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James K. Polk - with Periodic Presidents 

“Who is James K. Polk?” the Whigs jeered in 1844.  The Democrats replied that he was a candidate who stood expansion and America’s Manifest Destiny.  As a candidate, Polk successfully linked the annexation of Texas (which was popular in the South) with the acquisition of Oregon (which was popular with the North).  Polk also favored acquiring California from Mexico.  In the election of 1844,  James K. Polk defeated his Whig opponent, 170 electoral votes to 105 electoral votes to become the 11th president of the United States.  Often referred to as the first “dark horse” president, James K. Polk was the last of the Jacksonians to sit in the White House and is considered, by many, to be the last strong president before the Civil War. 


 Polk entered office determined to make good on his campaign promises.  By 1846, President Polk successfully negotiated a treaty with Great Britain that set that boundary between the United States and Canada at the 49th parallel.  The acquisition of California proved to be more difficult.  The Mexican-American War ultimately settled the issue and in 1848, Mexico ceded New Mexico and California to the United States.  During his presidency, Polk presided over a vast expansion of the United States.  The addition of this new land ultimately led to a bitter quarrel between the North and South over the expansion of slavery.


President Polk kept good on a promise to serve only one term and did not run for re-election in 1848.  Often referred to as the “hardest working president” Polk left the presidency in poor health.  President Polk died on June 15, 1849…just months after the end of his presidency.  He was only 53 years old.

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