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"If honored by election to the Presidency," Zachary Taylor will remain "Uncommitted to the principles of either party"
All through the beginning of 1848, the Whigs held meetings that acclaimed Taylor as their choice for the party's presidential nomination. They tapped him because his long military record would appeal to northerners, while his ownership of slaves would lure southern votes. The potential candidate, though he clearly sympathized with the Whigs, was not enthused about running. By the spring, however, he had been convinced to accept the nomination that would surely be tendered to him when the Whig convention met in June. The Taylor family tradition relates that he reluctantly agreed to accept the nomination when convinced it was for the good of the country. In June the Whig convention formalized his nomination. His campaign did not dwell on the details of matters in controversy, instead stressing that he would be a national rather than a regional president and that principle would prevail over politics. As his biographer, K. Jack Bauer states, "Taylor viewed himself as a non-partisan figure attracting support from all parties." His Democratic opponent, Lewis Cass, favored letting the residents of territories decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery, which in practice was a pro-southern position. The following campaign statement sets forth Taylor's core principles during his presidential campaign. Letter Signed as virtual Whig nominee for president, Baton Rouge, La., March 26, 1848 to Dr. John Kearsley Mitchell, a noted Philadelphia physician and chemist who lectured in chemistry from 1833-1838 at the Franklin Institute and was professor of medicine at the Jefferson Medical College from 1841-1858. He was the father of the eminent physician, S. Weir Mitchell. "Your letter of March 7 has been duly received and perused with much pleasure. I avail myself of this acknowledgment to express my sincere thanks for the kindness shown in the terms and views of your letter. Permit me to add, that I am now, as before so repeatedly avowed, in the hands of the people of the country. If honored by election to the Presidency I will strive to execute with fidelity the trust reposed in me, uncommitted to the principles of either party. But should they cast their votes for another, I shall truly rejoice that one more able than I is charged with the responsible duties of the Executive Chair. Should I visit Philadelphia, which is at this time a matter of very great improbability, I shall be most happy to remember your very courteous invitation." Taylor kept the campaign promise made here, and had he lived the Civil War might well have been avoided. When he took office in 1849, the issue that was pressing was the extension of slavery into the territories newly conquered from Mexico. Taylor strongly opposed the proposed Compromise of 1850, 22 Page 37 which he saw as opening up partisan competition to settle and control the territories, leading the nation into constant agitation and danger (as so it proved). Under his plan, Taylor urged settlers in New Mexico and California to draft constitutions and apply for statehood immediately, bypassing the territorial stage altogether. This would save years of further bitter controversy and satisfy opponents of the expansion of slavery, since neither state constitution would be likely to permit that institution, as things stood then. Taylor was a slaveowner committed to defending slavery where it was already established and did not outright oppose any expansion of it. Thus, he believed, southerners whose position on slavery was less extreme could be brought along with him, isolating and marginalizing the "fire-eaters." In February 1850, Taylor held a stormy conference with extreme southern leaders who threatened secession. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the army south and persons "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang...with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico." A few months later he died mysteriously and his successor scrapped his plan and signed the Compromise of 1850. Taylor's family still remains convinced he was poisonsed.
      [Bookseller: The Raab Collection ]
Last Found On: 2013-01-08           Check availability:      ABAA    

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