Borneman (1812: The War That Forged a Nation ) presents a birth-death biography of Polk, albeit one leaving readers wishing there were more details of his subject's early life. About half of the book dwells on the presidency of a man who resolved from the start to serve only one term. Yet Polk exerted tremendous influence over the nation's path between 1845 and 1849. Borneman soundly argues that Polk was not the dark horse candidate so often portrayed but Andrew Jackson's protg who met his primary objectives for his administration: reduce the tariff, create an independent federal Treasury, and bring in Oregon and California. Borneman contends that Polk was the most assertive president up until Lincoln, especially regarding the Mexican War, which Polk used to further his aim of adding to U.S. territory. The major battles in Mexico are covered, of interest to military history buffs. Borneman has a pleasing style and makes fine use of primary sources that all demonstrate why Polk is habitually ranked as one of the ten best presidents by historians. More detailed and extensive than John Seigenthaler's entry in the presidential series from Times Books, this is highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.--Bryan Craig, MLS, Nellysford, VA[Page 77]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Tennessee Democrat James K. Polk is generally ranked among the nation's most effective chief executives. In this straightforward, unnuanced biography, Borneman (1812: The War That Forged a Nation ) relates why. Coming into office determined to annex Texas, gain the Oregon Territory from Britain, lower the tariff and reform the national banking system, Polk achieved all four aims in his single term in office (1845-1849). But Borneman overlooks that in more or less completing the nation's lower continental territory, Polk bequeathed a fateful legacy to the nation--not so much transforming the U.S. (as the subtitle overstates) as setting it on the road to civil war. With the annexation of Texas came war with Mexico, which stripped that nation of half its lands while gaining the U.S. the southwest and California. It also unloosed the mad genie of slavery's possible further spread westward. Polk left the nation larger but politically crippled and morally weakened. But Borneman sticks to the narrative and doesn't place his subject in a larger historical context. 'Tis a pity, for Polk's administration ought to be a lesson to all candidates and all presidents at all times. 16 maps. (Apr. 8)[Page 51]. Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.