James K. Polk by John Seigenthaler
The American Presidents Series: The 11th President, 1845-1849 (American Presidents (Times))

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The story of a pivotal president who watched over our westward expansion and solidified the dream of Jacksonian democracy

James K. Polk was a shrewd and decisive commander in chief, the youngest president elected to guide the still-young nation, who served as Speaker of the House and governor of Tennessee before taking office in 1845. Considered a natural successor to Andrew Jackson, "Young Hickory" miraculously revived his floundering political career by riding a wave of public sentiment in favor of annexing the Republic of Texas to the Union.
Shortly after his inauguration, he settled the disputed Oregon boundary and by 1846 had declared war on Mexico in hopes of annexing California. The considerably smaller American army never lost a battle. At home, however, Polk suffered a political firestorm of antiwar attacks from many fronts. Despite his tremendous accomplishments, he left office an extremely unpopular man, on whom stress had taken such a physical toll that he died within three months of departing Washington. Fellow Tennessean John Seigenthaler traces the life of this president who, as Truman noted, "said what he intended to do and did it."


About John Seigenthaler

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John Seigenthaler is the founder of the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University. An administrative assistant to Robert F. Kennedy, he was an award-winning journalist for The Nashvile Tennessean for forty-three years, finally serving as the paper’s editor, publisher, and CEO, and was named founding editorial director of USA Today in 1982. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee.
Published January 4, 2004 by Times Books. 188 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History. Non-fiction

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Interestingly, Seigenthaler adds, Polk seems to have been reading the mood of the nation correctly when he advocated annexation of the then-independent Republic of Texas in 1844, which the leading politicians, Democrat Martin Van Buren and Whig Henry Clay, refused to do.

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(One fascinating element is the comparison of Polk's handling of a controversial, yet successful, war, to the issues facing our current political leadership.) Contrasting personality with actions and the judgments of contemporaries with the results of history, Seigenthaler crafts a compelling arg...

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California Literary Review

As an example, when discussing the controversy surrounding the sexual preferences of Polk’s Secretary of State (and later president), James Buchanan, Seigenthaler writes: “…times were no more sympathetic to homosexuality in the mid-nineteenth century than in today’s world of homophobia.” In anoth...

Apr 22 2007 | Read Full Review of James K. Polk: The American P...

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