President James K. Polk and Manifest Destiny

An 1858 portrait of Polk. Image from the White House Historical Association.On November 2, 1795James Knox Polk, the 11th president of the United States, was born on a farm just south of what is today Charlotte. Polk moved to Tennessee in 1806 but returned to his home state to attend the University of North Carolina.

Polk’s first election was to the Tennessee state legislature in 1823. He then became a member of the U.S. Congress from Tennessee, and in 1837, he was elected governor of the Volunteer State. He narrowly won election to the presidency over Henry Clay in 1844 at the age of 49, making him the youngest president to that date.

Polk entered the presidency with a clear plan of action rooted in westward expansion. Seen by contemporaries as conscientious and attentive to the needs of the country, in his presidential campaign he promised not to run for a second term.  True to his word, he did not.

While Polk’s original North Carolina home is long gone, a cabin accurate to the period is open to the public at the President James K. Polk State Historic Site in Pineville. 

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