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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

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A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent

A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent - Robert W. Merry

For the first time in my presidential reading endeavors, I felt like I might have been better off giving in to chronology. With Polk everything is all Jacksonian this, Jacksonian that, Jackson, Jackson, Jackson. Polk was Lil Bow Wow to Jackson’s Snoop Dog (though they went with the decidedly lamer ‘handles’ of Young and Old Hickory, respectively). Long of the short- not really knowing what it means to be Jacksonesque had me at a real disadvantage. (In fact, if you’re looking for a competent summary of this book then you should probably check out James Thane’s review).

Author Robert Merry attempts to curb the popular impression that Polk was all about slaveholding expansionism. It could just be the yankee in me, but I have a tough time getting past Polk’s push for slavery to march onward with manifest destiny. There are definitely undertones of the he was just going with the times. defense Even Abraham Lincoln strategically timed the Emancipation Proclamation such that it could be bolstered by public sentiment. However, given that three Ole Miss students hung a noose around the neck of the statue of the university’s first black student just last week, I’m just not feeling all that forgiving. Polk basically saw abolitionists as the trouble makers.

All of that being said, without Polk I may never have had the chance to ford that final river in Oregon Trail
(the game), so there’s that too.

There was certainly plenty of Polk’s foreign and domestic policy to digest. Evidently Mexico was a pretty hot piece of real estate back in the day and we came pretty close to having some very un-united states. Polk probably would have been really good at playing Risk or Stratego or whatever those games with maps on the board are. Also, electoral politics are kind of a pain in the ass, so Polk was pretty clever in that whole declaring he was just going to serve for one term.

As for A Country of Vast Designs as an audiobook, trying to keep things straight while listening to latitudes was definitely an elusive goal even with Michael Prichard’s masterful narration.