Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America

By the time you read this, the smoke will have cleared from the tumultuous race for president of our United States of America. At the early voting venue I considered casting a write-in ballot for James Knox Polk. But he died on Friday, June 15, 1849.

Mr. Borneman has written the best biography of Polk. I recommend that you purchase and read it. The author is a master of English prose.

James K. Polk made promises that he kept. He would serve only one term if elected.

He had five planks in his platform:

  1. reduction of tariffs,
  2. reestablishment of an independent treasury,
  3. settlement of the border dispute with England over the Oregon Territory,
  4. purchase of California, and
  5. annexation of Texas.


He accomplished all promises between March 4, 1845, and March 4, 1849.

I wish the former president and his wife Sarah had traveled by land from Washington to Nashville. But they alternated between land and sea and river. James K. Polk was infected by cholera at Mobile or New Orleans. He died at Polk Place in Nashville 103 days after his term ended. He was 53 years old.


Don Paine Donald F. Paine is of counsel to the Knoxville firm of Paine, Tarwater, Bickers, and Tillman LLP and a member emeritus of the Tennessee Bar Journal editorial board.