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James K. Polk

Study Questions and Suggested Essay Topics

Peace

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Study Questions

Why did Polk oppose internal improvements?

Polk was a firm believer in the individual sovereignty of states and he felt that federally-supported internal improvements would make the states beholden to the federal government.

Why did Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott each pursue the Mexican War so vigorously?

Several of America's most popular leaders at that time had been war heroes–George Washington and Andrew Jackson, in particular–and the generals knew that their quickest ticket to political success lay in securing a stunning victory in Mexico.

What was 'Manifest Destiny'?

Manifest Destiny was a phrase used by politicians in the 1840s to explain and justify continental expansion by the United States all the way across to the Pacific Ocean. By giving the country a "mission"–to expand the liberties and freedom of America all the way across the country–they were able to garner support for Westward expansion, the Mexican War, and other expansionist ideas.

Essay Topics

Was Polk right to fight the Second Bank of the United States?

What happened in the election of 1824 that led to so much bitterness?

What did Polk say in 1844 that made him so appealing to Democrats instead of Martin Van Buren?

Why did the Democrats turn to Polk, "Young Hickory," in 1844?

How did Polk interpret the Monroe Doctrine?

Does Polk deserve to be remembered as the greatest expansionist president in history?

What were the Whig arguments for high tariffs?

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