Zachary Taylor 12th President of the United States.

Northerners and Southerners disputed sharply whether the territories wrested from Mexico should be opened to slavery, and some Southerners even threatened secession. Standing firm, Zachary Taylor was prepared to hold the Union together by armed force rather than by compromise.

Born in Virginia in 1784, he was taken as an infant to Kentucky and raised on a plantation. He was a career officer in the Army, but his talk was most often of cotton raising. His home was in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he owned a plantation in Mississippi.

But Taylor did not defend slavery or southern sectionalism; 40 years in the Army made him a strong nationalist.

He spent a quarter of a century policing the frontiers against Indians. In the Mexican War he won major victories at Monterrey and Buena Vista.

President Polk, disturbed by General Taylor's informal habits of command and perhaps his Whiggery as well, kept him in northern Mexico and sent an expedition under Gen. Winfield Scott to capture Mexico City. Taylor, incensed, thought that "the battle of Buena Vista opened the road to the city of Mexico and the halls of Montezuma, that others might revel in them."

"Old Rough and Ready's" homespun ways were political assets. His long military record would appeal to northerners; his ownership of 100 slaves would lure southern votes. He had not committed himself on troublesome issues. The Whigs nominated him to run against the Democratic candidate, Lewis Cass, who favored letting the residents of territories decide for themselves whether they wanted slavery.

In protest against Taylor the slaveholder and Cass the advocate of "squatter sovereignty," northerners who opposed extension of slavery into territories formed a Free Soil Party and nominated Martin Van Buren. In a close election, the Free Soilers pulled enough votes away from Cass to elect Taylor.

Although Taylor had subscribed to Whig principles of legislative leadership, he was not inclined to be a puppet of Whig leaders in Congress. He acted at times as though he were above parties and politics. As disheveled as always, Taylor tried to run his administration in the same rule-of-thumb fashion with which he had fought Indians.

Traditionally, people could decide whether they wanted slavery when they drew up new state constitutions. Therefore, to end the dispute over slavery in new areas, Taylor urged settlers in New Mexico and California to draft constitutions and apply for statehood, bypassing the territorial stage.

Southerners were furious, since neither state constitution was likely to permit slavery; Members of Congress were dismayed, since they felt the President was usurping their policy-making prerogatives. In addition, Taylor's solution ignored several acute side issues: the northern dislike of the slave market operating in the District of Columbia; and the southern demands for a more stringent fugitive slave law.

In February 1850 President Taylor had held a stormy conference with southern leaders who threatened secession. He told them that if necessary to enforce the laws, he personally would lead the Army. Persons "taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang ... with less reluctance than he had hanged deserters and spies in Mexico." He never wavered.

Then events took an unexpected turn. After participating in ceremonies at the Washington Monument on a blistering July 4, Taylor fell ill; within five days he was dead. After his death, the forces of compromise triumphed, but the war Taylor had been willing to face came 11 years later. In it, his only son Richard served as a general in the Confederate Army. [From White House Biography]


An Historic Letter Written To President Zachary Taylor Warning Him Of An Impending Assassination Attempt


"I have always done my duty. I am ready to die. My only regret is for the friends I leave behind me."

For over 150 years, there has been controversy regarding the untimely death of the twelfth president of the United States, Zachary Taylor. Well-known nationally for his heroic victories during the Mexican-American War, Taylor returned from the conflict to public adulation. As such, he was well positioned for a run at the presidency, which he easily secured in the first election held simultaneously in all states. The national political scene was treacherous indeed and Taylor immediately found himself embroiled in the divisive controversy over the expansion of slavery to which he was opposed.

This slavery issue, as well as a dangerous state of relations with Great Britain which had existed in the previous few years leading up to his election created a highly volatile and emotionally charged political environment both at home and abroad.

The landscape was littered with potential enemies, political and otherwise. It was long held that Taylor was a victim of a well placed assassin. Many had postulated that he was poisoned with arsenic. In 1991, after years of debate, his body was exhumed. Scientific examination concluded that there was no evidence suggesting he was murdered, however some scholars insist the debate is still open.

While the medical examinations may have concluded otherwise, one of the letters offered herein penned by an anonymous, well-placed official in the Polk administration certainly fuels the possibility that the debate over Taylor’s death remains open. This fascinating and historic letter provides further insight into one of the most mysterious American Presidential controversies in history at a time of great danger for the fledgling nation.

[Zachary Taylor] 1850. New York. 8pp. Written anonymously to President Zachary Taylor one year into his presidency. The letter writer, obviously in a high and powerful position in the government, sends a warning to Taylor of evil conspiracies, plots to destroy the country and assassination. This lengthy and highly important letter offers such fantastic detail and insight into the dangerous political environment of the period that we have recited it in its entirety.

