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Tuesday, 5th January, 1847.
The Cabinet met at the usual hour. The Secretary of War read despatches which had been received from General Taylor and General Wool. From them it appears that General Taylor has paid no regard to the views of the Government, but has dispersed the troops in small bodies at different and distant points from each other, so that great apprehensions are entertained that they are so exposed that some portions of them may be cut off by the superior numbers of the enemy. It is manifest that General Taylor is wholly incompetent for so large a command. He seems to have no mind or powers of combination. . .
The slavery question has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Mr. Preston King of New York and is a firebrand in the body. . . There is no probability that any territory will ever be acquired from Mexico in which slavery could ever exist. New Mexico and California is all that can ever probably be acquired by treaty, and indeed all that I think it important to acquire. In these provinces slavery would probably never exist, and therefore the question would never arise. 4 The dangers of the introduction of the subject were fully considered by the Cabinet. Mr. Buchanan urged the importance and necessity of Congress declaring that we would hold these provinces as indemnity, and establish governments there, subject to the provisions of a treaty of peace. He further expressed his willingness to extend the Missouri Compromise west to the Pacific. All the members of the Cabinet agreed with him in these views. The Postmaster-General was willing to acquire these provinces and agreed that slavery should never exist in them. I suspended any decision on the subject, though it was earnestly urged by Mr. Buchanan and Mr. Walker. Though willing myself to assent to the proposition, I was not ready, until I saw further developments, to recommend it to Congress as the policy of the administration.
- James Polk