Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Polk, James Knox

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POLK, JAMES KNOX, an American statesman, 11th President of the United States; born in Mecklenburg co., N. C., Nov. 2, 1795. His ancestors, who bore the name of Pollock, emigrated from the W. of Ireland early in the 18th century. He was educated at the University of Nashville, Tenn., and was admitted to the bar in 1820. In 1823 he was sent to the Tennessee Legislature, and in 1824 to Congress, to which body he was re-elected for seven successive terms, serving till 1839. He was made chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means in 1833, and twice elected Speaker of the House — 1835-1837. In Congress he was consistently a Democrat, supporting unwaveringly the administrations of Jackson and Van Buren, and opposing that of Adams. In 1839 he was elected Governor of Tennessee, and in 1844 unexpectedly nominated as a compromise candidate of the National Democratic Convention for the presidency, and elected over Henry Clay, the Whig candidate. His administration was eventful, and in some respects brilliant. Texas was annexed, and the Mexican War fought which, with territorial purchases, added the great territory now comprising Texas, California, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, and the W. part of Colorado to the domain of the United States. The Oregon boundary forming one of the issues on which he was elected, was settled by a compromise offered by England. He was a man of eminent administrative abilities, of consistent principles and pure and upright private character. At the close of his single term Polk declined to stand for renomination, and retired to private life in Nashville, Tenn., where he died June 15, 1849.

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