Excerpt from The Age of Gold by H.W. Brands, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Age of Gold

The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream

By H.W. Brands

The Age of Gold
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  • Hardcover: Aug 2002,
    560 pages.
    Paperback: Oct 2003,
    560 pages.

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Of course He would--or so concluded the publicists of what came to be called Manifest Destiny, the ideology of expansion in the 1840s. This ideology was seductive, stroking the conscience of America even as it flattered America's vanity and served America's self-interest. It appealed most powerfully to the religiously minded majority of Americans, but the secular, too, could sign on, as advocates of the export of democracy. The popularity of Manifest Destiny naturally caught the attention of politicians, especially those in the Democratic party, who were hungry to regain the presidency after a surprising defeat in 1840. In 1844 the Democrats nominated James K. Polk of Tennessee on a platform promising the vigorous extension of America's frontiers westward. Looking southwest, Polk vowed to bring Texas into the Union. Looking northwest, he pledged to take all of Oregon.

Polk won the presidency and proceeded to act on his promises. As it happened, he didn't get all of Oregon (which at that time stretched to the southern border of Alaska), but, in negotiations with Britain, he got the largest and best part. Nor did he take Texas, which was annexed after Polk's election victory but before President John Tyler vacated the White House.

That didn't end the Texas story, however. Nor did it satisfy the aggressive appetite of Manifest Destiny. Although Texas had claimed independence from Mexico in 1836, the Mexican government rejected the claim and sent troops to suppress the rebellion. The Texans lost at the Alamo, but won at San Jacinto and forced the Mexicans to withdraw. Even so, Mexico refused to make peace or recognize the independence of the Texas republic. Consequently, when the United States annexed Texas in 1845, Mexico protested vehemently.

Excerpted from The Age of Gold by H. W. Brands. Copyright 2002 by H. W. Brands. Excerpted by permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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