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James K. Polk was the 11th President of the United States (1845-1849). He was known for the territorial expansion of America after the Mexican-American War, which led to the establishment of the Department of Interior. Polk was nicknamed the “Young Hickory” and “Napoleon of the Stump”. For more information on James K. Polk read the fact file below or download our comprehensive worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
- James Knox Polk was born on November 2,1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and was one of the ten children of Samuel Polk and Jane Knox. At the age of 10, they moved to Tennessee with his grandfather and James was educated through homeschooling before he entered the academy in 1814. He was admitted to the University of North Carolina in 1816 and he graduated two years later. Afterwards, he studied law in Nashville and was admitted to the bar after a year. James married Sarah Childress on January 1, 1824, and they remained childless.
- From 1819 to 1822, he served as a clerk for the Tennessee State Senate. His first major political stint was when he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1823, and as a Representative, James K. Polk was a huge supporter of President Jackson. In 1835, he became the Speaker of the House, and he served until 1839.
- In 1839, Polk was elected as the governor of Tennessee for a single term. He ran for the vice presidency for the first time in 1840, but lost to the Whig party candidate. In 1844, he won the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination against Martin Van Buren who was running for re-election and was hugely supported by the former President, Andrew Jackson, because they shared the same views on westward expansion. Together with his vice president George M. Dallas, Polk was voted for by the majority of Americans, and during his campaign he highlighted the plan for territorial expansion covering the Oregon Territory.
James K. Polk’s Presidency
- James K. Polk took his oath as the 11th President of the United States on March 4, 1845 at the East Portico in the U.S Capitol.
- President Polk was very particular with his political agenda. He named four priorities during his administration: (1) territorial expansion of America including the foreign controlled territories of Oregon, California, and New Mexico, (2) the revival of the independent treasury system, (3) reduction of tariffs, and (4) settlement of the slavery issue on newly acquired territories.
- The U.S Naval Academy was opened in 1845 and its first secretary was George Bancroft.
- On December 29, 1845, Texas joined the Union as a slave state.
- By March 13, 1846, President Polk, together with the Congress, declared war against Mexico after the attack on General Zachary.
- Mexico was forced to sign the treaty of peace after their defeat in the Battle of Buena Vista and the capture of Mexico City. President Polk supported the ratification of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo making California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, and parts of Arizona and New Mexico the newly acquired territories of the United States. In addition, the current states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and parts of Montana were also included after the Oregon Treaty, following the 49th parallel on June 15, 1846.
- As part of Polk’s initial agenda, the Congress passed the Tariff of 1846, also known as the Walker Tariff but on the other hand, he vetoed the Rivers and Harbors Bill that was passed by the Congress. In support for the re-establishment of the Independent Treasury System, he used his veto power to reject the issuance of federal funds necessary for the improvements of river and harbor points.
- Throughout James Polk’s administration a huge number of Irish immigrants settled in the United States. He did not run for re-election after he pledged for a single term.
- In 1848, Polk oversaw the the beginning of the construction of the Washington Monument, which was eventually finished forty years later.
- As a slave owner himself, Polk supported the extension of the Missouri Compromise, allowing slavery in the southern states.
Post-Presidency and Death
- He spent his short retirement years in Polk Place, his estate in Nashville, Tennessee. On June 15, 1849, three months after his term, Polk as a result of cholera. Many believed that he contracted with the disease after his goodwill tour to Louisiana, New Orleans. His body was initially interred at the Polk Place before it was transferred at the Tennessee State Capitol in 1893, after the demolition of his estate.
- Polk included in his will the emancipation of all his slaves after the death of his wife. His wife died in 1891, over thirty years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.
- James K. Polk was considered one of the few U.S Presidents who accomplished most of his campaign agenda.
James K. Polk Worksheets
This bundle contains 11 ready-to-use James K. Polk Worksheets that are perfect for students who want to learn more about James K. Polk who was the 11th President of the United States (1845-1849). He was known for the territorial expansion of America after the Mexican-American War, which led to the establishment of the Department of Interior.
Download includes the following worksheets:
- James K. Polk Facts
- The Young Hickory
- Mapping Territories
- What Happened First?
- The Mexican-American War
- Cabinet Members
- Polk’s Four Point Agenda
- Political Contemporaries
- Postage Stamp
- The Other James’
- In Memory of J.K.P
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