A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent
In a one-term presidency, James K. Polk completed the story of America’s Manifest Destiny—extending its territory across the continent by threatening England with war and manufacturing a controversial and unpopular two-year war with Mexico.
“A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent” is Robert Merry’s third book and was published in 2009. He is a former Wall Street Journal Washington correspondent and executive at Congressional Quarterly. Currently the editor of The National Interest, his most recent book “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians” was published in 2012.
Although Merry’s biography ...more
While this is a ...more
The four years of Polk's presidency -- 1844 to 1848 -- are as significant to our America as any others, beyond the presidencies of Washington, Lincoln and FDR. During this time, Texas, Oregon, California, New Mexico and Arizona together with land comprising Washington State, ...more
He, with votes from a fractious Congress, changed the structure of the tariff, in the end leading to greater revenue for the treasury. He ...more
Merry's biography reminds me of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals in a lot of ways. Although it ...more
Today many of us would add one or more from among those who have served in the White House since World War II. However, most historians would say it’s too early to understand the impact of their actions. Virtually anything any President does these days seems ...more
Polk, often considered 'the last good president before the civil war' was a man not expected to become president. But with the issue of slavery splitting the nation and the oversized personalities of many of the leading politicians of the era (most of whom were never fated to reach the presidency) Polk became the compromise candidate for the ...more
I put together a short list including these two works, starting with 'What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848' by Daniel Walker Howe, then ...more
Here, you will discover how America acquired Texas and the Oregon territory, and how America took over the west coast. It involved military struggles, political drama, and diplomatic negotiations. All of that is covered in exhausting detail.
The book was informative enough, talked extensively about Polk's cabinet (certainly Merry reflects the 11th president's lack of love for Buchanan), and provides context for what and why he did what he did. Regrettably I wouldn't quite put this ...more
This is the question that looms over Robert Merry’s account of this, the most effective of single-term presidencies. In an epilogue, entitled Legacy, he addresses it head-on and arrives at an answer not all readers will agree with.
Those four objectives were: reduce tariffs (previously used for protectionism, he aimed ...more
Polk’s ascendency to the presidency was a marvel in itself. A split within the ...more
The book hits just the right balance between too much detail and too much generality as it explores the life and times of our eleventh president, an unrepentant expansionist and devotee of his mentor and hero, ...more
Robert W. Merry was born in 1946 in Tacoma, WA. He served three years in the U.S. Army, including two years as a counterintelligence special agent in West Germany. He graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor's degree in journalism in ...more