Friday, November 03, 2006
The Spanish Donna Sarah C. Polk
Sarah Polk in later years...still wearing mourning clothes.
The grave of James K and Sarah C. Polk
She was born in the first decade of the 19th century and died in the last decade of it.
She saw great change in her life from her first days in Washington as the wife of a congressman and later speaker of the house. Later as first lady of America. She pushed for the adoption of "Hail to the Chief" as the anthem to annouce the arrival of the President. Her husband was James K. Polk (1795-1849), the 11th President of the United States (1845-1849).
He was a hard working President but seems to have had the personality of a sea sloth. He was also a nasty bitter politician who was obcessed with the notion that the USA should go from coast to coast and no one or country should stand in its way. So goodbye half of Mexico...
So "Hail to the cheif" was played when ever his boring figure arrived...and it has for ever since for every other chief executive whether they were boring or not!
As a couple they were very religious and they did not dance, drink, or move a muscle on Sunday. However there was another side to Sarah Polk...She enjoyed talks with Dolly Madison (1768-1849), and was a tremendous gossip! She wanted to know everything about everyone...The more scandalous the more she liked it.
Dolly Madison was totally different from the Polk's. She was witty, used snuff, read spicy novels, was never one to judge other people. (something the Polk's did constantly)
She liked to drink, laugh and dance...She was always riding in Mrs. Polks Carriage and when it came to all the social events at the White House she was the star at every function. She was very aware of her place in history. She of course was the wife of the 4th President James Madison (1751-1836)....She had also saved the painting of George Washington from the White House when it was burned. She had been a fixture in Washington society since it had a society. She had known and been friends with all the great players of Washington history. She was a relic from the past and with her card playing partner John Quincy Adams they were a team that hailed from the days of George Washington.
Now getting back to Mrs Polk....There was no Dancing or doing anything she felt that was improper....Wines were allowed, but no hard liquors. As I mentioned before she was really into gossip
One of her favorite sources of interest was her husbands secretary of State James Buchanan.... She was very interested in old Buch's private life and his relationship with the fastidious Senator King of Alabama...There were lots of cruel jokes going around Washington about Buchanan and King. Andrew Jackson called Senator King Miss Nancy!!
Mrs. Polk was always happy even on Sunday to get letters talking about Buck and King. Often making comments on Buchanan saying that he seems to be upset as he is having trouble with his better half!
While all was going on with the Mexican American war gas was introduced to the White House for lighting..Sarah Polk did not like Gas lighting. She asked to have no gas lighting in one room, the Blue Room. After the gas was installed and there was a function at the House...After a short while the gas lights went out..But the Spanish Donna as she was often called was happy and looked lovely under her candles...
It was James K. Polk along with Sarah, Dolly Madison, and the widow of Alexander Hamilton that laid the corner stone for the Washington Monument on July 4, 1848.
Gold had been discovered at Sutter's mill and all hell broke loose in the United States, the war was ended, we took half of Mexico...James K. Polk worked every day and even a bit on Sunday. By the end of his term he was exhausted.
The Polks left the White House on March 3rd 1849. Within months he would be dead. Even Dolly Madison died that year....
Mrs Polk became a widow...She was to remain one for nearly 42 years. She was and became a relic of another time.
People would come to Nashville, Tenn. To see her and hear her stories...During the Civil war her home (Polk Place) was a neutral ground and she entertained soldiers from the north and south. She was visited by leaders from all over.
In her later years she was the first person in Nashville to have a telephone. In 1888 she turned on a switch which turned on the electric lights in Nashville...(still disliking gas I imagine)
Presidents Cleveland and Hayes came to visit her. Finally in August of 1891 she died. Full of years and still wearing mourning clothes.
She was buried next to her husband and then her home was torn down. As it often is in history, we distroy what we should save.
Today people do not know much about James K. Polk and even less about his wife Sarah. He was a hard worker, and she worked right with him...They were a amazing team. She carried on his legacy till the 1890's.
The Spanish Donna.....