The First of Two Items I won in Last Weekend's DeWitt Political Auction
I received my two purchases from the DeWitt political sale today. I was hoping to buy more, but the prices were so strong, I simply could not compete. The 25% buyers’ fee meant nothing in this sale. The hammer bids didn’t seem to mean much either. While it was true that some pieces were high quality and were once in a lifetime opportunities for some of us. Some of the lots were not that exceptional and yet they brought beyond top dollar. Fortunately I don’t collect textile pieces (ribbons, bandanas and flags) and political cartoons. Those items brought the strongest bids of all.
Here is the piece I wanted more than any other lot in the sale, the James K. Poke medalet with the direct reference to Texas statehood on the reverse. It is listed in DeWitt as JP 1844-5 Texas was a huge issue in the 1844 presidential election. It ruined the political careers of Poke’s opponents and enhanced his chances in the general election.
Martin Van Buren was president from 1837 to 1841. He lost to William Henry Harrison in 1840 largely because of the Panic of 1837 which was the worst economic depression in the 19th century. The Whig Party also conducted a vigorous campaign to get Harrison elected and issued thousands of political tokens on his behalf.
Van Buren was the frontrunner for the 1844 Democratic Party nomination, but as soon as he opposed the admission of Texas, the Democrats walked away from the him. Henry Clay, the 1844 Whig nominee tried to straddle the issue by opposing Texas statehood and then supporting it. Those moves would hurt him in the general election. Polk supported Texas statehood from the beginning.
Why was Texas so controversial? First, admitting Texas as slave state upset the balance between free and slave states in Congress. The Compromise of 1820 had been based around the fact that the admission of Missouri as a slave state was balanced by the admission of Maine as a free state. The tug was war continued over the next 20 + years and beyond until the Civil War. Second, the admission of Texas brought the strong possibility of war with Mexico. The Texans had won their independence from Mexico, and Mexico wanted it back.
The election hinged on the State of New York, as it often did in the 19th century. New York had more electoral votes than any other state. Clay, because his straddle position on Texas, lost votes to a third party abolitionist candidate, which threw the state to Polk.
Therefore you can see how historically important the Texas issue was which explains why I wanted this token. Previously the only piece I had that mentioned Texas was this shell token which as a “T” with a star in the middle of it one the reverse.
If there is any interest, I'll take about my previous encounters with this token over the last 10 years.