James Knox Polk was born on November 2, 1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina to Jane and Samuel Polk as the oldest of ten children. The first ten years of his life were spent in rural North Carolina. His family followed his grandfather to frontier Tennessee, to make farms and plantations out of the wilderness. His father prospered with his career in farming and owned thousands of acres of land, plus fifty slaves. His mother, Jane, helped take care of the house. She took care of her children under the strict Presbyterian "gospel of duty." His siblings were William, Samuel, Naomi, Lydia, Marshall, Ophelia, Jane, John, and Franklin. Most of his education was spent at his home.
Polk was home schooled most of his life and did not have a formal education until he went to the Presbyterian school outside of Greensboro, Tennessee. He went to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 1816 to 1818 and graduated with honors . He studied law under Felix Grundy who was U.S. Senator and attorney general. He passed the state bar exam in 1820.
Before his presidential years, Polk served in the state legislature from 1823 to 1825 and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1825 to 1839, where he was speaker. In 1839, he was elected governor of Tennessee, but was defeated by the Whig candidate in 1841 and 1843. The annexation of Texas by Martin Van Buren encouraged Polk to consider the presidential spot.
After Polk's time as governor, Polk emerged as a replacement candidate to Martin Van Buren. Polk ran against Henry Clay, founder of the Whig party. His view of expanding Texas appealed to many voters and also his promise to retire as president after one term. To many people´s surprise, Polk won as the ¨dark horse¨ candidate. He kept to his promise and only served for 4 years. He was the 11th president in office. Polk was apart of the the democratic party during his term from March 4, 1845 – March 4, 1849. This party was mostly based on using sponsorship extensively to finance their operations, which included emerging big city political machines and national networks of newspapers.
Impact and legacy
President Polk made huge impacts in office. He successfully gained ownership of California, Nevada and Utah, and parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming through the Mexican-American War. Him, being from the South, lowered the tariffs to benefit the Southern plantations. He also established a new federal depository system to distribute government documents to libraries and established the Department of the Interior to manage federal land. James Polk's Inaugural Address is one of his most well known speeches. It describes the merits of reclaiming Texas and reflecting upon the growth of the nation. Hearing that U.S. citizens were killed on American soil by Mexicans, he announced war on Mexico. After America defeated Mexico, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo authorized U.S. payment of $15 million for California and New Mexico. In order to avoid Brittan from expanding its claims on Central America and the Caribbean, he created a treaty, signed by U.S. Minister Benjamin A. Bidlack, conveyed to the U.S. the right of way across the Isthmus of Panama.
¨No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.¨
“Peace, plenty, and contentment reign throughout our borders, and our beloved country presents a sublime moral spectacle to the world.”
James K. Polk: Impact and Legacy | Miller Center. (2017). Millercenter.org. Retrieved 9 March 2017, from https://millercenter.org/president/polk/impact-and-legacy
James Knox Polk: Early Career. (2017). Infoplease.com. Retrieved 13 March 2017, from http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/people/polk-james-knox-early-career.html
History - "I Do Solemnly Swear...": Presidential Inaugurations - Collection Connections | Teacher Resources - Library of Congress. (2017). Loc.gov.
James K. Polk: Life Before the Presidency | Miller Center. (2017). Millercenter.org. Retrieved 8 March 2017, from https://millercenter.org/president/polk/life-before-the-presidency
James K. Polk | U.S. Presidents. (2017). Uspresidents.net. Retrieved 8 March 2017, from http://uspresidents.net/james-k-polk.html