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Saturday, 23d January, 1847.
Saw company this morning until the hour of the meeting of the Cabinet. Among others who called was Senator Crittenden of Kentucky. Mr. Buchanan had previously informed me that he desired to see me, and that he would call this, morning. He desired to converse with me on the subject of the Mexican War, and the means of prosecuting and bringing it to a close. I told him I was happy to have a conversation with him on that subject, and that I would give him my views unreservedly. Mr. Crittenden, though differing with me in politics, is an honorable gentleman, and in the confidence that ought to exist between a Senator and the President I was unreserved in my conversation. 6 It was in substance what I had said to other Senators and a few others. I informed him that I was sincerely desirous for peace, but that I believed the most effective mode of obtaining it was by a bold and vigorous prosecution of the war; that while this was done I thought it important that Congress should make the appropriation of the two millions of dollars for which I had asked at the last and at the present session of Congress, so that while I presented a formidable army invading Mexico on the one hand, I might have the means of inducing her to negotiate for peace on the other. The two millions I would calculate to pay as a part consideration for any cession of territory which by a definitive treaty of peace she might make to the United States. I told him that I did not prosecute the war for conquest, that I hoped by a treaty of peace to obtain a cession of the Californias and New Mexico, and to pay for them a reasonable equivalent. That equivalent would probably be the assumption of the debt due by Mexico to our own citizens, to bear the expenses of the war, and to pay Mexico some millions of dollars besides. He expressed his concurrence in these general views and his gratification at hearing them. I told him I deprecated the agitation of the slavery question in Congress, and though a southwestern man and from a slaveholding State as well as himself, I did not desire to acquire a more southern territory than that which I had indicated, because I did not desire by so doing to give occasion for the agitation of a question which might sever and endanger the Union itself. I told him the question of slavery would probably never be a practical one if we acquired New Mexico and California, because there would be but a narrow ribbon of territory south of the Missouri Compromise line of 36° 30', and in it slavery would probably never exist. 7 He expressed himself highly gratified with these views. He expressed an opinion that he would be satisfied with the Rio Grande as a boundary, and with a smaller country including the Bay of San Francisco on the Pacific, than that which I had indicated. I urged him to have speedy action in the Senate upon the war measures which I had recommended. My interview with Mr. Crittenden was a gratifying one. . .
After night several members of Congress called. About ten o'clock at night Senators Benton and Allen called together. They had been dining out. Mr. Benton proceeded immediately to converse in a very animated strain of the developments to the two military committees of Congress, which had been made by the exhibition to them by the Secretary of War today of the correspondence of the Department with General Taylor and General Scott, including the letters of these officers to the Department. He was very strong in his condemnation of both Taylor and Scott, and both he and Mr. Allen concurred in opinion that neither of these officers were fit for the command of the army and that they ought to be superseded. They were both strong and vehement on the subject. Col. Benton among other things said, I was willing to take the command of the army as Lieutenant-General, but the Senate had rejected the proposition to appoint such an officer; but now, Sir! seeing what I have today, I will go as a Major-General or a LieutenantColonel, or in any other rank, provided I can have the command of the army, and if I can have such command I will close the war before July. They held a conversation with me on the subject of more than an hour. Col. Benton said that every member of the two committees were astonished at the conduct of both Taylor and Scott. At about half past eleven o'clock they retired.
- 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