Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Polk, James Knox

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 POLK, James Knox (1795-1849), eleventh president of the United States of America, was of Scoto-Irish descent, his ancestors, whose name was Pollok, having emigrated from Ireland in the 18th century. He was the eldest of ten children, and was born 2d November 1795 in Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, from which his father, who was a farmer, removed in 1806 to the valley of the Duck river, Tennessee. At an early age he was placed in a merchant's office, but as he showed a disinclination for business his father at last permitted him to begin preparatory studies for the university. In 1815 he entered the university of North Carolina, where in 1818 he graduated with the highest honours. Called to the bar in 1820, he speedily made for himself a high reputation, and in 1823 he entered the State legislature. In August 1825 he was chosen to represent his district in Congress, to which he was re-elected every succeeding two years until 1839. As a strong supporter of Democratic opinions he identified himself with every important discussion, and, though he was not a brilliant speaker, his solid abilities, extraordinary energy, and indomitable will soon gave him a place in the front rank of politicians. In 1835 he was chosen speaker of the House of Representatives, to which he was re-elected in 1837, and in 1839 he was elected governor of Tennessee. In 1844 he was the Democrat candidate for the presidentship, and was chosen over Clay by a majority of sixty-five electoral votes. The election in great measure turned on the annexation of Texas, which was effected before his inauguration. One of the earliest questions with which his administration had to deal was the boundary of Oregon, which, although he had previously declared the title of the United States to Oregon to be “clear and undisputed,” was finally fixed at the parallel of 49º instead of 54º 40.' Following the annexation of Texas came the Mexican war, resulting in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, 2d February 1848, by which New Mexico and California were ceded to the United States. Other important measures of his administration were the admission of Iowa and Wisconsin to the Union, the adoption of a low tariff in 1846, the organization of the department of the interior, and the adoption of the method of collecting Government revenues by specie without the aid of the banks. Polk retired from office 4th March 1849, and died in Nashville, 15th June of the same year.

Life of the Hon. James Knox Polk, with a Compendium of his Speeches, 1844; Chase, History of the Polk Administration, 1850.