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James K. Polk by John Seigenthaler
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I was not prepared to like this book. My opinion of the book was colored by my opinion of the Polk, which in turn was colored by my idolization of Abraham Lincoln (who was "agin" him).

The notion that we went to war with a sovereign state (Mexico) to take their land was obnoxious to me. But I must ask myself how much my identity and the identity of our nation is formed by its shape: what would our nation be like without Texas, New Mexico, and California? Were I living at the time, what would my sentiments have been? It is no good (for me) to be comparing it to the war with Iraq and a President I truly believe was misguided (to put it most charitably): One cannot judge the past by the present.

I was quite surprised that Polk had announced he was only running for one term and stuck to it. And surprised at how much he was able to accomplish. Evidently Congress was not much more of a functioning body then, either, though supposedly their problem then was one of patronization.

I was very surprised to find that Polk is ranked by historians as the 9th most able President; above Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt! But evidently, Jack Kennedy was similarly surprised, so I am in good company. Polk came into office with three goals and he accomplished all three. Whether I can in good conscience agree with the goal of "manifest destiny," I have to admit he did what he set out to do, and what he did changed the face of our nation, perhaps nearly as much as the Civil War did.

The author, John Seigenthaler, ended his book with the following:
"Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., has compared Polk's standing among presidents with that of Harry Truman: 'Neither Polk nor Truman was one of those creative presidents who make the nation look at things in a new way.... But both had the intelligence and courage to accept the challenge of history. History might have broken them, as it broke Buchanan and Hoover. Instead it forced them, not into personal greatness, but into the performance of great things.' He did great things. That is a powerful epitaph." ( )
  kaulsu | Jun 5, 2014 |
Group F1
  gilsbooks | May 20, 2011 |
One of the most underrated Presidents in history (Calvin Coolidge as well). Known for one term filled with the accomplishments of Mexican War, getting states in the Union, and more. Short and sweet biography. ( )
  luckypiece5000 | Jul 7, 2007 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805069429, Hardcover)

The story of a pivotal president who watched over our westward expansion and solidified the dream of Jacksonian democracy

James K. Polk was a shrewd and decisive commander in chief, the youngest president elected to guide the still-young nation, who served as Speaker of the House and governor of Tennessee before taking office in 1845. Considered a natural successor to Andrew Jackson, “Young Hickory” miraculously revived his floundering political career by riding a wave of public sentiment in favor of annexing the Republic of Texas to the Union.
Shortly after his inauguration, he settled the disputed Oregon boundary and by 1846 had declared war on Mexico in hopes of annexing California. The considerably smaller American army never lost a battle. At home, however, Polk suffered a political firestorm of antiwar attacks from many fronts. Despite his tremendous accomplishments, he left office an extremely unpopular man, on whom stress had taken such a physical toll that he died within three months of departing Washington. Fellow Tennessean John Seigenthaler traces the life of this president who, as Truman noted, “said what he intended to do and did it.”

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:25:33 -0400)

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