light. Whatever it was it was wholly un- 
authorized, and probably led to the fatal armistice 
in August which enabled the enemy to re-inforce 
himself, and cost so many valuable lives in taking 
the City of Mexico. It must be further investigated. 
No transaction of this or any other kind should be 
permitted to take place in the army and be concealed 
from the Government. If it was confidential in 
Gen'l Scott's judgment, it should not be so to the 
Government. 

Sunday, 20th February, 1848. — The treaty with 
Mexico received last night was of so much impor- 
tance that I deemed it a public duty to give it a criti- 
cal examination to-day and I did so. Mr. Buchanan 
also examined it and made notes of its several articles. 
Mr. Mason, Mr. Johnson, and Mr. Clififord also 
read it, or rather it was read by one of them in the 
presence of the others. Much conversation was had 
on the subject. I deemed prompt action upon it so 
indispensible that I called a special meeting of the 
Cabinet for to-night at 7 O'Clock and sent my 
Private Secretary, Col. Walker, to see Mr. Walker 
& Mr. Marcy, to invite them, if they were able, 
to attend. At the appointed hour (7 O'Clock) 
all the members of the Cabinet were present. 
The Treaty was again read, and the question to be 



1848] JAxVIES K. POLK'S DIARY 347 

decided was stated, viz., whether the Treaty should 
be rejected by me or sent to the Senate for ratifica- 
tion. A free discussion ensued. I took the ad- 
vice of the Cabinet seperately and individually. 
Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker advised that I 
should reject it. Mr. Mason, Mr. Marcy, Mr. 
Johnson, and Mr. Clifford advised that 1 should ac- 
cept it and send it for ratification to the Senate. All 
agreed if it was sent to the Senate it should be with a 
recommendation that the loth article, which related 
to grants of land in Texas, and in the territories pro- 
posed to be ceded to the U. S., should be rejected. 
I reserved my opinion and requested the Cabinet to 
meet again at 12 O'Clock on to-morrow. All con- 
demned Mr. Trist's disregard of the orders of his 
Government, to return to the U. S. when he was re- 
called. 

Monday, 2Ist February, 1 848. — I saw no com- 
pany this morning. At 12 O'Clock the Cabinet met; 
all the members present. I made known my de- 
cision upon the Mexican Treaty, which was that un- 
der all the circumstances of the case, I would submit 
it [to] the Senate for ratification, with a recommen- 
dation to strike out the loth article. I assigned my 
reasons for my decision. They were, briefly, that 
the treaty conformed on the main question of limits 
& boundary to the instructions given to Mr. Trist in 
April last; and that though, if the treaty was now to 
be made, I should demand more territory, perhaps 
to make the Sierra Madra the line, yet it was doubt- 
ful whether this could be ever obtained by the con- 



348 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Feb. 

sent of Mexico. I looked, too, to the consequences 
of its rejection. A majority of one branch of Con- 
gress is opposed to my administration; they have 
falsely charged that the war was brought on and is 
continued by me with a view to the conquest of Mex- 
ico; and if I were now to reject a Treaty made upon 
my own terms, as authorized in April last, with the 
unanimous approbation of the Cabinet, the probabil- 
ity is that Congress would not grant either men or 
money to prosecute the war. Should this be the re- 
sult, the army now in Mexico would be constantly 
wasting and diminishing in numbers, and I might at 
last be compelled to withdraw them, and thus loose 
the two Provinces of New Mexico & Upper Cali- 
fornia, which were ceded to the U. S. by this Treaty. 
Should the opponents of my administration succeed 
in carrying the next Presidential election, the great 
probability is that the country would loose all the 
advantages secured by this Treaty. I adverted to 
the immense value of Upper California; and con- 
cluded by saying that if I were now to reject my own 
terms, as offered in April last, I did not see how it 
was possible for my administration to be sustained. 
Mr. Buchanan repeated his objections to the Treaty. 
He wanted more territory, and would not be con- 
tent with less than the line of the Sierra Madre, in 
addition to the Provinces secured in this Treaty. 
He admitted that the fact that Mr. Trist had been 
recalled before he signed the Treaty ought to have 
no influence upon the decision to be made. I 
deemed it to be my duty to remind Mr. Buchanan of 
his total change of opinion and position on the sub- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 349 

ject. I told him that I remembered well that at a 
Cabinet meeting which took place on the night of the 
day on which war was declared (13th of May, 1846) 
or about that time, he had been opposed to acquir- 
ing any Mexican territory. I told him that at that 
meeting he had prepared and read in Cabinet a cir- 
cular which he proposed to address, as Secretary of 
State, to our ministers and consuls abroad, author- 
izing them to inform the Governments at which 
they were accredited, that we did not desire or intend 
to acquire any Mexican territory, that our only de- 
sire or object was to protect Texas and secure in- 
demnity to our injured claimants (see this diary of 
that date for a more full statement). I told him 
that I had objected to his despatch, that a discussion 
took place which I supposed he and the Cabinet re- 
membered; & that I had written a paragraph at my 
table as a substitute for his ; & that at the close of that 
Cabinet meeting he had taken from the table his 
draft of his dispatch and the paragraph which I pre- 
pared with him, and the next day modified his de- 
spatch according to my instructions. I told him that 
up to last April he had been opposed to acquiring 
any territory, and that when the instructions were 
given to Mr. Trist in April, he had fully concurred 
in them. I told him I repeated these facts because it 
was proper that we should understand our relative 
positions on the subject, formerly and now. The rest 
of the Cabinet were silent. Mr. Buchanan replied 
that I might have gone further and added that he had 
been opposed to the military expedition to the City 
of Mexico (as I remember he was) but that he was 



350 JA^IES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Feb. 

overruled, that since April we had spent much 
money and lost much blood, and that he was not now 
satisfied with this Treaty. He added that he gave 
his advice as a member of the Cabinet that the Treaty 
should be rejected, because that was now his opinion. 
I cannot help laboring under the conviction that the 
true reason of Mr. Buchanan's present course is that 
he is now a candidate for the Presidency, and he does 
not wish to incur the displeasure of those who are in 
favour of the conquest of all Mexico. That he earn- 
estly wishes me to send the Treaty to the Senate 
against his advice, I am fully convinced, not from 
anything he has said, but from circumstances & his 
general bearing, I do not doubt. No candidate for 
the presidency ought ever to remain in the Cabinet. 
He is an unsafe adviser. My conversation with Mr. 
Buchanan was unpleasant to me, but I thought I 
ought to rebuke him, and let him understand that I 
understood the motive that governed him. He 
wished to throw the whole responsibility on me of 
sending the Treaty to the Senate. If it was received 
well by the country, being a member of my adminis- 
tration, he would not be injured by it in his Presi- 
dential aspirations, for these govern all his opinions 
& acts lately; but if, on the other hand, it should not 
be received well, he could say, " I advised against 
it." The Cabinet adjourned after a sitting of two 
or three hours. After night I prepared, with the as- 
sistance of Judge Mason, the rough draft of my mes- 
sage to the Senate to accompany the Treaty. 

I learned that the Hon. John Quincy Adams was 
suddenly stricken from his seat in the House of 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3S1 

Repts. by the hand of disease to-day. It was prob- 
ably a paralitic affection. He was borne from the 
Hall to the Speakers Room in a state of insensibility. 
Both Houses of Congress immediately upon the hap- 
pening of this melancholy event adjourned. At a 
late hour to-night Mr. Adams remained in a senseless 
state in the Speaker's Room of the Capitol. 

Note: The discussion between Mr. Buchanan & 
myself, as stated above, should have been inserted in 
yesterday's diary. The discussion took place at the 
meeting of the Cabinet last night. My Private Sec- 
retary, at my request, reduced the conversation as he 
understood it, to writing. I will preserve his state- 
ment. 

Tuesday, 22nd February, 1848. — This morning 
I saw Senator Sevier and submitted to him the Mex- 
ican Treaty, which I proposed to send to the Senate 
to-day. Mr. Sevier is chairman of the committee on 
Foreign affairs. The Cabinet met at the usual hour; 
all the members present. About i O'Clock P. M. 
My Private Secretary started to the Capitol with a 
Message to the Senate laying the Mexican Treaty 
before that body, for their consideration as regards its 
ratification. He returned in less than an hour and 
informed me that in consequence of the extreme ill- 
ness of Mr. Adams (who was still in a senseless state 
in the Speaker's room in the Capitol) [the Senate] 
had adjourned before he reached the Capitol. No 
business of much importance was considered in the 
Cabinet to day. In consequence of the illness of 
Mr. Adams I determined to decline attending the 



352 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Feb. 

birth night Ball to-night to which I had been invited 
on Saturday, and sent a message to that eftect to the 
committee who had waited upon me. Mr. Rock- 
well of Connecticut afterwards called and informed 
me that the Ball had been postponed. This was re- 
ception evening. But few persons called. Among 
them was the Hon. Henry Clay of Ky., w^ho called 
to pay his respects before leaving the City. He will 
leave to-morrow for Philadelphia. 

Wednesday, 23rd February, 1848. — I opened 
mv doors for the reception of company this morning. 
I had not received company for two or three days 
past. An unusual crowd of persons called, most of 
them on the old business of seeking office. My 
Private Secretary took my message ^ to the Senate 
with the Mexican Treaty to-day. He delivered it 
to the Senate, and informed me that the Senate went 
immediately into Executive Session to consider it. 
By this Treaty it is provided that upon its ratifica- 
tion by Mexico three millions of Dollars are to be 
paid, and as the loth article had been inserted with- 
out instructions, and could not be ratified by this 
Government, I determined that it was proper to 
transmit a despatch to MajV Gen'l Wm. O. Butler, 
who is now in command of the army in Mexico, in- 
structing him to prevent the payment of the money 
until the Treaty as it might be ratified by the Senate 
of the U. S. should be transmitted to Mexico and rat- 
ified by that Government. I saw the Secretary of 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 573. 
The treaty is printed in L'. S. Stat, at Large, IX, 922-944, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 353 

War and directed him to prepare such a despatch. 
Mr. Buchanan called and said that though opposed 
to the Treaty, if I wished it carried into effect, he 
advised me against sending such a despatch. I dif- 
fered with him in opinion and did not change my 
order. The Secretary of War and the Secretary of 
the Navy concurred with me in the propriety of 
sending such a despatch. Mr. Trist's recal[l] had 
revoked the authority to draw for the money, with 
which he had been invested when he went out in 
April last, but still I apprehended, judging from his 
insubordinate course heretofore, that he might as- 
sume the authority to draw for the money. If he 
should do so and the Mexican Government should 
refuse to ratify the Treaty as amended or modified 
here, the money w^ould be lost. Gen'l Butler will be 
instructed in the despatch to prevent Trist from do- 
ing this, and to inform the Mexican Government 
that he (Gen'l Butler) has been clothed with the 
authority to draw for and pay the money as soon as 
the Treaty as it may be ratified by the U. S. shall be 
ratified by Mexico. 

Mr. Buchanan seemed to-day to be in a bad mood, 
and wore the appearance of being troubled. He at 
length remarked to me that it was rumoured in the 
streets that he was to be removed from the Cabinet 
on account of the supposed countenance given by him 
to the correspondent of the New York Herald, whose 
letters lately had been very abusive of myself. The 
writer of these letters is a fellow w^ithout character 
or responsibility, named Nugent. He signs him- 
self Galvienses. I told Mr. Buchanan there was no 



354 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2^ Feb. 

truth in the rumour about his being dismissed from 
the Cabinet, but I must be frank with him and say- 
that I had learned from more than one person that 
the writer of these letters, which I had understood 
were very abusive of me, was in his confidence, that 
he was often seen about his Department, and some 
of the members of Congress, from this circumstance, 
attributed his vile effusions to him, Mr. Buchanan, 
but that I had not believed it. Mr. Buchanan said 
that he had held frequent conversations with Mr. 
Nugent, the correspondent of the Herald, with a view 
to secure the support of the Herald to the Mexican 
War, and that he had requested him not to abuse me 
in his letters. He said if I wished it he would direct 
him not to come to his Department any more, and 
would hold no further intercourse with him. I re- 
marked to him in a stern manner he must judge of 
the propriety of his own conduct & [I had] no re- 
quest to make, but that it presented a very singular 
appearance that a member of my Cabinet should be 
holding familiar intercourse w^ith an unprincipled 
newspaper letter-writer who was in the daily habit 
of calumniating and abusing me, and that after ex- 
pressing this opinion to him he could take his own 
course. I have read but few of the letters of Gal- 
vienses. Two or three of them have been called to 
my attention which contained calumnies of me. 
Their object seems to be to abuse Gen'l Cass, Mr. 
Woodbury, and myself, and to praise Mr. Buchanan. 
The[y] falsely represent that I am intriguing to 
obtain the nomination for a re-election to the Presi- 
dency. The truth is, I have no doubt, though I 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 3SS 

cannot prove it, that Mr. Buchanan has become ap- 
prehensive that in the contest for the nomination be- 
tween Gen'l Cass, Mr. Woodbury, and himself the 
Democratic party may ultimately be forced to look 
to me for a re-election. He knows that I have no 
such views & that I have constantly declared to all 
who have introduced the subject to me that I would 
retire at the end of a single term, but notwithstanding 
this he fears that a state of things might arise in which 
the party might require me against my will to be 
placed before the country for re-election. That he 
has been willing to see Galvienses assail me, until he 
has become alarmed at the impression which is be- 
ing made upon many members of Congress and 
others, that he has given his countenance to it, I have 
no doubt. If I obtain any reliable proof that Mr. 
Buchanan has given countenance to Galvienses he 
shall not remain in the Cabinet. He denies that he 
has done so, and I am bound to believe him. Shortly 
after Mr. Buchanan held this conversation with me 
Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, called 
and introduced the same subject, and said he had 
heard Mr. Buchanan tell Mr. Nugent, the author 
of Galvienses, that he ought not to abuse me. I sup- 
pose Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker had conversed 
together on the subject before either called. I ex- 
pressed myself to Mr. Walker in substance as I had 
to Mr. Walker [Buchanan]. Mr. Walker said that 
he had understood that it had been said that he was 
in habits of intercourse with Mr. Nugent. I told 
him I had never heard this. He said he had refused 
to have any intercourse with him, & had, within a 



356 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Fer 

day or two past, received an insulting note from him. 
1 learned from my porter to-night that the Hon. 
John Quincy Adams died in the Speaker's Room in 
the Capitol a few minutes past 7 O'Clock this even- 
ing. Mr. Adams was struck down with a paralitic 
affection w^hile in his seat in the House of Repre- 
sentatives on monday, the 21st Instant. He was 
borne to the Speaker's room, where he remained 
speechless and in a state of insensibility until his 
death this evening. The Ho. Repts has met & ad- 
journed each day since he was taken ill, without trans- 
acting any business. 

Thursday, 24th February, 1848. — In testimony 
of respect for the memory of the Hon. John Quincy 
Adams, who died at the Capitol last evening, I issued 
an order this morning directing all the Executive 
Offices at Washington to be placed in mourning, & 
all business to be suspended during this day and to- 
morrow. Under this order the President's Mansion 
was placed in mourning by putting black crape over 
the front door. Orders were also given through the 
Secretaries of War & the Navy to cause the melan- 
choly event to be observed with appropriate solem- 
nity by the army and navy. Mr. Adams died in the 
8ist year of his age. He had been more than half a 
century in the public service, had filled many high 
stations, and among them that of President of the U. 
States. He was the sixth President under the Con- 
stitution. The first seven Presidents are all now 
dead. The ninth President is also dead. Mr. Van 
Buren who was the eighth President and Mr. Tyler, 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 357 

who succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of 
President Harrison, are the only two of my prede- 
cessors who now survive. I am the tenth President 
elected by the people. Mr. Tyler was elected Vice 
President and became President when Gen'l Harri- 
son died. So that I am the tenth President elected 
by the people & the eleventh President who his ad- 
ministered the Government from 1789 to this time, a 
period of Fifty nine years. 

The Secretary of War finished his despatch to 
Maj'r Gen'l Wm. O. Butler which I directed to be 
prepared on yesterday. He brought it over to-day 
and read it to me. Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker, and 
Mr. Mason were present. Some modifications were 
suggested & made. Mr. Buchanan handed to me two 
dispatches from Mr. Trist, one dated Deer. 29th, 
1847, and the other Jany. 12th, 1848, which he stated 
Mr. Freanor, the bearer of the Treaty from Mexico, 
had not delivered to him until this morning. Mr. 
Freanor's apology for the delay in delivering them 
w^as that they were placed in a different part of his 
baggage from that in which he carried the Treaty, 
and had been overlooked by him until this morning. 
After the members of the Cabinet retired I read these 
despatches, and found them to be arrogant, highly 
exceptionable, & even of an insulting character. I 
immediately sent for the Secretary of War and in- 
formed him that I wished him to add a paragraph 
to his despatch to Gen'l Butler, directing him, if 
Trist should attempt to exercise any official author- 
ity in Mexico, to prevent it, and to require him to 
leave the Head Quarters of the army as soon as a safe 



3s8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Feb. 

escort could be furnished to conduct him to Vera 
Cruz. Trist has proved himself to be an impudent 
and unqualified scoundrel. The Secretary of War 
hesitated about inserting the paragraph, and said if, 
after thinking of it to-night I still thought it proper, 
it could go in a seperate despatch to-morrow and 
could overtake the bearer of despatches at New Or- 
leans. To this I assented with some reluctance. 
I saw Mr. Freanor, who brought the Treaty from 
Mexico, to-night. He will leave as the bearer of the 
despatch of the Secretary of War to Gen'l Butler, by 
the Southern Boat to-morrow morning. 

Senator Cass called to see me this afternoon and 
had some conversation with me about the Treaty and 
some other matters. 

Friday, 2jth February, 1 848. — I did not open 
my doors for the reception of company to-day. In 
respect for the memory of Mr. Adams, whose funeral 
will take place on to-morrow, all the Executive offices 
were closed to-day. A number of Senators and Rep- 
resentatives called in in a quiet way. Half a dozen 
gentlemen from the City of New York, accompanied 
by the Hon. Mr. Tallmadge of the Ho. Repts., made 
a special request through my Private Secretary to be 
allowed to come in and pay their respects to me. 
They had no other business and I saw them. The 
Hon. Mr. Barringer of N. C. & the Hon. Mr. Kauf- 
man of Texas, both of the Ho. Repts., called as a 
committee to invite me to attend the funeral of Mr. 
Adams on to-morrow. Mr. Clifford, the atto. Gen'l 
[of the] U. S. called on business. In the course of 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 359 

conversation he informed me that after the Cabinet 
broke up on Monday last he had a conversation with 
Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker, from which he had 
serious apprehensions that they would both resign 
their seats in the Cabinet. He said if one had re- 
signed both would. He said that Mr. Buchanan had 
accompanied him to his office and had conversed 
with him an hour on the subject. I told him there 
was no danger of such a result, and then told him of 
the conversation which Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Walker 
had held with me concerning the correspondent (Nu- 
gent) over the signature of Galvienses in the New 
York Herald (see this diary of Wednesday, 23rd 
Inst.). I told Mr. Clifford that I wished no rup- 
ture in my Cabinet, but that I must pursue my own 
convictions and do my duty regardless of conse- 
quences. I remarked freely to him of Mr. Bu- 
chanan's inconsistent course on the Mexican Ques- 
tion, an inconsistency only equally [equalled] by his 
course on the Oregon Question. I expressed to Mr. 
Clifford an indifference as to the course which Mr. 
Buchanan might think proper to pursue, but told him 
there was not the slightest danger of his resigning. I 
was surprised to hear that Mr. Walker had held any 
such conversation. Mr. Clifford requested me not 
to mention to any one what he had told me, & I told 
him I would not. Mr. Buchanan's real trouble is 
that he cannot use my administration and shape his 
course according to his own ever varying whims, in 
order to promote his aspirations to the Presidency. 
He cares nothing for the success or glory of my ad- 
ministration further than he can make it subservient 



36o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY {zi Fer 

to his own political aspirations. I sent for Mr. 
Marcy & Mason to-day and with their assistance a 
despatch was prepared to Genl Butler, such as I 
wished the Secretary of War to insert in his despatch 
of yesterday, in relation to Mr. Trist. Indeed it was 
made stronger than that I had suggested on yester- 
day, and Gen'l Butler was directed to require Mr. 
Trist to leave the Head Quarters of the army, and to 
furnish him an escort to Vera Cruz. Mr. Mason 
fully approved of it. Mr. Marcy expressed no opin- 
ion, but made some suggestions and prepared a par- 
agraph in preparing it. When it was completed I 
told Mr. Marcy I had directed this despatch and was 
willing to take the whole responsibility. I told him 
to take it to his Department, have it copied, and send 
the copy over to me, and that I would examine it 
again and would address a note to him directing him 
to send it forward, which note he could place on the 
files of the Department as evidence that he had sent 
it at my special direction and that I was responsible 
for it. Mr. Marcy and Mr. Mason retired and I 
sent for Mr. Buchanan and informed him what I had 
done, & that after reading the two insulting and 
highly exceptionable despatches of Mr. Trist which 
he had handed to me on yesterday I felt it to be my 
duty to the country and to myself to take this course. 
He said he could not object to my course, & that after 
receiving these despatches he approved of what I 
had done He appeared to be in a better temper than 
he has been for several days past. He retired & I 
went to dinner. After dinner I received the de- 
spatch, copied by Mr. Marcy and ready for his sig- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 361 

nature. I addressed a note to him approving it and 
directing him to send it forward. In order to save 
a day by the mail which goes round by Baltimore & 
the Bay, a special messenger was sent by the South- 
ern Boat with directions to have it mailed at Peters- 
burg, Va. It will probably reach New Orleans be- 
fore Mr. Freanor, the bearer of despatches, who left 
last night for Mexico, will leave the former City. I 
have thus done to-day what I thought ought to have 
been done on yesterday. I sent for Senator Douglass 
to-night and had a conversation with him about the 
Mexican Treaty. Mr. Johnson, the P. M. Gen'l, 
came in while we were conversing on the subject. 
After Mr. Douglass left Mr. Johnson expressed the 
opinion that the Treaty was in great danger, from 
what he had learned, of being rejected. He stated, 
among other things, that it was believed in the City 
that Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker were exerting 
their influence to have it rejected. He mentioned 
another astounding fact to me, viz.^ that it was re- 
ported and believed that Mr. Walker, the Secretary 
of the Treasury, had joined in a letter to Gen'l Tay- 
lor on the subject of the tarifif and the Constitutional 
Treasury, and that Mr. Walker was in favour of 
Gen'l Taylor for the Presidency. If this be so, it 
presents the singular spectacle of a member of my 
Cabinet supporting a Whig and an opponent of my 
administration as my successor. If I ascertain this 
to be the fact it will be inconsistent with the success 
of my measures for Mr. Walker to remain in my 
Cabinet. I will require strong proof however be- 
fore I can believe it to be true. The truth is that the 



362 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Feb. 

scheming and intriguing about the Presidential elec- 
tion, and especially by Mr. Buchanan, is seriously 
embarrassing my administration. 

Saturday, 26th February, 1848. — This being the 
day appointed by the two Houses of Congress for 
performing the funeral ceremonies of the late John 
Quincy Adams, the Cabinet assembled at the Presi- 
dent's Mansion at 1 1^ O'Clock A. M. and proceeded 
with me to the Capitol. On reaching the Hall of 
the House of Representatives I was conducted to a 
seat provided for me on the right of the Speaker, the 
cabinet occupying seats on the floor of the House. 
On similar occasions heretofore the President has 
been seated on the floor with the Cabinet. I of 
course conformed to the order of arrangements which 
had been made by the Speaker, & took my seat on his 
right. The Vice President of the U. S. was seated on 
the left of the Speaker. An immense crowd attended 
at the Capitol, many more than could gain admit- 
tance to the Hall of the House. Every seat was oc- 
cupied. In addition to the members of both Houses 
of Congress, the Judges of the Supreme Court of the 
U. S., the officers of the army & navy in uniform. 
Foreign ministers, most of them in their Court 
dresses, and a vast multitude of citizens and strangers 
were present. The galleries as well as the floor were 
crowded with ladies & gentlemen. Mrs. Polk, Mrs. 
Madison, Mrs. Dallas, and many other ladies occu- 
pied the ladies' gallery. The family of the deceased 
were on the floor. The corpse was brought into the 
Hall. Divine service was performed by the Rev. 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 363 

Mr. Gurley, the chaplain of the Ho. Repts. The 
service being over, a long procession of carriages, 
persons on horseback & on foot, of military, the order 
of Odd Fellows, the fire companies, & citizens moved 
with the corpse to the Congressional Burying ground, 
where further religious ceremonies were performed 
& the body deposited in a vault, where, I understand, 
it will remain a few days, when it will be removed to 
the late residence of the deceased in Massachusetts. 
It was the most numerous funeral procession I ever 
witnessed. The whole ceremonies were conducted 
with order and solemnity. It was a splendid pag- 
eant. I returned to the President's mansion about 4 
O'clock P. M. I transacted no business in my office 
of any importance to-day. 

Sunday, 2'/th February, 1 848. — I attended Di- 
vine worship at the Capitol to-day accompanied 
by Mrs. Polk, Mrs. Walker, and my nephew, Mar- 
shall T. Polk. The Rev. Dr. Matthews of New 
York performed the service. He preached a learned 
& able sermon. 

Monday, 28th February, 1 848. — A large num- 
ber of visitors called this morning. For several days 
the latter part of last week I did not open my doors 
for the reception of company generally, in conse- 
quence of the death of Mr. Adams. The conse- 
quence was that the office-seekers were numer- 
ous & very hungry this morning. Near 12 
O'clock Senator Sevier called and informed me 
that the committee of Foreign affairs of the Senate, 



364 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Feb. 

of which he is Chairman, and to which the Mexican 
Treaty had been referred, had held a meeting this 
morning and had resolved to recommend the rejec- 
tion of the Treaty by the Senate, & to advise the Ex- 
ecutive to appoint an imposing commission to be 
composed of three or five persons belonging to both 
political parties, to proceed to Mexico to negotiate 
a Treaty. Mr. Sevier informed me that he stood 
alone in the committee opposed to this course. The 
other members of the Committee are Senators Web- 
ster, Benton, Mangum, and Hannegan. Mr. Sevier 
said they did not object to the terms of the Treaty, 
with the modifications I had recommended in its rat- 
ification, but to Mr. Trist's authority to make it after 
his recall as commissioner. Mr. Sevier informed 
me that he had waited on me, with the knowledge of 
the committee, to inform me of what had been done, 
and to ascertain my views on the subject with a view 
to communicate them to the committee and to the 
Senate. He informed me also that both Mr. Web- 
ster and Mr. Benton had requested him to say to me 
that it would be well for me to be casting about for 
the commissioners, that the commission should be 
composed of distinguished men of both political par- 
ties, who should be appointed immediately after the 
action of the Senate should take place, and proceed 
forthwith to Mexico. I remarked to Mr. Sevier 
that the course proposed was an extraordinary pro- 
ceeding, and one which I could not approve. I told 
him that if he deemed it necessary to say anything, 
as coming from me, to the committee or to the Senate, 
it would be that upon full deliberation I had sub- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 365 

mitted the Treaty to the Senate with my recommen- 
dation that with certain modifications it should be 
ratified, and that I had not changed my opinion; but 
that, if the Senate chose to recommend a different 
course, I would co-operate with them as far as in my 
judgment the public interests would permit. I told 
him I condemned the insubordinate & insolent con- 
duct of Mr. Trist, but that the Treaty itself was the 
subject for consideration and not his conduct, and 
that if the provisions of the Treaty were such as could 
be accepted, it would be worse than an idle ceremony 
to send out a grand commission to re-negotiate the 
same Treaty. I told him, also, that if the Senate ad- 
vised me to send out such a commission, I hoped they 
would advise me also what terms they would accept. 
I consider the course of the committee of the Senate 
weak, if not factious, and cannot doubt that the ob- 
ject of Mr. Webster is to defeat any Treaty, clamor- 
ous as the Whig party profess to be for peace, until 
after the next Presidential election. Indeed, Mr. 
Sevier informed me that Mr. Webster said he wanted 
no territory beyond the Rio Grande, and that he said 
also that if he voted for this Treaty and Mexico 
should not ratify it, he would be bound to vote for 
men and money to carry on the War, a position which 
he did not wish to occupy. I do not wonder at his 
course, but I am suprised at that of Mr. Hannegan 
and xMr. Benton. Extremes sometimes meet and act 
effectively for negative purposes, but never for af- 
firmative purposes. They have done so in this in- 
stance. Mr. Webster is for no territory and Mr. 
Hannegan is for all Mexico, and for opposite rea- 



366 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Feb, 

sons both will oppose the Treaty. It is difficult, 
upon any rational principle, to assign a satisfactory 
reason for anything Col. Benton may do, especially 
in his present temper of mind, wholly engrossed as 
he seems to have been for some months past with the 
case of his son-in-law, Col. Fremont. The truth is 
the approaching Presidential election absorbs every 
other consideration, and Senators act as if there was 
no country and no public interests to take care of. 
The factions are all at work, and votes are controlled, 
even upon a vital question of peace or war, by the 
supposed effect upon the public mind. If the Treaty 
in its present form is ratified, there will be added to 
the U. S. an immense empire, the value of which 20 
years hence it would be difficult to calculate, & yet 
Democratic and Whig Senators disregard this, and 
act solely with the view to the elevation of themselves 
or their favourites to the Presidential office. In the 
course of the day I saw Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Walker, 
Mr. Mason, & Mr. Clifford, and informed them of 
the information I had received from Senator Sevier. 
They all disapproved the course of the committee of 
Foreign affairs of the Senate, & I was happy to learn 
from the two former, who had opposed my sending 
the Treaty to the Senate, that they were utterly op- 
posed to its rejection & sending a fresh commission 
to Mexico to do the same thing. Mr. Walker was 
excited, and thought the object of Mr. Webster was 
to defeat the acquisition of any territory. Mr. Bu- 
chanan and Mr. Walker left my office after night to 
visit Senators & urge them to vote against the project 
of [a] new commission to Mexico. 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 367 

I received to-night two Resolutions from the Sen- 
ate, calling for information and for all the corres- 
pondence with Mr. Trist. Much of this correspond- 
ence, and especially the letters of Mr. Trist after his 
recall, are impertinent, irrelevant, & highly excep- 
tionable, but I resolved to send it all in to the Sen- 
ate, and prepared a message to-night to that eflfect. 

