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Tuesday, 19th January, 1847.
This was the regular evening for receiving company, but as tomorrow evening public notice had been given that there would be a drawing room at the President's mansion, not more than half a dozen gentlemen attended. I met them in the parlour. Among them was the Vice-President and Mr. Richard Rush of Philadelphia. Mr. Rush remained for near an hour after the other gentlemen retired. He is an exceedingly intelligent gentleman, and I had a very interesting conversation with him about public affairs. 5 He agreed with me entirely that the dilatory proceedings of Congress were without apology or excuse, and that the spirit of the country in regard to the war was far in advance of that of their Representatives.
Mr. Rush gave me some interesting details which occurred when he was connected with Mr. Madison's administration and when he was a member of Mr. Adams's Cabinet. He said that he was abroad when Mr. Adams was elected President, that he was unexpectedly invited to accept a place in his Cabinet and did so, and remarked that in the election he had been in favour of Mr. Crawford as the nominee in caucus of the Republican party. He gave me a very interesting account of the appointment of a General-in-Chief of the army upon the death of Major-General Brown. He said that Generals Gaines and Scott had both written very exceptionable and violent letters to the President, each claiming the office, the one by virtue of his lineal and the other of his brevet rank. He said that Mr. Clay was warmly in favour of General Scott; that Messrs. Barbour, Southard, and Wirt also expressed a preference for General Scott. He said that for himself he had been silent during the discussions, which had occasionally taken place during a period of more than six weeks, but that finally his opinion was asked in Cabinet by the President and he gave it in favour of General Macomb, upon the ground that he thought neither Gaines nor Scott ought to be appointed after the very exceptionable letters which they had written. The President (Mr. Adams), who had never before expressed an opinion, Mr. Rush said, upon hearing his opinion in favour of General Macomb straightened himself up in his seat, and in his peculiar manner said, "And I think so too." Mr. Rush said this was unexpected and produced great astonishment in the Cabinet, and came very near breaking up the Cabinet. He said as the members of the Cabinet retired, on the walk from the President's mansion Mr. Clay was vehement on the subject, and expressed warmly the opinion that they could not get along under such treatment from the President. He said he interposed to allay the excitement and advised moderation. The President appointed General Macomb and the matter here ended.
- Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest-Book by Allan Nevins, James Polk; 1929