You can read about how I came to know about Dr. Boyd McNairy and his connection to my Sims family here. I updated this page in June 2013 with a chart showing the maternal links among the McNairy, Shelby, Minnick, Hodgekinson and Sims families.
Your letters from Lawrenceburg1 I have received and will try to impress on your friends the necessity of attending to your requests contained in them. Any business you wish attended through Genl. Armstrong I know will be faithfully and immediately done, for he seems willing and alive to the canvass, but Harris is wild and crazed about the widow or her forture.2 I saw Genl A. to day and he says that he (Harris) is a common subject of remark, and can do nothing with him and can not even get to see him to converse with. I do not wish to give you uneasiness of mind, but he is no account. Him and paper has been so much abused that I do not think that it can do any good, so in my opinion you do not loose much from the ineficiency of his paper. Hollingsworth will be a candidate in oppoision to Jennings and it is understood that he is out, but not yet announced in the paper.3 I understand there has been some money made up for him and he takes the field. They can not get any one for the House to run. The Whigs are not in good spirits here; they I am told, think or fear that they will loose the Legislature. Foster is dispirited and is sick again with the wound, had three Doctors to go out to probe it for the knife blade.4 I expect it is half pretence. Judge Catron told me he had in a few instances in his tour in the District intimated to some of the Whigs, that Judge Green would be a more suitable candidate for the Senate than Foster, a broken down hackneyed politician and it took well. I suppose you get the Washington news through the papers. If you desire me to send you the Globe5 & other papers that you file here write me so. I do not send them more frequently, because I thought you wished the files kept. I believe that I have written all I can think of now.
I have kept my letter open for the mail this evening. You had no letters to come, and I of course have no information. I send you the last papers. I had scarcely time to look at the Globe or Inteligencer,6 but supposing they contained the Abolition & repeal of the Sub-Treasury I send them. I saw Harris to day and give him your letter from Lawrenceburg.7 He promised to have all attended to & in the Union of Monday.8 Hollingsworth is a candidate, and Mrs. Walker9 (from whom you know that I get a good deal of news) says it makes some sensation among the whigs. Dr. McNairy will vote for him, & Joe Norvell10 things he will be elected. This of course is womens gossip and not worth much. This is rather a long conclusion to my letter.
ALS. DLC-JKP. Addressed to Brownsville and forwarded to Somerville. Published in THQ, XI, pp. 187-88.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1See Polk to Sarah C. Polk, June 15, 1841
2A letter from Daniel Graham of June 12, 1841, states that the woman's last name was Wynn; she is not identified further. ALS. DLC-JKP.
3See. J. George Harris to Polk, June 18, 1841.
4In May of 1841 James Brown, probably a Nashvillian, but not identified further, stabbed Ephraim H. Foster in the right side in an altercation arising from personal misunderstandings.
5The Washington Globe.
6The Washington National Intelligencer.
7Letter not found.
8The Nashville Union of Monday, June 21, carried a lengthy letter from an unnamed resident of Lawrenceburg, who wrote a detailed account of Polk's June 15th debate with his gubernatorial opponent, James C. Jones.
9Mary Norvell Walker, the wife of James Walker, resided hear the Polks. She was the sister of Caleb C. Norvell, editor of the Nashville Whig.
10Joseph Norvell, Nashville businessman and publisher, was the brother of Mary Norvell Walter and Caleb C. Norvell.
Reference: Cutler, Wayne, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk Volume V 1839-1841, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1979, pps. 700-701
I learn by A. Junr.1 just from Lebanon that the whig convention at Murfreesborough has put forth little Davy Dikeson for Governor.2 If you cannot beat Davy then, indeed, I will despair of the republic. The wiggs in Wilson have got their candidates for the legislature in the field, Doctor McCorkle, brotherinlaw to James Jones [is] one of them.3 Therefore I woud suppose Slim Jamy,4 will surely be up for Congress, if he does not he will soon be forgotton, and never more be heard of as a great man or politician. From Clay & Prestons late speeches in the Senate, and Buchanons reply,5 I would suppose that Buchannons reply and translation of their speech, which by their silence the[y] admitted, that Genl Armstrong &c. &c. will not be removed.6 What will become of McNairy, Hall, Erwin & Co. They will surely get Fosters pantaloons to burn Harrison & Clay in effegy.
