POLK, James. Autograph letter signed ("James K Polk," with flourish) as President, TO SECRETARY OF WAR WILLIAM L. MARCY (1786-1857), [Washington, D.C.], 12 June 1846. 1 page, 4to (10 x 8 in.), slight browning, small traces of mount on verso.
FIRST BLOOD: POLK SENDS ZACHARY TAYLOR'S REPORTS ON THE OPENING CONFLICTS OF THE MEXICAN WAR TO A DIVIDED CONGRESS
The annexation of Texas, completed by President Tyler in early 1844, inevitably created conflict with Mexico. The state's uncertain southern border became a particular point of dispute, with Mexico asserting that the border lay along the Nueces River and the United States claiming a line further south along the Rio Grande. When negotiations broke down, Polk, a passionate supporter of Manifest Destiny, sent a force of 4000 troops under command of General Zachary Taylor into the disputed region. Mexican forces attacked Taylor's army on April 25, furnishing Polk a justification for an outright declaration of war, submitted on May 11.
Here, President Polk, in preparation for his message of June 16 regarding the course of the recently declared war, asks Secretary of War Marcy to forward copies of Taylor's battlefield reports to the House and Senate: "Should there not be duplicate copies of Genl. Taylors Reports, that one may be sent to each House? It strikes me it would be proper. If you think so, will you have a second copy prepared, before 12. Oclock that I may send the message to day." (For Taylor's report to Congress, transmitting Taylor's accounts, see Messages and Papers of the Presidents, ed. J.D. Richardson, 4:450).
Polk's war moves energized an already divided Congress. Many northern Whigs felt the United States was the clear aggressor in a war whose hidden aim was to seize more territory suitable for slavery. Abraham Lincoln, a freshman congressman from Illinois, dramatically challenged Polk to prove his claim that American blood had been spilled on American soil.
Provenance: Nathaniel E. Stein (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 25 January 1979, lot 144).