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Foreign feminine looks at James Knox Polk on 2nd of November, his 213th birthday

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  • Evelyn Radecke
    Google digitalized a lot of books, and while searching for information on Mr. Polk in them I found a book by an English lady who travelled in the United States
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 2, 2008
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      Google digitalized a lot of books, and while searching for
      information on Mr. Polk in them I found a book by an English lady who
      travelled in the United States while Polk was President, and later
      wrote a book on American statesmen. Here some paragraphs from the
      chapter that deals with Mr. Polk:
      17

      ...

      The first time I saw the President was on the first of January, 1846,
      the morning after the arrival of myself and my son (the Doctor), at
      Washington. On New Year's day it is the privilege of every American
      and his family to pay their respects to the Chief Magistrate of the
      country, at the White House, wishing to see the republican ceremony,
      so unlike any custom of Europe, we repaired to the residence of the
      President about one o'clock, and not having had time to deliver any
      of our letters of introduction, we went alone. The crowd was immense,
      but perfectly well conducted; no pushing forward, no murmuring, no
      jostling; each was solicitous to avoid, if possible, annoying his or
      her neighbor, and anxiously apologised if such an accident happened;
      all were neatly dressed, many of the female portion with much
      elegance, and the men carried their hats high up above their heads to
      keep them out of the way. I have been in all sorts of crowds, in
      England and France; at theatres, operas, churches, balls, routs,
      elections, and ceremonies of various kinds, both public and private,
      but I have never seen any assemblage of persons so orderly,
      respectful, patient, and well mannered as the American people on that
      day. The Democracy behaved like a lady.

      The President stood in the reception room, and Mrs. Polk at a little
      distance; they received their guests as they were able to approach;
      the greeting was friendly and courteous on the one side, and
      respectful and kind on the other. My son and myself approached with
      the rest, and I simply introduced myself as an English lady, without
      even mentioning my name. "I am delighted, madam, to see you here,"
      said the President, shaking me cordially by the hand. I then
      introduced my son, saying that I should hope to see the President
      again. "At all times, madam, you will be most welcome."

      18

      And he has faithfully kept this encouraging promise; in public and in
      private I have ever received from him and from Mrs. Polk the utmost
      kindness and consideration.

      This was my first introduction in Washington, and at this time, it
      must be remembered that the United States were at variance, and might
      soon be at war, with Great Britain. Nor should it be omitted that the
      Americans, a high-minded and sensitive people, jealous of their
      honour, have been the subjects of vulgar and ignorant remark by
      English travellers. But these circumstances never seemed to recur to
      their recollection; or rather they appeared additional reasons why
      they should extend to me a more than ordinary share of courtesy and
      hospitality. I was a stranger, a woman, and an invalid; — this was
      enough for them. In my various interviews with the President he was
      ever cautious of making any remark which might even by inference give
      me pain, and he treated my feelings with respect as one devoted to
      the interests of my country, but as regarding America with every
      hallowed sentiment of gratitude, admiration and love. And this
      consideration for my position as an Englishwoman, was universal
      throughout the Union.

      The Honourable James Knox Polk entered upon the office of President
      of the United States on the 4th of March, 1845. He is a native of
      North Carolina, and was born on the 2d of November, 1795. His father,
      who was a farmer, removed to Tennessee in 1806, and in this state Mr.
      Polk continued to reside. The ancestors of this family, in common
      with those of many of our distinguished men, emigrated from Ireland.
      He received his professional education in the University of North
      Carolina, and was distinguished for his great assiduity and success,
      particularly in the study of mathematics. In 1820 Mr. Polk was
      admitted to the bar, commencing his career in Maury county. In 1825
      he was chosen to represent his district in Congress, and in 1835 he
      was elected speaker of the House of Representatives.

      The President is of low stature; his address is mild and perfectly
      unassuming, and the tones of his voice are gentle and agreeable; his
      forehead is broad and high; his eyes well set, of dark gray, and the
      mouth is expressive of much firmness. I should think that he is
      habitually grave and thoughtful for though I have often seen him
      smile, I have never seen him indulge in laughter. The President
      refused a favour more kindly than any one I have ever heard perform
      that most ungracious duty of one in power. I was, on one occa-

      19

      sion, present when a gentleman pressed very hard for an answer to an
      application for a consulship. The President said that he had not had
      time to examine the list of candidates; that it was a very long one,
      and that for the moment he was wholly unable to give any reply. The
      gentleman had the bad taste to reiterate his request; three times the
      President repeated his original words, and always with forbearance
      and patience. The art of conferring a favour is as difficult as the
      art of refusing it; but the sagacity and good feeling which called
      into active service Slidell M'Kenzie and the veteran Major General
      Gaines, are proofs that the President understands the one as well as
      the other.

      Mr. Polk is attached to the Presbyterian church; but his sympathy
      extends to all denominations, and during my residence in Washington
      he attended the Roman Catholic chapel, when, I believe, a sermon for
      the relief of the Irish poor was preached. I have understood that his
      attendance at church is strict and constant, and in every relation of
      private life he is exemplary and well beloved.

      Though the individual reign of the President is limited by the
      constitution of the country to a certain term of years, no dynasty
      among the sovereigns of the earth holds tenure on more immutable
      grounds than the Presidents of America.

      ...

      excerpt from the book "The Statesmen of America in 1846"
      by Sarah Mytton Maury, published in 1847, pages 17-19
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