The History Book Club discussion


Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 08, 2011 03:40PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod

This is the glossary for Polk. Please feel free to add urls, other websites, links, photos, etc. regarding this selection.

Note: No personal marketing, blogs, etc.

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

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
**SPOILER** - (Author Interview)

(view spoiler)

message 3: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Sarah Polk seems to be a smart person and a good companion for James. Here is a write up on her:

Physical Description: Fairly tall, with black hair that was parted in the middle and worn in ringlets, brown eyes and sallow coloring. She had prominent teeth that caused her to tighten her lips, giving her a disapproving look, though she was admired as a "handsome" beauty. She tended to dress in vibrant blues, reds and maroons, which suited her dark coloring. Due to her coloring, she was given the nickname "Sahara Sarah".

Religion: Very devout Presbyterian

Education: Colonel Childress was a prosperous planter, merchant, tavern keeper and militia officer who raised his children in luxury. His social circles taught Sarah early a love of politics and politicians. She was educated at the Danil Elam School in Murfreesboro. Later the principal of Bradley Academy in Nashville, where her brother and James K. Polk were students, tutored her and her sister, Susan. The Childress sisters boarded (but didn’t attend) at the Abercrombie School in Nashville where Sarah met General and Mrs. Andrew Jackson. To further their education, the Childress’s sent both girls to the best girls school in the south: the Moravian Female Academy in Salem, North Carolina in 1817. Here they studied English, grammar, geography, needlework, history, music, drawing and the Bible. It had a very strict moral setting that became a permanent part of Sarah Polk’s nature and personality. Colonel Childress’s death in 1819 ended Sarah’s education, and both she and Susan returned home to help their mother.

Courtship and Marriage: In the years after Colonel Childress’s death, Sarah and her family suffered a number of financial reverses due to her brother’s mismanagement of the estate. This diminished their income, but did not alter their living style. Sarah met, at this time, a farmer schoolmate of her brother, James Knox Polk. He was an ambitious, earnest, rather silent young man who had the approval of Andrew Jackson. Jackson, according to legend, urged Polk to marry Miss Childress, who was "wealthy, pretty, ambitious and intelligent." Sarah encouraged James Polk to run for the state legislature and soon after his election, on January 1, 1824, they were married in her home in Murfreesboro.

Personality: Serious, religious, a proper lady in every way except in her love of politics and gentlemanly conversation. She was known to remain behind with the men to talk, rather than retire to the parlor with the ladies. Humor was never a strong point with her (or with her husband). She loved to read, she read the newspapers, and, because of this, she eventually took on the duties of an unpaid secretary to her husband. The Polks had no children, and his career became, in a way, a surrogate child for Sarah.

Years Before the White House (1824-1845): Probably because there were no children, Sarah Polk was able to be a part of her husband’s life and career to an unusual degree. Her sharp intellect, wit and charm were definite assets to his career. Men as diverse as Henry Clay, Andrew Jackson and future President, Franklin Pierce, who said he would rather discuss politics with Sarah than with James, testify to her forceful personality. It is strange to note that, for a woman of such unusual political outlook and drive, she received no criticism from the women of her day. This was due to the unique ability she showed in blending her political interest with her well-defined domestic skills. For all her love of politics, Sarah Polk never forgot her place or the place of women in society.

After an unusual year’s separation, Sarah joined her husband in Washington, where he was serving in the House of Representatives. Until the end of his life, with the exception of this one short separation, Sarah would remain at her husband’s side – as his nurse, his secretary, his confidante, and his emotional helpmate. There was nothing they didn’t share. Her strong religious beliefs were respected, and nothing transpired on the Sabbath. She would ban card playing, dancing and hard liquor as part of her religious beliefs. In spite of this, she was admired for her looks, her wit and her social skills – all of which aided her husband’s career. This did not mean that she didn’t have certain ideas of her own: she disagreed with Polk’s stance against the use of paper money, pointing out how difficult it would be for a woman to carry gold or silver on her person. In the height of the Peggy Eaton affair, Sarah Polk created something of a difficult time for her husband, from whom General Jackson expected full support. Peggy Eaton was the wife of the Secretary of War. She had an immoral reputation, but Andrew Jackson insisted that the Cabinet wives accept and receive her. (For more details on this affair, see chapter on Emily Donelson). Sarah refused. Polk was seen as a hen-pecked husband, leading his future Vice President George M. Dallas to say of Sarah, "She is certainly mistress of herself and I suspect of someone else as well." Because of Sarah’s refusal to accept Peggy Eaton, Andrew Jackson told Sarah to go home to Columbia, Tennessee (where they had built a home near his parents) in late 1830. She did not return until early 1831.

The Polks had numerous nieces and nephews in and out of their lives and, after Polk’s death, Sarah would adopt one of them as a child of her own. After his election as Speaker of the House, Polk and his wife had even more exposure to the social life in Washington.

message 4: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig In the first couple of chapters, we see some themes that are going to be major issues in Polk's presidency: he supports slavery (a slave-owner) and territorial expansion. These two elements are explosive.

message 5: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Yes, both of them will erupt shortly I fear.

message 6: by Bryan (last edited Feb 21, 2011 06:58AM) (new)

Bryan Craig Here is the text of the 1844 Texas Annexation Treaty:

The people of Texas having, at the time of adopting their constitution, expressed by an almost unanimous vote, their desire to be incorporated into the Union of the United States, and being still desirous of the same with equal unanimity, in order to provide more effectually for their security and prosperity; and the United States, actuated solely by the desire to add to their own security and prosperity, and to meet the wishes of the Government and people of Texas, have determined to accomplish, by treaty, objects so important to their mutual and permanent welfare:

For that purpose, the President of the United States has given full Powers to John C. Calhoun, Secretary of State of the said United States, and the President of the Republic of Texas has appointed, with like powers, Isaac Van Zandt and J. Pinckney Henderson, citizens of the said Republic: and the said plenipotentiaries, after exchanging their full powers, have agreed on and concluded the following articles:


The Republic of Texas, acting in conformity with the wishes of the people and every department of its government, cedes to the United States all its territories, to be held by them in full property and sovereignty, and to be annexed to the said United States as one of their Territories, subject to the same constitutional provisions with their other Territories. This cession includes all public lots and squares, vacant lands, mines, minerals, salt lakes and springs, public edifices, fortifications, barracks, ports and harbours, navy and navy-yards, docks, magazines, arms, armaments and accoutrements, archives and public documents, public funds debts, taxes and dues unpaid at the time of the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty.


The citizens of Texas shall be incorporated into the Union of the United States, maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property and admitted, as soon as may be consistent with the principles of the federal constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, privileges and immunities of citizens of the United States.


