James K. Polk was born in Mecklenburg County, North
Carolina. He moved with his family to Tennessee at a young age and later
graduated from the University of North Carolina at the top of his class.
He became a lawyer and soon embarked on a political career as a committed
Jacksonian Democrat. Polk served in the Tennessee legislature before
winning a seat in the U.S. House in 1825. He eventually rose to Speaker,
earning a reputation for intelligence, hard work, and devotion to the
political agenda of Andrew Jackson. He served for two terms as governor
of Tennessee and was defeated for reelection twice before unexpectedly
winning the Democratic nomination for the presidency in 1844. Polk went
on to defeat Henry Clay in the general election. His presidency was
remarkably eventful and largely successful. He signed a moderate tariff
bill, reestablished an independent treasury, and concluded a treaty
with Britain that ended a simmering dispute over the Oregon territory.
War with Mexico culminated in victory and the cession of millions of
acres in the Southwest and California. Polk worked incessantly, served
a single term, and died in Tennessee soon after the close of his tenure.
For more information about politics in the 19th century, please look at Lincoln/Net's Getting the Message Out! National Political Campaign Materials, 1840-1860 Web site.