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PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > POLK - BOOK AS A WHOLE - FINAL THOUGHTS

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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Feb 08, 2011 03:41PM) (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
**SPOILER ALERT**

All, this is a spoiler thread. So please be careful about reading posts on this thread. If you do not want to read spoilers, then remain on the weekly non spoiler threads.

However, if you complete the book early or get ahead of the group, then this is the only thread where you can post your thoughts and review. Also, when all of the group members complete their read, frequently we are invited to share our assessments here.

Also, if you would like to get into expansive side discussions regarding the book which could go beyond the scope of the non spoiler weekly threads, this is the thread to post those comments.

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


message 2: by Katy (new)

Katy (kathy_h) Finished the book. A really good read. I learned much about the time period and about Polk himself.
I appreciated the author's approach of neither vilifying or glorifying Polk, but rather presenting two sides.
I have come to admire what Polk stood for and accomplished as a president and realize that he was a product of his times also.
Sarah, his wife also deserves our admiration for her part.


message 3: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I'm glad you liked the book, Kathy. I do think it was more fair on Polk than other books have been.


message 4: by Theresa (new)

Theresa | 84 comments I'm glad to have read this book. I learned a lot about 19th century politics. Polk is one of those Presidents that we all remember the name, but no one knows anything about him. A very fascinating man and fascinating times!


message 5: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I'm glad you enjoyed the book, Theresa. They were interesting times.


message 6: by Mary (new)

Mary Kristine | 142 comments Thanks to the group for selecting this book. I never would have chosen it on my own. I knew little about Polk and have learned so much not just about the man but about the period of his Presidency. The book offered a new perspective on the effects of "Manifest Destiny". The momentum of western expansion delayed the battle between free and slave states, but the acquisition of the new territories deepened the divisions between the ideologies leading to Civil War.


message 7: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Mary wrote: "Thanks to the group for selecting this book. I never would have chosen it on my own. I knew little about Polk and have learned so much not just about the man but about the period of his Presidency...."

Glad you liked it. It is true that the territories (Polk's legacy) were an important factor in the slave debate. You wonder if there were not territories, could the Civil War be avoided?


message 8: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Here are my overall impressions of the book. I like this book, it is revisionist history, bringing Polk back to people's minds as a strong president and a visionary (regarding the U.S. as a continent). His writing style is easy to follow and it was a fascinating read. Here is my wish list for a better book:

1. I'd love to have a "Polk: Life and Times." Other members of our discussion have brought this up. I wanted more context. He seemed to have left a lot of stuff out like the emerging split in the Democratic party over slavery and the western territories, the Free Soilers, etc. I still wondered about Tennessee politics, too. How did Polk as a slaveholder work out his policy for free states?

2. I didn't get a strong sense for Polk as a person so much. You here from other biographers that he is not what Walter R. Borneman paints him. He is rather bland, some say "introverted and unrelaxed" (Sellers, p. 276), a "loner" (Leonard, p. 43), and "grim and humorless" (Haynes, p. 80.), so Borneman doesn't address this.

3. With the exception of Buchanan, the Cabinet seemed to follow his lead. I'd like to learn more about this, and I guess this would be under "life and times." I read a lot in this book about what was going on "outside the White House" like out West and Mexico, some on Congress, but not so much in his Cabinet, Sarah Polk, and thought process in formulating policy.

Granted, we are only as good as the sources, so letters, diaries, newspapers, other policy documents, etc. may not be as good as modern history, but there it is for what it is worth.

Books Cited:

James K. Polk Jacksonian, 1795-1843 Volume I by Charles Sellers by Charles Sellers

James K. Polk A Clear and Unquestionable Destiny (Biographies in American Foreign Policy) by Thomas M. Leonard by Thomas M. Leonard

James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse by Sam W. Haynes by Sam W. HaynesWalter R. Borneman


message 9: by Harvey (new)

Harvey | 284 comments Actually, I need to know what a 'spoiler' is. Someone may possibly enlighten.
I'm not ahead, indeed far behind but have some observations; page 6 Walter R. Borneman has an error on page 6. John Knox was NOT Scottish. He certainly had many arguments with Mary Queen of Scots and his 'legacy' as you will lives on in an Edinburgh statue. He was though North English. not a Scot. Eloquent, anti-Catholic he was, maybe dear to the divisive politics and tribalism of Scotland. Even today there is a great Catholic/Presbyterian divide. Hibs vs. Hearts. Rangers vs. Celtic in the football on religious lines. Not to mention Scottish regiments in the army. Knox had a great influence in Scotland but was never Scottish.
Second, though I am enjoying the book, I must admit. I have learnt a great deal about Old Hickory and van Buren. I knew their names and could approximate their dates, but not their policies. To be honest (my opinion) i do not admire the writing style. It falls between the popular and academic in (to my mind) an uneasy balance.
Sorry to offend, none intended. I am learning a grate deal but not easy with the text and the typography of the book. Serifs are great but the usage off the cursive; doubtless to give the period feel, distracts rather than enhances. Not the concept-I am in accord and had I designed the book, maybe I would have used the same device, but different fonts.
So endeth the lesson...


message 10: by Bryan (last edited May 04, 2011 01:14PM) (new)

Bryan Craig No offense taken, Harvey. It is good to point out the mistakes.

I want to say the book is geared to more popular history, but he uses footnotes. This is what I sense, anyway.


message 11: by Harvey (new)

Harvey | 284 comments Bryan wrote: "No offense taken, Harvey. It is good to point out the mistakes.

I want to say the book is geared to more popular history, but he uses footnotes. This is what I sense, anyway."


Thank you and i didn't think I was being rude. The division in Scotland is surprisingly still alive today.
I still feel the book falls between two stools. I have to admit that I have learnt a great deal. I have a BIG thesis and gripe about history teaching!
That is for another forum.
Cheers
X


message 12: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig I'm glad you are learning new stuff; I did too.


message 13: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44200 comments Mod
Harvey wrote: "Actually, I need to know what a 'spoiler' is. Someone may possibly enlighten.
I'm not ahead, indeed far behind but have some observations; page 6 Walter R. Borneman has an error on ..."


Harvey, you are on a spoiler thread meaning you can talk about anything related to the book or author.


message 14: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments My view is that it was a good book - It filled some voids for me that maybe could not have been as efficently filled.

and I appreciate all the comments and references from others


message 15: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Glad you liked it Vince.


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