Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    "The people have adopted him as their candidate!"

    [Zachary Taylor] Archive of Eighteen Letters regarding the campaign and election of Zachary Taylor in 1848, one of the most pivotal and divisive presidential campaigns of the early nineteenth century. These letters are dated between March 1847 and November 1848 and are all written to or by Major John B. Butler, a U.S. Army paymaster who served under General Zachary Taylor during the Mexican War.

    When President Polk refused to seek a second term in 1848, the Democrats turned to Lewis Cass and the Free Soil Party ran Martin Van Buren. The Whigs, however, nominated Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), who had fought in the War of 1812, defeated the Indians ending the Black Hawk War in 1832, and led American troops to victory during the Mexican War. Even though he had never voted and lacked any political experience, "Old Rough and Ready" was clearly the front-runner, as these letters testify. On Election Day, Taylor carried 47% of the popular vote in this three-way race.

    Seven of the eighteen letters in this archive are the retained copies of letters written by Major John Butler, all written from Monterrey, Mexico, to General J. K. Moorhead. Butler, a passionate early supporter of Taylor, wrote in April 1847, "If Gen Taylor is nominated for the presidency - democracy, deamonism nor the devil can stop him!" In June, the major wrote Taylor himself, quoting at length from a Simon Cameron letter about Taylor, "Now, we all know that he [Taylor] has no 'politics,' and that his 'position,' is such that, the people require from him no guarantee or pledges. The General should adhere to his resolutions, not to give pledges or court any party. We democrats won't require it of him and I'm sure the Whigs ought to be satisfied, to see him elected uncommitted and unpledged!'"

    In a letter dated July 15, 1847, Butler informed General Moorhead that he had asked Major William W. S. Bliss, "the Adjut. Gen. of Gen. Taylor's army," for a "sketch of the history of Gen'l Taylor's doings since he entered Mexico." Bliss, a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, had served under General Taylor in Texas and now in Mexico and was known for his skillful writing ability. He was close to the general and in December 1848, married his daughter Mary Elizabeth Taylor. (During Taylor's presidency, Bliss served as his private secretary.) But Bliss declined "respectfully" to furnish Butler with the sketch while he was still "in the field engaged in military duty" (letter dated July 10, 1847). In a later letter in July to Bliss, Butler acknowledged Bliss' refusal stating, "I had, in fact anticipated such a result to my application, and I should not have made it, were not for the belief that a sketch such as I suggested and from such a source, would have silenced the invidious carping and malevolent detractions, of the few, who appeared to deem it their policy to decry an excellence which they cannot reach. . . . The General has only to avoid alliances with politicians and an enlistment under party leaders, and he will attain the presidency beyond all question. The people have adopted him as their candidate!" But later in May 1848, Bliss did supply Butler, now in Pittsburgh, with some information on General Taylor, however limited. "Innumerable have been the portraits and busts, of all degrees of badness, for which he has been, and still is, compelled to sit. His patience is wonderful. You will be pleased to learn that the late rise in the Mississippi has not injured the General's plantation and that he has every prospect of a good crop."

    O. F. Johnson met Taylor in New Orleans and wrote a letter to Butler on May 7, 1848, explaining his impressions of the candidate. "I am greatly pleased with him. He is frank, intelligent and agreeable. He speaks right out, what he thinks." One letter in the archive is from General Taylor (a secretarial copy is included) written to Butler on July 20, 1848, thanking him for "some very kind suggestions in regard to interrogations on political subjects which, it is intended to address to me." Major Butler wrote back only days after Taylor's election (fair copy only is included) from the Allegheny Arsenal in Pennsylvania congratulating the president-elect on succeeding "in opposition to the politicians of both parties! You have been elected by the people and if you are the president of the people, your term will be eight years!"

    In the final letter of the archive (a Simon Cameron Autograph Letter Signed and dated November 20, 1848), Cameron informs Butler that he had tried "to make him [Taylor] the democratic candidate - but after he wrote to [Joseph] Ingersoll declaring himself to be a Whig, I had either to give him up or incur the displeasure of the democratic members of the Legislature who had voted for me. . . . Besides, I am too old to change my party if I were inclined as I am not. I think Taylor will make a good & wise president." President Taylor died suddenly on July 9, 1850, only sixteen months after his inauguration, of an unknown illness. This collection has been well cared for. The letters exhibit usual age-toning and foxing.

    More Information:

    Below is a list of individual letters included in this archive.


    Major John B. Butler letter (retained copy) (four pages) from Monterey dated March 19, 1847.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (three pages) from Monterey dated April 4, 1847.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (five pages) from Camp Buena Vista dated April 26, 1847.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (three pages) from Monterey dated June 2, 1847.


    General Moorhead Autograph Letter Signed (three pages) from Pittsburgh on June 12, 1847, to John Butler.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (one and one-half pages) from Monterey dated June 13, 1847.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (one page) from Monterey dated June 15, 1847, to Zachary Taylor at "Camp near Monterey."  


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (three pages) from Monterey dated July 4, 1847.


    William W. S. Bliss Autograph Letter Signed from "Headqts. near Mont[errey]" (two pages) on July 10, 1847, to John Butler.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (two pages) from Monterey, Mexico, dated July 13, 1847, to William W. S. Bliss.


    John Butler letter (retained copy) (two and one-quarter pages) from Monterey dated July 15, 1847.


    B. T. C. Morgan Autograph Letter Signed (one page) from Pittsburg dated April 1, 1848, to John Butler.


    William Bliss Autograph Letter Signed (one page) from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, dated May 4, 1848, to John Butler in Pittsburgh.


    O. F. Johnson Autograph Letter Signed (two pages) from New Orleans dated May 7, 1848, to John Butler.


    Zachary Taylor Secretarial Copy of a letter (two pages) from Baton Rouge dated July 20, 1848, to John Butler.


    A. M. Mitchell Autograph Letter Signed (one page) from Cincinnati dated August 20, 1848, to John Butler.


    John Butler Fair Copy of a letter (one page) written from Allegheny Arsenal, Pennsylvania, dated November 11, 1848, to Zachary Taylor.


    Simon Cameron Autograph Letter Signed (one and one-half pages) dated November 20, 1848, John Butler.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2011
    8th-9th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 400

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2020 March 29 Vintage Guitars & Musical Instruments Musical Instruments Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The resulting auction of my property overwhelmed me. I want to thank Tom Slater and the Heritage team for a very satisfactory experience and profitable result with my historical consignment.
    Henry L.,
    Lexington, KY
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 December 8 Civil War, Militaria, Arms & Armor Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 December 8 Civil War, Militaria, Arms & Armor Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $936,556