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James Knox Polk
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James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk
Order:11th President
Term of Office:March 4, 1845March 3, 1849
Followed:John Tyler
Succeeded by:Zachary Taylor
Date of BirthNovember 2, 1795
Place of Birth:Mecklenburg County, North Carolina
Date of Death:June 15, 1849
Place of Death:Nashville, Tennessee
First Lady:Sarah Childress Polk
Occupation:lawyer
Political Party:Democrat
Vice President:George M. Dallas
Nicknames:Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

James Knox Polk (November 2, 1795June 15, 1849) was the 11th (1845-1849) President of the United States.

Table of contents
1 Early life
2 Nomination and election
3 Presidency
4 Polk Administration
5 Supreme Court appointments
6 Related articles
7 External links

Early life

Born in North Carolina in 1795 to Samuel Polk and Jane Knox, James Polk was studious and hard working. He graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1818, became a lawyer, and entered politics.

The Polk family owned more than fifty slaves.

Polk was a member of the United States House of Representatives (1825-1839), also serving as Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (1835-1839), and Governor of Tennessee (1839-1841).

Nomination and election

Democrats nominated dark horse candidate Polk on the ninth ballot of the Democratic National Convention after party favorite Martin Van Buren lost the bid because of his opposition to annexing Texas, a position deemed unacceptable by Southerners and by former president Andrew Jackson.

Told of his nomination in a letter, Polk penned the reply: "It has been well observed that the office of President of the United States should neither be sought nor declined. I have never sought it, nor should I feel at liberty to decline it, if conferred upon me by the voluntary suffrages of my fellow citizens."

Though a veteran politician, Polk entered the 1844 presidential campaign with little name recognition. Playing on his relative obscurity, the Whig opposition sniped "Who is James K. Polk?" An experienced and eloquent orator dubbed the "Napoleon of the Stump," Polk campaigned vigorously, surprising many with his stalwart support of westward expansion—a hotly-debated issue dodged by other candidates. Polk wanted the entire Oregon Territory, vowing, "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight."

In the end, Polk's campaign policies paid off. On November 5, 1844, Polk defeated Whig party candidate Henry Clay to become the eleventh President of the United States. He won the election with 170 electoral votes versus Clay's 105. The popular vote count was much closer with Polk receiving just 38,000 more popular votes than Clay.

Presidency

Resolved to serve only one term, Polk acted swiftly to fulfill his campaign promises. In just four years, he oversaw annexation of Texas, settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute with Britain, reestablishment of an independent treasury system, and acquisition of territory from Mexico that eventually became California, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Colorado and Wyoming. The former Mexican land came as part of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, settling the Mexican-American War (fought from April 24, 1846 to February 2, 1848).

Though a popular chief executive, Polk never addressed the moral issue of slavery during his term.

Polk's considerable political accomplishments took their toll on his health. Full of enthusiasm and vigor when he entered office, Polk left the White House at the age of 53 exhausted by his years of public service. He died less than four months later at his new home,"Polk Place," in Nashville, Tennessee.

Polk's wife, Sarah Childress Polk, lived at the residence another 42 years, often receiving visitors. During the American Civil War (April 12, 1861 - May 13, 1865), Mrs. Polk welcomed both Confederate and Union leaders to her home. Polk Place became a pilgrimage destination and was respected as neutral ground. When Mrs. Polk passed away on August 14, 1891, she was mourned by a nation that regarded her as a precious link to the past.

Source: Library of Congress

See also: List of places named for James K. Polk

They Might Be Giants wrote an educational song about "James K. Polk" in their 1996 album Factory Showroom.

Polk Administration

OFFICE NAME TERM
President James K. Polk 1845-1849
Vice President George M. Dallas 1845-1849
Secretary of State James Buchanan 1845-1849
Secretary of the Treasury Thomas Ewing 1845-1849
Secretary of War William L. Marcy 1845-1849
Attorney General John Y. Mason 1845-1846
  Nathan Clifford 1846-1848
  Isaac Toucey 1848-1849
Postmaster General Cave Johnson 1845-1849
Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft 1845-1846
  John Y. Mason 1846-1849

Supreme Court appointments

Polk appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Related articles

External links

Preceded by:
John Tyler
President of the United States
1845-1849
Succeeded by:
Zachary Taylor
Preceded by:
Robert M.T. Hunter
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
1835-1839
Succeeded by:
John Bell
Preceded by :
Newton Cannon
Governor of Tennessee
1839-1841
Succeeded by:
James C. Jones

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