James K. Polk
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James K. Polk (1795-1849) was the 11th President of the United States. Despite serving only a single term, Polk is one of the more successful Presidents in American history, accomplishing all of his stated goals. During his term, Polk greatly increased the size of the United States, largely through successful prosecution of the Mexican War.
Polk's Early Years
Polk was born in Pineville, North Carolina, and suffered from numerous health complaints as a child. Polk studied at the University of North Carolina and then moved to Nashville to study law. Polk became a political protege of Andrew Jackson, and became known as "Young Hickory."
In 1825, Polk ran for Congress, becoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee in 1833 and Speaker of the House in 1835, the only President to serve in that office. In Congress, he was a major ally of the Jackson and Van Buren administrations.
In 1844, Polk emerged as a consensus candidate for the Democratic Party, defeating Henry Clay, largely on supporting Texas annexation. At the time, he was the youngest elected President (49) and stated his goals as being:
- The establishment of an independent treasury
- The reduction of tariffs
- The acquisition of Oregon, California and New Mexico.
Polk, a notorious workaholic, accomplished all of these and died several months after leaving office.