Sunday, January 19, 2020

Lions Of The West by Robert Morgan

This is Robert Morgan's exhaustive biography of the men who extended the United States from one coast to the other.  They are the architects of the Manifest Destiny concept and fought against Spain, England, France and Mexico to make the vision of a United States that embraced all the land between the coasts a viable one. 

Each man is given a chapter in which his contributions are documented.  Some of these men are famous and every reader will know their name.  Some are less well known or even obscure.  The men include Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, John Chapman, David Crockett, Sam Houston, James Polk, Winfield Scott, Kit Carson, Nicholas Trist and John Quincy Adams.  Their work and accomplishments on the settling of the West are documented but so are their family histories, their marriages, their philosophies and their relationships with the men around them.  While many are famous, many ended their days in poverty or bitterness.  Morgan is unsparing in his assessment of their character, calling them out for shortsightedness or meanness of spirit where appropriate.

Again, most schoolchildren learn about the settling of the East Coast but this book gives a solid foundation on how the country acquired such large parcels of land as Texas, California, and the Pacific Northwest.  Sometimes this was through exploration and subsequent books about the richness to be found in various areas.  Often it was through military action.  There were treaties that advanced the acquisitions that needed men skilled in negotiation and diplomacy.  For example, while most know of Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, many fewer know of James K. Polk's role in acquiring Texas and California.  One thing that is interesting is the part in which networking and knowing those in power advanced the roles of these men.  It was a very small group at the top of society and most knew the other members of the club.

This is a thorough treatment of the topic.  The writing style is such that the novelist that Morgan is clearly shines through and the book is very readable.  The emphasis on the various men's personalities and quirks makes them more human and secures them in the reader's memory.  It is an interesting addition to anyone's knowledge about the history of the United States.  This book is recommended for history readers.

No comments: