Book Review: James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers

April 20, 2023

About:

James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers is the first volume in a proposed trilogy studying the 11th President of the United States. Mr. Sellers is a historian, a Southern liberal specializing in antebellum America.

Book Review: James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers
My rating for James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist4

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Thoughts:

The first book, Jacksonian, was a bit dry and ended right before Mr. Polk became President. I felt that James Polk, actually, played a secondary character in his own biography. I was looking forward to read the second volume assuming it would be more interesting, and less dry than the first.

It seems that the author had a change of heart about his subject, which might explain why the “trilogy” only consists of two books. The introduction of James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers judges Polk as a person, and as a President. Yes, he achieved all his goals, but how did these goals benefit the United States, and what was Polk’s role in achieving them?

Polk, it seems, was a master manipulator, an ambitious man who rose from political limbo to the highest office in the land. In the process, the author describes the steps that went into forming his government in great detail. I felt this section of the book was overly written and, frankly, quite boring.

Mr. Sellers shines, however, when he covers the war with Mexico, and the Oregon issues. While he stops a step shy of flat-out saying Polk provoked the war, he does write about the fact that Polk was painting the Mexicans into a financial corner with no-way out. Polk’s hunger for land, and hatred of Mexicans also played a role in the decisions.

There is very little about Polk’s family and his life outside politics. His personal life is mentioned in the context of his administration to explain motives. While the work seems to be mostly academic, I appreciated the author attempt to liven it up with a few one-liners and metaphors which made me chuckle several times.

Then the book just… ends!!

These two volumes certainly made me appreciate President Polk much more. His presidency was complex, and Mr. Sellers does not worship his subject like other biographers. He’s not afraid o criticize Polk, as well as praise he when deserved.

Buy James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist from Amazon.com*
More books by Charles Grier Sellers*

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book.
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers
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James K. Polk, Vol. 2: Continentalist, 1843-1846 by Charles Grier Sellers

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