James K. Polk

James K. Polk ( 1795-1849) was a "dark horse." A deadlock between ex-President Martin Van Buren and Lewis Cass of Michigan at the Democratic convention in May 1844 led the delegates to turn to Polk on the ninth ballot. He had never been seriously regarded as presidential timber before that. When news of the nomination was sent from Baltimore to Washington by the new Morse telegraph, some people in Washington were convinced that Morse's invention was a failure because they simply couldn't believe what the telegraph reported. 1" Polk!" exclaimed Governor R. P. Letcher of Kentucky. "Great God, what a nomination!"2

Polk was not exactly an unknown. He had been in Congress for seven consecutive terms and Governor of Tennessee for one; as Speaker of the House he was known for his conscientiousness ("Polk the Plodder"). 3 But he had no large personal following; he had failed twice to regain his gubernatorial seat; and he was totally lacking in personal magnetism or even quiet charm. "The idea of Jem Polk being President of the United States!!!" exclaimed a Tennessee Congressman. "We are more disposed to laugh at it here than to treat it seriously."4"Who is James K. Polk?" exclaimed the Whig nominee, Henry Clay, sarcastically. Clay's question quickly became a slogan, so that during the 1844 campaign the Whigs went around crying, "Who is Polk?" 5 Even the Democrats found the question hard to answer at first. When a steamboat captain who was a loyal Democrat


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Presidential Anecdotes
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 451

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?