03 November 2007

James K. Polk

Ok, so a month or so ago we went to South Carolina again and I took a separate car home, so I made some stops on the way. While enroute to my first stop, which was actually just across the North Carolina border, I found the James Polk Birthplace State Historic Site, in Mecklenburg County just south of Charlotte, NC. Polk spent the first years of his life here, then his familly moved to Tennessee. He was a staunch follower of Andrew Jackson, and spent time in Congress, then as Tennessee governor, then intended to run for Vice President. As it turned out however, the Democratic candidate, who was Martin Van Buren, did not want to expand slavery, which lost him popularity. As a result, the Democrats threw Polk in as a "dark horse" candidate, and he won the day. This unusual happening led many to saying "who is this James K. Polk?" The big issue facing the new Presidential candidates was the issue of Texas, newly independent and asking to be admitted into the US. Polk, like Jackson, was a firm believer in manifest Destiny and the US taking all the territory it could get. It was enough to win the election and President Tyler interpereted the results as the public supporting Texas. As a result, Texas was admitted to the US in Dec 1845.
In 1846, the new President Polk avoided war with Britain by dividing the Oregon Territory by treaty. Also following the Texas annexation, Polk hoped to aquire the California area by purchase from Mexico. However, the Mexicans were angry over Texas and refused to even admit the President's representative. Polk, angered at this response, prepared to ask Congress for a declaration while sending troops to the border region. Days before his request, Mexico saved him the trouble by attacking American troops. Congress then quickly declared war and by 1848, Mexico surrendered. The newly aquired territory from the war and the subsequent Gadsden Purchase formed the now states of California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. All this Western Expansion became his greatest legacy. After his one term in office, he said he was done and retired without even running for a second term. He died just three months after leaving office. The above photo is a reconstruction of what his family farm would have looked like. Below is a marker where they believe the original cabin was located.

Items that belonged to Polk and his family
Military Jacket from the Mexican War

Captured Mexican flag from the war.
War prizes from the Mexican war
Rifles and Epalauts from the war

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