1. Childhood and Family
James Knox Polk was born near the Little Sugar Creek in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina in 1795. His childhood was tumultuous and unconventional, and several events and themes in his childhood undoubtedly helped shape the powerful personality of the future president. One thing is certain, however- his early life was highly influential in his political beliefs; they initially mirrored that of his family, but then matured into their final form- Jacksonian Democracy. (Seigenthaler 11)
A unique religious upbringing was one of the things marking Polk’s childhood as different. His parents, Samuel and Jane, were members of the Presbyterian congregation nearby. While Jane was very devout (having descended from a key figure in the Reformation), Samuel wasn’t quite so enamored with organized religion. When Reverend James Wallis, the pastor performing the baptism, asked Sam to fully endorse the Christian faith, he refused. Wallis likewise refused to carry out the religious ceremony, and James Polk would not receive a baptism until he was on his deathbed. Samuel Polk’s lack of belief in the Christian faith stemmed from an ongoing confrontation between his own father, Ezekiel Polk, and the Reverend. Ezekiel Polk was a deist who did not believe in organized religion, and he had a dogmatic and highly quarrelsome personality. When the pastor provoked his anger, Ezekiel started a campaign to convert Wallis’s churchgoers to deism- however, this measure failed with very few successes. This environment of religious conflict proved an influence on the young James Polk, showing him different world views as well as differing values on the part of his mother and father. While his mother held conventional, Presbyterian leanings, his father was far more dedicated to building a fortune and farming the land. (Seigenthaler 12-13)
In his later life, Polk showed a firm belief that political and secular matters came...