All titles and claims to real estate, which are valid under the laws of Texas, shall be held to be so by the United States; and measures shall be adopted for the speedy adjudication of all unsettled claims to land, and patents shall be granted to those found to be valid.


The public lands hereby ceded shall be subject to the laws regulating the public lands in the other Territories of the United States, as far as they may be applicable; subject, however, to such alterations and changes as Congress may from time to time think proper to make. It is understood between the parties that if, in consequence of the mode in which lands have been surveyed in Texas, or from previous grants or locations, the sixteenth section cannot be applied to the purpose of education, Congress shall make equal provision by grant of land elsewhere. And it is also further understood, that, hereafter, the books, papers and documents of the General Land Office of Texas shall be deposited and kept at such place in Texas as the Congress of the United States shall direct.


The United States assume and agree to pay the public debts and liabilities of Texas, however created, for which the faith or credit of her government may be bound at the time of the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty; which debts and liabilities are estimated not to exceed, in the whole, ten minions of dollars, to be ascertained and paid in the manner hereinafter stated.

The payment of the sum of three hundred and fifty thousand dollars shall be made at the Treasury of the United States within ninety days after the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, as follows: Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to Frederick Dawson, of Baltimore, or his Executors, on the delivery of that amount of ten per cent. bonds of Texas: One hundred thousand dollars, if so much be required, in the redemption of the Exchequer bills which may be in circulation at the time of the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty. For the payment of the remainder of the debts and liabilities of Texas, which, together with the amount already specified, shall not exceed ten millions of dollars, the public lands herein ceded and the nett revenue from the same are hereby pledged.


In order to ascertain the full amount of the debts and liabilities herein assumed, and the legality and validity thereof, four commissioners shall be appointed by the President of the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, who shall meet at Washington, Texas, within the period of six months after the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, and may continue in session not exceeding twelve months, unless the Congress of the United States should prolong the time. They shall take an oath for the faithful discharge of their duties, and that they are not directly or indirectly interested in said claims at the time, and will not be during their continuance in office; and the said oath shall be recorded with their proceedings. In case of the death, sickness or resignation of any of the commissioners, his or their place or places may be supplied by the appointment as aforesaid or by the President of the United States during the recess of the Senate. They, or a majority of them, shall be authorized, under such regulations as the Congress of the United States may prescribe, to hear, examine and decide on all questions touching the legality and validity of said claims, and shall, when a claim is allowed, issue a certificate to the claimant, stating the amount, distinguishing principal from interest. The certificates so issued shall be numbered, and entry made of the number, the name of the person to whom issued, and the amount, in a book to be kept for that purpose. They shall transmit the records of their proceedings and the book in which the certificates are entered, with the vouchers and documents produced before them, relative to the claims allowed or rejected, to the Treasury Department of the United States, to be deposited therein, and the Secretary of the Treasury shall, as soon as practicable after the receipt of the same, ascertain the aggregate amount of the debts and liabilities allowed; and if the same, when added to the amount to be paid to Frederick Dawson and the sum which may be paid in the redemption of the Exchequer bills, shall not exceed the estimated sum of ten millions of dollars, he shall, on the presentation of a certificate of the commissioners, issue, at the option of the holder, a new certificate for the amount, distinguishing principal from interest, and payable to him or order, out of the nett proceeds of the public lands, hereby ceded, or stock, of the United States, for the amount allowed, including principal and interest, and bearing an interest of three per cent. per annum from the date thereof; which stock, in addition to being made payable out of the nett proceeds of the public lands hereby ceded shall also be receivable in payment for the same. In case the amount of the debts end liabilities allowed, with the sums aforesaid to be paid to Frederick Dawson and which mav be paid in the redemption of the Exchequer bills, shall exceed the said sum of ten millions of dollars, the said Secretary, before issuing a new certificate, or stock, as the case may be, shall make in each case such proportionable and rateable reduction on its amount as to reduce the aggregate to the said sum of ten millions of doUars, and he shall have power to make an needful rules and regulations necessary to carry into effect the powers hereby vested in him.


Until further provision shall be made, the laws of Texas as now existing shall remain in forge, and all executive and judicial officers of Texas, except the President, Vice-President and Heads of Departments, shall retain their offices, with an power and authority appertaining thereto, and the Courts of justice shall remain in all respects as now established and organized.


Immediately after the exchange of the ratifications of this treaty, the President of the United States, bv and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint a commissioner; who shall proceed to Texas, and receive the transfer of the territory thereof, and all the archives and public property and other things herein conveyed, in the name of the United States. He shall exercise all executive authority in said territory necessary to the proper execution of the laws, until otherwise provided.


The present treaty shall be ratified by the contracting parties and the ratifications exchanged at the City of Washington, in six months from the date hereof, or sooner if possible.

In witness whereof, we, the undersigned plenipotentiaries of the United States of America and of the Republic of Texas, have signed, by virtue of our powers the present treaty of Annexation, and have hereunto affixed our seals respectively

Done at Washington, the twelfth day of April, eighteen hundred and forty-four.

message 7: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Information on Santa Anna:

The dominant figure in Mexican politics for much of the 19th century, Antonio López de Santa Anna left a legacy of disappointment and disaster by consistently placing his own self-interest above his duty to the nation.

Born in the state of Vera Cruz in 1794, Santa Anna embarked on his long career in the army at age 16 as a cadet. He fought for a time for the Spanish against Mexican independence, but along with many other army officers switched sides in 1821 to help install Augustin de Iturbide as head of state of an independent Mexico.

Mexico was a highly fractured and chaotic nation for much of its first century of independence, in no small part due to the machinations of men such as Santa Anna. In 1828 he used his military influence to lift the losing candidate into the presidency, being rewarded in turn with appointment as the highest-ranking general in the land. His reputation and influence were further strengthened by his critical role in defeating an 1829 Spanish effort to reconquer their former colony.

In 1833 Santa Anna was overwhelmingly elected President of Mexico. Unfortunately, what began as a promise to unite the nation soon deteriorated into chaos. From 1833 to 1855 Mexico had no fewer than thirty-six changes in presidency; Santa Anna himself directly ruled eleven times. He soon became bored in his first presidency, leaving the real work to his vice-president, who soon launched an ambitious reform of church, state and army. In 1835, when the proposed reforms infuriated vested interests in the army and church, Santa Anna seized the opportunity to reassert his authority, and led a military coup against his own government.

Santa Anna's repudiation of Mexico's 1824 constitution and substitution of a much more centralized and less democratic form of government was instrumental in sparking the Texas revolution, for it ultimately convinced both Anglo colonists and many Mexicans in Texas that they had nothing to gain by remaining under the Mexican government. When the revolution came in 1835, Santa Anna personally led the Mexican counter-attack, enforcing a "take-no-prisoners" policy at the Alamo and ordering the execution of those captured at Goliad. In the end, however, his over-confidence and tactical carelessness allowed Sam Houston to win a crushing victory at the battle of San Jacinto.

