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Saturday, 16th January, 1847.
I wrote a note to Col. Benton requesting him to call on me this evening. . . I had much conversation with him about the dilatory proceedings of Congress on the measures which I had recommended for the vigorous prosecution of the war. . . Instead of acting upon the great measures of the country, they are spending day after day and week after week in a worse than useless discussion about slavery. This fire-brand was first introduced by Mr. Preston King, of New York, and a fierce and violent discussion has followed. It is a mischievous and wicked agitation, which can result in no good, and must lead to infinite mischief. The pretext for it is to declare in advance that slavery shall never exist in any territory which we may acquire from Mexico. In the Cabinet today this subject was one of conversation. All deprecated the discussion now going on in Congress, but all feared it would be impossible now to arrest it. The Cabinet were unanimous, also, in opinion that if by treaty or otherwise the United States should acquire any territory from Mexico, the line of the Missouri Compromise, viz., 36° 30', should extend west to the Pacific and apply to such territory. This question was not inconsiderately decided by the Cabinet, but was fully discussed and deliberately considered, and I took the Opinion of each member of the Cabinet separately.
- James Polk