Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mister James K. Polk, our 11th President

There are many of us who find the presidency of James K. Polk to be interesting. After all, he did accomplish a lot in his one and only term. He also adds to the allure of his legacy by opting not to run for a second term.

Most notably famous for his successful foreign policy. First he acquired lots of land in the Pacific Northwest by threatening to go to war with Britain, essentially taking what we know of as the Oregon Territory. Next, he was president during the Mexican–American War which resulted in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, where the United States took land from Mexico. James K. Polk is manifest destiny at it's finest, in all Polk was able to secure over 900,000 square miles for the expansion of the United States.

For a history teacher, this is pretty cool stuff. But for a student....? Aahh, maybe not so interesting. So how about teaching about James K. Polk through song. The band They Might be Giants (TMBG) makes it easy for you.

Click the play button below, and read the lyric and I'm sure you'll agree that they've got the facts straight. Then go to TMBG's page below for an annotated version of their lyrics.

James K. Polk Lyrics
Artist: They Might Be Giants
Album: Factory Showroom

In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

Here's a link to TMBG's site and some explanations of the lyrics.

Kudos to TMBG for making it easy for teachers to use their song in class.

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1 comment:

Gerald D. Swick said...

You gotta love They Might Be Giants.

How dark a horse was Polk? A story, almost certainly apocryphal, appeared in The Clarksburg (W. Va.) Telegram, Feb 12, 1876, as part of an article giving the history of the town. Supposedly, when word had reached Clarksburg's Democrats in 1844 that Polk was their party's nominee, one old fellow responded, "The very man we need!" and waving his hat shouted, "Hurrah for - what did you say his name was?"

Thanks for runing TMBG's lyrics.

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