Tuesday, 2gt}i February, 1848. — I saw a few per- 
sons who called this morning, and among them Sen- 
ators Sevier & Bagby, with whom I conversed about 
the Mexican Treaty. I prepared or rather revised 
my message ^ in answer to the call of the Senate made 
on yesterday. In order to save time in preparing 
copies, I sent to the Senate Mr. Trist's original let- 
ters. The Cabinet met at the usual time; all the 
members present except the Secretary of the Treas- 
ury. In the afternoon I learned that the mexican 
Treaty had been under discussion in Executive Ses- 
sion in the Senate, and that its fate was doubtful. 
From what I learn, about a dozen democratic Sen- 
ators will oppose it, most of them because they wish 
to acquire more territory than the line of the Rio 
Grande and the Provinces of New Mexico & Upper 
California will secure. What Mr. Benton's reason 
for opposing it may be no one can tell. He has here- 
tofore maintained that the true boundary of Texas 
was the Nueces instead of the Rio Grande, & he is 
apt to think that nothing is done properly that he is 
not previously consulted about. Mr. Webster['s] 
reason for opposing it is that it acquires too much ter- 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 574. 



368 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i Mar. 

ritory. The result is extremely doubtful. If 8 or 
10 Whig Senators vote with Mr. Webster against it, 
it will be rejected. Nineteen Senators will consti- 
tute one third of that body, and will reject it. I was 
much occupied in my ofUce to-day. 

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

Wednesday, ist March, 1848. — Many persons 
called this morning; and among them several Sen- 
ators who washed to confer with me about the Mex- 
ican Treaty. Among them w^ere Senators Cass, 
Sevier, Downes, & Bagby. They all regarded the 
fate of the Treaty as very doubtful. At 12 O'Clock 
the Secretary of War called, and I spent two or three 
hours with him in filling vacancies in the army. I 
will send a message with the names of those selected 
to the Senate to-morrow. While thus engaged Mr. 
Corcoran of the Banking house of Corcoran & Riggs 
called & informed us that he said [had] just seen 
Mr. Gales, ^ the Editor of the Intelligencer, who in- 
formed him that he had been sent for by Whig Sen- 
ators to the Capitol this morning, & requested to pre- 
pare an article for his paper against the Mexican 
Treat}^, and that being in favour of the Treaty he had 
declined to do so. Mr. Corcoran said Mr. Gales 
had informed him also that the Whig Senators had 
held a caucus on the subject this morning. Mr. 
Corcoran thought the body of the Whig Senators 
would vote against the Treaty and that it would be 

^Joseph Gales, 1 786-1 860, of the firm of Gales and Seaton, 
proprietors of the National Intelligencer. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 369 

rejected. After night Senator Cass called, who 
thought from the indications in the Senate to-day 
the fate of the Treaty was extremely doubtful. After 
he retired Senator Moore ^ of Maine, called, who 
was also of opinion that its fate was doubtful. Mr. 
Osma, the Minister from Peru, called at i O'Clock 
to-day in pursuance of a previous arrangement, & 
had an audience with me, at which he delivered to 
me his letter of recall by his Government, having 
been transferred to another service. I received him 
in the parlour. 

Thursday, 2nd March, 1848. — Many persons 
called this morning and among them several mem- 
bers of Congress. I closed my doors. I sent two 
messages to the Senate to-day; one in answer to a 
call for the correspondence of Mr. Wise, late U. S. 
Minister to Brazil, in relation to the slave trade; and 
another in answer to a call made in Executive Ses- 
sion for information in regard to any disposition or 
overtures on the part of any considerable portion of 
the Mexican people to become annexed to the U. 
States. The Secretary of War called and I resumed 
with him the business left unfinished on yesterday, 
relating to appointments to fill vacancies in the army. 
The mexican Treaty is still under consideration in 
the Senate. I saw Senator Tiirney this morning, and 
am inclined to think he will vote for the ratification 
of the Treaty. The prospect now is that it may be 
ratified, but by a very close vote. I disposed of busi- 

^Wyman Bradbury Sevey Moor, 1814-1869, appointed to the 
Senate from Maine on the death of Senator Fairfield. 



370 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 Mar. 



ness on my table as usual to-day. In pursuance of 
previous notice all the parlours of the Presidential 
mansion were opened and lighted up for the recep- 
tion of company this evening. The snow had been 
falling during the whole day, and the evening was 
very inclement; but notwithstanding this, many hun- 
dreds of persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. In- 
deed, the drawing room was as well attended as is 
usual on such occasions. 

Friday, 3rd March, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning, x^mong others several Senators 
called. The probabilities now are that the Mexican 
Treaty will be ratified, though the vote will prob- 
ably be close. Nineteen Senators constitute one third 
of the body and can prevent its ratification. Mr. 
Benton and Mr. Webster are the leading opponents 
of the Treaty. Eight or ten, perhaps twelve Dem- 
ocratic Senators, it is said, will act with Mr. Benton; 
and six or eight Whig Senators with Mr. Webster. 
Most of the Democratic Senators who will vote 
against the ratification will do so because they de- 
sire to secure more territory than the Treaty acquires ; 
and most of the Whig Senators, perhaps all of them, 
who will vote against the ratification, will do so be- 
cause they are opposed to acquiring any territory. 
My suspicion is that if the Whig party in the Senate 
shall ascertain that a sufficient number of Democratic 
Senators will vote against the Treaty to constitute a 
majority of the nineteen required to reject. Whig 
Senators enough will join with them, and then at- 
tempt to cast the responsibility of the rejection upon 



1848] JAxVIES K. POLK'S DIARY 371 

the Democratic party. The Whig Senators who 
have been so long denouncing the War and clamour- 
ing for peace would, notwithstanding this, like to see 
the Treaty rejected, provided they can throw the re- 
sponsibility upon the Democratic party. If the 
Democratic party were united in favour of the 
Treaty, I doubt whether a single Whig would vote 
against it. I repeat the remark I have heretofore 
made, that the Presidential election has too much to 
do with the question of the ratification of the Treaty. 
More Senators than one will probably give their 
votes in reference to the probable efifect upon the elec- 
tion. It is deeply to be regretted that the best 
interests of the country should be affected by such 
considerations. I attended to-day to much current 
business on my table. 

This day closes my third year in the Presidential 
office. They have been years of incessant labour, 
anxiety, & responsibility. 

Saturday, 4th March, 1848. — I saw several Sen- 
ators and Representatives before the hour of the 
meeting of the Cabinet this morning. The Cab- 
inet met at the usual hour; all the members 
present. Several matters of minor importance wxre 
disposed of. The [Cabinet] dispersed about 2 
O'clock P. M. I disposed of the business on my 
table as usual. I learn to-night that the Senate have 
not yet disposed of the Mexican Treaty-. I learn, 
also, that it is doubtful whether it will be ratified. 

Stephen C. Parrott[?], Esqr., took a family Din- 
ner with me to-day. 



n2 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 Mar. 

Sunday, 5/A March, 1848. — I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and my nephew, Marshall T. Polk. 

Monday, 6th March, 1848. — Many persons 
called this morning, most of them to pay their re- 
spects, but some of them as usual to seek ofBce. I 
saw the Secretaries of State, War, & Navy on busi- 
ness. I transacted business in my ofRce as usual. 
Nothing of special interest transpired to-day. I 
learn to-night that the Senate had a long Session with 
closed doors on the Mexican Treaty to-day, but with- 
out coming to any decision. The opinion of Senator 
Rusk, who called to-night, is that the Treaty will be 
certainly ratified. 

Tuesday, yth March, 1848. — I saw several Sen- 
ators this morning, and conferred with them on the 
subject of the Mexican Treaty now before the Sen- 
ate. They were of opinion that it would be ratified. 
The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the members 
present except the Attorney General, who was offi- 
cially engaged in the Supreme Court of the U. S. 
In view of the probability that the Mexican Treaty 
would be ratified in a day or two, I informed the 
Cabinet that I deemed it important to despatch a 
commissioner to Mexico with it without delay, with 
the view to procure its ratification by Mexico with 
the modifications made by the Senate. In this all 
concurred. A free conversation then occurred in 
which I requested the advice of the Cabinet as to the 
person proper to be selected. Several prominent 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 373 

public men were spoken of. I expressed the opinion 
that the Hon. Louis McLane of Maryland was emmi- 
nently qualified, and from his character and great 
experience in diplomacy I would prefer him to any 
other. In this the Cabinet, except Mr. Buchanan, 
concurred. Mr. Buchanan preferred some one who 
spoke the Spanish language, and had objections to 
Mr. McLane on other grounds. I finally decided to 
tender the mission to Mr. McLane. I sent my 
Private Secretary to the Capitol to invite the Hon. 
Robert M. McLane of the Ho. Repts., and the son 
of the Hon. Louis McLane, to call and see me. He 
called about 3 O'Clock P. M., the Cabinet having 
adjourned, and I informed him of my desire to have 
the services of his father as commissioner to Mexico. 
I gave him my reasons for selecting his father, and at 
my request he agreed to go to Baltimore to-night and 
in my name to tender the mission to his father. He 
said he would return from Baltimore in the night- 
train of cars and bring me his father's answer on to- 
morrow morning. 

In the Cabinet to-day Mr. Buchanan read an ap- 
plication from an agent of the Department of Yuca- 
tan in Mexico, setting forth that a savage and cruel 
war was now waging by the Indians of Yucatan 
against the white race, and as Yucatan now oc- 
cupied a neutral attitude in the Mexican War, re- 
questing that the U. S. would afford assistance to the 
white population to save them from destruction; and 
with this view that permission should be granted to 
a vessel now lading in New York to take out and 
land in Yucatan 10,000 lbs. of powder, to enable the 



374 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [7 Mae. 



white race to defend themselves against the Indians. 
Mr. Buchanan earnestly urged that the permission 
be granted upon grounds of humanity, & such seemed 
to be the impression of Mr. Walker. I stated to Mr. 
Buchanan that giving due weight to considerations 
of humanity which he urged, it was yet not to be over- 
looked that Yucatan was an integral part of the Re- 
public of Mexico, with which we were at War; and 
that it might be that the powder proposed to be in- 
troduced into Yucatan might be transported to other 
parts of Mexico and be used in the war against the 
forces of the U. S. In this view the Secretary of War 
expressed his concurrence. Mr. Buchanan appeared 
to be much dis[s]atisfied with my opinion, became 
silent, removed his seat to one of the windows of my 
office, and with his back turned towards me appeared 
for some time to be looking out of the window. He 
sometimes becomes petulant when his views are 
thwarted. I continued the conversation with the 
other members of the Cabinet; and finally agreed 
that the vessel in New York might proceed to sea 
with the powder on board without incurring the risk 
of the forfeiture of the remainder of the cargo, and 
upon her arrival on the coast of Yucatan should re- 
port to Commodore Perry, or the naval officer high- 
est in command on that coast, to whom a discretionary 
power should be given by the Secretary of the Navy 
to permit the powder to be landed provided he was 
well satisfied that it could not [be] used by our enemy 
against our forces, but would be used by the white 
race to repel the attacks of the Indians upon them. 
It was understood that orders to this effect would be 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 375 

given. This was reception evening. A large num- 
ber of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. I learned 
from Several Senators who were present that the Sen- 
ate continued in Session to-day until 7J/2 O'Clock 
P. M., and that no final action had been had on the 
Mexican Treaty. 

Wednesday, 8th March, 1848. — I saw company 
this morning as usual. A large number of persons 
called. Hon. Robt. M. McLane, who had gone to 
Baltimore last evening with authority from me to 
tender the mission to Mexico to his father, Hon. 
Louis McLane, with a view to secure the ratification 
of the Mexican Treaty by that Government (see this 
diary of yesterday) returned this morning and in- 
formed me that his father (the Hon. Louis McLane) 
in consequence of the declining health of Mrs. Mc- 
Lane would be compelled to decline accepting. He 
delivered to me a letter on the subject from his 
father. I regret that I cannot avail myself of the 
services of so able a man and am wholly at a loss to 
know whom to select. 

About 2 O'clock P. M. I received two Resolutions 
passed by the Senate in Executive Session, calling for 
additional information on the subject of the Mexican 
Treaty. I promptly answered them and sent mes- 
sages to the Senate in reply. I was much engaged in 
my office during the day. After night Mr. Dickens, 
the Secretary of the Senate, called and informed me 
that the Senate had adjourned at a late hour without 
having come to any final decision on the subject of 
the Mexican Treaty. Mr. Dickens informed me that 



376 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 Mar. 

the general opinion was that the Treaty would be rat- 
ified with amendments on to-morrow. Mr. Walker, 
the Secretary of the Treasury, called after night and 
informed me that the bids for the loan of about five 
millions of Dollars in Treasury notes to be re-issued 
had been opened this afternoon, & that the whole sum 
had been taken at a premium of between i & 2 per 
cent. I saw the Secretary of War, State, Navy, & 
the atto. General at different periods of the day on 
official business. 

Thursday, gth March, 1848. — Saw company as 
usual this morning. Many persons, members of 
Congress and others, called, and I was much impor- 
tuned about offices. I [was] not able to close my 
doors before i O'Clock P. M. I attended to much 
business which had accumulated on my table. After 
night Senator Sevier, chairman of the committee of 
Foreign afifairs in the Senate, called & informed me 
that no final action had been had on the Mexican 
Treaty. Several important modifications have been 
made to it, and I fear they are of such a character as 
to jeopard its ratification by Mexico. There is every 
reason to believe that the body of the Whig Senators 
desire its rejection, but fear to take the responsibility 
of effecting their object by a direct vote. They de- 
sire to effect its rejection indirectly, by putting it in 
such a form that Mexico will not ratify it. Unfor- 
tunately a few Democratic Senators are impractic- 
able, and the manifest effort of the Whig Senators is 
to throw the responsibility of its final rejection upon 
them. This is Senator Sevier's opinion. The treaty 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 377 

will probably be ratified in a modified form, but in 
such a form that there is great danger that it will not 
be accepted by Mexico, and in that event the War 
must go on. The course of the Senate and their 
long delay on the subject is extremely embarrassing. 
Should the Treaty be ratified I am greatly at a loss 
for a suitable commissioner to send to Mexico with 
it; & my present impression is that I will entrust it 
to Gen'l Butler and perhaps associate with him Gen'l 
Gushing & Brevet Brig. Gen'l Persifer Smith. This 
I will decide hereafter. 

Friday, lOth March, 1848, — I received company 
as usual this morning. Many persons, members of 
Congress and others, called. I transacted business 
with some of the members of the Cabinet & other 
public officers, & disposed of the business on my table. 
This was reception evening. A number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. About 10 O'Clock 
P. M. Mr. Dickens, the Secretary of the Senate, 
brought me official notice that the Mexican Treaty 
had just been ratified by the Senate by a vote of 38 
ayes to 14 nays, four Senators not voting. I imme- 
diately retired from the parlour to my office & sent 
for the Secretary of War, with a view to have a mes- 
senger despatched to Gen'l Butler in Mexico, to 
carry intelligence to him that the Treaty with Mex- 
ico had been ratified by the Senate of the U. S., with 
certain amendments, and that it would be sent out by 
a commissioner invested with plenipotentiary powers 
in the course of four or five days. The Secretary of 
War informed me that the clerks had left his office. 



378 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [n Mar. 

and that he could not have copies of a despatch which 
he had prepared for Gen'l Butler made to-night, in 
time for the bearer of them to set out to-night. The 
departure of the messenger was therefore postponed 
until to-morrow night. The Senate have so modified 
the Treaty that I fear it will not be ratified by Mex- 
ico. 

Saturday, nth March, 1848. — I received a few 
persons who called on business this morning. The 
Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the members pres- 
ent. I informed the Cabinet that a special messenger 
would set out to-night bearing a despatch from the 
Secretary of War announcing to Gen'l Butler the rat- 
ification of the Mexican Treaty, with amendments, 
by the Senate of the U. S., and that a commissioner 
with plenipotentiary power would be appointed in a 
few days to proceed with the Treaty to Mexico. I 
consulted the Cabinet as to the proper person to be 
appointed commissioner. I suggested myself that 
Senator Sevier would be a proper person to be the 
commissioner. Several other persons were named, & 
their fitness and qualifications discussed and consid- 
ered. Mr. Buchanan remarked that the commis- 
sioner should speak the Spanish language, but that, if 
one was to be appointed who could not speak that 
language, he knew of no one whom he would prefer 
to Mr. Sevier. Mr. Walker had doubts about the 
policy or propriety of selecting Mr. Sevier. After 
much conversation on the subject the Cabinet all ac- 
quiesced in the opinion that I could not do better 
than to select Mr. Sevier. I finally decided to tender 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 379 

the mission to Mr. Sevier. After transacting some 
other business, the Cabinet retired about 2 O'clock 
P. M. Shortly after 3 O'Clock P. M., Mr. Sevier, 
whom I invited last evening to call at that hour, came 
into my office. I tendered the Mission to Mexico to 
him. It took him by surprise, as I had given him 
no previous intimation that I had any thoughts of 
the kind. He said promptly that he could not ac- 
cept ; assigning as reasons that he had no wish to leave 
the Senate; and that, if he had, he had taken a very 
active part in urging the ratification of the Treaty, 
& w^ere he now to accept the Mission he would be 
subject to the imputation of having done so with a 
view to procure for himself the appointment. He 
manifested a commendable delicacy & a high sense of 
honour on the subject. I urged him to accept, and 
told him if any such imputation was made I would 
correct it. He stated other reasons why he could 
not accept it, but finally said he would consider of it 
until to-morrow morning, when he would give me 
a positive answer. On consultation with Vice Presi- 
dent Dallas this morning, he thought I could not do 
better than to select Mr. Sevier. The fact that he is 
a member of the Senate & chairman of the committee 
on Foreign affairs, and perfectly acquainted with the 
subject of the Treaty and the difficulties which had 
been encountered in its ratification, would make his 
selection peculiarly proper, and might have a favour- 
able eflfect upon the mexican Government and peo- 
ple. I had a dinner-party of 15 or 20 members of 
Congress to-day. 



38o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 Mar. 

Maj'r Graham ^ of the U. S. army left to-night 
as special bearer of despatches to Gen'l Butler in 
Mexico, announcing to him the ratification of the 
mexican Treaty, with amendments, by the Senate, 
and that it [would be followed] by a commissioner 
invested with Plenipotentiary Powers, in the course 
of a few days. I saw Maj'r Graham with the Secre- 
tary of War at my office after my dinner-company 
retired, gave him a printed copy of the Treaty for 
Gen'l Butler, and explained to him the amendments 
which the Senate had made. 

Sunday, 12th March, 1848. — Senator Sevier 
called before church hour this morning, as he had 
promised to do in my interview with him on yester- 
day. (See this diary of yesterday.) He said he had 
reflected upon the tender I had made to him of the 
appointment of commissioner to Mexico, with a view 
to procure the ratification by that Government of 
the Treaty recently ratified by the Senate of the U. 
States, and though he would much prefer that I 
should select some other person, yet, if I still de- 
sired it, he could not decline. He said if he was 
nominated to the Senate, it was important in order to 
avoid any imputation upon his motives in advocating 
before the Senate, as he had done, the ratification of 
the Treaty, that the Senate should understand that he 
had not the slightest expectation at that time that 
he would be selected as the commissioner to bear the 
Treaty back to Mexico. I told him that I would see 

^ Lawrence Pike Graham ; brevetted Major for gallant conduct 
in the battles of Palo Alto and Reseca de la Palma. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 381 

Senators Dix, Cass, Mangum, & Hannegan, and in- 
form them how the facts were. Mr. Sevier had no 
intimation that he would be selected until I made 
known to him my wishes at 3 O'Clock P. M. on yes- 
terday, the day after the Treaty had been ratified, 
and when I mentioned the subject to him he appeared 
to be surprised. 

Mrs. Polk and myself attended the First Presbyte- 
rian church to-day. 

Monday, 13th March, 1848. — A much larger 
number of persons called this morning than usual. 
Indeed, my office was filled with visitors until after 
12 O'clock. The Senate did not sit to-day, and 
among others who called were about a dozen Sena- 
tors. I communicated to Senators Hannegan, Dix, 
Cass, Turney, & Bagby my intention to nominate 
Senator Sevier to the Senate on to-morrow as com- 
missioner to Mexico. I sent my Private Secretary 
to invite Senator Mangum of N. C. to call at my 
office, and he did so about 3 O'Clock P. M. Mr. 
Mangum, though a Whig, is a gentleman, and fair 
& manly in his opposition to my administration. He 
is a member of the committee of Foreign afifairs of 
the Senate, and had zealously supported the ratifica- 
tion of the Mexican Treaty. After a conversation 
with him on the subject of the Treaty I informed 
him, and that was the principal object I had in send- 
ing for him, that I had tendered the Mission to Mex- 
ico to the Hon. Louis McLane of Baltimore, who 
had declined to accept, and that on the afternoon of 
Saturday last I had invited Senator Sevier to accept 



382 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 Mar. 

it, and that he had at first declined to accept, but had 
on my earnest solicitation finally agreed to do so. 
I informed Mr. Mangum that Mr. Sevier had felt a 
reluctance to accept it because [of] the active part he 
had taken in procuring the ratification of the Treaty, 
lest it might be imputed to him that he had had a 
personal object in view. I authorized Mr. Man- 
gum, when his nomination was sent to the Senate, if 
he deemed proper to do so, to state the facts, and 
that Mr. Sevier had not the slightest intimation that 
I would select him until the afternoon of Saturday, 
the day after the Treaty had been ratified by the Sen- 
ate. Mr. Mangum intimated his preference for a 
joint commission of three commissioners, but ex- 
pressed his satisfaction at my selection of Mr. Sevier, 
and said if it became necessary he would make the 
statement to the Senate which I had authorized him 
to make. I informed all the other Senators with 
whom I conversed to-day of the facts connected with 
Mr. Sevier's selection. Having made up my mind 
to appoint Robert M. Walsh, Esqr., of Pennsylvania, 
to be Secretary of Legation, I sent for him and ten- 
dered the appointment to him. He expressed his 
willingness to accept. Mr. Walsh was for many 
years Secretary of Legation to Brazil, and speaks and 
writes the Spanish and French languages, and is an 
educated gentleman, qualifications which emminently 
fit him for the Station. I saw the Secretaries of State 
& War and conferred with them freely in relation to 
the instructions to be given to the commissioner to 
Mexico, and to Gen'l Butler who commands the army 
in Mexico. In the midst of these important matters 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 383 

I was greatly importuned for appointments to office 
by the crowd of persons who visited me to-day. 1 
disposed of the business on my table as usual & re- 
tired at a late hour, much fatigued. 

Thursday, 14th March, 1848. — Several mem- 
bers of Congress called before the hour of meeting of 
the Cabinet this morning. The Cabinet assembled 
at the usual hour; all the members present. At 12 
O'clock I sent a message to the Senate nominating 
Senator Sevier of Arkansas to be commissioner, with 
the rank of Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Pleni- 
potentiary, to the Republic of Mexico; and Robert 
M. Walsh of Pennsylvania as Secretary of Legation. 
The Senate acted promptly on these nominations, and 
about an hour after they were sent in I received of- 
ficial notice that they had been confirmed. Mr. Bu- 
chanan read the draft of a despatch ^ which he had 
prepared to the minister of Foreign affairs of Mex- 
ico, to accompany the Mexican Treaty as amended 
by the Senate of the U. S., and explanatory of the 
amendments. Some slight modifications were sug- 
gested and made. The instructions to be given to 
Mr. Sevier were the subject of conversation and were 
agreed upon. They are to be prepared by Mr. Bu- 
chanan. The instructions to be given to Gen'l But- 
ler, on the return of the amended Treaty, were also 
the subject of conversation and were agreed upon. 
They are to be prepared by Mr. Marcy. The Secre- 
tary of War submitted the answers of Gen'l Quitman 
and Gen'l Shields in reply to the letter of the Secre- 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VIII, 14-22. 



384 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [15 Mar. 

tary of War on the subject of the council of War 
held by Gen'l Scott at Puebla, on the 17th of July 
last, at which Gen'l Scott submitted the proposition 
of the propriety of using money to bribe the Mexican 
authorities with a view to obtain peace. These let- 
ters, together with those heretofore received from 
Gen'l Pillow and Gen'l Twiggs, disclose a state of 
facts in relation to Gen'l Scott's and Mr. Trist's ac- 
tion in the matter, as to render it indispensibly neces- 
sary to investigate the subject further. I expressed 
the opinion to the Secretary of War that the Court 
of Enquiry of which Gen'l Tomson is President, 
now sitting in Mexico, should be directed to investi- 
gate it, and its connection, if any, with the halting 
of our army after the battle of Cherubusco on the 
20th of August, and the subsequent armistice. There 
is ground to suspect that there was an understand- 
ing between Gen'l Scott & Santa Anna; that money 
was to be paid; that the army was to be halted be- 
fore entering the City of Mexico; that an armistice 
was to follow and a Treaty be made. The matter 
must now be probed, and the whole of the facts be 
brought out. The subject was one of conversation in 
the Cabinet, but no definite decision was made. The 
Cabinet adjourned about 2 O'Clock P. M., and I dis- 
posed [of] several matters of business on my table. 

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

Wednesday, i^th March, 1848.— An unusual 
number of persons called this morning, and my pa- 
tience was almost exhausted by the importunities of 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 385 

the office-seekers. For the convenience of members 
of Congress who wish to see me on business I am 
compelled to keep my office open each day until 12 
O'clock; and this affords an opportunity for all the 
adventurers and loafers who come to Washington, to 
crowd in and annoy me for offices. I refuse their ap- 
plications one after another, but still they occupy 
much of my time. At 1 2 O'Clock I was glad to close 
my office. JVIr. Sevier, U. S. minister to Mexico, 
called, and I had a long interview with him in rela- 
tion to the objects of his mission. During the inter- 
view Mr. Buchanan called and read the draft of the 
instructions ^ to Mr. Sevier which he had prepared. 
I suggested a single modification, which he said he 
would make. The balance of the day I spent in at- 
tending to various official duties. 

I learned with much surprise last evening that a 
motion had been made in Executive Session of the 
Senate to remove the injunction of Secrecy from the 
proceedings of that body on the ratification of the 
Mexican treaty. Believing that if the motion pre- 
vailed it would endanger, if not defeat, the ratifica- 
tion by Mexico, I spoke to several Senators, who 
called last night and this morning, & requested them 
to prevent it. There is no precedent for removing 
the injunction of secrecy from the proceedings of 
the Senate on Treaties, until after both parties have 
ratified the Treaty, & the ratifications have been ex- 
changed. In this case, it would be peculiarly unfor- 
tunate to do so, because it would expose to Mexico, 
whilst the ratification of the Treaty on her part was 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VIII, 8-14. 