Although his failure to suppress the Texas revolution enormously discredited him, Santa Anna was able to reestablish much of his authority when he defeated a French invasion force at Vera Cruz in 1838. His personal heroism in battle, which resulted in having several horses shot out from under him and the loss of half of his left leg, became the basis of his subsequent effort to secure his power by creating a cult of personality around himself. In 1842 he arranged for an elaborate ceremony to dig up the remains of his leg, parade with it through Mexico City, and place it on a prominent monument for all to see.

The United States took advantage of Mexico's continuing internal turmoil in the Mexican-American war. As the supreme commander of Mexican forces, much of the blame for their crushing defeat fell on Santa Anna's shoulders. Nevertheless, he remained the most powerful individual in Mexico until 1853, when his sale of millions of acres in what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico to the United States united liberal opposition against him. He was soon deposed, and never again returned to political office. He died in 1876.

message 8: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Sam Houston:

A sometimes volatile and often contradictory man, Sam Houston played a crucial role in the founding of Texas.

Houston was born into a military family in Virginia in 1793. His father, an army major who had served in the Revolutionary War, died when Sam was fourteen. His mother took their family to eastern Tennessee, where Houston spent much of his later childhood in the company of Cherokee Indians, coming to know their language and customs well.

His involvement in the War of 1812 launched Houston's political career. He served under Andrew Jackson in the campaign against the Creek Indians, allies of the British. After the war, Jackson was instrumental in securing Houston a position as an Indian agent to the Cherokee. Houston also began to study law and was soon elected the district attorney in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1823, he was elected to Congress, and reelected in 1825. In 1827 he won the governorship.

Two years later, in the midst of his re-election campaign, Houston and his new wife, Eliza Allen, separated. Rumors of infidelity and alcoholism swirled around him, and in April 1829 he moved to Indian lands in Arkansas. This portion of Houston's life is poorly documented, but it appears that for a time he had a Cherokee wife, Tiana Rogers, ran a trading post, and drank so heavily that he was widely known to the Cherokee as "big drunk." Nonetheless, he made yearly trips to Washington, D.C., for business relating to Indian affairs.

By 1833 Houston was living in Texas for at least part of the year, and seems to have established a permanent residence in Nacogdoches, near the Louisiana border, by 1835. With the outbreak of the Texas Revolution, Houston was quickly elevated to the command of the ragtag Texas Army. Keenly aware that he was heavily outnumbered, he kept up a retreat from the Mexican army for over a month, despite the condemnation of his supposed comrades and allegations of drunkenness. Finally, when the Mexican general Santa Anna split his forces in April, Houston ordered the attack at San Jacinto that gained Texas its independence.

The newly independent Lone Star Republic made Houston its first President in 1836, and he filled the office again in 1841, after an interim term by Mirabeau B. Lamar. As President, he secured United States recognition of Texas and stabilized the republic's finances.

When Texas gained statehood in 1846, Houston continued his political career as a United States Senator, serving from from 1846 to 1860. In Washington, his apparent fondness for alcohol, women and brawling again provoked sharp controversy and added new chapters to his legend. In politics, he was an enthusiastic supporter of the Mexican-American War, although disappointed that it did not end in the annexation of Mexico. A slaveholder himself and an outspoken opponent of abolition, he nonetheless voted consistently against the expansion of slavery into new territories and was a vehement opponent of secession.

These views made Houston unpopular with the Texas legislature, but in 1859, as he was about to leave the Senate, he was once more elected governor and he used the office to continue his campaign against secession. In 1861, when Texas voted to separate from the Union, Houston still held out, arguing that Texas apart from the United States was an independent republic. As chief executive of the republic, he refused to swear allegiance to the Confederacy, and as a result he was removed from office.

Houston died on his farm in Huntsville, Texas, in 1863.

message 9: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Martin Van Buren:

Martin Van Buren said that the two happiest days of his life were his entrance into the office of President and his surrender of the office. While his political opponents were glad to see him go - they nicknamed him "Martin Van Ruin" - many Americans were not. Even though he lost the 1840 presidential election, Van Buren received 40,000 more votes than he had in his 1836 victory. In subsequent years, historians have come to regard Van Buren as integral to the development of the American political system.

Van Buren was the first President not born a British subject, or even of British ancestry. The Van Burens were a large, struggling family of Dutch descent. Martin's father, Abraham Van Buren—a supporter of Thomas Jefferson in a region populated by supporters of Jefferson's opponents, the Federalists—ran a tavern where politicians often gathered as they traveled between New York City and Albany. This environment gave young Martin a taste for politics. Though the Van Burens could not afford to send Martin to college, he managed to get a job as a clerk in a law office where he began studying law independently. After he became a lawyer, Van Buren joined the Democratic-Republicans and began his political career, as a minor county official.
Political Savvy and Party Building

Immediately, Van Buren began showing the qualities that would eventually take him to the pinnacle of American politics—and earn him a bevy of admirers as well as critics. Unfailingly polite and thoroughly shrewd, Van Buren proved an adept politician, negotiating the fractious political environment of New York state's Democratic-Republican party. As a New York politician, he set about building a political organization of his fellow Democratic-Republicans that stressed unity, loyalty, and fealty to Jeffersonian political principles. Gradually, Van Buren moved from the New York State Senate, to the New York attorney general's office, and then to the U.S. Senate. Unhappy with the politics and policies of President John Quincy Adams, Van Buren aligned himself instead with Andrew Jackson, the immensely popular war hero who wanted a return to the Jeffersonian policies of minimalist government. In Washington, he continued his political party-building efforts, but on a national scale.

When Jackson became President, he named Van Buren secretary of state, in recognition of the New Yorker's political acumen and his service during the 1828 election. From this position, Van Buren oversaw the nation's foreign affairs. But his time in Washington was also spent cultivating political relationships and allies. Van Buren continued to build the political organization that would become the Democratic Party. Just as important, Van Buren quickly became one of Jackson's trusted advisers and friends, even though the two men's political views were not always perfectly in synch. Van Buren also skillfully navigated the tempestuous in-fighting that marked Jackson's cabinet, where Vice President John Calhoun proved more an adversary than ally of the President. Toward the end of his first term, Jackson dismissed much of his cabinet, cut his relations with Vice President Calhoun, and dispatched Van Buren to the political calm of London as U.S. minister to England. During Jackson's second term, Van Buren served as vice president.
Managing a Troubled Nation

Van Buren won the presidential election of 1836 by promising to carry on the policies of Andrew Jackson. Unfortunately, Van Buren took office as the booming U.S. economy of the early and mid-1830s began to slow down. The so-called "Panic of 1837" was followed by the worst depression yet faced by the young nation. These economic troubles quickly became President Van Buren's main concern.

