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favorable to the speaker. His elocution was rapid, but fluent, his address easy, yet dignified; his manner earnest, often enthusiastic. Though naturally reserved in his disposition, he occasionally indulged himself in a playful sally of wit. But his language was always singularly correct and chaste; he sought for none of the flowers of rhetoric, no brilliant figures or high-wrought metaphors, but regarded them as equally deceptive and unsubstantial with the dew-drops that sparkled at his feet, and which disappeared in the first hour of sunshine. He expressed himself in the good old idioms of his mother tongue, which he found to harmonize so well with his own sentiments, and with the honest independence and straightforward character of the freemen whom he addressed. In private life, too, in his social habits, he was fitted by nature to win “troops of friends.” His daily walk and conversation were blameless. He had none of the low arts or tricks of the demagogue. He was affable and polite; maintaining the dignity of his position, without exhibiting the arrogancy that wounds. He was not, like the Parisian, “a democrat when on foot, and an aristocrat when in his carriage.” The welfare of his friends and neighbors was at all times a matter of importance in his estimation; and whenever it was proper for him to interfere, he interested himself in their commonest concerns, in the kindest and most sympathizing manner. Friendly words and smiles seemed to cost him nothing; they came to his lips unbidden, and lighted up his cheek without an effort. Possessing all these advantages of mind and disposi. . tion so necessary to success in an aspirant for political honors; deep-rooted in the affections of a large circle of admiring friends; the pride and the hope of the party to which he belonged, he entered public life at an early age. His first employment in this character was that of chief clerk to the house of representatives of the Tennessee legislature; and in the summer of 1823, in accordance not more with his own desire than with the wishes of his friends, he took the stump against the former member of that body from Maury. A most formidable opposition was encountered, but after an animated canvass he secured his election by a heavy majority. He remained in the legislature for two successive years, being justly regarded as one of the most talented and promising members. His ability and shrewdness in debate, his business tact, his firmness and industry, secured him a high reputation. Most of the measures of the then President, Mr. Monroe, received his unqualified support and approbation, and he was ardently desirous that the successor of the former should be one who had no sympathy for the latitudinarian doctrines with reference to the constitution which appeared to be gaining ground. Animated by this motive, he approved of the nomination of Andrew Jackson for the Presidency, made by the Tennessee legislature in August, 1822; and in the autumn of the following year, he contributed by his influence and vote to the election of his distinguished friend to the Senate of the United States. While a member of the General Assembly, Mr. Polk succeeded in procuring the passage of a law designed to prevent duelling. Though residing in a section of the
Union where this mode of vindicating one's honor when assailed has ever been sustained by the general sense of the community, oftentimes in opposition to positive enactments, he was never concerned in a duel, during his whole life, either as principal or second. This was the more remarkable, because of the many stormy epochs in his political career. His aversion to duelling did not proceed from constitutional timidity; he was utterly opposed to the practice, from principle; and though he made no unbecoming parade of his sentiments, he did not care to conceal them. No one ever invaded his personal rights without finding him prepared to defend them. Never giving an insult himself, he was not called upon to render satisfaction; and if indignity were offered to him, it was resented by the silence that indicated his contempt, or the prompt rebuke that carried with it punishment enough. He could not imbrue his hands unnecessarily in the blood of his fellow-man ; but he possessed true moral courage—that bravery of soul which prompted him to do right. .**
Mr. Polk always doubted the power of the general
government to make improvements in the States; and his
doubts ultimately became absolute denials of the right. He concurred, however, with Mr. Monroe, in the belief
that such improvements were desirable, and that it would
be proper to amend the Constitution so as to confer the power, although, in the absence of such an amendment, they might be carried on with the consent of the States in which they were located.” When, therefore, the Pres
* Special Message of Mr. Monroe, May 4th, 1822.
ident so far yielded to those of his friends who had long vainly attempted to persuade him to lend his countenance to an extensive system of improvements, as to give his consent to the act of 1824, authorizing surveys to be made of the routes of such roads and canals as he might deem of national importance, Mr. Polk looked upon the measure with favor; and in a speech delivered in the legislature on the 29th of September, 1824, on the bill to incorporate the Murfreesborough Turnpike Company, he expressed the opinion that such works ought properly to be constructed by the State or the general government, and added that, inasmuch as “the question with regard to the powers of the government to make internal improvements” had been settled at the previous session of Congress, “he thought it likely that the attention of the government might be directed to the object of extending the military road from New Orleans.” The views of Mr. Polk on this question of internal improvements subsequently underwent a change; and when he saw what great latitude had been taken under the constitution as it was, and how much danger there was to be apprehended from the undue enlargement of the power of the general government by the adoption of the proposed amendment, he took decided ground against any change, and exerted all his influence and authority to bring back the ship of state to her ancient moorings. / On the 1st day of January, 1824, Mr. Polk was married to Sarah Childress, the daughter of Joel Childress, a * wealthy and enterprising merchant of Rutherford county, Tennessee. Mr. Childress was a native of Campbell county, Virginia, and married Elizabeth Whitsitt.
Mrs. Polk was well fitted to adorn any station. To the charms of a fine person she united intellectual accomplishments of a high order. Sweetness of disposition, gracefulness and ease of manner, and beauty of mind, were happily blended in her character. A kind mistress, a faithful friend, and a devoted wife, these are her titles to esteem; and they are gems brighter and more resplendent than ever decorated a queenly brow. Affable, but dignified; intelligent, but unaffected; frank and sincere, yet never losing sight of the respect due to her position, she won the regard of all who approached her. Her unfailing eourtesy, and her winning deportment, were remarked by every one who saw her presiding at the White House;" each one of her husband's guests was for the
* No excuse need be offered for the insertion in this place of the follow ing well-told anecdote, having reference to an incident that transpired during a visit of the eloquent orator and eminent statesman, Henry Clay, at Washington, in the winter of 1848, whieh originally appeared in a public iournal:—“Shortly before his departure from the Capital, Mr. Clay attended a dinner party, with many other distinguished gentlemen of both political parties, at the President’s house. The party is said to have been a very pleasant affair—the viands were choice, the wine was old and sparkling—good feeling abounded, and wit and lively repartee gave zest to the occasion, while Mrs. Polk, the winning and accomplished hostess, added the finishing grace of her excellent housewifery in the superior management of the feast. Mr. Clay was of course honored with a seat near the President’s lady, where it became him to put in requisition those insinuating talents which he possesses in so eminent a degree, and which are irresistible even to his enemies. Mrs. Polk, with her usual frank and affable manner, was extremely courteous to her distinguished guest, on whose good opinion, as of all who share the hospitalities of the White House, she did not fail to win.
“‘Madam,” said Mr. Clay, in that bland manner peculiar to himself, ‘I must say that in my travels, wherever I have been, in all companies and among all parties, I have heard but one opinion of you. All agree in commending, in the highest terms, your excellent administration of the domes