Polk, Surprised at His Candidacy, Declares the Presidency Too Important an Office to be Sought or Declined

June 8, 1844

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Polk, Surprised at His Candidacy, Declares the Presidency Too Important an Office to be Sought or Declined
Autograph Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 1055

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      Background

      Polk’s astonishing capture of the Democratic nomination on the ninth ballot was, as he says here, both a surprise and a compromise. Van Buren, who was expected to nab the nomination, was against the annexation of Texas; Cass, his challenger, was for it: the convention called for a two-thirds vote, rather than a simple majority – and so, on the third day of the Convention, everyone’s choice for the second spot on the ticket, James K. Polk, catapulted to the top. Here the man of the hour tells the tale of his unexpected nomination for presidency, adding a thought which, to modern ears, almost shocks: the office of President, Polk insists, is so important, that it “should neither be sought nor declined.” 
       
      You are right in supposing that neither my friends nor myself anticipated a nomination for the Presidency.  It has been the result of mutual concession on the part of the friends of other gentlemen who were looked to for that high station, and was no doubt effected with a view to restore harmony to the party. As you remark, it has been truly said that the office of President was one which should neither be sought nor declined
       
      Polk also mentions that Henry A. Muhlenburg, a frequent candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, seems poised this time to take it, and that Pennsylvania might, in this election, swing Democratic. Muhlenburg died before the election, but the state did go for Polk, helping to secure a close victory.


      Autograph Letter Signed, 1 page, quarto, Columbia, Tennessee, June 8, 1844. To Henry Horn in Philadelphia.
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      Columbia Tenn.  June 8th 1844--

      (Private)

      My Dear Sir:

      I thank you for your kind letter of the 30th ultimo, which came to hand today.--  You are right in supposing that neither my friends nor myself anticipated a nomination for the Presidency.--  It has been the result of mutual concession on the part of the friends of other gentlemen -- who were looked to for that high station, and was no doubt effected with a view to restore harmony to the party.-- I shall be most happy if such shall be the effect.--  As you remark, it has been truly said that the office of President was one which should neither be sought nor declined.-- 

      I am glad to learn your opinion that our old friend Muhlenberg will be elected Governor of Pennsylvania, and that the state will probably be Democratic in the Presidential election.

      I shall be pleased to hear from you during the pendency of the contest,-- and to receive from you any suggestions, which you may think useful.--

      I am Very Sincerely,

      Your friend

      JAMES K. POLK


      Hon. Henry Horn
      Philadelphia

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      Page 2 transcript

      Hon. Henry Horn
      Philadelphia
      Penn.--