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Wednesday, 10th March, 1847.
Having seen in the New Orleans papers which arrived last night that Major General Butler was in New Orleans, and thinking it probable that he had leave of absence from the army in consequence of his wound or from bad health, and that possibly he might not be able to resume his command, it occurred to me, if this was so, that the difficulties which had interposed of placing General Benton in the chief command would be partially removed. I did not still see my way entirely clear to remove three senior Major-Generals who had rank of General Butler, but thought it probable that I might do so in a short time. With a view to such a contingency I requested my private secretary immediately after breakfast to call on General Benton and request him to postpone any final decision as to his acceptance of his commission as Major-General for a few days, and until I could confer with him. My private secretary returned in about an hour and reported to me that General Benton had informed me that he had addressed letters to the Adjutant-General and myself declining to accept the commission. . .
I sent for the Secretary of War, and the Secretary of State happening to come in I read to each the letter which I had received from General Benton and had some conversation with them. After a conference with them I addressed a note to General Benton requesting him to suspend any decision whether he would accept or decline the appointment of Major-General of the army for a few days, and until I could have further developments from the seat of war. I stated to him the fact that General Butler had arrived at New Orleans on leave of absence, in consequence of ill-health produced by his wound, and that he might possibly not be able to return to the army. I told him that I had no power to place him in command but by recalling four Major-Generals, but that if General Butler should not be able to return to the army, there would be less difficulty in placing him in the position he desired. He replied that he could not postpone his decision. . . The result of our conversation was that he declined suspending his decision to decline accepting the office of Major-General. He was in a pleasant humour and his conversation was in a friendly tone. I had a long conversation with him in which he gave his views fully of what he considered to be the proper operations of the army in Mexico under the existing circumstances. He had great apprehensions from the Vomito. 1 He was in favour of raising the blockade at all the ports in our military possession, and levying a tariff of duties, as a condition upon which importation should be allowed. I had, in the first instance, stated to him that such would be my policy and inquired of him if in his opinion I possessed the power under the laws of war to establish such regulations. He said he had no doubt that I possessed the power and ought to exercise it. I inquired of him if he would make any discrimination between the productions of the United States imported into the ports, of Mexico in the possession of our arms, and those of foreign countries imported in foreign bottoms. He said that he would not.
- 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