POLK: THE MAN WHO TRANSFORMED THE PRESIDENCY AND AMERICA by Walter R. Borneman
Read: Dec 31 - Jan 8
Format: audio, PLAYAWAY, 13 hours, 445 page equivalent
Source: public library
Narrator: Alan Nebelthau
Subject: James Polk, President, US History, western expansion
Setting: California, Oregon, Tennessee, Washington, DC
Challenges: 101020, SYLL, USPC, 75 Book
James Knox Polk is remembered mainly as the first "dark horse" president but historians feel that he was a near-great president. He grew as a politician under the tutelage of Andrew Jackson. He was a compromise candidate of the Democrat party in 1844 after serving as Governor of Tennessee and Speaker of the House of Representatives. He promised before election that he would only serve one term ad that his objectives were to reduce the tariff, create an independent federal Treasury, annex Texas and bring in Oregon and California . He accomplished all of these while serving as commander-in chief during the Mexican American War.
Polk was a no-nonsense President who, when Rivers and Harbors legislation was proposed ( the largest bit of pork barrel legislation ever put before the congress) at the same time as important legislation regarding tariff reduction, Polk waited for the passage of other vital legislation before vetoing the rivers and harbor bill with the message "many of the projects were of a local measure and far beyond what could be called essential to the nation's commerce" .He stated that "to call the mouth of a creek, a harbor, cannot confer the authority to spend money for its improvement."
"Should this bill become law, the precedent that it establishes will inevitably lead to large and annually increasing appropriations and drains upon the treasury. For it is not to be doubted that new and other localities will demand of their representatives in Congress " equal representation.
Polk presidency seems to be mirror reflection of what is happening in today's politics - he was accused of starting the Mexican War and the Whigs were constantly battling to show him up, but when it came time to act, the appropriations that were needed were passed without issue. To this day we have unnecessary expenses for "improvements" that are not needed simply as part of pork barrel legislation. What a shame that we did not learn from history.