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James Knox Polk 1795-1849 11th President of the United States he was one of the hardest-working presidents in American history Polk was unusually successful in accomplishing in a single four-year term his ambitious goals in both domestic and foreign policy The vigor with which he pushed the annexation of Texas the settlement of the territorial dispute with Britain over Oregon and the conquest of the Southwest through war with Mexico extended the territory of the United States to the Pacific and greatly strengthened presidential powerPolk was born on a farm in Mecklenburg county N C on Nov 2 1795 the oldest of the ten children of Samuel and Jane Knox Polk The Polks had moved from Pennsylvania a generation earlier among the first pioneer settlers in that part of North Carolina James great-uncle Thomas Polk was the most prominent leader in the community His maternal grandfather James Knox was a farmer and blacksmith who had distinguished himself in the American Army during the Revolutionary WarThrough Uncle Thomas Polk Polks father had benefited from a vast land speculation by which political insiders in North Carolina obtained claims on most of the good lands in what became the state of Tennessee In 1806 Polks family moved to some of these lands on the Tennessee frontier settling near the new town of Columbia in what later became Maury countyJames Polk was not a promising youth being too sickly for frontier occupations and too poorly educated for a professional career When he was 16 however the celebrated Kentucky surgeon Dr Ephraim McDowell operated on him successfully for gallstone Returning health brought a rush of energy and ambition A year at a nearby academy and another year at a more renowned one at Murfreesboro prepared him for the University of North Carolina from which he graduated at the head of his class in 1818The Tennessee to which Polk returned was in the middle of the economic boom that followed the
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