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January 16, 1995 The New Federalist

Page 9

U.S. Presidents Who Died While Fighting the British:

Zachary Taylor
by Anton Chaitkin

President Zachary Taylor The old Whig spokesman

Henry Clay

And the enemy:

Britain's Lord Palmerston

In the spring of 1991, the state of Kentucky exhumed the remains of U.S. President
Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), seeking to determine if he had been poisoned. Kentucky Chief Medical Examiner George Nichols told this reporter at the time that "it
is up to you people" i.e., outside investigators"to find out who killed Taylor.
It's my job first to prove whether he was killed or not."
The authorities concluded that the cause of death could not be determined, since no
significant amount of arsenic was found, and any other poison would have decayed
beyond a trace.
Taylor's descendants, unsatisfied with the legend that Taylor died from drinking
milk that was too cold and eating cherries, had designated as their representative
historian Clara Rising to officially request the exhumation. Mrs. Rising told this
reporter that she and a pathologist on the case had agreed that the "avenging angel
mushroom" seemed the most likely murder instrument. She said that that
particular poison produced a symptom pattern over the course of about a week,

which fit most closely the deaths of both Taylor and the earlier President William
H. Harrison: sickness, apparent recovery, then death.
The 1850 death of Zachary Taylor shocked and frightened the American people.
Taylor was the second U.S. President to die in office, following nine years after
Harrison. They were the only Presidents who were members of the Whig Party
the American nationalists who advocated protective tariffs, government sponsorship of canals and railroads, and a national bank to defeat British bankers' control
of credit.
Throughout the 16 months of Taylor's presidency he had fought the British Empire
and its American stooges, and he died as the fight became a deep national crisis.
General Zachary Taylor was elected President in 1848 after leading the U.S. Army
in the Mexican War, on orders of his predecessor, President James Polk. Though
he was himself a Southerner and owned a plantation, Taylor understood and
opposed the imperial aims of the faction which had engineered the Mexican War
to spread black slavery and to convert the USA into an anti-republican force
teamed with the British.
As President, Taylor moved to counter the actions of the regular British military,
and the tandem projects of U.S.-based adventurers. Taylor told Congress on March
19, 1850:
When I came into office I found the British Government in possession of the
port of San Juan [on Nicaragua's Caribbean coast], which it had taken by
force of arms after we had taken possession of California and while we were
engaged in the negotiation of a treaty for the cession of it, and that no
official remonstrance had been made by this government [i.e., by Polk and
the U.S. pro-imperial faction] against the aggression. . . .
I considered the interference of the British government on this continent in
seizing the port of San Juan, which commanded the route believed to be the
most eligible for the [projected] canal across [Central America to the
Pacific], and occupying it at the very moment when it was known . . . to
Great Britain that we were engaged in the negotiation for the purchase of
California, as . . . calculated to lead to the inference that she entertained
designs by no means in harmony with the interests of the United States.

The British Controller Arrives

After British troops had landed in Central America, Foreign Minister Lord
Palmerston had sent Henry Lytton Bulwer, a master of intrigue and secret societies,
to Washington as Britain's ambassador. Lytton had previously been expelled from
Spain for organizing subversive attacks against the Spanish government. Bulwer
would leave the U.S. two years after President Taylor was dead, when the U.S. was
headed toward Civil War. Bulwer would then be sent to Turkey, where he would
establish the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, himself become Grand Master of
Freemasons, and set in motion the cliques which were to overthrow the Turkish
The Bulwer family's fame derived from the British ambassador's brother, Edward
George Bulwer-Lytton, a novelist who dreamed of replacing modern civilization
with feudalism. During the 1861-65 Civil War, Bulwer-Lytton prophesied that the
U.S. would split into at least four different countries, and would no longer be a
menace to imperial interests. Had the United States "remained under one form of
government," he wrote, "then America would have hung over Europe like a
gathering and destructive thunder cloud." (Quoted in Jay Monaghan, Diplomat in
Carpet Slippers: Abraham Lincoln Deals with Foreign Affairs, New York, 1945,
Bobbs-Merrill Company, page 283.)
On April 22, 1850, President Taylor transmitted to the Senate a proposed treaty
negotiated by his Secretary of State John Clayton with Henry Bulwer. The treaty
was designed to protect Central America from the aggression of Great Britain, and
from American slave-owner-adventurers in league with the British.
Taylor told the Senate,
At the time negotiations were opened with Nicaragua for the construction of
a canal through her territory I found Great Britain in possession of nearly
half of Central America, as the ally and protector of the Mosquito King [a
British-appointed Indian leader]. It has been my object . . . to maintain the
independence and sovereignty of all the Central American republics. . . . If
there be any who would desire to seize and annex any portion of the territories of these weak sister republics to the American Union, or to extend our
dominion over them, I do not concur in their policy.
The previous year, President Taylor had issued a proclamation warning that a
private "armed expedition is about to be fitted out in the United States with an
intention to invade the island of Cuba. . . . I . . . warn all citizens . . . who shall
conduct themselves with an enterprise so grossly in violation of our laws . . . in the

