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Mr. Gales & Seaton

My Dear Old Friends:—My letter to you on board the steamboat
on Long Island Sound, was cut off so short by the bell's
ringing for us to get ready to go ashore, that I didn't get half
through telling you the talk I had with the President that
day; and we've had so much talk since, and seen so much on
the journey, that I shan't be able to tell you one-half, nor a
quarter on't, in a letter. It would take a whole book to give
you a good notion of the whole story. But the President will
be back to Washington before you can get this letter, for he
started to go back last Saturday; so you can get the whole
account of the journey from him. He'll be delighted to set
down and tell you all about it; for he's been amazingly
pleased with the whole journey, from top to bottom. He's


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been on his high-heeled boots all the way. Instead of growin'
more stoopin' by bowing so much, it seems as if he stood
straighter than ever. He told the Governor, in his speech at
Augusta, Saturday: “It seldom happens that the course of
any man's life is marked by so distinguished a reception as has
been accorded to me to-day.” Well, so it has been all the way
along; hurrahing, and complimenting, and firing, and speeches,
and dinners, and suppers, and shaking hands. On board
the steamboat, from Portland to Augusta, we got a little
breathing time, and had a good long talk.

Says the President to me: “Now, Major,” says he, “I want
you to be candid. No one is a true friend to one in a high
station unless he will be candid and speak the truth. And
now, Major, I don't want you to flatter me; I want you to be
candid, and tell me jest what you think. You went along
with President Jackson when he made his tour Down East,
and had a chance to see the whole operation; and now I want
you to tell me candidly, if you think the people was any more
fond of him than they are of me.”

“Well, now, Colonel,” says I, “not wishing to hurt your
feelins at all, but seein' you've asked my candid opinion, I
won't deny but what the people are very fond of you, amazingly
fond, perhaps as fond as they can be. But, after all,
these times ain't exactly equal to Old Hickory's times.”

“But what do you mean?” says he.

“Well,” says I, “the people all seem to be amazing fond, but
somehow it seems to have a sort of mother-in-law show about it;
it don't seem to be so real hearty as they showed to Old

“Well, now, Major,” says he, and he reddened a little when
he said this; says he, “that only shows how strong your prejudices
set in favor of the old Gineral. But I thought you
was a man of a stronger mind and sounder judgment. I can't


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agree with you against the evidence of my own senses. Did
you notice all the way along how thick the crowds flocked
around me to shake hands with me?”

“Yes,” says I; “but they didn't go it with such a rush as
they did when my old friend, the Gineral, come this way.
They jammed around him so that they had to climb over each
other's heads to get at him. And I had to take hold sometimes
by the hour together and help him shake hands, or he
never would have got through with one-half of 'em.”

“Well, then,” says he, “did you mind how loud they
cheered and hurrahed wherever we come along?”

“Yes, Colonel,” says I; “I heard all that; but, my gracious!
wherever Old Hickory made his appearance, the crowd
roared right out like thunder.”

“Well, Major,” says he, “they couldn't beat them cheers
that the Democrats and Captain Rynders give me at Tammany
Hall, I know; thunder itself couldn't beat that. It's no
use, Major, for you to argue the pint; no President ever received
such marks of honor from the people before—I am sure
of that; I mean the whole people, Federalists as well as Democrats—that
is, if there is any such people as Federalists now
days, and Mr. Ritchie says there is. Only think, the old Federal
State of Massachusetts did the business up as handsome
and seemed to be as fond of me as Governor Hill's State; I
couldn't see any difference. You must confess, Major, that
even your old friend Hickory didn't receive so much honor in
Massachusetts as I have.”

“Well, now,” says I, “Colonel, I don't want to hurt your
feelin's, but you are just as much mistaken as you was when
you sent old Rough and Ready into Mexico. Have you forgot
how they took the old Gineral into Cambridge College and
made a doctor of him?”

