Biography of James K. Polk
Famous American Biographies

JAMES KNOX POLK, the eleventh president of the United States4 1845 to 1849, was born November 2, 1795, in Mecklenburg county, North Carolina, and was the eldest child of a family of six sons. He removed with his father to the Valley of the Puck River, in Tennessee, in 1806. He attended the common schools and became very proficient in the lower branches of education, and supplemented this with a course in the Murfreesboro Academy, which he entered in 1813 and in the autumn of 1815 he became a student in the sophomore class of the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, and was graduated in 1818. He then spent a short time in recuperating his health and then proceeded to Nashville, Tennessee, where he took up the study of law in the office of Felix Grundy. After the completion of his law studies he was admitted to the bar and removed to Columbia, Maury county, Tennessee, and started in the active practice of his profession. Mr. Polk was a Jeffersonian Republican" and in 1823 he was elected to the legislature of Tennessee. He was a strict constructionist and did not believe that the geheral government had the power to cafry on internal improvements in the states, but deemed it important that it should have that power and wanted the constitution amended to that effect. But later on he became alarmed lest the general government might become strong enough to abolish slavery and therefore gave his whole support to the "States Rights" movement, and endeavored to check the centralization of power in the general government. Mr. Polk was chosen a member of congress in 1825, and held that office until 1839. He then withdrew, as he was the successful gubernatorial candidate of his state. He had become a man of great influence in the house, and, as the leader of the Jackson party in that body, weilded great influence in the election of General Jackson to the presidency. He sustained the president in all his measures an!d still remained in the house after General Jackson had been succeeded by Martin Van Buren. He was speaker of the house during five sessions of congress. He was elected governor of Tennessee by a large majority and took the oath of office at Nashville, October 4, 1839. He was a candidate for re-election but was defeated by Governor Jones, the Whig candidate. In 1844 the most prominent question in the election was the annexation of Texas, and as Mr. Polk was the ayowed champion of this cause he was nominated for president by the pro slavery wing of the democratic party, was elected by a large majority, and was inaugurated March 4, 1845. President Polk. formed a very able cabinet, consisting of: James Buchanan, Robert J. Walker, William L. Marcy, George Bancroft, Cave Johnson, and John Y. Mason. The dispute regarding the Oregon boundary was settled. during his term of office and a new department was added to the list of cabinet positions, that of the Interior. The low tariff bill of 1846 was carried and the financial system of the country was reorganized. It was also during President Polk's term that the Mexican war was successfully conducted, which resulted in the acquisition of California and New Mexico. Mr. Polk retired from the presidency March 4, 1849, after having declined a re-nomination, and was succeeded by General Zachary Taylor, the hero of the Mexican war. Mr. Polk retired to private life, to his borne in Nashville, where he died at the age of fifty four on June 9, 1849.

A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.


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