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Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency

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  • Ken S
    I finally got around to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada flight). I was able to read about 170 pages of it (it s about 365 or so pages, so I m not
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 11, 2008
      I finally got around to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada
      flight). I was able to read about 170 pages of it (it's about 365 or
      so pages, so I'm not quite halfway through yet). It's brilliantly
      written. It's the first Polk biography I've read that really gives
      me an understanding of what transpired in the major political
      fights of Polk's life. These include not only his congressional
      elections and the election for speaker of the house, but his three
      elections for Governor of Tennessee (one successful, two not). It
      also gives a very vivid picture of what transpired at the convention
      where Polk was hoping to be nominated for Vice-President and came
      out of it at the Presidential nominee. (It's almost like watching
      CNN coverage of it, but without the panels of talking heads.) It
      gives an especially good account of the election of 1844 and how
      Henry Clay blundered away what should have been a slam dunk election
      for him. (It reminded me of Hillary Clinton in some ways).

      The account of how he lost two elections for Governor to a skinny
      opponent (6'2" and 125 pounds) named James Chamberlain Jones
      (or "Lean Jimmy" as he was called) is especially delightful reading.

      The book also describes one of the best accounts I've ever read
      (make that THE best) of the relationship between Andrew Jackson and
      JKP, and also gives more insight into the kind of person that Sarah
      Polk must have been.

      The book just doesn't focus on Polk, it also gives insight into the
      background of the people in his life and times (such as Henry Clay,
      Cave Johnson, Aaron Brown, Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, to name a
      few) and into the pertinent issues of his time (such as Texas,
      expansionism, slavery/abolition, the national bank, to list a few).

      So far my impressions of the book are that the author writes with
      clarity, his facts are well researched, and he keeps personal
      opinion or speculation down to a minimum. In short, this is one
      terrific read. I don't know why I waited so long to start this book,
      I'm absolutely smitten with it.

      I was wondering if any others have read it yet and if so, what your
      impressions were. If so, I'd love to hear from you.
    • Travis Thompson
      Ken: Well you have really whet my appetite into tasting this book! I ordered it as soon as it was released, and it is sitting on my bookshelf, however, I have
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 13, 2008
        Ken:
            Well you have really whet my appetite into tasting this book!  I ordered it as soon as it was released, and it is sitting on my bookshelf, however, I have been so preoccupied (more specifically, absorbed) lately with James Madison, that our estimbable Mr. Polk has taken a seat in the bleachers of my study these days.  Nonetheless, I am determined to begin the Polk bio before the end of June.  Meanwhile, there is a new Tyler bio, as well as 2 fairly recent Pierce bios (after so many decades of silence) that are likewise beckoning.
            Please share more of your thoughts once you have finished this book in its entirety.
            Regards,
            Travis


        From: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com [mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ken S
        Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 9:19 PM
        To: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [James_K_Polk_Appreciation] Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency

        I finally got around to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada
        flight). I was able to read about 170 pages of it (it's about 365 or
        so pages, so I'm not quite halfway through yet). It's brilliantly
        written. It's the first Polk biography I've read that really gives
        me an understanding of what transpired in the major political
        fights of Polk's life. These include not only his congressional
        elections and the election for speaker of the house, but his three
        elections for Governor of Tennessee (one successful, two not). It
        also gives a very vivid picture of what transpired at the convention
        where Polk was hoping to be nominated for Vice-President and came
        out of it at the Presidential nominee. (It's almost like watching
        CNN coverage of it, but without the panels of talking heads.) It
        gives an especially good account of the election of 1844 and how
        Henry Clay blundered away what should have been a slam dunk election
        for him. (It reminded me of Hillary Clinton in some ways).

        The account of how he lost two elections for Governor to a skinny
        opponent (6'2" and 125 pounds) named James Chamberlain Jones
        (or "Lean Jimmy" as he was called) is especially delightful reading.

        The book also describes one of the best accounts I've ever read
        (make that THE best) of the relationship between Andrew Jackson and
        JKP, and also gives more insight into the kind of person that Sarah
        Polk must have been.

        The book just doesn't focus on Polk, it also gives insight into the
        background of the people in his life and times (such as Henry Clay,
        Cave Johnson, Aaron Brown, Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, to name a
        few) and into the pertinent issues of his time (such as Texas,
        expansionism, slavery/abolition, the national bank, to list a few).