386 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 Mae. 

Still pending, the divisions in the Senate, as shown by 
the recorded votes on various propositions of amend- 
ment and on the final ratification, and would ex- 
cite their hopes that by refusing to ratify they might 
hereafter obtain better terms. It would also expose 
to them the confidential instructions given to Mr. 
Slidell & Mr. Trist; as well as enable Senators op- 
posed to the Treaty to publish their speeches on the 
Mexican side of the question, delivered in Executive 
Session. The removal of the injunction of Secrecy 
at this time could not be otherwise than mischievous. 

Thursday, idth March, 1848.— It would seem 
that the annoyance to which I am subjected by the 
importunities of office seekers is never to cease. To- 
day an unusual number of them crowded my office, 
and among them several females, seeking places for 
their sons, brothers, or husbands. At one time to-day 
two ladies of respectability, whom I know, were ad- 
dressing me at the same time in behalf of their 
brother, whom I have understood is a drunkard & 
wholly unworthy of any public trust. They desired 
to have him pensioned on the Government. They 
occupied half an hour of my time. Several other 
females were among the number who called on like 
errands. It is most disgusting that women are sent 
to me to seek office for their worthless relations, and 
whenever they apply the presumption with me is that 
the persons for whom they apply are unworthy of 
public employment. 

I spent near two hours to-day in conferring with 
Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Cliflord, and Mr. Mason in 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 387 

relation to Mr. Sevier's instructions as minister 
to Mexico. An important question had arisen, 
whether, in the event of the Mexican Treaty as 
amended by the Senate was ratified by Mexico, the 
Secretary of the Treasury could execute a bond or 
obligation of indebtedness to Mexico bearing date at 
this time, but not to be delivered until the ratifications 
were exchanged. It was desirable that Mr. Sevier 
should take with him such contingent obligations, if 
it were lawful to issue them; for without an assur- 
ance that some evidence would be given to Mexico 
for the payment of the four installments of 3 mil- 
lions each according to the stipulations of the Treaty, 
the Mexican Government might be unwilling to rat- 
ify it. Mr. Buchanan was clear that such evidence 
of indebtedness might be, and ought to be, furnished 
to Mr. Sevier by the Secretary of the Treasury. I 
concurred in this opinion and so did Judge Mason. 
Mr. Cliflford'at first dou[b]ted the legal authority to 
issue them, but finally assented that it was necessary 
and would be proper. Mr. Buchanan stated that 
Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, whom 
he had seen, & who was confined to his house to-day 
by sickness, doubted his authority. After discussing 
the subject, Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Clifford went to 
the House of Mr. Walker and conferred with him 
on the subject. Mr. Clifford returned and informed 
me that Mr. Walker had become satisfied and would 
issue the obligations, to be delivered by Mr. Sevier 
only upon the exchange of ratifications of the Treaty. 
I sent my Private Secretary to see the Secretary of 
War, who was also confined to his house to-day by 



388 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 Mae. 

sickness, to suggest to him the propriety of sending 
to the Court of Inquiry in Mexico of which Gen'l 
Tomson is President, instructions to embrace in their 
inquiries an investigation of the alleged use of pub- 
lic money by Gen'l Scott as a secret service fund to 
induce the mexican authorities to make peace. The 
answers of Gen'ls Scott, Pillow, Twiggs, Shields, & 
Quitman to enquiries made of them on the subject 
disclosed facts which made such an investigation 
proper. The Secretary of War being ill, after my 
Private Secretary returned from his house I saw Mr. 
Mason & Col. Cooper, asst. adjt. Gen'l, and directed 
the points to which the enquiries were to be made. 
This is a very delicate subject, and as a public ex- 
amination into the facts might operate prejudicially 
upon the Mexican mind, I directed that the court of 
Enquiry might, if they chose, conduct the investiga- 
tion in closed doors. Col. Cooper made a memo- 
randum of the points of enquiry to which the 
attention of the Court of enquiry was to be directed. 
I disposed of much business on my table to-day. 

Friday, IJth March, 1848. — I had a large num- 
ber of visitors this morning, most of them seeking 
office as is usually the case. A delegation of Chero- 
kees waited on me and were introduced by the com- 
missioner of Indian affairs. The Secretary of War 
has been confined to his house by sickness for two or 
three days, and being still so I saw Col. Cooper, asst. 
adjt. Gen'l and gave him further instructions in re- 
gard to despatches which he was preparing for the 
Court of Enquiry now sitting in Mexico, and to 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 389 

Gen'l Butler, which, under my direction, he is pre- 
paring for the Secretary of War. About 2 O'Ciock 
P. M. I was much concerned to learn that Mr. Se- 
vier, lately appointed commissioner to Mexico, and 
who was expected to set out on his mission, was se- 
riously ill. His instructions and all the despatches 
are prepared. I immediately addressed a note to his 
relation, Hon. R. W. Johnson ^ of the Ho. Repts., 
and sent my messenger with it to his boarding house 
to ascertain his actual condition. Mr. Johnson 
called shortly afterwards, when I learned that Mr. 
Sevier was quite ill, so much so that his physician 
had refused to permit any persons to visit him. I 
saw Mr. Buchanan on the subject, and decided at 
once that another commissioner to Mexico must be 
appointed, with full powers, &c., to proceed to Mex- 
ico with the Treaty as amended & ratified by the Sen- 
ate. It was a case of emergency and no time was to 
be lost. I thought of Mr. Clififord, the Atto. Gen'l 
of the U. S., as a fit person, and one who was al- 
ready informed of all my views, and told Mr. Bu- 
chanan if he would accept of the mission I would 
appoint him. Mr. Buchanan concurred with me in 
opinion as to Mr. Clififord's fitness. I sent for Mr. 
Clifford and informed him of the emergency which 
had arisen, and informed him that I wished him to 
accept the mission. The tender of the mission took 
him by surprise, but he said if I deemed it to be 
necessary for the public service he would accept it. 
I told him I would appoint him, if Mr. Sevier con- 

^ Robert W. Johnson, 1 814-1879, Representative from Arkan- 
sas 1847-1853, Senator 1853-1861. 



390 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY Li8 Mar. 

tinued so ill as to render it improbable that he could 
proceed to Mexico in two or three days. His at- 
tack, I understand, is such as he has been subject to, 
and from which he may recover speedily. I sent my 
Private Secretary to the Capitol to inform the chair- 
man of the committee on Foreign affairs of the Sen- 
ate, that in consequence of Mr. Sevier's indisposition, 
I would probably desire to nominate another com- 
missioner to Mexico on to-morrow, and to request 
him to prevail on the Senate not to adjourn over until 
monday, as I learned they would probably do. The 
Senate is in the habit of adjourning over from Thurs- 
day or Friday in each week to monday, when no 
pressing business requires them to be in Session on 
Saturdays. 

I had a Dinner party to-day, consisting of about 20 
members of Congress, and three or four other per- 
sons. This was reception evening. The usual num- 
ber of persons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. 

Saturday, l8th March, 1848.— This morning 
the Hon. Mr. Johnson, the brother-in-law of Mr. 
Sevier, and Dr. Hall, his attending physician, called 
and reported to me that Mr. Sevier had been quite 
ill last night, but was better this morning. From 
Dr. Hall's statement of his condition I was satisfied, 
if he recovered speedily, he could not be able to pro- 
ceed on his mission to Mexico for some days to come; 
and I determined to nominate Mr. Clifford to the 
Senate as an associate commissioner to Mexico, with 
full diplomatic powers, to act either separately, or 
jointly with Mr. Sevier, if the latter should recover 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 391 

from his illness and be able to follow & join him 
in Mexico. At my request Mr. Buchanan waited on 
Mr. Sevier, and learned from him that Mr. Clifford's 
appointment as associate commissioner would be en- 
tirely satisfactory to him. I sent for Senator Han- 
negan, chairman of the committee of Foreign affairs, 
and for Senator Cass, and informed them that they 
might explain to the Senate the necessity for the ap- 
pointment of another commissioner. At 12 O'Clock 
I sent Mr. Clifford's nomination to the Senate and 
it was immediately confirmed by the Senate. At 5 
O'clock P. M. Mr. Clifford rode with me in my 
carriage to Mr. Sevier's boarding house, and [we 
learned that he was] better than he was in the morn- 
ing. He was perfectly satisfied with Mr. Clifford's 
association with him as a joint commissioner, & 
thought he would be able to follow him in a few days. 
After night Mr. Clifford called, and I held a full 
conversation with him on the subject of his mission 
and its objects. He handed to me his Resignation of 
the office of Atto. Gen'l of the U. States. I informed 
him that I would not fill the place by a permanent 
ippointment, but would make an appointment ad 
interim, in the hope that his absence on his mission 
might be of short duration, and that on his return I 
would desire him to resume the office of Atto. Gen- 
eral. Mr. Clifford's appointment as commissioner is 
the best, under all the circumstances, which I could 
have made. He is perfectly familiar with all my 
views, as often discussed in the Cabinet, in relation 
to the Treaty and all its provisions. He is, too, 
a very discreet, sensible man. I [n] deed, upon the 



392 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 Mar. 



happening of the sudden illness of Mr. Sevier, and 
the necessity of despatching another commissioner 
without delay, there is no other person out of my Cab- 
inet, who could have been so well prepared to carry 
out my views. Mr. Clifford took leave of me in my 
office about 10 O'Clock to-night and will proceed on 
his journey, accompanied by Mr. Walsh, the Secre- 
tary of Legation, to-morrow morning at 3 O'Clock. 
He will travel by the Southern route. He bears de- 
spatches from the War Department to Gen'l Butler 
& the Court of Enquiry in Mexico of which Gen'l 
Tomson is President, and a letter to Gen'l Scott. He 
also bears despatches from the Secretary of the Navy 
to Commodore Perry, who is in command of the 
naval squadron in the gulf of Mexico. 

This was the regular day for the meeting of the 
Cabinet, but no regular meeting was held. All the 
members were present at different periods of the day, 
except the Secretaries of the Treasury and War, both 
of whom are confined to their houses by sickness. I 
determined to appoint Mr. Clifford without having 
a Cabinet meeting on the subject, for I had no time 
to do so. 

Sunday, igth March, 1848. — This was a wet day. 
I was much wearied by the unceasing labours of the 
past week. I did not attend church, but remained 
quiet & rested. Mrs. Polk did not attend church. 

Monday, 20th March, 1848. — A large number 
of persons called this morning, some to pay their re- 
spects and others on business, and, of course, some 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 393 

seeking office, as is always the case when my office 
is opened for the reception of company. 1 ap- 
pointed Judge Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, 
Acting Atto. Gen'l of the U. S. ad interim, during 
the absence of Mr. Clififord, or until a permanent 
appointment is made. Mr. Clifford left with me his 
resignation when he set out on his mission to Mexico 
on Saturday night last. I did not accept it or take 
any action upon it, intending, if Mr. Clifford should 
return in two or three months, to re-appoint him at- 
torney General. He is a safe and able lawyer and 
I was satisfied with him as a member of my Cabi- 
net. I sent a message ^ to the Ho. Repts. to-day in 
answer to their Resolution of the 7th of February 
last, calling for the correspondence of Gen'ls Scott 
and Taylor and Mr. Trist. It was a very voluminous 
document, requiring much time in its preperation. 
It was delayed, moreover, for some days, from the 
fact that the originals of that part of it containing 
Mr. Trist's correspondence with the Department of 
State had, in order to save time in copying, been 
sent to the Senate confidentially in their Executive 
Session, during the pendency of the Mexican Treaty 
before that body, & had not been returned to the 
State Dept. I sent last week to the Secretary of the 
Senate to procure a copy of parts of the correspond- 
ence proper to be published with a view to send it 
to the House, and these copies were not completed 
until this morning. I learn that when my message 
reached the House to-day, that body were engaged in 
voting upon a Resolution enquiring into the cause of 

^ Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 577. 



394 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 Mar. 

the delay in answering their Resolution. The reso- 
lution, I understand, was introduced by Mr. Cling- 
man of N. C. last week. Mr. Appleton, the chief 
clerk of the Department of State, informs me that 
Mr. Dickens, the Secretary of the Senate, had in- 
formed Mr. Clingman of the cause of delay, viz., 
that a part of the correspondence was in possession 
of the Senate and could not be furnished sooner by 
the State Dept. Notwithstanding Mr. Clingman 
had this information, it suited his party purposes to 
press his Resolution this morning. Mr. Clingman 
is a violent Whig. The announcement of my mes- 
sage to the House put an end to the party capital 
which he expected to make by his resolution. The 
conduct of Mr. Clingman was such as demagogues 
& little partisans will sometimes resort to. The Sec- 
retary of War, who had partially recovered from his 
indisposition, called to-day & spent two or three 
hours with me on official business. Among other 
things we examined the numerous recommendations 
for the 10 Cadets at large to be appointed by the 
President, and agreed upon the selections to be made, 
except one or two, which I will decide upon in a day 
or two. I cleared my table of the business upon it. 
After night Senators Hannegan & Bagby called. 

Tuesday, 21st March, 1848. — I saw company 
and transacted business as usual this morning. The 
Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the members pres- 
ent (the office of Atto. Gen'l being filled ad interim 
by Judge Mason). The Senate of the U. S. haying 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 395 

passed a Resolution calling for a letter ^ addressed 
by the Secretary of State to Mr. Larkin, U. S. consul 
at Monterey, in California, in October, 1845, it was 
a question submitted for consideration to-day whether 
it was compatible with the public interest to comply 
with the call. The letter was read. It was confi- 
dential and had for its object the protection of Amer- 
ican interests and the prevention of Brittish and 
French interference in California. All agreed that 
the letter should not have been called for, but that as 
it had been called for a refusal to furnish it would 
lead to erroneous inferences, prejudicial to the ad- 
ministration. A false impression is being attempted 
by the opposition in Congress, to be made, to the ef- 
fect that this letter to Mr. Larkin contained instruc- 
tions to produce a revolution in California before 
Mexico commenced the War against the U. S., & 
that Col. Fremont had the authority to make the rev- 
olution. The publication of the letter will prove the 
falsehood of such an inference. It was finally con- 
cluded to send the letter in, omitting a single para- 
graph relating to the probable designs of England on 
California. Some other business, of no great mo- 
ment, was considered and disposed of. This was re- 
ception evening. Many persons, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. 

Wednesday, 22nd March, 1848. — Many per- 
sons called this morning. I was importuned for 
office as usual. At 12 O'Clock I closed my office 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VI, 275. 



396 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 Mar. 

and proceeded to consider the business on my table. 
I send [sent] a message to the Senate in answer to a 
call made by that body for the correspondence of 
Mr. Wise, late U. S. Minister to Brazil. I spent 
some time with the Secretary of War on business. 
After he left I spent some time, also, with the Secre- 
tary of State on business. I disposed of much busi- 
ness of detail which was on my table. In the after- 
noon I gave a short sitting to Mr. Kellogg, in the 
ladies parlour above stairs, for my portrait. Mr. 
Kellogg is an artist of merit. He took my portrait 
at Nashville, while I was Governor of Tennessee in 
1840. He has spent several years in Italy since that 
time. At his request Mrs. Polk & myself have 
agreed to sit for him for our portraits. He desires 
to take them to Europe with him. After night I was 
occupied as usual in my office. 

Thursday, 2Jrd March, 1848. — I was occupied 
as usual this morning in receiving visitors. Many 
persons called, some on business, some to pay their re- 
spects, and many on the usual errand, which so much 
annoys me, of seeking office. I was glad to be re- 
lieved from the pressure, especially of the office seek- 
ers, by closing my office at 12 O'Clock. I trans- 
acted business with some of my Secretaries & other 
public officers, and disposed of much public business 
on my table. I was much astonished at having the 
fact called to my attention this morning by my 
Private Secretary that the New York Herald of yes- 
terday contained my confidential message to the Sen- 
ate transmitting the Mexican Treaty to the Senate 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 397 

for their ratification. After learning the fact I men- 
tioned it to two or three Senators who called, and ex- 
pressed my indignation at the breach of confidence 
which had been committed by some one, by which it 
had been communicated to the press. I learned also, 
but did not see the paper, that a portion of the con- 
fidential correspondence which accompanied my 
message with the Treaty to the Senate, had also been 
published in some other paper in New York. All 
communications relating to Treaties are made to the 
Senate in confidence, and in Executive Session. The 
Senate are in the habit of ordering such Executive 
communications to be printed in confidence for their 
own use; and some Senator has probably furnished a 
printed copy for publication, either to the Editors or 
to some of the unprincipled letter-writers who are 
stationed a^ Washington to collect news for them. 
Shortly after the Mexican Treaty was ratified by the 
Senate, I was informed that a motion had been made 
in the Senate to remove the injunction of Secrecy 
from their proceedings and the documents relating 
to the Treaty. I deemed it very important that this 
should not be done while the question of the ratifi- 
cation of the Treaty by Mexico was pending, and so 
expressed myself to many Senators who called, and 
among the rest to Senator Hannegan, the chairman 
of the committee of Foreign affairs. The injunc- 
tion has not been taken ofif by the Senate, but now it 
appears that a part of these confidential papers are 
being published in the papers of New York. I 
learned in the morning that the Senate had appointed 
a committee to investigate how these confidential 



398 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Mar. 

communications had found their way into the New 
York papers. I am glad of it, and hope they will 
ascertain the guilty person and punish him. I had 
a dinner party to-day consisting of between 20 and 
30 members of Congress and others. All the Dem- 
ocratic members of Congress, with few exceptions, 
& many of the Whig members have dined with me 
during the present Session of Congress. The late 
Senator Sevier of Arkansas, who had been appointed 
commissioner to Mexico, and who by sudden illness 
had been prevented from proceeding on his mission, 
called to-day and informed me that, though still fee- 
ble from his late attack, he had resolved to leave for 
mexico in the Southern Boat of to-morrow morning. 
I had a long conversation with him in relation to the 
objects of his mission. 

Friday, 24th March, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning. I closed my office at 12 
O'clock, and transacted business on my table and saw 
several of the public officers on business. I learned 
this morning that additional confidential documents 
communicated to the Senate with the Mexican 
Treaty, had been published in the New York Herald, 
and among others, the instructions to Mr. Slidell, 
given in November, 1845. These instructions I had 
refused to communicate to the Ho. Repts., in answer 
to a Resolution of that body calling for them, during 
the present Session of Congress, because I deemed 
their publication, pending the war with Mexico and 
until a Treaty of peace was concluded and ratified, 
prejudicial to the public interests. For the infor- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



399 



mation of the Senate, in Executive Session, I had 
communicated these instructions confidentially. The 
publication of these instructions and other documents 
sent to the Senate with the Mexican Treaty is a great 
outrage, and the person through whose agency it has 
been done deserves to be severely rebuked and pun- 
ished (see this diary of yesterday). 1 sent a mes- 
sage ^ to the Senate to-day, in answer to a Resolution 
of that body calling for a letter addressed by the Sec- 
retary of State to Mr. Larkin, U. S. consul in Cali- 
fornia, in 1845. The subject of transmitting this let- 
ter to the Senate was considered in the Cabinet on the 
22nd Inst, (see this diary of that day). On further 
reflection I came to the conclusion that its publica- 
tion would be prejudicial to the public interests. 
The Resolution of the Senate calling for it had been 
passed in Legislative Session, and if the letter was 
communicated to the Senate in legislative session it 
would, of course, become public. I finally deter- 
mined to communicate it in confidence in Executive 
Session, and after expressing my own opinion that it 
ought not to be made public, cast the responsibility 
of its publication on the Senate, if they chose to pub- 
lish it, and this I did in my message. My Private 
Secretary returned from the Capitol about 3 O'Clock, 
and informed me that Senator Mangum of N. C. had 
told him that the committee appointed on yesterday 
to investigate by whose agency the Mexican Treaty 
and the confidential documents accompanying it had 
been published in the New York papers, had held a 
meeting this morning, and that they had examined 

^Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, IV, 578. 



400 JA:vIES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Mar. 

a letter writer named Nugent, who corresponds with 
the New York Herald over the signature of Galvi- 
enses; that this witness had admitted that he had fur- 
nished a copy of the Treaty & confidential correspon- 
dence to the Herald for publication; had said, in his 
testimony, that he had not procured the copy from 
any Senator, but to the interrogatory whether he had 
obtained it from either of the Cabinet or Executive 
Departments, had refused to answer. Mr. Mangum 
informed Col. Walker that it was, he learned, pretty 
well understood that the copy had been obtained from 
the State Department. I was much astonished at 
this information. In taking my usual walk after 
dinner I met the Secretary of War and informed him 
of what I had heard. He was as much surprised as 
I was. Shortly after I returned from my walk Sen- 
ator Hannegan called, & stated to me in substance 
the same thing which Mr. Mangum had communi- 
cated to Col. Walker. Mr. Hannegan told me that 
Senator Wescott had stated in debate, in Executive 
Session of the Senate to-day, that there was no doubt 
the copy had been obtained from Mr. Buchanan. 
Mr. Hannegan expressed his own belief that the fact 
was so, & added that such was the belief of the Sen- 
ate. He said that much discussion had taken place 
in Executive Session on the subject, and that the Sen- 
ate had finally added two more members to the com- 
mittee of investigation, of whom he himself was one. 
I told him I hoped that there was a mistake about 
the copy of the Treaty and documents having been 
obtained at the State Department, but that I hoped 
the committee would probe the matter to the bot- 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



401 



torn and as[c]ertain how and from whom they had 
been obtained. Mr. Hannegan said it was now no- 
torious that this fellow, Nugent, the correspondent 
of the New York Herald over the signature of Gal- 
vienses, was in habits of intimacy with Mr. Bu- 
chanan; that he had for weeks been writing letters 
to the Herald praising Mr. Buchanan and abusing 
me. He said that Senators had called at the State 
Department and could not gain admittance to the 
Secretary because this fellow, Nugent, was closetted 
with him. He was very strong in his expressions, 
& had no doubt on his own mind that Mr. Buchanan 
had furnished him a copy of the Treaty & documents. 
I repeated the hope that it might turn out otherwise. 
Mr. Hannegan left and shortly afterwards the Sec- 
retary of War called, & told me he had seen Senators 
Wescott & Dickinson; that the latter knew nothing 
but what had transpired in the Senate to-day; but 
that Mr. Wescott had affirmed to him the confident 
opinion that the documents had been furnished by 
Mr. Buchanan, or been obtained at the Department 
of State. These disclosures gave me great pain. 
This fellow, Nugent, the correspondent of the New 
York Herald, is unknown to me. I never saw him, 
or if I did I did not know who he was. I have heard 
often of him, as one of the unprincipled letter-writers 
stationed at Washington who works for whoever will 
pay them best. I have often, within the last few 
months, been told that he was constantly about the 
State Department & at Mr. Buchanan's house, and 
that he is in his employ to puff him as a candidate for 
the Presidency. I fear this is true. Mr. Buchanan 



402 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 Mar. 

though undoubtedly a man of talents, is in some re- 
spects a very weak man, and in nothing has he shown 
himself more mistaken, so far as his true interests are 
concerned, than in permitting so unprincipled a man 
as this letter-writer to enjoy his confidence. A few 
weeks ago Mr. Buchanan held a conversation with 
me on the subject of his intercourse with this letter- 
writer (see this diary of that period) and I then gave 
him my opinion very freely against the propriety of 
doing so. There is no reliance to be placed in Nu- 
gent. I would not believe him on his oath, and I 
fear Mr. Buchanan has placed himself in his power. 
Several members of Congress have within the last 
few weeks made insinuations to me, and some of them 
have openly expressed the opinion, that Mr. Bu- 
chanan had apprehensions that the Democratic Na- 
tional Convention, which is to meet at Baltimore in 
May next, might insist upon nominating me for a 
second term, and that, fearing this, he had procured 
this letter-writer to assail me through the New York 
Herald with a view to prevent such a result. The 
circumstances, I must confess, favour this belief. 
Nugent has been for weeks notoriously in constant 
and intimate intercourse with Mr. Buchanan, and 
during the same period his letters to the Herald have 
praised Mr. Buchanan, while they have been full of 
misrepresentations in relation to myself, and have 
abused Gen'l Cass and Mr. Woodbury, who are sup- 
posed to be Mr. Buchanan's chief competitors for 
the nomination for the Presidency. These circum- 
stances, though strong, are not conclusive that Mr. 
Buchanan has instigated the attacks upon me. If 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



403 



they were conclusive beyond the possibility of doubt, 
I would dismiss him from my Cabinet, for I would 
keep no one near me who was capable of such con- 
duct. 

It is a remarkable circumstance, in view of the for- 
going facts & circumstances, that Mr. Buchanan to- 
day addressed me a note in the following words, viz., 
" Mr. Buchanan respectfully requests that the Presi- 
dent would furnish him with a copy of the letter 
which he addressed to the President in February, 
1845, in answer to the President's letter of February 
17th, 1845. If Mr. B. kept a copy of his answer it 
cannot now be found. 24th February [March], 
1848." My letter of the 17th of February, 1845, is 
one addressed to each of the gentlemen invited to ac- 
cept places in my cabinet, stating to them severally 
that if they accepted, and should become candidates 
for the Presidency or Vice Presidency, they would be 
expected upon the happening of that event to retire 
from my Cabinet. They all answered assenting to 
this condition. Mr. Buchanan has been publicly a 
candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 
Presidency for some months past, & this is the first 
time that he seems to have remembered the promise 
contained in his letter, for a copy of which he now 
asks. I have constantly, for months, felt the embar- 
rassment which he gave me by remaining in the Cab- 
inet. He has been selfish, & all his acts and opin- 
ions seem to have been controlled with a view to his 
own advancement, so much so that I can have no con- 
fidence or reliance in any advice he may give upon 
public questions. I could not, though feeling sen- 



404 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Mar. 

sibly the embarrassment which his remaining in 
the Cabinet, and his selfish views, produced, dismiss 
him during the pendency of the war with Mexico, 
and in the face of a talented and powerful opposi- 
tion in Congress, without the hazard of doing great 
injury to my administration by endangering the suc- 
cess of all my measures. I have therefore borne with 
him and overlooked his weaknesses, for the sake of 
the public good. He is probably now troubled, in 
consequence of the investigations going on in the Sen- 
ate concerning the publication in the New York 
Herald, through the agency of his political friend 
& my calumniator, Nugent, and it is a little singular 
that this precise period of time is selected by him to 
request a copy of his letter to me of February, 1845. 
I will search for his letter & direct my Private Sec- 
retary to give him a copy of it. 

This being reception evening, a large number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, 2Sth March, 1848. — Though this was 
Cabinet day, I saw a number of members of Con- 
gress who called. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour, all the members present, there being no Atto. 
Gen'l since Mr. Clifford left for Mexico a week ago. 
No business of importance was transacted. Mr. Bu- 
chanan read a private letter from Sir George Simp- 
son to a friend in New York, offering to sell to a com- 
pany, or to the U. S., all the rights of the Hudson's 
Bay company in Oregon, including the right to nav- 
igate the Columbia River, for one million of Dollars. 
This letter had been sent to Mr. Buchanan confi- 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 405 

dentially. It was the subject of conversation in the 
Cabinet, but I did not deem it advisable to take any 
action upon it, at least for the present. I had a con- 
versation with the Secretary of the Treasury about 
the finances & the present means of the Treasury. 
Some other business of minor importance was dis- 
posed [of], and the Cabinet adjourned about 2 
O'clock. After Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Walker had 
left, the subject of the investigation now going on 
in the Senate in relation to the publication in the 
New York papers of the Mexican Treaty & the con- 
fidential documents accompanying it (see this diary 
of yesterday and the day preceeding) took place be- 
tween Mr. Marcy, Mr. Mason, Mr. Johnson, & 
myself. After they retired I felt it to be proper to 
send for Mr. Buchanan & to hold a conversation with 
him on the subject, and I did so. It was the first 
conversation I had had with him on the subject. He 
had not mentioned it to me, and I had felt a delicacy 
and reluctance to mention it to him sooner. He said 
he had had no agency in causing the publication to 
be made; that he had heard all that had occurred be- 
fore the committee of the Senate who were investi- 
gating it; and that he was able to account for all the 
printed copies of the Treaty and correspondence 
which had been furnished to the State Department. 
He said that a conspiracy had been formed by cer- 
tain Senators to fix the publication on him, or rather 
that Nugent, the correspondent of the New York 
Herald, had obtained the copy of the Treaty and 
correspondence from him, or from the State Depart- 
ment. He said that he had written a letter to Sen- 



406 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 Mar 

ator Cameron denying it, but had not sent it, as, on 
reflection, he thought his position as Secretary of 
State and his character should protect him from such 
an imputation. He spoke very harshly of Senator 
Wescott, and said he was capable of selling the copy 
to which he was entitled as a Senator for two dollars. 
He asked me if I thought he had furnished the copy 
to Nugent. I told [him] I did not. Of course I 
could not say otherwise after his positive denial that 
he had. I expressed my contempt for Nugent and 
all the other hired letter writers at Washington, re- 
garding them, as I did, as employees wholly destitute 
of principle, and my regret that he had had any con- 
nection or intercourse with them. I said to him that 
I had expressed this opinion of them to him some 
weeks ago (see this diary of that period) and re- 
gretted extremely that he had since that time per- 
mitted Nugent to continue to visit his Department 
& hold confidential intercourse with him, and that 
he would now see the consequences of having done 
so. He said he had permitted him to do so in order 
to secure the support of the New York Herald to the 
Mexican War, and of [to] the administration. He 
said he supposed that he had written or revised 
twenty articles which Nugent had caused to appear 
in the Herald, supporting the war, and that Mr. 
Walker had through Nugent caused the Herald to 
support his Treasury Report and financial policy. 
I replied that it would [have] been much better to let 
the Herald take any course it pleased, rather [than] 
have anything to do with this unprincipled hired let- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



407 



ter writer. I told him that he knew that Nugent had 
been for months [calumniating], and still continued 
to calumniate and abuse me in his infamous letters to 
the Herald, and that this was a singular mode of 
giving the support of the Herald to my administra- 
tion. He said that Mr. Walker and himself had 
both urged Nugent not to abuse me, but that they 
could not restrain or prevent him from doing so. I 
told him that it was deeply to be regretted that he 
had permitted so unprincipled a scoundrel to ap- 
proach him, or to have anything to do with him. I 
did not say to him, because I desired if possible to 
avoid a rupture with him, that in my opinion no 
member of my Cabinet who was faithful to my 
administration and to me, would employ for any 
purpose a man who was habitually abusing & ca- 
lumniating the Head of the Government. My con- 
versation with Mr. Buchanan on the point of his 
intercourse with this fellow, Nugent, was not satis- 
factory. 

