James Polk was born in 1795 in North Carolina, and went on to become the 11th and youngest (at the time) president of the United States (1845–1849). Polk’s annexation of Texas led to the Mexican-American War (1846–1848), and the U.S. victory thereby led to the acquisition of large territories in the Southwest and along the Pacific coast, which in turn led to the establishment of the Department of the Interior. The northern border of the United States was also established under Polk, as were the Naval Academy and the Smithsonian. He died on June 15, 1849, in Nashville, Tennessee.
James Knox Polk was born in Pineville, a small town in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, on November 2, 1795, and graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. Leaving his law practice behind, he served in the Tennessee legislature, where he became friends with Andrew Jackson. Polk moved from the Tennessee legislature to the United States House of Representatives, serving from 1825 to 1839 (and serving as speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839). He left his congressional post to become governor of Tennessee.
APPROACHING THE PRESIDENCY
Leading into the presidential election of 1844, Polk was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for the vice presidency. Both would-be presidential candidates, Martin Van Buren for the Democrats and Henry Clay for the Whigs, sought to skirt the expansionist ("manifest destiny") issue during the campaign, seeing it as potentially controversial. The first step in distancing their campaigns was declaring opposition to the annexation of Texas. Polk, on the other hand, took a hard stance on the issue, insisting on the annexation of Texas and, in a roundabout way, Oregon.
Enter Andrew Jackson, who knew that the American public favored westward expansion. He sought to run a candidate in the election committed to the precepts of manifest destiny, and at the Democratic Convention, Polk was nominated to...