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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials: James K. Polk

Updated: Mar 14, 2019

James K. Polk served as U.S. President from 1845-1849. He was nicknamed Young Hickory and Dark Horse, for his surprise nomination in the Democratic Convention prior to the Election of 1844. His presidency saw an end to the Oregon Boundary Dispute and the Mexican-American War.

President James K. Polk. Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge - patterns that will help you answer more tossups. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on James K. Polk.


As president, Polk signed the Walker Tariff into law. This pro-trade bill significantly reduced the rates of the Black Tariff, which was signed by Polk’s predecessor, John Tyler.


Before becoming president, Polk served as Speaker of the House. Polk is the only president to have served as Speaker of the House.


George Bancroft served as Polk’s Secretary of the Navy. During his term in office, Bancroft established the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.


The Oregon boundary dispute with Britain was resolved during Polk’s presidency. During his campaign against Henry Clay in the Election of 1844, Polk’s campaign made use of the slogan “54°40’ or Fight!” to great effect, but ultimately, he settled for the 49th parallel as the northern border of the Oregon territory.


Polk sent Nicholas Trist to Mexico to negotiate the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. Prior to the war, Polk had sent John Slidell to negotiate a land purchase with Mexico which would have avoided the war, but those efforts were unsuccessful.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

* Read more about James K. Polk's domestic policy from the University of Virginia's Miller Center.

* PBS's companion site to their series on the Mexican War has some great information about the war and the Polk era.

* Harvard Magazine did an interesting piece on George Bancroft and the "Young America" movement.

* The classic song, "James K. Polk" by They Might Be Giants:


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