With proper candidates for the legislature & Congress I have no doubt of sucess at our next election.
I am quite unwell to-day. All my Houshold join me in Kind Salutations to you & Mrs. Polk. Sarah7 has been unwell, is again up, & intends to pay her personal respects soon to Mrs. Polk. You and Mrs. Polk before you take your circuit must visit us & spend a night with us.
The Election of Blair & Reives printers to the senate8 has killed Clay. He will either go to England, or die soon with appoplexy. Hea[l]th and respect.
Note, When you take the field not to forget, the charges of Bell, Foster, Dickeson & Co against myself & Van Buren, for appointing members of congress. The first move is four members of Congress, & Bell one of them,9 & accepts thereof. Remember this. A.J.
ALS. DLC-JKP. Probably addressed to Nashville.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1Andrew Jackson, Jr.
2Jackson's sarcasm is directed to David W. Dickinson, a prominent Murfressboro Whig, who withdrew his name from nomination before the Whig Convention at Murfreesboro on March 4, 1841. James C. Jones of Wilson County was unanimously chosen by the convention to oppose Polk for the governorship.
3Miles B. McCorkle, a Lebanon physician and one-term Whig member of the Tennessee House, 1841-43, married Kittie Ann Munford, sister of Sarah Watson Munford Jones.
4James C. Jones.
5Determined to recind the election of public printer, Henry Clay and William C. Preston each spoke in the Senate on February 19, 1841. Denying the use of proscription by their party, Clay remarked, "I never said that all ought to be turned out who had dispeleased the Whigs." Preston observed that the Administration coming into power reject and repudiate the infamous maxim that to the victors belong the spoils." James Buchanan replied that he accepted Clay's and Preston's remarks as a "distinct annunciation of Whig principles" which would "instantly relieve the anxious minds of a very large number of office holders."
6Robert Armstrong, postmaster of Nashville, served from 1829 until 1845.
7Sarah York Jackson, wife of Andrew Jackson, Jr.
8Francis P. Blair and John C. Rives, editors of the Washington Globe, were elected to a two-year term as public printers on February 19, 1841.
9John Bell accepted an appointment as Harrison's secretary of war.
Since I saw you I have reflected some on the policy of your appearing at this time before the public, under your own name, in vindication of your character, from the numerous falsehoods, forgeries and misrepresentations which have been circulated against you, and have come myself to the conclusion that it would not be proper to do so, and for the following reasons. First, I deem the result of the election as things now stand entirely certain, and no publication from you can make it more so. Second, the high and dignified ground you have taken, neither to "solicit or decline high public office;" and the ground taken in retirement on your farm, calm and unmoved by the excitement around you, taking no part in the pending canvass for the Presidency, but committing yourself into the hands of your country, would seem to superficial observers to be inconsistent with any appeal to the public made by you at this juncture of time, just on the eve of the election, and would I have no doubt be so used by your enemies. Third, as long as you remain silent, the public sympathies are with you, for your worst enemy, if he would speak candidly must admit that you deserve better of your country than the abuse you have received; and in the present highly excited state of parties, nothing that can be said will be believed or can injure you. I think my observation warrants the opinion too, that every publication and every speech made by the Secretary of State, since the last Presidential election, has operated an injury to the administration, and has impaired its popularity. And lastly, your motives for making any publication at this juncture of time, would be misrepresented in an hundred ways, your language would be distorted, and in fine it would be made to be any and every thing but what it really was.
When I last conversed with you I doubted whether it might not be proper for you to make a dignified, but cautious & well prepared address to the public, but when I look over the Union and see all that has been said against you has been said by heated partisans and hirelings of "the powers that be," and that all the base means that have been employed have not detracted from your fair fame, or injured your popularity with the great body of the people of the U. States, and that your prospects of success are flattering, and indeed certain, I am constrained to come to the conclusion that the course heretofore pursued by you is still your true policy. It was the course pursued by Jefferson when assailed by the minions of the elder Adams. Treat every thing that has or may be said, with silent contempt. Any notice from you would only give importance to their slanders. Leave it as heretofore to your friends, at least until the election is over.
