Monday, February 18, 2008
President's Day Salute to President Polk
In honor of President's Day, I offer a look at the Presidency of one of our lessor known Presidents who had a profound mark upon the direction of the United States.
The name James K. Polk is not on the tip of every history teacher's tongue as Washington, Lincoln, the Roosevelts, and Reagan, but Jame K. Polk helped to define America.
Polk was an experienced politician who had served as a Congressman from Tennessee and a Governor of Tennessee when he won the nomination of the Democratic Party in a brokered convention in 1844. Polk won primarily on the idea that we would push for expansion of the territory of the United States. He won the Presidency on the same issue.
As President, Polk went to work quickly to carry out his campaign promise of expansion. President Polk contended for the acquisition of California, Oregon and New Mexico. Such a push was not easy. Northern and Southern factions in the Congress disputed the policy based upon the dreaded slavery issue. President Polk also faced the then very real possiblity of war with both Great Britain and Mexico.
Negotiations over Oregon with the British worked out. However, the California situation would prove to be more problematic. It resulted in the Mexican-American War. The war was successful for the United States, and as a result of the war, the United States gained California and New Mexico for a lower price than it offered Mexico at first.
The war, however, took its toll on the political and personal health of President Polk. President Polk was censured by the House of Representatives and that political act, combined with his failing health led him to not seek re-election in 1848. President Polk also contended he did what he said he would and thus he was done in office and it was time to go home.
President Polk's time at home would be short. in June of 1849, barely three months after he left the Presidency on March 4th, 1849, James K. Polk died at the plantation home he bought to enjoy retirement upon.
History teachers around the nation will not mention President Polk in their lesson plans today. However, his will to make the United States go from coast to coast was instrumental in created the nation we live in today. Polk endured the pressures of the times to forge a nation what ruled from coast to coast, thus preventing the United States from becoming like the fractured republics of South America.
Polk's actions also gave the United States the territorial resources needed to survive the Civil War that would occur less than twenty years later.
Perhaps no one term President of the United States had the long term impact on the future of the nation as James K. Polk did. President Polk ought to be remembered and honored more. He was a master statesman, winning through both negotiation and war the bedrock of the future of he United States. So here's to you James K. Polk.