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the internal improvement companies in which the state was a copartner,” had issued “small paper bills in the form of scrip or checks, and put them into circulation as money, without any specie basis upon which to rest, and without authority of law.” The administration of the state government by Mr. Polk was satisfactory to the public, and his course as chief magistrate was well calculated to harmonize the party of which, by the death of his old friend and preceptor, Mr. Grundy, in 1840, he had become the acknowledged head. He did not have occasion, while filling the office of governor, to endorse any of the great principles of the democratic party, except in his inaugural address; nor were any important measures of state policy adopted under his particular auspices. Unlike the executives of other states, the Governor of Tennessee possesses no veto power; neither has he the authority to commute the punishment of capital offenders to imprisonment for life. The cares and responsibilities of the executive are therefore comparatively light; and as the legislature meets only once in two years, the duties are much less laborious than where the laws to be executed are constantly being changed or repealed. The term of office of Mr. Polk expired in October, 1841, but at the August election of that year, he was again a candidate. His prospects of defeat could hardly be considered doubtful; inasmuch as the whirlwind, which had prostrated the democratic party in 1840 throughout the Union, had swept over the State of Tennessee with irresistible force. The Harrison electoral ticket had succeeded by more oan twelve thousand majority. To overcome this heavy vote was impossible; but Mr. Polk entered upon the canvass with his accustomed spirit and energy. His competitor was James C. Jones, a most effective speaker, and decidedly the most popular man at that time in the whig party of the state. Personal good feeling on the part of the opposing candidates characterized this contest, as it had that of 1839. Mr. Polk frankly and cordially met Mr. Jones on the stump and travelled in company with him; and, it is said, they slept in the same bed on one occasion. But all the efforts of Mr. Polk proved unavailing. The politics of the state were for the time firmly fixed in opposition to his own. He was defeated, but in his defeat achieved a triumph, by the reduction of the whig majority to about three thousand. In 1843 he was once more a candidate in opposition to Governor Jones, but the latter was reëlected by nearly four thousand majority.
Presidential Canvass of 1844—The Texas Question—Letter of Mr. Polk to the Citizens of Cincinnatti—The Baltimore Convention—Nomination of Mr. Polk—His Acceptance—Resolutions of the Convention—The Election—Reception at Nashville—Journey of the President Elect to Washington—His Inauguration—Address.
ON leaving the executive chair of Tennessee, Mr. Polk returned, without a single murmur or feeling of regret, to private life. Its peace and tranquillity, its happiness and content, its calm and sweet pleasures, were congenial to his disposition and his tastes. Fortune had not showered wealth upon him with a lavish hand; nor had he ever taken advantage of the frequent opportunities presented to him, to enrich himself by speculation. Festina lente—“make haste slowly”—was his motto in the studies and pursuits of his youth, and in the occupations of maturer years. He possessed a competence—all that he needed or desired—which enabled him to be liberal in the bestowment of his charities, and to dispense a generous hospitality to his numerous friends. And more than all, and above all, there dwelt by his fireside a ministering angel, whose virtues and graces made his home a paradise of joys.
But a politician, like a revolution, can rarely go backward. As a combatant who entered the lists at the Olympian Games could not retire without dishonor, so
he who has long been before the people as a candidate for their suffrages, and been elevated by them to positions of distinction, is not often permitted to withdraw himself voluntarily from the political arena. The claims of party friends upon the leader whom they have supported are always strong, and generally irresistible. Mr. Polk was not without ambition; but he preferred henceforth to rely upon others to secure his advancement, if they desired so to do, and contented himself with being in the main a passive instrument in their hands. In 1841 and 1843, he came forward as a candidate for governor, only in compliance with the general desire of his party. The wishes and expectations of his friends were early fixed on the presidential office. At the session of the Tennessee legislature in 1839, he was nominated by that body for the vice-presidency, to be placed on the ticket with Mr. Van Buren, and with the expectation, no doubt, that he might succeed that gentleman in the higher office. He was afterward nominated in other states for the same position; but as Colonel Johnson seemed to be the choice of the great body of the republican party in the Union, no efforts of importance were made by the friends of the former, and at the election in 1840 he received but one electoral vote, in the college of Virginia. From the time of the defeat of Mr. Van Buren, in 1840, up to within a few weeks previous to the assembling of the national democratic convention at Baltimore, in May, 1844, public opinion in the republican party seemed to be firmly fixed upon him as their candidate for reëlection to the station which he had once filled. But
in the month of April, 1844, a treaty was concluded under the auspices of President Tyler, between the representatives of the government of the United States and of the republic of Texas, providing for the annexation* of the latter to the American Confederacy. This measure, though long in contemplation, like the apple of discord, was fruitful in strife and dissension. Hitherto it had been conceded on every hand, that Mr. Van Buren and Mr. Clay ought to be, and would be, the rival candidates for the presidency in 1844; but now the political elements were thrown into complete confusion. The opinions of almost every public man in the United States were inquired after; and among others, Mr. Polk was addressed, it being understood that he would be a prominent candidate at the Baltimore Convention for the re. publican nomination for vice-president. At a meeting of citizens of Cincinnati opposed to the annexation, held on the 29th of March, a committee was appointed to correspond with the prominent men of both political parties, and to solicit from them an expression of their views upon the Texas question. From this committee Mr. Polk received a letter, accompanying a copy of the proceedings of the meeting at Cincinnati, to which he returned the following reply:— CoLUMBIA, Tennessee, April 22, 1844. GENTLEMEN.—Your letter of the 30th ult., which you have done me the honor to address to me, reached my residence during my absence from home, and was not re* The term reannexation was frequently used during the canvass, as sy
nonymous with annexation ; because Texas originally formed part of the Louisiana purchase, and belonged to the United States.