Sunday, February 10, 2008

George Bancroft, Presidential Confidant

At Wig-Wags, Rene Tyree recently published several posts on George Bancroft. In all honesty, I'm not sure that I had ever heard of Bancroft before. If I had run across his name, I hadn't retained it.

As a result, I immediately thought of Rene's posts when, a few days ago, I read this dramatic scene in Daniel Walker Howe's What Hath God Wrought:
No president has ever played his cards closer to his chest [than James Polk]. Even in his diary Polk did not let his guard down. He confided the objectives of his presidency to only one person besides his wife: George Bancroft, the New England intellectual who shared his vision of America's imperial destiny and whom he was about to name secretary of the navy. The new president slapped his thigh and avowed, "There are to be four great measures of my administration," Bancroft recalled:

The settlement of the Oregon question with Great Britain.
The acquisition of California and a large district on the coast.
The reduction of the Tariff to a revenue basis.
The complete and permanent establishment of the Constitutional Treasury, as he loved to call it, but as others called it, "Independent Treasury."

Judged by these objectives, Polk is probably the most successful president the United States ever had.

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