Tag Archives: american expansion

Guilt by Association

“You will Do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of Blankets, as well as to Try Every other Method, that can Serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. — I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them down by Dogs could take Effect; but England is at too great a Distance to think that at present.”  Lord Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet- July 16, 1763. 

Let the Yanks take all the blame...

Let the Yanks take all the blame…

A small passage from an insignificant letter…from the Royal Governor of North America to a soldier under his command during Pontiac’s Rebellion- its ramifications are infamous.  The astoundingly befuddled plans of two British officers(most North Americans had already been exposed) has been inexplicably  linked  to American Indian policy of the late 19th century.  There is not a scrap of evidence that any US officer advocated using biological warfare against any Indian nation; yet, popular sentiment holds it as an indisputable fact.  Our government committed many wrongs in its dealings with American Indians- this is not one of them.

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Guilt by Association

“You will Do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of Blankets, as well as to Try Every other Method, that can Serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. — I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them down by Dogs could take Effect; but England is at too great a Distance to think that at present.”  Lord Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet- July 16, 1763. 

Let the Yanks take all the blame...

Let the Yanks take all the blame…

A small passage from an insignificant letter…from the Royal Governor of North America to a soldier under his command during Pontiac’s Rebellion- its ramifications are infamous.  The astoundingly befuddled plans of two British officers(most North Americans had already been exposed) has been inexplicably  linked  to American Indian policy of the late 19th century.  There is not a scrap of evidence that any US officer advocated using biological warfare against any Indian nation; yet, popular sentiment holds it as an indisputable fact.  Our government committed many wrongs in its dealings with American Indians- this is not one of them.

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Filed under Ephemera, News

Book Review

Borneman, Walter, Polk; The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, New York, Random House, 2009. 

      ISBN-10: 0812976746

 

Long the subject of scorn for biographers, James K. Polk has enjoyed historical redemption in recent years.  Polk’s brief, but eventful presidency now has historians ranking him as one of our most effective executives.  Walter Borneman presents ‘Little Hickory’ as a transformative leader every bit as influential as his iconic mentor.

  “But to Polk, as indeed to Jackson, the issue of national expansion was imperative to the nation as a whole and distinctively separate from the advancement of a slave-based economic system.”  Like many biographers, Borneman links Polk to expansion and  Andrew Jackson.  What distinguishes this effort is Borneman’s view that Polk was not part of a wider slave-holding conspiracy.  Borneman skillfully establishes the widely divergent interests driving American expansion.  Slavery was just one special interest intertwined in a mass movement westward.  Though Polk was a slave owner, Borneman astutely notes the lack of evidence linking Polk to any Southern conspiracy.

Borneman’s analysis is most effective when he delves into the mysterious character of Polk himself.  Polk’s presidential diary is an invaluable source and Borneman uses it liberally when trying to explain his motivations.  Reminisces of Polk’s peers are also used to provide long overlooked insight into a notoriously reticent public figure.  David Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and Sam Houston all recognized the potential in Polk.  Borneman uses their voices to cast serious doubts on the long-held ‘dark horse’ theory of Polk’s rise to power.

In his attempt to explain the broader impact of Polk on history, Borneman’s narrative does feel more like a history survey course.  Too often, he expounds on historical events and figures, straying away from his essential topic.  His lengthy retelling of Texas’ road to independence is interesting, but seems out-of-place in this monograph.  Frequent digressions seem to take away from a fuller picture of Polk and his transformative impact.

Walter Borneman’s biography of Polk is a much-needed addition to the history of American expansion.  While he doesn’t fully provide the definitive study of Polk’s impact on American history, he has written a compelling and thoroughly readable account.  James K. Polk emerges in a clearer light and is worthy of recent revisions to his much debated legacy.

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Guilt by Association

“You will Do well to try to inoculate the Indians, by means of Blankets, as well as to Try Every other Method, that can Serve to Extirpate this Execrable Race. — I should be very glad [if] your Scheme for Hunting them down by Dogs could take Effect; but England is at too great a Distance to think that at present.”  Lord Jeffrey Amherst to Colonel Henry Bouquet- July 16, 1763. 

Let the Yanks take all the blame...

Let the Yanks take all the blame…

A small passage from an insignificant letter…from the Royal Governor of North America to a soldier under his command during Pontiac’s Rebellion- its ramifications are infamous.  The astoundingly befuddled plans of two British officers(most North Americans had already been exposed) has been inexplicably  linked  to American Indian policy of the late 19th century.  There is not a scrap of evidence that any US officer advocated using biological warfare against any Indian nation; yet, popular sentiment holds it as an indisputable fact.  Our government committed many wrongs in its dealings with American Indians- this is not one of them.

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Something More than a Cow

Cultural relativism teaches that atrocities…  committed by American Indians during the decades long conflict with the US government are acceptable because of the quasi-noble status bestowed upon them by academia.  Postmortem mutilations and beheadings  are seen as cultural oddities in our history, though we abhor them in other societies today.  No doubt, academics feel that Americans deserved the barbarous treatment because of the “crimes” that we carried out against “innocent” peoples.