Van Buren's response to the crisis revealed his belief in the principles of a limited federal government, defense of states rights, and protection of the "people" from the "powerful." Thus, Van Buren rejected his Whig opposition's suggestion that he support a National Bank, which the Whigs believed could oversee and stabilize the nation's economy. Instead, the President blamed the depression on powerful monied interests at home and abroad, and proposed that the federal government deposit its funds in an independent treasury, rather than in state banks, While Van Buren and Congress argued about the merits of the independent treasury—which Congress finally authorized in the summer of 1840—the nation's economic troubles continued.

Van Buren confronted several other potentially divisive issues while President. He managed to quiet talk of annexing Texas by steadfastly announcing his opposition to such a move. His main foreign policy concerns were the growing tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the border between the United States and Canada. Van Buren ignored calls from some Americans to respond to Canadian and British provocations with force, working instead successfully through diplomatic channels to calm tensions in the region. Van Buren's measured approach to the northern border problems, however, only earned him the enmity of those who urged a more aggressive response.

Martin Van Buren's wife, Hannah, died twelve years after their marriage, leaving him a widower with four sons to raise by himself. Though Van Buren never remarried, his eldest son's wife, Angelica Singleton Van Buren, served as official White House hostess during the last two years of his presidency. His sons, moreover, emerged as some of his father's most important aides and advisers; Abraham and Martin Jr. served as personal secretaries to their father when he was President.
Political Defeat

Facing criticism at home for both the economic depression and his handling of foreign affairs, Van Buren's re-election chances suffered even more in the face of an inspired campaign offered by the Whigs and their candidate, William Henry Harrison. In only four years, the Whig party had matched the savvy and organization of the Democrats—if not their shear numbers and ideological unity. The Whigs portrayed Harrison as the rough and tumble "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" candidate and ridiculed Van Buren as fussy, aristocratic, and unmanly. There was little truth in these images—in reality, it was Van Buren who came from a modest background, while Harrison was from a ruling-class Virginia family—but the charges, coupled with dissatisfaction over Van Buren's governance, proved too much for the sitting President to overcome. Van Buren lost the election, failing even to carry his home state of New York.

Martin Van Buren served only one term as President, and those four years were marked as much by failure and criticism as by success and popular acclaim. Van Buren's troubled presidency, though, should not overshadow his significant contributions to American political development. Van Buren played key roles in the creation of both the Democratic Party and the so-called "second party system" in which Democrats competed with their opponents, the Whigs. In these ways, Van Buren left an indelible mark on American politics.

message 10: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Bryan for all of the info.

message 11: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Some information on Gideon Pillow. For those readers from our last book, this is the same guy fighting Grant at Fort Donelson.

Pillow was born in Williamson County, Tennessee, to Gideon Pillow and Ann Payne Pillow. He graduated from the University of Nashville in 1827 and practiced law in Columbia, Tennessee, as a partner of future President James K. Polk. He served as a brigadier general in the Tennessee Militia from 1833 to 1836.

In the Mexican-American War, Pillow joined the United States Army as a brigadier general in July 1846 and President Polk promoted him to major general on April 13, 1847. He was wounded in the right arm at the Battle of Cerro Gordo and in the left leg at Chapultepec. During the war he came into conflict with the commander of the American forces in Mexico, Gen. Winfield Scott. An anonymous letter—actually written by Pillow—published in the New Orleans Delta on September 10, 1847, and signed "Leonidas", wrongfully credited Pillow for recent American victories at Contreras and Churubusco. The battles were actually won by Scott. When Pillow's intrigue was exposed, he was arrested by Scott and held for court-martial. Polk, defensive of Pillow, recalled Scott to Washington. During the trial that began in March 1848, Maj. Archibald W. Burns, a paymaster, claimed authorship of the "Leonidas" letter at Pillow's behest. Pillow escaped punishment, but was discharged from the Army in July 1848.

Pillow's antagonism for Scott was reflected in the 1852 election for president, when he opposed Scott's candidacy, supporting instead a former subordinate of his in the Mexican-American War, Franklin Pierce. Pillow attempted to win the vice-presidential nomination, but was rejected. He tried, but failed, to win the nomination for vice president again in 1856.

message 12: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Cave Johnson:

born in Robertson County, Tenn., January 11, 1793; pursued an academic course and attended Cumberland College, Nashville, Tenn.; studied law; was admitted to the bar in 1814 and commenced practice in Clarksville, Tenn.; prosecuting attorney of Montgomery County in 1817; elected as a Jacksonian to the Twenty-first and to the three succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1829-March 3, 1837); chairman, Committee on Private Land Claims (Twenty-second and Twenty-third Congresses); unsuccessful candidate for reelection in 1836 to the Twenty-fifth Congress; elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-sixth, Twenty-seventh, and Twenty-eighth Congresses (March 4, 1839-March 3, 1845); chairman, Committee on Military Affairs (Twenty-sixth Congress), Committee on Expenditures on Public Buildings (Twenty-seventh Congress), Committee on Indian Affairs (Twenty-eighth Congress); appointed Postmaster General of the United States and served from March 5, 1845, to March 5, 1849; judge of the seventh judicial circuit court in 1850 and 1851; president of the Bank of Tennessee 1854-1860; United States commissioner in settling the affairs of the United States and Paraguay Navigation Co. in 1860; during the Civil War was elected to the State senate but was not permitted to take his seat; died in Clarksville, Tenn., November 23, 1866; interment in Greenwood Cemetery.

message 13: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Aaron V. Brown:

Brown was a native of Virginia, but a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he was valedictorian of the class of 1814. He later entered into the practice of law with James K. Polk. He was a member of the Tennessee State Senate from 1821 to 1827 and of the Tennessee House of Representatives from 1831 to 1835, and a member of the United States House of Representatives for three terms, 1839 to 1845. He won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1845 and was elected.

When the Mexican-American War began, largely through the actions of his old friend Polk, who was now President, Brown issued a call for 2,600 volunteers. When approximately 30,000 men answered this call, Tennessee's reputation as the Volunteer State was forever secured.

