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[168]

The Presidential canvass of 1844 had been not only the most arduous but the most equal of any that the country had ever known, with the possible exception of that of 1800. The election of Madison in 1812, of Jackson in 1828, and of Harrison in 1840, had probably been contested with equal spirit and energy; but the disparity of forces in either case was, to the intelligent, impartial observer, quite obvious. In the contest of 1844, on the contrary, the battle raged with uniform fury from extreme North to furthest South--Maine and New Hampshire voting strongly for Polk, while Tennessee (his own State) went against him by a small majority, and Louisiana was carried against Clay only by fraud, and by a majority of less than seven hundred in nearly twenty-seven thousand votes. Up to the appearance of Mr. Clay's luckless Alabama letter, he seemed quite likely to carry every great Free State, including New York, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. Not till the election (October 8) of Shunk, the Democratic candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, by 160,759 votes to 156,562 for his Clay competitor, Markle, did the chances for Polk seem decidedly promising; had Markle received the full vote (161,203) polled, some three weeks later, for Clay himself, the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, New York, Indiana, and Louisiana, would probably have been cast for the latter, giving him 185, and leaving his antagonist but 90. As it was, with Pennsylvania carried for Polk at the State election, the vote of no less than fourteen of the twenty-eight States, choosing 166 of the 275 Electors, was doubtful up to the evening after the election. So close a Presidential race was and remains without parallel. Mr. Clay had the ardent support of a decided majority of the native-born voters, as well as of those who could read the ballots they cast — of all who had either property or social consideration, and probably of all who had a legal right to vote. But the baleful “Nativism” which had just broken out in the great cities, and had been made the occasion of riot, devastation, and bloodshed in Philadelphia, had alarmed the foreign-born population, and thrown them almost unanimously into the ranks of his adversaries; so that, estimating the vote cast by Adopted or to-be Adopted Citizens at Half a Million, it is nearly certain that four hundred and seventy-five thousand of it was cast for Polk — not with special intent to annex Texas, but in order to defeat and prostrate Nativism. Under other auspices, Mr. Clay's portion of this vote could hardly have been less than a fifth.

The election of Polk secured the immediate Annexation of Texas. That event would probably have taken place at some future day, had Mr. Van Buren or Mr. Clay been chosen, as their avowals fully indicated. But Mr. Polk was the outspoken, unequivocal champion of Annexation forthwith — Annexation in defiance of Mexico — Annexation regardless of her protest and the existing War — Annexation with our unjustifiable claim to the boundary of the Rio Grande ready to convert the danger of war with Mexico into a certainty — Annexation in defiance of the susceptibilities and convictions of the more conscientious and considerate

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