Those are the views which I entertain, and which from the conversation held with you at our last interview, I thought I could take the liberty freely to communicate to you. Do not however, let any opinion of mine influence you to do otherwise than your own judgement may dictate or your better informed friends may advise.
On yesterday I procured and forwarded to Majr. Eaton by my brother a statement [made by] Lucius J. Polk, of a conversation lately held to him and several other gentlemen, by Col. Wm. P. Anderson2 in relation to Dr. [Boyd] McNairy's Burr communication in which Col. Anderson stated that he knew Dr. McNairy could not sustain the accusation, and that the letter without date or address, about boats &c. had reference to an entirely different object, and had no relation to Burr or his plans. This I conceive will be important, as it is now certain from Col. Erwin's communication to Binns3 on the same subject that the letter was addressed to Col. Anderson and was furnished by him for publication. I have likewise procured and forwarded to Eaton a statement on the same subject from Dr. McKethen[?]4 (an Adams man) containing in substance the same that Lucius Polk's statement does, to be used if necessary. You need not give yourself any uneasiness on this subject. From the notice taken of it by the newspapers at a distance, even without minute information, I am perfectly satisfied it is not credited, and even if left unanswered could do no harm. Eaton writes me the committee will report this week. It was perhaps better to prepare the report well, than to do it hastily.
JAMES K. POLK
Addrssed to Nashville. This letter is in private possession.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1At the bottom of the last page Jackson wrote, "My friend Col. Polk's letter to be kept as a token of his real friendship."
2William Preston Anderson, brother of Jackson's close friend Patton Anderson, was an aide to the general before 1812 and had remained on good terms with him for some years. Exactly when and why they broke with each other is not clear, although it has been suggested that it concerned the settlement of an estate. Within a few days after this letter, Jackson and Anderson exchanged through newspapers the most bitter recriminations.
3John Binns, harshly anti-Jackson editor in Philadelphia, said in his memoirs that several Nashville merchants, presumably including Erwin, had provided him with all sorts of anti-Jackson material for use in his paper.
Reference: Weaver, Herbert, ed., and Paul H. Bergeron, assoc. ed., Correspondence of James K. Polk Volume I 1817-1832, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, Tennessee, 1969, pps. 196-98
With the facilities afforded me by a poor pen and a set of sorely crippled fingers (being upset in a stage) I have seated myself for the purpose of writing you a few lines mostly in relation to my humble self. Before this you have no doubt heard that my connection with the "Union" is dissolved, and that I am now "out at sea." What will be my course in future I am as yet unable to say. Every thing will depend upon the advice I may receive from you upon the subject of our conversation in Nashville.
I regret very much to inform you that my difficulties with my friends in the church are still unsettled, and there is a strong disposition on the part of some to make me feel the unpleasant consequences of presuming to thing and act for myself, as no moral wrong is alleged against me, the Bishop2 stating in his address that my name was "dropped from reasons not implicating my moral character." In pursuing the course I did I may have acted injudiciously, but I am conscious that I done all for the best, and after reflecting upon the whole subject I can see no cause for regret except it be the violent, unjust, and uncalled for opposition of those from whom I had a right to expect better things.
Bp. Otey is my friend and would willingly reinstate me at once but he must be governed by action of a Standing Committee which is composed of the Rev. Messrs Weller and Polk, Dr. Shelby and Francis B. Fogg,3 all good and true Whigs, and from whose tender mercies much cannot be expected for a Van Buren editor. Mr. [James] Walker is of the opinion that every thing can be arranged satisfactorily.4 I have no doubt that such will be the case ultimately but not immediately, and I am at a loss what course to pursue in the meantime as my funds are now low and decreasing. Could us succeed in procuring for me the appointment of Chaplain, I could make one trip to Sea, and by the time I would return the cononical time would have expired, the asperity of feeling will have subsided and I could receive ordination without any difficulty whatever. I have just returned from a visit to the Hermitage; the "Old Chief" is in fine health and fine spirits. He regrets that my editorial services are dispensed with, and says I shall be provided for, and will furnish any letters that I may desire. I do not however think them necessary as I feel every confidence in the success of your kind exertions in my behalf. In a few days I will leave for Columbia, where I shall remain until I hear from you which I fain hope will be soon, as my situation at present is a critical one and my future course is involved in profound uncertainty.
