James K. Polk

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James Knox Polk on February 14, 1849, four months before his death
Signature of James K. Polk

James Knox Polk (born  November 2, 1795 in Pineville , Mecklenburg County , North Carolina , †  June 15, 1849 in Nashville , Tennessee ) was the eleventh President of the United States from March 4, 1845 to March 4, 1849 . Before that, he served as governor of the state of Tennessee (1839 to 1841) and speaker of the House of Representatives (1835 to 1839). Polk belonged to the Democratic Party .

Polk's tenure was particularly marked by his annexationist foreign policy. As a supporter of the " Manifest Destiny " he expanded the national territory to the Pacific and the Rio Grande . In the dispute over the Oregon Territory , he threatened Great Britain with war , in order to finally give in and divide the area between the two nations . The Mexican-American War brought the greatest land gain : in the Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoThat ended the war, the United States received an additional 3.1 million square kilometers, the largest land acquisition to date.

Domestically, his tenure included the establishment of the Home Office , the establishment of the United States Naval Academy , the Smithsonian Institution, and the Washington Monument, and the introduction of the United States' first postage stamp . In 1846 Polk signed the Walker Tariff , which withdrew the Whigs' Black Tariff from 1842 and ushered in a period of almost free trade until 1861 .

Polk was not the first president to leave the White House after just one term , but he was the first to say so when he was elected. He died three months after his term ended.

Early years

James K. Polk House , Polk lived here from 1816
Sarah Childress (1803-1891) was the wife of James K. Polk and thus First Lady of the United States

James Polk was born the first of ten children on November 2, 1795 in what is now Pineville, North Carolina. His father, Samuel Polk (July 5, 1772 - November 3, 1827) was a farmer of Scottish-Irish descent. His mother Jane Knox Polk, nee Knox (December 25, 1776 - January 11, 1852) was a descendant of a brother of the Scottish reformer John Knox and a devout Presbyterian . James Polk's grandfathers had both fought in the War of Independence . In 1806 the family moved to Tennessee, Maury County, not far from the Duck River . There Samuel Polk became one of the wealthiest farmers in the area; he owned around 50 slaves. In 1824 he supported Andrew Jackson in his election campaign.

Polk was a child in poor health, especially after the family followed Grandfather on a half-mile trek to Tennessee in 1806 . In 1812 his father took him to see surgeon Dr. Ephraim McDowell . This diagnosed kidney stones that were removed in an operation.

Polk was homeschooled , partly by his mother and partly by employed teachers. He did not begin his first school education until the age of 18 when he was studying at the Zion Presbyterian Church in Maury County. He later attended a school in Murfreesboro , where he also met his future wife Sarah Childress . After less than three years, he left Tennessee to study classical languages and mathematics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill . In 1818, he graduated from the top of his class there and returned to Nashville to study law with the resident attorney Felix Grundy . He was a well-respected lawyer and later became a senator and minister of justice in the government of President Van Buren . During his studies, Polk worked as an employee in the Senate .

In 1820 he was admitted to the bar and opened a law firm in Columbia . His partner was the future governor and post office minister Aaron V. Brown . In 1823, Polk became a member of the Tennessee House of Representatives .

Polk and Sarah Childress, then 20, had known each other for eight years when they were married on January 1, 1824; the couple remained childless. Sarah was to play an important role in Polk's career, because her obliging manners and high level of education - she had learned at the prestigious Moravian Female Academy in Salem - made up for Polk's communicative weaknesses - he rather avoided societies, chats and small talk - to a decisive extent out.

Political career

James Polk at a young age

The beginnings

Polk had been brought up in the tradition of Thomas Jefferson , for his father and grandfather, as Democrats, were great supporters of his ideas. Polk held his first public office from 1821 to 1823 as clerk in the Tennessee Senate ; In 1823 he was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives, where he remained until 1825. During this time he became a loyal supporter and friend of Andrew Jackson , the leading politician from Tennessee, and represented Governor William Carroll as chief legislative lieutenant . In 1824 Jackson ran for the presidential election ; at the same time, Polk ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives . He won his election and was a member of the Tennessee 6th Congressional District from 1825 to 1839 - winning six elections - but Jackson lost his in the runoff to John Quincy Adams . Although he outperformed his competitors in terms of electors and direct votes, he missed the necessary absolute majority and the House of Representatives opted for Adams. In his first speech to the House, Polk then announced his dissatisfaction with the electoral system in general, and with the election of Adam in particular. He did not see in him the representative elected by the people and so he campaigned, albeit in vain, for the abolition of the Electoral College . He remained a tireless opponent of Adams' domestic and foreign policy.

