Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America by Walter R. Borneman Paperback Book


Rent Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America

Author: Walter R. Borneman

Format: Quality Paperback, Unabridged-CD

Publisher: Random House Trade

Published: Apr 2009

Genre: Biography & Autobiography - Presidents & Heads Of State

Retail Price: $18.00

Pages: 448


In Polk, Walter R. Borneman gives us the first complete and authoritative biography of a president often overshadowed in image but seldom outdone in accomplishment.

James K. Polk occupied the White House for only four years, from 1845 to 1849, but he is rightly recognized as the last strong pre-Civil War president. His pledge to serve a single term, which many thought would immediately consign him to lame-duck status, enabled Polk to rise above electoral politics and to outflank his adversaries.

Thus Polk plotted and attained a formidable agenda: He fought for and won tariff reductions, reestablished an independent Treasury, and most notably, brought Texas into the Union, bluffed Great Britain out of the lion's share of Oregon, and wrested California and much of the Southwest from Mexico. On reflection, these successes seem even more impressive, given the contentious political environment of the time.

In tracing Polk's life and career–his early childhood in a prominent frontier family, his meteoric rise in public office and storied turn in the House of Representatives, the dramatic plunge of his career fortunes early in the post-Jacksonian period, and his political rebirth prior to the 1844 campaign season–Borneman dispels conventional views of Polk as a dark horse or an accidental president. Instead, we see Polk as he was–a decisive, if not partisan, statesman whose near doubling of America's boundaries and expansive broadening of executive powers redefined the country at large, as well as the nature of its highest office.

Along with Polk, this is also the story of Andrew Jackson, Polk's longtime political patron; Henry Clay, Polk's ambitious rival; ex-president Martin Van Buren, who lusted to return to the White House; Senator Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri, who shared Polk's commitment to territorial expansion but came to quarrel with him over the means; Polk's fellow Tennessee politicos Davy Crockett and Sam Houston; and a principled young Whig from Illinois named Abraham Lincoln, who goaded Polk about misleading the nation into war with Mexico.

Proving the eternal truth of the adage "The more things change, the more they stay the same," especially in terms of presidential politics, Borneman also provides engrossing blow-by-blow tales of punishing campaigns, audacious third-party spoilers, and the often comical lengths political fixers will go to reach a highly fickle electorate.

In this unprecedented, long-overdue warts-and-all biography, we are reminded anew of the true meaning of presidential accomplishment and resolve.

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