Like his friend Polk, Brown was also defeated for re-election as governor of Tennessee. He did not participate further in statewide elected politics, but was selected as a delegate to the Nashville Convention of 1850 held at Nashville's McKendree Methodist Church. This is probably the first place in Southern history where secession was ever openly and seriously discussed outside of South Carolina. Some historians credit the pressure that it instigated as helping to lead to the Compromise of 1850. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1852 where Franklin Pierce and William R. King were nominated. In 1854 he delivered an address to the University of North Carolina's literary societies. In 1854 a volume of his speeches was published in Nashville, Speeches, Congressional and Political, and Other Writings, of ex-Governor Aaron Venable Brown[1]. Brown was subsequently rewarded for his service as a loyal Democrat by being appointed Postmaster General in the Administration of President James Buchanan, and was still holding this office at the time of his death. He is buried in Nashville's Mt. Olivet Cemetery. His speeches were published in Nashville (1854). New International Encyclopedia

message 14: by Bryan (last edited Mar 08, 2011 06:45AM) (new)

Bryan Craig Information on the Monroe Doctrine:

The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States introduced on December 2, 1823. It stated that further efforts by European countries to colonize land or interfere with states in the Americas would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention. The doctrine was postulated by President Monroe when he was very enraged at the actions being executed around him. The Monroe Doctrine asserted that the Western Hemisphere was not to be further colonized by European countries but that the United States would neither interfere with existing European colonies nor meddle in the internal concerns of European countries. The Doctrine was issued at a time when many Latin American countries were on the verge of becoming independent from the Spanish Empire. The United States, reflecting concerns raised by Great Britain, ultimately hoped to avoid having any European power take over Spain's colonies.

The US President, James Monroe, first stated the doctrine during his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress. It became a defining moment in the foreign policy of the United States and one of its longest-standing tenets, and would be invoked by many U.S. statesmen and several U.S. presidents, including Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and others.

It would have been nearly impossible for Monroe to envision that its intent and impact would persist with only minor variations for almost two centuries. Its primary objective was to free the newly independent colonies of Latin America from European intervention and control (thus ensuring US national security). The doctrine put forward that the New World and the Old World were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, for they were composed of entirely separate and independent nations.

Here is a link to the annual address to Congress (1823):

message 15: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Information on the Wilmont Proviso:

The Wilmot Proviso, one of the major events leading to the Civil War, would have banned slavery in any territory to be acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War or in the future, including the area later known as the Mexican Cession, but which some proponents construed to also include the disputed lands in south Texas and New Mexico east of the Rio Grande.[1]

Congressman David Wilmot first introduced the Proviso in the United States House of Representatives on August 8, 1846 as a rider on a $2 million appropriations bill intended for the final negotiations to resolve the Mexican–American War. (In fact this was only three months into the two-year war.) It passed the House but failed in the Senate, where the South had greater representation. It was reintroduced in February 1847 and again passed the House and failed in the Senate. In 1848, an attempt to make it part of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo also failed. Sectional conflict over slavery in the Southwest continued up to the Compromise of 1850.

message 16: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Independent Treasury System:

In 1841, the Independent Treasury Act was passed. However, the following year the Whigs repealed the Act. The Whigs wanted to establish a new central bank, but were prevented by President Tyler who objected on constitutional grounds.

The Democrats won the election of 1844, and re-established the Independent Treasury System.

The Act of August 1846 provided that the public revenues be retained in the Treasury building and in sub-Treasuries in various cities. The Treasury was to pay out its own funds and be completely independent of the banking and financial system of the nation. All payments by and to the government, moreover, were to be made in specie. The separation of the Treasury from the banking system was never completed, however; the Treasury’s operations continued to influence the money market, as specie payments to and from the government affected the amount of hard money in circulation.

Problems and its demise

Although the independent Treasury did restrict the reckless speculative expansion of credit, it also tended to create a new set of economic problems. In periods of prosperity, revenue surpluses accumulated in the Treasury, reducing hard money circulation, tightening credit, and restraining even legitimate expansion of trade and production. In periods of depression and panic, when banks suspended specie payments and hard money was hoarded, the government’s insistence on being paid in specie tended to aggravate economic difficulties by limiting the amount of specie available for private credit.

The most serious weaknesses in the system were revealed during the Civil War; under the pressures created by wartime expenditures, Congress passed the acts of 1863 and 1864 creating national banks. Exceptions were made to the prohibition against depositing government funds in private banks, and in certain cases payments to the government could be made in national bank notes.

After the Civil War, the independent Treasury continued in modified form, as each administration tried to cope with its weaknesses in various ways. Secretary of the Treasury Leslie M. Shaw (1902–7) made many innovations; he attempted to use Treasury funds to expand and contract the money supply according to the nation’s credit needs. The Panic of 1907, however, finally revealed the inability of the system to stabilize the money market; this led to the passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913, which allowed the Federal Reserve System to issue Federal Reserve Notes (the powers of coining money and regulating its value were retained by the U.S. Mint and the Congress, respectively). Government funds were gradually transferred from subtreasuries to district banks, and an act of Congress in 1920 mandated the closing of the last subtreasuries in the following year, thus bringing the Independent Treasury System to an end.

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Great informational adds Bryan, thank you.

message 18: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Very welcome; I forgot that this system lasted until the Federal Reserve. Wow, a big legacy for Polk!

message 19: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Yes, Polk though not big in physical stature still packed an administrative wallop.

message 20: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Quick bio on Zachary Taylor:

Zachary Taylor was born on November 24, 1784, to a landed family of planters. His family's fortunes grew, and by 1800, they owned 10,000 acres in Kentucky and a number of slaves. He knew as a child that he wanted a military career. In 1808, he received his first commission as an officer, becoming commander of the garrison at Fort Pickering, the site of modern-day Memphis. He was transferred from one frontier post to another in a career that built his professional reputation but made his personal life difficult.

In 1810, he married Margaret Mackall Smith, the daughter of a prominent Maryland family. She followed him from post to post as their four daughters were born. The family finally settled in Louisiana, where Taylor assumed command of the fort at Baton Rouge. Taylor won fame as an "Indian fighter" in the present-day states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas. Although he frequently fought Native Americans, he also protected their lands from invading white settlers. He believed that the best solution for coexistence between settlers and Native Americans was a strong military presence to keep the two sides apart.

In 1845, Texas was granted statehood. Mexico disputed lands along the new state's border, and President James Knox Polk ordered Taylor and his troops into the contested area, a deployment that ignited the Mexican-American War. After winning two decisive encounters, Taylor, facing overwhelming odds, triumphed in a battle against the Mexican General Santa Anna at Buena Vista. When the smoke cleared, Taylor's army of 6,000 had defeated a Mexican force of 20,000, and Zachary Taylor, "Old Rough and Ready," as he was known because of his willingness to share his troops' hardships, was a national hero.

message 21: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig General Winfield Scott:

Born in 1786 near Petersburg, Virginia, Winfield Scott's father was a successful farmer who had served in the Revolutionary War. His mother came from a wealthy Virginia family. Though both his parents died when he was young, Scott's inheritance was m odest. He studied for a short time at William and Mary College before undertaking the study of law in Petersburg. He practiced law and served in the army in the period prior to the War of 1812. With the outbreak of the War of 1812, Scott recruited a regiment and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He served on the northern front, and his bravery and energy brought him honors and promotion, as he was brevetted a major general.

