#11 James K. Polk


Term: 1845-1849

Party: Democratic

James K. Polk entered office as the “Dark Horse President”, in that he barely won his election and was an unlikely candidate for the democrat party in the first place. He appealed to American voters at the time who wanted expansion and had the idea of “manifest destiny” still on their mind. Polk’s platform to annex Texas and Oregon, gave him enough favor from the public to barely surpass his opponent Henry Clay in votes. After entering office, James K Polk had four goals during his presidency: create a new independent national treasury, lower taxes, settle problems in Oregon (several countries claimed to own this area, but Americans were already settled there), and to territories that would become California, Texas, and New Mexico.

The Oregon area was reoccupied by giving the offer of expansion of the Canadian border to the 49th parallel, when Britain declined; Polk threatened to reclaim the entire territory for Americans. Cheers for “54-40 or fight!” began to erupt. The treaty was signed as Britain accepted the offer of the 49th parallel to avoid war. Texas accepted offers to join the union as the 28th state in 1845. The annexation of Texas brought relations with Mexico to a sour taste as they had lost Texas in the Texas Revolution in 1836. Polk’s success in admitting Texas, brought to his next challenge; acquiring territories from Mexico. An offer was sent to settle the debts of Mexico to the U.S and $20M, that was rejected by Mexican Leaders. To put pressure to the Mexicans, troops were sent to the disputed border. When the troops were met by Mexican troops which attacked seeing the action of Americans as a threat, Polk had the reason to pressure congress into agreement for war. Congress declared war and began the Mexican-American War, the two year battle ended with American victory. “Mexico relinquished its claims to Texas. It also recognized the Rio Grande as America’s southern border and, in exchange for $15 million, ceded the land that makes up all or parts of present-day California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming”(history.com). James K Polk was successful in achieving all four of his aspirations as president. He was the perfect president in the coast to coast expansion of the United States. Acquiring lands that would become many new states.  Critics of Polk pointed out that his actions were not taking into consideration the possibility of disunion over the problems of slavery due to the Mexican-American War.

Whether or not he was an amazing president,  James K. Polk was a significant one in the terms of holding onto Jacksonian beliefs of Manifest Destiny. Successful in all of his aspirations, Polk in one term brought many changes that he had promised during his campaign.









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