New Polk Book
- James K. Polk continues to fascinate historians and authors. Yet another biography of the 11th POTUS will soon hit bookstores (on November 3rd here in Canada). The book is "A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent" and the author is Robert Merry. Following is a description of the book which I've cut and pasted from its page on Amazon:
"When James K. Polk was elected president in 1844, the United States was locked in a bitter diplomatic struggle with Britain over the rich lands of the Oregon Territory, which included what is now Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. Texas, not yet part of the Union, was threatened by a more powerful Mexico. And the territories north and west of Texas -- what would become California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, and part of Colorado -- belonged to Mexico. When Polk relinquished office four years later, the country had grown by more than a third as all these lands were added. The continental United States, as we know it today, was established -- facing two oceans and positioned to dominate both.
"In a one-term presidency, Polk completed the story of America's Manifest Destiny -- extending its territory across the continent, from sea to sea, by threatening England and manufacturing a controversial and unpopular two-year war with Mexico that Abraham Lincoln, in Congress at the time, opposed as preemptive.
"Robert Merry tells this story through powerful debates and towering figures -- the outgoing President John Tyler and Polk's great mentor, Andrew Jackson; his defeated Whig opponent, Henry Clay; two famous generals, Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott; Secretary of State James Buchanan (who would precede Lincoln as president); Senate giants Thomas Hart Benton and Lewis Cass; Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun; and ex-president Martin Van Buren, like Polk a Jackson protégé but now a Polk rival.
"This was a time of tremendous clashing forces. A surging antislavery sentiment was at the center of the territorial fight. The struggle between a slave-owning South and an opposing North was leading inexorably to Civil War. In a gripping narrative, Robert Merry illuminates a crucial epoch in U.S. history."
Merry is the author of "Sands of Empire: Missionary Zeal, American Foreign Policy and the Hazards of Global Ambition" as well as "Taking on the World."
Here are some of the reviews of the book posted on Amazon:
"A crucial architect of modern America, James K. Polk deserves to be elevated out of the mists of history. In this engaging book, Robert Merry does just that, recapturing the passions and personalities of a forgotten era in American life." -- Jon Meacham, author of American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House
"Polk was our most underrated president. He made the United States into a continental nation. Bob Merry captures the controversial and the visionary aspects of his presidency in a colorful narrative populated by great characters such as Jackson, Clay, and Van Buren." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Einstein: His Life and Universe
"Bob Merry is a wonderful writer, lively and very clear-eyed, and he tells a fascinating chapter in American history. Long neglected, James K. Polk turns out to be a rich, memorable figure -- a war president whose will to conquest achieved the modern map of America." -- Evan Thomas, author of Sea of Thunder
"In Polk's single four-year term, the United States added western lands from New Mexico through Washington State. Robert Merry skillfully draws a comprehensive portrait of Polk's extraordinary successes in a time of bitter politics and explains why this intense leader remains underappreciated." -- David O. Stewart, author of Impeached: The Trial of President Andrew Johnson and the Fight for Lincoln's Legacy
For those wishing to snag a copy, I've cut and pasted the Amazon link below:
- Thanks a lot for announcing the release of the book. Of course I will order it at the bookshop over here.
But I fear it is another of those Polk Biographies which are good-to-read informative accounts of Polk's eventful times, without much regard for the unusual individual who was involved in those events.
At least the title does not encourage any expectiations to get things like Polk's personality discussed. Just reading Polk's diary again, I'm amazed how much it tells about the person who wrote it. But it also seems that most biographers only read it to get at information about the politics of the time.
Well, I'll see. Hope my expectations are not fulfilled. At least we might learn more about your question: Why was this giant overlooked?