After the war, Scott studied European military methods, wrote on military and other subjects, and took up headquarters in New York City. He returned to active duty with the Black Hawk War in 1832, and was commissioned by President Andrew Jackson to pr oceed to South Carolina to watch over the nullification movement. Other military actions involved the controversial Seminole and Creek conflict in 1835, in which he clashed with Jackson, and a more celebrated role in restoring tranquility on the Canadian border during Martin Van Buren's presidency. Owing to his prominence as a military leader as well as a potential Whig presidential candidate, Scott was made general-in-chief of the army in 1841.

It was the Mexican War that brought Scott lasting renown. He was ordered to Mexico in November 1846. Obstructed by poorly equipped troops, limited reinforcements and supplies, desertions, and disease, Scott nevertheless undertook a successful five-mo nth campaign from Vera Cruz to Mexico City. But feuds generated by ambitious subordinate officers and, especially, the hostility of the Polk administration to further honoring a Whig general, led to Scott's recall and replacement. In addition, a court of inquiry was established to investigate Sc ott's actions in disciplining those disloyal officers. The charges against Scott were eventually dropped, and Congress voted him its thanks and a gold medal. In 1852, Congress passed a measure offering Scott the pay, rank, and emoluments of a lieutenant general, the first person to hold that office since G eorge Washington. That same year, he was the Whig party's unsuccessful candidate for President.

As the secession crisis developed during the latter part of 1860, Scott pleaded unsuccessfully to President James Buchanan to reinforce the southern forts and armories against possible seizure. He brought his headquarters from New York to Washington, D.C., so that he could oversee the recruiting and training of the capital's defence. He personally commanded Abraham Lincoln's bodyguard at the inauguration. Now seventy-five years old, Scott requested retirement, and in November 1861, he was retired. Five years later, he died at West Point and was buried i n the national cemetery there.

A large and imposing figure, Scott as a young man stood six feet, five inches tall and weighed 230 pounds. His career was extraordinarily long, some fifty years, and he was the associate of every President from Thomas Jefferson to Lincoln. Called "Fuss and Feathers" because of his punctiliousness in dress and decorum, his reputation for patriotism and generosity generally won him the trust and loyalty of his troops.

message 22: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Robert Stockton:

He was born at Morven, Stockton Street, Princeton, New Jersey into a political family; his father Richard Stockton was a U.S. Senator and Representative, and his grandfather, Judge Richard Stockton was Attorney General for New Jersey and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Early naval service

Stockton was appointed a midshipman in the U.S. Navy at the age of 16, serving at sea and ashore during the War of 1812. After that conflict, Lieutenant Stockton was assigned to ships operating in the Mediterranean, in the Caribbean and off the coast of West Africa. He was the first naval officer to act against the slave trade and captured several slave ships. Stockton along with Dr. Eli Ayers of the American Colonization Society negotiated a treaty that led to the founding of the state of Liberia.
Business affairs

During the later 1820s and into the 1830s, he primarily devoted his attention to business affairs in New Jersey. The birth of his son John P. Stockton, later also a U.S. Senator representing New Jersey, occurred during this time.

Resumes active naval service

In 1838, Stockton resumed active naval service as a captain. He served in the European area, but took leave in 1840 to undertake political work. Offered the post of U.S. Secretary of the Navy by President John Tyler in 1841, he declined the offer, but worked successfully to gain support for the construction of an advanced steam warship with a battery of very heavy guns.

This ship became USS Princeton, the Navy's first screw-propelled steamer. The ship was designed by John Ericsson. Stockton commanded her when she was completed in 1843. The ship was armed with two long 225 pound wrought iron guns, called the "Peacemaker" and the "Oregon". Although he was the deviser of the defective gun, Captain Stockton was absolved of all responsibility for the February 1844 explosion of the gun, the Peacemaker, on board the ship. The explosion killed two cabinet secretaries and several others.[1]

Cleared by the court of any wrongdoing in the explosion incident, Stockton was sent by President James K. Polk to Texas. Stockton carried with him Polk's offer to annex Texas, sailing on the Princeton and arriving in Galveston. . Stockton's observations while in Texas made him aware of the looming war with Mexico, a fact he communicated directly to Polk once he arrived back in Washington.[2] No vessel during the Mexican war was more useful than the Princeton in the Gulf of Mexico. The records of the Navy Department showed she performed more service than all the rest of the Gulf squadron put together.
Mexican-American War

Conquest of California

On July 23, 1846 Commodore Stockton arrived in Monterey, California and took over command from the ailing Commodore John D. Sloat of the Pacific Squadron of U.S. naval forces in the Pacific Ocean. Commodore Sloat had previously raised the US Flag, without resistance, at Monterey, but had no plan to conduct any further military operations on shore and once relieved, sailed home to the United States, leaving Commodore Stockton in command of all US forces. Stockton's command ship was the USS Congress (1841) and his combined fleet of three frigates with about 480 men each, one Ship of the line with about 780 men and up to four sloops with about 200 men each as well as three storeships made him the strongest force in California as well as the senior military commander. He was the main driving force in continuing to take possession of Alta California.

On August 11, 1846 Commodore Stockton marched on Pueblo de Los Angeles to meet in battle with General Castro's army. Upon learning of the imminent arrival of Commodore Stockton, Castro retired, leaving behind all his artillery and made off in the direction of Sonora. Immediately after these events Stockton dispatched a courier (the celebrated Kit Carson) to inform Washington of the proceedings and details of his conquest of California.

On December 6, 1846 Stockton learned that General Stephen Kearny had arrived in California with a small force and that he was besieged by vastly superior enemy forces at the Battle of San Pasqual. Kearny was among the wounded and in command of only 60 weary dragoons mounted on tired mules who were in a perilous position and under attack from a Californio-Mexican cavalry force under Andres Pico. But for Commodore Stockton's immediate decision to take personal command of a relief column, the outcome could have been disastrous for Kearny.

Later, the combined forces consolidated control over San Diego, and in January 1847 won the minor skirmishes at the Battle of Rio San Gabriel and Battle of La Mesa taking back control of Los Angeles. Faced with the approximate 400 men under John C. Fremont's California Battalion as well as Stockton and Kearny's troops, the Californios sued for peace and signed the Treaty of Cahuenga, which ending fighting in Alta California. Stockton, as senior military authority and first U.S. Military Governor of California territory, authorized John C. Fremont's appointment to succeed him as military governor and commander of the California Battalion militia force. When General Kearny finally arrived with orders to assume control of the temporary government Stockton turned over control to Kearny.

message 23: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Stephen Kearny:

New Jersey native Stephen W. Kearny was born in 1794, joined the army during the War of 1812, and served in a variety of frontier duties in the decades after that war. By 1846, he was colonel in command of the 1st United States Dragoon Regiment. When war broke out between the United States and Mexico, Kearny was promoted to Brigadier General, with orders to gather an army of volunteers around his unit and head down the Santa Fe Trail to seize the Mexican province of New Mexico.