As a member of the House of Representatives

In Congress, Polk was a supporter of Jackson's democracy : he rejected the Second Bank of the United States and preferred gold and silver supplies to paper money. Since he also preferred agricultural over industrial interests and also unconditionally supported Jackson during the nullification crisis , he soon acquired the nickname Young Hickory , based on Andrew Jackson's nickname Old Hickory . This may also have been due to the fact that the president who had no children treated him like a son.

After Jackson triumphed over Adams in the 1828 presidential election , Polk's popularity continued to grow. As chairman of the powerful Committee on Ways and Means , the most important and oldest committee in the House of Representatives, he advocated the dissolution of the National Bank .

Speaker of the House

On December 7, 1835, Polk was elected 17th  Speaker of the House of Representatives, thanks to the influence of the President. Andrew Jackson, who served as president until 1837, was followed by the Democrat Martin Van Buren . The last two years of Polk's tenure have been marked by ongoing fighting between Democrats and Whigs. Polk remained speaker until March 4, 1839, but the political situation in Tennessee convinced him to return to his homeland. The Democrats had lost the governor's office for the first time in 1835 and had had considerable difficulty holding their own against the successful Whigs. Polk decided to run for gubernatorial elections that same year, hoping to reverse this trend.

Governor of Tennessee

Polk left Congress in 1839 after 14 years and ran in the Tennessee election, where he beat incumbent Newton Cannon by a margin of 2,500 votes. Although he was initially able to stop his party's loss of voters in Tennessee, this success could not be repeated. This was related to a severe economic crisis, the visible signs of which were abandoned farms and bankruptcies. In the 1840 presidential election , the Democrat Van Buren was beaten by the popular Whig William Henry Harrison , who was promised a solution to economic problems. In his own re-election as governor in 1841, Polk also had to surrender to a Whig. He was succeeded by James C. Jones . Polk faced him again in the next election in 1843, but lost again. He then withdrew from politics, waiting for a more favorable opportunity to return.

Presidential election 1844

Result of the 1844 presidential election (by country)


Polk originally hoped to be nominated for Vice President at the National Convention of the Democrats beginning in Baltimore in May 1844 . The most promising democratic candidate for the presidency was the former president Martin Van Buren , who refused to accept further slave-holding states. Other possible candidates were the moderate James Buchanan and the expansionist Lewis Cass of Michigan . Acting President John Tyler , who had been expelled from the Whigs and worked on the annexation of Texas, was also supported by a smaller group of Democrats. The main controversy in the election campaign was whether the Republic of Texas , which had gained independence from Mexico in 1836 , should join the United States. Van Buren turned down annexation on April 27, losing the support of many Democrats, including former President Andrew Jackson. Polk, on the other hand, called on May 6 in the Washington Globe for the annexation of both Texas and the Oregon Country , which is now the northwestern United States. For Jackson, Van Buren was out as a candidate and Polk was his husband. In addition, many party members considered Van Buren to represent the old dynasties and outdated politics.

In the primary elections, Van Buren was able to unite the majority, but not the two-thirds majority required for a nomination. A southern bloc prevented this, which now tried to enforce Lewis Cass. But even he could not bring a sufficient majority behind him, even if he received more votes than his opponent in the fifth vote. When it became clear after seven rounds that Van Buren would not be able to win the necessary votes, Polk was put up for election as a Dark Horse candidate (outsider) for the ninth round , the first in the USA. In this ninth ballot, Polk reached the nomination for president on May 30 at 2 p.m. with Jackson's support. George M. Dallas became his nominee for the vice presidency after Silas Wright turned it down.

