The History Book Club discussion

PRESIDENTIAL SERIES > 4. POLK ~ CHAPTERS 7 & 8 (94 - 132) (02/28/11 - 03/06/11) ~ No spoilers, please

Comments Showing 1-11 of 11 (11 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig This begins the fourth week's reading in our new Presidential Series group discussion.

The complete table of contents is as follows:

Table of Contents

List of Maps p. xi
Introduction: Dark Horse, Bright Land p. xiii
A Prologue in Two Parts p. xv
Key Dates in the Life of James K. Polk p. xxi


ONE: Old Hickory's Boy p. 3
TWO: Carrying the Water p. 19
THREE: Tennessee and Old Tippecanoe p. 37
FOUR: The Last Defeat p. 52
FIVE: Hands of Texas p. 67
SIX: A Summons from Old Hickory p. 84
SEVEN: Baltimore, 1844 p. 94
EIGHT: "Who is James K. Polk?" p. 111

PART TWO-The Conquest

NINE: Making Good On Texas p. 133
TEN: Standing Firm on Oregon p. 150
ELEVEN: Eyeing California p. 170
TWELVE: Mission to Mexico p. 190
THIRTEEN: "American Blood upon American Soil" p. 202
FOURTEEN: 54 40' or Compromise! p. 216
FIFTEEN: Too Santa Fe and Beyond p. 233
SIXTEEN: Mr. Polk's War p. 253
SEVENTEEN: Old Bullion's Son-in-Law p. 269
EIGHTEEN: A President on the Spot p. 286
NINETEEN: Securing the Spoils p. 300
TWENTY: The Whigs Find Another General p. 316
TWENTY ONE: Homeward Bound p. 331
TWENTY TWO: A Presidential Assessment p. 345

EPILOGUE: Sarah p. 358
Acknowledgments p. 361
Notes p. 363
Bibliography p. 396
Index p. 405


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

Week One - February 7th - February 13th -> Introduction, Prologue, Key Dates, Chapter ONE, and TWO p. xi - 36

Week Two - February 14th - February 20th -> Chapters THREE and FOUR p. 37 - 66
THREE - Tennessee and Old Tippecanoe and FOUR - The Last Defeat

Week Three - February 21st - February 27th -> Chapters FIVE and SIX p. 67 - 93
FIVE - Hands Off Texas and SIX - A Summons from Old Hickory Old Hickory

Week Four - February 28th - March 6th -> Chapters SEVEN and EIGHT p. 94 - 132
SEVEN - Baltimore, 1844 and EIGHT - "Who is James K. Polk?"

Week Five - March 7th - March 13th -> Chapters NINE and TEN p. 133 - 169
NINE - Making Good on Texas and TEN - Standing Firm on Oregon

Week Six - March 14th - March 20th -> Chapters ELEVEN and TWELVE p. 170 - 201
ELEVEN - Eying California and TWELVE - Mission to Mexico

Week Seven - March 21st - March 27th -> Chapters THIRTEEN and FOURTEEN p. 202 - 232
THIRTEEN - "American Blood upon American Soil" and FOURTEEN - 54 40' or Compromise!

Week Eight - March 28th - April 3rd -> Chapters FIFTEEN and SIXTEEN p. 233 - 268
FIFTEEN - To Santa Fe and Beyond and SIXTEEN - Mr. Polk's War

Week Nine - April 4th - April 10th -> Chapter SEVENTEEN p. 269 - 285
SEVENTEEN - Old Bullion's Son-in-Law

Week Ten - April 11th - April 17th -> Chapter EIGHTEEN p. 286 - 299
EIGHTEEN - A President on the Spot

Week Eleven - April 18th - April 24th -> Chapter NINETEEN and TWENTY p. 300 - 330
NINETEEN - Securing the Spoils and TWENTY - The Whigs Find Another General

Week Twelve - April 25th - April 30th -> Chapters TWENTY, TWENTY TWO, EPILOGUE, and ACKNOWLEDGMENTS p. 331 - 362
TWENTY ONE - Homeward Bound, TWENTY TWO - A Presidential Assessment, EPILOGUE: Sarah, and ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The assignment for this week includes the following segments/pages:

Week Four - February 28th - March 6th -> Chapters SEVEN and EIGHT p. 94 - 132
SEVEN - Baltimore, 1844 and EIGHT - "Who is James K. Polk?"

We look forward to your participation; but remember this is a non spoiler thread.

We will open up threads for each week's reading. Please make sure to post in the particular thread dedicated to those specific chapters and page numbers to avoid spoilers.

