zachary taylor's presidential nomination ended up in the deadletter file -- 10/24/17

Today's selection -- from Zachary Taylor by John S. D. Eisenhower. In the early days of political parties, it was viewed as unseemly for candidates to attend their party's nominating conventions. In 1848, the two dominant parties were the Democrats and the Whigs. Zachary Taylor was at his plantation in Louisiana during the Whigs' Philadelphia convention and almost failed to learn that he was that party's nominee. Taylor, a hero of the Mexican-American War, eventually learned and went on to become our 12th president:

"Taylor, at Cypress Grove [in Louisiana], seemed to show little interest in the drama being played out in Philadelphia. He was still a major gen­eral in the regular army and the owner of plantations to be over­seen. His official position was commander of the Western Command, in charge of all army troops west of the Mississippi. His dual role as army officer and candidate was facilitated by the practice of the time that defined the headquarters of a command as being merely where the commander was -- no need for large es­tablishments with extensive staffs and communications. Taylor simply set up a headquarters a few miles away from Cypress Grove, staffed it with a couple of aides and presumably clerks, and kept his own schedule.

"The official notification of Taylor's nomination for president by the Whigs, in the form of a letter from John M. Morehead, presid­ing officer of the convention, arrived at the Baton Rouge post office on June 18, 1848. To everyone's surprise, Taylor did not reply for nearly a month. When he did so, he seemed unapologetic. He gracefully expressed his gratitude for the honor, though many con­sidered his response too bland. The main interest on most people's part was Taylor's long delay. Did he really plan to accept the nomi­nation? The Whigs had a right to wonder.

"The delay turned out to be due to a misunderstanding between Taylor and the Baton Rouge postmaster. Taylor had notified the of­ficial that he would no longer pay for letters on which postage was due, and the official had thrown the Morehead letter into the dead­ letter file."



John S.D. Eisenhower


Zachary Taylor: The American Presidents Series: The 12th President, 1849-1850


Times Books, Henry Holt and Company, LLC


Copyright 2018 by John S.D. Eisenhower


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