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Portraits: James Polk   Leave a comment

James Knox Polk (1795 – 1849)

Polk is the first President with an extant photograph.

Polk is the first President with an extant photograph.

The 11th President of the United States, 1845 – 1849

AKA: Napoleon of the Stump, Young Hickory

From: North Carolina, Tennessee

College: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Married to: Sarah Childress

Children: None

Party: Democratic

Previous Jobs: Planter, Tennessee State Senator, lawyer, US Representative, Speaker of the House, Governor of Tennessee

In His Words:  “It becomes us, in humility, to make our devout acknowledgments to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, for the inestimable civil and religious blessings with which we are favored.”

“Thank God, under our Constitution there was no connection between church and state.”

“With me it is emphatically true that the presidency is ‘no bed of roses.'”

“I am heartily rejoiced that my term is so near its close. I will soon cease to be a servant and will become a sovereign.”

“I love you Sarah. For all eternity, I love you.” (his last words)

Not true: Or perhaps it is true that Polk lied us into the Mexican War (again, we should all believe that history does repeat itself!).  If he lied.  See?  It’s just like what happened with the Iraqi War!  But back to 1845.

Polk was determined to obtain California from Mexico, extending the US borders from the Atlantic to the Pacific.  When the Mexicans turned down $15 million, Polk ordered Zachary Taylor to occupy an area claimed by Mexico — and the US — near the Texas border.  After the Mexicans attacked, Polk asked Congress for a declaration of war because the Mexicans had “spilled American blood on American soil.”  Opposition parties strongly doubted Polk’s characterization of the facts.  Abraham Lincoln specifically doubted Polk’s veracity on the issue.

Congress approved the declaration of war.  Just like in 2003 — if you believe the Republican President lied then, and the Democratic President lied in 1846.

True: Polk was in poor health growing up.  When his pain became intolerable, he had an operation to remove urinary stones.  Only brandy was used as an anesthetic, but the surgery was successful.  Unfortunately, it may have left him sterile; he did not have children.

Though “Hail To The Chief” was first used to honor George Washington in 1815 at the close of the War of 1812, it became a tradition with the entrance of President Polk 30 years later. Due to his small size (he was 5′-8″), his wife was afraid he might not be noticed when he entered a room.  Therefore, the band was always requested to play “Hail To The Chief,” and with a great flourish of drums, a path was cleared for President Polk to enter the room.

Polk is the only President who also served as Speaker of the House.

Polk believed that Federal money should not be spent on internal improvements like roads and canals.

Though an efficient and competent president and deft in his handling of Congress, he was exhausted by his efforts and did not seek reelection; he died three months after leaving office.

The Official Portrait: 1858 portrait was by George Healy.  He painted more portraits, and of more eminent people, than any other painter of his day.  He also painted the official White House portrait of Millard Fillmore.James K Polk, Official Presidential Portrait

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