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"Who the hell is James K. Polk?"—Whig party slogan during the 1844 election campaign.
"Who the hell are the Whigs?"—Most high school students.
Seriously, the 11th president was one of the most underrated in history. He is sometimes called "Our greatest one-term president." Between the purchase of the Oregon Territory (present-day Oregon, Washington State, Idaho, and chunks of Montana and Wyoming) in a move that avoided the serious threat of war over the territory with Great Britain, and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (which added California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and parts of three other states), added almost a million square miles to U.S. territory. Had an enviable record for setting and (gasp!) accomplishing his agenda.
The Mexican-American War (when Polk, as TMBG put it, "seized the whole southwest from Mexico") was fairly controversial at the time. Abolitionists considered it a war being waged for the purposes of expanding slavery into new territories (at the time, not many people knew that Arizona and New Mexico weren't exactly suitable for plantation labor). Henry David Thoreau, who refused to pay taxes to support the war, coined the term civil disobedience at this time.
Many consider him to be one of the finest presidents of all time for the simple reason that he achieved everything he wanted to do in his single term, which is why he decided to not run for reelection (it wouldn't have done him any good as he died only 103 days after Zachary Taylor, his successor, was inaugurated President). Or for the simple reason that his mullet was about 140 years ahead of its heyday.
And for the record, if you're in Mexico, make sure you always, always talk shit about him, about Antonio López de Santa Anna, and about the "Lost Territories"...
- ↑ Yes, yes and yes.