In relation to political matters I am happy to say that prospects are brightening. The Presidents Message has produced a fine effect here. The Whigs cannot say aught against it, and as a matter of course [our?] friends are in fine spirits and our numbers daily increasing. Gov Carroll it is now certain will run for Governor, and if you are brought out as a Candidate for V.P. Tennessee will be safe; if not she may fly the course as it is an undeniable fact that old Tecumseh5 has not much hold upon the affections of the people of the state.
Please remember me to Mrs. P. and believe me to be as ever truly your friend...
JOHN O. BRADFORD
P. S. Mr. Nicholson has formed a law partnership with Judge Wm R. Brown, and Col. [Josephus C.] Guild, and will remove to Mississippi. The candidates for the vacant seat upon the bench are Genl. [William] Trousdale, and Mr. Rucks.6 Who will succeed is uncertain. I am requested by Genl. Armstrong to inform you that our county meeting is called for the last day of this month, of which you call hear a good account.7
Addressed to Washington
Polk editors' footnotes:
1This year was correctly suggested by the Library of Congress.
2James H. Otey.
3George Weller was minister at Christ Church in Nashville from 1829 until 1837, when he moved to Memphis. John Shelby received his medical training at the University of Pennsylvania and was practicing in Nashville at this time. Francis B. Fogg, an able Nashville lawyer, was a partner of Ephraim H. Foster for many years.
4Bradford had been in Columbia for about two weeks prioer to the time he wrote this letter. See James Walter to Polk, December 7, 1837.
5This is a reference to Vice-President Richard M. Johnson, who was believed by many to have been the man who slew Tecumseh.
6James Rucks was a lawyer who practiced in Carthage and Lebanon before moving to Nashville.
7The postscript was written across the top of the second and third pages of the letter. For a description of the Democratic county meeting, see Samuel Mitchell to Polk, January 2, 1837.
Reference: Weaver, Herbert, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk Volume IV 1837-1838, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, Tennessee, pps. 294-6
Major A. J. Donelson passed by today to see his little daughter1 at Wm Donelson['s] who was reported to be sick, & on his way to Nashville, if he could leaver her. The Major informed me that Lasley Combs, the chikesaw embasador, was to make a speach in Nashville today.2 That Mr. Ef. Foster3 had his agents out all over the county yesterday to drum in hearers to day, I had just now from Mr. Allen who lives near Haysborough.4
Your note is recd.5 I am quite unwell to day, unable to search for papers. I have made the attempt to look over Col Earles6 file of papers, where I hope all relating to this matter will be found. Two of which I send you,7 which will be a key to the Chekesaw embasadors visit to Nashville when he made The friendly visit to the Hermitage and Took dinner as a friend with me.8 Please take care of & return the papers.
You will find form the papers I send you, that after the death of Gov Shelby, Clay &c. by the instrumentality of Thomas Shelby attempted to slander & injure me, on the score of Colbert['s] reserve made in the Chekesaw treaty.9
The object of this Chekesaw embassador Lessley Combs['s] visit to Nashville was to obtain evidence to show that I had obtained this reserve for my friends &c &c. This he expected to obtain from Doctor McNairy and thro the influence that Doctor McNairy had over James Jackson.10 Under this mission he visited me as a friend, dined with me, was very social without every naming his base design—left me very friendly and the next news I had of this scamp, was his attempt to get James Jacksons affidavit—which when he had seen James Jackson in Nashville, & finding that it would not answer his base design, he soon left Nashville, & the first I heard of this scamp was his parthian arrow from the vile sheets of the Lexington press—detailing some base falsehoods,11 which if I could now be able to see this chikesaw embassador I would remind him of his former mission in such a manner that he never would again became the base slanderer of me, or caterer of slander for Thomas Shelby or Henry Clay. But both Shelby & Clay knew he was a fit subject for such employment. How base to approach my house pertake of my hospitality, with the dager of slander in his boosom & leave me without the least hint of his base intentions.
