From Publishers Weekly
Merry, president and editor-in-chief of Congressional Quarterly Inc., offers a wide-ranging, provocative analysis of the controversial presidency of James K. Polk. Using a broad spectrum of published and archival sources, Merry depicts Polk as an unabashed expansionist. His political career was devoted to extending American power across the continent. Polk saw the fulfillment of manifest destiny as transcending even the festering issue of slavery. Elected president in 1844, he pursued confrontational diplomacy with Britain, structured a war with Mexico and enlarged the U.S. by over a third, essentially to its present boundaries, in a single term of office. Polk's achievements were correspondingly controversial across the political spectrum. Merry uses congressional debates and newspaper quotations to depict the genesis of a fundamental, enduring debate on America's nature and role. Conceding Polk's personal lapses and his least impressive traits. Merry makes a strong case that Polk's America embraced a sweeping vision of national destiny that he fulfilled. Merry's conclusion that history turns not on morality but on power, energy and will may be uncomfortable, but he successfully illustrates it. 16 pages of b&w photos; 1 map. (Nov.)
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"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