* NC-born, TN-raised James Knox Polk was elected to the U.S. Congress at 29, where he served for 14 years, including two terms as Speaker of the House.
* He was the Democrats' dark horse candidate in 1844, when more well-known candidates Martin Van Buren, John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, James Buchanan and Thomas Hart Benton couldn't muster enough support. He beat out the Whig candidate Henry Clay by promising to encourage westward expansion. He favored Texas statehood and the acquisition of the Oregon Territory. "Although critics expressed concern that aggressive expansionism might lead to a war with Great Britain or Mexico and might destroy the tenuous balance between (more…)