Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent Hardcover – 2009
|New from||Used from|
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
"A compelling, perceptive portrait of one of the oddest men ever to occupy the White House." ---The Wall Street Journal --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top customer reviews
He, with votes from a fractious Congress, changed the structure of the tariff, in the end leading to greater revenue for the treasury. He desired to change how the government handled its money, after the death of the National Bank. Both of these accomplishments were hard fought, against multiple factions within both parties in Congress. He also wanted to expand the geographical scope of the United States, with designs on Oregon, California, and Texas (at that point an "independent" country).
This book explores his laborious political efforts to bend Congress his way. In the process of his discussion of such matters, the author also introduces to the reader many of the key figures in the politics of the day--Andrew Jackson, Martin van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and on and on. Understanding the lineup of key actors allows one to get a better sense of the political dynamics of the time.
The greater part of discussion is on the Mexican War. Here, Polk was essentially trying to coax the Mexican army to strike the first blow, which would justify an American military response. There is a nice description of the war and the ultimate American victory over Mexican forces. The end result--with Oregon and California and Texas and other bits of the southwest added to the United States of America--was a major extension of the country.
Polk had stated that he would serve only one term when he became the first "Dark House" to win the presidency. In that term, he achieved a great deal. His efforts also increased regional tensions as there was heated debate about admission of new territories/states as either slave or free.
At any rate, this is a fine biography of a President with personal limitations but one who had a major effect on the country's history. . . .
Merry does a good job of covering Polk's presidency, though I was not too taken with his narrative. At times it was flowing, at other times it seemed to bog down. The best parts of this book are recounting Polk's surprising rise to the presidency and the sectional politics that dictated the make-up of his cabinet, as well as the events leading up to the Mexican War. This was certainly a controversial event and one that drew significant criticism of Polk. Merry also fully addresses Polk's attitude towards slavery, which was clearly a nuisance he wished to avoid.
Overall, this is a good telling of Polk's presidency and the Mexican-War-as-viewed-from-Washington. As I said, the narrative could be better in spots, but this is still a worthwhile read.
By far his greatest accomplishment was making the United States a continental power. After years of dissatisfying and often contentious joint rule with Great Britain in the Oregon Territory, Polk negotiated the current border between the US and Canada. Although his predecessor, John Taylor, laid the ground work for the annexation of the Republic of Texas into the Union, it was Polk who sealed the deal.
This led directly into the Mexican-American War, where the US seized much of the American southwest and California. Polk gave America geographical depth, and access to both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. He laid the groundwork for some of the issues that would cause the Civil War (should slavery be permitted in the new territories) and America’s rise as a world power in the twentieth century.
A detailed and exacting book, A Country of Vast Designs can only further a reader’s understanding of our unique history.