Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Who is J.K. Polk, will be no more asked!"

This declaration by Andrew Jackson, whose political capital propelled James Knox Polk to the eleventh Presidency of the United States, seems ironic as Polk for all intents and purposes is one of the forgotten presidents of the modern day. Yet Polk's influence on the executive office is arguably the strongest prior to Abraham Lincoln and the civil war.

Upon assuming the Presidency Polk declared, "In any event I intend to be myself, Presidents of the United States." This proved to be helpful as Polk would find big egos and agendas in his contemporaries such as "Old Fuss and Feathers" (Gen. Winfield Scott), Santa Anna - the resilient Mexican dictator, Gen. Zachary Taylor - the 12th President, and Sam Houston - the father of TX.

Polk's agenda was clear: resolve the joint occupation (w Britain) of Oregon - "54'40" or fight", acquire California (Mexico), reduce the tariff (there was no income tax at the time and this was the federal governments main revenue stream), and establish an independent treasury. In short, Polk was successful.

Under the promise of a one term Presidency, Polk would expand the geography of the United States by 38% (if counting Texas, Oregon Territory, and California). After one term Polk, whose political ambition had always been the Presidency, was happy to leave. Polk would die shortly after leaving office, many historians agree that his early demise was due to the strain of the Presidency. - The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America: Polk - Borneman