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Position of the President—His Cabinet—The Washington Globe and The Union—Meeting of Congress—First Annual Message—The Oregon Boundary Question—History and Progress of the Negotiation—Ultimatum of the American Government—Proposition of Great Britain—Conclusion and Ratification of a Treaty.
MR. Polk entered upon his administration under somewhat unfavorable auspices. He belonged to a younger race of statesmen than the prominent candidates whose names were originally presented to the Baltimore Convention, and it was but natural that he should be fearful of incurring the dislike, or encountering the prejudices, of some one or more of them, which might tend seriously to embarrass his administration. But his position personally, was all that could be desired. He had no pledges to redeem—no promises to fulfil; and he was not a candidate for reëlection. He was indifferent, too, as to which of the leading men of his party should be his successor. It was his desire, therefore, to harmonize and conciliate, but, at the same time, to surrender no principle, to maintain his character for independence, and to preserve the dignity of his official position.
His cabinet was selected from among the most distinguished members of the democratic party, and in it each section of the confederacy was represented. James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, was appointed Secretary of State; Robert J. Walker, of Mississippi, Secretary of the Treasury; William L. Marcy, of New York, Secretary of War; George Bancroft, of Massachusetts, Secretary of the Navy; Cave Johnson, of Tennessee, Postmaster-general, and John Y. Mason, of Virginia, Attorney-general.” These selections appeared to give entire satisfaction; and if murmurs were heard in any quarter, they were condemned by the general voice of the republicans of the nation. For several years a strong and influential portion of the democratic party in the southern states had disapproved of the arbitrary and dictatorial tone, as they alleged, of the Washington Globe, the principal republican journal at Washington. Governed by the purest motives of conciliation, the President suggested the transfer of the newspaper establishment to other persons than the then publishers, Francis P. Blair and John C. Rives. The latter, acting under the advice and with the approbation of General Jackson and Mr. Van Buren, acceded to this proposition; their interest in the Globe was cheerfully transferred, and a new paper, called “The Union,” established in its stead, under the editorial * The office of Secretary of the Treasury was in the first place tendered by Mr. Polk to Silas Wright, of New York; but as the latter had been chosen governor of his state, at the election of 1844, and was under an implied pledge not to vacate the office for a seat in the national cabinet, he did not accept it. The office of Secretary of War was then tendered to Benjamin F. Butler, also a distinguished citizen of New York, but he too declined ; whereupon ex-Governor Marcy was selected for that station, in accordance with the request of a majority of the democratic delegation in
Congress from New York, and of a majority of the members of the legislature of the state belonging to that party.
charge of Thomas Ritchie, who had long been honorably connected with the Richmond Enquirer in the same capacity. The treaty for the annexation of Texas, concluded by President Tyler, was rejected by the Senate of the United States, on the 8th day of June, 1844. At the ensuing session of Congress, the subject was again brought forward, and joint resolutions, providing for the annexation, were adopted on the 1st day of March, 1845. The people of Texas, represented in convention, signified their assent to the terms of the resolutions on the 4th of July following, and formed a state constitution, which was forwarded to Washington to be laid before the Congress of the United States by the President. The first session of the twenty-ninth Congress, being also the first held during the administration of Mr. Polk,+commenced on the 1st day of December, 1845. The friends of the administration being in a considerable majority, John W. Davis was elected speaker of the House, by one hundred and twenty votes to seventy-two given for Samuel F. Winton, of Ohio, the whig candidate. On the ensuing day the President communicated his first annual message to the two houses of Congress:
FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE.
Fellow-citizens of the Senate, and House of Representatives: It is to me a source of unaffected satisfaction to meet the representatives of the States and the people in Congress assembled, as it will be to receive the aid of their combined wisdom in the administration of public affairs. In performing for the first time the duty imposed on me by the Constitu. tion, of giving to you information of the state of the Union, and recommending to your consideration such measures as in my judgment are necessary and expedient, I am happy that I can congratulate you on the continued prosperity of our country. Under the blessings of Divine Providence and the benign influence of our free institutions, it stands before the world a spectacle of national happiness. With our unexampled advancement in all the elements of national greatness, the affection of the people is confirmed for the union of the States, and for the doctrines of popular liberty, which lie at the foundation of our government. It becomes us, in humility, to make our devout acknowledgment to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, for the inestimable civil and religious blessings with which we are favored. In calling the attention of Congress to our relations with foreign powers, I am gratified to be able to state, that though with some of them there have existed since your last session serious cause of irritation and misunderstanding, yet no actual hostilities have taken place. Adopting the maxim in the conduct of our foreign affairs to “ask nothing that is not right, and submit to nothing that is wrong,” it has been my-anxious desire to preserve peace with all nations; but, at the same time, to be prepared to resist aggression, and to maintain all our just rights. In pursuance of the joint resolution of Congress “for annexing Texas to the United States,” my predecessor, on the third day of March, 1845, elected to submit the first and second sections of that resolution to the republic of Texas, as an overture, on the part of the United States, for her admission as a State into our Union. This election I approved, and accordingly the chargé d'affaires of the United States in Texas, under instructions of the tenth of March, 1845, presented these sections of the resolution for the acceptance of that republic. The Executive Government, the Congress, and the people of Texas in convention, have successively com
plied with all the terms and conditions of the joint resolution. A constitution for the government, of the State of Texas, formed by a convention of deputies, is herewith laid before Congress. It is well known, also, that the people of Texas at the polls have accepted the terms of annexation, and ratified the constitution. I communicate to Congress the correspondence between the Secretary of State and our Chargé d'Affaires in Texas; and also the correspondence of the latter with the authorities of Texas; together with the official documents transmitted by him to his own government. o The terms of annexation which were offered by the United States having been accepted by Texas, the public faith of both parties is solemnly pledged to the compact of their union. Nothing remains to consummate the event, but the passage of an act by Congress to admit the State of Texas into the Union upon an equal footing with the original States. Strong reasons exist why this should be done at an early period of the session. It will be observed, that by the Constitution of Texas, the existing government is only continued temporarily till Congress can act, and that the third Monday of the present month is the day appointed for holding the first general election. On that day, a governor, a lieutenantgovernor, and both branches of the legislature, will be chosen by the people. The President of Texas is required, immediately after the receipt of official information that the new State has been admitted into our Union by Congress, to convene the Legislature; and, upon its meeting, the existing government will be superseded, and the State Government organized. Questions deeply interesting to Texas, in common with the other States, the extension of our revenue laws and judicial system over her people and territory, as well as measures of a local character, will claim the early attention of Congress; and, therefore, upon every principle of republican government, she ought to be represented in that body