American Presidents

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor

In the following letter, General Taylor offers himself as a candidate for the presidency.

Baton Rouge April 22nd, 1848

Capt. J.S. Allison

Dear Sir,

I have no private purposes to accomplish-no party projects to build up-no enemies to punish-nothing to serve but my country;
My opinions have recently been so often misconceived & misrepresented I deem it due to myself if not to my friends to make a brief exposition of them upon the topics to which you have called my attention. I have consented to the use of my name as a candidate for the presidency. I have frankly avowed my own distrust of my fitness for that high station; but having at the earnest solicitation of many country-men taken my position as . . . a candidate, I do not feel at liberty to surrender that position until my friends manifest a wish that I should retire from it- Then I will most gladly do so-I have no private purposes to accomplish-no party projects to build up-no enemies to punish-nothing to serve but my country; and the station would bring with it cares and responsibilities as well as honors-

I have been very often addressed by letter & my opinions have been asked upon almost every question that may occur to the writers as affecting the interests of the country or their party for the past the present or the future-I have not responded to these enquiries for various reasons I confess whil[e] I have great Cardinal principles which will regulate my political life, I am not sufficiently familiar with all the minute details of political legislation to give solemn pledges to exert my influence if I were President to carry out this or defeat that measure. I have no concealments. I hold no opinion which I would not readily proclaim to my assembled countrymen; but crude impressions upon matters of policy which may be right today & wrong tomorrow are perhaps not the best test of fitness for office; & one who cannot be trusted without pledges, ought not to be confided in merely on account of them- I will now however proceed to respond to your inquiries---

First, I reiterate what I have often said . . . I am a Whig but, not ultra Whig. . . . If elected I would not be the mere president of a party-I would endeavor to act independent of party domination, & should feel bound to administer the Government untrammelled by party schemes---

Second-The veto power-The power given by the Constitution to the Executive to interpose his veto is a high conservative power; but in my opinion it should never be exercised except in cases of clear violation of the Constitution, or manifest haste and want of due consideration by Congress- Indeed I have thought that for many years past, the known opinions & wishes of the Executive have exercised undue & injurious influence upon the Legislative Department of the government & from this cause I have thought our system was in danger of undergoing a great change from its true theory-

The personal opinion of the individual who may happen to occupy the executive chair ought not to control the action of Congress upon questions of Domestic policy, nor ought his opinion & objections to be interposed when questions of Constitutional power have been settled by the various Departments of government and acquiesced in by the people---

Third. Upon the subject of the Tariff, the Currency, the improvements of the great Highways, Rivers, Lakes & Harbours the will of the people as expressed through their Representatives in Congress ought to be. . . carried out and respected by the Executive-

Fourth. The Mexican War. I sincerely rejoice at the prospect of peace- My life has been devoted to arms, yet I look upon war at all times & under any circumstances as a national calamity to be avoided if compatible with National Honor; the principles of our Government as well as its true policy are opposed to the subj[ug]ation of other nations & the dismemberment of other Countries by Conquest- In the language of . . . the immortal Washington "Why shoul[d] we quit our own to stand on foreign ground." In the Mexican War our National honor has been amply vindicated, and in dictating terms of peace we may well afford to be forbearing & even magnanimous to our fallen foe[. ]

These are my opinions upon the subjects referred to by you, & any reports or publications written or verbal from any source differing in any essential particulars are unauthorized & untrue-

I do not know that I shall again write upon the subject of National politics-I will engage in no schemes-no combinations, no intrigues. If the American people have not confidence in me[,] they ought not to give me their suffrages- If they do not, you know me well enough to believe me when I declare that I shall be content-I am too old a soldier to murmur against such high authority-

Z. Taylor

[The above letter is reproduced exactly as written and was obtained through the archives at the Library of Congress]

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