Senator Hannegan called after night and informed 
me that the committee of the Senate had been in ses- 
sion several hours to-day; that Nugent had been 
again before them as a witness; and had positively 
refused to answer the question whether he obtained 
the copy of the Mexican Treaty & documents which 
he had forwarded to the New York Herald from the 
State Dept. or any officer connected with that Dept., 
upon the ground that he would not, by answering 
that question, put the State Dept. on trial. Mr. 
Hannegan told me that a member of the Committee 



4o8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [26 Mar. 

had stated, in Nugent's presence, that Mr. Buchanan 
had positively denied that he had any knowledge of, 
or participation in, furnishing the Treaty & docu- 
ments from the State Dept., & that he had expressed 
his surprise, and enquired if he had positively denied 
it, & afterwards explained his surprise by saying that 
[it was] inconsistent with the dignity of the Secre- 
tary of State to condescend to make a denial. I told 
Mr. Hannegan that Mr. Buchanan had made the 
same denial to me to-day. Mr. Hannegan remarked 
in terms of strong condemnation Mr. Buchanan's in- 
timacy and intercourse with Nugent, and stated that 
Senators had called at the State Dept. & could not 
see the Secretary on business, when Nugent was, on 
sending in his name, at once admitted. It was evi- 
dent that Mr. Hannegan believed that Nugent had 
obtained the Treaty & documents from the State 
Dept. Mr. Hannegan enquired of me if there 
would be anything improper in his calling and see- 
ing Mr. Buchanan on the subject. I answered that 
I perceived no impropriety in his doing so. He said 
he believed he would do so, but he was afraid he 
would find Nugent with him. He left me, leaving 
me uncertain whether he would call on Mr. Bu- 
chanan or not. Near 12 O'Clock at night I retired 
much fatigued. I have omitted to mention that I 
visited " Power's Greek Slave " this afternoon in 
company with Mr. Kellogg, the artist. This ad- 
mirable work of art is now exhibiting in this City. 

Sunday, 26th March, 1848. — Mrs. Polk and my- 
self attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



409 



Monday, 27th March, 1848.— An unusually 
large number of persons called this morning and 
among them several ladies. Many of them were 
seeking offices, a business of which there is no end, I 
closed my office at 12 O'Clock. The Secretary of 
War & the commissioner of Indian afifairs called at 
I O'clock, and presented to me a delegation of 
Head-men and chiefs of [the] Creek nation of 
Indians, who had visited Washington on the business 
of their tribe. After conferring with the Secretary 
of War (the Indian Delegation having retired) I 
made the appointment of 10 cadets at large to West 
Point, which the President is authorized by law to 
make. Brig. Gen'l Shields [of the] U. S. army 
called to-day and held a conversation of an hour with 
me. I disposed of the business on my table as usual. 
In the evening Senators Cass and Felch and Mr. Mc- 
Clelland, a Representative from Michigan, called 
on business. Senator Cass informed me that Nu- 
gent, the letter-writer for the New York Herald, had 
to-day given a written statement acquitting Mr. Bu- 
chanan of all agency in furnishing him with a copy 
of the Mexican Treaty and confidential correspond- 
ence, which he had furnished to the New York 
Herald. Gen'l Cass said that the whole Senate now 
acquitted Mr. Buchanan of all agency in furnishing 
the documents, & that all were equally agreed that 
Nugent was an unprincipled man. Gen'l Cass ex- 
pressed his gratification that Mr. Buchanan was re- 
lieved from all imputation in relation to any agency 
in the transaction. I am, m.yself gratified that Mr 
Buchanan is thus relieved from so injurious an im- 



410 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [28 Mar. 

putation. He will now, I hope, learn a profitable 
lesson, and that is that it is dangerous to have any 
connection or intercourse with the unprincipled let- 
ter writers at Washington. He had taken this 
scoundrel, Nugent, into his confidence in order to 
have himself puffed by his letters in the New York 
Herald as a candidate for the Presidency, and by 
placing himself thus in his power has been very near 
being disgraced and ruined by him. It was his no- 
torious intimacy with Nugent which gave probability 
to the imputation that Nugent had obtained the 
Treaty & documents at the State Department. Sen- 
ator Turney and several members of the Ho. Repts. 
called this evening. 

Tuesday, 28th March, 1848. — Several members 
of Congress called before the hour of meeting of the 
Cabinet this morning. The Cabinet assembled at 
the usual hour this morning, all the members pres- 
ent. I consulted the Cabinet as to the persons proper 
to be nominated as charge d'afifairs to the Papal 
States; and to the Republics of Guatamala, Bolivia, 
and Ecuador, and asked their advice on the subject. 
The act of Congress making appropriations to defray 
the expenses of these missions passed a day or two 
ago. Despatches were presented & read by the Sec- 
retary of War from Gen'l Scott & Gen'l Butler, 
dated at the City of Mexico on the 2nd Inst. The 
despatches of Gen'l Butler related exclusively to 
military operations, & gave no information of the 
prospects of the assembling of the Mexican Congress, 
or the ratification by Mexico of the Treaty of peace. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 411 

The despatch from Gen'l Scott was filled with com- 
plaints at being superseded in the command, and con- 
tained an uncourteous & even violent attack upon the 
Secretary of War, and through him on the Govern- 
ment. The despatch is weak and malignant, and re- 
quires an answer, which can be very easily given, 
placing Gen'l S. wholly in the wrong. After the 
transaction of some other business of no general im- 
portance the Cabinet adjourned. I learn to-night 
that the Senate in Executive Session were again oc- 
cupied a part of the day in relation to the investiga- 
tion into the publication of [the] Mexican Treaty 
& confidential correspondence accompanying it in 
the New York papers, & had come to no conclusion. 
This Nugent still persists in refusing to disclose how 
or from whom he obtained the copy which he admits 
he sent to the New York Herald. 

This was reception evening. The usual number 
of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 2gth March, 1848, — Many persons, 
members of Congress and others, called this morn- 
ing; some on business, others to pay their respects, 
and not a few seeking office. After conferring with 
Senators Dix & Dickinson of N. Y. & Senators Cass 
& Breese and the Secretary of State in relation to 
the missions to The Papal States, to the Republics 
of Guatamala, Bolivia, & Ecuador, I sent a message 
to the Senate nominating Joshua L. Martin,^ now 
Secretary of the Legation of the U. S. at Paris, to 

^ Jacob L. Martin of North Carolina, incorrectly nominated 
to the Senate by Polk as Joshua L. Martin. He was Chief Clerk 



412 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 Mar. 

be charge d'affaires to the Papal States; Elijah Hise 
of Ky. to be charge d'affaires to the Republic of 
Guatamala; and John Appleton of Maine to be 
charge d'affaires to the Republic of Bolivia. Mr. 
Vanburgh Livingston of New York was much 
pressed for the mission to the Papal states. For 
reasons which I deemed satisfactory I deemed it im- 
proper to appoint him, but authorized Senators Dix 
& Dickinson this morning to say to him that he could 
have one of the South American missions if he de- 
sired it. About 12 O'clock Mr. Livingston called, 
when I offered him the mission to Guatamala. He 
said he would desire to consult his friends and his 
family before he could decide whether he could ac- 
cept. He also objected to Guatamala and expressed 
a preference, if he accepted a mission to any of the 
South American States, to go to Ecuador. I asked 
him to call again in the course of an hour & I would 
inform him whether I would appoint him to Ecua- 
dor. I sent for Mr. Buchanan & Mr. Appleton, 
the latter of whom I had determined to appoint to 
one of the missions. After a conference with them 
I determined to appoint Mr. Appleton to Bolivia. 
When Mr. Livingston returned I informed him that 
I could appoint him to Ecuador if he desired it. He 
said he would return to N. Y. & after consulting his 
friends & Mrs. Livingston would give me [an] an- 
swer. I learn this evening that the Senate have 
adopted an order in Executive Session requiring 
Nugent, the correspondent of the N. Y. Herald who 

of the State Department 1 840-1 841, and Secretary of Legation 
at Paris 1844-1848. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 413 

communicated to that paper the Mexican Treaty & 
confidential documents, to appear at the bar of the 
Senate to-morrow to answer how and from whom he 
obtained them. 

After night the Hon. Louis McLane of Baltimore, 
accompanied by his son, the Hon. Rob't M. Mc- 
Lane, called & spent more than an hour with me. 

The French Minister (Pageot) addressed an offi- 
cial note to-day to the Secretary of State announcing 
that in consequence of the dethronement of Louis 
Phillipe, the King of the French, his functions as 
Envoy extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary 
would cease from this day. Mr. Buchanan read to 
me an oflicial note which he had prepared in reply. 
The Revolution in France is complete, [the news] 
being fully confirmed by the arrival of the Steamer 
Calidonia at Boston two days ago. A provisional 
Government upon the basis of a Republic has suc- 
ceeded the French Monarchy, suddenly and almost 
without bloodshed. It is the most remarkable, as 
well as the most important event of modern times. 

Thursday, 30th March, 1848. — Many persons 
called as usual this morning. I closed my office at 
12 O'clock. Mr. Buchanan brought to me the for- 
eign mail, brought by the steamer Caledonia and 
received this morning. There was a private letter 
from Mr. Rush to Mr. Buchanan, stating that he 
had forwarded an oflicial despatch on the day pre- 
ceding its date. Unfortunately the despatch was not 
received. Despatches were received from Mr. Don- 
elson, U. S. Minister to Prussia, and from several of 



414 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 Mar. 

the U. S. consuls in Germany and the Two Sicilies. 
Great sensation had been produced by the Revolu- 
tion in France, & the people of the German States 
and of Italy were making large demands of their 
sovereigns and the latter were making large conces- 
sions to their subjects. It is impossible to anticipate 
what the effect of the French Revolution may be 
upon the other Powers of Europe. One of two 
things will probably happen; either there will be a 
general war, or more liberal • institutions must be 
granted by every European sovereign to their sub- 
jects than they have heretofore enjoyed. 

Many matters of business had accumulated on my 
table & I spent several hours in disposing of them. I 
saw the Secretary of War and transacted business 
with him. After night Senator Hannegan called, & 
being chairman of the committee of Foreign affairs 
of the Senate I communicated to him the Foreign 
news which had been received. He informed me that 
the Senate to-day had called Mr. Nugent, the cor- 
respondent of the New York Herald, to the bar of 
the Senate and interrogated him as to the manner 
& from whom he had obtained the Copy of the Mex- 
ican Treaty and the confidential correspondence ac- 
companying it, which he had admitted he furnished 
to the New [York] Herald. Mr. Hanegan in- 
formed me that Nugent had refused to answer the 
interrogatories propounded to him, and that the Sen- 
ate had committed him to the custody of the Sargeant 
at arms. 

Mr. C. J. Ingersoll called to-night & spent half 
an hour in conversation with me about the late 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 415 

French Revolution, and its probable results & effects 
upon France & the other Powers of Europe. 

Friday, Jlst March, 1848.— My time was occu- 
pied as usual in seeing company until 12 O'Clock, 
when I closed my office. Mr. Buchanan communi- 
cated to me a despatch received from Mr. Rush, the 
U. S. Minister at Paris, dated March 4th, and re- 
ceived at the Department of State last night. It 
gave official information of the overthrow of the 
French Monarchy, and the establishment in its stead 
of a Provisional Government based on Republican 
principles. I immediately determined that it was 
proper to communicate the despatch to Congress, and 
in the afternoon prepared a message with that view. 
I approved A Bill to-day authorizing a loan of $16,- 
000,000. I sent for the Secretary of the Treasury 
and held a conversation with [him] in relation to the 
negotiation of the loan and the state of the finances. 
I transacted business with several public officers and 
disposed of business on my table as usual to-day. 

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

Mr. Buchanan read to me to-day the rough draft 
of a despatch to Mr. Rush, the U. S. Minister at 
Pari's. It was not finished. I made some sugges- 
tions of modifications to him. He informed me that 
he would be much pressed for time in preparing his 
foreign despatches in time for the mail by the next 
steamer, and requested me to convene the Cabinet at 
an early hour on to-morrow that they might be con- 
sidered, and particularly the despatch to Mr. Rush. 



4i6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i April 

Saturday, Ist April, 1848. — Several members of 
Congress called on business this morning. The Cab- 
inet met at 10 O'Clock, having being [been] invited 
by me, at the instance of Mr. Buchanan, to assemble 
at an earlier hour than usual. All the members 
were present. Mr. Buchanan read to the Cabinet 
the despatch which he had prepared to Mr. Rush in 
answer to his of the 4th ultimo. Some discussion of 
some parts of it took place, and some modifications, 
not very material, were made. I read to the Cab- 
inet a message which I proposed to send to Congress 
communicating information of the French Revolu- 
tion and his own action in reference to it. Some im- 
material modifications were suggested and made. 
The Senate did not sit to-day and therefore it could 
not be sent to Congress until monday next. Some 
other business of minor importance was considered 
and disposed of. The Cabinet adjourned about 3 
O'clock P. M. 

Sunday, 2nd April, 1848. — Mrs. Polk & my- 
self attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. 

Deeming the message which I proposed to send to 
Congress to-morrow on the subject of the French 
Revolution an important one, I sent for Mr. Marcy 
and Mr. Mason, who called after night and assisted 
me in revising it. I had read it to the Cabinet on 
yesterday, and no material alteration was suggested 
by Mr. Marcy or Mr. Mason. 

Monday, 3rd April, 1848. — Quite a lange num- 
ber of persons, members of Congress and others, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 417 

called this morning. At 12 O'Clock my Private 
Secretary took the message ^ which 1 had prepared 
on the subject of the French Revolution and trans- 
mitting Mr. Rush's despatch to Congress, and de- 
livered it to both Houses. No action, 1 learn, was 
taken upon it in either House, except in the Senate 
to refer it to the committee on Foreign affairs. In 
the evening, Mr. Dickins, the Secretary of the Sen- 
ate, called with two Indian Treaties which had been 
ratified by the Senate. He informed me that my 
message had been generally approved by Senators, 
as far as he had heard any expression of opinion. 
After night Senator Hannegan called and held a con- 
versation with me on the subject of our relations 
with France. 

Tuesday, 4th April, 1848. — I learned this morn- 
ing that the Hon. James A. Black of the Ho. Repts. 
from S. Carolina, died at his lodgings in this City 
between 11 & 12 O'Clock last night. Mr. Black was 
a sound Republican, and one of the best men in Con- 
gress. He was a man of fine political sense, a useful 
member of the House, though modest, retiring, and 
unassuming. He was my personal as well as po- 
litical friend, and I deeply regret his death. I saw 
company in the morning and transacted business on 
my table as usual. The Cabinet assembled at the 
usual hour; all the members present except the Sec- 
retary of War, who is confined to his house by sick- 
ness. No subject of general importance was con- 
sidered by the Cabinet, and it adjourned at an early 

^ S. Ex. Doc. 32, 30 Cong. I Sess. V. 



4i8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 April 

hour. This was reception evening. A number of 
persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 5/A April, 1848.— A number of 
members of Congress & others called on business this 
morning. At 12 O'Clock, accompanied by the mem- 
bers of my Cabinet, except Mr. Marcy, who is still 
confined to [his] house by indisposition, I repaired 
to the Capitol and attended the Funeral ceremonies 
of the late Hon. James A. Black of the Ho. Repts. 
from S. Carolina, who died in this City on the night 
of the 3rd Instant. I accompanied his remains 
from the Capitol to the Congressional burying 
ground. 

After my return I disposed of business on my table. 
After night Senators Hannegan [of Indiana] & 
Houston of Texas & Mr. McClerenand of the Ho. 
Repts. from Illinois called. Six members of the 
Virginia Legislature, on their way home from their 
late session at Richmond, called to pay their respects. 
Mr. W. C. Whitthorne, who left this City in Jan- 
uary last as a bearer of despatches to Mexico, called 
after night. He informed me that he left the City 
of Mexico on the 6th of March, 1848. 

Thursday, dth April, 1848.— My office was 
crowded up to the hour of 12 O'Clock with visitors, 
and I was greatly annoyed by the importunities of 
office-seekers. It is most disgusting to be compelled 
to spend hour after hour almost every day in hearing 
the applications for office made by loafers who con- 
gregate at Washington, and by members of Congress 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 419 

in their behalf, and yet I am compelled to submit to 
it or offend or insult the applicants and their friends. 
The people of the U. S. have no idea of the extent 
to which the President's time, which ought to be de- 
voted to more important matters, is occupied by the 
voracious and often unprincipled persons who seek 
office. If a kind Providence permits me length of 
days and health, I will, after I retire from the Pres- 
idential office, write the secret and hitherto unknown 
history of the workings of the Government in this re- 
spect. I[t] requires great patience & self command 
to repress the loathing I feel towards a hungry crowd 
of unworthy office-hunters who often crowd my 
office. Late despatches were received to-day from 
Gen'l Butler, in which he states that at their date 
(13th of March) the prospects of the ratification of 
the Treaty by Mexico were favourable. I was oc- 
cupied several hours in the after part of the day in 
disposing of much business of detail which had ac- 
cumulated on my table. After night several mem- 
bers of Congress called. Among them were Sen- 
ators Turney & Cass, and C. J. ingersoll & Mr. 
Thomas of Tennessee, of the Ho. Representatives. 

Friday, 7th April, 1848. — I saw company this 
morning and was as usual much importuned by the 
office-seekers. I SGnt two messages to the Senate in 
answer to Resolutions calling for information. I 
saw several public officers and transacted business 
with them. I also disposed of much business which 
had accumulated on my table. Nothing of impor- 
tance occurred to-day. 



420 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 April 

This was reception evening. The usual number 
of persons, ladies and gentlemen, members of Con- 
gress and others, called. 

Mr. Kellogg, the artist, has been for several days 
painting a portrait of Mrs. Polk. He occupies the 
ladies parlour above stairs. I gave him a short sit- 
ting for my portrait to-day. He desires to take both 
portraits with him to Florence when he returns to 
that place, as he expected to do in the course of a few 
months. 

Saturday, 8th April, 1848. — Having business 
on my table to transact, I did not see company this 
morning. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, all 
the members present. The Secretary of War, who 
has been confined to his house for several days by 
indisposition, was able to attend to-day. I held a 
conversation with the Secretary of the Treasury in 
relation to the steps proper to be taken for the nego- 
tiation of the loan of sixteen millions authorized by 
an act passed a few days ago. It was agreed by the 
Cabinet that it would be proper to advertise & invite 
proposals for the loan abroad as well as at home. 
Some other subjects of no general importance were 
considered and disposed of. The Cabinet adjourned 
about I O'clock. I gave Mr. Kellogg a short sit- 
ting for my port[r]ait to-day. I was occupied the 
remainder of the day in disposing of the business on 
my table. 

Sunday, gth April, 1848.— I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 421 

Polk and Miss Anne Whitaker of N. C. Miss 
Whitaker is the daughter of Spear Whitaker/ Esqr., 
of Halifax County, N. C. Mrs. Polk and myself 
met her father and herself on our visit to the Uni- 
versity of N. C. last summer and invited her to visit 
us. She is spending a short time in my family, and 
is an inmate of the Presidential Mansion. She ar- 
rived about the middle of last week. I rested from 
my labours to-day. I was much wearied by my in- 
cessant attention to business during the last week & 
required rest. Mr. Cave Johnson called after night 
and I had a full and confidential conversation with 
him in relation to the Presidential election. We 
both occupied the same position in one respect. We 
neither of us took any part between the aspirants for 
the nomination at the Democratic National conven- 
tion at Baltimore in May next. Mr. Johnson re- 
marked that many leading demo[c]rats looked to my 
nomination as the means of harmonizing the party, 
and expressed the opinion that I would be stronger 
than any other candidate who could be run by the 
Democratic party. The same thing has been re- 
peatedly said to me by leading democrats of late. I 
told Mr. Johnson, as I have all others who have men- 
tioned the subject to me, that I was not a candidate 
for the nomination, and did not desire it. I re- 
quested him to print[?] my letter- to the committee 
accepting the nomination in 1844, and said to him 
that I thought it would be proper for me to address a 
letter to some member of the convention, in the event 

^ Spier Whitaker, later Attorney General of North Carolina. 
2 Printed in Jenkins, Polk, 135. 



422 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo April 

my name should be thought of, repeating the senti- 
ments of that letter. I have not seen that letter since 
it was first published, but I remember its substance 
was that the office of President was one neither to be 
sought or declined, that I accepted the nomination, 
but expressed my fixed purpose, in the event of my 
election, not to be a candidate for re-election. 

Mr. Buchanan, the Secretary of State, left on a 
visit to Pennsylvania to-day. He expects to be ab- 
sent a week or ten days. 

Monday, lOth April, 1848. — An unusual num- 
ber of hungry office seekers greatly importuned and 
annoyed me from the time I entered my office until 
I closed it at 12 O'Clock to-day. Judging from 
their appearance and conduct and what I knew of 
some of them, scarcely one who called was worthy of 
the place he sought or was fit to fill it. It was with 
difficulty I could preserve my temper and patience. 
There were no vacancies and I gave them short & 
even abrupt answers. In the midst of the annoy- 
ances of the herd of lazy, worthless people who come 
to Washington for office instead of going to work 
and by some honest calling making a livelihood, I 
am sometimes amused at their applications. A case of 
this kind occurred on Saturday last. One [of] these 
office seekers placed his papers of recommendation 
in the hands of Judge Mason to present to me. No 
particular office was specified in the papers; and the 
Judge reported to me that he enquired of him what 
office he wanted, to which he answered that he 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 423 

thought he would be a good hand at making Treat- 
ies, and that as he understood there were some to be 
made soon he would like to be a minister abroad. 
This is about as reasonable as many other applica- 
tions which are made to me. I was much occupied 
in disposing [of] the mass of business on my table 
to-day. Nothing of special interest occurred. I 
appointed Mr. John Appleton, ch. Clk., acting Sec- 
retary of State during the absence of Mr. Buchanan 
from the seat of Government. Mr. Buchanan left 
on yesterday on a visit to Pennsylvania. 

Tuesday, nth April, i848.— T\\\% being Cab- 
inet day I directed my messenger to admit no com- 
pany. The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour; all 
the members present except the Secretary of State, 
who is absent on a visit to Pennsylvania. Se^'^eral 
matters of business of no general importance were 
considered and disposed of. The Secretary of the 
Navy read recent dispatches which he had received 
from Commodore Perry commanding the Gulf 
Squadron. Late despatches were received to-day 
from Mr. Rush, U. S. minister at Paris; & from Mr. 
Donelson, U. S. Minister at Berlin. They give in- 
teresting accounts of the Revolution in France and 
of the onward progress of liberal principles in Prus- 
sia & in all the German States. The Cabinet ad- 
journed about 3 O'clock P. M. I devoted the re- 
mainder of the day to the business on my table. 
This was reception evening. A number of persons, 
ladies and gentlemen, called. 



424 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [12 April 

Wednesday, 12th April, 1848. — I saw no com- 
pany this morning. The Secretary of War called at 
9 O'clock, and I spent from that time until 12 
O'clock with him in examining and revised [revis- 
ing] a list of officers of the army upon whom it was 
thought proper to confer Brevet Rank for gallant 
and meritorious conduct performed by them in the 
w^ar with Mexico. The list was a very numerous 
one. I suggested but few changes, and these con- 
sisting chiefly of the names of officers omitted by the 
Secretary of War which I thought it right to add 
[to] the list. I sent the nominations to the Senate 
about I O'clock P. M. The conduct of the whole 
army in Mexico has been so good that it was diffi- 
cult to make discriminations among the officers. 
After revising the list with the utmost care it is prob- 
able. that some officers have been omitted who are 
as meritorious as others who have been nominated 
for Brevet promotion. Should this be discovered 
to be so, I will hereafter do justice to the officers 
omitted in the list of nominations sent to the Senate 
to-day. I transacted business with the Secretary of 
the Navy, and was engaged the remainder of the day 
in disposing of the business on my table. 

Thursday, 13th April, 1848. — A large number 
of persons, members of Congress and others, called 
this morning. After 12 O'Clock I was engaged 
with the Secretaries of War & the Navy for one or 
two hours on business pertaining to their respective 
Departments. I was engaged as usual during the 
balance of the day in disposing of the business on my 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 425 

table. Nothing of special interest occurred. At 5 
O'clock this afternoon a public meeting of citizens 
assembled in this City to celebrate the late French 
Revolution and the advance of liberal principles in 
other parts of Europe. After night a torch-light 
procession passed in front of the President's man- 
sion. I went to the front door and witnessed the 
procession as it passed. I learn that the meeting 
was addressed, before the procession was formed, by 
several members of Congress and other speakers. 

Friday, 14th April, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning. After 12 O'Clock I attended 
to business in my office. It was a more quiet day 
than is usual with me. Nothing worthy of special 
notice occurred. 

This being reception evening a number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, iSth April, 1848. — I saw a few per- 
sons before the hour of meeting of the Cabinet to- 
day. The Cabinet assembled at the usual hour; all 
the members present except the Secretary of State, 
who is absent on a visit to his residence in Pennsyl- 
vania. Several subjects of no general importance 
were considered and disposed of. The Cabinet ad- 
journed at an early hour. I devoted the remainder 
of the day to the business on my table. After night 
Mr. Boyd of Ky. and Mr. Thompson of Miss, called. 
I retired at a late hour, fatigued, as I generally am, 
at the close of the week. 

I prepared to-day the rough draft of a letter to 



426 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 April 

Mr. Rush, U. S. minister at Paris, transmitting the 
Joint Resolution of Congress tendering the congrat- 
ulations of the U. S. to the French people upon their 
success in their late Revolution. 

Sunday, idth April, 1848. — I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk, my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, and Miss 
Whitaker of N. C, who is spending a few weeks in 
my family. 

Monday, 17th April, 1848. — A large number of 
persons called this morning, most of them seeking 
office for themselves or their friends. After I closed 
my office I revised and copied a letter to the Hon. 
Richard Rush, U. S. minister at Paris, transmitting 
to him, to be presented to the French Government, 
the Joint Resolution [of] Congress, " tendering the 
congratulations of the American to the French peo- 
ple," upon their recent successful Revolution, by 
which the French monarchy was overthrown and a 
Republic established in its stead. I delivered the 
letter & Resolution to Mr. Appleton, the acting Sec- 
retary of State, to be forwarded to Mr. Rush. I at- 
tended to much business of detail on my table. After 
night Senator Hanegan & Mr. Charles Brown & Mr. 
James Thompson of the Ho. Repts. from Penn. 
called. Despatches were rec'd to-day from Maj'r 
Gen'l Butler, commanding the army in Mexico. 

