James Knox Polk

James Knox Polk
Served 1845-1849

James Knox Polk was born November 2, 1795, in Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, on his family’s farm.

As a boy, Polk dreamed of becoming President and worked hard to achieve his goal. After four years of Whig Party Presidents Harrison and Tyler, Polk ran under the Democratic Party banner in 1844 with George M. Dallas as his Vice President. After his election, he was known for his long and hard hours and for his strict religious beliefs. He and his wife, Sarah Childress, had no children. They did not allow drinking or dancing at the White House, not even in celebration of his inauguration.

Next PagePolk’s campaign slogan was “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight,” demanding that Britain cede to the U.S. all territory of the Oregon Country south of latitude 54°40’N, as far north as Queen Charlotte Island and the Dixon Entrance, just south of what is now the southern end of Alaska. Once he became President, however, Polk compromised with Britain, settling the U.S. border with Canada at latitude 49°N and avoiding a war.

Polk could not avoid a war with Mexico 1846-1848, however, after Mexican troops captured Alamo and the Republic of Texas pleaded for American intervention.

Once the dispute with Britain and the Mexican War ended, American dreams of expansion to the Pacific Ocean (“manifest destiny”) became a reality. When gold was discovered in California, news traveled fast by telegraph, invented in l840, and many Easterners moved west. Polk’s era was marked by international disputes, diplomacy, war, victory, and then rapid expansion of America’s influence.

Polk died June 15, 1849.

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1 thought on “James Knox Polk

  1. Claire Mclean
    November 17, 2013
    The Presidential Museums website is launched today, November 18th, and we are notifying as many people as we can to come on board and join the celebration. It is an important part of this web site to institute the CALENDAR feature and to keep it up to date with the direct input and co-operation of each Presidential Museum and Library starting with our dear “friend” and number 31 President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. We will be in touch with the Museums, asking for their help, this week so be on the look out for our call.
    This feature along with the monthly Calendar will also, we anticipate, act as a round robin and a chatter box about not just the Obama presidency, while we admit there is a lot to chat about there, but also involve all the presidencies. Join in on the trivia, gossip, chatter and “twitter” will help make us all learned historians, so come on aboard and be our guest.
    Claire McLean,
    Founder and CEO

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