        So far my impressions of the book are that the author writes with
        clarity, his facts are well researched, and he keeps personal
        opinion or speculation down to a minimum. In short, this is one
        terrific read. I don't know why I waited so long to start this book,
        I'm absolutely smitten with it.

        I was wondering if any others have read it yet and if so, what your
        impressions were. If so, I'd love to hear from you.

      • Ken S
        Travis: I got a chance to finish the book on the flight home from Toronto. It was a tad slow in the middle, though to be fair, the acquisition of Oregon can be
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 16, 2008
          Travis:

          I got a chance to finish the book on the flight home from Toronto. It
          was a tad slow in the middle, though to be fair, the acquisition of
          Oregon can be a bit dry. I enjoyed Borneman's recounting of the
          Mexican War, and especially gained an appreciation of the difficulty
          of wartime communication at a time when the telegraph was new
          technology. The description of the dysfunction in both parties in the
          election of 1848 was also interesting as well as the dynamics of how
          the third party affected the election. I found his description of the
          Polk's trip home as informative, and his epilogue about Sarah Polk was
          well written.

          If I have one criticism of the book it would be that the author seemed
          to lose objectivity about Polk as the book went on. While I accept
          that Polk was, for the most part a very principled man, he was not
          without his faults. Yet every time Polk was involved in some sort of
          interpersonal conflict, the author seemed to minimize Polk's part and
          seemed to magnify the wrongs of the other party. Having said that, it
          probably a correct historical assessment that Gideon Pillow was
          egotistical and lacked the capacity for honest self-appraisal (he
          sounds a lot like George B. McClellan in this regard) and it may be
          that John C. Fremont was a self-centered and pompous insubordinate.
          But it would have been interesting if Borneman had given more of the
          Tim Russert treatment to Polk, especially on the subject of the
          Mexican War and his prosecution of it.

          The author's description of Polk's relationship with his generals,
          especially Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, was fascinating reading.

          The other thing about the book was that I felt that it never quite
          captured the spirit of Polk's workaholism or his micro-managing even
          though it made such an obvious contribution to Polk's poor health at
          the end of his term.

          On the whole I thought this was a terrific read, and I loved
          Borneman's sense of objectivity, his economic use of his own opinion
          and viewpoint, the quality of his research and his healthy skepticism
          when it came to describing some of the more legendary aspects of
          Polk's life. I'd rate it about an 8.5 out of 10 and would recommend it
          to any one with an interest in US history.

          It sounds like you're a prolific reader, and I'd love to hear your
          impressions of this book when you get a chance to read it, as well as
          about anything else you've been reading. I'm not sure what I'll tackle
          next, right now it's between The Teapot Dome Scandal by Layton
          McCartney, Brands' bio of Andrew Jackson (it's been sitting on my
          bookshelf for a long time demanding attenion) or Roy Nichol's bio of
          Franklin Pierce. There are also some more contemporary writings (not
          the least of which is Scott McClellan's kiss-and-tell book) that are
          attracting my attention.

          I hope my impressions of the Polk book are of some help.