I must close. Search will be made for the papers that unfold this transaction, if got, will be sent you.12 In haste & great pain with our kind gretings to yr13
AL. DLC-JKP. Addressed to Nashville.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1Rachel Jackson Donelson, born in the White House in 1834, was the fourth child of Andrew Jackson Donelson and his wife, Emily Tennessee Donelson.
2Leslie Combs, a Kentucky lawyer and soldier, served in the Kentucky volunteers during the War of 1812. Between 1827 and 1859, Combs served several interrupted termes in the Kentucky legislature; he presided over the Kentucky House in 1846. An ardent Whig and friend of Henry Clay, Combs canvassed many states for Harrison during the campaign of 1840. On May 9, 1840, Combs delivered an anti-Jackson speech that was well-received by the Nashville Whigs.
3Ephraim H. Foster
4Allen is not identified.
5Letter not found.
6Ralph E. W. Earl, an artist, married Jane Caffery, a nice of Rachel Jackson; following the death of his wife, Earl became a member of the Jackson household. Prior to his own death in 1837, Earl painted several portraits of Jackson.
7Enclosures not found.
8Leslie Combs dined at the Hermitage with Jackson on October 11, 1828.
9Isaac Shelby, Henry Clay, Thomas Shelby and Levi Colbert. A surveyor, farmer, revolutionary soldier, and Virginia and North Carolina legislator, Isaac Shelby twice won election to the governorship of Kentucky. He gave up that office to lead Kentucky volunteers in support of William H. Harrison during the War of 1812. In 1816 Shelby retired to farming, but returned to public service two years later, when he was commissioned with Andrew Jackson to treat with the Chickasaw Indians. Shelby died on July 18, 1826. Thomas H. Shelby, third son of Isaac Shelby, served as his father's secretary during the Chickasaw negotiations of 1818. He later became a very affluent planter and resided near Lexington, Kentucky. Article 4 of a treaty signed with the Chickasaw Indians on October 19, 1818, reserved a four-mile-square tract, which included a salt lick on the Sandy River, to chieftains Levi Colbert and James Brown for the use of the nation. The chieftains might in turn lease the reserve to a U. S. citizen in exchange for an annual provision of salt. The reservation went to William B. Lewis for 199 years in exchange for an agreement to pay the Indians 750 bushels of salt annually.
10Boyd McNairy and James Jackson. Born in Nashville and educated at the University of Pennsylvania, McNairy practiced medicine in Nashville for over fourty years after 1815. An early Nashville businessman and associate of Andrew Jackson, James Jackson moved to Florence, Alabama, in the early 1820's and served several terms in the Alabama legislature. After James Jackson and Andrew Jackson broke cordial relations with one another by late 1824, James Jackson became, with Boyd McNairy, an ardent political and personal opponent of Andrew Jackson.
11In October 1828, the Lexington Kentucky Reporter printed an extra edition entitled Chickasaw Treaty: An Attempt to Obtain the Testimony of James Jackson Esq. to Prove the Connexion of Gen. Andrew Jackson With a Company of Land Speculators, While Acting as United States' Commissioner; and to Sustain the Statement on that Subject, of the Late Governor Shelby. In that broadside James Shelby attempted to disassociate his father's name from acts of corruption which had been charged against Andrew Jackson by Thomas Shelby in the spring of 1828. Believing that James jackson, who had held an interest in Colbert's reserve, possessed information "of a private character" concerning Andrew Jackson's conduct in 1818, James Shelby called upon Andrew Jackson to "unseal the lips of James Jackson" on the negotiations. On October 29, 1828, Andrew Jackson wrote to John Coffee at Florence, Alabama, and asked him to "Make James [Jackson] speak on this, "referring to Jackson's knowledge of the Chickasaw negotiations. Andrew Jackson also requested that Coffee send him a written statement that James Jackson "has never knew of me a dishonest or dishonorable act." See Bassett, ed., Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, III, pp. 440-42.
12See Andrew Jackson to Polk, May 15, 1840.
13Remainder of the page has been excised.
Reference: Cutler, Wayne, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk Volume V 1839-1841, Vanderbilt University Press, Nashville, 1979, pps. 445-6
The birds have been fluttering a little to day under the lash of the Union. They must stand it and have more of it. The news from Maine is almost too good. Since its receipt the Whigs are really desperate to mend the matter. Their rotton pole broke the other night and came down with the flag while the Hickory stood.
