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James K. Polk Bibliography (1795 - 1849)

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Historical Context

Van Deusen, Glyndon G. The Jacksonian Era, 1828-1848. New York: Harper & Row, 1959.

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr. The Age of Jackson. Boston: Little, Brown, 1945.

Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis 1848-1861. New York: Harper & Row, 1976.

Holt, Michael F. The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

An ambitious history of the Whig party that is the standard work on the subject.

Polk Papers and Memoirs

Polk, James K. Correspondence of James K. Polk. Edited by Herbert Weaver, et al. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1969-.

The authoritative collection of Polk correspondence. Publication is ongong.

Polk, James K. Diary of James K. Polk During His Presidency, 1845 to 1849. 4 vols. Edited by Milo M. Quaife. Chicago: A.C. McClurg & Co., 1910.

Polk, James K. Polk: The Diary of a President, 1845 to 1849. Edited by Allan Nevins. New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1952.

An abridged version of the 4 volume set above. Not as complete as the original but easier to find.

Appleton, John. North For Union: John Appleton’s Journal of a Tour to New England Made by President Polk in June and July 1847. Edited by Wayne Cutler. Nashville, Vanderbilt University Press, 1986.

A firsthand account of Polk’s tour of the northeast.

For a fuller discussion of Polk’s papers see the Public and Private Papers section of our website.

Polk Biographies

Sellers, Charles C. James K. Polk: Jacksonian, 1795-1843. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1957.

Sellers, Charles C. James K. Polk: Continentalist, 1843-1846. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1966.

The standard "life" of Polk. Originally planned as a three-volume work.

McCormac, Eugene Irving James K. Polk: A Political Biography. New York: Russell & Russell, Inc., 1965.

The first "modern" biography of Polk. Originally published in 1922.

McCoy, Charles A. Polk and the Presidency. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1960.

A topical view of Polk’s Presidency through a Political Science lens.

Bergeron, Paul H. The Presidency of James K. Polk. Lawrence: Univeristy Press of Kansas, 1987.

From the American Presidency Series, a series dedicated to providing a consistent, scholarly treatment of each president. Coverage is limited to the years in office.

Polk Administration and Advisors (1845-1849)

For cabinet members not listed below, please see: Grossman, Mark. Encyclopedia of the United States Cabinet. 3 vols. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2000.

George Bancroft (Secretary of the Navy; Minister to Great Britain)

Handlin, Lilian. George Bancroft: The Intellectual as Democrat. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

Nye, Russel B. George Bancroft: Brahmin Rebel. New York: Knopf, 1944.

Not as recent as Handlin above, but more informative on Bancroft’s time in the Polk Administration.

Howe, M.A. De Wolfe, ed. Life and Letters of George Bancroft. 2 vols. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1908.

August Belmont (U.S. Consul to Austria)

Belmont, August. Letters, Speeches and Addresses of August Belmont. New York: Privately Printed, 1890.

James Buchanan (Secretary of State)

Klein, Philip S. President James Buchanan: A Biography. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1962.

Binder, Frederick. James Buchanan and the American Empire. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1994.

Binder examines Buchanan's foreign policy views throughout his political career.

Buchanan, James. The Works of James Buchanan. 12 vols. Edited by John Bassett Moore. 1908-1911. Reprint, New York: Antiquarian Press, 1960.

Nathan Clifford (Attorney General)

Clifford, Philip G. Nathan Clifford, Democrat (1803-1881). New York: George Putman’s Sons, 1922.

George M. Dallas (Vice President)

Belohlovek, John M. George Mifflin Dallas: Jacksonian Patrician. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1977.

William L. Marcy (Secretary of War)

Spencer, Ivor D. The Victor and the Spoils: A Life of William L. Marcy. Providence, R.I.: Brown University Press, 1959.

Robert J. Walker (Secretary of the Treasury)

Shenton, James P. Robert John Walker: A Politician from Jackson to Lincoln. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.

Major Issues in the Polk Administration

Foreign Relations (General)

Varg, Paul. United States Foreign Relations, 1820-1860. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1979.

Manifest Destiny

Weinberg, Albert K. Manifest Destiny: A Study of Nationalist Expansionism in American History. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1935.

The classic study of Manifest Destiny.

Merk, Frederick. Manifest Destiny and Mission in American History: A Reinterpretation. New York: Knopf, 1963.

Merk's challenge to Weinberg.

Merk, Frederick. The Monroe Doctrine and American Expansionism, 1843-1849. New York: Knopf, 1966.

A companion to Merk's volume on Manifest Destiny.

Hietala, Thomas R. Manifest Design: Anxious Aggrandizement in Late Jacksonian America. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985.

Decidedly anti-Polk study of expansionism.

Annexation of Texas, the Mexican War, and Southwest Expansionism

Binkley, William C. The Expansionist Movement in Texas, 1836-1850. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1925.

Smith, Justin H. The Annexation of Texas. New York: Baker & Taylor, 1911.

Binkley and Smith are both classic studies of the Annexation of Texas.

Pletcher, David M. The Diplomacy of Annexation: Texas, Oregon and the Mexican War. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973.

An extremely balanced and valuable study.

Merk, Frederick. Slavery and the Annexation of Texas. New York: Knopf, 1972.