          --- In James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com, "Travis Thompson"
          <travis62@...> wrote:
          >
          > Ken:
          > Well you have really whet my appetite into tasting this book! I
          ordered
          > it as soon as it was released, and it is sitting on my bookshelf,
          however, I
          > have been so preoccupied (more specifically, absorbed) lately with James
          > Madison, that our estimbable Mr. Polk has taken a seat in the
          bleachers of
          > my study these days. Nonetheless, I am determined to begin the Polk bio
          > before the end of June. Meanwhile, there is a new Tyler bio, as
          well as 2
          > fairly recent Pierce bios (after so many decades of silence) that are
          > likewise beckoning.
          > Please share more of your thoughts once you have finished this
          book in
          > its entirety.
          > Regards,
          > Travis
          >
          > _____
          >
          > From: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
          > [mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ken S
          > Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 9:19 PM
          > To: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [James_K_Polk_Appreciation] Polk: The Man Who Transformed the
          > Presidency
          >
          >
          >
          > I finally got around to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada
          > flight). I was able to read about 170 pages of it (it's about 365 or
          > so pages, so I'm not quite halfway through yet). It's brilliantly
          > written. It's the first Polk biography I've read that really gives
          > me an understanding of what transpired in the major political
          > fights of Polk's life. These include not only his congressional
          > elections and the election for speaker of the house, but his three
          > elections for Governor of Tennessee (one successful, two not). It
          > also gives a very vivid picture of what transpired at the convention
          > where Polk was hoping to be nominated for Vice-President and came
          > out of it at the Presidential nominee. (It's almost like watching
          > CNN coverage of it, but without the panels of talking heads.) It
          > gives an especially good account of the election of 1844 and how
          > Henry Clay blundered away what should have been a slam dunk election
          > for him. (It reminded me of Hillary Clinton in some ways).
          >
          > The account of how he lost two elections for Governor to a skinny
          > opponent (6'2" and 125 pounds) named James Chamberlain Jones
          > (or "Lean Jimmy" as he was called) is especially delightful reading.
          >
          > The book also describes one of the best accounts I've ever read
          > (make that THE best) of the relationship between Andrew Jackson and
          > JKP, and also gives more insight into the kind of person that Sarah
          > Polk must have been.
          >
          > The book just doesn't focus on Polk, it also gives insight into the
          > background of the people in his life and times (such as Henry Clay,
          > Cave Johnson, Aaron Brown, Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, to name a
          > few) and into the pertinent issues of his time (such as Texas,
          > expansionism, slavery/abolition, the national bank, to list a few).
          >
          > So far my impressions of the book are that the author writes with
          > clarity, his facts are well researched, and he keeps personal
          > opinion or speculation down to a minimum. In short, this is one
          > terrific read. I don't know why I waited so long to start this book,
          > I'm absolutely smitten with it.
          >
          > I was wondering if any others have read it yet and if so, what your
          > impressions were. If so, I'd love to hear from you.
          >
        • Travis Thompson
          Ken: Thanks again for your review/analysis of the Borneman Polk bio. I will certainly offer my own thoughts once I have read it. Speaking of Polk bios - and
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 18, 2008
            Ken:
                Thanks again for your review/analysis of the Borneman Polk bio.  I will certainly offer my own thoughts once I have read it.  Speaking of Polk bios - and forgive me if I asked this question a year or more ago - but have you also read the Seigenthaler bio on Polk and/or Dussenbere's "Slaveholder President"?  These two are the most recent Polk bios I have read.
                I would really enjoy sharing more discussions regarding our comparable reading lists.  I read the Nichols bio on Pierce and wholeheartedly recommend it, provided you are willing to make allowances for Mr. Nichols slightly wooden writing style!
                By the way, what are your thoughts on two other James'  - Messers.  Madison and Buchanan?
                Regards,
                Travis


            From: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com [mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ken S
            Sent: Monday, June 16, 2008 9:18 PM
            To: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [James_K_Polk_Appreciation] Re: Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency

            Travis:

            I got a chance to finish the book on the flight home from Toronto. It
            was a tad slow in the middle, though to be fair, the acquisition of
            Oregon can be a bit dry. I enjoyed Borneman's recounting of the
            Mexican War, and especially gained an appreciation of the difficulty
            of wartime communication at a time when the telegraph was new
            technology. The description of the dysfunction in both parties in the
            election of 1848 was also interesting as well as the dynamics of how
            the third party affected the election. I found his description of the
            Polk's trip home as informative, and his epilogue about Sarah Polk was
            well written.

            If I have one criticism of the book it would be that the author seemed
            to lose objectivity about Polk as the book went on. While I accept
            that Polk was, for the most part a very principled man, he was not
            without his faults. Yet every time Polk was involved in some sort of
            interpersonal conflict, the author seemed to minimize Polk's part and
            seemed to magnify the wrongs of the other party. Having said that, it
            probably a correct historical assessment that Gideon Pillow was
            egotistical and lacked the capacity for honest self-appraisal (he
            sounds a lot like George B. McClellan in this regard) and it may be
            that John C. Fremont was a self-centered and pompous insubordinate.
            But it would have been interesting if Borneman had given more of the
            Tim Russert treatment to Polk, especially on the subject of the
            Mexican War and his prosecution of it.

            The author's description of Polk's relationship with his generals,
            especially Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, was fascinating reading.

            The other thing about the book was that I felt that it never quite
            captured the spirit of Polk's workaholism or his micro-managing even
            though it made such an obvious contribution to Polk's poor health at
            the end of his term.