They made some little noise about it charging on the Democrats &c. &c. It is all over. Yesterday McNairy (Doctor)2 offered his land at $50 an acre pay'l when Clay was Elected. It was taken and when the news from Maine came out this morning he backed out.
I will attend to the hand bills for Turney &c. I wish Currin & Claiborne3 to go into Wilson Smith Jackson White & DeKalb. I think great good would result from their visits.
Keep East Tenss. in motion. Old Mr. Foster4 is at the Point of Death and I think Ephraim will be sent for to come back. Spur on Rowles Maxwell Andrew Johnson5 &c. and if possible get James McClung to go over. His trip just after Barton would be very sensable.
Viriginia every one says is safe. It is close, and there is much talen and influence that seems to be doing nothing. The Whigs will make an exertion such as has never been made, to carry that state and may find our men sleeping at their post. They do not seem to be up and doing there as in other states. There is now a fine spirit in Ohio and the Texan Question since Genl Jacksons Letter to Dawson6 is just sprung.
The Maine Election will have most glorious influence. It has here. Those scamps are all quiet. In haste.
ALS. DLC-JKP. Addressed to Columbia.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1Date identified through content analysis.
2Educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Boyd McNairy returned to his native Nashville after completing his medical studies and practiced medicine there until his death in 1859; McNairy was an ardent Whig and great admirer of Henry Clay.
3David M. Currin and probably Thomas Claibonre. A Murfreesboro lawyer, Currin ran as a Democratic candidate for elector in the Seventh Congressional District in 1844; he later moved to Memphis an served one term in the Tennessee House, 1851-53. A major on Andrew Jackson's staff during the Creek War and a Nashville lawyer, Claiborne served three terms in the Tennessee House, 1811-15 and 1831033 and one term in the U.S. House 1817-19.
4Reference is Robert C. Foster, Sr., father of Robert C. Foster, Jr. and Ephraim H. Foster.
5George W. Rolwes, probably William Henry Maxwell, and Andrew Johnson. A Bradley County lawyer and Democrat, Rolwes won election to two terms in the Tennessee House, 1841-43 and 1857-59; in the presidential campaign of 1844, he ran on the Democratic slate for elector from the Third Congressional District. A farmer and lawyer in Washington County, Maxwell switched from the Whig to the Democratic Party in 1844.
6On August 28, 1844, Andrew Jackson responded to a letter from Moses Dawson, and Ohio Democrat and newspaper editor. Dawson had asked Jackson for his views "in relation to the advantages likely to flow from the annexation of Texas to this country, and the injury that would result to us if Great Britain succeeded in her designs upon that territory." For a copy of Jackson's reply, see the Nashville Union, September 3, 1844.
Reference: Cutler, Wayne, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk, Volume VIII September-December 1844, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1993, p. 94-5
[This letter contains several topics, and only those topic of interest to this blog are reproduced below.—blog editor]
FROM ALFRED BALCH1
Dear Sir Nashville 13th Septr. 45
Tennessee is at last politically regenerated after a hot war of ten long years. Thos Whigs whose insolence was hardly to be borne in 1840 are now subdued and crest fallen. Some of them are even complaisant and almost sycophantic. Mr. Bell now condescends to stop in the streets and hold familiar conversations with vile Democrats. Grand mama Jinney Yeatman2 it is said has sold out her big Bell and cart. She has gone into a state of retiracy disgusted at the vulgar rabble. McNairy looks as tho he had just buried one of his children and Bob McEwen mourns as one without hope3. Wm. Nichol and Ledbetter expect to be ousted4. Some few have already given in their adhesion to the Democracy and in decent time they will be followed by crowds.
Ephraim since his over throw has deported himself with decency. His most intimate associates say that he has never cracked a smile since the fatal news reached him. Old Mrs. Governor Foster5 has been boiling over like a homminy pot ever since she learned that the vulgar LocoFocos had laid her Ephraim flat on his back.
Polk editors' footnotes:
1A Nashville lawyer and influential political strategist, Balch accepted appointment to a four-year term as judge of the U.S. Middle District of Florida in 1840; he resigned his judgeship before the end of his term and declined all subsequent overtures to run for public office.
