Category: US President
President James K. Polk (1845-1849) was the 11th president. James K. Polk oversaw the expansion of the U.S. to the Pacific Ocean, seeing the dream of Manifest Destiny and a nation that spanned a continent come to fruition.
James K. Polk died at age 53 only a few months after leaving office. He promised to be a one term president, but no one expected that promise to be kept so literally.
About the President
President James K. Polk (1845-1849) was born in North Carolina before moving to Tennessee. He served in the Tennessee Legislature and National Congress before becoming governor of Tennessee in 1839.
James K.Polk was not originally planned to be the Democratic nominee for President, but he became the candidate after he failed his re-election bid in 1840. James K. Polk became the first “dark horse” or unplanned and relatively unknown presidential candidate. He was nominated in part because of his earlier support for annexing Texas and expansionist policies.
Major Policies and Actions
James K. Polk oversaw the addition of three states to the United States: Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin. James K. Polk negotiated the settlement with the British that led to the US gaining the Oregon territory. His negotiations extended Canada’s boundary along the 49th parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Some of his internal rivals wanted it at the 54'40' mark where Alaska begins, but Polk chose a more southern boundary to avoid a war with the British. The treaty was settled in 1846.
The annexation of Texas in 1845 led to a breakdown in diplomacy with Mexico, setting stage for the war to follow.
James K. Polk led the U.S. during the Mexican-American War. This war led to Mexico giving up half the territory it had. The United States gave Mexico 15 million dollars and took up claims for damaged territory. The US also assumed around three million dollars of Mexican national debt.
James K. Polk created the Independent U.S. Treasury.
Historical Events during His Presidency
The United States grew by more than a third by the end of his term and reached the Pacific while he was in office.
The United States won the Mexican American war after fighting from 1846 through 1848. In this war, the United States invaded what is still part of Mexico today, actually capturing Mexico City.
At its end, the United States gained much of what became California, New Mexico, and Arizona. Texas had joined the US in 1845 under his predecessor, Tyler.
The Mexican American War can be seen as a proving ground for the American Civil War just two decades later. Ulysses S. Grant, Stonewall Jackson, William T. Sherman, George Meade, and Robert E. Lee were all junior officers in the Mexican-American War. In this war, future Confederacy President Jefferson Davis fought for the United States.
The Mexicans on the American side of the border after the Mexican-American War were granted American citizenship and allowed to retain their property. This group is the only group of people brought into the United States against its will that was given American citizenship. African slaves were never made citizens, and their descendants didn’t have this right firmly established until after the Civil War. Native Americans were considered citizens of their own nations and thus not given American citizenship until 1924.