• Polk Postmaster General Cave Johnson Offers Insight Into 1848 Presidential Election

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    CAVE JOHNSON (January 11, 1793-November 23, 1866) was a Democratic U.S. Congressman from Tennessee and United States Postmaster General, appointed by President James K. Polk as a reward for serving as one of Polk’s campaign managers. During his career as Postmaster General, Johnson introduced adhesive postage stamps in 1847. He is also credited with introducing street corner mail boxes in urban areas. He served as president of the Bank of Tennessee from 1854 to 1860.


    JAMES M. HOWRY was a wealthy planter and a judge who lived in Oxford, Mississippi. He was one of the original trustees of the University of Mississippi.


    3 1/3 pp, 7 ¾ x 9 ¾, ALS, October 13, 1847, marked Private, postmarked address-panel on the fourth page Washington with 10-cents of postage.  Johnson writes a superb political letter to Howry, providing outstanding insight into the political thinking surrounding the Presidential election of 1848 and the infant stages of secessionist movement.   He talks of the individual candidates – Whig candidate Zachary Taylor, who won that election, Lewis Cass, who came in second and Martin Van Buren, who didn’t get a single electoral vote.  He also mentions the current President, James Polk, who had been very ill and Mrs. Polk.  Very fine political Americana from one of the nation’s earlies postmaster generals with wonderful postal markings.


    “…We take no stand here for secession – perhaps we could not safely do so, if our inclinations lead us in that way. The death of Silas Wright is destined to have great influence upon that question. I am convinced now…that his friends intended to run him on that question & unite the North against the South, if he would have submitted to it. No other man has prominence enough to take his place with any hope of success upon that question unless it be Van Buren & I cannot believe that he will yield to it, tho’ his friends are evidently feeling the public pulse. In my opinion New York is gone – the divisions can not be reconnected…It will be the policy of the Democratic Party to take the Pres[ident] from a free state, if we can get one upon whom the Northern Democracy can unite. The man is very uncertain. Your suggestion of J[ames] B[uchanan] is very plausible & will probably carry as much weight with him as any other man. His letter had a powerful influence everywhere. It made its appearance at a very favorable moment. It was publicly known here during the last Session of Congress…that he will be entirely satisfied with the Tariff of ’46.  Gen’l C[ass] would suit us very well in the West but it is generally thought that the friends of Van Buren in the North are very hostile to him…& attribute to him the defeat of Van Buren…Our position should be to go for the nominee of the convention & to send to Baltimore wise, prudent men without commitment…The state of things cannot be avoided and patronage will defeat any man or party. The President has been very sick but now over it. Mrs. Polk is now confined…”


    Expected toning, folds.  Wonderful early political Americana by an early postmaster general.


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