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The power of appointing to office is one of a character the most delicate and respon. sible. The appointing power is evermore exposed to be led into error. With anxious solicitude to select the most trustworthy for official station, I cannot be supposed to pos. sess a personal knowledge of the qualifications of every applicant. I deem it therefore proper, in this most public manner, to invite, on the part of the Senate, a just scrutiny into the character and pretensions of every person whom I may bring to their notice in the regular form of a nomination for office. Unless persons every way trustworthy are omployed in the public service, corruption and irregularity will inevitably follow. I shall, with the greatest cheerfulness, acquiesce in the decision of that body; and, regarding it as wisely constituted to aid the Executive department in the performance of this delicate duty, I shall look to its "consent and advice” as given only in furtherance of the best interests of the country. I shall also, at the earliest proper occasion, invite the attention of Congress to such measures as in my judgment will be best calculated to regulate and control the Executive power in reference to this vitally important subject.
I shall also, at the proper season, invite your attention to the statutory enactments for the suppression of the slave trade, which may require to be rendered more efficient in ther p:ovisions. There is reason to believe that the traffic is on the increase. Whether such increase is to be ascribed to the abolition of slave labor in the British possessions in our vicinity, and an attendant diminution in the supply of those articles which enter into the general consumption of the world, thereby augmenting the demand from other quar. ters, and thus calling for additional labor, it were needless to inquire. The highest con. siderations of public honor, as well as the strongest promptings of humanity, require a resort to the most vigorous efforts to suppress the trade.
In conclusion, I beg leave to invite your particular attention to the interests of this District. Nor do I doubt but that, in a liberal spirit of legislation, you will seek to ad. vance its commercial as well as its local interests. Should Congress deem it to be its duty to repeal the existing sub-treasury law, the necessity of providing a suitable place of deposite for the public moneys which may be required within the District, must be apparent to all.
I have felt it due to the country to present the foregoing topics to your consideration and reflection. Others, with which it might not seem proper to trouble you at an extraordinary session, will be laid before you at a future day. I am happy in committing the important affairs of the country into your hands. The tendency of public sentiment, I am pleased to believe, is towards the adoption, in a spirit of union and harmony, of such measures as will fortify the public interests. To cherish such a tendency of public opin. ion, is the task of an elevated patriotism. That differences of opinion as to the means of accomplishing these desirable objects should exist, is reasonably to be expected. Nor can all be made satisfied with any system of measures. But I flatter myself with the hope that the great body of the people will readily unite in support of those whose efforts spring from a disinterested desire to promote their happiness ; to preserve the federal and state governments within their respective orbits; to cultivate peace with all the nations of the earth, on just and honorable grounds ; to exact obedience to the laws; to intrench liberty and property in full security; and, consulting the most rigid economy, to abolish
all useless expenses.
JAMES K. POLK.
James K. Polk is the eldest of ten children, was born in the county of Muhlenberg, North Carolina, on the second day of November, 1795, and is consequently now* in the fiftieth year of his age. His ancestral name was Pollock, but has, by a transition not unusual, assumed its present curtailed form. His ancestors, nearly a century and a half ago, emigrated from Ireland to this country, and established themselves in Maryiand, where some of their descendants still reside. The branch of the family from which the President of the United States sprung, removed to the neighborhood of Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, and from thence to the western frontier of North Carolina, sometime before the commencement of the revolutionary war. Its connection with that eventful struggle is one of the most brilliant description. The great uncle of James K. Polk, Col. Thomas Polk, was the prime mover, in the noble part pursued by the inhabitants of Muhlenberg county, when they publicly absolved themselves from their allegiance to the British crown, and issued a formal manifesto of independence. The Alexanders, Chairman and Secretary of the famous meeting, as well as Dr. Ephraim Brevard, the author of the declaration itself, were also relatives of this family. In the contest for independence, several of Mr. Polk's relatives distinguished themselves, even to the peril of life. To be allied to such a people and lineage, is indeed a fit subject for honorable pride. Liberty does not frown upon the indulgence of a sentiment so natural. She does not reject the heritage of honor, while refusing to add to it, social or political distinctions subversive of equal rights. The American people have always manifested an affectionate regard for those who bear the names of the heroes or martyrs of the revolution. They furnish not a proof of the alleged ingratitude of republics. The father of Mr. Polk was an unpretending, unassuming farmer, who, thrown upon his own resources in early life, became the architect of his own fortunes. He was a warm supporter of Mr. Jefferson, and through life a firm and consistent republican. In 1806 he removed to Tennessee, where he was among the first pioneers of a then wilderness, but now the most flourishing and populous portion of that State. In this region Mr. Polk still resides, so that he may be said, literally, to have grown with its growth and strengthened with its strength. The opportunities for instruction in this infant settlement, could not of course be great. Notwithstanding this disadvantage, and the still more formidable one, of a painful affliction, from which, after years of suffering, he was finally relieved by a surgical operation—Mr. Polk acquired the elements of a good English education. From the
delicate nature of his constitution, his father determined, much against the will of his son, to educate him for commercial pursuits; and with this view, actually placed him in a merchant's counting-room. He remained but a very short period in a position so distasteful and so adverse to his wishes. His constant and urgent appeals finally overcame the resistance of his father. He was, in 1813, placed first under the care of the Rev. Dr. Henderson, and subsequently, at the Academy of Murfreesborough, Tennessee, then under the direction of Mr. Samuel P. Black. In 1815 he entered in the University of North Carolina, and graduated in 1818 with the highest distinction of his class, and with the reputation of being the first scholar in both the mathematics and classics. of the former science he was passionately fond, though equally distinguished as a linguist. His course at college was marked by the same assiduity and studious application which have since characterized him. So carefully has Mr. Polk avoided the pedantry of classical display, which is the false taste of our day and country, as almost to hide the acquisitions which distinguished his early career. His preference for the useful and substantial, indicated by his youthful passion for the mathematics, has made him select a style of elocution which would perhaps be deemed too plain by the shallow admirers of flashy declamation.