“It seems necessary to inform you I trust I shall be sufficiently (intelligible).

While Bulwer is at Washington persons in private circles are there whose influences could be readily used to divert the attention of government from an investigation or impede its action. Emissaries have been out lately to assassinate a citizen of this country.

Since about the 3rd of this month he has been in great peril. It is believed that a kind of management through the press and paid writers is designed to cover and obscure the question, which is both vitally and practicably allied to the mode of opposition to the coconspiratory and evil purposes entertained by the existing interest — the existing order of things in England. It will be well to mark the influences upon the press closely.

As a citizen I have a right, and it is my duty to write my sentiments plainly to you. With true lights before you it is my belief that your own strong mind will direct things aright.

Persons who would attempt to defraud the people of their rights, by hired voters in this country, are quite as bad, in my opinion, as those who are base enough to be employed to commit perjury when giving their votes.

Mr. Clayton can answer you whether or not any persons are now in his confidence who were accused of what was termed pipe laying in 1840, in New York. If their should be, allow me to suggest, that your Excellency satisfy yourself as to the as to the justness of those allegations, before yielding weight to their opinions, in any thing - If true, it is probable, that some of the persons were got into the Scrape unreflectingly, at dinners or suppers and did not appreciate the extent of the designs or know the source from which they originated.

The origin of the affair was in England. If the project had succeeded, the happiness and interests of the people of this country would have fallen beneath a system of financial complexities and false elections. The plan to mar this country, tributory to the maintenance of the English system by auxiliary complexities and disorganization, failed.

In that period, as now, attempts were made to destroy the male representative of the exiled family, the other branch in this country was in against him, by some secret arrangement.

A person who had been employed and knew some part of the intrigues, said he never saw the play of Richelieu without being reminded of the affair. I had not then seen the play, or at least had no recollection that I had seen or read it - I obtained a copy, and upon reading was forcibly reminded of its analogy, in many respects. That there are conspiratory papers, I do not doubt. An important part of them, might, I think, upon one occasion have been obtained, provided that there had been a healthy and efficient action, in the police and magisterial departments to set out with. It is quite certain to me, that there is nothing encompassing in those departments in this City unsupported by the application of means and strong influences.

I think it was in 1845, passing by a book shop, a man stept from the door with an extra newspaper in hand, just after an arrival – and desired me to go with him, or send some person with him, to the Virginia Springs. He said that there was a person there, who had papers in his trunk, of utmost consequence – that the possession of them was of utmost consequence, and that they would implicate persons of highest respectability in this City.

His own signature was upon a paper in this mans possession: he had been employed by this man to assassinate me, had been much with him, and became in some manner possessed of secrets, beyond the point of assassination – the newspaper, which he held in his hand, contained a remark made by the Duke of Wellington, that the throne was in danger. I had held no conversation with this man, of a political character, what ——?.

I know he had been employed to assassinate me; that he had stated that this man not only had his signature with others to a banded gang, but that he had the signature of my brother in law and other persons, to other papers, and that there were persons on the other side of the Atlantic connected in the same manner. I cannot now question these statements in my own mind. The most strenuous and persevering yet cautious means have been used to test them. Where the labours of intelligence have prevailed to elicit facts in this case, the rack(?) might have failed. Yet did I move, or attempt to move one step, I should be called insane: headed; thus, at every point, and thus weaken the modes of defense, without obtaining aid or protection. The last news of the person who was then said to have been at the Springs in Virginia (was been ?) that he was in London, shouting with the nobility, at Crockfords.

There are reasons for the most profound and conspiratory proceeding and for my destruction preliminarily for the objects to be attained under those proceedings. No person who knows me will believe, I think, that I could be made an instrument in the hands of any persons to rivet the chains of a people to a system of financial Monarchy and Despotism; or that I could be brought into any secret or traitorous purposes towards the soil which has sheltered my father and afforded me its genial support. Of my existence is a hindrance to evil designs I shall endeavor to preserve it. The fact of its continuance is no evidence that attempts have not been made to deprive me of it; and, if the country is now safe, it is no evidence, it has not been in danger.

In 1845, there was a partial demonstration as if to touch the object of conspiracy; there was then organized gangs in this country sufficient to lay every Atlantic City in ashes; there was an English fleet at sea sufficient to strip the sea of our entire mercantile and naval marine, and blockade every port. Who will say that under such calamities, the public mind would not have staggered and reeled? The country was open to danger. The great fire in this City in 1845, I believe was the work of a gang so organized; there was a doubt on the minds of the conspirators as to what might be dared, or attempted in the then existing relations between the two countries. If an expose had been attempted to be forced by persons of weight and authority to carry it through, the direst consequences might then have ensued.