This book kicked off on February 7, 2011. This will be the fourth week's assignment for this book.

We look forward to your participation. Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other noted on line booksellers do have copies of the book and shipment can be expedited. The book can also be obtained easily at your local library, or on your Kindle.

A special welcome to those who will be newcomers to this discussion and thank you to those who have actively contributed on the previous Presidential Series selection. We are glad to have you all.



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

message 2: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Polk becomes President at the end of these chapters.

The convention was a new invention in 1844. The Whig convention was straight forward: Henry Clay wins with a platform of high tariffs, one term presidency, and no mention of Texas.

However, the Democratic Convention was all drama. We had Van Buren, Calhoun, Lewis Cass, and Polk looking for the nomination. Van Buren's men wanted a simple majority to get the nomination, because they did not have the 2/3 needed, and they got it. However, Van Buren could only muster 133 out of the 177 votes on the first ballot necessary to win. As more ballots were cast, Van Buren's support was failing and the Van Buren men did not want Cass elected. One of Polk's supporters, Gideon Pillow, talked with George Bancroft about making Polk the compromise candidate. They were originally talking about Silas Wright from New York, but he declined the nomination. By the 9th ballot, Polk won the nomination as more states jumped on board. They elected George M. Dallas from Pennsylvania as vice president. The platform included opposition to a national bank, a high tariff, and large federal government. They also added the Oregon and Texas plank that put them in the territorial expansion corner.

Democrats including Jackson rallied around Polk during the general election. In the summer, we had Clay, Polk, Tyler, and James G. Birney of the abolitionist Liberal Party. In order to remove a Whig campaign issue, Polk agreed to serve only one term. He also came out for some protection of industry to appease New Englanders. Tyler dropped out by August with the help of Jackson, but the race remained close. Despite losing Tennessee, Polk won by an electoral vote of 170 to 105 and only about 30,000 votes. In New York, Birney probably tipped the votes to Polk. If Clay would have won New York, he would have won the election.

message 3: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig One thing I have to say to start off these chapters, how exciting the conventions used to be. Now they are all scripted.

Can you image following along this convention? And with the telegraph linking Baltimore and Washington, you can get the news faster than ever before!

message 4: by Mary (new)

Mary Kristine | 142 comments I became fascinated by Polk's coolness during the convention. Hiding his desire for the nomination in pursuing the vice presidency, he seem to let Van Buren and others self-destruct. By linking Texas and Oregon to "Manifest Destiny", making it patriotic to annex these territory, thus avoiding the issue of slavery and sectionalism within the country, Polk knew how to make politics work for him, except in Tennessee.

message 5: by Bryan (last edited Feb 28, 2011 09:45AM) (new)

Bryan Craig Mary wrote: "I became fascinated by Polk's coolness during the convention. Hiding his desire for the nomination in pursuing the vice presidency, he seem to let Van Buren and others self-destruct. By linking T..."

I was too, Mary. He really was a good politician. I'm interested to see how his skills carry out when he is President.

It is funny how TN politics was played out. Polk and Jackson's home state and the Whigs manage to keep an edge. Funny.

message 6: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Do you agree with the author's assessment?:

"In politics, serendipity should never be discounted. But then again, neither should persistence, hard work, and unyielding determination. The stars may have aligned for James K. Polk in 1844, but that he was there at all to take advantage of them was due to his own personal resilience and character." (p. 110)

message 7: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Similarly, it was interesting to read about the author's discussion in chapter 7 about Polk not really being a dark horse. Do you thing he was?

message 8: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Taylor (jatta97) | 100 comments I think we see both luck and skill at work. Granted, Polk fortunate that Birney siphoned off voes from Clay. And that Clay first opposed annexation of Texas and then seemed to vacillate. But Polk had Jackson to fill in the potholes on his road to election and persuade Tyler to withdraw.

message 9: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Jackson was a key player in all of this, no doubt. It just goes to show you how preeminent he was during his time.

message 10: by Vincent (new)

Vincent (vpbrancato) | 1245 comments So thru chapter seven I was saying to myself who is this guy.

It reminds me of Richard Nixon paying his party dues and paying his party dues etc, losing some elections, and eventually prevailing.

It struck me as appropriate that the name of chapter eight was "Who is James Polk?" because it is exactly what I was thinking when it began.

This is not an exciting man to me so far - but he is clever and industrious in my view.

message 11: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Vince-lol, you and many high school students are asking the same question. I think the only ones who can answer "Who is James Polk?" were from Tennessee or followed Congress.

Yeah, it is very hard to capture his personality and maybe it is because of a lack of historic record.

back to top