Letter from Zachary Taylor to Capt. J. S. Allison, April 22, 1848.
BATON ROUGE, April 22, 1848.
DEAR SIR: — My opinions have so often been misconceived and is represented, that I deem it due to myself, if not to my friends, to make a brief exposition of them upon the topics to which you have called my attention.
I have consented to the use of my name as a candidate for the Presidency. I have frankly avowed my own distrust of my fitness for this high station; but having at the solicitation of many of my countrymen, taken my position as a candidate, I do not feel at liberty to surrender that position until my friends manifest a wish, that I should retire from it. I will then most gladly do so. I have no private purposes to accomplish, no party projects to build up, no enemies to punish — nothing to serve but my country.
I have been very often addressed by letter, and my opinions have been asked upon almost every question that might occur to the writers as affecting the interest of their country, or their party. I have not always responded to these inquiries, for various reasons.
I confess, whilst I have great cardinal principles which will regulate my political life, I am not sufficiently familiar with all the minute details of political legislation to give solemn pledges to exert myself to carry out this or defeat that measure. I have no concealment. I hold no opinion which I would not readily proclaim to my assembled countrymen but crude impressions upon matters of policy, which may be right to-day, and wrong to-morrow, are, perhaps, not the best test of fitness for office. One who cannot be trusted without pledges, cannot be confided in merely on account of them.
I will proceed, however, now, to respond to your inquiries.
First — I will reiterate what I have so often said — I am a Whig. If elected I would not be the mere President of a party. I would endeavor to act independent of party domination. I should feel bound to administer the Government untrammeled by party schemes.
Second — The veto power. The power given by the constitution to the Executive, to interpose his veto, is a high conservative power; but in my opinion should never be exercised except in cases of clear violation of the constitution, or manifest haste and want of consideration by Congress. Indeed I have thought that for many years past the known opinions and wishes of the Executive have exercised undue and injurious influence upon the legislative department of the Government; and for this cause I have thought our system was in danger of undergoing a great change from its true theory. The personal opinions of the individual who may happen to occupy the Executive chair, ought not to control the action of Congress upon questions of domestic policy nor ought his objections to be interposed where questions of constitutional power have been settled by the various departments of government, and acquiesced in by the people.
Third — Upon the subject of the tariff, the currency, the improvement of our great highways, rivers, lakes and harbors, the will of the people, as expressed through their representatives in Congress, ought to be respected and carried out by the Executive.
Fourth — The Mexican war. I sincerely rejoice at the prospect of peace. My life has been devoted to arms, yet I look upon war at all times, and under all circumstances, as a national calamity, to be avoided if compatible with the national honor. The principles of our Government, as well as its true policy is opposed to the subjugation of other nations and the dismemberment of other countries by conquest. In the language of the great Washington, "Why should we quit our own to stand on foreign ground." In the Mexican war our national honor has been
11vindicated and in dictating terms of peace we may well afford to be forbearing and even magnanimous to a fallen foe.
These are my opinions upon the subjects referred to by you, and any reports or publications written or verbal, from any source, differing in any essential particular from what is here written, are unauthorized and untrue.
I do not know that I shall again write upon the subject of national politics. I shall engage in no schemes, no combinations, no intrigues. If the American people have not confidence in me, they ought not to give me their suffrages. If they do not, you know me well enough to believe me, when I declare I shall be content. I am too old a soldier to murmur against such high authority.
To Capt. J. S. ALLISON.