2Balch's reference is to Jane Erwin Yeatman Bell, the wife of John Bell. John Bell had presented a large bell to the Bell Highlanders militia company of Williamson County in recognition of that unit's drill performance at the Whig mass meeting in Nashville on August 21, 1844. See Daniel Graham to Polk, August 25, 1844.
3Educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Boyd McNairy returned to his native Nashville after completing his medical studies and practiced medicine there until his death in 1859; McNairy was an arden Whig and great admirer of Henry Clay. A prominent Fayetteville merchant, Robert H. McEwen served as Tennessee's first superintendent of public instruction from 1836 until 1840.
4A wealthy merchant, banker, and steamboat owner in Nashville, William Nichol served as mayor of Nashville, 1835-36. A Rutherford County Whig, William Ledbetter served in the Constitutional Convention of 1834 and won election to several terms in the Tennessee Senate, 1835-39 and 1841-43
5Jane Mebane Lytle Dickinson Foster married Ephraim H. Foster following the death of her first husband, John Dickinson, under whom Ephraim Foster had studied law.
Reference: Cutler, Wayne, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk, Volume X July-December 1845, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2004, pps. 223
[Harvey M. Watterson wrote a long letter to James K. Polk with numbered items representing different topics. Original numbering has been retained here, but only items of interest to this blog are given below.—blog editor]
FROM HARVEY M. WATTERSON
Dear Sir, Nashville Nov. 3d 1845
I have not written to you for some length of time, presuming that other friends would keep you informed of all that was passing of an interesting character.
I have sat myself down this evening to give you some particulars of one of the foulest transactions which stain the political annals of Tennessee, or of the Union. I desire to be brief and to the point...
4. About the 1th Oct I saw Dr. Boyd McNairy in frequent private conversations with Turney, and I told A V Brown that the symptoms looked unfavorable. "O said he, the Whigs will never unite upon him in the world." I told him I had no faith in Whiggery, and as to Turney my firm and settled opinion was, that he would dissolve the Union to be elected to the Senate of the United States!
5. The balloting commenced on the 21st Oct. On the 22d when we adjourned for dinner, Nicholson told Aaron V. Brown, Guild, Gardner and myself that he had had a full, free and confidential conversation with James A. Whitesides2, in which Whitesides gave him all the facts in reference to the bargain which was going on between Turney and the Whigs—that Turney had written a letter pledging himself that he would oppose a modification of the Tariff, advocate the distribution of the proceeds of the public Lands, and denounce the head of the National Administration. When the two Houses again met, Col. Guild & Gardner made speeches in favor of the postponement of the election for ten days, but neither of them, as I expected, alluded by way of rumor to the existence of the letter refered to. I called Jonas E. Thomas to the chair, and made a few remarks defining my position on the Senatorial election at the close of which I spoke of rumors meeting me on every corner that Mr. Turney had made concessions to the Whigs, and called upon Cullom of Smith to state that he knew about the matter. He arose and said, that he had received no such letter, that he had no such letter in his possession. I then asked him if he had seen or hear such a letter read. He replied that he would not be catechised in so extraordinary a manner by no gentleman, and proceeded, for some minutes, to tell the Convention that I was for White3 and he hoped I would turn back to the Whig faith &c. This proceeding astounded every body, and that is only half—it satisfied all present that the rumor was too true to make a joke of. Next came Gordons resolutions, the delay, and then the election.
2A Chattanooga lawyer, manufacturer, and railroad promoter, James A. Whiteside served as a Whig in the Tennessee House, 1835-37 and 1845-49, and in the Tennessee Senate, 1837-39.
3William Cullom's reference is to the 1836 presidential election, in which Hugh Lawson White broke with Andrew Jackson because of Jackson's insistence that Martin Van Buren succeed him as president. In the election White carried Tennessee, receiving the support of many Tennessee Democrats, who held an unfavorable opinion of Van Buren. White;s campaign helped to lay the foundation for the Whig party in Tennessee.
Reference: Cutler, Wayne, ed., et al., Correspondence of James K. Polk, Volume X July-December 1845, The University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2004, pps. 342-43