1847 – The Independent Treasury Act comes into force

James Knox Polk was the eleventh President of the USA. In 1846, he approved a law restoring the Independent Treasury System, under which government funds were held in the Treasury and not in banks or other financial institutions.

This established independent treasury deposit offices, separate from private or state banks, to receive all government funds. The money belonging to the treasury could thus be separated from the market, ensuring that neither could influence the other. Unfortunately, that turned out not to be how it worked in practice, and the Independent Treasury System was eventually discontinued in 1921.

Referenced in:
James K. Polk – They Might Be Giants

1845 – The Walker Tariff act is passed by Congress

Largely a repeal of the Black Tariffs put in place in 1842, the Walker Tariff (named for Secretary of the Treasury, Robert J. Walker, its creator), reduced tariffs from 32% to 25%, one of the lowest tariffs in US history. Coinciding as it did with the UK’s repeal of its Corn Laws, it led to an increase in trade between the two nations.

Subsequently, tariffs would be reduced still further in 1857 (to 17%), but then increased back to 26% in 1861 (and again later that year, and in 1865, the latter two increases largely as a result of the expense of the Civil War).

Referenced in:
James K. Polk – They Might Be Giants

1846 – The Oregon Treaty is signed

The area known as the Oregon Country originally encompassed a much larger area of land than is now occupied by the state of Oregon. On the American side of the border, t took in the states of Washington and Idaho, as well as parts of Wyoming and Montana. On the Canadian side, it took in Vancouver Island, and parts of mainland British Columbia. And where the border was to be drawn was a subject of dispute for half a century after the war of 1812 and the treaty of 1818.

The matter was finally settled with the signing of the Oregon Treaty in Washington D.C., which set the boundary at the 49th parallel (i.e. latitude 49 degrees north), with the exception of Vancouver Island, which straddles the parallel, and was given to Canada in its entirety. This represented a backdown for the Democratic Party that counted President Polk as its leader, as they had campaigned on the slogan “54 40 or Fight!”, asserting a claim to the territory as far north as 54 degrees 40 minutes – the southernmost latitude of what is now Alaska (and was then Russian America).

Referenced in:
James K. Polk — They Might Be Giants

1844 – James K. Polk receives the Democratic Party’s Candidacy for U.S. President

This time around, there’s no better way to tell it than with the actual lyrics. All you need is a little scene setting – it’s the Democratic Convention of 1844, in Baltimore:

In 1844, the Democrats were split.
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist.
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up:
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear.
The factions soon agreed:
He’s just the man we need
To bring about victory,
Fulfil our manifest destiny,
And annex the land the Mexicans command.
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

And there you have it 🙂

Referenced in:
James K. Polk – They Might Be Giants

I don’t intend to make a habit of simply quoting large slabs of lyrics here – it’s lazy, for one thing – but on this occasion, I felt an exception had to be made. There’s no way I could have summarised the same information as lucidly or as elegantly as this.

1847 – The Treaty of Cahuenga ends fighting in California

Along with Texas, California was one of the major battlegrounds in the Mexican-American War of 1846 – 1848, and the surrender of Hispanic forces in California was a turning point in the war. The American forces – better equipped and better motivated, drove the Mexicans slowly southward.

The war proper would come to an end in 1848, with Mexico’s cession of a large territory (comprising the modern US states of California, Nevada and Utah, as well as portions of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming). The victory is widely regarded as one of the most significant achievement of the Presidency of James Knox Polk (whose sole term was from 1845 to 1848).

Referenced in:
James K. Polk – They Might Be Giants