1st US President James Knox Polk

Completed by: student of the POSO group 19-1/9 Plakhova Alena

James Knox Polk (Eng. James Knox Polk ; November 2, 1795, Pineville, North Carolina – June 15, 1849, Nashville, Tennessee) – the eleventh president of the United States, from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849.

His presidency was marked by the largest US territorial gains since the Louisiana Purchase: New Mexico and California were conquered during the Mexican-American War, and Oregon was ceded by Great Britain. Thus, the United States gained access to the second ocean and became a major Pacific power.

Most modern historians include Polk in the top ten of the most prominent US presidents.

Polk’s parents were of Scottish descent, through his mother he was a descendant of the Scottish religious reformer, the founder of Presbyterianism, John Knox. At 11, he and his family moved from North Carolina to neighboring Tennessee. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, he returned to Tennessee, where he practiced law. In 1820 he received permission to work as a lawyer and opened his own practice.

In 1823 he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he served for 2 years. Elected in 1825 as a member of Congress from Tennessee, Polk soon became the leader of the Democratic Party. In 1835 he was elected Speaker of the House of Representatives. From 1839-1841 he was governor of Tennessee, continuing to gain political experience, but after two unsuccessful elections as governor in 1843 and 45 he returned to Washington.

In the US South Polk enjoyed great support. The Democrats of those places saw in him by right a staunch supporter of Andrew Jackson and were confident that he would advocate lower tariffs, against the power of banks and for other principles of Jackson’s democracy.

At the 1844 Democratic party convention in Baltimore, he was nominated for the presidency after previous candidates—Martin van Buuren, Lewis Kass, and James Buchanan—blocked each other. In the person of Polk, the convention delegates came to a common denominator, thus, he became the first “compromising candidate” in American history.

In 1844 he was elected president under the slogans of territorial expansionism, defeating the Whig Henry Clay. 170 members of the electoral college voted for him – against 105 for Clay. Polk won 15 states, Clay won 11. In the election, with a rather high turnout of 78%, the overall result showed a small gap: Polk received 1,338,464 (49.6%) of the popular vote, while the opposition candidate received 1,300 097 (48.1%) votes.

Polk lost his own state, Tennessee, to 113 Whig votes. For the first time since 1824, a president was elected with less than 50% of the vote.

At the beginning of his presidency, at 49, he was the youngest president of the United States. Under Polk, the Smithsonian Institution and the Naval Academy were opened, a memorial stele to Washington was erected, the state treasury system that operated until 1903 was adopted, and the first US postage stamps were issued.

The “manifest destiny” of the Americans to conquer and settle the continent culminated under Polk’s democratic administration. Between 1845 and 1848 the young nation was added to the vast area of today’s states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Colorado, Texas, Utah, Idaho, and parts of New Mexico and Wyoming. Thus, the territory of the United States was increased by two-thirds.

In his four annual State of the Union Addresses, Polk dealt with the vital interests of the nation, which the Senate and House of Representatives for the most part shared. Although many and varied goals and ideas split his own party, the president managed to achieve four of his main goals of the presidency:

· reduction of duty rates.

· Creation of an independent Ministry of Finance (state treasury system).

· resolution of the Oregon border dispute (the “Oregon Question”).

annexation of the territories of California and New Mexico.

James N. Polk was one of the most active presidents of the 19th century; work as president greatly undermined his health (he was originally going to run for only one term). However, behind the political scenes of the party, it was already decided long ago that Polk was not suitable for a second term.

He died 103 days after the expiration of his term (the shortest time in the status of an ex-president), presumably from cholera. He lived the shortest of all presidents, not counting the assassinated Kennedys and Garfield. Polk’s wife, Sarah, survived him by almost half a century and acted as a peacemaker during the Civil War, providing her home as a neutral territory for negotiations between southerners and northerners.

His Secretary of State James Buchanan said of him that he was the most diligent man he had ever known. Polk was never a popular figure, like other presidents before him, but with his own form of executive power, he gave the institution of presidents specific contours.

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