A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the Conquest of the American Continent, by Robert W. Merry
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this biography, but I was pleasantly surprised. It covered both his personal life (I would’ve liked more though) and his political life – and both lives were interesting to me.
He never had children, possibly due to an illness he had as a child, but he and his wife were pretty much the sweetest Presidential couple since Abigail and John Adams. I want to see if I can find a book or two about their relationship to get more a deeper understanding and insight.
The one thing I found most fascinating about his political life is how he went into the presidential elections saying he was only interested in sitting for one term. Even more interesting to me is that he stuck to that plan. He really accomplished a lot during his four years, but his actions weren’t always popular. Expansion of the country was a very, very important thing for Polk and he didn’t let much sidetrack him from that ambition.
This biography focused on the expansion aspect of his political career, but I felt it was too long and dry, which is why the low rating.
Rutherford B. Hayes, by Hans L. Trefousse
I get so excited when I realize that a president is from or lived in Ohio. I just love reading about places and knowing that they’re really close to where I live or where I grew up. But what is totally weird is that for some of these presidents from the 1800’s, I honestly had no idea that they were from here. We don’t have, like, roads named after these guys or memorials set up or anything. It’s because they are Boring. Yes. Capital B. Boring. Bleh.
The only super interesting thing that I learned about ol’ Rutherford B. Hayes is that his election was super dirty. It was interesting reading about this during a modern and also fairly dirty election. The difference now is the speed of news, but even then stuff got around quickly and the election is often referred to as fraudulent.
For all his work getting into office, he didn’t do much once he was there. He was super unpopular because he put an end to reconstruction even when it should have probably continued and people got mad.
And that’s it. Guys, this book was way boring, super dry and very biased. I hated it. It was under 150 pages and I could hardly make myself power through. There isn’t much out there about this guy though so if you are doing the challenge, you’ll probably end up reading it. I’m sorry.
John Tyler: The Accidental President, by Edward Crapol
This book was a yawn. Literally. It took me forever to read because I kept falling asleep while reading. I would get 20 pages in before my eyelids shut. I’m sure some of this is related to being in the first trimester with this pregnancy, but not all of it.
Outside of the yawn inducing capabilities of this book, I was also annoyed by the lack of discussion regarding his personal life. It was only a very small portion, more like small mentions here and there. I like these presidential biographies to be about the individual AND their political life. This was very slim on the personal piece.
I did find out one tidbit of fascinating information – when Tyler died, Lincoln was in office and he didn’t even acknowledge the former’s presidents death in any official and customary manor. The country was THAT divided during that time that even death couldn’t overcome some of the hostility.
There aren’t a ton of biographies to choose from for Tyler, but I think I would have rather gone with something else…I don’t recommend this one.