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LUCIEN B. CHASE,
A MEMBER OF THE TWENTY-NINTH AND THIRTIETH
GEORGE P. PUTNAM, 155 BROADWAY.
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1850, by
Lucien B. Chase,
n d|| , - B office of th. District Court lor the Southern District
.it New- York.
It was with a just appreciation of the difficult task
before me, that I commenced the history of Mr.
Polk's administration. I have endeavored to de-
lineate, and I hope with impartiality, the transac-
tions which signalized that eventful epoch. Having
been in Congress during the presidential term of
Mr. Polk, many occurrences recorded in these pages
passed under my own observation, which greatly
facilitated my researches. I have incorporated co-
pious notes, containing arguments upon both sides
of important questions, for the purpose of present-
ing the views of Mr. Polk's contemporaries. The
work is respectfully submitted to the consideration
of my countrymen, with the hope that they will
deal gently with its faults, in return for the infor-
mation which I trust it contains.
The events which transpired during the admi-
nistration of James K. Polk will exercise a vast
influence upon the destiny of this confederacy.
Future generations will designate it as an age of
r r esa and reform. History will preserve the evi-
dences of the chivalry and military enthusiasm
which, during: the Mexican war, covered the Amer-
Lean anus with immortal renown.
Too brief a period has elapsed since those scenes
occurred, to justify the belief that they will be
weighed at the presenl day with an impartial judg-
ment. Political and personal animosities have not
been allayed by the soothing hand of time.
Mr. Polk, but a few months ago, retired from his
elevated position only to be gathered to the tomb.
Posterity, however, will regard with unprejudiced
minds the brilliant career of that administration,
which for Btartling incidents, bold and comprehen-
sive policy, and grand and successful design, stands
unrivalled upon the pages of American history.
Early History of James K. Polk. — His Election to Congress.— Chosen Go-
vernor of Tennessee.— Influences which produced his nomination for the
Presidency in 1844.— Presidential contest of 1844.— Elevated to the Pre-
sidency.— Selection of his Cabinet. .•••.. 9
First Annual Message of Mr. Polk.— Annexation of Texas.— Adjustment of
the Oregon Question. . .30
Different races in Mexico. — The information is received there thai Joseph
Bonaparte was placed upon the throne of Spain. — Course pursued by the
Mexicans. — Rupture between the Natives and Europeans. — Insurrection
headed by Hidalgo. — Plan of Igualo. — Iturbide proclaimed Emperor. — He
is banished, and on his return to Mexico, is shot. — Revolutions. — Santa
Anna elected President. — Texas Revolution. .... 55
The' Boundaries of Texas. — Becomes a member of the Confederacy of 1824.
— The Texas which was obtained from France in 1803, and which was
ceded to Spain in 1819. — Grant of land to Moses Austin.— Settlement of
Texas. — General Cos with a military force crosses the Nueces. — Colli-
sion of Arms. — Cos is forced to surrender. — Santa Anna invades Texas in
person. — The garrison of Alamo slaughtered. — Murder of Fanning's
v i CO N T E N T S .
mand —Battle of San Jacinto.— Santa Anna makes a treaty with
. _The Mexicans evacuate Texas.— The claim of Texas to
the Kiu Grande.
of Texas —She applies lor admission into the Union.— Acquisi-
rriloryby Mr. Jefferson.— Transfer of Texas to Spain by the
1819 —Efforts of President Adams to have the title reconveyed.
_T, . . [uired while Mr. Webster was Secretary of State.— Efforts
England and France to prevent annexation.— Passage of the annexa-
tion resolutions. — Extension of our boundary y 7
CHAPTEE VI. |
American Consul at Mexico directed to open negotiations.— The Mexicans
. .. a commissioner —Mr Slidell appointed Minister Pieni-
ntiary.— The Mexicans refuse to receive him in that character. —
rupture which had long existed.— The Mexicans raise troops.