Election poster of the Democrats 1844

Despite serving as the House Speaker for 14 years, Polk had remained relatively unknown, which led some Whig to mockingly ask: Who is James K. Polk? On learning of his nomination, Polk replied, “It must be noted that the office of President of the United States should not be sought or rejected. I have never sought it, nor should I have the discretion to refuse if my fellow citizens should delegate it to me by their consent. "

Since the opinions of his party members regarding his politics differed greatly, Polk promised not to run for re-election in 1848 in the event of an election victory after one term. Linked to this was the hope that the rival groups within the party would be reconciled, knowing that another candidate could be elected in four years.

Election campaign

James Polk's opponent from the ranks of the Whigs was Henry Clay of Kentucky . The previous incumbent John Tyler , a former Democrat who later went over to the Whigs, had fallen out with his party, had already been expelled in 1841 and was therefore not nominated for a second term. The question of the annexation of Texas also dominated the election campaigns - especially since the Whigs-controlled Senate had rejected the occupation of Texas - as it had already done in the Democratic nomination. While Polk continued to be a strong proponent of immediate entry, Clay did not commit.

Another issue of the campaign was expansion to the west, particularly the Oregon Country, which was under the joint occupation of Great Britain and the United States. Here, too, Polk had already committed himself during the nomination battle. His urge to expand, later known as the doctrine of the Manifest Destiny ("overt destiny"), was ultimately of decisive importance for the 1844 election victory. He called for an extension of the national territory in the north up to 54 ° 40 ′ north latitude. Often, it is therefore the resultant until the following Congress debates saying "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" ( "Fifty-four Forty or war") located on the geographical himself latitude as northern border of Oregon countrys referred to when campaign slogan attributed.

A third candidate entered the race with the abolitionist James G. Birney from New York , who competed for the small Liberty Party . Although he hardly won any votes, he was able to take decisive votes from the Whigs in his home state.

The style of the election became more and more important, because personal vilification, right up to the claim that Polk participated in the slave trade, prevailed in the still young public opinion. The Whigs tried to influence this by distributing 800,000 tracts in which they suspected him of establishing a "slaveocracy". Polk's campaign machinery accused Clay of immoral behavior, from treason to blasphemy to visiting brothels. It was claimed that he broke all of the Ten Commandments. The candidates were personally attacked to an unprecedented extent, so that the voters decided based on party affinity and less on proximity to the candidate. The importance of public opinion is also shown by the fact that Polk was the first president to have the news of his inauguration spread by telegraph .

Polk won the election mainly in the south and west of the country, while Clay found support in the northeast, although as a slave owner he was not a convincing opponent of slavery . Polk, also a slave owner, therefore narrowly lost his home state of Tennessee, but also narrowly won the state of New York, which was decisive with 36 electoral votes, where Clay lost many votes to Birney. Polk eventually won by 170 to 105 electoral votes not in the Electoral College , while only a thin margin of 38,175 votes - exactly 1,337,243 to 1,299,062 votes - the popular vote decided for themselves. In fact, the only 62,300 votes for Birney had probably cost the Whig candidate Clay the decisive electors from New York and Michigan and thus decided the election.


The Polk Cabinet: (back from left) Cave Johnson, George Bancroft, (front from left) John Y. Mason, William L. Marcy, James K. Polk, Robert J. Walker. This picture, taken around 1845 in the State Dining Room of the White House , is believed to be the first photograph taken by a US cabinet.

When Polk took office on March 4, 1845 at the age of 49, he became the youngest president to date. Although he only ruled for one term, his presidency changed the United States significantly.


Polk owned a few slaves for most of his life. His father left his widow and children over 3,000 acres of land and 53 slaves, nine of which passed into Polk's possession. In 1831 he built a cotton plantation on the land his father had left him near Somerville , on which he let his slaves work without living there himself. Three years later, he sold the farm and bought with his brother together about 370 hectares of land in Coffeeville ( Mississippi ), where they built a new cotton plantation. He himself rarely bought and sold slaves and in his will he decreed that his slaves should be released after his death and that of his wife.

Polk's advocacy and practical application of slave laws divided the public into supporters and opponents. During his tenure he was often criticized as a tool of the slave owners and asked that less slavery than the annexation of Texas and thus later the war against Mexico should come to the fore of his politics. In his diary, Polk wrote that he believed that slavery could not exist in the territories won by Mexico, but still refused to sign the Wilmot Proviso , which would have banned slavery there. Instead, Polk campaigned for the Missouri Compromise border to be extended to the Pacific Ocean by including a non-slavery state with Oregon and a state with permission to maintain slavery with Texas.