highest degree criminal . . . tending to endanger the peace and . . . the honor of this
New Orleans DA Indicts President's Murderous Enemy
The criminal "filibuster" expedition against Spanish-ruled Cuba was organized by
New York native John M. Quitman, who was at the time Governor of Mississippi
and Southern USA leader of Palmerston and Bulwer's Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.
On June 3, 1850, on the invitation of Gov. Quitman, anti-U.S. representatives from
nine Southern states convened in Nashville, to advocate the breakup of the United
States. News of the public secession convention broke into alarming headlines
throughout the country.
In an editorial June 8, 1850, the London Times attacked the union of the United
States: "The civilized nations of the world are beginning to ask themselves the
meaning of this extraordinary state system which unites many provinces for
defence of one, if attacked, but leaves that one perfectly free to attack any friendly
power in defiance of the wishes of the corporate government. . . . An armament is
fitted out at New Orleans to invade Spanish territory and the government which
represents the United States is powerless to prevent its progress or departure."
British ambassador Sir Henry Bulwer ridiculed Taylor as weak.
On June 10, 1850, Interior Secretary Thomas Ewing wrote to New Orleans District
Attorney Logan Hunton asking for the prosecution of Quitman and his associates:
"It is the earnest desire of the President that all leaders engaged in organizing . . .
the late expedition against Cuba shall be brought to trial and punishment."
Governor Quitman and his cohorts were then indicted by a federal grand jury for
violation of the U.S. neutrality laws. Quitman's mercenaries, based in New York,
were attempting to seize Cuba to "prevent Spain from freeing the slaves."
On July 3, 1850, Georgia Congressmen Robert Toombs and Alexander Stephens
came into the White House and threatened President Taylor with the breakup of the
Union, if he continued to resist the spread of slavery.
New York anti-slavery and anti-Masonic leader Thurlow Weed, who had organized
Zachary Taylor's presidential campaign, happened to pass Toombs and Stephens on
their way out of the White House.

Weed described the scene to his grandson, who wrote it into Weed's authorized
biography (Thurlow Weed Barnes, Memoir of Thurlow Weed, Boston, Houghton,
Mifflin and Co. 1884):
Mr. Weed entered General Taylor's apartment a moment later. The President
was walking rapidly to and fro. "Did you meet those traitors?" Then, in an
excited manner, and in strong language, he proceeded to relate what had
passed between them and himself. They came, he said, to talk with him
about his policy upon pending slavery questions; and when they were
informed that he would approve any constitutional bill that Congress might
pass, and execute the laws of the country, they threatened a dissolution of the
Union; in reply to which he informed them that, if it became necessary, in
executing the laws, he would take command of the army himself, and that, if
they were taken in rebellion against the Union, he would hang them with
less reluctance than he had hung deserters and spies in Mexico!
Weed's account of the scene was corroborated by a letter from U.S. Senator (later
Vice President) Hannibal Hamlin:
I went into the President's room and found him alone. He was evidently
much excited . . . he appeared like an enraged lion in his cage. . . . [Taylor
told me] "Stand firm; don't yield. . . . I am pained to learn that we have disunion men to contend with; disunion is treason"; and with an expletive
which I will not repeat here, he said, with an emphasis which I shall never
forget, that if they attempted to carry out their schemes while he was
President, they should be dealt with by law as they deserved, and executed.
Stopping the Spread of Slavery
That same day, July 3, 1850, the indicted Quitman cabled his friends in Washington that he would be leading an anti-federal army of several thousand troops
westward from Texas to spread the law of slaveholders into neighboring New
Mexico. President Taylor was determined that the territories of New Mexico and
California would enter the Union as free states.
A U.S. military officer wrote some years later (Gen. Alfred Pleasonton to Thurlow
Weed, Sept. 22, 1876):
Late in June [1850], I received orders to join my command in New Mexico,
and the same day called upon General Taylor. He then appeared to be in
excellent health, . . . and upon my mentioning my destination, said: "I am
glad you are going to New Mexico. I want officers of judgment and experi-