Tuesday, l8th April, 1848. — T saw several mem- 
bers of Congress who called this morning. The 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 427 

Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the members pres- 
ent except Mr. Buchanan, who is still absent on a 
visit to Pennsylvania. The despatches rec'd from 
the army in Mexico on yesterday were read by the 
Secretary of War. Among them was a despatch 
from the Court of Enquiry now sitting in Mexico, 
stating that Gen'l Scott had withdrawn the charges 
preferred by him against Brevet Col. Duncan, and 
that Gen'l Worth had withdrawn the charges pre- 
ferred by him against Gen'l Scott, & recommending 
that no further proceedings be had in these cases. 
The Cabinet concurred in this recommendation. It 
was then decided that, as Gen'l Worth had with- 
drawn his charges against Gen'l Scott, the charges 
preferred by the latter against Gen'l Worth should 
be examined by the Court. The Secretary of War 
also read charges preferred by Gen'l Pillow against 
Gen'l Scott, received on yesterday. It was decided 
to direct the Court of Enquiry to investigate these 
charges also. After transacting some other business 
the Cabinet adjourned. I was occupied during the 
balance of the day in attending to business on my 
table. This was reception evening. A number of 
visitors, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, igth April, 1848. — A large number 
of persons called this morning, most of whom were 
seeking office for themselves or their friends. Mr. 
Buchanan called about i O'Clock P. M., having re- 
turned this morning from a visit to Pennsylvania 
where he has been on a visit for the last ten days. I 
was occupied in my office as usual during the balance 



428 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 April 

of the day. In the course of the day I saw the Sec- 
retaries of War and the Navy & several public offi- 
cers on business. Nothing of much interest occurred 
to-day. 

Thursday, 20th April, 1848. — I saw company 
as usual this morning. Shortly after 12 O'Clock 
Mr. Elisha Whittlesey,^ formerly a member of Con- 
gress from Ohio, accompanied by Mr. Cave Johnson, 
the P. M. General, [called]. Mr. Whitt[l]esey 
represented to me that great excitement existed in 
the City, and that there was danger that a portion of 
the people would engage in a riot to-night, tear 
down and destroy the printing office of the New 
Era,- an abolition paper printed in this City, and re- 
quested me to exert my authority to prevent it. The 
cause of the excitement is as follows. On Saturday 
or Sunday last a schooner, called the Pearl, left 
Georgetown and after night took on board at Green- 
leaf's Point a number of slaves and sailed with them 
on board. On the afternoon of Sunday the schooner 
was pursued by a steamboat and about 30 citi- 
zens of Washington & Georgetown on board. The 
Schooner was overhauled by the steamboat near the 
mouth of the Potomac. Three white men & jj 
slaves were captured and brought back to Washing- 
ton & put in Jail on tuesday last. The outrage com- 

^ Elisha Whittlesey, 1 783-1 863, Representative from Ohio 
1 823-1 838, appointed director and general agent of the Washing- 
ton Monument Society in 1845. 

^ The National Era. For an account of the trouble, see the 
National Intelligencer, April 20 and April 21, and the National 
Era, April 20 and April 27, 1848. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 429 

mitted by stealing or seducing the slaves from their 
owners, and the attempt of abolitionists to defend 
the White men who had perpetrated it, had pro- 
duced the excitement & the threatened violence on 
the abolition press. I told Mr. Whittlesey that I 
would cooperate with the City authorities, if neces- 
sary, in any proper steps to preserve the public peace 
& to cause the laws to be respected. I sent for the 
members of my Cabinet & after consultation with 
them directed them to issue an order to the Clerks 
& other employees in their respective Departments 
not to engage in the unlawful or riotous proceeding 
which was anticipated. The Deputy Marshall 
(Woodward), Justice Goddard, Mr. Lenox, [and] 
half a dozen members of the City council called on 
me in a body on the same subject. I told the 
marshall that he knew his duty, and that he should 
aid the City authorities in suppressing any outbreak 
such as was apprehended, but cautioned him to avoid 
violence or the shedding of blood, unless in self-de- 
fence & in the discharge of his lawful duties. I de- 
clined to call out the militia or to employ the military 
force, and the members of the City authorities pres- 
ent concurred with me that it would not be necessary 
to do so. The Secretary of War, who had called on 
other business, was present during my interview with 
them. 

The Secretary of War read to me the draft of a 
long answer which he had prepared to a letter re- 
ceived from Gen'l Scott preferring accusations & 
complaints against the War Department. It was an 
able paper, well prepared, and I approved it. 



430 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [21 April 

I attended to much business of detail on my table 
to-day. 

Friday, 2ist April, 1848. — A large number of 
persons called this morning. Most of them were 
strangers who called to pay their respects. Among 
them was Gen'l D. E. Twiggs of the army. He is 
a gallant soldier and has performed valuable serv- 
ices in Mexico. For his meritorious & gallant con- 
duct I nominated [him] to the Senate a few days ago 
for the Brevet rank of Maj'r General. The Secre- 
tary of State and the Secretary of the Navy called to- 
day and transacted business with me. I saw some of 
the subordinate public officers on business. I dis- 
posed of many matters of business, chiefly of detail, 
which were on my table. This was reception even- 
ing. An unusually large number of persons, ladies 
& gentlemen, members of Congress & others, called. 

Saturday, 22nd April, 1848. — Several members 
of Congress called this morning. The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour; all the members present. Mr. 
Buchanan read a communication which he had re- 
ceived from the commissioner of Yucatan to this 
Government, making an earnest and eloquent appeal 
for aid from the U. S. to preserve the White race in 
Yucatan from destruction by the savage Indians in 
the civil war now waging in that country. The sub- 
ject of the relief which it may be in our power to 
grant was discussed at some length, but a final de- 
cision was postponed. At the request of the Com- 
missioner of Yucatan, communicated to me in a note 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 431 

received this morning, I appointed 9 O'Ciock this 
evening to see him. 

1 informed the Cabinet that I deemed it necessary 
to fill the office of Atto. Gen'l, made vacant by the 
resignation of Mr. Clifford on his appointment as 
commissioner to Mexico. The selection must be 
made from the North. The persons spoken of in 
the conversation with the Cabinet were Gov. 
Toucey ^ of Connecticut; Hon. John Anderson^ of 
Maine; Judge Shepley of Maine; and Gov. Vroom 
of New Jersey. The appointment of either of these 
gentlemen, I ascertained, would be satisfactory to 
the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan and the other members 
of the Cabinet all expressed this opinion, provided 
it were first ascertained that they were opposed to 
the Wilmot Proviso. They all expressed an unwill- 
ingness to be associated with a Wilmot Proviso man. 
Mr. Buchanan remarked that the appointment of 
such a man would greatly injure the administration. 
I postponed deciding to which of the persons named, 
if to either, I would tender the appointment. I had 
a small Dinner party to-day consisting of Gen'l 
Twiggs of the army, senators Dix & Davis, Mr. 
Morgan, the father-in-law of Senator Dix, & his 
wife, and Miss Jordan of N. Y., Mrs. Dix, Hon. 
Rob't M. McLane of Baltimore & his wife, & Mr. 
Kellogg, the artist. At 9 O'Clock Mr. Sierra, the 

^ Isaac Toucey, 1796-1869, Governor of Connecticut 1846, At- 
torney General of the U. S. 1 848-1 849, Senator from Connecticut 
1852-1857, Secretary of the Navy 1857-1861. 

"John Anderson, 1792-1863, Representative from Maine 1825- 
1833, Collector of Customs at Portland 1 843-1 848. 



432 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 April 

Yucatan commissioner, accompanied by Dr. Bald- 
win as an interpreter, called according to a 
previous appointment. Mr. Buchanan called 
shortly afterwards, & I held a long conversation 
with Mr. Seara in relation to the state & condi- 
tion of his country. I finally told him that I would 
determine in the course of two or three days what 
assistance, if any, could be given to his distressed 
countrymen. 

Sunday, 23rd April, 1848. — I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and Miss Henrietta Rachel Armstrong (the 
daughter of Gen'l R. Armstrong, U. S. consul at 
Liverpool). Miss Armstrong is attending Miss 
English's school in Georgetown, and frequently 
comes at the close of the week & spends the sabbath 
in my family. 

Monday, 24th April, 1848. — I had many visitors 
this morning, chiefly on the important business of 
seeking office. There was a procession of citizens of 
this City to-day in celebration of the late Revolution 
in France. I was called upon by Col. C. K. Gard- 
ner ^ to unite in it, but believing that it was not ap- 
propriate for the President of the U. States to do so, 
I declined to do so. The procession moved from the 
President's square to the capitol, on the Eastern 
fron[t] of which, I learn, an oration was delivered 
by Richard S. Cox," Esqr. 

^ C. K. Gardner was postmaster of Washington. 
^ Richard S. Coxe, a law^^er of Washington. 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 433 

About 2 O'clock P. M. the Rev. Mr. Slicer in- 
troduced to me about a dozen Methodist clergymen 
from the states of Maine, N. Hampshire, Vermont, 
& N. York, who were on their way to a general con- 
ferrence of their church to be held at Pittsburg. I 
saw and transacted business to-day with the Secre- 
taries of War & Navy, & disposed of much business 
on my table. 

Tuesday, 25/A April, 1848. — I saw a few per- 
sons who called this morning. The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour; all the members present. Mr. Bu- 
chanan presented the subject of the application of 
the state of Yucatan for the protection and aid of the 
U. S. against the devastating war now waging by the 
Indians against the White race, "threatening the total 
extermination of the latter. He read a communi- 
cation transmitted to him this morning by Mr. Seara, 
the Yucatan commissioner, from the Governor of that 
State. In this communication the Gov. of Yucatan 
asks the aid of the U. S., & states that the same aid had 
been asked from the Governments of Great Brittain & 
Spain, & that the Yucacatnas[?] were ready to sur- 
render their country & the sovereignty over it to any 
Government which would protect & save them from 
extermination. Mr. Buchanan read the draft of a 
message to Congress on the subject, which he had 
prepared, with which I was not satisfied. The sub- 
ject is environed with difficulties, and was fully dis- 
cussed. I stated that we could never agree to see 
Yucatan pass into the hands of a foreign monarchy 
to be possessed and colonized by them, and that 



434 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 April 



sooner than this should take place the U. S. should 
afiford the aid & protection asked, but that this could 
only be done by the authority of Congress. Yucatan 
is nominally one of the States of Mexico, with which 
we are at War, but has declared her neutrality in the 
War. Occupying this anomylous position, our 
course towards her is one of difficulty & embarrass- 
ment. After fully discussing the subject and having 
the opinion of the Cabinet, I requested Mr. Bu- 
chanan to prepare another draft of a message & sub- 
mit it to me, placing the interposition of the U. S. 
upon the ground that it would be dangerous to us, 
and a violation of our settled policy, to permit either 
Great Brittain or Spain to possess & colonize the 
country, and to do this [prevent this] the U. S. ought 
to afford the aid asked. The Cabinet after trans- 
acting some other business of minor importance ad- 
journed. The Secretaries of War & the Navy re- 
mained in my office & examined with me the draft 
of a Gen'l order announcing my decision upon an 
appeal made by Maj'r Gen'l Pillow from the finding 
of a Court of Enquiry, held in Mexico in October 
last, and the approval of the same by Gen'l Scott, 
in relation to two small howitzers taken from the 
enemy at the storming of Chepultepec in September 
last, by two young officers, Lieut. Hodge [and] Mid- 
shipman Rogers, & Mr. Walsh, who desired to ap- 
propriate them as trophies for themselves. It is very 
clear from the record of the proceedings of the Court 
that Gen'l Pillow had no agency in taking these 
Howitzers and no intention of appropriating them 
as trophies for himself, and it is equally clear that he 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARYi 435 

did nothing for which he deserves the slightest cen- 
sure. In my decision 1 reviewed all the facts & 
circumstances. The Secretary of War & of the 
Navy, who had also examined the record, concurred 
with me in the decision which I directed the Secre- 
tary of War to make. This being reception evening 
a large number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, many 
of them distinguished persons from a distance, called. 

Wednesday, 26th April, 1848. — A large number 
of persons called this morning & my time was occu- 
pied as usual in seeing visits [visitors] until 12 
O'clock. Mr. Buchanan called & read to me the 
draft of a message which he had prepared in pur- 
suance of my request, in relation to Yucatan (see this 
diary of yesterday). He left it with me for my ex- 
amination. I transacted business with the Secre- 
taries of War and the Navy & other public officers. 
I disposed of much business on my table. About i 
O'clock the Rev. Mr. Slicer called, & introduced 
half a dozen Methodist clergymen, who were on their 
way to attend a general Conferrence of their church 
to be held at Pittsburg. To-day my nephew, 
Marshall T. Polk, came up from his school in Alex- 
andria & brought with him a letter which he had 
just received from his step-father, Dr. Wm. C. 
Tate of Morganton, N. C, informing him that his 
mother was dangerously ill. I immediately told 
him that he could start to visit his mother by to-mor- 
row morning's Southern boat. He returned to 
Alexandria for his trunk & books, and at 9 O'Clock 
to-night he set out for Morganton to visit his mother. 



436 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 April 

The Boat leaves at 3 O'Clock A. M. to-morow, 
and he will sleep on board to-night. 

Several members of Congress called after night. 
Gen'l Twiggs of the army also called, but as there 
was company in my office he remained but a few 
minutes. I invited him to call to-morrow evening. 

Thursday, 2'/th April, 1848. — I passed the 
morning as usual in seeing company. Many per- 
sons, members of Congress and others, called. Dur- 
ing the Session of Congress I am compelled to keep 
my office open each day until the hour of meeting 
of the Houses to enable members to see me on busi- 
ness, and when my doors are open to receive them all 
others come in, and in this way I am much annoyed 
by office seekers, beggars for money, and all sorts 
of people. The morning of each day is generally 
spent very unprofitably, and yet I am compelled to 
submit to it, or give offense to members of Congress 
by refusing to see them. After I closed my office 
to-day I was engaged in disposing of the business on 
my table, and in preparing a message to Congress 
on the subject of our relations with Yucatan. A 
communication from the Governor of Yucatan to 
the Secretary of State, dated March 25th, 1848, was 
received a day or two ago, invoking the aid of the 
U. S. to save the White race from extermination by 
the Indians, and offering, in case the aid asked was 
granted, to surrender the " dominion & sovereignty " 
of Yucatan to the U. S. It is an important sub- 
ject and requires much consideration. Mr. Bu- 
chanan, at my request, had drawn the draft of a 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 437 

message, with which 1 was not satisfied, & I was en- 
gaged to-day in preparing one which met more fully 
my own views. After night Gen'l Twiggs of the 
army called & I had a long conversation with him 
in relation to afifairs in Mexico. 

About 2 O'clock P.M. to-day Mr. Hannegan, 
chairman of the committee of Foreign affairs in the 
Senate, and Mr. McClellan of Michigan, a mem- 
ber of the committee of Foreign afifairs of the House 
of Representatives, called at my request, and 1 held 
a free conversation with them in reference to our 
relations with Yucatan, and read to them the letter 
of the Governor of Yucatan and the rough draft of 
the message I had prepared on the subject. They 
approved it. After night C. J. Ingersoll of the Ho. 
Repts., & a member of the committee of Foreign af- 
fairs, called, and I read to him my proposed message 
in relation to Yucatan. He approved it, but said he 
would think more on the subject & see me again on 
to-morrow. 

Friday, 28th April, 1848. — After spending the 
morning as usual in seeing company, I closed my 
office at 12 O'clock. As my proposed message to 
Congress on the subject of our relations with Yuca- 
tan is one of great importance, I sent for the Secre- 
tary of State & conferred with him on the subject 
of the draft of it which I had prepared on yester- 
day. I sent also for the Secretaries of the Treas- 
ury, War, & the Navy. The two latter called & I 
conferred with them on the subject. Some imma- 
terial modifications were suggested & made, & all 



438 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 April 

approved the paper. It was, however, too late to 
send it in to-day, and I was still not entirely satis- 
fied with it. Mr. C. J. Ingersoll called & after re- 
flecting on the subject since last night (see this diary 
of yesterday) was satisfied that I ought to send the 
message in. In the evening I held a conferrence on 
the subject with Senator Turney & Mr. Ingersoll, 
who called again to see me on the subject. After 
they retired Senator Cass, for whom I had sent, 
called. Messrs. Boyd & Peyton of Ky. and Mr. 
Wick of Indiana, all of the Ho. Repts., happening 
to call, I read to all of them my proposed 
message in relation to Yucatan, and, after giving 
them the information which I possessed, they were 
all of opinion that I ought to send the message to 
Congress. 

This was reception evening. A number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, called. After the com- 
pany dispersed I invited Senator Bagby to accom- 
pany the Secretary of the Navy & myself to my 
office, & read to him my message in relation to 
Yucatan. He approved it. 

Saturday, 2gth April, 1848. — I saw company 
before the meeting of the Cabinet this morning. I 
sent the message ^ in relation to Yucatan to the two 
Houses of Congress to-day. The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour to-day; all the members present. No 
business of importance was considered. Senator 
Ashley of Arkansas died at his lodgings in this City 
about 2 O'clock to-day. His attack was sudden & 

^ iS. Ex. Doc. 40, 30 Cong. I Sess. V. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 439 

very violent. I observed [him] at church with his 
family on the last sabbath in his usual health. He 
attended the Senate on monday, was taken ill the 
same evening, and to-day he died. *' What shadows 
we [are] and what shadows we pursue." One week 
ago no member of either House of Congress had a 
better prospect of long life than Mr. Ashley. The 
Cabinet held but a short sitting. The Rev. Mr. 
Slicer called about 3 O'Clock & introduced half a 
dozen Methodist clergymen who were on their way 
to the General conferrence of their church to be held 
at Pittsburg. Among them was an Englishman who 
was a delegate of the Church in Great Brittain to the 
conferrence. 

I disposed of business on my table as usual. After 
night Messrs. Boyd & Peyton of Ky. called and spent 
one or two hours with me. Miss Whitaker of N. 
Carilina, w^ho has been spending several weeks in 
my family left to-night for her home. She was ac- 
companied by Mr. Daniel of the Ho. Repts., from 
N. Carolina. 

Sunday, joth April, 1848. — Mrs. Polk & my- 
self attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. 
A despatch was received to-day at the Department 
of State from Mr. Clifford, dated at the City of 
Mexico on the 12th Instant. He reached that City 
on the I ith Inst. 

Monday, Ist May, 1848. — My office was open 
for the reception of company until 12 O'Clock as 
usual. Many persons called. The death of Sen- 



440 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i May 

ator Ashley, I learn, was announced at the meeting 
of both Houses of Congress to-day, after which both 
Houses adjourned without transacting any business. 
I was occupied as usual in transacting business in 
my office. I saw the Secretaries of State & War & 
some other public officers in the course of the day. 
Among others who called to-day were Ex. Senator 
Tappan ^ of Ohio and the Hon. Jesse Miller, Sec- 
retary of State of Penn. After night the Hon. Mr. 
Birdsall of the Ho. Repts. from N. Y. called and 
read to me a part of a letter from a man whose name 
I do not remember to Mr. Crosswell ^ of Albany, 
stating that Mr. Gould," the U. S. Marshall of West- 
ern N. York, had stated that I had written a letter 
to some one in N. Y. expressing the opinion [that] 
the Utica convention lately held in that State, con- 
stituted the regular organization of the Democratic 
party in that State. I told Mr. Birdsall that I had 
written no such letter, that the statement was false; 
and that I had expressed no opinion, either in writ- 
ing or verbally, on the subject. I told him that I 
regretted the divisions in the Democratic party in 
N. York, & had often publickly expressed the hope 
that they might be healed & the party be re-united 
& harmonious. This led to a conversation about 

^ Benjamin Tappan, 1 773-1857, Senator from Ohio 1833-1845, 
a strong anti-slavery man. 

-Edwin Croswell, journalist, 1797-1871. He became state 
printer and editor of the Albany Argus, the recognized Demo- 
cratic organ of New York and the spokesman of the Albany 
Regency, in 1824. In 1844 h^ quarrelled with Van Buren and 
separated from the faction of the Democratic party led by him. 

^ Jacob Gould, marshal of the northern district of New York. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 441 

my appointments in N. Y. Both factions of the 
Democratic party complained that 1 had given too 
many appointments to the opposing faction. I told 
[him] that neither party complained of my meas- 
ures, my policy, or the principles upon which I had 
administered the Government, but that their divi- 
sions resulted from a disreputably [disreputable] 
dispute among themselves about the offices, or who 
should have the larger share of the " loaves & 
fishes." Senator Houston of Texas came in before 
Mr. Birdsall left, and I repeated in his presence 
what I had told Mr. Birdsall in relation to Mr. 
Gould's alleged statement & the Utica Convention, 
& after Mr. Birdsall left I requested Mr. Houston to 
remember what I had said. 

Tuesday, 2nd May, 1848. — I was occupied at 
my table until 1 1 O'Clock this morning, when the 
Cabinet assembled; all the members present ex- 
cept the Secretary of the Navy. I proceeded, ac- 
companied by the Cabinet, to the Capitol, where I 
attended the funeral services on the occasion of the 
death of the Hon. Chesley Ashley, one of the Sen- 
ators from the State of Arkansas, who expired at 
his lodgings in this City on Saturday last. Divine 
service was performed in the Senate chamber by 
the Rev. Mr. Slicer, Chaplain of the Senate. His 
discourse was solemn, eloquent, & impressive. I 
joined the procession & accompanied the remains 
of the deceased to the Congressional burying ground, 
where they were placed in a vault. On my return 
I attended to business on my table; and, what is a 



442 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 May 

very rare occurrence, I saw no company during the 
day. I believe this has not happened before (Sun- 
days excepted) during the present Session of Con- 
gress. This was reception evening, but being a wet 
night not more than 30 or 40 persons, chiefly gentle- 
men, called. 

I note an incident which occurred in die Senate 
chamber to-day. Immediately after the sermon of 
the Rev. Mr. Slicer & when the Senators were leav- 
ing the chamber to join in the funeral procession. 
Senator Benton, in passing near where I was seated 
bowed to me & saluted me, a civility which I, of 
course, returned. It is the first time he has done so 
since the commencement of the trial of his son-in- 
law (Col. Fremont) in the beginning of November 
last, before a Court martial. I approved & re- 
mitted the sentence of dismissal from the service of 
Col. Fremont, but this does not seem to have satis- 
fied Col. B. I meet Col. B. almost every sabbath 
at Church, but he never speaks to me as he was in 
the habit of doing before the trial of Col. Fremont. 

Wednesday, jrJ May, 1848. — An unusually 
large number of persons called this morning, and 
what is remarkable but few of them were seeking 
office. Between two or [and] three dozen physicians 
called in two or three bodies. The[y] were chiefly 
from the North and were attending a medical con- 
vention ^ now sitting at Baltimore. They had come 
to Washington, as they said, with no other business 

^ The American Medical Association met at Baltimore, May 
2-6, 1848. 



JAMES K. POLKS DIARY 443 

than to visit the Capitol, and had called to pay their 
respects to me. I transacted much business of de- 
tail & signed an unusual number of official papers 
to-day. The Secretaries of State and War called 
on business. I availed myself of some leisure from 
other duties to put on paper some general views to 
be presented in a message to Congress, in the event 
the Treaty with Mexico shall be ratified by Mexico 
& peace restored. I will lay the paper aside to be 
used if the occasion should arise. In the evening 
Senator Hannegan called & held a conversation 
with me about Yucatan and my late message to Con- 
gress on the subject of our relations with that State. 
After night Mr. Chase of the Ho. Repts. from Ten- 
nessee called and spent an hour with me. 

Thursday, 4th May, 1848. — In taking my usual 
walk before breakfast this morning I met Senator 
Calhoun of S. C, shook hands with him, and passed 
salutations with him. I [had] not spoken to him 
before since he called and formally paid his re- 
spects to me early in the present Session of Con- 
gress. Many visitors, members of Congress & 
others, called this morning. At 12 O'Clock, hear- 
ing that the Hon. James H. Thomas, who resides 
in the same town with me in Tennessee and repre- 
sents my old District in Congress, was very ill, I 
rode with Col. Walker, my Private Secretary, to his 
boarding House (Mr. Wimsatt's) to see him. I 
found him very ill & I fear dangerously so. On my 
return I sent my servant (Henry) to wait upon him. 
I saw Dr. Hall, his attending physician, who 



444 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [5 May 

thought him dangerously ill. I was engaged the 
balance of the day in attending to business on my 
table. In the course of the day I saw the Secre- 
taries of State and the Navy & some other public 
officers on business. After night the Hon. George 
S. Houston of the Ho. Repts. from Alabama called 
and spent an hour with me in conversation about 
public affairs and particularly about the business be- 
fore Congress. 

Friday, 5M May, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning. Many persons called. I sent 
a message to the Senate in answer to a Resolution 
calling for information in relation to Yucatan. I 
saw and transacted business with the Secretaries of 
State, Navy, & War and some other public officers. 
I was occupied in my office all day in attending to 
various matters of business requiring my attention. 
Nothing of special interest transpired. 

This was reception evening. A large number of 
persons, members of Congress, ladies & gentlemen, 
called. 

Saturday, 6th May, 1848. — I saw a fev^^ per- 
sons who called this morning. The Cabinet met at 
the usual hour, all the members present. Several 
matters of minor importance were considered & dis- 
posed of. A general conversation occurred in re- 
lation to the subject of our relations with Yucatan, 
which I brought before Congress in a message a few 
days ago. Mr. Walker was in favour of its ultimate 
annexation to the United States, & Mr. Buchanan 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 445 

opposed to it. I concurred with Mr. Walker, rather 
than see it fall into the hands of England. After 
the Cabinet adjourned I was engaged in my office 
as usual until a late hour at night. 

Sunday, 7th May, 1848.— Mrs. Polk and myself 
attended to Divine worship to-day at a new Metho- 
dist ^ church in the ist Ward of the City, West of the 
President's Square. It was the first service ever 
held in the church & it was dedicated to the service 
of God by a sermon delivered by the Rev. Mr. Sar- 
geant. I contributed $25. to assist in paying for the 
building, a collection for this purpose having been 
taken up. 

Monday, 8th May, 1848. — Many persons called 
this morning. At 12 O'Clock I closed my office. I 
spent the balance of the day as usual in disposing of 
business in my office. The Secretaries of State & 
War & several other public officers called on busi- 
ness. After night Senator Hannegan & Messrs. 
Wick and Henly ^ of the Ho. Repts. from Indiana 
called. Nothing worthy of special note transpired 
to-day. 

. Tuesday, gth May, 1848. — A number of per- 
sons called this morning. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour; all the members present except the Sec- 
retary of the Treasury, who was detained at his 
house by indisposition. There was nothing of im- 

1 The Union M. E. church. 

2 Thomas J. Henley, Representative from Indiana 1843-1849. 



446 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo May 

portance before the Cabinet to-day & the members 
remained together but a short time. I saw public 
officers & transacted business in my office through- 
out the day as usual. 

This being reception evening an unusually large 
number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, members of 
Congress and strangers, attended. 

Wednesday, lOth May, 1848. — A large number 
of persons called this morning: many of them as is 
usual seeking office. I closed my doors at 12 
O'clock. Shortly after that hour Senator Doug- 
lass of Illinois called with John O'SuUivan, Esqr., 
of New York. Their business with me was to urge 
that I would take early measures with a view to the 
purchase of the Island of Cuba from Spain. I 
heard their views, but deemed it prudent to express 
no opinion on the subject. Mr. O'Sulivan read to 
me and left with me a paper embodying his views 
in favour of the measure. Though I expressed no 
opinion to them I am decidedly in favour of pur- 
chasing Cuba & making it one of the States of [the] 
Union. I was occupied during the day in disposing 
of the business on my table & seeing public officers 
on business. 

Thursday, nth May, 1848. — Saw company as 
usual this morning. Many persons called. There 
are many Delegates to the Democratic national con- 
vention to be assembled at Baltimore on the 22nd 
Instant, as well as other strangers now in the City. 
After 12 O'clock I was occupied in my office. I 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 447 

disposed of many matters of detail which were on 
my table. Congress is doing but little. The mem- 
bers of all parties [seem] to be more occupied in 
making a President than in attending to the public 
business. Nothing occurred to-day worthy of 
special notice. 