Foreign policy

Polk and his followers believed in Manifest Destiny , the divine mandate to spread culture and expand. In order to equally satisfy the interests of the north and the south in the efforts derived from this, Polk sought the Oregon Territory, which is the present-day states of Oregon, Washington , Idaho , parts of Montana and Wyoming , and large parts of present-day British Columbia included, as well as Texas and California, which was part of Mexico.

The Oregon Territory

The area of ​​Oregon Territory that fell to the United States after the compromise negotiated

James Polk put the British under heavy pressure to resolve the Oregon dispute . Since 1818 the area was under the joint control of both states, with London ceding the area to the Hudson's Bay Company . The British did not accept an initial offer to divide the country along the 49th parallel, as they had a strong interest in the Columbia River , which would not have been on the British side with this offer. But there was one of the most important forts of the trading company, Fort Vancouver . Polk broke off negotiations and returned to the All Oregon demand of the democratic base, which claimed the entire area. The slogan Fifty-Four Forty or Fight (meaning the demand 54 ° 40 ′ as the border of the Oregon region or war) is wrongly associated with Polk, who always tried to find a compromise through diplomatic channels. Polk wanted to win land, not war, and so he agreed with the then British Foreign Secretary Lord Aberdeen on the Oregon Compromise of 1846, which set the 49th parallel as the limit originally required by Polk. Although many of his supporters disagreed and they still wanted to annex the entire area, the US Senate approved the compromise with 41:14 votes. The approximately 700,000 km² large part that was awarded to the USA was organized in 1848 as Oregon Territory . The area included today's states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho as well as parts of Montana and Wyoming. The British part became a Canadian province as British Columbia in 1871.


Polk's victory was widely seen as the final decision for the annexation of the Republic of Texas , which was proclaimed in 1836 and which had long been prepared. Congress had already approved the accession plan on February 28, 1845, offered to join on March 1, and Texas accepted the offer. It became a state of the United States on December 29, 1845. The Mexican government, however, had granted Texas sovereignty in 1841 only on condition that Texas would remain independent and not join another state. Mexican politicians had repeatedly warned that if the United States annexed Texas, war would ensue.

War with mexico

After the annexation of Texas, Polk turned to the Pacific coast, more precisely Upper California , which was part of the Mexican state. The American government took advantage of the fact that the province had lived in a kind of state of emergency since 1836, because it was ruled by governors who were rejected by the population. This population, which in turn consisted partly of Americans, campaigned for an independent California. Polk himself caused a surge in the number of immigrants in 1848 after the California gold rush had set numerous adventurers in motion since the spring of 1848. His speech to Congress on December 5, 1848 not only made the gold discoveries well-known, but also strengthened the immigration movement, which in turn underpinned Polk's policy in retrospect.

In 1845 Polk sent the diplomat John Slidell to Mexico to buy the California and New Mexico territories from the government for $ 30 million. The Mexican government initially assumed that Slidell was coming to compensate for the loss of Texas. However, when she heard that he wanted to buy more land, she refused to accept him. To secure the Texan acquisition and to increase the pressure on Mexico, Polk sent troops under General Zachary Taylor in January 1846 to the Mexican-American border area between the Rio Grande and the Nueces Rivers .

Territory of the USA gained through the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (red) and the Gadsden purchase (orange)

Slidell returned to Washington in May 1846 without exchanging a word with the Mexican government. Polk took this as an insult and asked the American Congress for a declaration of war. Furthermore, it was convenient for him that in the spring of 1846 the residents of Upper California rebelled and made José Castro , a born Californian, commander-general. The news that Mexican troops had marched into the border area and killed 11 American soldiers eventually made Polk central to his statement to Congress. In his message of May 11, 1846, he reported an invasion of Mexico in which American blood had been shed. He dramatized the process and withheld the fact that the attacked border area did not belong to the United States at all. Although some congressmen - especially the young Abraham Lincoln - expressed doubts, Congress approved a declaration of war on May 13, 1846 with a clear majority of 174-14 votes.

