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James K. Polk (American Presidents Series)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2004

    Tribute ot Native Son of Tennessee

    From the NashvilleCityPaperBookClub Saralee says What makes a truly great president of the United States? Is it character, an agenda, the ability to lead, or governing during a war? If you believe it is a combination of all of these things, James K. Polk should be listed among our greatest of presidents. Times Books has begun publishing a series that will include a book about each of the U.S. presidents. The books are written for the busy person and are usually under 200 pages. Nashvillian John Seigenthaler, who served as the publisher and CEO of the Tennessean and founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University, was asked to recount the life of our 11th president in James K. Polk: 1845-1849. The author is at his best when describing the political climate of Tennessee during the time of Polk's climb to power. Former President Andrew Jackson was a mentor to Polk in both positive and negative ways. Just like today, there were many in Tennessee who shaped national policy and like today, they were of different political parties and had different goals. How do you think Polk handled the different factions? Both Polk and Jackson were big believers in 'manifest destiny' or in the right of the United States to expand its territory. Polk was in favor of making Texas a state and had a vision to expand the United States to the Pacific Ocean by acquiring the land that later became the states of Oregon, Washington and California. Do you think the Polk administration went about the acquisition in the right way? What about the continuation of slavery? Polk was on record about how horrible slavery was but he continued to own slaves, as did his widow. Could he have made a difference and tried to end slavery sooner? Polk also entered office saying he would only serve one term. Do you think he was able to accomplish most of his agenda because he only served one term? Why isn't Polk as popular with Tennessee historians as Jackson? Larry's language Do events about the presidential election of 1844 sound very familiar today? There were arguments about tariffs in international trade, the state of the Treasury and the issue of war predominated. A Tennessean was elected president, but the margin of victory in Tennessee was only 113 votes and he failed to carry his home state. Nashvillian John Seigenthaler is uniquely qualified to evaluate how those issues affected America in his book James K. Polk: 1845-1849. Seigenthaler has lived, witnessed, participated in, and enjoyed presidential politics for more than 50 years having been friend, mentor and advisor to several of our modern presidents and national leaders. From his vantage point as one of the nation's leading journalists and editors, Seigenthaler has gained great knowledge and insight about the public policies and politics that make America great. At the time of his election, President James K. Polk was the youngest man ever elected to our highest office. Clearly he got to the White House because of the mentoring, friendship and guidance of President Andrew Jackson, although Polk's determination and steadiness were also major assets. Polk also benefited from his rivals, Henry Clay and Martin Van Buren, taking the wrong side of the argument about whether the United States should annex the Republic of Texas. When Polk won the election, he led the movement of 'manifest destiny' to gain Texas, the southwest and California, and Polk negotiated successfully with Great Britain to resolve our claims to the Oregon territory. Polk lived a difficult but successful life. Born to a slave owning family, he underwent kidney stone surgery without anesthesia on an emergency basis as a teenager. He was very successful in school, work, and politics as he was elected to Congress, became speaker of the House of Representatives, and governor of Tennessee before twice losing in an attempt to be reelected governor. Polk was a surprise nominee for the Democrats when he won

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