March 20, 1849

Newly Installed in the White House, Where in Short Order He Will Die of "Too Many Cherries & Too Much Cold Milk", Taylor Invites Relatives to Stay

Autograph Letter Signed
1 page
SMC 372
If, as common wisdom would have it, William Henry Harrison got too cold and died, Zachary Taylor got too hot and died. July 4th, 1850, was a sweltering day in Washington, and Taylor spent two horrible hours of it sitting in the sun, listening to patriotic orations; then he went for a long walk along the Potomac. Returning to the White House, thirsty and famished, he ate copious amounts of cherries, and drank vast quantities of milk. This, according to those who were there, killed him. Certainly the cramps, nausea and diarrhea which attended his death suggest dysentery, or even cholera – both diseases carried by fruit and dairy. His death throes, however, lasted five days, which was enough time for rumors of poisoning to germinate. Taylor, the suspicious argued, although a Southerner, opposed the expansion of slavery into the new territories - a position which shocked, and alarmed, his fellow slave-holders. There had been talk of secession; and talk, from Taylor, of leading troops and unabashed hangings. Vice President Fillmore, on the other hand, wanted to avoid controversy and certainly, war: he was only glad to compromise on slavery – and did, soon enough, as President.

The letter displayed here is a scarce relic of Taylor’s brief presidency. The old General had come to national prominence late in life – at age 62! - and then served the third shortest term of any president. With this extremely rare autograph letter as President, Taylor – in office just sixteen days – invites his cousin and Mexican War comrade, Colonel Thomas Leonidas Crittenden, to stay with him at the White House. “We have plenty of room,” he says.
Autograph Letter Signed (“Z. Taylor”, as President, 1 page, octavo, Washington, March 20, 1849. To Colonel Thomas Leonidas Crittenden. Of extreme rarity in autograph in office.
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