On November 7, 1848, Americans went to the polls to choose between Martin Van Buren, Zachary Taylor, and Lewis Cass.
Approaching the Election of 1848, President James Polk did not have unanimous support amongst Democrats. In fact, quite the opposite.
The Election of 1848 was bound to be unique, as President James Polk had made clear that he would serve only one term as president. With that, the Whigs and the Democrats had to put forth candidates that could meet the parties’ respective goals of reversing President Polk’s policies (the Whigs) and expanding on President Polk’s policies (the Democrats).
In the mid-1840s, the last major famine in European history would take place in Ireland. This famine would have significant ramifications for America, as it would lead to a massive wave of immigrants.
One of the most outspoken Representatives in the House of Representatives, John Quincy Adams, had opposed the declaration of war on Mexico and fought President James Polk’s policies for the duration of his presidency.
At the end of the Mexican-American War, President James Polk proposed taking as much as Mexico’s land as possible. However, he proposed this plan to a majority Whig House of Representatives.
In 1848, when word spread to America that a revolution was breaking out in France, President James Polk wrote: “The great principles of popular sovereignty which were proclaimed in 1776 by the immortal author of our Declaration of Independence, seem now to be in the course of rapid development throughout the world.” James Knox Polk to Richard Rush, April 18, 1848, quoted in Michael Morrison, “American Reactions to European Revolutions, 1848-1852,” Civil War History 49 (June 2003): 117.
Throughout the course of the Mexican-American War, General Winfield Scott was increasingly becoming a hero to Americans. While many Americans looked at Scott’s actions and could only admire him, one man took action to ensure Scott would not have a pristine reputation. That man was President James Polk.
With the Mexican-American War well underway, the midterm elections in 1846-47 were bound to be consequential.
President James Polk, expecting a fast resolution to the Mexican-American War, “requested from Congress in August 1846 a $2 million appropriation for ‘defraying any extraordinary expenses which may be incurred in the intercourse between the United States and foreign nations.'” Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 766 quoting James Polk, Diary, II, 76-77 (Aug. 10, 1846). Shortly after Congress followed this instruction and drafted a bill, David Wilmot of Pennsylvania introduced an amendment to specify that slavery would not be lawful in any territory acquired. See Daniel Walker Howe, What Hath God Wrought: Transformation of America, 1815-1848, 767.