In the summer of 1846, New Mexico was conquered by American troops under General Stephen W. Kearny . Meanwhile, Captain John C. Frémont had settlers in northern California take the small Mexican garrison in Sonoma . General Zachary Taylor won two battles at Monterrey (September 1846) and Buena Vista (February 1847). After a survey by American citizens in California, the US Army marched there and occupied Los Angeles in January 1847 , on September 15, troops under Winfield Scott were in the capital of Mexico.

Polk sent Nicholas Trist to Mexico to continue the negotiations. He instructed him not to return until he could produce a result. Trist negotiated the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 . Polk agreed to the treaty, ignoring the voices in his party calling for the full annexation of Mexico. Through this treaty, through which Mexico also recognized the loss of Texas, he added 1.36 million square kilometers to the state. While the United States' territory grew by a third, Mexico shrank by over half.

After the compromise of 1850 , the State of California , the New Mexico Territory, and the Utah Territory were formed. Mexico received $ 15 million in compensation for this, half the amount it had refused before the war. The war claimed the lives of 13,780 Americans and many more Mexicans. Polk confided in his diary: "An immense empire will be added to the United States, the value of which will be difficult to measure in twenty years." The total cost of the United States was approximately $ 100 million.

Abraham Lincoln later accused the president in Congress that his statements about what was going on in the border area were opaque and never warranted a declaration of war. In January 1848, the Whigs won a congressional vote to honor General Taylor for his service in "an entirely unnecessary and anti-constitutional war started by the President." However, the Whigs, who had rejected Polk's policy in January 1848, changed their minds in the summer. Two-thirds of the Whigs represented in the Senate now voted for the treaty that ended the war. Shortly thereafter, they nominated Zachary Taylor, the hero of war, as their presidential candidate. Taylor promised not to provoke any more wars in the future, but refused to criticize Polk for his actions. He kept his promise not to stand for a second term, and the Whigs subsequently won the presidential election of 1848 .


In the summer of 1848, Polk commissioned his ambassador to Spain to negotiate the sale of Cuba and offered Spain over $ 100 million. Cuba was very close to mainland America, but slavery allowed it. The southern states were accordingly taken with the idea, while it met with rejection in the north. The Spanish government rejected the offer.

Domestic and economic policy

Polk faced an opposition that saw the expansion of the national territory as a pretext to spread slavery and thus destroy the internal balance of power between opponents and supporters of this practice. They also suspected him of waging wars only to distract attention from the internal problems of the states. David Wilmot , Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania, demanded in the so-called Wilmot Proviso that slavery should not be introduced in the areas annexed by Mexico. The votes showed for the first time that the rift ran through both parties. The members of the south voted in both parties for the expansion of slavery, the members from the north against. The split in the USA was evident here. Consequently, the question was not even mentioned in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. Polk's fiercest internal party opponent was John C. Calhoun from South Carolina , who opposed Polk's proposal to recognize the Missouri Compromise (36 ° 30 ′) as the borderline for permitting slavery.

Economic policy, especially customs policy, split the country into the south and west on the one hand and the north on the other. During the election campaign, Polk had promised protective tariffs, but on the initiative of his finance minister and brother-in-law Robert J. Walker , he lowered most tariffs very far (Walker Tariff) , which pleased consumers, the producers of new products that are in need of protection against foreign competition held, but chipped away. The Walker Tariff reduced the unpopular Black Tariff , introduced by the Whigs in 1842, which had drastically increased tariffs. Polk's tariff reduction ushered in a period of almost free trade that lasted until 1861. The revival of a kind of state bank, more precisely of deposit offices, which were the only ones to receive and issue gold- or silver-covered paper, deepened the contrasts. The Independent Treasury Act , which the Whigs had rejected in 1841 and which President Tyler had vetoed twice , has now been enforced. Walker also drafted the law that eventually led to the establishment of the Home Office on March 31, 1849 . This was assigned numerous tasks that had previously been in various departments , such as land allocation, financial policy, Indian affairs, but also warfare and patent and trademark rights that were important for economic development.

