Another man who could write long letters, though without using so many pages, was Zachary Taylor. He managed to write small and cram an incredible number of lines onto a sheet of paper. Taylor was a military man, elected to the presidency in 1848 not because of his positions, but because of his lack of positions. At least he avoided stating any positions. He ran not as a politician, but as a man with strong principles. It was just what the American public ordered. His later electoral career makes this letter he wrote to a friend in 1841 particularly interesting. He is filled with praise for the recently elected William Henry Harrison, and while not condemning the defeated president, Martin Van Buren, treats the 1840 election as the most important event in America since the Revolution, “fully as important to the country as was the surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga & that of Cornwallis at Yorktown.” Okay, that was a bit of an exaggeration. He believed there was a lot of corruption by office holders in Van Buren's administration, which he thought Harrison would root out. The degree of interest in political concerns expressed by Taylor may make his image as a non-politician a bit questionable, and yet his focus on the candidates' integrity, rather than policies, is consistent with the later Taylor. Taylor, like Harrison, would run as a Whig (they were the only elected Whig presidents), and like Harrison, would fall ill and die in office. Item 35. $24,000.
“What can I do, my dear friend, with such letters as inclosed, but forward them to you?” writes former President Thomas Jefferson in 1820 to current President James Monroe. “I reject the numerous applications made to me to be troublesome to you; but now and then comes one which principle or feeling does not permit me to refuse.” Jefferson had received a request for some sort of help from an individual known to both him and Monroe, and while Jefferson declined to become involved in most such requests, he could not refuse this person. The individual must have been an elderly man as he had been an officer during the Revolution and a supporter of Jefferson and his party in 1800. The name of the person is unknown, as is Monroe's response, though it seems unlikely the President could have refused. Item 20. $24,000.
Joe Rubinfine may be reached at 321-455-1666 or Joerubinfine@mindspring.com.