“Young Hickory” Born: November 2, 1795 in North Carolina Parents: Samuel and Jane (Knox) Wife: Sarah Childress Children: None
Background James K. Polk was born to moderatesly successful farmers in North Carolina. His family moved to Tennessee when he was young, and his father prospered. Young James was a sickly young man, and had to have kidney stones removed, using only brandy as an anesthetic. James gained a solid education at home due to his poor health, and he eventually enrolled in an academy at Murfreesburo, where he met his wife.
Formal Education and Early Career Polk graduated with honors from what is now the University of North Carolina. Polk studied law in Nashville after college. He was admitted to the bar in 1820 He became chief clerk for the Tennessee Senate in 1821
Political Career Tennessee House of Representatives in 1823. U.S. House of Representatives 1825-1839. Polk became Speaker of the House in 1835. He was governor of Tennessee from 1839- 1841. 1845-1849 President of the U.S. A protégé of Andrew Jackson, he was an ardent democrat.
Personality Polk was an intelligent, and extremely hard working man. He was serious, and due to he and his wife’s religious backgrounds, was considered somewhat strict. He was cunning, and detail oriented. He had to be involved in every issue.
Important Actions as President He finished the annexation of Texas. He passed the Walker Tariff, which increased trade. Polk re-established an independent treasury, rather than depending on banks. Polk negotiated for the Oregon Territory, acquiring it from Britain without a war. The Mexican War was fought during Polk’s presidency.
As President Polk worked constantly, late into the night, even installing oil lamps in the White House to do so. Polk believed in Manifest Destiny, and tried to increase American Territory in North America as much as possible. He even tried to purchase Cuba from Spain. Polk controlled as much as he possibly could, focusing on every detail.
Accomplishing the Four Goals Independent Treasury Reduction of Tariffs Acquisition of Oregon Territory Acquisition of California and the Southwest. Each was done, and in only the one term he swore he would serve.
Legacy James K. Polk’s legacy is quite strong, considered by many historians to be among the top ten presidents. He was direct in his actions, and did what he said he was going to do. He was THE MANIFEST DESTINY president, making America the continental nation that it is. Polk was a slave owner and arranged for the freedom of his slaves, but they were freed by emancipation proclamation first.
Post Presidency Death Polk died less than three month after leaving office, probably of cholera. He had the shortest post-presidency ever.
References Kane, J. & Podell, J (2009). Facts about American presidents 8th ed. New York: H.W. Wilson Company McPherson, J. (2000). To the best of my ability” : The American presidents. New York: Dorling Kindersly Publishing, Inc.