            On the whole I thought this was a terrific read, and I loved
            Borneman's sense of objectivity, his economic use of his own opinion
            and viewpoint, the quality of his research and his healthy skepticism
            when it came to describing some of the more legendary aspects of
            Polk's life. I'd rate it about an 8.5 out of 10 and would recommend it
            to any one with an interest in US history.

            It sounds like you're a prolific reader, and I'd love to hear your
            impressions of this book when you get a chance to read it, as well as
            about anything else you've been reading. I'm not sure what I'll tackle
            next, right now it's between The Teapot Dome Scandal by Layton
            McCartney, Brands' bio of Andrew Jackson (it's been sitting on my
            bookshelf for a long time demanding attenion) or Roy Nichol's bio of
            Franklin Pierce. There are also some more contemporary writings (not
            the least of which is Scott McClellan's kiss-and-tell book) that are
            attracting my attention.

            I hope my impressions of the Polk book are of some help.

            --- In James_K_Polk_ Appreciation@ yahoogroups. com, "Travis Thompson"
            <travis62@.. .> wrote:

            >
            >
            Ken:
            > Well you have really whet my appetite into tasting this book!
            I
            ordered
            > it as soon as it was released, and it is sitting on my
            bookshelf,
            however, I
            > have been so preoccupied (more specifically,
            absorbed) lately with James
            > Madison, that our estimbable Mr. Polk has
            taken a seat in the
            bleachers of
            > my study these days. Nonetheless, I
            am determined to begin the Polk bio
            > before the end of June. Meanwhile,
            there is a new Tyler bio, as
            well as 2
            > fairly recent Pierce bios
            (after so many decades of silence) that are
            > likewise beckoning.
            >
            Please share more of your thoughts once you have finished this
            book in
            > its entirety.
            > Regards,
            > Travis
            >
            > _____
            >
            > From:
            href="mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com">James_K_Polk_ Appreciation@ yahoogroups. com
            >
            [mailto:James_K_Polk_ Appreciation@ yahoogroups. com] On Behalf Of Ken S
            > Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 9:19 PM
            > To:
            href="mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com">James_K_Polk_ Appreciation@ yahoogroups. com
            >
            Subject: [James_K_Polk_ Appreciation] Polk: The Man Who Transformed the
            > Presidency
            >
            >
            >
            > I finally got around
            to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada
            > flight). I was able to
            read about 170 pages of it (it's about 365 or
            > so pages, so I'm not
            quite halfway through yet). It's brilliantly
            > written. It's the first
            Polk biography I've read that really gives
            > me an understanding of what
            transpired in the major political
            > fights of Polk's life. These include
            not only his congressional
            > elections and the election for speaker of
            the house, but his three
            > elections for Governor of Tennessee (one
            successful, two not). It
            > also gives a very vivid picture of what
            transpired at the convention
            > where Polk was hoping to be nominated for
            Vice-President and came
            > out of it at the Presidential nominee. (It's
            almost like watching
            > CNN coverage of it, but without the panels of
            talking heads.) It
            > gives an especially good account of the election of
            1844 and how
            > Henry Clay blundered away what should have been a slam
            dunk election
            > for him. (It reminded me of Hillary Clinton in some
            ways).
            >
            > The account of how he lost two elections for Governor to
            a skinny
            > opponent (6'2" and 125 pounds) named James Chamberlain Jones
            > (or "Lean Jimmy" as he was called) is especially delightful
            reading.
            >
            > The book also describes one of the best accounts I've
            ever read
            > (make that THE best) of the relationship between Andrew
            Jackson and
            > JKP, and also gives more insight into the kind of person
            that Sarah
            > Polk must have been.
            >
            > The book just doesn't
            focus on Polk, it also gives insight into the
            > background of the people
            in his life and times (such as Henry Clay,
            > Cave Johnson, Aaron Brown,
            Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, to name a
            > few) and into the pertinent
            issues of his time (such as Texas,
            > expansionism, slavery/abolition, the
            national bank, to list a few).
            >
            > So far my impressions of the
            book are that the author writes with
            > clarity, his facts are well
            researched, and he keeps personal
            > opinion or speculation down to a
            minimum. In short, this is one
            > terrific read. I don't know why I waited
            so long to start this book,
            > I'm absolutely smitten with it.
            >
            > I was wondering if any others have read it yet and if so, what your
            > impressions were. If so, I'd love to hear from
            you.
            >

