James K. Polk by John SeigenthalerThe story of a pivotal president who watched over our westward expansion and solidified the dream of Jacksonian democracy
James K. Polk was a shrewd and decisive commander in chief, the youngest president elected to guide the still-young nation, who served as Speaker of the House and governor of Tennessee before taking office in 1845. Considered a natural successor to Andrew Jackson, Young Hickory miraculously revived his floundering political career by riding a wave of public sentiment in favor of annexing the Republic of Texas to the Union.
Shortly after his inauguration, he settled the disputed Oregon boundary and by 1846 had declared war on Mexico in hopes of annexing California. The considerably smaller American army never lost a battle. At home, however, Polk suffered a political firestorm of antiwar attacks from many fronts. Despite his tremendous accomplishments, he left office an extremely unpopular man, on whom stress had taken such a physical toll that he died within three months of departing Washington. Fellow Tennessean John Seigenthaler traces the life of this president who, as Truman noted, said what he intended to do and did it.
Test your knowledge of the 11th U. President and learn Polk trivia with our Online Quiz. The career of the eleventh U. Although young Polk was accustomed to the rigors of frontier life, he lacked physical stamina. Shortly before his seventeenth birthday, he needed surgery for stones in his urinary bladder.
James K. Under his leadership the United States fought the Mexican War —48 and acquired vast territories along the Pacific coast and in the Southwest. For a discussion of the history and nature of the presidency, see presidency of the United States of America. Polk was the eldest child of Samuel and Jane Knox Polk. At age 11 he moved with his family to Tennessee , where his father operated a prosperous farm in Maury county.
He previously was Speaker of the House of Representatives — and governor of Tennessee — Polk is chiefly known for extending the territory of the United States during the Mexican—American War ; during his presidency, the United States expanded significantly with the annexation of the Republic of Texas , the Oregon Territory , and the Mexican Cession following the American victory in the Mexican—American War.
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The presidency of James K., James Polk served as the 11th U. Before his presidency, Polk served in the Tennessee legislature and the U.
On May 13, , President James K. Polk signed a declaration of war against Mexico. Polk had submitted his war message to Congress on May 11 after General Zachary Taylor and his troops had clashed with Mexican forces on the northern bank of the Rio Grande, and Congress quickly approved the declaration of war against Mexico. After the President signed the declaration, he and his cabinet decided to conduct a three-pronged war: General Taylor would secure northern Mexico, an army under Stephen Kearny would capture New Mexico and California, and a third force under the command of Winfield Scott would capture Mexico City. Kearny headed west and found New Mexico abandoned by Mexican forces. He then moved to California, capturing Los Angeles in January
O'Sullivan, to express the conviction that Providence had foreordained the United States to spread its republican institutions across North America. He accomplished every major goal that he set for himself as President and in the process successfully waged war against Mexico, obtaining for the United States most of its present boundaries as a nation. Watch two renowned historians discuss why history matters and who decides what history gets written. Grant Rutherford B. Hayes James A. Garfield Chester A. Roosevelt Harry S.
James Polk was born in in North Carolina, and went on to become the 11th and youngest at the time president of the United States — The northern border of the United States was also established under Polk, as were the Naval Academy and the Smithsonian. He died on June 15, , in Nashville, Tennessee. Leaving his law practice behind, he served in the Tennessee legislature, where he became friends with Andrew Jackson. Polk moved from the Tennessee legislature to the United States House of Representatives, serving from to and serving as speaker of the House from to He left his congressional post to become governor of Tennessee.