His campaign was swift and bloodless. He captured Santa Fe on August 18, 1846, and promptly established a territorial government in the province, over the protest of Texas officials who claimed the region as their own. He then led the bulk of his army of down the Rio Grande and then west toward California. Believing that organized resistance there had ceased, Kearny sent most of his command off to other posts and arrived near Los Angeles, just in time to help suppress a severe revolt against U.S. control. Kearny was slightly wounded at the Mexican victory of San Pascual, but was able to restore U.S. control by the middle of January 1847.

With peace restored, Kearny ordered Captain John C. Frémont to relinquish command of California to him, sparking an enormous contest between the two officers, which ended with Frémont’s court martial and resignation from the army. Kearny served as military governor until the summer of 1847, when he traveled to Washington D.C., hailed as the conqueror of California. Kearney received brevet promotion to major general and reassignment to command the garrison at Vera Cruz. After contracting malaria, Kearny returned to the U.S. and died in St. Louis in 1848.

message 24: by Bryan (last edited Apr 06, 2011 08:02AM) (new)

Bryan Craig Senator Benton was born at Hillsboro, N. C. He was in 1809 a state senator in Tennessee, and took much interest in land tenure, and the rights of slaves in capital trials. He was admitted to the bar in 1811. Five of his seven brothers and sisters succumbed to tuberculosis, and Benton himself was in the incipient stages when the régime of camp life in the War of 1812 rebuilt his vigor, though all his life undue exertion of his throat would induce a hemorrhage. Benton at this time won the permanent friendship of Sam Houston, and the temporary enmity of Andrew Jackson. The trouble with the latter grew out of a tavern brawl in which Thomas supported his brother Jesse in a mêlée of knives, pistols, and clubs. Jackson long carried a bullet fired by Jesse or perhaps by Thomas. Notwithstanding his excellent prospects in Tennessee at the close of the war, Benton removed in 1815 to St. Louis, where, as editor of the Missouri Enquirer and in the enjoyment of a lucrative law practise, he speedily identified himself with his adopted state. The most regrettable incident of his career occurred on Sept. 27, 1817, when, in the second of two duels with Charles Lucas, a young United States district attorney, he shot down and killed his opponent. The record in the case is not favorable to Benton who, contrary to the wishes of the seconds and in violation of the accepted duelling code, after he had already wounded his antagonist, by whom he had been challenged, in turn forced a later meeting in which, as the inferior marksman, Lucas was almost certain to be killed (see Switzler's Illustrated History of Missouri, 1879, pp. 481-86).

Nominated by the son of Daniel Boone, and with the support of David Barton, his co-senator, Benton was first elected to the United States Senate in 1820, and took his seat in 1821. Also at this time he married Elizabeth McDowell, of a prominent Virginia family. In the Senate he became involved almost immediately in his lifelong legislative interest, the defense of sound money. He favored settlers and discouraged land speculators. He deplored the sacrifice of Texas in 1819, and lauded to an uncomprehending public the significance of Oregon. He brought salt within the reach of western farmers, and in the interest of Missourians, defended a tariff upon lead. He promoted the navigation of the Mississippi, and advocated a national highway to New Mexico. In the election of 1824, Benton originally favored Henry Clay. He afterward opposed John Quincy Adams, though he did not believe in the "corrupt bargain" with Clay. Long estranged from Jackson, he now renewed his friendship with him. In the debate on the Panama Congress, he held that the Monroe Doctrine applied solely to the defense of our own territories. In the duel between Clay and Randolph growing out of the Panama debate, he acted as a friend of both parties, though more attached to Randolph. Meanwhile he was working steadily for Jackson in the approaching campaign of 1828. Success achieved, he became the administration spokesman in the Senate. His views on slavery now materially changed. While in 1820 he had opposed all slavery restriction in Missouri, by 1828 he had come to favor gradual abolition. Slavery was apparently hindering settlement--which to a westerner and expansionist was a serious indictment. Even when a discussion on Foot's resolution restricting land sales widened into the celebrated Webster-Hayne debate, Benton did not immediately perceive the issue between Union and Disunion. To defeat the Foot Resolution, he attacked the Webster speech in words he afterward regretted. Convinced at last of Calhoun's secession plans, he henceforth fought for Jackson and the Union. On the rejection by the Senate of Van Buren's nomination as minister to England, Benton actively championed the former secretary, and urged him to stand for nomination as vice-president on the Jackson ticket in 1832. In the nullification crisis, he favored a repeal of the offensive tariffs of 1828 and 1832, but disliked the compromise tariff of 1833, desiring to keep the issue more clearcut between nullification and submission.

Benton was the Senate floor leader in the war upon the National Bank. Always a "hard money" man, he favored a gold and silver coinage, but no bank of issue with its paper currency. In February 1831 he introduced a resolution opposing the re-charter five years later of the National Bank. His anti-Bank speeches, then and later, won a popular support which enabled Jackson finally to veto the re-charter. Benton thoroughly indorsed removal of the government deposits, prior even to the expiration of the charter. When hard times followed, he insisted that they were artificially created by the Bank. A resolution of censure against Jackson he capitalized into a contest for expunging. Just before the administration closed, he won his point, Jan. 16, 1837 (Rogers, Benton, p. 159). His method of holding his followers together by culinary and bibulous inducements has often been described. Excitement ran so high that it was feared his life was in danger from toughs who were said to have been hired by the Bank. Jackson's debt to Benton was immense, and the influence of the latter was now at its maximum.

In his attack upon the Bank, Benton was destructive; in championing "hard money," he worked creatively. His first move was to change the ratio between gold and silver from 15 to 1, as established by Jefferson, to the more accurate 16 to 1. Gold coins, dubbed "Benton's mint drops," returned to circulation. Further impetus was lent by the "specie circular" of Jackson, stipulating that public lands be paid for in hard money, an action sponsored by Benton and carried through by Jackson against the unanimous opposition of his cabinet. The most constructive financial legislation of that generation grew out of Benton's struggle for "hard money." On this issue the Democratic party divided into "Hards" and "Softs," and Benton was nicknamed in derision "Old Bullion," a name which stuck, and gave him satisfaction. Such profound changes in the financial structure nevertheless hastened the panic of 1837, which Benton attributed to the machinations of the Bank, a malicious explanation unworthy of his better judgment. Meanwhile, the country marched steadily toward a specie basis along the line of Benton's policy (Ibid., 184).

Another economic issue on which Benton held strong views was the distribution of the public lands, a vital concern in the days when the Government was doing a "land office" business. On this question, as on that of the Bank, Benton's position was democratic. He favored reduction in the cash price for land, and advocated the grant of free homesteads of 160 acres based on five years' settlement and improvement. "He was," says Rogers, "the father of the cheap land system," thus anticipating Abraham Lincoln in one respect at least.

