To commemorate the death of James Knox Polk on 15th June, 1849
- Several entries in James Polk's diary suggest that he was prepared for an untimely demise. I've often wondered whether he did not feel like a person who is designed to fulfil some task on earth and leave the stage shortly after it is achieved - although he utters thoughts about what to do in case of surviving his much younger wife.
On 18th February, 1849 Polk had written his last will and testament, which was signed and sealed ten days later. In Mark E. Byrnes' book "James K. Polk, a biographical companion" I found this testament printed and give the last part, containing the direction in regard of the emancipation of his slaves.
I devise, bequeath and give to my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, and her heirs forever, all the balance of my estate, not hereinbefore disposed of, wheresoever situated, including all my lands and real estate, all my servants and personal property of any description, in the States of Tennessee and Mississippi or elsewhere, and including also money and debts and securities, which may be due or owing to me, or held by me. I have entire confidence that my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, who has been constantly identified with me in all her sympathies and affections, through all the vicissitudes of my public and private life for more than twenty-five years, and who by her prudence, care and economy has aided and assisted me in acquiring and preserving the property which I own, will at her death make a proper and just disposition of what property she may then possess, between her relations and mine. This is left entirely to her sole discretion, but with a request, if she shall deem it proper, that it may be distributed as equally as practicable, between such of her blood relations and my blood relations, whether they be the nearest of kin or not, as she may select and deem to be the most worthy recipients of it. Should I survive her, unless influenced by circumstances which I do not now foresee, it is my intention to emancipate all my slaves, and I have full confidence, that if at her death she shall deem it proper, she will emancipate them.
I do hereby nominate, constitute and appoint my beloved wife, Sarah Polk, Executrix, and my faithful and trusty friends, John Catron and Daniel Graham Executors of this my last will and testament.
In witness whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed my seal this twenty-eighth day of February in the year of Our Lord, one thousand, eight hundred and forty nine.
(Signed) James K. Polk (Seal)
Signed, sealed and delivered by the testator in our presence, and in the
presence of each other, as his last will and testament, and witnessed by us at his request.
James H. Thomas
H. L. Turney
Cave Johnson we all know as one of Polk's best friends. James H. Thomas was the representative of Polk's electoral district, when he was a representative himself and Hopkins L. Turney the Democratic Senator of Tennessee, elected in 1845