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    James K. Polk Autograph Letter Twice Signed with Additional Free Frank Signature. Six pages with integral address leaf, 7.75" x 9.75", Columbia [Tennessee], October 10, 1836. Polk was U.S. Speaker of the House when he penned this letter to Col. Samuel H. Loughlin. Marked as "Private," Polk discusses a recent run-in with political opponents John Bell and Balie Peyton (Tennessee congressman who were often at odds with Polk), and Judge Hugh Lawson White. He begins, in part: "I addressed one of the largest assembleges [sic] of the people I have ever met; ate a dinner, drank toasts, etc. [John] Bell and [Balie] Peyton had been there a few days before and made instant speeches against the President, and especially myself. They were not disturbed or molested... My constituents chose to make a dinner and invite me."

    The dinner was going well until news of the arrival of Judge Hugh L. White. White (1773-1840) was once a political ally of Andrew Jackson and, by extension, Polk. The relationship began to fragment in the last year of Jackson's first term, but worsened in 1833 during the Nullification Crisis, after White appointed a Henry Clay ally to a select committee organized to consider the Clay compromise. White further angered Jackson through a series of speeches questioning Jackson's withdrawal from the Democratic Party's core principles and his ever increasing power as president. In 1835, Jackson's home state of Tennessee endorsed White for president. Jackson was furious as he had chosen his vice president, Martin Van Buren, as his successor. Of the incident, Polk says: "I learned with astonishment, and for the first time, that...Judge White would be there on that day..." Believing it would draw the crowd away from Polk due to curiosity, "They were mistaken. They remained and at the close of my speech near 4 O'Clock, I never had a larger or more attentive audience...After dinner was over...we returned to town...Our people had possession of the Common...and kept it during the night, - firing one round after another, 'till midnight, & paraded [?] the square shouting for V. Buren." In the morning, a flag of the followers of White had been planted in the square, but the followers of Polk had their own flags out. It seemed to Polk that "...Our people seemed to have complete possession of the town...I have never witnessed so indignant a crowd...It was in the mouth of almost every one, that Bell & Co. had come to my District...and had failed...The effect has been any thing but to advance the Judge...or to injure me...Judging from all I could hear, the re-action in the County produced by Bell & White...is tremendous." By 1836, White had broken with the Democratic Party altogether and became a Whig, running as one of their four candidates for president in 1836. White came in third, with twenty-six electoral votes, behind Martin Van Buren and William Henry Harrison.

    A postscript at the end is initialed by Polk, "J.K.P." Addressed in Polk's had with an additional free frank signature "Free J. K. Polk." Separation of the main vertical fold of page five and six at the upper edge. Some ink bleed-through. Edges are chipped lightly. Remnant of wax seal of address leaf.

    W.C. Putnam Collection for the benefit of the Acquisition and Conservation Fund of the Putnam Museum.


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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