The official portrait of James Polk from the White House

Appeals to the Supreme Court

James Polk appointed the following judges to the US Supreme Court during his tenure :

Exercise of the presidency

According to the politician and historian George Bancroft , Polk set four political goals in his brief address during his inauguration in 1845, which he then fully implemented in just one term: the reintroduction of an independent treasury , the reduction of customs duties , and the settlement of disputes with Great Britain the Oregon Territory and the acquisition of California from Mexico. Bancroft served as Naval Minister under Polk and later as Ambassador to London, and presented Polk's first brief biography in the late 1880s. In 1889 this account was included by James Schouler in his History of the United States of America, under the Constitution and it appears again in the first extensive and source-based biography James K. Polk: A Political Biography by Eugene Irving McCormac from 1922.

Since then, Polk has been regularly counted among the most influential and successful US presidents in surveys of historians, mainly because of the achievement of his goals and the significant expansion of the national territory of the United States. President Harry S. Truman also said of his predecessor: “A great president. He said what he intended to do and did it. "(" James K Polk, a great president. Said what he intended to do, and did it. ")

However, there are no contemporary sources for Polk's statements, which only became apparent when the historian Tom Chaffin published an edition of all Polk's correspondence and in 2012 came to the 12th volume of the period in question. Bancroft first noted the four goals in his short biography at the end of the 1880s; no contemporary witness of the inauguration in 1845 reports such an announcement. Polk's extensive and fully preserved diary, published in 1910, contains countless records of political discussions and planning, but no reference to a four-point program or even the mention of these four goals at the time of inauguration.

The last months

The grave of James K. Polk and his wife

Polk's time in the White House ended on March 4, 1849. He toured the areas annexed by his government and was received with great acclaim. On his return, however, his health was in poor health and he was losing weight rapidly, with deep lines on his face and dark circles under the eyes. He was probably on his tour in New Orleans with cholera infected. He broke off his trip and suffered from diarrhea on the way home . Polk drew up a new will in which he assured his slaves freedom - but only after his and his wife's death. At the same time he had six more slaves bought.

He was baptized a Methodist a week before his death. He died at his Nashville home on June 15, 1849, aged 53.

He was first buried on the property of the house he had lived in and which belonged to his friend Senator Felix Grundy. In 1893 he and his wife, who died in 1891, were buried together in a grave on the Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville. An initiative was launched to transfer him and his wife to meet his original wish to be buried at his home. This would be the third reburial.

The house in Columbia, the James K. Polk House , built by Polk's father around 1816 , now houses more than a thousand exhibits from the Polks' lifetime. His country house in Nashville, however, was demolished in 1901.

Honors and monuments

Eleven counties in the United States are named after Polk. The series of presidential dollars, launched in 2007, minted coins with the portraits of William Henry Harrison , John Tyler , Zachary Taylor and Polk in 2009 . The James K. Polk House in Columbia has been a National Historic Landmark since July 1961 .


The American comedy series Ned's Ultimate School Madness is set in the fictional James K. Polk Middle School .

See also


  • Jörg Nagler : James K. Polk (1845–1849): The President of Manifest Destiny , in: Christof Mauch (Ed.): The American Presidents. 44 historical portraits from George Washington to Barack Obama , 6th, continued and updated edition, CH Beck, Munich 2013, pp. 145–152. ISBN 978-3-406-58742-9 .
  • Robert W. Merry : A country of vast designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War, and the conquest of the American continent , Simon & Schuster, New York 2009. ISBN 0-7432-9743-1 .
  • Walter R. Borneman: Polk. The man who transformed the Presidency and America , Random House, New York 2008. ISBN 978-1-4000-6560-8 .
  • Reginald Horsman: Race and Manifest Destiny. The Origins of American Racial Anglo-Saxonism , Harvard University Press 2006. ISBN 978-0-674-94805-1 .
  • William Dusinberre: Slavemaster President: The Double Career of James Polk , Oxford University Press, New York 2003. ISBN 0-19-532603-2 .
  • John Seigenthaler: James K. Polk. (= The American Presidents Series. Ed. By Arthur M. Schlesinger , Sean Wilentz . The 11th President ). Times Books, New York 2003, ISBN 0-8050-6942-9 .
  • Thomas M. Leonard: James K. Polk: A Clear and Unquestionable Destiny , Rowman & Littlefield, Wilmington 2000. ISBN 0-8420-2647-9 .
  • Johannes Eue: The Oregon question. American Expansion and the Pacific Northwest, 1814–1848 (Series: North American Studies, Vol. 3), 1995. ISBN 3-8258-2382-2 .
  • Charles Sellers: James K. Polk. Volume 1: Jacksonian. Volume 2: Continentalist , Princeton University Press, 1957, 1966.