Friday, 12 th May, 1848. — Several persons 
called to-day, but not as many [as] usually call every 
day. I spent the day in attending to business in my 
office. A short despatch from Mr. Sevier, dated 
at the City of Mexico on the i8th ultimo., was 
rec'd to-day. He and Mr. Clifford had not had 
an interview with the Mexican authorities since 
their arrival. Mr. Sevier expresses no opinion as 
to the prospect of the ratification of the Treaty by 
Mexico. They had addressed an official note to 
the Mexican Government, but had not received an 
answer. The ratification of the Treaty by Mexico 
may be regarded as doubtful. In the event of its 
ratification I will have an important message to com- 
municate to Congress, and I occupied a part of the 
day in reducing my views upon the points which I 
will present to writing. If the Treaty should not 
be ratified what I have written w^ill be labour lost. 
Should it be ratified prompt action will be necessary 
and I desired to be prepared in advance. The Sen- 
ate, instead of acting promptly, are still discussing the 
Yucatan question. 

This being reception evening a number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. 



448 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 May 

Saturday, 13th May, 1848. — It is two years ago 
this day since War was declared by Congress against 
Mexico. They have been two years of unceasing 
labour and anxiety with me. 

A number of persons called this morning. The 
Cabinet met at the usual hour. Nothing of impor- 
tance occurred. All the members were present. 
After remaining a short time and without transact- 
ing any business of a general character they dis- 
persed. Mr. Cave Johnson remained after the other 
members of the Cabinet retired. I read to him the 
draft of a letter which I had prepared to be ad- 
dressed to some member of the Democratic National 
convention to assemble at Baltimore on the 22nd 
Inst., to be by him presented to the convention if, as 
has been often suggested to me it might be, my name 
should be brought before the convention for nom- 
ination. I will probably address the letter to Dr. J. 
G. M. Ramsey,^ a Delegate to the convention from 
Tennessee. In this letter I re-iterated & declared 
my desire to retire at the end of my present term and 
not to be a candidate for re-election. I am induced 
to address such a letter to the convention in conse- 
quence of the use which has been recently made of 
my name in reference to a re-nomination, and [the] 
wish expressed to me by many members of Congress 
and others to run me as a candidate for a second 
term. A week ago I commenced reading the same 
letter to Mr. Johnson, but was interrupted by com- 
pany coming in. On Wednesday last I read it [to] 

^ James Gattys McGregor Ramsey of Tennessee, 1 797-1 884, 
author of Annals of Tennessee. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 449 

the Hon. James H. Thomas of the Ho. Repts. from 
Tennessee. I have also read it to my private Sec- 
retary, Col. Walker, and informed Judge Mason, 
the Secretary of the Navy, that I intended to write 
such a letter. Many members of the Democratic 
party desire that I should be the Democratic can- 
didate, but I desire to retire & deem it proper to 
relieve the Convention of any embarrassment which 
the presentation of my name might produce, and 
leave the contest for the nomination to others. 

This evening P. B. Glenn, Esqr., of Tennessee, in 
company with Senator Turney & Mr. Cave John- 
son [called]. He and Mr. Johnson took tea with 
me. Mr. Glenn is a Delegate to the Baltimore con- 
vention. I disposed of business in my office as usual 
to-day. 

Sunday, 14th May, 1848. — I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day, & was accompanied by 
Mrs. Polk & Miss Henrietta Rachel Armstrong. 
Mr. P. B. Glenn of Tennessee, Mr. Cave Johnson, 
& Daniel Graham took a family Dinner with me to- 
day. 

Monday, ISth May, 1848. — Many persons called 
this morning, and among them several of the Del- 
egates to the Baltimore convention of the Demo- 
cratic party which is to assemble in B. on the 22nd 
Instant. I disposed of much business on my table 
to-day. Mr. Buchanan sent to me a despatch re- 
ceived from Mr. Rush, the U. S. minister at Paris, 
dated the i8th of April. It contains a very in- 



450 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 May 

teresting narrative of events of the late Revolution 
in France. 

After night Mr. P. B. Glenn of Tennessee called, 
and remained until a late hour in conversation about 
political and other matters in Tennessee. He is a 
Delegate to the Democratic National convention at 
Baltimore, but nothing was said in our conversation 
about the Presidential election. He did not intro- 
duce the subject, & I did not. 

Tuesday, lOth May, 1848.— A large number of 
strangers, chiefly Delegates to the Democratic na- 
tional convention to be assembled at Baltimore, on 
the 22nd Instant, called this morning. Several 
members of Congress called with them to introduce 
them. The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the 
members present. Despatches received from Gen'l. 
Price were read. They give a detailed account of 
the battle of Santa Cruz, and the capture of Chihua- 
hua by the forces under his command. In this in- 
stance as well as in all others during the Mexican 
war, our arms were successful. The victory at 
Santa Cruz was a decided one. Some conversation 
took place in reference to the orders proper to be 
given to Gen'l. Price as to his future movements, if 
the Treaty of peace should not be ratified and the 
war should be continued. The Cabinet were agreed 
that if the war be continued his force is too small to 
hold Chihuahua, and that he should fall back to the 
Passo Del Norte ^ and after retaining a sufficient 

^ On the Rio Grande opposite El Paso, almost due north of 
Chihuahua. 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 451 

force to hold New Mexico securely, to send a Battal- 
ion, if they can be spared, to California, where their 
services may be needed. Some other business was 
considered and disposed of. 

Col. John D. Hawkins of N. C. & his daughter. 
Miss Jane Hawkins, the Hon. Waldon Edwards ^ of 
N. C, James M. Williamson of Somerville, Ten., 
&c E. G. Eastman - of Nashville, Tenn., dined with 
me to-day. This was reception evening. The night 
was wet, but notwithstanding a number of persons, 
chiefly gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, lyth May, 1848.— M^rny persons 
called this morning and among them several of the 
delegates to the Democratic National convention to 
be assembled at Baltimore on the 22nd Inst. My 
old acquaintance and associate in Congress, Col. 
Abraham McClellan of Ten., & Col. Bowers of 
N.C., called. Whilst they were with me Mr. Stan- 
ton of the Ho. Repts. from Tennessee came in. In 
the course of conversation he said in the presence of 
the other two gentlemen that he wished to ask me a 
question, which I could answer or not, as I chose. 
His question was ; are you a candidate before the 

^ Weldon Nathaniel Edwards, Representative from North Caro- 
lina 1816-1827, President of the North Carolina Secession Con- 
vention in 1 86 1. 

^ E. G. Eastman, 1 813-1 859; he w^as a native of New^ England 
but was called to Tennessee along with J. George Harris to assist 
the Jackson-Polk faction of the Democratic party to regain con- 
trol of the State in the election of 1839. He established the 
Knoxville Argus and later succeeded Harris as editor of the Nash- 
ville Union. 



452 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [17 May 

Democratic convention at Baltimore for the nomi- 
nation of President? I answered him promptly 
that I was not. He knew that I was not a candi- 
date, & it struck me as very strange that he should 
propound such a question. If he had been my 
friend he would have sought some opportunity 
to confer with me on the subject when we were 
alone. He desired no doubt to ask the question 
in the presence of witnesses so that if perchance 
the convention should be unable to agree on an- 
other & should think of tendering the nomination 
unsolicited to me, he might have an apology for op- 
posing it. I do not anticipate or desire such a thing, 
but Mr. Stanton's interrogatory proves to me his un- 
friendly feelings. 

I transacted business with the Secretary of War 
to-day. After it was over I consulted Mr. Marcy 
about the propriety of addressing a letter to the 
Democratic convention at Baltimore, to be com- 
municated to the convention if necessary, to the 
effect that I was not a candidate before them for the 
nomination of President. He approved the sug- 
gestion. I then read to him the draft of such a letter 
which I had prepared, which he also approved. 
He suggested a single modification of one paragraph 
of the letter, which was not a material one. 

The marine band played on the grounds South of 
the President's House this afternoon. A number of 
persons were collected on the grounds to hear it. 
After night I sent for Judge Mason, the Secretary 
of the Navy, and read to him the draft of the letter 
which I proposed to address to the Democratic Na- 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 453 

tional convention. He examined it with care and 
suggested some modifications of phraseology. He 
approved of the letter & thought it ought to be sent 
to the Convention. 

Thursday, i8th May, 1848. — My office was 
crowded from an early hour this morning with vis- 
itors. Among them were a large number of Dele- 
gates from all quarters of the Union to the 
Democratic National convention at Baltimore. I 
was visited by them throughout the day, but after 12 
O'clock fewer called than in the morning. Several 
of them introduced the subject of the nomination to 
be made at Baltimore, & expressed a desire that I 
should be re-nominated. I promptly answered 
them that I was not a candidate, and re-iterated the 
declarations contained in my letter of the 12th of 
June, 1844, accepting the nomination tendered to me 
by the Democratic National convention of that year. 
Many of them express regret that I had in that letter 
and since that time declared my intention not to be 
a candidate for re-election, & expressed the opinion 
that I was the choice of the Democratic [Democ- 
racy] of the Union. All of them who conversed 
with me expressed their approbation of the manner 
in which the Government had been administered, & 
of the measures of my administration. I was en- 
abled to transact business only at intervals to-day. 
As an unusual number of strangers from a distance 
were in the City, I thought it proper to keep my 
office open to afford them an opportunity to visit 
me. 



454 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [19 May 

Friday, igth May, 1848. — A large number of 
Delegates to the Democratic national convention, & 
others, called on me to-day. In the morning my of- 
fice was crowded, & throughout the day I had calls. 
Several of them expressed their desire to run me for 
a second term. I replied to them as I did to others 
on the same subject on yesterday (see this diary of 
yesterday). I have been informed by many dele- 
gates that among the large body of them now assem- 
bled in this City there is a general expression of ap- 
probation of the measures of my administration, & a 
general expression of regret that I ever made the 
pledge not to be a candidate for re-election. Sev- 
eral of them have expressed to me the opinion that a 
large majority of the Delegates desire to see me re- 
elected. These expressions of approbation are, of 
course, gratifying to me, but I have firmly main- 
tained the ground I have heretofore occupied of not 
being again a candidate, & have repeated to many of 
them my fixed purpose of retiring to private life at 
the close of my present term. I sent for the Hon. 
Geo. S. Houston of Alabama this afternoon, and 
read to him the letter which I had prepared to the 
convention at Baltimore. He approved it, making 
some suggestions of modification of phraseology, not 
affecting its substance. 

I had but little time to attend to business to-day 
but at intervals when my office was clear of company 
I disposed of some of the business on my table. 
This was reception evening. The company com- 
menced to assemble at an unusually early hour. 
The Circular parlour, which is all that is usually 



184SJ JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 455 

opened on reception evenings, was soon filled. The 
red parlour & the green parlour, as they are desig- 
nated, were sucessively opened & filled. The crowd 
continued to increase until it became necessary to 
light up the East Room, which became also filled. 
The number of strangers in Washington is almost 
unprecedented. It is believed that a large majority 
of the delegates to the Democratic National conven- 
tion, to assemble at Baltimore on Monday next, were 
present this evening. In addition to these many 
other strangers are in the City, and attended. Many 
members of Congress of both political parties, many 
citizens, ladies & gentlemen, were also present. It 
was in truth a numerously attended levee. 

Saturday, 20th May, 1848. — I had numerous 
visitors this morning. It was Cabinet day but there 
was no meeting. Most of the members of the Cabi- 
net called at different times & remained a short time. 
The number of strangers calling made it impossible 
to hold a meeting without excluding & disappoint- 
ing them in seeing me. There was, moreover, noth- 
ing of importance to be considered. I had an 
interview with Gov. Toucey of Connecticut, & read 
to him the letter which I proposed to address to the 
convention at Baltimore. He expressed his prefer- 
ence for me for the Presidency, regretted that I had 
made the pledges I had not to be a candidate for re- 
election, but thought it was proper for me to address 
such a letter to the convention. I also saw the fol- 
lowing Delegates from Tennessee to the convention 
and read the letter to them, to wit., Hon. Abraham 



456 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 May 

McClellan, Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, Thomas Martin. 
Senator Turney, & Messrs. Chase, Thomas, & Hill 
of the Ho. Repts. I read it also to Gov. A. V. 
Brown of Tennessee, who is not a Delegate, but ar- 
rived in Washington on business a day or two since. 
They all approved the letter. I told them I would 
address it to Dr. Ramsey, with instructions to pre- 
sent it & have it read to the Convention before any 
balloting for a candidate for the Presidency took 
place. After night I read it to Senator Bagby of 
Alabama. Senator Turney was present. Senator 
Bagby regretted extremely that I felt it to be my 
duty to write it, as he preferred me to all others, and 
knew that the Alabama Delegation to Baltimore & 
many other Delegates to Baltimore did so also. 
After some conversation upon the subject he con- 
cluded that it was perhaps proper that I should write 
it. Gov. A. V. Brown & his wife, Dr. J. G. xM. 
Ramsey & his daughter, & Mr. Thomas Martin, all 
of Tennessee, took a family Dinner with me to-day. 
After night Gov. Marcy, the Secretary of War, 
called & I again read to him the letter to the Balti- 
more convention, as I had modified some part of 
the phraseology since I had read it to him three or 
four days ago. He entirely approved [it]. Dr. 
Ramsey of Tennessee left his daughter, Margaret 
Jane, to spend a few days with my family during 
his absence to Baltimore. At 12 O'Clock to-day 
Mr. Crampton, acting charge de afifairs of Great 
Brittain, called in full Court dress, & delivered to me 
with due solemnity a letter from the Queen announc- 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



457 



ing the birth of a princess/ Such ceremonies ap- 
pear very ridiculous to a plain Republican. 

Sunday, 21st May, 1848.— I attended the First 
Presbyterian church to-day accompanied by Mrs. 
Polk and Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey of Tennessee & his 
daughter. They & James H. Thomas of Tennessee 
took a family dinner with [me], as did also Daniel 
Graham of Tennessee. I delivered my letter - to 
Dr. Ramsey, addressed to him, but to be read to the 
Democratic convention at Baltimore. I completed 
the letter last night, but did not hand it to Dr. 
Ramsey until to-day. After dinner Dr. Ramsey & 
Mr. Thomas, accompanied by J. Knox Walker, left 
for Baltimore. I objected to Col. Walker's going, 
but he insisted upon it. After night Senator Moor 
of Maine called, & having introduced the conversa- 
tion to me, I read to him a copy of the letter which 
I had addressed to Dr. Ramsey to be read to the 
Baltimore convention. He approved it. 

Monday, 22nd May, 1848. — This is the day 
appointed for the meeting of the Democratic Na- 
tional convention at Baltimore. They assemble for 
the purpose of nominating candidates for President 
& Vice President of the U. States. Many members 
of Congress are also members of the convention & 
have gone to Baltimore. Both Houses of Congress 

^ The Princess Louise, born March i8, 1848. She married 
John, IVIarquis of Lome and Duke of Arg}'ll. 

^Printed in the Washington Union, May 26, 1848. 



458 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [22 May 

met and adjourned over until thursday next, with- 
out transacting any business. The crowd of Dele- 
gates & other strangers who thronged the City last 
week have gone to Baltimore and my office was very 
quiet to-day. A few persons only called. Among 
them were Mr. Rhett of S. C, Mr. Johnson of Ark., 
& Mr. Venable of N. C, all of the Ho. Repts. I 
read to each of them a copy of my letter to the Balti- 
more convention. They all approved it and ex- 
pressed their gratification that I had placed myself 
on high ground by writing such a letter. They all 
expressed a strong & decided preference for me over 
all others, if I had permitted my name to be used 
as a candidate. Mr. Rhett said that the people of 
S. C. approved my administration and would have 
supported my re-election with unanimity, notwith- 
standing Mr. Calhoun's course. He declared that 
he could not support Gen'l Cass if he should be the 
nominee, and that S. C. could not and would not 
support him. He spoke enthusiastically in appro- 
bation of the principles & measures of my adminis- 
tration. Mr. Venable ^ expressed similar opinions, 
& declared that if I had been a candidate N. Caro- 
lina could have been carried for me, but that she 
could not be for either of the candidates spoken of. 
He said he would support either of them who might 
be nominated, but could not do so with any enthusi- 
asm, or with hope of carrying the State for him. 
He said he thought my letter was worthy of me, and 
after all that had occurred was worthy of me. 

' Abraham Watkins Venable, 1 799-1 876, Representative from 
North Carolina 1 847-1 853. 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 459 

Senator Sturgeon called and introduced a friend. 
I saw Judge Young, the commissioner of the Gen- 
eral Land office, and transacted business with him 
I read to him my letter to Baltimore. He approved 
it. The Secretary of War called & read to me a 
despatch which he had prepared to Gen'l Price. 
With the suggestion of a single modification I ap- 
proved it. Mr. Buchanan called and introduced 
two gentlemen & two ladies, his Pennsylvania 
friends. I transacted some unimportant business 
with him. Gov. A. V. Brown called and spent an 
hour with me. Senator Dix also called on business. 
I spent the greater part of the day in transacting 
business on my table, and, being less interrupted by 
company than usual, disposed of many minor mat- 
ters of business which had accumulated on my hands. 
The day was unusually quiet. In the absence of my 
Private Secretary (Col. Walker) who is at Balti- 
more, Mr. James K. Stephens of Tennessee, one of 
the clerks in the General Land Office, at my request 
occupied his office & attended to the current business 
for me. I learn nothing from Baltimore, except 
that the convention met & had selected Judge Bryce 
of Louisiana as temporary presiding officer, & Mr 
Treat of Missouri as temporary Secretary, & had 
appointed a committee to examine credentials with 
a view to a permanent organization. 

After night the Rev. Mr. Bridel, a Protestant 
clergyman from Paris, and the Rev. Alex. King, a 
Protestant clergyman from Dublin, called. They 
were accompanied by the Rev, Mr. Baird, and 
brought a letter of introduction from Walter Laurie. 



460 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 May 

Esqr. Mrs. Polk & myself received them in the 
parlour. They are recently from Europe, & gave 
an interesting account of the late Revolution [at] 
Paris. The Rev. Mr. Bridel presented me with a 
new French coin, a 5-Frank-piece, struck since the 
French Revolution. 

Tuesday, 23rd May, 1848, — This was a remark- 
ably quiet day. Not half a dozen persons called. 
Congress having adjourned over until thursday, 
almost all the members, I learn, have gone to Balti- 
more to attend the Democratic National convention 
now sitting in that City. Not a single member of 
Congress called to-day. Brigadier General Caleb 
Cushing of the U. S. army called to-day. The 
Court of Enquiry of which he is a member, which 
has been sitting for some weeks past in Mexico, has 
adjourned to the U. S. and will resume its session 
at Frederickton, Maryland, on the 29th Instant. I 
had an interesting conversation with Gen'l Cushing 
concerning affairs in Mexico, and particularly the 
prospects of a ratification of the Treaty by Mexico. 
Mr. Buchanan, Mr. Marcy, and Mr. Mason of the 
Cabinet were present during the conversation. This 
being Cabinet day all the members attended. Some 
matters of detail were attended to, but nothing of 
any importance was considered. Information was 
received by the Telegraph from the proceedings of 
the Convention at Baltimore at two or three periods 
in the course of the day. The Convention had not 
fully organized at the last date, 3 I/2 O'Clock P. M. 
After the Cabinet dispersed to-day, I took a walk 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 461 

around the President's square, and meeting Mr. Dal- 
las, the Vice President of the U. S., he walked with 
me. I informed him of the letter 1 had written to 
be read to the Baltimore convention, and of its pur- 
port. He approved it. Mr. Ritchie called about 
4 O'clock P. M. and read to me a letter which he 
had received from the Chairman of the Democratic 
central committee of the State of Florida, enclosing 
one to the Delegates to the Baltimore convention 
from that State. The letter to Mr. Ritchie in- 
formed him that the one enclosed to the Delegates 
instructed them to vote for my nomination for Presi- 
dent, and Mr. Ritchie enquired of me whether he 
should send it to them at Baltimore or not. I told 
him I was sorry he had consulted me on the subject, 
but that, as he had done so, I must decline to give 
him any advice on the subject. I told him I had 
read to him the letter which I had addressed to Dr. 
Ramsey to be read to the convention, and beyond 
what that letter contained I had nothing to say. 

Wednesday, 24th May, 1848.— A number of 
persons called in the course of the day. They were 
chiefly strangers who called to pay their respects. 
I saw none of my Cabinet to-day, but transacted 
business in my office as usual. Mr. J. K. Stephens 
performs the duties of Private Secretary in Col. 
Walker's absence. Several telegraphic despatches 
from the Baltimore convention were received to-day. 
The Convention had not decided between the con- 
testing claimants to seats in that body from New 
York at 6 O'Clock P. M., but the subject was still 



462 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [25 May 

under discussion. Great confusion, I learn, exists 
at Baltimore, & great uncertainty who the nominee 
will be. A Telegraphic despatch was received from 
the South to-day to the effect that the Congress of 
Mexico had been dispersed and the existing Govern- 
ment overthrown, and that there was no prospect of 
the ratification of the Treaty. 

The Marine band played on the grounds of the 
President's square this afternoon. Many citizens, 
ladies & gentlemen, were present. Gen'l Gushing 
& Gov. Brown of Tennessee and his wife took tea 
with my family this evening. 

Very few members of Congress, I learn, are in 
Washington. A large majority of both parties in 
Congress, I learn, are at Baltimore attending to 
President-making. I doubt whether there will be a 
quorum in either House to-morrow. No business 
will be done until after the Baltimore convention 
adjourns. 

Thursday, 2Sth May, 1848.— Congress having 
adjourned over from monday last until to-day, at 
the hour of meeting scarcely a quorum attended in 
either House. No business was transacted and the 
Senate adjourned over until monday next. The 
members are still absent at Baltimore. Several 
persons called to-day and I transacted business in 
my office as usual. About 2 O'Clock P. M. a Tele- 
graphic despatch was received announcing that 
Lewis Cass of Michigan had, on the fourth ballot, 
been nominated by the Democratic convention at 



1848J JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 463 

Baltimore as the candidate of the Democratic party 
for President of the U. States. About 5 O'Clock 
Gen'l Cass called (I having sent for him) and I 
congratulated him on his nomination. He was in 
a fine humour, and I had a pleasant conversation 
with him. About 8 O'Clock P. M. I was informed 
that the convention had nominated Gen'l William 
O. Butler of Kentucky as the Democratic candidate 
for Vice President of the U. States, and that the con- 
vention had adjourned to meet again on to-morrow. 
My letter addressed to Dr. Ramsey, I learn, was 
read to the convention at Baltimore before any bal- 
loting was had. In this letter I declared that I was 
not a candidate for the nomination, and [that it 
was] my intention to retire to private life at the 
close of my present term. Gen'l Cass informed me 
in my interview with him that in his letter accepting 
his nomination he would declare his intention, if 
elected, to serve but a single term. 

Friday, 26th May, 1848. — Several members of 
Congress who had returned from the convention at 
Baltimore, returned [called] this morning. Many 
other persons also called, most of whom were seek- 
ing office. I transacted business with public officers 
and on my table as usual. Mr. Meek, a bearer of 
despatches from the Governor and Legislative as- 
sembly of Oregon, called to-day. He delivered to 
me a memorial from the Legislative assembly, and 
other papers, together with letters from the Gov- 
ernor and other citizens of that Territory, represent- 



464 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 May 

ing that the Indian Tribes in Oregon have com- 
menced a war upon them. They pray for the 
establishment of a Territorial Government, and for 
aid and protection. I will communicate a message 
to Congress on the subject, but can not do so earlier 
than monday next, because the Senate will not sit 
before that day. I learn that the Democratic con- 
vention at Baltimore adopted to-day the Resolutions 
of the Democratic convention of 1844. 

This was reception evening. Many persons, 
ladies and gentlemen, attended. Among them were 
Gen'l Cass, the nominee of the Baltimore convention 
for President, many members of Congress, and many 
Delegates who had attended the Baltimore conven- 
tion. 

Maj'r John W. Childress, the brother-in-law 
of Mrs. Polk, and Mr. Rob't B. Jetton of Mur- 
freesborough, arrived to-night and took apartments 
in the President's House, and will remain with my 
family during their stay in Washington. 

The Secretary of War left this evening on a visit 
to New York, and expected to be absent a week or 
ten days. 

Saturday, 2yth May, 1848.— M2iny delegates 
who had attended the Baltimore convention, and 
others, called this morning. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour, all the members present except the Sec- 
retary of War, who left on last evening on a visit 
to New York. Several matters of minor impor- 
tance were considered and disposed of. I read to 
the Cabinet the memorial which was delivered to me 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 465 

on yesterday from the Legislative assembly of Ore- 
gon, and they agreed with me that I should com- 
municate it by a message to Congress. I resolved 
to do so, and after night prepared the rough draft 
of a message. The Cabinet adjourned at an early 
hour. I disposed of business in my office as usual 
to-day. 

Sunday, 28th May, 1848.— Mrs. Polk and my- 
self attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. 
Maj'r Childress and Mr. Jetton of Tennessee, who 
are spending a few days with me, attended the 
Catholic church. After night I sent for Judge 
Mason, and Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Cave Johnson 
happening to call in, I read to them the message 
which I had prepared transmitting the memorial 
from Oregon to Congress. They approved it, but 
suggested some change of phraseology not affecting 
its substance. 

Monday, 2Qth May, 1848.— Many members of 
Congress and others called this morning, and solici- 
tations for office seemed to be quite as numerous & 
pressing as they had been for months past. It would 
seem they will never cease. I transmitted a mes- 
sage to both Houses of Congress communicating 
the memorial and other papers which I had received 
from Oregon. I transacted much business on my 
table in the course of the day. Intelligence was 
received from Mexico as late as the 14th Instant, 
to-day. A Quorum of the Mexican Congress had 
assembled and the prospect of their ratification of 



466 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 xMay 

the Treaty was favourable. In the evening Gen'l 
Cass called and spent half an hour with me. He 
told me that in his letter accepting his nomination 
for the Presidency he would express his full ap- 
proval of the Resolutions adopted by the Demo- 
cratic national convention at Baltimore. This even- 
ing Miss Ramsey of Tennessee, who has been a 
member of my family for the last ten days, left with 
her father. Dr. J. G. M. Ramsey, for the North. 
Dr. Ramsey is one of the visitors to West Point at 
the annual examination of the cadets which com- 
mences on monday next. I transacted much busi- 
ness in my office to-day. 

Tuesday, 30th May, 1848.— At 6 O'clock this 
morning Maj'r John W. Childress & Mr. Rob't B. 
Jetton of Tennessee, who have been [for] two or 
three days members of my family, left for Baltimore 
and the North, intending to travel by the way of 
the Lakes on their way to Tennessee. Mr. James 
Avent of Tenn. spent last night with them in the 
Presidential mansion & left with them. 

Many persons called this morning. Among them 
was the Hon. Mr. McKay of N. C, who called 
on business. He desired me to appoint Robert 
Strange, jr., a Paymaster in the army, vice Beatty, 
of N. C, who declined to accept, which I readily 
agreed to do. Mr. McKay informed me that his 
father, the Hon. Rob't Strange, Sr.,^ had been a 
Delegate to the Baltimore convention, and had been 

' Robert Strange, 1 796-1 854, Senator from North Carolina 
1835-1840. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 467 

in Washington City recently & had declined to call 
and see me because, as he alleged, he had called to 
see me last year and on leaving me I had invited 
him to call again; that he had accordingly called at 
my door & was told by my porter that I was engaged 
& could see no company, and that the porter had 
refused to take his card to me. This had given him 
offense and therefore he would not call on me. I 
was much surprised at this statement. Mr. Strange 
has been a Senator in Congress, and ought to have 
known that the President must sometimes have 
public duties to perform which render [it] impos- 
sible for him to see company. When I have impor- 
tant duties to perform I occasionally find it to be 
absolutely necessary to close my doors & to give 
directions to my porter to admit no one & bring mc 
no cards. I had no knowledge, until Mr. McKay 
informed me to-day, that Mr. Strange had called & 
been refused. He has acted very foolishly in taking 
offense & has shown himself to be a much smaller 
man than I had estimated him to be. The circum- 
stance, however, proves how impossible it is for the 
President to avoid giving offense to weak & self- 
conceited people. 

The Cabinet met at the usual hour; all the mem- 
bers present except the Secretary of War, who is 
absent on a visit to New York. Some business of 
minor importance was disposed of. Despatches re- 
ceived from Com. Perry, relating to the state of 
affairs in Yucatan, were read. I gave the de- 
spatches to Col. Walker, my Private Secretary, and 
requested him to show them confidentially to Mr. 



