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James K. Polk Letter

Identifier: MS-0797

  • Staff Only

In this 1841 letter to David Burford, James Polk asks Burford to reconsider his decision to abandon his political aspirations. Polk feels that the upcoming elections in Tennessee are of particular importance, and hopes that Burford will consent to be nominated for Senator. He also discusses the general political climate and asks Burford if he believes Mr. Allen, an exceedingly wealthy and popular man in Smith, can be convinced to run for office. Finally, Polk touches on his own political career, saying that although he does not yet know who will run against him for Governor, he will "meet him as soon as he chooses to take the field and ensure that he shall not have a day's start of me in the canvass."


  • 1841 February 2

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0.1 Linear Feet (1 folder)


In this 1841 letter to David Burford, James Polk asks Burford to reconsider his decision to abandon his political aspirations and discusses the general political situation in Tennessee.

Biographical/Historical Note

James Knox Polk was born in North Carolina in 1795. His family moved to Tennessee when he was a child. He was educated University of North Carolina, graduating with honors in 1818. He then returned to Tennessee and studied law, earning admission to the Bar in 1820. He was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1823 and served until 1825, when he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives. He held this position until 1839, when he was elected Governor of Tennessee. He was not reelected in 1841 or 1843, but managed to secure the Democratic nomination for President in 1844 as a dark horse candidate. Polk won the election, and served for one term. He died on June 15, 1849, three months after leaving the White House.

David Morgan Burford was born to Daniel and Elizabeth (Hawkins) Burford on November 5, 1791 in North Carolina. His family moved to Smith County, Tennessee when he was a child, and Burford went on to serve in the Army during the War of 1812 and later in the Tennessee state militia. He married Elizabeth Watkins Alexander on September 16, 1825, and the couple had eight children. Burford was originally trained as a tanner, but worked in the mercantile trade and as a farmer before becoming involved with the buying and selling of enslaved persons and specifically with Jourdan M. Saunders of J. M. Saunders and Co., agents for the infamous slave trading enterprise of Franklin and Armfield of Alexandria, Virginia. Morgan was also involved in politics, representing Smith and Sumner Counties in the Tennessee State Senate from 1829 to 1835 and representing Tennessee at the Democratic National Convention held in Charleston, South Carolina in 1860. He died on May 23, 1864 in Dixon Springs and is buried in his family's cemetery.


Collection consists of a single folder.

Repository Details

Part of the Betsey B. Creekmore Special Collections and University Archives, University of Tennessee, Knoxville Repository

University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Knoxville TN 37996 USA