Age of Jackson
Jackson Polk 05 Western US Jackson Polk 01 James K Polk Jackson Polk 02 Sarah Polk Jackson Polk 04 American Progress Jackson Polk 03 Tomb of Polk

James K. Polk

James K. Polk served as the 11th president of the United States. A Tennessean, Polk had a long political career in the state and on the national level.
He served as state governor, state representative, U.S. representative, and Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Polk was a follower of both Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson. In fact, his nickname “Young Hickory” came from his devotion to Andrew Jackson, whose nickname was “Old Hickory.”
Before Andrew Jackson died in 1845, he became obsessed with the idea that Great Britain was trying to take control of Texas, California, and Oregon as a way of limiting the United States’ growth. Polk undoubtedly took Jackson’s warnings to heart, so he secured those areas for the U.S. while he was president.
Polk was a man of strong beliefs and a strong sense of duty. He was very self-confident. In his diary, he never doubted his judgment or actions.
Polk was a very strong president, much the way his idol Andrew Jackson had been. He promise and served only a single term, and was able to get laws he favored passed by a deeply divided Congress. In this way he was a successful president.
Some historians fault him for rushing into war with Mexico without trying hard enough to settle the differences diplomatically. However, the war did accomplish Polk’s goal of uniting the country from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Polk helped make the United States the strong power it became.

Picture Credits:
  • Portrait of James K. Polk. This painting was made in 1845 by George P. A. Healy. Tennessee State Museum Collection, OA2003.10.
  • Portrait of Sarah Childress Polk. This painting was made in 1883 by George Dury and is based upon an earlier painting made by George P. A. Healy. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 73.108.
  • Postcard depicting the tomb of James K. Polk at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. This postcard was made sometime during the early 1900s. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 2008.261.31.
  • Painting entitled, “American Progress.” This painting was made by John Gast in 1872 and illustrates the idea of Manifest Destiny. It shows a female spirit watching over new settlers moving west. Bringing along their livestock, the settlers are also aided on their trip by the railroad and telegraph lines that are shown in the background. Natives Americans and buffalo are also shown being driven away. Library of Congress.
  • Painting showing the western United States. It shows James K. Polk speaking with several other men and pointing to the Louisiana Purchase on a map. This image is only a section of a larger painting entitled, “Tennessee’s Three Presidents,” which was created by David Mah in the 1980s. Tennessee State Museum Collection, 89.36.

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