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    James Buchanan Superb Political Autograph Letter Signed: During the 1844 presidential campaign, Buchanan writes to a former Congressman in support of the Polk-Dallas ticket and the issue of Texas annexation, adding that "had Mr. Van Buren come out in favor of immediate annexation he would have been nominated without a struggle."

    Signed: "James Buchanan", one page, 7.75" x 9,75". Lancaster, July 6, 1844. To Henry Horn. In full: "My dear sir, I have this moment received your kind letter of yesterday & cordially unite with you in opinion that Polk & Dallas are candidates entirely worthy of the support of the Democracy. I recollect well our conversation respecting Mr. Van Buren. After I had declined and the delegates from our state had been instructed to support him, I considered the question of his nomination settled, & I uniformly used what little influence I possessed to prevent any movement against him. All that I regret in the proceedings of the Baltimore Convention is that any of the Delegates from Pennsylvania, in opposition to my known will & express written instructions, should have cast their votes in my favor whilst Mr. Van Buren was in the field. But their conduct proceeded from friendly motives, and I have said nothing about it. Had Mr. Van Buren come out in favor of immediate annexation he would have been nominated without a struggle, and until the very last moment I was under the impression he would pursue this course. I regret most sincerely that our friends Wright & Benton have got rather into a false position on this question, as, in my opinion, there are not two more devoted patriots or faithful Democrats in the Union. I made the last speech on the Texas question which is now ready for publication, but whether or when I shall publish it I have not yet determined. From your friend very respectfully."

    Henry Horn (1786-1862) was elected as a Jacksonian and represented Pennsylvania in Congress from 1831-1833. Appointed by President Polk, he served as Collector of Customs at Philadelphia from 1845-1846.

    Silas Wright, Jr. (1795-1847) was a Jacksonian (later, Democrat) representing New York in the U.S. Senate from 1833-1844. He was a member of Van Buren's inner circle known as the Albany Regency.

    Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1858) was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1821 upon the admission of Missouri as a State into the Union, serving as a Democratic Republican (later Jacksonian and Democrat) until 1851, chairing many important committees.

    In 1836, Texas won its independence from Mexico and declared itself the Republic of Texas. In 1837, Texas officials sought annexation by the United States but northerners feared the extension of slavery and the tipping of the balance between the Northern and Southern states in Congress. To avoid a split in the Democratic party as well as a possible war with Mexico, President Van Buren rejected the request. In June, 1843, Texas President Sam Houston declared a truce with Mexico, later sending two commissioners to Mexico to represent Texas in British-sponsored negotiations. The British, favoring the return of Texas to Mexico and opposing the western expansion of the United States, were working to mediate a peace treaty between Texas and Mexico.

    Early in 1844, the two leading presidential candidates, former President Martin Van Buren for the Democrats and former Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky for the Whigs, tried to take the expansionist issue out of the campaign by declaring themselves opposed to the annexation of Texas. But President Tyler, not wanting Texas to come under the influence of Great Britain and hoping he might be able to wrest the Democratic nomination from Van Buren, proposed annexation and on April 12, 1844, a Treaty of Annexation was signed in Washington, D.C., by representatives of the United States and the Republic of Texas. The treaty was sent to the Senate for ratification. On May 1, 1844, in Baltimore, the Whigs nominated Henry Clay for President on the first ballot by acclamation. Four weeks later, the Democrats also held their convention in Baltimore. Southern Democrats favored annexation; slavery already existed in Texas. Many of those who were chosen in 1843 repudiated their pledges to vote for Van Buren and were successful in reinstituting an old rule that required a two-thirds majority instead of a simple majority, hoping to make it impossible for the former President to be nominated.

    In 1843, Pennsylvania had appointed 26 delegates pledged to support their senior Senator, James Buchanan, at the 1844 Democratic convention. On December 14, 1843, Buchanan formally withdrew from the race and instructed his 26 delegates to support Van Buren for the nomination. On the first ballot, Van Buren received 146 of the 266 votes cast, a majority, but 31 votes shy of the two-thirds now necessary for nomination. Former Governor of Michigan Territory Lewis Cass, a supporter of annexation, was second with 83 votes. The remaining 37 votes were split among five candidates. Against Buchanan's wishes, four of Pennsylvania's delegates voted for him. There was no support for President Tyler, a former Democrat who had been elected as the running mate of William H. Harrison on the Whig ticket in 1840 and succeeded to the presidency when Harrison died in 1841.

    Former Tennessee Governor James K. Polk attended the convention as a supporter of Van Buren and was the likely choice for the vice presidential nomination on a Van Buren-Polk ticket. Former President Andrew Jackson had publicly supported annexation and urged the nomination of a candidate committed to the annexation of Texas. On each successive ballot, Van Buren's vote total lessened and Cass's votes rose until Cass passed Van Buren on the fifth ballot. On the eighth ballot, Cass had 114 to Van Buren's 104, still a long way from 177. Two Pennsylvania delegates continued to vote for Buchanan. But there was a new name on the ballot: former Governor of Tennessee James K. Polk with 44 votes. Polk had publicly supported annexation and had the full support of fellow Tennessean, Andrew Jackson. On the ninth ballot, Van Buren and Cass supporters voted for Polk as a compromise candidate. He now had 233 votes and his nomination was then made unanimous. Van Buren's close political friend, New York Senator Silas Wright, Jr., was nominated for Vice President. When he declined the nomination, former Pennsylvania Senator George M. Dallas was nominated.

    On June 8, 1844, the Treaty of Annexation of Texas sent to the Senate for ratification was defeated 35-16. Senator James Buchanan of Pennsylvania was one of those voting for annexation. Senators Thomas H. Benton of Missouri and Silas Wright, Jr., both Democrats and mentioned in this letter, were among those voting "Nay." Though he was known as a supporter of both slavery and of westward expansion, Benton believed southern politicians were recklessly provoking sectional conflict in pushing for Texas annexation. Putting the Union first, Benton led the fight on the Senate floor against annexation.

    In this letter, Buchanan writes that he "made the last speech on the Texas question" before the vote. It was published in the "Appendix to the Congressional Globe," pages 720-727. Copies of these pages are included with this letter.

    In October, 1844, the British notified Mexico that it was ending its mediation efforts. With Texas the major issue of the campaign, Polk defeated Clay 170 electoral votes (15 states) to 105 votes (11 states). In January, 1845, a Texas annexation bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. It passed the House, 120-98, and the Senate, 27-25. This time, Senator Benton supported the resolution. Senator Wright had resigned on November 26, 1844, having been elected Governor of New York. President Tyler approved the resolution on March 1, 1845. On March 4th, James K. Polk was inaugurated President, and he named James Buchanan as his Secretary of State. The "Ordinance of Annexation" was approved by the Texas Convention on July 4, 1845, and on December 29, 1845, Texas was admitted the Union as the 28th state.

    One of the best political letters of Buchanan still in private hands, this letter is in very fine condition, with a light smudge in a blank area and a notation in light brown ink at the top blank edge. It would be a magnificent addition to a presidential, political, or Texana collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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