DescriptionJames Buchanan: Autograph Letter Signed "James Buchanan". One page, 8" x 10", March 23, 1850, Wheatland, to Hon. Edmund Burke, marked "confidential". In full: "My dear Sir, I desire to recall to your memory a fact which seemed to have escaped the recollection of every person. I mean the letter addressed by Col. Benton & carried by Col. Fremont to the people of California. To counteract the effect of this letter was one of the strongest reasons why my letter to Mr. Voorhies of the 7th October 1848 was written. I am very desirous to obtain a copy of Col. Benton's letter for my own archives. It was published in the New York Herald a short time before the date of my letter. I do not think I ever saw it in any other paper. Could you please procure a copy of it for me? I shall of course pay for the copying. I do not wish to be the instrument of making it public, nor do I desire its publication at the present moment. I am very far from entertaining any unkind feelings towards Col. Benton, and wish the copy merely for my own satisfaction. It is a remarkable fact, however, that whilst Southern members of Congress are barely engaged in discourse, the persons who incited the people of California to form a government independent of the agency of Congress, this important letter should have been entirely overlooked".
The California gold rush in 1848 intensified questions about slavery in the new territory. President Taylor believed statehood could become a solution to the issue of slavery in the territories. Admission of California would tip the balance of power in the senate in favor of free states. In 1849, Californians sought statehood and, after heated debate in the U.S. Congress arising out of the slavery issue, California entered the Union as a free, nonslavery state by the Compromise of 1850. In January 1850, two months prior to Buchanan writing this letter, Henry Clay presented a bill to congress with five provisions for California's statehood. Honorable Edmond Burke, a lawyer who was appointed commissioner of patents in 1846 by President Polk, a position he held until 1850. Original mailing folds present, else fine. A highly important James Buchanan ALS about the California question and regarding future presidential candidate John C. Fremont, and Col. Benton.
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