ence there. These Southern men in Congress are trying to bring on civil war.
They are now organizing a military force in Texas for the purpose of taking
possession of New Mexico and annexing it to Texas, and I have ordered the
troops in New Mexico to be reinforced, and directed that no armed force
from Texas be permitted to go into that territory. Tell Colonel Munroe
[commanding in New Mexico] he has my entire confidence, and if he has
not force enough out there to support him," and then his features assumed
the firmest and most determined expression, "I will be with you myself; but
I will be there before those people shall go into that country or have a foot of
that territory. The whole business is infamous, and must be put down."
Secretary of War George Crawford informed the President he "could not sign" an
order to Col. Munroe to resist the Texas-Quitman clique's attempts to "exercise
jurisdiction" in New Mexico. Taylor replied that "he would sign it himself."
Taylor lacked a majority in the Congress, and he was now threatened with
impeachment by Alexander Stephens if he dared send U.S. troops to defend New
Mexico. But Taylor prepared a courageous message to Congress, dictated to either
Secretary of State Clayton or Interior Secretary Ewing, standing rock solid for the
Union (the text disappeared and was never recovered).
A Southerner, he was prepared to crush the secessionists, who then did not have
near the support which they would muster 10 years later. The elderly Whig Party
leader Henry Clay proposed a new North-South compromise, as he had engineered
in earlier crises. Taylor wanted a showdown instead.
On July 4, 1850, President Taylor in his Independence Day address pledged to
uphold the Union against its enemies. Following the ceremony he fell ill, vomiting
blackish material.
The next day Taylor signed the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, his last significant act as he
grew sicker.
On July 9, the House of Representatives passed a resolution criticizing President
Taylor for corruption because Secretary of War Crawford had received a fee for
representing a private legal client in an old case. The President died the same day.
Vice President Millard Fillmore of New York succeeded to the presidency. Texas
was paid millions of dollars not to invade New Mexico, which was kept out of the
Union until 1912. Congress passed and Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act,
which Taylor had opposed. To enforce it, Fillmore demanded all Northern states'
officials and the general public participate in the forcible return to their Southern

masters of slaves who had escaped to free territory. The demoralization of the
North was complete. The next two administrations, under Northern Presidents
subservient to London and slavery, ensured a civil war.
Abraham Lincoln, at the time a former U.S. Congressman, delivered the eulogy for
President Taylor at the Whig Party's services in Chicago. Lincoln thought Taylor,
as a pro-Union Southerner, might have possessed sufficient public confidence to
have been able to settle the North-South controversy.
Between public measures regarded as antagonistic, there is often less difference in their bearing on the public weal, than there is between the dispute
being kept up or being settled either way. I fear the one great question of the
day is not now so likely to be partially acquiesced in by the different sections of the Union, as it would have been could General Taylor have been
spared to us.
Shortly after Lincoln's own election to the presidency in 1860, the United States of
America was dissolved. Robert Toombs became the slaveowners' first Secretary of
State, later escaping to England. Alexander Stephens became the slaveowners'
Vice President. Lincoln made Zachary Taylor's manager Thurlow Weed his
minister-without-porfolio in charge of intelligence on the British Empire for the
entire Civil War.