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Old 01-19-2010, 12:13 PM
3,553 posts, read 7,160,604 times
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I just finished this, and for a history book it has its exciting moments. I'll admit that even though I'm a bit of a history nut I, like many Americans, never give much thought to our 11th President. It's a shame because here's a bit of what he did;

Brought Texas into the union,
Brought in the Oregon Country/Territory,
Instigated the Mexican war (still controversial) which got us NM, AZ and CA, as well as parts of other states.

This not only reshaped the country and added all or part of 13 states (about 1/3 of the area of the lower 48!), it got us ALL of our west coast access to the Pacific ocean, ie; access to the markets of Asia.

Some of what dogged him are things that still resonate today. Among other things he was accused of;

"trampling the Constitution to foment TWO WARS", although war with Great Britain never came about-Oregon was settled peacably.

"Starting a war of aggression", (Mexico) for economic gain.

He also started with good sized majorities in both houses but had a difficult time getting his legislation passed. This was partly due to the rising (regional/anti-slavery) political divisions within both parties. A protege of Andrew Jackson he served among some of the giants of the early-mid 19th century; Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Thomas Benton among others.

He swore when he was nominated that he would only serve one term, kept insisting so even up to the nominating convention only to watch his party lose the White House after holding it for most of the previous 3 decades. Unfortunately he died THREE MONTHS after leaving the White House.

Still most historians rank up around 10th or 11th best presidents ever.

If you want a good read about the politicis shaping mid-19th century America; expansion, slavery, tariffs this is it. It's 475 pages including the epilogue, but a good read overall.

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