— Herrera forced to resign i i favor of General Paredes.— Orders issued to
the Mexican commanders upon the frontiers to attack the Americans. —
reued by the opposition members of Congress. — Assault upon
the I ;» ol Mr. Polk. HI
Forward movement of the American troops. — The number and discipline of
the American army. — General Taylor reaches Point Isabel. — Fort Brown
ted —The Mexicans cross the Rio Grande. — General Taylor moves
Poinl Isabel. — Bombardment of Fort Brown. — Battle
i de la Palma. — The action of Congress. — Reorga-
■ army. — The object for which the war was prosecuted —
■nil General Scotl — Requisitions made upon the Governors of
i- —Plan of campaign.— Action of General
■s from Camargo in the direction of Mon-
turt of Monterey. — Internal affairs of Mexico. — Pass granted
| . i. ral Wool marches upon Monclova. — General Kear-
: Ci nel Doniphan advances upon Chihuahua. — Vic-
cromento. — General Kearney starts for California. — Operations
Fremont and Commodores Sloat and Stockton. Orders issued
from the Mexicans. — General Taylor advises the
tve line — Preparations made to attack Vera Cruz.
ments authorized by tic- President. — Movements of Colonel
General Scott directed to proceed to the seat of war. — General Taylor ad-
vised to act upon the defensive. — Complaints of General Taylor. — Move-
ments of Santa Anna. — He advances upon Agua Nueva. — Battle of Bue-
na Vista. — General Scott takes Vera Cruz and the castle of San Juan
De Ulloa. — Capture of Alvarado. — Victory of Cerro Gordo. — Jalapa and
Perote fall into the hands of the Americans. — Appointment of Mr. Trist
as Commissioner to Mexico. — Puebla is surrendered to General Worth.
— Arrival of reinforcements from the United States. — The American
army enter the Valley of Mexico. ...... 187
Battle of Contreras. — Worth's division storms San Antonio. — Victory of
Churubusco. — Armistice granted. — Negotiations broken off. — Sanguinary
battle of Molino del Bey. — Storming of Chapultepec. — Surrender of the
city. — Santa Anna resigns the Presidency. — Attacks Colonel Childs at
Puebla. — Major Lally forces his way from Vera Cruz to Jalapa. — He is
joined by General Lane with 2,500 men. — Battle of Huamantla. — Powers
invested in Mr. Trist revoked. — Contributions exacted. — Treaty concluded
by Mr. Trist. — General Scott recalled. — General Butler appointed to the
command of the army. — Treaty of Guada loupe Hidalgo. — Americans
evacuate Mexico. — The army of the United States. — Territory, acquired
from Mexico. — Its value 227
The Tariff. — Opinions of Messrs. Clay and Polk upon that question. — Mes-
sage of Mr. Polk. — Report of the Secretary of the Treasury. — Passage of
the Tariff of 1846. — Arguments of the friends and opponents of free trade.
— The Constitutional Treasury established. — Discussions in the Constitu-
tional Convention. — Public Debt of the United States. — Proposed Tax
upon Tea and Coffee. 307
Internal Improvements. — Contest between Congress and the Executive upon
that question. — Discussions upon the power granted Congress to authorize
the Stales to lay duties upon tonnage in the Constitutional Convention. —
Public lands. — Pre-emption rights — Lands granted to several States. —
\ 111 CONTENTS.
Land granted to soldiers. — Post- Office Department. — Rates of postage.
— Foreign mails. — Lines established to Chagres and California. — The
The veto power exercised by Mr. Polk. — The instructions to Mr. Slidell. —
The -lion. — The Wilmot Proviso. — The slavery question in the
Constitution;! 1 ('< invention. — The Missouri compromise. — Territorial Go-
vernment for Oregon. — Admission of Wisconsin and Iowa into the Union.
— Progress made in the arts and sciences. — State of American literature
and education. — Conclusion 429
THE POLK ADMINISTRATION.
Early History of James K. Polk. — His Election to Congress. — Chosen Go-
vernor of Tennessee. — Influences which produced his nomination for the
Presidency in 1844. — Presidential contest of 1844. — Elevated to the Pre-
sidency. — Selection of his Cabinet.
James Knox Polk, the eleventh President of the
United States, was born in Mecklenburgh county,
North Carolina, on the 2d of November, 1795.