As a Democrat, Benton was naturally a Van Buren man in 1840. Again as a Democrat, he instinctively took sides with Tyler in the latter's conflict with the Whigs. But when his ancient enemy, Calhoun, received the State portfolio, and the acquisition of Texas became an avowed policy, Benton was opposed. He seems honestly to have felt that the time for Texan annexation had been in 1819, and that the Spanish treaty of that year sacrificed the interests of the West. But having done so, it was, in Benton's estimation, a fact accomplished, and he viewed the absorption of Texas at this late date as an unwarranted affront to Mexico. In 1845, annexation being finally determined by joint resolution, Benton sought to conciliate Mexico by treating the boundary as still a subject for negotiation. He was angered when Tyler anticipated the Polk Administration by sending a single commissioner to adjust the issue, without regard to varying shades of opinion within the United States.

Benton's attitude toward Oregon, the exploration of which owed much to Frémont, his own son-in-law, paralleled his attitude toward Texas. Always a Westerner, and one of the first to call his countrymen's attention to the territory, when the issue reached a climax he preferred compromise to war. In 1842 he criticized the Webster-Ashburton Treaty for its failure to include a settlement as to Oregon. But in 1844 he had no fondness for the campaign slogan, "54° 40' or fight," and he counseled Polk against adhering to it afterward. The 49th parallel was the boundary he wished, and the boundary secured. Never was Benton more bitterly assailed. His pioneering to arouse opinion, and then refusing to follow that opinion into extremes, seemed utterly inconsistent to the frontier mind, in other words, to Benton's own constituents in Missouri.

Yet when the Texan issue really led to war, Benton not only upheld the Government, but even sought a high command. Polk was willing to name him general, a sort of chief of staff to determine military policy, but Buchanan and other Democrats opposed. Though Benton finally declined a major-generalship, his military ambitions were achieved vicariously through the work of Frémont in taking California previously to the actual declaration of war.

This intellectual detachment of Benton's, curious in a man personally so dynamic, dictated his attitude toward slavery. Here again, as has been noted in connection with his earlier legislative attitudes, Benton was essentially a moderate. As abolitionism gained converts in the North, and as Calhounism threatened secession in the South, Benton's moderate position grew increasingly difficult of maintenance. But moderate he was, and moderate he remained. Extension and agitation he equally opposed; abolitionists he scorned. His cry was peace, peace, when there was no peace. Notwithstanding abolitionists and their wiles, Benton's belief in the essential fairness of the North was confirmed by his success in gaining an extension of Missouri on the northwest by an area equal to Delaware, wrested from free territory without any Northern protest. But whatever good-will Benton may have felt for slavery was entirely subordinate to his loyalty to the Union. In 1847, notwithstanding specific instructions from the Missouri legislature, he refused to uphold the Calhoun Resolutions in the Senate, because he regarded them as subversive of the Union. In the great debates on the Compromise of 1850, he maintained consistently his opposition to what he deemed too generous a concession to secessionists. He desired the admission of California as a free state. He objected to the scheme of Calhoun's followers to divide California by the Missouri Compromise line extended. He believed that secessionists could not be satisfied with any solution short of complete control of the Government, and hence he deemed the Compromise a hollow sham. During the debate, Senator Foote of Mississippi drew a pistol on Benton--the greatest indignity the Senate had ever suffered. Throughout the session Benton found himself in active opposition to his colleague, Atchison.

(Source: "Thomas Hart Benton." Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936)

message 25: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is what the White House looked like in 1846 during the administration of James Polk:

Earliest known photograph of the White House, taken c. 1846 by John Plumbe during the administration of James K. Polk.

message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This video and music created by some students in Texas:

message 27: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 08, 2011 07:28PM) (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
American historian Walter R. Borneman discusses the four key themes of his recent biography of James K. Polk, POLK: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America (Random House, 2008).

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

message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This is an interesting history of the burning of Washington in 1814 by the British (before Polk arrived in Washington of course):

message 29: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig A nice photograph Bentley, thanks. It still looks impressive even for its small size compared to now.

message 30: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Text of treaty of Guadalupe:

message 31: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
True once was this idyllic it is just...nevermind (smile).

message 32: by Bryan (last edited Apr 21, 2011 07:01AM) (new)

Bryan Craig For those who are interested in the Cuban chapter in Polk's administration, try:

American interest in Cuba: 1848-1855(No image) by Basil Rauch

message 33: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I have to bring up this book. I believe it was mentioned in our possibilities, but it shows a different side of Polk that Borneman does not really focus on. It does inspire me to read it:

Slavemaster President The Double Career of James Polk by William Dusinberre William Dusinberre

James Polk was President of the United States from 1845 to 1849, a time when slavery began to dominate American politics. Polk's presidency coincided with the eruption of the territorial slavery issue, which within a few years would lead to the catastrophe of the Civil War. Polk himself owned substantial cotton plantations-- in Tennessee and later in Mississippi-- and some 50 slaves. Unlike many antebellum planters who portrayed their involvement with slavery as a historical burden bestowed onto them by their ancestors, Polk entered the slave business of his own volition, for reasons principally of financial self-interest. Drawing on previously unexplored records, Slavemaster President recreates the world of Polk's plantation and the personal histories of his slaves, in what is arguably the most careful and vivid account to date of how slavery functioned on a single cotton plantation. Life at the Polk estate was brutal and often short. Fewer than one in two slave children lived to the age of fifteen, a child mortality rate even higher than that on the average plantation. A steady stream of slaves temporarily fled the plantation throughout Polk's tenure as absentee slavemaster. Yet Polk was in some respects an enlightened owner, instituting an unusual incentive plan for his slaves and granting extensive privileges to his most favored slave. Startlingly, Dusinberre shows how Polk sought to hide from public knowledge the fact that, while he was president, he was secretly buying as many slaves as his plantation revenues permitted. Shortly before his sudden death from cholera, the president quietly drafted a new will, in which he expressed the hope that his slaves might be freed--but only after he and his wife were both dead. The very next day, he authorized the purchase, in strictest secrecy, of six more very young slaves. By contrast with Senator John C. Calhoun, President Polk has been seen as a moderate Southern Democratic leader. But Dusinberre suggests that the president's political stance toward slavery-- influenced as it was by his deep personal involvement in the plantation system-- may actually have helped precipitate the Civil War that Polk sought to avoid.

message 34: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Yes very interesting Bryan.

message 35: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I think so, too. The present author seems to omit this part of Polk's thought process and I'm not sure why.

message 36: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Maybe he did not want to be controversial.

message 37: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I was thinking about that, Bentley.

back to top