Charles Fenderich, 1838. P.S. Duval lithography company.
Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Eleventh President, 1845-1849
Early in his presidency, James K. Polk declared that he would not
seek reelection, thus freeing himself to proceed without an eye to
the reaction of the voting public. Polk succeeded in his primary goals:
to reduce the tariff, create an independent treasury, settle the long-standing
dispute with Britain over the northern Oregon boundary, and expand
the nation. In a move towards expansion, Polk tried unsuccessfully
to buy territory from Mexico. This refusal set off the Mexican War
of 1846, which was won by American forces under the brilliant leadership
of General Zachary Taylor. The spoils of war included California and
New Mexico, and Polk could claim success in his plan to expand the
western border of the United States all the way to the Pacific Ocean.