Returning to Tennessee, from the State which is, in two senses, his alma mater, with health greatly impaired by laborious application, Mr. Polk, in 1819, commenced the study of the law, in the office of Senator Grundy, and late in 1820 was admitted to the bar. He commenced bis professional career in Maury county, and from the connection of his family with its early settlement, pursued his calling with great advantages. But his success was due to his personal qualities, still more than to extrinsic advantages. His thorough academical preparation, his accurate knowledge of the law, his readiness and resources in debate, his unwearied application to business, secured him, at once, full employ. ment, and in less than one year he was already a leading practitioner
. Such prompt success in a profession, where the early stages are proverbially slow and discouraging, falls to the lot of few.
În 1823 Mr. Polk entered the political arena, being chosen to represent his County in the State Legislature, by a beavy majority over the former incumbent. He was for two successive years, a member of that body, where his ability in debate, and talent for business, at once gave him reputation. In August, 1825, Mr. Polk, being then in his thirtieth year, was chosen to represent his district in Congress, and in the ensuing December, took his seat in that body, where he remained until 1838. From his early youth he was an unwavering, sterling republican. He ever regarded the Constitution of the United States as an instrument of specific and limited powers, and that is at the very foundation of the democratic creed. He took ground early against the constitutionality, as well as the expediency, of a National Bank; and in August, 1829, consequently several months before the appearance of General Jackson's first message, announced then his opinions in a published letter to his constituents. He has ever been opposed to an oppressive tariff protec.
tion and was at all times the strenuous advocate of a reduction of the revenue to the economical wants of the Government.
When Mr. Polk entered Congress, he was, with one or two exceptions, the junior member of that body. He made his first speech in Congress in favor of the proposition to amend the Constitution in such a manner as to give the choice of President and Vice President immediately and irreversibly to the People, and this address at once attracted the attention of the country by the force of his reasoning, the copiousness of its research, and the spirit of honest indignation by which it was animated. From this time Mr. Polk's history is inseparably interwoven with that of the House. He is prominently connected with every important question, and upon every one, as by an unerring instinct of republicanism, took the soundest and broadest ground. During the whole period of General Jackson's administration, as long as he retained a seat on the floor, he was one of its leading supporters, and at times, and on certain questions of paramount importance, its chief reliance. In December, 1827, two years after his entrance in the House, Mr. Polk was placed on the important Committee on Foreign Affairs, and some time after was appointed, in addition, chairman of the select committee to which was referred that portion of the President's message calling the attention of Congress to a probable accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury, after the anticipated extinguishment of the national debt.
During the session of 1830, Mr. Polk distinguished himself by his manly and uncompromising course upon many important measures ; such as the “ Maysville Road Bill," and the “ Buffalo and New Or. leans Road Bill."
In December, 1832, Mr. Polk was transferred to the Committee of Ways and Means, with which his connection has been so distinguished. At that session the Directors of the Bank of the United States were summoned to Washington, and examined on oath before that committee. A division of opinion resulted in the presentation of two reports. That of the majority leaning in favor of the Bank, but admitting it had exceeded its lawful powers. Mr. Polk, in behalf of the minority, made a detailed report, communicating all the material circumstances, and presenting conclusions utterly adverse to the institution which had been the subject of inquiry. This arrayed against his re-election a powerful opposition, but, after a violent contest, Mr. Polk was re-elected by a majority of over three thousand.
In September, 1833, the President determined upon the bold measure of the removal of the deposites from the United States Bank, which was effected in the following month. This act produced much excitement throughout the country, and it was foreseen that a great and doubtful contest was about to ensue. At such a crisis it became important to have at the head of the Committee of Ways and Means a man of courage to meet, and firmness to sustain, the formidable shock. Such a man was found in Mr. Polk, and he proved himself equal to the occasion. Al. though opposed by such men as Mr. McDuffie, Adams and Binney, Mr. Polk, as leader of the opposition to the Bank, carried through and