Salute to President James Knox Polk (1845-1849)

Posted by in Commemoration/Celebration | February 18, 2019


James K. Polk, the 11th President of these United States of America, was born on November 2. 1795 at a 150 acre farm in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in what is now called Pineville, North Carolina, just outside Charlotte to Jane and Samuel Polk.  His middle name “Knox” was from his mother who was reported to be a descendant of John Knox the Scottish Reformer.  He was raised in a strong Christian faith.

When he was 11 the family moved to Tennessee, but James later returned to North Carolina to attend and graduate from the University of North Carolina.  Upon his return to Tennessee he studied law in Nashville and practiced in Columbia which south of Nashville.

He served as a representative in the Tennessee legislature and was later elected to the House of Representatives where he served as Speaker of the House for four years.  Retiring from Congress in 1839 he was then elected governor of Tennessee.  During the course of these accomplishments he became a friend of General Andrew Jackson.

Governor Polk became the first “dark horse” presidential candidate for the Democratic Party in 1844 when the supporters of former-President Martin Van Buren could not garner the two-thirds majority necessary for him to be nominated.  Thus, the convention selected Governor Polk, who was popular in the South, as a compromise.

His campaign focused on the annexation of Texas and the Oregon Territory.  His strong stand on both these issues along with the slogan “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight,” which referred to the northern boundary of the Oregon Territory, helped him to win the election.

He entered the office of the presidency with clear goals which he accomplished in four years: he settled the Oregon border issue with Great Britain; he demanded that the Texas border extend to the Rio Grande which brought on the Mexican-American War and resulted in the acquisition of not only the disputed lands of Texas but also California; he changed tariffs rates from quantity to quality; and he established an independent treasury.  He was probably more responsible than any other president in setting the boundaries of the “The Old West.”  Having accomplished his goals in four years, he retired to the private life after only one term in office.

Unfortunately, four years of hard work as president, brought on cholera from which he died only three months after he left the office of the presidency.  Just before he died he and his wife, the former Sarah Childress, were in the process of building a home on a mount in downtown Nashville.  The home has long since been razed and replaced with the Tennessee State Capitol Building.

He is a little known president, but in only four years he had a tremendous effect on the expanse of the United States of America.

More may be learned about the President and Mrs. Polk and the events during their lives at the memorial in Pineville, North Carolina and the James K. Home in Columbia, Tennessee.

Quotes attributed to President Polk:

No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure.

One great object of the Constitution was to restrain majorities from oppressing minorities or encroaching upon their just rights.

Under the blessings of Divine Providence… It becomes us, in humility, to make our devout acknowledgments to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, for the inestimable civil and religious blessings with which we are favored.