He was the eldest of ten children. His ancestors
emigrated from Ireland during the first part of the
eighteenth century, and settled in the State of
Maryland. A portion of the family removed, first
to Pennsylvania, and about the year 1750 they
located in North Carolina. In 1806, Major Samuel
Polk, the father of James K. Polk, emigrated to
Tennessee and settled upon Duck River. It was
here that young Polk endured the hardships of a
border life until his constitution, which was then
quite delicate, came near giving way under the toil
and fatigue to which he was exposed. Yielding to
the persuasions of his son. Major Polk enabled ! ' n
10 HISTOET OF THE
to enter the college at Chapel Hill, North Carolina,
in 1815, where he graduated in three years, with
the highest honors. He was distinguished at col-
for laborious application to his studies, and by
a strict conformity to the regulations of the insti-
tution. He was always present at recitations, and
invariably attended morning and evening prayers
in the Chapel.
When he completed his collegiate education, he
entered the office of the celebrated Felix Grundy
ti> prepare himself for the practice of the law. He
commenced the arduous duties of his profession in
L820, in the county of Maury, and at once assumed
a high position at the bar.
In 1821 he was Clerk to the Legislature of Ten-
nessee. His political career commenced in 1823,
when he was elected a member of the Legislature
of Tennessee. In 1825 he was elevated to a seat in
Congress. He was re-elected every succeeding two
years until 1839. In 1835 he was Speaker of the
House of Representatives, to which position he was
re-elected in L83T. In 1839, he was chosen Gover-
nor of Tennessee, and in 1844 President of the
1 nited Slates. The rapidity with which he was
elevated, step by step, to the highest position on
earth, is indeed remarkable, and proves conclu-
sively that his success was not the result of circum-
No one who knew Mr. Polk ever considered
him a brilliant genius. His mind possessed solidity
rather than imagination. His perception was intui-
tive, and his memory retentive to an extraordinary
POLK ADMINISTRATION. 11
degree, while his judgment rarely led him into
error. His manners were remarkably affable, and
always made an impression upon those who knew
him. Among his intimate friends, he indulged his
wit and humor with perfect freedom, and they
always found him a pleasant and instructive com-
The career of Mr. Polk was as remarkable for
its brilliancy as for the substantial fruits which it
produced. The prominent trait of his character
was extraordinary energy. In college, at the bar,
in his political canvasses, and in the discharge of
his executive duties, he was alike distinguished for
his untiring industry and indomitable wil). This
frequently induced him to devote his attention too
much to minute details, and had the effect of im-
pairing his constitution. It was in his canvasses
that he exhibited all the resources of his mind.
Disaster only had the effect of arousing his powers,
and stimulated him to win victory where others
were subdued by defeat. Three times he canvassed
the State of Tennessee as a candidate for Governor.
In 1839 he was elected over Newton Cannon, and
in 1841 and 1843 he was defeated by James C.
Jones. No one who has not experienced the
fatigues of such a struggle, can appreciate its
labors. Undismayed by the task before him, Col.
Polk always commenced the contest buoyant with
hope. He invariably succeeded in inspiring his
friends with his own enthusiasm ; no obstacle could
deter him from an energetic discharge of his duty.
Subsisting upon the plainest food, and perfectly
1_- BIST OBI OF T 11 E
temperate in his habits, he accustomed himself to a
. system of diet, which alone could have sus-
tained liim in his political conflicts.
Hi- powers of endurance were taxed to their
utmost capacity dining his presidential career. Ele-
! to that responsible position at the age of
-nine, being younger l>\ several years than
either of hi- predecessors, he was determined to em-
all the resources of his intellect in the dis-
charge of hi- duties. His administration occurred
in times big with greal events, and his sound judg-
ment, and inflexibility of purpose, enabled him to
control them with unparalleled success.
The amiable and accomplished Mrs. Polk pre-
sided with -reat dignity and grace over the pre-
sidential mansion during the term of President
Polk All who approached her were warmly im-
I -• d with her unaffected affability of manner,
and probabl) uo lady ever occupied that position,
w ho left it w it h so many friends.
