James Polk was born in North Carolina until his family moved to Tennessee in 1803. He was influenced by his mother and was a Presbyterian who subscribed to the Calvinistic ideas of self-discipline, hard work ethic, individualism, and human depravity.
His work ethic would show throughout his life. He became a successful attorney after graduating from the University of North Carolina. His legal education came from his mentor Felix Grundy, who was a renowned trial attorney in Nashville, Tennessee.
He quickly entered politics and found more success. His success would eventually lead him to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives and then the 9th Governor of Tennessee. He would enter the election of 1844 as a dark horse candidate and end up defeating Henry Clay of the Whig Party to become President.
Polk was a protege of Andrew Jackson, but he had more control over his emotions and a ferocious work ethic. He made a promise to only be President for one term and set forth 4 goals for his presidency:
- Reestablish the Independent Treasury System
- Reduce tariffs.
- Acquire some or all of the Oregon Country.
- Acquire California and its harbors from Mexico.
He would have to fight a war against Mexico, but he managed to accomplish each of his four goals as President and then stepped down from office.
The presidency took a toll on Polk's health, and he would not survive long after. He died at home but not before being baptized as a Methodist despite being raised Presbyterian.
He most likely died of cholera.
James Polk is not known by many but is considered to be the best one-term president in American History. It was under his leadership that America became a nation from sea to shining sea.
James Polk was the first of ten children born to Samuel Polk and Jane Knox. His father was a War of 1812 veteran, and his mother a devout Presbyterian.
Of his 10 siblings, he had three brothers who died in the same year, and all but 1 died before him. While he was president, he had one brother who fought in the Mexican War.
He met and married Sarah Childress and the two would never have children but seemed to have a pleasant marriage. She would outlive him for many years but never remarried.
He was outlived by his mother, who died three years after his death.
Family Tree Chart
Samuel Polk (1772 - 1827) - He fought in the War of 1812 and was a Major. Eventually, he left North Carolina for Tennessee, where he would live the remainder of his life.
Jane Gracy Knox (1776 - 1852) - She married her husband and proceeded to have 10 children. She was originally from North Carolina.
Sarah Childress (1803 - 1891) - She was born in Tennessee and married James Polk in 1824. She served as First Lady to what many consider the best one-term president. Her husband passed away shortly after he left office, and she never remarried. She lived until she was 87 years of age, when she passed away peacefully. She and her husband never had any children.
Jane Maria Polk (1798 - 1876) - There is not much known about the specifics of her life except that she married and had nine children.
Lydia Eliza Polk (1800 - 1864) - Her life has no specifics. It is unknown if she had a husband or children. She died during the Civil War.
Franklin Ezekiel Polk (1802 - 1831) - He died young and most likely did not marry or have any children.
Marshall Tate Polk (1805 - 1831) - He died the same year as his older brother but a few months later. He married and had two children.
John Lee Polk (1807 - 1831) - He died the same year as his other older brothers but later in the year.
Naomi Tate Polk (1809 - 1836) - She married and had one child, but like many of the other Polk children, she died young.
Ophelia Clarissa Polk (1812 - 1856) - She married and was the mother of 6 children. There is little known of her specifics.
William Hawkins Polk (1815 - 1862) - He served during the Mexican War and rose to the rank of Major. He married three times and had three children.
Samuel Washington Polk (1817 - 1839) - Little is known about him. He died at the age of 21.