Quotes From the Diary of James K. Polk

“Twelve months ago this day, a very important conversation took place in cabinet between myself and Mr. Buchanan. It was this circumstance which first suggested to me the idea, if not the necessity, of keeping a journal or diary of events and transactions which might occur during my presidency. I resolved to do so & accordingly procured a blank book for that purpose on the next day, in which I have everyday since noted whatever occurred that I deemed of interest.”

“This morning at 9 O’Clock I went on board the steamer Osceola with Mrs. Polk, her niece, Miss Rucker, and two servants to take an excursion to Fortress Monroe. It is my first absence from Washington since I have been President, except a single day in the Spring of 1845 when I visited Mount Vernon, going and returning on the same day. My long confinement to my office has considerably enfeebled me & rendered some recreation necessary.”

“Mr. Buchanan is a man of talents & is fully competent to discharge the high duties of Secretary of State, but it is one of his weaknesses (and perhaps all great men have such) that he takes on & magnifies small matters into great & undeserved importance.”

“Mr. Noland, the Commissioner of Public Buildings, called, as he said, at the request of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institute, to know at what hour on tomorrow it would suit my convenience to accompany them to the public grounds, with a view to select the site for that institution.”

“This being the day appointed for laying the corner Stone of the Washington monument in Washington, and having been invited by the committee of arrangements to attend the ceremonies of the occasion, and having determined, though in feeble health, to do so, I had invited my Cabinet to meet & accompany me at 10 O’Clock this morning. Accompanied by the Cabinet and escorted by Col. May of the U.S. Army, we were conducted in carriages to the City Hall where the procession was formed and moved to the site of the Washington monument on the Banks of the Potomac and South of the President’s mansion. I witnessed the ceremony of laying the corner stone, and heard an address delivered by Mr. Speaker Winthrop of the Ho. Repts.”