468 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 May 

Hannegan, chairman of the committee of Foreign 
affairs in the Senate, & to suggest to him that there 
would be no impropriety in communicating them to 
the Senate if they were called for. I informed the 
Cabinet that I deemed it necessary to appoint an 
Attorney General of the U. States, in place of Mr. 
Clifford resigned; that I had thought of Gov. 
Toucey of Connecticut, and Gov. Vroom of New 
Jersey, either of whom were qualified for the office, 
and as whoever was appointed would be associated 
with the Cabinet, I asked their advice. They all 
expressed a high opinion of both gentlemen, and 
that they would be satisfied to be associated with 
either but expressed a preference for Gov. Vroom, 
chiefly upon the ground that no appointment of im- 
portance had been made from the State of New 
Jersey during my administration, while a minister 
to Russia & several other appointments had been 
made from Connecticut. I did not inform them 
which of the gentlemen I would appoint, but said 
I would determine in a day or two. I was much 
more intimately acquainted with Gov. Toucey than 
with Gov. Vroom, & knew him to be my personal 
& political friend, but the consideration that no 
citizen of New Jersey had been appointed to any 
important station had weight in my mind. In re- 
flecting on the subject after the Cabinet adjourned, 
I determined to tender the appointment to Gov. 
Vroom, & after night I addressed him a letter ten- 
dering the appointment to him. I informed the 
Cabinet to-day that I desired to invite their atten- 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 469 

tion, not for the purpose of immediate decision, but 
for consideration, [to] the important question 
whether a proposition should not be made to Spain 
to purchase the Island of Cuba. The subject was 
freely discussed. The great importance of the 
Island to the U. S., and the danger, if we did not 
acquire it, that it might fall into the hands of Great 
Brittain, were considered. Mr. Walker, the Secre- 
tary of the Treasury, was earnestly in favour of 
making the attempt to purchase it, and was willing 
to pay one hundred millions of Dollars for it. Mr. 
Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, concurred in 
opinion with Mr. Walker. Mr. Johnson, the Post 
master General, had objections to incorporating the 
Spanish population of Cuba into our Union, and did 
not seem to favour the idea of purchasing it. Mr. 
Buchanan, the Secretary of State, expressed a gen- 
eral wish to acquire Cuba, but thought there were 
objections to making the attempt at this time. He 
feared [if] it became known that such a step was 
contemplated, that it might act prejudicially to the 
Democratic party in the next Presidential election. 
He said he would reflect on the subject and be pre- 
pared to give me his advice upon the subject here- 
after. I intimated my strong conviction that the 
effort should be made without delay to purchase 
the Island: and informed Mr. Buchanan that at the 
Cabinet meeting on Saturday next I would again 
bring up the subject for deliberate consideration. 
He said he had doubts on the subject, but would be 
prepared by that time to give me his advice. The 



470 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [30 May 

Hon. Lewis Cass called about 6 O'Clock P. M., and 
read to me a letter ^ which he had prepared to the 
committee of [the] Democratic National conven- 
tion at Baltimore, in answer to their letter informing 
him of his nomination as a candidate for the Presi- 
dency. He invited the freest criticism of it on my 
part. I suggested two or three material modifica- 
tions. One was to strike out from the letter the 
declaration which it contained that he would answer 
no enquiries or interrogations which might be pro- 
pounded to him in relation to his political opinions. 
In the letter he endorsed & approved the Democratic 
principles embodied in the Resolutions adopted by 
the convention. This I fully approved, but disap- 
proved a sentence which immediately followed 
which, I thought, diluted & weakened or qualified 
the approval of them. It was to the effect that he 
would, if elected, carry out the principles embodied 
in the Resolutions as his Democratic predecessors 
had done. I suggested to him that Mr. Madison 
had given way upon the Bank question and had 
signed the Bank charter,^ whereas one of the Reso- 
lutions declared a national Bank to be unconstitu- 
tional; I suggested to him that Mr. Monroe had 
changed his original opinions upon the subject of 
internal Improvements ^ and had given way upon 

^Washington Union, June i, 1848. 

- Madison signed the bill for the establishment of the second 
United States Bank in 18 16, contrary to the strict constructionist 
principles of the Jeffersonian school. 

^ In his veto of the Cumberland Road bill in May, 1822, Mon- 
roe took the ground that Congress did not possess the constitutional 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 471 

that question. I presented also other illustrations 
to him, and gave it to him as my clear opinion that 
he had better confine his declaration to an unquali- 
fied approval of the principles embodied in the 
Resolutions. This would be unequivocal and would 
admit of no cavil or discussion. My suggestions 
seemed to strike him with force, but he did not say 
what he would do. He had, in a conversation with 
me two or three days ago, informed me that he in- 
tended in his letter accepting the nomination fully 
[to] endorse and approve the whole course of my 
administration. There was no such clause in the 
letter, but a general clause approving generally of 
the policy of the Democratic Presidents who had 
preceded him, a clause which was so general as to 
have but little meaning in it. He informed me that 
he had modified the clause, which was originally as 
he had informed me it would be, & put it in its 
present form at the suggestion of Senator Allen of 
Ohio and Mr. Treat of Missouri. As a matter of 
delicacy I made no remark upon this part of the 
letter. The concluding clause, which spoke of this 
being an age of progress and advancement, and that 
the " principles of action " of the Government 
should yield to and keep pace with public opinion, I 
suggested to him might be misconstrued to mean 
that constitutional principles might be changed, in 
order to accommodate themselves to what might 

authority to carry on a system of internal improvements, but that 
the exercise of such a power, if it could be secured by the passage 
of a constitutional amendment, would result beneficially to the 
country. 



472 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [31 May 

seem from time to time to be public opinion, which 
I thought was an untenable & dangerous doctrine. 
He finally said he would consider of my suggestions 
& revise the letter. Whilst we were in conversation 
Mr. Venable of the Ho. Repts. from N. C. called. 
Gen'I Cass remained until after Mr. Venable re- 
tired, when we continued & concluded our conver- 
sation. 

I disposed of business on my table as usual to-day. 
This was reception evening. Many persons, ladies 
& gentlemen, & among them several delegates to the 
Whig convention at Phila., which will assemble in 
that City on the 7th of June, called. 

Wednesday, 31st May, 1848.— K large number 
of visitors called this morning, ladies & gentlemen. 
Some called to pay their respects; some on business; 
but the more numerous class were seeking office. 
A delegation of chiefs of the chickasaw and choc- 
taw Tribes of Indians called about i O'Clock P. M., 
accompanied by the commissioner of Indian affairs. 
They had visited Washington on business for their 
respective Tribes & called to pay their respects to 
their Great Father, as they call the President of the 
U. S. One of the Chickasaw chiefs addressed me 
in his native tongue in their behalf. His speech was 
interpreted to me & I responded to it. I disposed 
of much business on my table to-day. The marine 
band played on the grounds South of the President's 
House this afternoon. A large crowd of ladies and 
gentlemen attended. I was on the South porch & 
received company as is usual on such occasions. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 473 

My old friend, the Hon. Abraham McClellan of 
Tenn., & his wife, took a family dinner with me to- 
day. To-night Miss Jane Hawkins of N. C, who 
has been spending two or three weeks with my 
family, left for her home. Her father, Col. John 
D. Hawkins, called for her about 8 O'Clock P. M. 

Thursday, IstJune, 1848.— Many visitors called 
this morning, and among them several Whig Dele- 
gates to the Philadelphia convention. Senator 
Bagby of Alabama called on business. Before he 
left I informed him that Mr. Ralph I. IngersoU, 
U. S. minister to Russia, had asked to be recalled, 
and that it would be necessary before the adjourn- 
ment of Congress to appoint a successor. I tendered 
the appointment to Mr. Bagby. It seemed to take 
him by surprise; indeed, I am satisfied that he had 
never thought of it. He had not been suggested 
to me by anyone, nor had I informed any one, not 
even any member of my Cabinet, of my intention to 
offer it to him. He thanked me for the tender of 
the appointment, and said he would reflect on the 
subject & give me an answer. Gen'l Cass's letter 
accepting the nomination for the Presidency, ap- 
peared in the Union newspaper this morning. It 
had been modified since I saw it, and in the par- 
ticulars which I suggested to him in my conversa- 
tion with him on tuesday last, 30th ultimo (see this, 
Diary of that day). These modifications were not 
only an improvement, but made the letter sounder 
in principle and less susceptible of misconstruction 
than was the draft of the letter which he showed to 



474 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i June 

me; though still it was not precisely, on the points 
which I had suggested to him, as I would have had 
it. In the course of the day Mr. Ritchie called & 
said to me, you had not your spectacles on when you 
read Gen'l Cass's draft of his letter the other day, 
or you would not have approved the concluding 
paragraph and some other paragraphs of it. 
After learning from him that he had seen it and 
that he knew it had been submitted to me, I told 
him of my conversation with Gen'l Cass and 
of the modifications which I had suggested, & 
some of which I perceived from the published let- 
ter had been made. Mr. Ritchie then told me that 
some of these modifications, & particularly of the last 
paragraph, had been made by himself. Mr. Ritchie 
informed me that Mr. Stevenson of Richmond, Va., 
had also seen the draft of the letter & had felt some 
concern about the last paragraph until it was modi- 
fied. Mr. Ritchie said that Gen'l Cass had re- 
marked to him that that paragraph was penned for 
the young Democracy, and that he had replied to 
him that he must take care that he did not dissatisfy 
the old Democracy. Mr. Stevenson, I learn, has 
been in the City several days, but he has not called 
on me. I have reason to believe that he expected 
to fill a place in my Cabinet, and that he has since 
desired to go on a foreign mission. I presume, like 
hundreds of other disappointed expectants for ofiice, 
he is dissatisfied. I know of no other reason why 
he did not call. As a member of the convention and 
the committee who addressed Gen'l Cass informing 
him of his nomination, he has approved the policy 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 475 

of my administration. I have never had any per- 
sonal misunderstanding with him, and cannot, I 
think, be mistaken in attributing his failure to call 
to his disappointment in not having been invited to 
fill some high office in my gift. The Hon. Mr. 
Sebastian ^ of Arkansas, recently appointed U. S. 
Senator in the place of the late Senator Ashley de- 
ceased, called to-day. I was happy to recognize in 
him the son of an old Tennessee friend. His father 
resides in Hickman County, Ten., about 30 miles 
from Columbia, my late residence, and the Senator 
himself was for a time at school at Columbia. I 
was engaged as usual during the day in attending to 
business in my office. In the afternoon I took a 
ride on horseback. Mr. Buchanan sent to me to- 
day an important despatch from Mr. Campbell, U. 
S. consul at Havannah, dated May i8th, 1848, in 
relation to the dissatisfied state of the inhabitants of 
the Island, and expressing the opinion that there 
would probably [be] a revolution or civil war soon. 
He expresses the opinion that the Creoles of the 
Island desire to be annexed to the U. S. Mr. 
Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, called and 
read to me a private letter which he had received 
from Mr. Campbell on the same subject. Mr. 
Walker was of opinion that no time ought to be lost 
by the U. S. in endeavoring to purchase the Island. 

Friday, 2nd June, 1848. — Many visitors called 
to-day, who occupied my time until 12 O'Clock when 

^William King Sebastian, 1814-1865, Senator from Arkansas 
1847-1861. 



476 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [2 June 

I closed my office, though I saw an occasional visitor 
after that hour. Among them was John O'SuUivan 
of N. York. He informed me that he had received 
very important information from Cuba, which he 
proceeded to detail confidentially to me. It was 
in substance that there was a design on foot among 
many of the wealthy and influential planters and 
other inhabitants of the Island to revolutionize the 
country, overthrow the Spanish authority, and then 
seek annexation to the U. States. His account of 
the discontent of the inhabitants of Cuba corre- 
sponds with the account given by Mr. Campbell, U. 
S. consul at Havannah, in his despatch to the Secre- 
tary of State dated May i8th, 1848 (see this diary of 
yesterday). He stated to me, in addition to the in- 
formation contained in that letter, that an agent of 
the principal planters in Cuba was now in Balti- 
more with a view to obtain aid in the U. S. to enable 
them to eflfect a Revolution in Cuba, and that he 
desired to see him in Baltimore, as he feared if he 
came to Washington that his movements would be 
observed. Mr. O'SuUivan said he would visit the 
agent at Baltimore this evening & would return & 
see me on to-morrow. Mr. O'SuUivan also in- 
formed me that a distinguished Gen'l of the U. S. 
army, now in Mexico, had agreed with the Cubans 
to resign his commission at the close of the Mexican 
War and proceed to Cuba with such of the dis- 
charged volunteers as would join him, to aid the 
Cubans in effecting the establishment of their Inde- 
pendence. I at once said to Mr. O'SuUivan that if 
Cuba was ever obtained by the U. S. it must be by 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 477 

amicable purchase, and that as President of the U. S. 
I could give no countenance to such a step, and 
could not wink at such a movement. After Mr. 
O'SuUivan left me Judge Mason, the Secretary of 
the Navy, who had retired from my office when Mr. 
O'Sullivan came in, returned to my office, when I 
related to him the conversation which had taken 
place. The subject was freely discussed by Judge 
Mason & myself. In the course of conversation 
Judge Mason informed me that after the Cabinet 
consultation of tuesday last on the subject of Cuba, 
Mr. Buchanan had intimated to him that if the Presi- 
dent should decide in favour of acquiring Cuba, he 
(Mr. Buchanan) could not be the agent of carrying 
out the President's views. This surprised me, as no 
such intimation was given by him in the Cabinet 
meeting. Mr. Buchanan in the course of the dis- 
cussion on Tuesday had expressed the opinion that 
any attempt to purchase Cuba at this time would 
injure Gen'l Cass's election to the Presidency. 
Gen'l Cass called to see me shortly after Judge 
Mason left. I deemed it proper to communicate to 
Gen'l Cass all the information I had in relation to 
Cuba, including the letter from Mr. Campbell, U. 
S. consul at Havannah. I inquired of Gen'l Cass 
his opinion in relation to Cuba. He said at once 
that he was in favour of acquiring the Island, if it 
could be done by amicable purchase, and referred 
me to his late speech on the Yucatan question in 
which he had alluded to Cuba. I asked him if he 
thought an attempt to purchase Cuba at this time 
would injuriously affect his election to the Presi- 



478 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 June 

dency, which he answered in the negative. I asked 
him what price I would be justified in offering for 
the Island. He answered that Cuba was immensely 
valuable, & that he would be willing to pay a large 
sum for it. This was reception evening. A large 
number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, and among 
them many Whig members of Congress & Whig 
Delegates to the Philadelphia convention, called. 

Saturday, Jrd June, 1848. — Several persons 
called this morning. Senator Bagby of Alabama 
called and intimated his willingness to accept the 
mission to Russia which I had tendered to him on 
tuesday last. The Cabinet met at the usual hour, 
all the members present, Mr. Marcy, the Secretary 
of War, having returned from a visit to New York 
this morning. I informed the Cabinet that since 
the last meeting I had written to the Hon. Peter D. 
Vroom of New Jersey, and had tendered to him the 
office of Attorney General of the U. States. The 
Cabinet unanimously approved the selection of Gov. 
Vroom. Mr. Buchanan read instructions which he 
had prepared to Mr. Hise of Ky., charge de affaires 
of the U. S. to Guatamala. Mr. Hise is now in this 
City. I brought forward the Cuban question and 
communicated all the information I possessed on the 
subject, including that given to me by Mr. O'Sulli- 
van on yesterday. Mr. Buchanan said the proposed 
purchase of Cuba was the gravest & most important 
question that ever had been submitted to my Cabinet. 
The attempt if successful, he said, might involve the 
country in war with Great Britain or France. He 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 479 

proceeded to give his views at some length, but still, 
he said, he desired to acquire Cuba. It was clear 
that he desired to shun the question during my ad- 
ministration, but if the measure was pressed for deci- 
sion now, he was unwilling to take uncompromising 
ground against it, and that if he yielded his assent, 
it would be reluctantly. At the last Cabinet meet- 
ing he had expressed his apprehension of the preju- 
dicial effect which the agitation of the subject might 
have on the prospects of Gen'l Cass in the approach- 
ing Presidential election. I adverted to this objec- 
tion & told him I had held a full conversation with 
Gen'l Cass on the subject since the last meeting of 
the Cabinet (see this diary yesterday) and that Gen'l 
Cass was decidedly in favour of purchasing Cuba 
from Spain, and had expressed his opinion that an 
of]fer to purchase it, or the actual purchase of it, 
would not injure his election. Mr. Buchanan said 
he differed with Gen'l Cass in opinion. The subject 
of Cuba & its purchase was the subject of a lengthy 
conversation among the members of the Cabinet, 
Mr. Walker earnestly urging that immediate steps 
be taken for its purchase. As Mr. Marcy, the Sec- 
retary of War, was not present on the last Cabinet 
day, when the subject w^as presented for considera- 
tion, I did not press it for a decision to-day. Indeed 
Mr. Marcy intimated that he was not prepared to 
give an opinion. In a late despatch, as well as a 
personal letter, addressed to me by Mr. Ralph I. 
Ingersoll, U. S. minister to Russia, he requests to be 
recalled from his mission, The same request had 
been made some time ago & refused on account of 



48o JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [3 June 

[the] French Revolution and other events which had 
occurred in Europe, & which seemed to render it 
proper that the U. S. minister at St. Petersburg 
should remain at his post. I stated that I was of 
opinion that the leave asked might now be granted. 
Mr. Buchanan had no objection provided a successor 
should be appointed and go out to relieve Mr. Inger- 
soU before he left St. Petersburg. To this I assented. 
I then informed the Cabinet that I proposed to ap- 
point Senator Bagby of Alabama to succeed Mr. 
Ingersoll. Each member of the Cabinet expressed 
his satisfaction at the selection of Mr. Bagby for the 
mission. Gen'l Cass and Mr. Benjamin F. Hallett^ 
of Boston took a family dinner with me to-day. 
After dinner Gen'l Cass took leave of me intending 
on monday morning next [to leave] for his residence 
in Michigan. After night Mr. J. L. O'Sullivan 
called & had another conversation with me upon the 
subject of Cuba. He informed me that after he saw 
me on yesterday he had gone to Baltimore, where he 
met the agent from Cuba of whom he had informed 
me. He did not communicate to me anything ma- 
terial which he learned from him, but was very 
earnest in urgent [urging] his former views in 
favour of the purchase of Cuba. Mr. O'Sullivan 
belongs to the section of the Democratic party in 
New York called Barn-burners. The conversation 
turned on the politics of New York and the course 
of the Barn-burners in the Presidential election. I 
expressed the opinion to him that if they did not 

^Benjamin F. Hallett of Massachusetts, 1 797-1862, ardent 
advocate of temperance and anti-Masonic principles. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 481 

support the nomination of Cass & Butler they could 
not continue to be members of the Democratic party, 
but would in effect join the Whigs. I was satisfied 
from the conversation that he prefers to see the Dem- 
ocratic party defeated, rather than see Gen'l Cass 
elected President of the U. States. The Treaty with 
New Granada was ratified by the Senate to-day. 

Sunday, 4th June, 1848.— Mrs. Polk and myself 
attended the First Presbyterian church to-day. Sen- 
ators Borland & Sebastian of Arkansas, both of whom 
were formerly citizens of Tennessee, took a family 
dinner with me to-day. Daniel Graham, Esqr., also 
dined with me. 

Monday, 5/A June, 1848. — An unusual number 
of persons called this morning. Among them were 
twenty or thirty ministers and elders of the Presby- 
terian church, who had been attending the General 
Assembly of the old school Presbyterian church, 
which has been in Session at Baltimore for some 
days. On their return to their homes they called on 
me to pay their respects. I transacted business in 
my office as usual. The Senate held a short sitting 
to-day, there being scarcely a quorum, many of the 
members having gone to attend the Whig national 
convention which meets at Philadelphia on Wednes- 
day next. Gen'l Cass left this City in this morning's 
cars for the North on his way to his residence in 
Michigan. My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, re- 
turned to-day from a visit to his mother who resides 
at Morganton, N. Carolina. He has been appointed 



482 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [6 June 

a cadet in the military academy, and will proceed in 
two or three days to West Point to enter upon 
his duties. To-night my Private Secretary, Col. 
Walker, left with his wife and four children on a 
visit to relatives of Mrs. Walker at Lynchburg, Vir- 
ginia. Mrs. Walker and her children will remain 
at Lynchburg some weeks. Col. Walker will return 
in a few days. The Senate adjourned over to-day 
until thursday next. 

Tuesday, 6th June, 1848. — Several persons 
called this morning. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour; all the members present. After the considera- 
tion of business, not important, I brought up the 
question of Cuba, and the policy of making an at- 
tempt to purchase the Island from Spain. Mr. 
Walker and Mr. Mason were earnestly in favour of 
making the effort to purchase it. Mr. Johnson did 
not favour the proposition, chiefly because he was 
unwilling to incorporate the population of Cuba with 
the Federal Union. Mr. Marcy said he concurred 
with Mr. Buchanan in the views expressed by him 
at the last meeting of the Cabinet (see this diary of 
that day). Mr. Buchanan said he had reflected 
much on the subject, and continued to entertain the 
opinions which he had heretofore expressed. He 
said he desired to acquire Cuba, but thought in the 
present condition of affairs in Europe this was not 
the proper time to make an overture to Spain with 
that view. He feared it might involve [us] in War. 
He said with these impressions & convictions he 
would, however, though with reluctance, write such 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 483 

a despatch to our minister at Madrid on the subject 
as I might direct, and as would carry out my views. 
I decided that the proposition to purchase Cuba 
should be made through Mr. Saunders, U. S. Min- 
ister at Madrid, and I stated generally the substance 
of what the despatch to Mr. Saunders should con- 
tain. JVIr. Buchanan said he wished specific instruc- 
tions from me before he wrote the despatch. I in- 
formed him that I would reduce the points to 
writing which I desired should be embraced in the 
despatch, and would furnish him with it. Mr. Bu- 
chanan will take no respohsibility in the matter, but 
will simply execute my directions in his official char- 
acter as Secretary of State. I was indisposed to-day, 
having taken cold which had affected my whole sys- 
tem. I lay upon a sofa most of the time the Cabinet 
were in session. I attended to no business after the 
Cabinet adjourned. This was reception evening, 
but I was too much indisposed to accompany Mrs. 
Polk to the parlour. My nephew, Marshall T. Polk, 
attended her. Mr. Russmann of Tennessee, a clerk 
in the General P. Office, attended to-day, and will 
perform the duties of my Private Secretary during 
the absence of Col. Walker from the City. 

Wednesday, yth June, 1848. — I was in the office 
& received company as usual this morning, though 1 
was quite indisposed. I attended to none but indis- 
pensible business on my table to-day. The Secre- 
taries of State, War, and Navy called on business. I 
received a letter to-day from the Hon. P. D. Vroom 
of N. Jersey, declining to accept the appointment of 



484 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [8 June 

Attorney General of the U. S. which I had tendered 
to him by a letter addressed to him some days ago. 

Continuing to be indisposed, I sent for Dr. Hall 
in the afternoon, who prescribed for me. The ma- 
rine band played on the President's grounds this 
afternoon, but I did not go out. Most of the mem- 
bers of Congress, I learn, have gone to Philadelphia 
to attend the Whig national convention which meets 
in that City to-day. Some of them have accom- 
panied Gen'l Cass as far as New York on his way 
home. After night I took the medicine which Dr. 
Hall had prescribed. 

Thursday, 8th June, 1848. — I continued to be 
indisposed this morning, though I attended in my 
office and saw a few persons. I transacted some 
business which was indispensible. Having received 
a letter from the Hon. P. D. Vroom on yesterday 
declining to accept the office of attorney Gen'l of the 
U. S., which I had tendered to him, I addressed a 
letter to-day to the Hon. Isaac Toucey of Connecti- 
cut, tendering the office to him. It had been a mat- 
ter of doubt in my mind & was discussed in the 
Cabinet, whether the appointment should not be 
tendered to Gov. Tou[c]ey instead of Mr. Vroom. 
It had been decided in favour of the latter, chiefly on 
the ground that no important appointment had been 
given to a citizen of the state of New Jersey. I am 
personally better acquainted with Gov. Toucey than 
with Mr. Vroom, and if he accepts I will be entirely 
satisfied with him. I omitted to mention in yester- 
day's Diary that a dispatch was received from 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 485 

Messrs. Sevier & Clifford, dated at the City of 
Mexico on the 21st May, 1848, which confirmed the 
rumours which had been circulated through the Tele- 
graph for some days passed [past], that the 
Treaty had been ratified by the chamber of Deputies 
at Queretero, in Mexico, and that no doubt was enter- 
tained that it would be ratified by the Senate also. 
There is now, I hope, a good prospect of a speedy 
peace. 

Friday, gth June, 1848.— K Telegraphic de- 
spatch from the South reached this City last night to 
the effect that the Treaty with Mexico had been rati- 
fied by the Mexican Senate/ The Treaty had previ- 
ously received the ratification of the House of 
Delegates of the Mexican Congress. Half a dozen 
members of Congress, all of the Democratic party, 
called early in the day to congratulate me on the news 
of peace. I sent for the Secretary of War and con- 
sulted with him in regard to the orders necessary to 
be given, in addition to those which had heretofore 
been given, in relation to the disbanding all the 
forces engaged to serve during the Mexican War. 
Mr. Walker, the Secretary of the Treasury, called 
to see me in relation to the purchase of the Island of 
Cuba from Spain, a subject which has been one of 
consideration in the Cabinet lately. He expressed 
the opinion that if any of the volunteers in Mexico 
should, after their discharge, go to Cuba, as it had 
been intimated they would do, and should engage 
with the Cubans in an attempt to revolutionize that 

^ The Mexican Senate ratified the treaty on May 25, 1848. 



486 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [9 June 

Island, it would postpone, if not defeat, the acquisi- 
tion of the Island by the U. S. He recommended 
that an order should be issued by the Secretary of 
War to Gen'l Butler commanding the army in 
Mexico, to prevent such a step, so far as our troops 
in Mexico who would be entitled to their discharge 
were concerned. Concurring with Mr. Walker in 
this suggestion, I sent for the Secretary of War and 
appointed a special meeting of the Cabinet at i 
O'clock P. M. to-day to consider this and other 
points connected with the Cuba[n] question, about 
which I had a full conversation with Mr. Walker. 
Mr. Walker left to see Mr. Buchanan on the sub- 
ject. In about an hour he addressed me a note 
stating that he had seen Mr. Buchanan & that he 
concurred entirely in our views. The Secretary of 
War called, and after a full conference with him he 
retired to prepare his order to Gen'l Butler. At 7 
O'clock P. M, the Cabinet assembled; all the mem- 
bers present except Mr. Mason, the Secretary of the 
Navy, who, I learned, left last evening on a short 
visit to the Naval school at Annapolis. The subject 
of Cuba was brought up. All concurred in the pro- 
priety of issuing the proposed order to Gen'l Butler. 
The Secretary of War read the order which he had 
prepared at my suggestion, and it was approved. 
The Secretary of State at my request read to the Cabi- 
net the draft of the letter to the U. S. consul at 
Havannah, in answer to one received from the consul 
dated i8th ult., and which he had previously read 
to me. In this letter the consul was informed the 
U. S. must preserve the national faith with Spain, 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 487 

and take no part in the civil war or revolution in 
Cuba which the consul in his letter apprehended 
would take place in that Island soon. He was also 
informed that the U. S. would keep in good faith 
her Treaty with Spain and preserve her neutrality, 
[but] she could never consent to see Cuba transferred 
to any European power. I suggested two modifica- 
tions of the letter, to which Mr. Buchanan assented, 
and as modified it was unanimously approved by the 
Cabinet. Mr. Walker then repeated the suggestion 
which he had made to me this morning. It was that 
the best mode of approaching Spain with the view to 
purchase Cuba would be to do so in a manner to 
satisfy her of our friendly disposition, and that we 
did not intend to take any part in any revolution by 
which the Spanish authority should be overthrown. 
With this object he proposed that copies of the order 
of the Secretary of War to Gen'l Butler & of the 
Secretary of State's letter to our consul at Havannah 
should be transmitted to the U. S. Minister at 
Madrid with instructions to communicate them to 
the Spanish Government. He proposed that our 
Minister should at the same time [say] that if it 
would be agreeable to Spain, the U. S. Government 
would make an offer to purchase Cuba for a pecun- 
iary consideration. This mode of making the propo- 
sition was discussed & unanimously agreed to by the 
Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan, who had doubted and been 
reluctant to act on a former occasion, said he heartily 
approved the plan suggested, and if adopted he 
would cheerfully prepare the necessary instructions 
to Mr. Saunders. I told him that I was glad to find 



488 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [lo June 

unanimity in the Cabinet, & that I would adopt the 
plan proposed. Mr. Buchanan said as the note of 
Mr. Saunders making the communication to the 
Spanish Government would be a very important one, 
he thought it ought to be prepared here and sent to 
him to be signed and delivered. This suggestion 
was also assented to unanimously, & [I] directed Mr. 
Buchanan to prepare the instructions and note ac- 
cordingly. When the Cabinet was about to disperse 
I informed them that [I] would have nothing of 
importance to lay before them on to-morrow, which 
was the regular day of meeting of the Cabinet, and 
that there would be no meeting of the Cabinet on 
to-morrow unless I notified the members to the con- 
trary. Early this morning I learned that two ballot- 
tings had taken place in the Whig national con- 
vention sitting at Philadelphia, late in the day on 
yesterday, without making a choice. Later in the 
day a Telegraphic despatch announced that on the 
4th balloting Maj'r Gen'l Zachary Taylor of the U. 
S. army had been nominated as the Whig candidate 
for the Presidency, and Millard Fillmore of New 
York had, on the 2nd balloting, been nominated as 
the Whig candidate for the Vice Presidency. This 
being reception evening I attended in the parlour, 
although I was still somewhat indisposed. The 
usual number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Saturday, lOth June, 1848.— I was more unwell 
this morning than I was on yesterday. I was able to 
be in my office, but saw but few persons and trans- 
acted but little business. I transacted some business 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 489 

with the Secretary of War & the Secretary of the 
Navy. The Hon. John J. Crittendon of the Senate 
called to take leave of me, intending to leave the 
city on Monday for Kentucky, to enter upon the can- 
vass as the Whig candidate for Governor of that 
state. He said he could not in justice to his own 
feelings or his sense of duty to me, leave the City 
without returning to me his warm thanks for my 
kindness to his son, Capt., now Maj'r Crittendon, of 
the mounted Rifle Regiment. His son had been in- 
volved in difficulty in the army and was about to be 
dismissed from the army, and I had pardoned him 
& restored him to duty. He is [a] gallant officer, 
but occasionally indulges too much in the use [of] 
intoxicating drink. My personal relations with Mr. 
Crittendon have always been of a friendly character, 
& I am sure he parted with me my personal friend. 
Continuing to be unwell to-night I took medicine 
prescribed by Dr. Hall. 

