James K. Polk, who believed it was the nation’s “Manifest Destiny” to expand its boundaries and rebuild western lands in its own image, swiftly led America into war with Mexico. Polk claimed that Mexican forces had killed American soldiers on American soil, yet this claim was viewed with skepticism by members of Congress, including Representative Abraham Lincoln. Whether Polk had usurped Congress’s power under the Constitution was a question that would stamp his presidency with a lingering question mark. Yet under Polk’s leadership, the country grew by more than a third (more than one million square miles) and was for the first time bounded by two oceans. Polk thus set out to use his constitutional powers to become an expansionist president and accomplished that goal.
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