“Who cares for that?” says the Colonel; says he, turning


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up his nose, “Didn't the Democrats and Captain Rynders
take me into Tammany Hall, and make a Tammany of me?[1]
No, no, Major Downing, it's no use for you to argue the pint
against my popularity, for I've got eyes, and I can see; and
I tell you, and I want you to mark my words, I tell you I'm
more popular with the whole people than ever old Hickory
was in all his life. He was very popular with the Democratic
party, but I am fully persuaded he hadn't such a hold upon
the affections of the whole people as I have.”

Here the President got up and walked about the floor, and
seemed in a deep study. At last says he: “Major, I missed
a figger in my speech at Baltimore t'other day; and I don't
know exactly how to get over it.”

“How so?” says I.

“Why,” says he, “I ought not to have said, right up and
down, pint blank, that I should retire when this term is up.
I should only talked about my desire to retire to private life.
I was too hasty, and committed myself too soon. There never
was a better chance for anybody to be elected than there is
for me now, if I hadn't made that unfortunate remark. Jackson
stood twice, and Jefferson stood twice, and I suppose it is
really my duty to serve my country as long as they did. But
if I should undertake to run agin, I s'pose they would be
throwing that Baltimore speech in my teeth.”

“Well, now,” says I, “Colonel, can't you see your way out
of that? You wasn't born Down East so fur as I was. It's
no great of a job to get over that trouble.”

At that the President brightened up a good deal, and says
he, “Well, Major, I'll tell you what 'tis, if you'll get me over
that difficulty handsomely, when we come to have another


Page 259
shuffle for the offices, you may choose any card in the pack,
and you shall have it.”

“Well, says I, “Colonel, about that remark of yourn at
Baltimore, that you should give up when this term is out, all
you've got to do is to get Mr. Ritchie to take it back in the
Union; let him declare that it was only a sort of speculation,
hastily thrown out, without much consideration, and that, so
far as he understands, neither the President nor any of his
Cabinet entertains any such views. Then you can go along
just as smooth and safe as if nothing had happened.”

“Fact, that's it,” says the Colonel, snapping his fingers;
“strange I didn't think of that before. Major, you do beat
all for working out of difficulties! I believe I'll make up my
mind to go ahead another term; I don't see anything in the
way. I'll tell you how I think of working it. I've been
reading over this letter of Taylor's to the Cincinnati Signal.
He's an old head, but he an't agoing to come another Bona
Vista blunder over me. If I don't take the wind out of his
sails before long, I'll engage to make him King of Mexico.
And I'll try him on his own tack, too. I'll come out and declare
that I won't be the candidate of no party neither, and
throw myself upon the people. I'm convinced, from what I've
seen on this journey, that the Whigs will go for me almost to
a man. Van Buren and Wright, who say I'm not the man for
the Northern Democrats, may go to grass. I go for the
people, the whole people, and nothing but the people.”

“Well,” says I, “Colonel, that's the road; and I wish you
a pleasant and prosperous journey.”

We had some more talk about the war before we reached
Augusta, but I haven't got time to explain to you the President's
views about it in this letter. He says he means to
keep a tight rein over Taylor, and not let him do much; and
when he does do anything, make him report it to the Government,


Page 260
through Scott. I asked him if he wasn't afraid of
making too tall a man out of Scott by placing him on Taylor's
shoulders; and he said no—he should look out for that; and
if he see any danger of it, he should make Scott report to the
Government through Mr. Trist.

After we visited Augusta, and Hallowell, and Gardiner, I
tried to get the President to go out to Downingville, but he
said he didn't think it would do for him to stop any longer
this time, though there was no place in the country that he
was more anxious to see; and he promised, the first leisure
time he could get, to make a flying visit there. I asked him
if he didn't think it would do for me to go out and stop a day
or two, as I hadn't seen Uncle Joshua, or Ant Keziah, or any
of 'em there for a long time. He said certainly, by all means,
and he would hurry back to Washington and have things all
cut and dried by the time I got back along, so that we could
make up our minds at once what is best to be done, in order
to keep Scott and Taylor in the traces, and curb 'em in.

Your old friend,


Editorial Note.—While in New York, President Polk was initiated into
the Order of St. Tammany.