The prominent aspirants for the presidency in
1844, were Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Clay. The
tic part} were anxious to atone for the
Me defeai which \\\r\ sustained in 1840, and
whig* were determined to do justice to the
distinguished leader, who was the "embodiment"
their principles. These two gentlemen, either
1 thai Mr. Tyler had pressed the question
ition of Texas to the United States, to
his own prospects for the presidency, and
determined to frustrate his designs
b} t' ' In ir supporters to oppose that measure;
POLK ADMINISTRATION". 13
or they were honestly opposed to the consummation
of that event. And while a large majority of both
parties, at least in the slave-holding States, were
anxiously endeavoring to promote a union of the
two republics, and were taking prompt and decisive
steps to produce that result, they were astounded
by the publication of letters from Messrs. Clay and
Van Buren, in opposition to that measure.* The
attachment of the whig party to Mr. Clay proved
more powerful than their desire for the admission
* " In the future progress of events, it is probable that there will be a
voluntary or forcible separation of the British North American possessions
from the parent country. I am strongly inclined to think it will be best
for the happiness of all parties, that, in that event, they should be erected
into a separate and independent republic. With the Canadian republic
on one side, that of Texas on the other, and the United States, the friend
of both, between them, each could advance its own happiness by such
constitutions, laws, and measures, as were best adapted to its peculiar
" In conclusion, they [his objections to annexation] may be stated in a
few words to be, that I consider the annexation of Texas, at this time,
without the assent of Mexico, as a measure compromising the national
character, involving us certainly in a war with Mexico, probably with
other foreign powers, dangerous to the integrity of the Union, inexpe-
dient in the present financial condition of the country, and not called for
by any general expression of public opinion." — Letter of Mr. Clay, May
" I by no means contend that a formal recognition of Texas by Mexico
is necessary to justify us in assenting to her annexation to the United
States. Time and circumstances may work such a change in the rela-
tions between these two countries as to rentier an act of that character
on the -part of Mexico unnecessary and unimportant. What I m^an to
say is, that, from all the information I have been able to obtain on the
subject, no change has yet taken place that would make the objections I
have here detailed inapplicable." — Letter of Mr. Van Buren, April 20,
1 [ || l BTO B V OF THE
of Texas into the Union; while the doctrines of
Mr. Van Buren, meeting with no sympathy from a
majority of the democratic party, resulted in Ins
defeat in the Baltimore Convention, and produced
the nomination of Mr. Polk. At the meeting of
that convention, the claim- of the latter gentleman
were alone pressed for the oilier of Vice President,
and it was <»nly when there was danger that vio-
and anarchy would produce a dissolution of
the body, that be was selected as the compromise
candidate* AJbout the same time the Whig Con-
■ The Baltimore Convention assembled on the 27th of May, 1844.
Mr. Hendricks U. Wright of Pennsylvania was appointed President,
vo-thirds rule was adopted by a vote of 148 to 116. This was re-
i tesl vote, the Van Buren men going in a mass against it.
first ballot resulted in the following vote : Van Buren, 146; Cass,
J ,bnson, 2 l ; Buchanan, I ; Woodbury, 2 ; Stuart, 1 ; Calhoun, 6.
dlot: Van Buren, 127: Cass, 94; Johnson, 33; Bu-
chanan. U ; Stuart. 1 : ( !alhoun, 1 .
! ballot: Van Buren, 121; Cass, 92; Johnson, 33 ; Buchanan,
11 ; Woobury, 2; Calhoun, -J.
rth ballot: Van Buren, ill ; Cass, 105; Johnson,32; Buchanan,
17; Ci Ihoun, l .
Fifth i ot: Van Buren, 103; Cass, 107; Johnson, 29 ; Buchanan,
• Van Buren, 101; Cass, 116; Johnson, 23 ; Buchanan,
nth ballot : Van Buren, 99; Cass, 123; Johnson, 21 ; Buchanan,
1 lalhoun 1.
Tic ii ■' now became intense, and disorder and confusion
now made to establish the majority rule, hut failed; 118
i igain i On Wednesday the Convention again met.
E Van Buren, 104; Cass, ill; Buchanan, 2; Polk, 44;
' in, 2.
Polk, whole number of votes, 266.
nominated fur the Vice Presidency, but declined
POLK ADMINISTRATION. 15
vention, with great unanimity and enthusiasm, nomi-
nated Mr. Clay, and thus the two aspirants were
placed before the American people. Accusations
were made by each party against the other, of un-
fairness in conducting the canvass. It was asserted
by the whigs, that the northern democracy touched
lightly upon the question of annexation, and in-
scribed uj)on their flags the motto of " Polk, Dallas,
and the Tariff of 1842 ;" the democrats as posi-
tively declared that the southern whigs did not
hesitate to denounce the question of the annexation
of Texas after the publication of Mr. Clay's letter,
although they had most zealously advocated that
measure while his opinions were unknown.
