JAMES K. POLK
By: Maria Villegas
James Knox Polk was born on November 2, 1795 in a farmhouse located in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. His father was Samuel Polk and his mother Jane Polk, he had one sibling who's name was William Hawkins Polk. The family followed James's grandfather to frontier Tennessee, a difficult journey of nearly five hundred miles by wagon, to carve farms and plantations out of the wilderness. James's father, Samuel Polk, prospered in Tennessee, owning thousands of acres of land and more than fifty slaves at his death in 1827. His success in farming enabled him to dabble in local politics, and he actively supported fellow Tennessean Andrew Jackson's presidential campaign in 1824. Tennessee was place where he studied. Polk was graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina. As a young lawyer he entered politics, served in the Tennessee legislature, and became a friend of Andrew Jackson. Polk was a chief lieutenant of Andrew Jackson in his Bank war. He served as Speaker between 1835 and 1839, and left to become Governor of Tennessee.
Polk needed an excuse to declare war, expecting at the most to fight a few skirmishes on the Rio Grande and then start negotiating. The Mexicans gave him the excuse he needed. The general commanding their troops on the Rio Grande sent a force across the river, and it ambushed a detachment of Americans and killed or captured all of them. The American general, Zachary Taylor, reported this action as a Mexican attack and concluded: "I presume this means the beginning of war." Polk and his cabinet prepared a declaration of war.
How was California acquired?
The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended and specified the major consequence of the war: the forced Mexican Cession of the territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México to the United States in exchange for $15 million.
In 1846, the Oregon boundary dispute between the U.S. and Britain was settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty. The British gained sole possession of the land north of the 49th parallel and all of Vancouver Island, with the United States receiving the territory south of that line. All through the presidency of James K. Polk. In his stand on Oregon, the President seemed to be risking war with Great Britain also. The 1844 Democratic platform claimed the entire Oregon area, from the California boundary northward to a latitude of 54'40', the southern boundary of Russian Alaska. Extremists proclaimed "Fifty-four forty or fight," but Polk, aware of diplomatic realities, knew that no course short of war was likely to get all of Oregon. Neither he nor the British wanted a war
How was California acquired?
James K. Polk grew with an ambitious mind and entered to run for president. In 1844 Polk was also a leading nominee for Democratic president, although Martin Van Buren, who had been expected to win the Democratic nomination for President, and Henry Clay, who was to be the Whig nominee, tried to take the expansionist issue out of the campaign by declaring themselves opposed to the annexation of Texas. Polk, however, publicly asserted that Texas should be "re-annexed" and all of Oregon "re-occupied."People favored expansion, so urged the choice of a candidate committed to the Nation's "Manifest Destiny." This view prevailed at the Democratic Convention, where Polk was nominated on the ninth ballot. Polk was the candidate who stood for expansion.