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Tuesday, 6th April, 1847.
Mr. Mason, the Secretary of the Navy, mentioned to me that he bad been informed by the Hon. John S. Barbour of Virginia that he had recently received a letter from Senator Calhoun of South Carolina, the object of which was, to obtain his signature to an address to the people of the United States on the subject of slavery, thus making and endeavouring to make the question a test in the next Presidential election. Mr. Barbour informed Mr. Mason, as Mr. Mason told me, that he had refused to sign the address; but that he learned that Mr. Calhoun desired that it should be signed by leading men in all the Southern States, and the Hon. Mr. Seddon among others was named by Mr. Barbour as one of those who was expected to sign it. I remarked to Mr. Mason that Mr. Calhoun had become perfectly desperate in his aspirations to the Presidency, and had seized upon this sectional question as the only means of sustaining himself in his present fallen condition, and that such an agitation of the slavery question was not only unpatriotic and mischievous, but wicked. I told him further, that I had learned from a reliable source that the New York politicians who were favourable to the election of Gov. Wright to the Presidency would be rejoiced at the opportunity to take issue with Mr. Calhoun on such a question. I did not tell Mr. Mason my authority for this opinion, but I think it proper to record the fact. I derived this information from General Benton in a conversation with him a few days ago . . . in which I had protested against his addressing a letter to the people of Oregon informing them that the bill to establish a territorial government over them had been rejected at the last session of Congress on account of the attempt made by Mr. Calhoun to leave the question of the existence of slavery in that territory an open one. In the course of the conversation General Benton dropped the idea distinctly that the New York gentlemen had gone home from Congress with a full record of all the facts and intended to make an issue on that question. I find I omitted to state this in Tuesday's diary. The truth is there is no patriotism in either faction of the party. Both desire to mount slavery as a hobby, and hope to secure the election of their favourite upon it. They will both fail and ought to fail. The people of the United States, I hope, will cast off all such intriguers, and make their own selection for the Presidency, and this if they are wise they will do. I now entertain a worse opinion of Mr. Calhoun than I have ever done before. He is, wholly selfish, and I am satisfied has no patriotism. A few years ago he was the author of Nullification and threatened to dissolve the Union on account of the tariff. During my administration the reduction of duties which he desired has been obtained, and he can no longer complain. No sooner is this done than he selects slavery upon which to agitate the country, and blindly mounts that topic as a hobby. Gov. Wright's friends in Congress as unpatriotically have shown by their course that they desire to mount the same hobby in the North and hope to be successful by their opposition to slavery. They both forget that the Constitution settles these questions which were the subjects to mutual concessions between the North and the South. I am utterly disgusted at such intriguing of men in high place, and hope they will be rebuked by the people.
- 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