          • Ken S
            Sorry for taking so long to reply Travis. I thought Slavemaster President was a very interesting read, although I didn t think that the author fairly assessed
            Message 5 of 5 , Jul 16, 2008
              Sorry for taking so long to reply Travis. I thought Slavemaster
              President was a very interesting read, although I didn't think that
              the author fairly assessed Polk's behaviour within the context of the
              times he lived in. I wrote a review of it in messages #26 and 29 in
              this group if you're interested in more detail. I also read Phil
              Klein's bio of James Buchanan. He's a fascinating historical study,
              it's difficult to assess whether he was an incompetent who accelerated
              civil war, an unfortunate who tried in vain to avoid it, or, as his
              worst critics accuse him of, an outright traitor to the union. I have
              another book by Buchanan entitled "Mr. Buchanan's Administration on
              the Eve of Rebellion" in which Buchanan himself attempts to explain
              what happened, but I haven't read it yet.

              I haven't read much about Madison, but after watching the HBO series
              on John Adams recently, the Presidents of that era have generated new
              interest for me. That's the nice thing about being a presidential
              history junkie, there's never a shortage of interesting books to read.

              -KDS

              --- In James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com, "Travis Thompson"
              <travis62@...> wrote:
              >
              > Ken:
              > Thanks again for your review/analysis of the Borneman Polk bio.
              I will
              > certainly offer my own thoughts once I have read it. Speaking of
              Polk bios
              > - and forgive me if I asked this question a year or more ago - but
              have you
              > also read the Seigenthaler bio on Polk and/or Dussenbere's "Slaveholder
              > President"? These two are the most recent Polk bios I have read.
              > I would really enjoy sharing more discussions regarding our
              comparable
              > reading lists. I read the Nichols bio on Pierce and wholeheartedly
              > recommend it, provided you are willing to make allowances for Mr.
              Nichols
              > slightly wooden writing style!
              > By the way, what are your thoughts on two other James' - Messers.
              > Madison and Buchanan?
              > Regards,
              > Travis
              >
              > _____
              >
              > From: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
              > [mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ken S
              > Sent: Monday, June 16, 2008 9:18 PM
              > To: James_K_Polk_Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
              > Subject: [James_K_Polk_Appreciation] Re: Polk: The Man Who
              Transformed the
              > Presidency
              >
              >
              >
              > Travis:
              >
              > I got a chance to finish the book on the flight home from Toronto. It
              > was a tad slow in the middle, though to be fair, the acquisition of
              > Oregon can be a bit dry. I enjoyed Borneman's recounting of the
              > Mexican War, and especially gained an appreciation of the difficulty
              > of wartime communication at a time when the telegraph was new
              > technology. The description of the dysfunction in both parties in the
              > election of 1848 was also interesting as well as the dynamics of how
              > the third party affected the election. I found his description of the
              > Polk's trip home as informative, and his epilogue about Sarah Polk was
              > well written.
              >
              > If I have one criticism of the book it would be that the author seemed
              > to lose objectivity about Polk as the book went on. While I accept
              > that Polk was, for the most part a very principled man, he was not
              > without his faults. Yet every time Polk was involved in some sort of
              > interpersonal conflict, the author seemed to minimize Polk's part and
              > seemed to magnify the wrongs of the other party. Having said that, it
              > probably a correct historical assessment that Gideon Pillow was
              > egotistical and lacked the capacity for honest self-appraisal (he
              > sounds a lot like George B. McClellan in this regard) and it may be
              > that John C. Fremont was a self-centered and pompous insubordinate.
              > But it would have been interesting if Borneman had given more of the
              > Tim Russert treatment to Polk, especially on the subject of the
              > Mexican War and his prosecution of it.
              >
              > The author's description of Polk's relationship with his generals,
              > especially Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott, was fascinating reading.
              >
              > The other thing about the book was that I felt that it never quite
              > captured the spirit of Polk's workaholism or his micro-managing even
              > though it made such an obvious contribution to Polk's poor health at
              > the end of his term.
              >
              > On the whole I thought this was a terrific read, and I loved
              > Borneman's sense of objectivity, his economic use of his own opinion
              > and viewpoint, the quality of his research and his healthy skepticism
              > when it came to describing some of the more legendary aspects of