Grattan Massacre site

Grattan Massacre site

The First Sioux War is a surprising case-in-point… the typical New Left interpretation holds that the noble Lakota were simply pushed too far by the broken promises of the US government.  Lost in all the politically correct gibberish is the fact that the US military was actually keeping the peace between the Sioux and the Cheyenne.  Sioux villages had migrated south to the Platte River basin, long the home of the Cheyenne- war was imminent.  To add more stress to the situation, long wagon trains of American settlers were traveling through the same region.  The tiny force garrisoned at Fort Laramie was hardly sufficient considering the volatile climate- the Sioux had nearly 2,000 warriors nearby led by the hot-headed, Red Cloud.

Out for blood

Out for blood

Lieutenant John Grattan and the 29 soldiers… killed with him on August 19, 1854 were victims.  Historians put words into Grattan’s mouth trying to vilify him, but his murder was a  complex event.  The Sioux villages, prepared for war against the Cheyenne(or Americans, whichever provoked them first) targeted the wagon trains during the hot summer months.  Lt. Gratten was forced to solve a civil dispute between a US citizen and a Sioux warrior who stole the man’s cow.  No Indian agents were available to mediate as required by the first Fort Laramie treaty.  Gratten wanted to stand his ground, Red Cloud was out for blood- 30 minutes later, Gratten and his men were dead.  Far from some preordained lesson handed down to the US Army- the Grattan massacre is a testament to the convoluted  and violent struggle for the future of western expansion.

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Book Review

Borneman, Walter, Polk; The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, New York, Random House, 2009. 

      ISBN-10: 0812976746

 

Long the subject of scorn for biographers, James K. Polk has enjoyed historical redemption in recent years.  Polk’s brief, but eventful presidency now has historians ranking him as one of our most effective executives.  Walter Borneman presents ‘Little Hickory’ as a transformative leader every bit as influential as his iconic mentor.

  “But to Polk, as indeed to Jackson, the issue of national expansion was imperative to the nation as a whole and distinctively separate from the advancement of a slave-based economic system.”  Like many biographers, Borneman links Polk to expansion and  Andrew Jackson.  What distinguishes this effort is Borneman’s view that Polk was not part of a wider slave-holding conspiracy.  Borneman skillfully establishes the widely divergent interests driving American expansion.  Slavery was just one special interest intertwined in a mass movement westward.  Though Polk was a slave owner, Borneman astutely notes the lack of evidence linking Polk to any Southern conspiracy.

Borneman’s analysis is most effective when he delves into the mysterious character of Polk himself.  Polk’s presidential diary is an invaluable source and Borneman uses it liberally when trying to explain his motivations.  Reminisces of Polk’s peers are also used to provide long overlooked insight into a notoriously reticent public figure.  David Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and Sam Houston all recognized the potential in Polk.  Borneman uses their voices to cast serious doubts on the long-held ‘dark horse’ theory of Polk’s rise to power.

In his attempt to explain the broader impact of Polk on history, Borneman’s narrative does feel more like a history survey course.  Too often, he expounds on historical events and figures, straying away from his essential topic.  His lengthy retelling of Texas’ road to independence is interesting, but seems out-of-place in this monograph.  Frequent digressions seem to take away from a fuller picture of Polk and his transformative impact.

Walter Borneman’s biography of Polk is a much-needed addition to the history of American expansion.  While he doesn’t fully provide the definitive study of Polk’s impact on American history, he has written a compelling and thoroughly readable account.  James K. Polk emerges in a clearer light and is worthy of recent revisions to his much debated legacy.

2 Comments

Filed under Book Review

Book Review

Borneman, Walter, Polk; The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America, New York, Random House, 2009. 

      ISBN-10: 0812976746

Long the subject of scorn for biographers, James K. Polk has enjoyed historical redemption in recent years.  Polk’s brief, but eventful presidency now has historians ranking him as one of our most effective executives.  Walter Borneman presents ‘Little Hickory’ as a transformative leader every bit as influential as his iconic mentor.

  “But to Polk, as indeed to Jackson, the issue of national expansion was imperative to the nation as a whole and distinctively separate from the advancement of a slave-based economic system.”  Like many biographers, Borneman links Polk to expansion and  Andrew Jackson.  What distinguishes this effort is Borneman’s view that Polk was not part of a wider slave-holding conspiracy.  Borneman skillfully establishes the widely divergent interests driving American expansion.  Slavery was just one special interest intertwined in a mass movement westward.  Though Polk was a slave owner, Borneman astutely notes the lack of evidence linking Polk to any Southern conspiracy.

Borneman’s analysis is most effective when he delves into the mysterious character of Polk himself.  Polk’s presidential diary is an invaluable source and Borneman uses it liberally when trying to explain his motivations.  Reminisces of Polk’s peers are also used to provide long overlooked insight into a notoriously reticent public figure.  David Crockett, Andrew Jackson, and Sam Houston all recognized the potential in Polk.  Borneman uses their voices to cast serious doubts on the long-held ‘dark horse’ theory of Polk’s rise to power.

In his attempt to explain the broader impact of Polk on history, Borneman’s narrative does feel more like a history survey course.  Too often, he expounds on historical events and figures, straying away from his essential topic.  His lengthy retelling of Texas’ road to independence is interesting, but seems out-of-place in this monograph.  Frequent digressions seem to take away from a fuller picture of Polk and his transformative impact.

Walter Borneman’s biography of Polk is a much-needed addition to the history of American expansion.  While he doesn’t fully provide the definitive study of Polk’s impact on American history, he has written a compelling and thoroughly readable account.  James K. Polk emerges in a clearer light and is worthy of recent revisions to his much debated legacy.

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