James Knox Polk (1795-1849) was the eleventh president of the United States. He was elected for a term from 1845 to 1849.
Polk is the example of the unexpected candidate reached the summit. Once in power, he displayed his foreign and domestic policy, implemented it during his warrant, and refused to be re-elected. At his term, the United States expanded acquiring Oregon, California, and New Mexico (the latter two territories were added by the cost of a war with Mexico).
J. K. Polk was born November 2, 1795 in the state of North Carolina. His father, Samuel Polk, and his mother, Jane Knox, were farmers who own more than fifty slaves. He studied law at the University of North Carolina, became a lawyer and entered politics pretty young. He was a Freemason.
J.K. Polk, fervent supporter of Andrew Jackson, was elected to the House of Representatives of the United States, of which he became the Speaker. He was then elected the governor of the State of Tennessee.
None of the candidates of the Democratic Party had a majority to the Convention for the election of 1844. By far Martin Van Buren, former President, had the best chances, but his convictions, unfavorable to slavery settlers in Texas, made him hostile to the annexation, the delegates then preferred him Polk and his expansionist program. In the election, Polk, relatively unknown, made a vigorous campaign and faced a Whig candidate, who also was against the annexation. Polk was finally largely elected by the electoral college despite only one vote in his favor.
Inaugurated 4 March 1845 as the eleven President of the United States, James Polk had two goals for his foreign policy:
- To fix the Northwest border dispute with Great Britain about the territory of Oregon, he had claimed during the campaign until 54th parallel (i.e., to Alaska)
- To repel the southern border by the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of California, that Mexico refused and thus implied a war against Mexico.
January 13, 1846, James Polk sent 4,000 soldiers under the command of General Zachary Taylor to the border between Texas and Mexico. The U.S. army had fought only against Indian tribes in the previous three decades and was composed largely of recent German and Irish immigrants. This led to the declaration of war between the United States and Mexico on May 13. After seventeen months, General Taylor has captured the city of Monterey, California, taken and beaten the armies of General Santa Anna at Buena Vista.
On 15 June 1846, the United States and the United Kingdom sign a treaty to divide the Oregon Territory at the 49th parallel. This was indeed a compromise relative to its campaign pledge and its slogan “54° 40 or die” which referred to the parallel located about 600 km further north, but this decline was largely compensated by the annexation to the South New Mexico, announced August 22, 1846.
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