Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest

Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest

Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest

Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845-1849, Covering the Mexican War, the Acquisition of Oregon, and the Conquest of California and the Southwest

Excerpt

Who is James K. Polk?" derisively asked the Whigs when the Democratic Convention of 1844 at Baltimore nominated the first "dark horse" in our political history. The cry had some warrant, for if Polk's name was well known, his personality and views were mysteries to the public. He had been a member of the House of Representatives for seven successive terms, from 1825 to 1839, and Governor of Tennessee after that; he had been Speaker during two years, and was known as an earnest and skilful leader of the Jacksonian Democracy in Jackson's own State. But his name had never been connected with any great measure, he was unknown as an orator or thinker, and he was a distinctly secondary figure in the field of politics. He came on the national stage under strange circumstances. That such a man, colorless, methodical, plodding, narrow, should become President of the United States was itself remarkable. That he should defeat the magnetic Clay, "Harry of the West," a born leader of men, brilliant, dashing, and generous, whose star when the campaign opened seemed rising to certain victory, was astonishing. But for James G. Birney and his Liberty Party, which took from Henry Clay more than twice the 5,000 votes which gave Polk his plurality in New York, Clay would have been elected. Because Polk bad defeated the cherished idol of the Whigs, his opponents, rallied by Webster with the ringing quotation, "What though the field be lost, all is not lost," regarded him with added dislike, suspicion, and condescension.

For decades after he left the Presidency Polk was misunderstood and belittled by those who accepted the Whig and . . .

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