POLK, James Knox. Autograph letter signed ("James K Polk") as Democratic nominee for President, to Vice-Presidential nominee George Mifflin Dallas (1792-1864), Columbia, Tennessee, 17 September 1844. 6 full pages, 4to (9 7/8 x 7 7/8 in.), integral address leaf, part of upper
corner of second leaf torn away with loss of several weords, minor repairs.
POLK REPORTS TO HIS RUNNING-MATE ON THE CAMPAIGN: "OUR PROSPECTS FOR SUCCESS HAVE AT NO PERIOD...BEEN SO GOOD"
A lengthy letter of exceptional content, written less than a month before the 1844 election, reporting on pre-election polls, discussing campaign issues and warning his running mate about the danger of election fraud. Polk and Dallas had never met prior to being chosen for the Democratic Party ticket. The party's expansionist platform proved popular, while the Whig nominee, Henry Clay, suffered from divisions within his own party. Here, an exuberant Polk reports to Dallas: "As far as I can judge...our prospects of success have at no period of the canvass been so good as at the present. It is certain that in this section of the Union there has been a slow but steady & progressive increase to the Democratic strength." In Tennessee, he observes, "we have a contest of unexampled violence & excitement...[the Whigs] are making a desperate struggle to stay the current of popular sentiment which...is running against them. Not half a dozen cases are known in the whole state of Democrats who have abandoned their party, whilst it is certain that hundreds of Whigs have joined the Democratic ranks...if the election were to come out now, the state is ours beyond all doubt." Polk adds that he has favorable reports from Georgia, North Carolina, Indiana and Louisiana, but in Ohio "the result will probably depend upon the course of the abolitionists. If they maintain their distinctive organization, we will carry the state with ease." Polk warns Dallas that the Whigs are attempting to win voters in Pennsylvania: "I discern that the Whig press of this state and our Governor (who by the way is a most reckless and unscrupulous partizan) have been operating with a view to affect the vote of Pennsylvania...judging from the past course of the party here, I have no doubt they are filled with perversions and misrepresentations of my course."
In an interesting commentary on antebellum politics, Polk cautions Dallas to be alert for fraud: "There is I think reason to apprehend that great frauds will be attempted and especially at doubtful points. A few illegal votes for example might decide the result in states so closely contested as New Jersey, Delaware, & Connecticut...I make the suggestion to you, not that you can attend to it personally, but that through confidential Democratic friends you may cause it to be done...It may be prevented by taking timely precautions and by having every poll guarded." In fact, Polk asserts, "many hundred illegal votes were polled at the Kentucky border in our election in 1843."
Polk makes it clear that he will not refrain from discussion of policy questions with the "gentlemen of New York" [influential newspaper editors]: "My present impression is...that I may well rest upon the resolution of the Baltimore Convention without further answer...unless you shall be of opinion and shall so advise me, that an answer is necessary...I will not do so. Should anything be said in the newspapers about my failure to answer, it may be well to have an article inserted in the Democratic papers, calling public attention to the Resolution of the Baltimore Convention, as expressing my views and opinions." In line with that policy, "I have written no letter for the public upon any subject, since the one to Mr. Kane, and as a general rule I have been of opinion that the less I write the better. My opinions upon all the great questions are I presume sufficiently known to the public; and I could add nothing upon any of them which would not be subjected to be perverted and misrepresented...were I now to write letters illustrating or enforcing [my views], I would perhaps be justly subject to the imputation of electioneering or seeking to make votes by a modification of them."
Polk's decision to avoid public statements during a campaign which centered upon volatile issues such as the annexation of Texas, saved him from the fate of Henry Clay, whose vocal stance against expansion may have cost him the election.