Polk and Texas

James K. Polk made no secret during the campaign of 1844…  of his desire to annex Texas.  It was what the Texans wanted and expansionists demanded.  John Tyler bowed to political pressure from Whigs after they defeated the first treaty and failed to act on annexation.   Only the swell of support from Polk’s fiery rhetoric forced the lame duck administration to act.

Polk would have acted without Congressional approval… but he made it clear in his inaugural address that this was a momentous occasion for all involved, “ I shall on the broad principle which formed the basis and produced the adoption of our Constitution, and not in any narrow spirit of sectional policy, endeavor by all constitutional, honorable, and appropriate means to consummate the expressed will of the people and Government of the United States by the reannexation of Texas to our Union at the earliest practicable period.”

Little Hickory

Polk was not content to stop with Texas… he was a true expansionist and believed in Manifest Destiny,  ” Nor will it become in a less degree my duty to assert and maintain by all constitutional means the right of the United States to that portion of our territory which lies beyond the Rocky Mountains”     The country was expanding and Polk was willing to use the power of the Presidency to make it happen.

Texas for the Union !

“To us belongs the duty of protecting them adequately wherever they may be upon our soil. The jurisdiction of our laws and the benefits of our republican institutions should be extended over them in the distant regions which they have selected for their homes. The increasing facilities of intercourse will easily bring the States, of which the formation in that part of our territory cannot be long-delayed, within the sphere of our federative Union”   James K. Polk

Eisenhower and Civil Rights

Eisenhower lacked the rhetorical flourishes of Jack Kennedy… but when it came to defending Civil Rights in America, Ike accomplished far more than his successor.  Popular history has embraced Kennedy as a Civil Rights champion and largely ignored the record of Eisenhower.  This is largely due to the martyrdom  bestowed on Kennedy and Ike’s measured responses to crisis.

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The historical record shows Eisenhower to have the strongest Civil Rights record… since Reconstruction.  But, his incremental actions and tempered statements have made it easy for Progressive historians to disregard him as just another Republican.  We cannot overlook Eisenhower’s contribution to the advancement of Civil Rights in America:

On Impeachment

Should the current Chief Executive be worried?

Supporters of corrupt Presidents, from Andrew Johnson to Bill Clinton… all use the same erroneous argument about the Impeachment provision of the Constitution.  “But he didn’t commit a high crime!”   

 

If only our Framers had specific indictable crimes in mind when they included… the all important Impeachment provision.  The historical record clearly shows “High crimes and misdemeanors”  is a standard based on all facets of public conduct.

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In Federalist 65, Hamilton writes : “those offences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”

 

Madison argues in the Convention debates that impeachment can be used if the President “fails to discharge the duties of his office.”  

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“it will make him in a peculiar manner, responsible for [the] conduct” of executive officers. subject him to impeachment himself, if he suffers them to perpetrate with impunity high crimes or misdemeanors against the United States, or neglects to superintend their conduct, so as to check their excesses.”

The Great Dissent

Justice John Marshall Harlan, a former slave owner, issued the only dissent in the 1896 Supreme Court ruling, Plessy v. Ferguson. This case declared the doctrine of “Separate but equal” to be Constitutionally protected.

Harlan’s scathing dissent exposed segregation laws for what they were-

But in view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens.

In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. It is therefore to be regretted that this high tribunal, the final expositor of the fundamental law of the land, has reached the conclusion that it is competent for a state to regulate the enjoyment by citizens of their civil rights solely upon the basis of race.

In my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case. It was adjudged in that case that the descendants of Africans who were imported into this country and sold as slaves were not included nor intended to be included under the word “citizens” in the Constitution and could not claim any of the rights and privileges which that instrument provided for and secured to citizens of the United States; that at the time of the adoption of the Constitution they were “considered as a subordinate and inferior class of beings who had been subjugated by the dominant race, and, emancipated or not, yet remained subject to their authority, and had no rights or privileges but such as those who held the power and the government might choose to grant them …

Polk’s Rise

Great men with larger-than-life personalities … do not always make the best Presidents.  Too much of their focus is directed inward, and the needs of the electorate are overlooked (see Jackson.)  Consistency is required when dealing with momentous issues.

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A top ten President

James Knox Polk was the right man… in the right place, at the right time.  He was not flashy, brilliant, cagy, or diabolical as many have charged.  Polk was steady, determined, erudite, and conscientious; some might even call him boring.  His presence demanded respect, but did not inspire awe.  He possessed a keen mind and was an excellent administrator.  Simply put, he got things done, with nearly no regard for his own legacy.

For too long revisionists in academia… have kept the real Polk from us.  Hopefully this blogger has been able to shed new light on an important figure long shrouded by academic misdeeds.  Polk now sits comfortably in the top ten lists of most Presidential historians…where he belongs.

“The inestimable value of our Federal Union is felt and acknowledged by all. By this system of united and confederated States our people are permitted collectively and individually to seek their own happiness in their own way, and the consequences have been most auspicious…Our Federal Union—it must be preserved. To preserve it the compromises which alone enabled our fathers to form a common constitution for the government and protection of so many States and distinct communities, of such diversified habits, interests, and domestic institutions, must be sacredly and religiously observed. Any attempt to disturb or destroy these compromises, being terms of the compact of union, can lead to none other than the most ruinous and disastrous consequences.”

D.C. Cherry Blossoms 2020

M.A. Kleen

My wife and I finally made it to see the cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C., something on my to-do list since moving to this area over a year ago. Despite fears of Covid-19, official cancellation of the festival, and warnings to stay away from large groups, hundreds of people couldn’t resist the allure of the blossoms.

Tidal Basin Blossoms

A plummeting stock market and fears of pandemic were a stark contrast to this beautiful spring morning and the bright pink cherry blossoms. We did see some visitors wearing masks, but otherwise it was just a typical day.

Leo Longs for Pets

Our corgi, Leo, was upset he couldn’t get any pets from passersby.

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The Death of Rachel Jackson, “A Being so Gentle…”

Presidential History Blog

Rachel Jackson was almost a First Lady; she died a few weeks prior to Jackson’s inauguration. 

Rachel Donelson: The Three Marriages

When Rachel Donelson (1767-1828) was seventeen, she married Lewis Robards, a prosperous Kentucky planter ten years her senior. She was said to be attractive, with dark, flashing eyes and an outgoing, lively personality. Her family considered Robards a fine match and Rachel went willingly. It did not take long for her to discover that Robards was a jealous and abusive man, who perhaps confused her outgoing nature with flirtation. He, on the other hand, was known to have a violent temper, and a disposition toward infidelity. Rachel was unhappy. So was Robards.

The basic story goes that one of her brothers came, supposedly at the urging of Robards himself, to bring Rachel back to her mother’s house in Nashville. While there, she met one of her mother’s…

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