James K. Polk's Presidency

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What mistake did James K. Polk make during his presidency?

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Generally speaking, Polk's presidency is regarded by historians as quite successful in that he achieved most of what he set out to achieve. However, one could argue that one of his biggest short-term successes, the annexation of Texas, would prove in the long run to be a mistake that would lead to the outbreak of the American Civil War.

The acquisition of this substantial new territory inevitably raised the vexed question of whether slavery should be allowed there. This opened up old wounds between supporters and opponents of slavery, both of whom were determined to make Texas the next battleground over this most bitter and irresolvable issue. Polk regarded slavery as something of a side issue; he didn't think about the dangerous political repercussions that would follow from his fateful decision to annex Texas. As a result of Polk's lack of foresight, the United States became even more bitterly divided over the issue of slavery, creating the kind of conditions that, in due course, would make war between the states virtually inevitable.

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