Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

Opinion

March 12, 2013

Random Thoughts: A woman who lived by her beliefs

CROSSVILLE — Tomorrow is the 150th anniversary of Casey Jones' birthday. The folks in Jackson, TN, are planning a celebration. They have never forgotten their hero and keep him alive at the Casey Jones Home & Railroad Museum.

***

Sarah Childress Polk was Tennessee’s second “first lady” of the United States. Eight years younger than her husband James K. Polk, whom she married in 1824, she was the taller of the couple and had the same capacity for hard work.      

James K. Polk was Tennessee’s 11th president of the United States. On a cold, rainy day he was sworn in as the youngest man to date, age 49, to hold the office. Sarah stood holding a fan which had been given to her. An umbrella would have been more appropriate. As John Quincy Adams remarked later, “The address was given to a large audience of umbrellas.”

Polk was a short man who always had his nose to the grindstone. His wife, though taller, had no appetite for worldly pleasures and they made a perfect couple in temperament.

Sarah had been raised a strict Calvinist. She did not dance, play cards or drink. When the Polks appeared at the Inaugural Ball all dancing stopped. The band played Hail to the Chief and after a brief appearance the Polks left and dancing resumed. Because she was the daughter of a prosperous merchant, Sarah wore expensive clothes but always in good taste. Her gown that night was a magazine blue velvet with a deeply fringed cape.

Preceding them in the White House were the fun loving Tylers. Rumor had it that they had left the place in a mess from all their entertaining. Sarah handled the problem with diplomacy. She interviewed several decorators and then announced the public rooms would receive some repair. As for the private rooms nothing would be done. If they were good enough for the Tylers they were fine for the Polks.

Two evenings each week the Polks received visitors informally because the president believed the people needed time with their leader. In his diary he noted he found these receptions pleasant and this schedule freed up the other evenings so he could work on business.

And work he did, late into the night.  He had declared publicly that he would serve one term and he would spend those four years on territorial expansion and reducing tariffs. Often he turned to Sarah to do the reading of papers that crossed his desk.

Sarah banned dancing and the serving of spirits in the White House. The couple would not accept expensive gifts and Sarah refused to accept flowers from the federal conservatory because she thought the public would think she had special privileges.

A woman who lived by her beliefs Sarah never hesitated to act. To get to Washington for the inauguration the Polks went by steamer up the Ohio River. They docked at Louisville on Saturday because of a bad storm. Sunday morn a band came aboard and started playing music for the passengers. Sarah asked that it be stopped because it was the Sabbath and the music stopped. Polk said, “Sarah directs all domestic affairs, and she thinks it is domestic.”           

As promised the Polks returned to Nashville at the end of four years and on June 15, 1849 the workaholic James Polk died there at age 53. Sarah surrounded herself by mementoes and made Polk Place a living museum. She was held in high esteem in Nashville and each New Year’s Day the Tennessee legislature called on her. She died in 1891 at age 88.

In 1893 following the sale of the Polk home the Polk Tomb was moved to the northeast lawn of the Capitol where it remains.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Lion and the Lamb: Our war on women

    Jimmy Carter, who was president from 1977 to 1981, has had quite an impressive career as an author. His first book was published in 1975, and he has now written a total of 37 books, 23 of them after his presidency. He has set a high example for other past presidents, especially those who would like to find ways of being as beneficial to their nation as possible in the days after their retirement.

    April 22, 2014

  • Tidbits: "Selfie" destruction

    Technology continues to profoundly impact our daily lives, from the Heartbleed Bug that put hundreds of thousands of websites at risk of compromising customer usernames and passwords, to the little light that tries to tell me I'm about to run out of gas. Technology also impacts our language, with new words being created to describe the latest gizmo, gadget or trend.

    April 21, 2014

  • Stumptalk: It depends on what you mean

    A writer’s headline asks, “Do we really believe in democracy?” To which I answer, “What do you mean by democracy?

    April 21, 2014

  • LION AND THE LAMB: Four ways to demonstrate opposition

    Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan mention in their book, “The Last Week,” that Roman-occupied Palestine during the first century was under the control of Pontius Pilate who lived in the coastal city of Caesarea. Each year at the beginning of the Passover observance when Jews celebrated their liberation from Egypt, Pilate feared that they might be getting ideas about revolting from Rome, so he would come with additional soldiers on horses to beef up the Roman garrison in Jerusalem. 

    April 15, 2014

  • WE THE PEOPLE: Is it (new) party time?

    The Democratic and Republican parties are toast, according to Joe Trippi. The Republican Party is coming apart at its Tea Party seam. Democratic candidates struggle to celebrate President Obama’s health care successes, while responding to criticism of his failed promises, e.g., government transparency.

    April 15, 2014

  • TIDBITS: I found it at the library

    I have such fond memories of going to my local library as a child, searching through shelf after shelf and finding a book that would make me a Little Princess in World War II England, or bring me along as Nancy Drew solved the Secret in the Old Attic.

    April 14, 2014

  • STUMPTALK: The reason words have meaning

    If words did not have accepted meanings we would not be able to communicate effectively and civilized society would not exist.

    April 14, 2014

  • Lion and the Lamb: Do we really believe in democracy?

    The recent Supreme Court decision, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, is in a long line of debates about power in a democracy. Should power be in the hands of all the citizens or should it be in hands of those who have greater wealth and social position?

    April 8, 2014

  • We the People: Public education or business opportunity?

    A month ago, we followed the money trail left by a ‘think tank’ to the major sources funding an attack on our traditional, locally controlled public schools. We saw that a handful of billionaires provide major support to many organizations lobbying for change.

    April 8, 2014

  • Stumptalk: Just another government lie?

    There is a vault located in Fort Knox, Kentucky. It was built in 1936 and encased in 16 cubic feet of granite and 4200 feet of cement. The door is made of 20-inch thick material that is immune to drills, torches and explosives.

    April 7, 2014

Marketplace Marquee
Parade
Must Read
Section Teases
Seasonal Content
AP Video
US Proposes Pay-for-priority Internet Standards Wife Mourns Chicago Doctor Killed in Afghanistan FDA Proposes Regulations on E-cigarettes Kerry Warns Russia of Expensive New Sanctions Mideast Peace Talks Stall on Hamas Deal Cody Walker Remembers His Late Brother Paul Grieving South Korea Puts Up Yellow Ribbons Raw: Kerry Brings His Dog to Work Raw: Girls Survive Car Crash Into Their Bedroom Three U.S. Doctors Killed by Afghan Security Yankees' Pineda Suspended 10 Games for Pine Tar Colleagues Mourn Death of Doctors in Afghanistan Ukraine Launches Operation Against Insurgents Obama Reassures Japan on China Raw: Car Crashes Into San Antonio Pool Time Magazine Announces Top Influencers List Raw: Angry Relatives Confront SKorea Officials Bigger Riders Means Bigger Horses Out West Yankees Pineda Ejected for Pine Tar Deadly Fungus Killing Bats, Spreading in US
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Weather Radar
2014 Readers' Choice