The USMexican War by Carol and Thomas Christensen
Copyright © 1998 by KERA-TV, Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton
K. Polk was president in an age that transformed the United States into
a major continental power; he was commander-in-chief in a war that extended
its boundaries to the Rio Grande, the Pacific, and the forty-ninth parallel.
Yet Polk was little loved by his contemporaries and little noted by
was the youngest man the United States had ever elected president, forty-nine
at his inauguration. Born to an old North Carolina family, he had moved
to Tennessee as a boy, later graduating from the University of North
Carolina. Polk then developed a successful law practice and married
Sarah Childress, whose stern religious principles matches his own. She
managed his early political campaigns and was well known in Washington
for her intelligence and charm.
Despite his long political career, Polk had little skill in the art of compromise and negotiation. "As a good Jacksonian," says David Pletcher, "he brought to the White House the conviction that the president must dominate the government." Although he had not received a majority of the popular vote, Polk viewed his election as a mandate and seemed surprised when Congress did not bow to his will.
"Tonight the president
has his first levee.I
had rather be whipped