It is but justice to both parties to say, that the
canvass was the most exciting since the organiza-
tion of our Government, and was conducted with
as much fairness as usually characterizes those strug-
gles. It is an evil which is an inevitable result of
all elections where parties are zealously supporting
their favorite candidates, that all the oj)inions, even
if frankly promulgated by the aspirants, are not as
frankly reiterated by partisan orators and the press
of the country. Still this conduct upon the part
of the politicians does not prevent the people from
honestly giving their support to that individual
accepting the nomination, and on Thursday the Convention proceeded to
elect another candidate.
First ballot: Fairfield, 87; Woodbury, 56; Cass, 29 ; Johnson, 26;
Stewart, 23; Dallas, 13; Marcy, 5.
Second ballot : Dallas, 220 ; Fairfield, 30 ; Woodbury 6.
16 HISTORY OF THE
who will illustrate, in the administration of public
affairs, the political opinions which tliey advocate.
It cannot be denied that it was known to the Ame-
rican people, that Mr. Polk was in favor of the im-
mediate annexation of Texas to the United States,
and in triumphantly electing- him, they consequently
sanctioned that measure.*
The prominent questions discussed during the-
canvass of L844 were the currency, the tariff, the
annexation of Texas, the veto power, and the dis-
tribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public
land-. The I democratic Convention which nominated
Mr. 1'olk at Baltimore, in May, 1844, laid down a
• •• You request from me an explicit expression of opinion upon this
i ni annexation. Having at no time entertained opinions upon
public subjects which I was unwilling to avow, it gives me pleasure to
coal ply with your request. I have no hesitation in declaring that I am in
i| the immediate re-annexation of Texas to the territory and govern-
l il States. I entertain no doubts as to the power or ex-
ol the re-annexation. * * * * *
•• It i- a part of the great valley of the Mississippi, directly connected
navigable waters with tin' .Mississippi River, and having once been
a part df our Union, it should never have been dismembered from it.
1 overnmenl and people of Texas, it is understood, not only give
their consent, bul are anxiously desirous to be re-united to the United
ll 'In' application of Texas for a re-union and admission into
all be rejected by the United States, there is imminent
■ will become a dependency, if not a colony of Great
—an event which no American patriot, anxious for the safety and
r tj of this country, could permit to occur without the most stren-
lance. L< t Texas be re-annexed, and the authority and laws of
,1 "■ ' 1 Stablished and maintained within her limits, and
Terril ry, and let the fixed policy of our government
I to permil Great Britain, or any other foreign power, to plant a
hold dominion over any portion of the people or territory of
1 f James K. Pot I pril 23, 1844.
POLK ADIIIKISTEATION. 17
platform for the campaign.* The whig party at
the time they nominated Mr. Clay at Baltimore, on
* Resolved, That the Federal Government is one of limited powers,
derived solely from the Constitution, and the grants of power shown
therein, ought to be strictly construed by all the departments and agents
of the Government, and that it is inexpedient and dangerous to exercise
doubtful constitutional powers.
2. That the Constitution does not confer upon the Federal Govern
ment the power to commence and carry .on a general system of interna..
3. That the Constitution does not confer authority upon the Federal
Government, directly or indirectly, to assume the debts of the several
States contracted for local or internal improvements, or other state pur-
poses, nor would such assumption be just and expedient.
4. That justice and sound policy forbid the Federal Government to
foster one branch of industry to the detriment of another, or to cherish
the interests of one portion to the injury of another portion of our com-
mon country ; that every citizen of the country has a right to demand and
insist upon an equality of rights and privileges, and to compel an ample
protection of persons and property from domestic violence and foreign
5. That it is the duty of every branch of the Government to enforce
and practise the most rigid economy in conducting our public affairs, and
that no more revenue ought to be raised than is required to defray the
necessary expenses of the Government.
6. That Congress has no power to charter a national bank ; that we
believe such an institution one of deadly hostility to the best interests of
the country, dangerous to our republican institutions and the liberties of
the people, and calculated to place the business of the country within the
control of a concentrated money power, and above the laws and will of
7. That Congress has no power, under the Constitution, to interfere
with or control the domestic institutions of the several States, and that
such States are the sole and proper judges of every thing appertaining to
their own affairs, not prohibited by the Constitution ; that all efforts of the
abolitionists or others, made to induce Congress to interfere with the
question of slavery, or take incipient steps in relation thereto, are calcu-