              > Polk's life. I'd rate it about an 8.5 out of 10 and would recommend it
              > to any one with an interest in US history.
              >
              > It sounds like you're a prolific reader, and I'd love to hear your
              > impressions of this book when you get a chance to read it, as well as
              > about anything else you've been reading. I'm not sure what I'll tackle
              > next, right now it's between The Teapot Dome Scandal by Layton
              > McCartney, Brands' bio of Andrew Jackson (it's been sitting on my
              > bookshelf for a long time demanding attenion) or Roy Nichol's bio of
              > Franklin Pierce. There are also some more contemporary writings (not
              > the least of which is Scott McClellan's kiss-and-tell book) that are
              > attracting my attention.
              >
              > I hope my impressions of the Polk book are of some help.
              >
              > --- In James_K_Polk_
              <mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com>
              > Appreciation@yahoogroups.com, "Travis Thompson"
              > <travis62@> wrote:
              > >
              > > Ken:
              > > Well you have really whet my appetite into tasting this book! I
              > ordered
              > > it as soon as it was released, and it is sitting on my bookshelf,
              > however, I
              > > have been so preoccupied (more specifically, absorbed) lately with
              James
              > > Madison, that our estimbable Mr. Polk has taken a seat in the
              > bleachers of
              > > my study these days. Nonetheless, I am determined to begin the
              Polk bio
              > > before the end of June. Meanwhile, there is a new Tyler bio, as
              > well as 2
              > > fairly recent Pierce bios (after so many decades of silence) that are
              > > likewise beckoning.
              > > Please share more of your thoughts once you have finished this
              > book in
              > > its entirety.
              > > Regards,
              > > Travis
              > >
              > > _____
              > >
              > > From: James_K_Polk_
              <mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com>
              > Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
              > > [mailto:James_K_Polk_
              <mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com>
              > Appreciation@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Ken S
              > > Sent: Wednesday, June 11, 2008 9:19 PM
              > > To: James_K_Polk_ <mailto:James_K_Polk_Appreciation%40yahoogroups.com>
              > Appreciation@yahoogroups.com
              > > Subject: [James_K_Polk_Appreciation] Polk: The Man Who Transformed the
              > > Presidency
              > >
              > >
              > >
              > > I finally got around to reading this book today (on a cross-Canada
              > > flight). I was able to read about 170 pages of it (it's about 365 or
              > > so pages, so I'm not quite halfway through yet). It's brilliantly
              > > written. It's the first Polk biography I've read that really gives
              > > me an understanding of what transpired in the major political
              > > fights of Polk's life. These include not only his congressional
              > > elections and the election for speaker of the house, but his three
              > > elections for Governor of Tennessee (one successful, two not). It
              > > also gives a very vivid picture of what transpired at the convention
              > > where Polk was hoping to be nominated for Vice-President and came
              > > out of it at the Presidential nominee. (It's almost like watching
              > > CNN coverage of it, but without the panels of talking heads.) It
              > > gives an especially good account of the election of 1844 and how
              > > Henry Clay blundered away what should have been a slam dunk election
              > > for him. (It reminded me of Hillary Clinton in some ways).
              > >
              > > The account of how he lost two elections for Governor to a skinny
              > > opponent (6'2" and 125 pounds) named James Chamberlain Jones
              > > (or "Lean Jimmy" as he was called) is especially delightful reading.
              > >
              > > The book also describes one of the best accounts I've ever read
              > > (make that THE best) of the relationship between Andrew Jackson and
              > > JKP, and also gives more insight into the kind of person that Sarah
              > > Polk must have been.
              > >
              > > The book just doesn't focus on Polk, it also gives insight into the
              > > background of the people in his life and times (such as Henry Clay,
              > > Cave Johnson, Aaron Brown, Sam Houston, Martin Van Buren, to name a
              > > few) and into the pertinent issues of his time (such as Texas,
              > > expansionism, slavery/abolition, the national bank, to list a few).
              > >
              > > So far my impressions of the book are that the author writes with
              > > clarity, his facts are well researched, and he keeps personal
              > > opinion or speculation down to a minimum. In short, this is one
              > > terrific read. I don't know why I waited so long to start this book,
              > > I'm absolutely smitten with it.
              > >
              > > I was wondering if any others have read it yet and if so, what your
              > > impressions were. If so, I'd love to hear from you.
              > >
              >
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