Sunday, nth June, 1848. — I was indisposed to- 
day and did not attend church. Mrs. Polk, accom- 
panied by Miss Henrietta Rachel Armstrong, 
attended the First Presbyterian church. 

My Private Secretary (Col. Walker) returned 
from Lynchburg, Va., where he had gone with his 
family, this morning. He left his family at Lynch- 
burg. 

Monday, 12th June, 1848. — Though somewhat 
indisposed I attended in my office this morning. 
Many persons called and I was annoyed as usual by 



490 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [13 June 

the office seekers. I sent a message to the Senate in 
answer to [a] Resolution of that body, and transacted 
business in my office during most of the day. I was 
informed to-day that two persons in this City, one an 
upholsterer (Boyd) and the other a grocer, I believe 
(Donaba) who have heretofore professed to be dem- 
ocrats, have announced that they have changed their 
politics and are now Whigs, and for Gen'l Taylor 
for the Presidency. They were both applicants to 
me for office and were disappointed. They will not, 
of course, avow this as the reason of their change of 
their politics, but there is no doubt it is the true 
reason. Theirs is but an illustration of the case [of] 
hundreds, and I might add thousands, of oriiers. 
The herd of professional office-seekers who have be- 
sieged me during my w^hole term are, with rare 
exceptions, men without political principle. From 
the necessity of the case, many more who seek office 
must be disappointed than can be gratified, and I 
have therefore long since become satisfied that any 
President is greatly weakened by the patronage of 
his office. I am more & more disgusted with the 
selfish importunities of those who continue to harrass 
me about office. 

Tuesday, 13th June, 1848. — A number of per- 
sons called this morning and among them several 
members of Congress. The Cabinet met at the 
usual hour; all the members present. Mr. Buchanan 
and Mr. Walker having business in their respective 
Departments, asked to be excused unless I desired 
their presence on some special matter. I told them 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



491 



I had nothing important to present to the Cabinet 
to-day and they retired. I transacted business in my 
office as usual. This was reception evening. The 
usual number of persons, ladies & gentlemen, at- 
tended in the parlour. 

Wednesday, 14th June, 1848.— The number and 
importunities of office seekers was quite as great as 
they have been any day for months passed [past]. 
I have no offices to bestow, & am much disgusted 
with the unceasing pressure for them which occurs 
daily. A great portion of those who thus annoy 
[me] have no claims upon the public & are wholly 
unworthy. All of them had much better engage in 
some honest employment for a livelihood than to 
seek to live on the public. I disposed of much busi- 
ness in my office to-day. Nothing of unusual interest 
occurred. The Marine band played on the Presi- 
dent's grounds this afternoon, many persons attended. 

Thursday, I^th June, 1848. — The Secretary of 
War left this morning for Frederickton, Md., where 
he had been summoned to testify before the military 
Court of Enquiry in Gen'l Pillow's case, and of 
which Brevet Brig. Gen'l Tomson is President. 
Many persons called as usual this morning. In the 
course of the day I saw the Secretaries of State and 
the Navy and transacted business with them. I 
nominated to the Senate to-day the Hon. Isaac 
Toucey of Connecticut, as Attorney General of the 
U. S., and the Hon. Arthur P. Bagby of the Senate, 
from Alabama, as En. Ex. & Minister Plenipoten- 



492 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i6 June 

tiary to Russia, vice R. I. IngersoU, recalled at his 
own request. I transacted business in my office as 
usual to-day. To-night Maj'r Graham of the U. S. 
army arrived bearing a despatch from Messrs. Sevier 
& Clififord, U. S. Commissioners in Mexico. They 
write from the City of Queretero on the 25th of 
May, and announce their arrival at that City on that 
day, and that the Treaty had been ratified by both 
branches of the Mexican Congress. The exchange 
of ratifications would probably take place a day or 
two afterwards. 

Friday, i6th June, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning. I transacted business in my 
office until between i & 2 O'Clock P. M., and while 
in conversation with Senator Bagby of Alabama now 
U. S. minister to Russia, I discovered systoms [symp- 
toms] of a chill & mentioned the fact to Mr. Bagby. 
In half an hour afterwards the chill was upon me. 
It was followed, of course, by a fever. I sent for 
Dr. Hall, who prescribed for me in order to prevent 
its recurrence. After the fever subsided, having 
much business before me, I transacted some of it. 
This was reception evening, and although not well 
I was present in the parlour. A number of persons, 
ladies & gentlemen, called. At bed time I took the 
medicine prescribed by Dr. Hall. 

Saturday, 17th June, 1848. — I was in my 
office at the usual hour this morning, though I was 
slightly indisposed. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour; all the members present. Mr. Buchanan read 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 493 

the despatch ^ to Mr. Saunders, U. S. minister to 
Spain, on the subject of the purchase of Cuba, whicli 
he had prepared in pursuance of the decision made 
at a previous Cabinet meeting (see this Diary of the 
9th June, 1848). It was an able and well-written 
despatch. It authorized Mr. Saunders to inform the 
Spanish Minister of Foreign affairs of the Secretary 
of State's despatch to the U. S. consul at Havannah 
and of the Secretary of War's order to Gen'l Butler, 
for the purpose of satisfying him of the good faith 
of the U. S. towards Spain. He was authorized to 
inform him in conversation that the U. S. could 
never permit Cuba to pass into the hands of any 
European Power, and that whilst the Island re- 
mained a possession of Spain the U. S. would in no 
way interfere with it. He was authorized, after hav- 
ing done this, to signify to him in a detailed manner 
that the U. S. would be willing to purchase the 
Island if it would be agreeable to Spain to cede [it] 
for a pecuniary consideration to the U. S. In his 
confidential instructions he was authorized to stipu- 
late to pay One Hundred Millions of Dollars in con- 
venient installments for the Island. He was fur- 
nished with full powers to make a Treaty to this 
efifect. The whole matter was profoundly confiden- 
tial, and the knowledge of it was to be confined to 
the Cabinet alone. I will not even make known the 
result of the Cabinet deliberations on the subject to 
Mr. J. L. O'Sullivan of New York, who first sug- 
gested to me the idea of purchasing Cuba, and who 
takes much interest in the subject. I do not deem 

^ Moore, Buchanan, VIII, 90-102. 



494 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [i8 June 

it prudent to entrust the knowledge of the authority 
given to Mr. Saunders to any but the Cabinet. The 
Cabinet adjourned about i O'Clock P. M., and in 
half an hour afterwards I found that a second chill 
was coming on me. It was severer than the chill of 
yesterday. While the fever was on me I sent for Dr. 
Hall, who prescribed for me. I retired to my 
chamber. I spent a restless & uncomfortable night. 

Sunday, l8th June, 1848. — I was quite unwell 
this morning and was closely confined to my chamber 
during the whole day. About i O'Clock P. M. I 
had a chill. This is the third day I have had a chill 
about the same hour. It was not so severe to-day as 
on yesterday. Dr. Hall called to see [me] twice in 
the course of the day. I spent an uncomfortable 
night. 

Monday, igth June, 1848. — I continued to be 
unwell & remained closely confined to my chamber 
during the whole day. Dr. Hall called to see me 
two or three times. I had no chill to-day. I signed 
some official papers in my chamber and gave some 
directions about necessary business. 

Tuesday, 20th June, 1848. — I was convales- 
cent this morning, but did not leave my chamber. 
Senators Houston of Texas & Davis of Mississippi 
sent in their names with a verbal message that they 
had called to see me as a sub-committee of the Com- 
mittee on military ajffairs, on official business. I re- 
ceived them in my chamber. They informed me 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



495 



that the committee on military affairs desired infor- 
mation and the views of this Executive in relation 
to the Peace establishment, or the amount of land 
forces it was deemed necessary to retain in service 
upon the restoration of peace with Mexico. I in- 
formed them that in my judgment all the land forces 
raised to serve during the war with Mexico, whether 
regulars or Volunteers, should be discharged, and 
that the old army, with authority to fill up the rank. 
& file of the companies to 100 men each, would be 
all that the public service would require to be re- 
tained. They suggested that three or four more Regi- 
ments would be needed for the protection of our 
extended Western frontier. I differed with them in 
opinion and assigned to them my reasons. The chief 
reasons were, first, that the old army of 15 Regiments, 
filled up to the maximum of 1,000 men each, would 
amount to 15,000 men, exclusive of officers, which I 
thought altogether sufficient for a period of peace; 
and secondly, the leading objection which existed in 
my mind to the creation of a large standing army in 
time of peace. I gave them my views at some length, 
but told them that I had not laid the subject form- 
ally before the Secretary of War, and requested 
them to call again on to-morrow morning. I told 
them it was my intention in submitting the ratified 
Treaty with Mexico before Congress for the neces- 
sary legislation to carry it into effect, to communi- 
cate the views I had expressed to them, in reference 
to the peace establishment of the army. I felt that 
it would be unsafe in my present state of health to 
attend the meeting of my Cabinet in my office, and 



496 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [20 June 

therefore I directed my messenger to invite them to 
meet me in my chamber. They accordingly assem- 
bled in my chamber, all the members present. I 
submitted to them the subject of the peace establish- 
ment of the army, and communicated to them the 
conversation which I had just held with Senators 
Houston & Davis. After some discussion they all 
concurred in my views. It was deemed proper by 
the Secretary of War to retain in service the addi- 
tional Major for each Regiment, and the increase of 
the staff in some of the corps, which had been author- 
ized during the war. In this I concurred. I sent 
to my office & my Private Secretary brought to me 
the rough draft of a message which I had prepared 
just before I was taken sick, designed to be sent to 
Congress as soon as the ratified Treaty with Mexico 
was received. In that message I had expressed the 
views, substantially, in relation to the peace estab- 
lishment of the army, which I had repeated this 
morning to Senators Houston & Davis & to the Cabi- 
net. The message also contained my views on other 
subjects relative to the execution of the Treaty, and 
the policy to be pursued upon the restoration of 
peace. The Cabinet concurred in the views ex- 
pressed, but [thought] one paragraph in relation to 
the misnamed & exploded " American system " had 
better be omitted. To this I assented. As the paper 
related in part to the operations of the war Depart- 
ment & the army I gave it to the Secretary of War 
& requested him to examine it & return it to me 
with any suggestions he might think proper to make. 
No other business of importance was considered by 



i848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 497 

the Cabinet. When the Cabinet retired I was mucli 
fatigued. I saw a few friends in my chamber, and 
made an effort to go to the red parlour above stairs 
to meet my old friend, Dr. Lewis P. Jordan of King- 
ston, Tenn., & his wife. I remained in the parlour 
but a few minutes. This was reception evening, but 
I was too feeble & too unwell to go to the parlour. 
Mrs. Polk informed me that a large number of per- 
sons, ladies & gentlemen, attended. 

Wednesday, 21st June, 1848. — Being somewhat 
feeble from the effects of my late indisposition, I 
remained the greater part of the day in my chamber. 
I walked two or three times to my office & attended 
to necessary business. I saw the Secretary of State on 
business. My nephew, Lucius Marshall Walker, a 
cadet at West Point, arrived this morning and spent 
the day with my family. He is on furlough and left 
in the Southern boat to-night on his way to visit 
his father's family in Tennessee. He has been two 
years at West Point, maintains a fair standing in 
his class, and is a promising young man. Senator 
Davis of Miss, called. I received him in my cham- 
ber. He called in pursuance of my request to him- 
self & Senator Houston of Texas on yesterday. They 
were deputed to call on me by the committee of mili- 
tary affairs of the Senate to ascertain my views in 
relation to the reduction of the army on the restora- 
tion of peace with Mexico (see this Diary of yes- 
terday). I repeated to him substantially the views 
which I had expressed to Senator Houston & himself 
on yesterday. I had in the mean-time consulted the 



498 JAMES K.POLK'S DIARY [22 June 

Cabinet, who concurred with me in these views. The 
Marine band played on the grounds south of the 
President's House this afternoon. Many persons at- 
tended. I was too much indisposed to go out. 

Thursday, 22nd June, 1848.— I spent a short 
time in my office this morning, saw a few persons, 
and transacted some business. I saw the Secretary 
of State. I sent for the Secretary of War and trans- 
acted business with him. This afternoon Lieut. 
Gardner, U. S. army, arrived bearing despatches 
from the city of Mexico. He left that City on the 
ist instant, and among other despatches brought one 
from Messrs. Sevier and Clifford, dated at Quere- 
tero, May 30th, 1848, announcing that the exchange 
of ratifications of the Treaty of peace had taken 
place on that day. The Commissioners would im- 
mediately return from Queretero to the City of Mex- 
ico, from which City Mr. Sevier would return to 
the U. S. bringing with him the ratified Treaty. 
He brought also despatches from Gen'l Butler stat- 
ing that part of the army in Mexico were on the 
march to Vera Cruz to embark for the U. S. 

Friday, 23rd June, 1848.— I was in my office 
this morning. Many persons called. Among others, 
Gen'l "H. Dodge,^ one of the recently elected Sena- 
tors in Congress from the State of Wisconsin, called. 

' Henry Dodge, Territorial Governor of Wisconsin 1 836-1 841, 
Delegate to Congress 1 841-1845, Governor 1846-1848, Senator 
from Wisconsin 1848-1857. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 499 

Maj'r Gen'l Gideon J. Pillow of the U. S. army also 
called. The Court of enquiry in his case, which 
held its last sittings at Frederick, Maryland, closed 
the testimony on Wednesday last. Gen'l Pillow will 
remain at Washington until the Court make their 
report. There was company in my ofBce when he 
called and I had but little conversation with him. 
This morning Senator Davis of Mississippi called 
and informed me that three gentlemen, citizens of 
Cuba, had called with him and were in the anti- 
chamber, & that he desired to inform me of their 
business before they saw me. He informed me that 
they had information that a revolution was about to 
break out in Cuba about this period, and that if suc- 
cessful the Cubans would desire to be annexed to 
the U. S. I told Senator Davis that it was a very 
delicate subject upon which to hold a conversation 
with them, and that if I saw them I would hear what 
they had to say, but would make them no answer. 
He then introduced them into my office in comeopany 
[company] with Wm. J. Brown, ass't P. M. Gen'l. 
In the presence of Senator Davis & Mr. Brown they 
informed me of the contemplated revolution by the 
inhabitants of Cuba with a view to overthrow the 
Spanish authority in that Island, & that the revolu- 
tion would probably take place about this day or to- 
morrow. They spoke of the desire of the Cubans to 
throw of¥ the Spanish Yoke and to become annexed 
to the U. S. They did not ask the interference of 
this Government, but suggested that a part of the 
troops of the U. S. might be stationed at Key West 



500 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [23 June 

and at other convenient points on the Gulf coast to 
watch over & protect, if necessary, the interests of 
American citizens in Cuba. I gave them no answer 
but a general evasive reply to the effect that I would 
consider of the information they had given me. One 
of them produced a letter in Spanish which he had 
received from his correspondent in Cuba, dated May 
25th, 1848. This letter was read to me in English 
by Col. Davis. It was to the efifect that in 20 or 30 
days from its date the revolution would take place. 
Upon further enquiry I learned that neither of the 
three men were recently from Cuba, and that two 
of them resided in the U. S., one of them at Phila- 
delphia. Their names I did not hear distinctly. 
After a short interview they retired, in company with 
Senator Davis & Mr. Brown. Shortly afterwards 
Mr. Buchanan, Sec. of State, and Mr. Walker, Sec. 
of the Treasury, called on business, and I communi- 
cated to them the fact that they had called and what 
they had said. The Secretary of War called & I 
transacted business with him. He returned to me 
my draft of a message to Congress on the occasion 
when I should lay the Treaty of peace with Mexico 
before that body for their action. I had handed it 
to him at the Cabinet meeting on tuesday last. He 
had suggested a few unimportant modifications of 
my draft. I took a ride in my carriage with Mrs. 
Polk this afternoon. This was the regular recep- 
tion evening, but I did not receive company, Mrs. 
Polk having resolved that during the remainder of 
the warm season she would receive company but one 
evening (Tuesdays) in the week. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



501 



Saturday, 24th June, 1848.— I saw a Humbcr of 
persons this morning. The Cabinet met at the usual 
hour. Some business of no special importance was 
transacted. The Secretary of the Navy read a de- 
spatch which he had prepared to Commodore Jones, 
commanding the Pacific squadron. He made some 
modifications of it at my suggestion. During the 
sitting of the Cabinet Senator Hannegan called & 1 
saw him in my Private Secretary's office. 1 had a 
conversation with him about the distracting subject 
of slavery, which is embarrassing the Bill to estab- 
lish a Territorial Government in Oregon. 1 ad- 
vised Mr. Hannegan, as I had previously done 
some days ago, to bring forward & press the 
adoption of the Missouri compromise line & ex- 
tend it to the Pacific. He concurred with me that 
this was the only practicable means of settling the 
agitation and excitement on the subject which ex- 
isted in and out of Congress. On returning to the 
Cabinet I informed them of my conversation with 
Mr. Hannegan & submitted the question to them 
for their opinions. They all concurred in opinion 
that the adoption of the Missouri compromise was 
the only means of allaying the excitement & settling 
the question. After the Cabinet adjourned I re- 
quested my Private Secretary to invite Senators 
Breese of 111. and Bradbury of Maine to call this 
afternoon. They did call at different hours, and 
I held with each a conversation in which I presented 
to them the urgent considerations which made it 
proper to adopt the Missouri compromise line of 
36° 30', as applied to the Territories of Oregon, Cal- 



502 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [24 June 

ifornia, & New Mexico, and thus quiet the agitation 
of the slavery question in & out of Congress. Mr. 
Breese expressed his readiness to take the Missouri 
compromise line, & said he would exert his influence 
with Northern Senators to induce them to do so. 
Mr. Bradbury was not so decided on the subject as 
Mr. Breese, but admitted the great importance of 
adjusting the question. He seemed to be desirous 
to support the Missouri line, but was timid & fear- 
ful of public opinion in his State. The necessity 
for settling the question is the greater since the con- 
vention of Barnburners, held at Utica, New York, 
on the 22nd Instant, have bolted from the regular 
Democratic nominations made by the Baltimore 
convention in May last, and have nominated Martin 
Van Buren for President and Henry Dodge of Wis- 
consin for Vice President distinctly upon the ground 
of the Wilmot Proviso. This is a most dangerous 
attempt to organize Geographical parties upon the 
slave question. It is more threatening to the Union 
than anything which has occurred since the meeting 
of the Hartford convention in 1814. Mr. Van 
Buren's course is selfish, unpatriotic, and wholly in- 
excusable. The effect of this movement of the seced- 
ing and discontented Democrats of New York will 
be effectually co[u]nteracted if the slave question can 
be settled by adopting the Missouri compromise line 
as applied to Oregon, New Mexico, & Upper Cali- 
fornia at the Present Session of Congress. If the 
question can be thus settled harmony will be restored 
to the Union and the danger of forming geographi- 
cal parties be avoided. For these reasons I am using 



JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 503 

my influence with members of Congress to have it 
effected. 

Maj'r Gen'l Pillow and his wife took a family 
dinner with me to-day. 

Sunday, 2_Sth June, 184S.— Being still feeble 
from my recent indisposition 1 did not attend church 
to-day. I saw Senator Turney of Tennessee about 
3 O'clock P. M. and held a conversation with [him] 
on the subject of adopting the Missouri compromise 
(see this Diary of yesterday). Mr. Turney con- 
curred with me in my views. The conversations 
noted in yesterday's Diary as having taken place with 
Senators Atherton [Breese] and Bradbury should 
have been noted as having taken place this day in- 
stead of yesterday. I[t] was this day I saw them 
and conversed with them. The mistake in writing 
them as of yesterday instead of to-day, occurred in 
consequence of my having omitted to write up my 
diary since friday & I inadvertantly recorded the 
conversations as of yesterday instead of to-day. This 
evening I was informed that Joseph H. Talbot, 
Esqr., Dr. Ja[c]kson & his wife, & Miss Hurt, all 
of Ja[c]kson, Tennessee, were in the parlour. Al- 
though our habit is not to receive company on the 
sabbath, as they were Tennesse[e]ans, and Mr. Tal- 
bot an old acquaintance, Mrs. Polk & myself went 
to the parlour to see them. The[y] took tea with us. 

Monday, 26th June, 1848. — I saw company as 
usual this morning. Members of Congress, office 
seekers, and others called. I saw several public offi- 



504 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [27 June 

cers and transacted business on my table to-day. 
Nothing unusual or [of] particular interest occur- 
red. Gen'l Pillow called and held a long conver- 
sation with me. 

Judge Mason, as acting attorney General of the 
U. S., and to whom the subject had been referred 
for his opinion, read to me an opinion which he had 
prepared relating to certain negro slaves claimed 
by the Seminole Indians, who claimed their freedom 
under an alleged proclamation of Gen'l Jesup, when 
commanding the army in Florida some years go. 
The opinion was to the efifect that the negroes will 
[were] still slaves & the property of the Seminoles. 
Mr. Buchanan was present & had some doubts of the 
correctness of the opinion on some points. I con- 
curred with Judge Mason in his views. 

Tuesday, 2'/th June, 1848. — Several persons 
called before the meeting of the Cabinet this morn- 
ing. Among others Senators Bright of Indiana and 
Foote of Mississippi called and held a conversation 
with me. The[y] concurred with me in opinion 
that the only practicable mode of settling the slavery 
question was to adopt the Missouri compromise line. 
An amendment ^ to be offered to the Oregon Terri- 
torial Bill, now pending before the Senate, was writ- 
ten at my table, first by Mr. Foote as I dictated it 

^ An amendment which in effect provided for the extension of 
the Missouri Compromise line to the Pacific was introduced in 
the Senate by Bright on June 27, 1848. It passed the Senate, 
but was rejected by the House on August 11. — Globe, 30 Cong, 
I Sess. 875, and H. Journal, 30 Cong, i Sess. 1245. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 505 

to him, & was then copied by Mr. Bright. I 
learn that Mr. Bright gave notice that he would 
offer the amendment when it was in order to do so, 
and the amendment as written at my table was or- 
dered to be printed for the information of the Sen- 
ate. I learn that there is a fair prospect that the 
amendment will pass the Senate. The Cabinet met 
at the usual hour; all the members present except 
the Secretary of the Treasury, from whom I jeceived 
a note stating that he was indisposed. Several mat- 
ters of detail were considered and disposed of in 
Cabinet, but none of them of any general importance. 
This was reception evening. The usual number 
of persons, ladies & gentlemen, called. 

Wednesday, 28th June, 1848. — A crowd of per- 
sons called this morning; a large majority of them 
were seeking offices which I had not to bestow. 
Quite a number of females were among them, seek- 
ing places for their husbands, sons, and other rela- 
tions. Some, too, of the number were begging 
money. It was a morning not only unprofitably 
spent, but was really a disgusting scene. But as I 
have to open my doors every day, I can never tell 
who will call or what their business is, and I am 
compelled to endure such annoyances. Poor peo- 
ple! they had much better go to work & make an 
honest living by their own exertions that [than] to 
be hanging on the Executive for office & relying upon 
the Government to support them. 

The Hon. Isaac Toucey of Connecticut, recently 
nominated to the Senate and confirmed by that body 



5o6 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY [29 June 

as Attorney General of the U. States, arrived in 
Washington to-day, and called and informed me that 
he was ready to enter upon the duties of the ofhce. I 
delivered to him his commission. I disposed of bus- 
iness on my table, and saw public officers on business 
as usual. This afternoon the Marine Band played 
on the grounds south of the President's mansion. A 
large number of persons were present. I met many 
of them on the south porch of the President's House. 
Gen'l Pillow & his wife & his aid de camp, Lieut. 
Rains, ^ took tea with us this evening. 

Thursday, 2Qth June, 1848. — Before sun-rise 
this morning I was taken with a violent diarrhea 
accompanied with severe pain. I was very soon 
prostrated by it. I sent for Dr. Hall, who prescribed 
for me. I took medicine & remained in my chamber 
during the day. In the course of the day I signed 
some official papers in my room and gave directions 
about some public matters. 

Friday, JOth June, 1848. — I continued to be un- 
well this morning and remained in my chamber. I 
transacted no business but such as was absolutely 
necessary. The committee of enrolled bills of the 
two Houses of Congress called and presented to me 
Bills which had passed Congress. I received them 
in my chamber. 

Saturday, Ist July, 1848. — Though still weak 
from my late attack I went to my office at the hour 

^Gabriel Jones Raines of North Carolina, of the 7th Infantry. 



1848] JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 



507 



of the meeting of the Cabinet. All the members of 
the Cabinet were present. The Secretary of War 
brought with him and read to the Cabinet the Re- 
port of the military Court of Enquiry in Maj'r Gen'l 
Pillow's case. The Court acquit him of all the ma- 
terial charges and give it as their opinion that no 
further military proceedings be had in the case. 
Though the Court acquit Gen'l Pillow, they do not, I 
think, do him full justice. I will, however, give to 
the case a more critical examination. Some other 
matters were considered, but becoming fatigued & 
exhausted I was compelled to retire to my own 
chamber. 

Sunday, 2nd July, 1848. — Mrs. Polk attended 
church in the morning & evening to-day. 1 re- 
mained in my chamber all day, except a short time 
in the morning when I went to my office & saw Sen- 
ator Turney & Mr. Thomas of Tennessee, who called 
to see how I was. In the afternoon I rode out in 
the carriage with Mrs. Polk. 

Monday, JrdJuly, 1848. — I was in my office this 
morning. A crowd of persons called, most of them 
as is usual seeking offices. I was still feeble from my 
late attack & retired to my chamber about 12 
O'clock. After resting I returned to my office & 
transacted some business. I received a letter to-day 
from Mr. R. C. Pearson of Morganton, N. C, en- 
closing one to my nephew, Marshall T. Polk, an- 
nouncing the death of his mother. His mother was 
the widow of my brother, Marshall T. Polk deed., 



So8 JAMES K. POLK'S DIARY 

and was at the time of her death the wife of Dr. W. 
C. Tate of Morganton, N. C. Marshall is the 
only surviving child by her marriage with my 
brother. He had a sister who died some years 
ago. She had six or seven children by Dr. Tate. 
I wrote to Marshall, now a Cadet at West Point, 
and enclosed to him Mr. Pearson's letter convey- 
ing to him the melancholy intelligence of the 
death of his mother. In the latter part of the day 
I transacted some business, and in the afternoon rode 
out in the carriage with Mrs. Polk. 



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