Web links

Commons : James K. Polk  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Wikisource: James K. Polk  - Sources and full texts (English)


  1. His headstone is in Greenwood Cemetery, Columbia, Maury County .
  2. See Howell Family Genealogy Pages, Jean Grace Knox .
  3. a b After John C. Pinheiro: James K. Polk: Life Before the Presidency. Accessed April 7, 2018 .
  4. According to other information, it was gallstones, cf. John C. Pinheiro: James K. Polk: Life Before the Presidency. Accessed April 7, 2018 .
  5. a b c d e Robert W. Johannsen: Who is James K. Polk? The Enigma of our Eleventh President. In: rbhayes.org. Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center , February 14, 1999, accessed January 6, 2020 .
  6. This is what the Polk Museum points out on its website .
  7. See Wayne Cutler: James Knox Polk . In: The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved March 5, 2013.
  8. Literally: “It has been well observed that the office of President of the United States should neither be sought nor declined. I have never sought it, nor should I feel at liberty to decline it, if conferred upon me by the voluntary suffrages of my fellow citizens. "
  9. Sam W. Haynes: James K. Polk and the Expansionist Impulse , Addison-Wesley, 1997, 2nd ed. 2001 ISBN 0-321-08798-4 , pp. 61f.
  10. ^ Edwin A. Miles: "Fifty-four Forty or Fight" —An American Political Legend . In: The Mississippi Valley Historical Review . tape 44 , no. 2 , 1957, p. 291-309 .
  11. ^ Hans Sperber: 'Fifty-Four Forty or Fight': Facts and Fictions . In: American Speech . tape 32 , no. 1 , 1957, pp. 5-11 .
  12. The individual results can be found on The American Presidency Project. Election of 1844 .
  13. joint resolution for annexing Texas to the United States, J.Res. 8, decided on March 1, 1845, 5 Stat. 797
  14. To Texas in this phase is fundamentally A. Reichstein: The Texas War of Independence 1835/36 , Berlin 1984.
  15. Fundamental to the military history part is John SD Eisenhower: So Far from God. The US War with Mexico 1846–1848 , New York 1989. However, he worked without Mexican sources.
  16. ^ Haynes, p. 129.
  17. ^ Congressional Globe, 30th Session (1848), pp. 93-95
  18. "There will be added to the United States an immense empire, the value of which twenty years hence it would be difficult to calculate", quoted from: Stephen W. Sears: Land Grab on the Rio Grande , in: The New York Times , April 2, 1980
  19. ^ House Journal, 30th Session (1848) pp. 183-184
  20. Unless otherwise stated, this presentation is based on Tom Chaffin: Correspondence of James K. Polk , Volume 12 (Jan.-July 1847) and the online short version Mitt Romney: The Second Coming of James K. Polk? . In: The Atlantic , October 3, 2012
  21. a b James K Polk. In: independent.co.uk. The Independent , January 18, 2009, accessed January 6, 2020 .
  22. Polk's will is now available digitally. It can be found on the National Archives website: Last Will and Testament of President James K. Polk .
  23. Richard Fausset: President James K. Polk's Body May Be Moved. Again. In: The New York Times . March 24, 2017, ISSN  0362-4331 ( nytimes.com [accessed March 30, 2017]).
  24. Charles Curry Aiken, Joseph Nathan Kane: The American Counties: Origins of County Names, Dates of Creation, Area, and Population Data, 1950-2010 . 6th edition. Scarecrow Press, Lanham 2013, ISBN 978-0-8108-8762-6 , p. XIV .
  25. Steve Nolte: 2010 Coins . Frederick Fell, Hollywood 2010, ISBN 978-0-88391-174-7 , p. 137 .
  26. Listing of National Historic Landmarks by State: Tennessee. National Park Service , accessed March 4, 2020.
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on September 12, 2008 .