Lot 27: James K. Polk, ALS
12th October 2016
ALS, four pages on two adjoining sheets, 7.75 x 9.75, October 21, 1844. Letter to the candidate for vice president, George M. Dallas, written just prior to the 1844 presidential election. In part: “The Democratic majority in Pennsylvania is I think a safe one, even if you should not be able to remove the heavy loss—which we sustained in the City and County of Philadelphia, in consequence of the alliance which was formed between the Natives & Whigs in your late election. I hope however that you may be able to regain that loss—partially at least. Your natural majority may and probably will encourage the Whigs to make great efforts to overcome it…our friends will of course see the great importance of vigilance in guarding against pipe-laying. What I fear most is, that an alliance may be effected between the Natives and Whigs in the City of New York, similar to that we have just witnessed in your city and county. I hope our Democratic friends in New York, being ‘forewarned will be forearmed,’ and take timely precautionary measures to prevent it… We may all be mistaken about Tennessee. The contest is a very bitter one and will no doubt be close. Every day however increases the confidence of our democracy that they will carry the State. I think they will do so. Georgia, Indiana & Louisiana I think may be put down as certain democratic States. To enable our opponents to succeed in the Union, they must carry in addition to their certain strength the five closely contested states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, N. Carolina, and Ohio, and also both New York & Tennessee. If Pennsylvania remains firm & we can carry any one of these seven States—we must carry the election…we are fully impressed with the importance of carrying Tennessee. No effort within our power will be spared to effect it. My last letters from New York continue to give strong assurances, that, that great State is safe. I hope our friends are not mistaken. If New York shall be Democratic, the contest will beyond all doubt be settled in our favor. Our opponents see and know this, and all the power of money—and of fraud and corruption will be brought to bear on New York, and it will require all the energy and vigilance of our friends to counteract the effect of such means. I have still some hope of New Jersey, but none of Ohio. It would not surprize me too, if that good old quiet State of N. Carolina should vote for us. It will not do however to rely on any of these States. If New York and Pennsylvania vote with us all is safe. Should we lose either, then we must carry Tennessee to save the election. Every Democrat is here is roused to the importance of carrying this State and will work every hour until the election is over. A few days more will put an end to all speculation as to the result in the State, and in the Union. Hoping that we may have a safe deliverance from this most unprecedented contest.” He pens a postscript at the conclusion, initialed “J. K. P.,” in full: “I will send to you Mr. Johnson’s letter to Genl. Armstrong, under cover of a separate envelope.” In fine condition. In the closely contested 1844 presidential race, the Polk–Dallas ticket squared off against the formidable statesman Henry Clay and his running mate Theodore Frelinghuysen. Polk lost Tennessee—his home state—by a razor-thin margin of 123 votes, but Polk–Dallas indeed took New York and came away victorious in the election. Demonstrating Polk’s keen political instincts and offering tremendous insight into the electoral politics of the mid-19th century, this is an outstanding letter of great historical significance.
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