In July I think of 1845 the fire took place, and afterwards, in the same month the Unicorn Steamer lay for some time within Pistol Shot of the Battery. I do not know, that any thing has yet transpired, publicly as to the object of her visit. I think it was in August of that year Lord Palmerston, proposed to arm the militia of England. For What?

The Unicorn may have been here to carry away, or afford an asylum for evil persons; or to abduct me. I was so closely hunted at that time as to deem it scarcely prudent to sleep two nights at a place. I was alone, friendless, emaciated by care and almost distracted. If Mr. Polk was with you, he could not but say that I had done my duty to him and the country, without claiming protection beyond a voluntary and prudential disposition to grant it.

Had a war ensued, I should have been driven to the forest, and pursued for extermination, in order carry out the designs of conspiratory proceeding. If I had fallen by the assassins hand, the happenings and institutions of this country would as certainly have been assailed by future hands under those conspiratory designs as if the calamities of war had been hitherto, suddenly and treacherously imposed upon us, by an expose of the conspiracy itself and with the causes originating it, and the political secret and historical fact, so carefully concealed by the English Government, and so expensively guarded.

I send herewith the Atlas. An article - the concluding part - induces me to conjecture - that persons here may be employed, by the English Government through agencies here. It is my most earnest wish, Sir, that you may be enabled to see every thing, and misapprehend nothing.


New York Jany 23, 1850”

The content of this detailed missive surely speaks for itself. In all likelihood, this dire warning to the president was penned by a highly placed member of the Polk administration, though we’ve been unable to determine who. This frightening letter surely would have been of grave concern to the president. When placed within the backdrop of the harsh political climate both at home and abroad, Taylor must have felt threatened at nearly every turn. This letter clearly demonstrates the conditions that existed to foster the long-held beliefs that Taylor may have been assassinated. While the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty was signed in 1850 easing some of the tensions between the United States and Great Britain, political foes in favor of slavery’s expansion at home clearly abounded with motivation to carry out an attempt on the president’s life. This letter offers what is perhaps some of the most shocking political content to come to market in quite some time.
Catalog: # AM-0917
Topic: Presidents and First Ladies
Price: $25000.00

Future Secretary Of The Treasury Meredith Writes To General Taylor

[Zachary Taylor] 1848. Philadelphia. 1 page. ALS to Taylor by future Treasury Secretary William Meredith; “Philad. Jan 6, 1848 - Genl Z. Taylor Sir, In conformity with the request of the select and Common Councils of the City of Philadelphia we have the honour to transmit to you the enclosed resolutions, which were unanimously adopted by these bodies, and to assure you of the esteem with which we are. Sir, Your obt Servts, Thomas Snowden President of the Com. Council, W. M. Meredith.” William Morris Meredith. (1799–1873) American lawyer, He served in the Pennsylvania State Legislature from 1824 to 1828, and was president of the Philadelphia City Council from 1834 until 1849. He was also United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1841. President Zachary Taylor, wanting a Pennsylvanian Whig for his cabinet, appointed Meredith to be the 19th Secretary of the Treasury. He began his term in office in March 1849 In this letter, Meredith is referring to one of the many resolutions passed throughout the grateful nation bestowing honors upon Taylor and his forces for gallant service during the Mexican-American War. Fold marks with 1” x ¼” chink along bottom right crease, just above Snowden’s autograph; light chipping to left corner folds, and light minor wear. A fine letter bearing the signatures of both Thomas Snowden and William Meredith. One year after this letter was written, the newly elected President Taylor would elevate Meredith to high office in his cabinet.
Catalog: # AM-0911
Topic: Presidents and First Ladies
Price: $1500.00

To President Taylor Just Months Before His Death

[Zachary Taylor] 1850. Pennsylvania. 4pp. ALS from a Dr. A. D. Chaloner of Philadelphia written just months prior to Taylor’s death. “Philad. City Feb 15, 1850 Dear Sir, Soon another Anniversary of Buena Vista will be here, and as on that day, your voice encouraged your countrymen to daring deeds-may not those who in the political campaign sustained you be remembered? One who first battled in the whirl of politics to place you at our Country’s helm, as now his efforts may even now be rewarded. Respectfully, A.D. Chaloner, MD Respectfully, Yr. Obt Sert, Genl Z. Taylor Prest. U States Washington, DC.” A docketed notation on the verso states; “Philadelphia Feb 15, 1850 A.D. Chaloner Reminds the P. of himself.” Our research has found that a Doctor A.D. Chaloner, MD in Phil. wrote an article in 1849 in the Philadelphia Ledger on “TREATMENT OF CHOLERA” which is what is now thought to be a possible cause of Taylor’s death. Fold Marks. Fine.
Catalog: # AM-0914
Condition: Fine
Topic: Presidents and First Ladies
Price: $1500.00