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The Presidency of James K. Polk (American Presidency Series) Hardcover


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The Presidency of James K. Polk (American Presidency Series) + The Presidency of Andrew Jackson
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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Hardcover: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Univ Pr of Kansas; No Edition Listed edition (May 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700603190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700603190
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,747,429 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"The best available one-volume history of Polk." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

About the Author

Paul H. Bergeron is professor of history and editor and director of the Andrew Johnson Papers at the University of Tennessee.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Polk is frequently ranked in the top third of US presidents. The years of his presidency fall between Jackson and Lincoln - a period where the presidents around him were generally considered among the worst in history. Polk clearly learned lessons about management and control from the failures of Tyler before him and these lessons led to a most effective presidency. While sectionalism begins to tear apart the preceding presidency and those that followed, the Polk presidency sees a chief executive who manages to be in charge of events during his 4 years. This book was a good read about an import man in a dangerous and exciting time and perhaps a lesson in not promising only to serve one term.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Wayne A. Smith VINE VOICE on September 6, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are too few treatments of one of America's most significant presidencies, that of James Knox Polk. A friend asked "what was the deal about Polk" while I was reading the book. The answer is: "well, do you like the American Southwest and Washington state?" Polk was responsible for both being gained for our country in their present forms.

Bergeron's book is a good academic telling of this most significant of times. Arranged by major topic, his biography covers the crisis with Mexico and the war; the crisis with Great Britain over setting the boundary of the Pacific Northwest; the cabinet members Polk chose and worked with (significant because at the time the precedent was for presidents to govern with and through their cabinets; giving secretaries much greater veto power over issues in their sphere than now exists), his relationship with Congress and his emergence as a politician.

Polk's fascinating political personae as well as the personalities he had to deal with are well described. Particularly on the Texas question, the war with Mexico and the negotiations with Great Britain, the reader is given a very good step-by-step picture of the cabinet debates and perspectives surrounding the president's eventual courses of action. I came away feeling the author had researched the topics thoroughly enough to present a fairly complete picture of all three crises; allowing the reader an enjoyable bird's-eye view as the action unfolded. The details of life as a mid-1800's American president are also told.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Looking at the structure of the United States in the twenty-first century, your first impression of the presidency of James Polk would be that he should be ranked in the top five presidents of all time. In the short span of his single term in office, Texas was annexed, Mexico defeated in war and the entire American southwest minus the relatively tiny Gadsden purchase annexed and a treaty splitting the Oregon territory between the United States and Great Britain finalized. The area taken from Mexico after their defeat alone is 2/5 of the territory of the continental United States. However, while the Louisiana Purchase under Thomas Jefferson is consistently mentioned in classes in American history, Polk, the architect of the greatest expansion, is rarely mentioned.

Part of this is Polk's own personality, as he is commonly portrayed as a humorless man who seemed aloof from his political peers. His time in office is also considered to be the point where the sectional differences that led to the civil war began in earnest. Both are mentioned and downplayed in this book. While he personally could have been much more sociable, given the strong political personalities of that time, it is unlikely that it would have made a difference. Bergeron is quite correct in emphasizing the strained relationships that Polk had with people like former president John Quincy Adams, and congressmen Henry Clay and John Calhoun. These were powerful men who represented deeply held sectional interests and who had dramatically different visions for the future of the country.

Given the force of the western expansion of the United States, it was inevitable that the only thing that could stop it was the Pacific Ocean.
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