Price, Glenn W. Origins of the War with Mexico: The Polk Stockton Intrigue. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1967.

An anti-Polk interpretation of the Annexation of Texas.

Graebner, Norman A. Empire on the Pacific: A Study in American Continental Expansion. New York: Ronald Press Co., 1955.

Emphasizes the importance of Pacific ports.

Smith, Justin H. The War with Mexico. 2 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1919.

The classic study of the Mexican-American War.

Bauer, K. Jack. The Mexican War, 1846-1848. New York: Macmillan, 1974.

Important for its comprehensive study of military aspects of the Mexican-American War.

Johannsen, Robert W. To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.

An extremely important analysis of the socio-cultural effects of the Mexican-American War.

Bauer, K. Jack. Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1985.

Scott, Winfield. Memoirs of Lieut.-General Scott, LL.D. Written by himself. 2 vols. New York: Sheldon, 1864.

Pacific Northwest

Merk, Frederick. The Oregon Question: Essays in Anglo-American Diplomacy and Politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967.

See Pletcher’s The Diplomacy of Annexation above.

Munroe, John A. Louis McLane: Federalist and Jacksonian. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1973.

A biography of the U.S. Minister to Great Britain during the Polk Administration.

Barnes, James and Patience Barnes, eds. Private and Confidential: Letters from British Ministers in Washington to the Foreign Secretaries in London, 1844-67. Selinsgrove, PA: Susquehanna University Press, 1993.

Judicial Issues and Appointments

Abraham, Henry J. Justices, Presidents, and Senators: A History of the U.S. Supreme Court Appointments from Washington to Clinton. Rev. ed. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.

Abraham covers Polk's appointment of Levi Woodbury to the Supreme Court.

Elections

Schlesinger, Arthur M., Jr., ed. History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-1968. 4 vols. New York: Chelsea House, 1971.

Rayback, Joseph G. Free Soil: The Election of 1848. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.

Polk Contemporaries

John C. Calhoun (Statesman)

Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun, Nationalist, 1782-1828. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1944.

Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun, Nullifier, 1829-1839. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1949.

Wiltse, Charles M. John C. Calhoun, Sectionalist, 1840-1850. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1951.

Traditionally, the standard "life" of Calhoun; volumes 2 and 3 will be the most useful for studying Van Buren.

Niven, John John C. Calhoun and the Price of Union. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988.

A more recent challenge to Wiltse’s work.

Calhoun, John C. Papers of John C. Calhoun. 27 vols. Edited by Robert L. Meriwether, et al. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1959-2003.

The authoritative collection of Calhoun papers.

Henry Clay (Statesman; Whig leader)

Remini, Robert V. Henry Clay: Statesman for the Union. New York: Norton, 1991.

The new standard Clay biography.

Van Deusen, Glyndon G. The Life of Henry Clay. Boston: Little, Brown, 1937.

The classic Clay biography.

Clay, Henry. Papers of Henry Clay. 11 vols. Edited by James F. Hopkins, et al. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1959-1992.

The authoritative collection of Clay papers.

Andrew Jackson (Former President)

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1821. New York: Harper & Row, 1977.

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Freedom, 1822-1832. New York: Harper & Row, 1981.

Remini, Robert V. Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Democracy, 1833-1845. New York: Harper & Row, 1984.

The definitive Jackson biography.

Jackson, Andrew. Papers of Andrew Jackson. Edited by Sam B. Smith, et al. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1980-.

The authoritative collection of Jackson papers. Publication is ongoing.

See online bibliography of Andrew Jackson for more information.

Martin Van Buren (Former President)

Niven, John. Martin Van Buren and the Romantic Age of American Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1983.

Cole, Donald B. Martin Van Buren and the American Political System. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984.

Cole and Niven are considered the two standard biographies of Van Buren.

Wilson, Major L. The Presidency of Martin Van Buren. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1984.

From the American Presidency Series, a series dedicated to providing a consistent, scholarly treatment of each President of the United States. Coverage is limited to the years in office.

Van Buren, Martin. "The Autobiography of Martin Van Buren," edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, in Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1918. Vol. 2. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1920.

See online bibliography of Martin Van Buren for more information.

Daniel Webster (Statesman; Whig leader)

Webster, Daniel. Papers of Daniel Webster. 14 vols. Edited by Charles M. Wiltse, et al. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England. 1974-1989.

The authoritative collection of Webster papers.

Remini, Robert V. Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time. New York: Norton, 1997.

The new standard Webster biography.

Brown, Norman D. Daniel Webster and the Politics of Availability. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969.

Nathans, Sydney Daniel Webster and Jacksonian Democracy. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973.

Bartlett, Irving H. Daniel Webster. New York: Norton, 1978.

Baxter, Maurice G. One and Inseparable: Daniel Webster and the Union. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984.

Recent Publications

Dusinberre, William. Slavemaster President: The Double Career of James Polk. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Thomas, Leonard. James K. Polk: A Clear and Unquestionable Destiny. Wilmington, Del.: S.R. Books, 2001.

Haynes, Sam. James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse. New York: Longman, 1997.

Bibliographies

There are no comprehensive published bibliographies on James K. Polk.

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