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Saturday, 20th February, 1847.
The official report of General Scott with the correspondence between himself and Col. Harney was read. From these documents it appears that General Scott arbitrarily and without cause ordered Col. Harney, then at the head of seven companies of his regiment on the Rio Grande, to turn over his command to a junior officer and proceed himself to Monterey and take command of the two remaining companies. Col. Harney is known to be one of the most gallant and best officers in the service. He was not under any charges of any kind. He was, however, a Democrat in politics, was one of General Jackson's personal friends, and was appointed by him. I can conceive of no reason but this for the arbitrary and tyrannical conduct of General Scott in doing such gross injustice to this gallant officer. General Taylor had acted with the same proscriptive spirit, not only towards Col. Harney, but other gallant Democratic officers. I have myself been wholly uninfluenced by any reference to the political opinions of the officer of the army in the conduct of the war. It has not been so with the Federal commanders in the field. I have good reason to believe that General Taylor's camp has been converted into a political arena, and that great and palpable injustice has been done to many officers of high merit who happen to be Democrats. General Scott, since he assumed command, has commenced the same proscriptive and tyranranical course, and I stated to the Cabinet that I was resolved at any hazard to check it. Mr. Buchanan, though agreeing that great injustice had been done to Col. Harney, expressed the opinion in a zealous and strong manner that as Col. Harney had been put under arrest for disobeying and protesting against General Scott's arbitrary orders, that no order should be issued from here until the result of his trial was known. The Attorney-General, Secretary of War, and Secretary of the Navy advised delay in issuing the proposed order. The Secretary of the Treasury expressed in strong terms his disapproval of General Scott's conduct and seemed, as far as he spoke, to agree with me in opinion, though he was not very distinct. The Postmaster-General expressed no opinion. I told the Cabinet that I had great respect for their opinions, but that in this case I was sure I was right, and would take the whole responsibility. I told the Secretary of War that if he was unwilling to write the letter which I had directed to be written, I would do it myself. He said he would write the letter. I told him to state
in it that it was written by my order. I am resolved that Col. Harney shall not be sacrificed to propitiate the personal and political malice of Gen. Scott. . .
The attack on Vera Cruz became the subject of conversasation, when the fact was alluded to that from General Scott's letter of the 12th of January last it would probably be made about this time. The Secretary of the Navy expressed surprise at hearing this, and said the Ohio and bombvessels designed to coöperate with the land forces had not gone round, and said he had not heard of General Scott's letter. I expressed equal surprise at bearing him say this, and addressing him and the Secretary of War I remarked that I had taken it for granted that they were constantly in conference with each other, and that each understood the movements and operations of their respective branches of the service. The Postmaster-General remarked that General Scott's letter had been read in Cabinet on last Tuesday week, if his memory served. The Secretary of the Navy replied that he could not have been present. The Secretary of War remarked that he had supposed that the Secretary of the Navy knew all about it. Mr. Mason seemed to be much mortified and left the Cabinet to issue orders today to hasten the movement of the naval forces to the Gulf.
- 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