Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

James K. Polk's Remains May Be Moving to a Fourth Grave

Stacy Conradt
Stacy Conradt

James K. Polk died just three months after leaving office in 1849, having likely contracted cholera on a trip to New Orleans. One of the more successful one-term presidents—he expanded the territory of the nation by a third, among other achievements—Polk died at his home in Nashville, Tennessee, and was temporarily buried outside of town, in keeping with the law for cholera victims.

A year later, his remains were disinterred (the concerns over cholera contamination presumably having passed) and moved to their second location, a William Strickland-designed tomb located in a prominent spot at his former home, Polk Place—the final resting place he had requested in his will. When Sarah Polk died more than 40 years later, she joined her husband in the tomb. But they did not rest in peace.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In his will, Polk had specified that the house pass into state ownership and that a “worthy” blood relative be allowed to live there. But the couple had no children, and after Sarah died, scores of Polk's relatives came forward to challenge the will—they wanted to sell the land and divvy up the profits. They got their way, and the house was sold to out-of-town developers, who opted to demolish the home. The Polks' remains were disinterred in 1893 and reburied on the grounds of the state Capitol in Nashville.

The Polks have resided at the Capitol for well over a century now, in a quiet spot that State Senator Joey Hensley says is overlooked. That’s why he has introduced a bill that would move the Polks—again—to the President James K. Polk Home and Museum in Columbia, Tennessee. The home was built in 1816 by Polk’s father; the former president lived there for just five years as a young man.

Detractors say it’s a cheap, disrespectful ploy to increase tourism to Columbia, which is currently most famous as “the mule capital of the world.” Others, including the curator of the museum, say it’s simply a better way to honor James and Sarah Polk than the afterthought at the Tennessee Statehouse. The state Senate will debate the bill tonight, although the move will also require the approval of the state’s House of Representatives, governor, the Tennessee Historical Commission, and a local judge. No word on whether Polk is spinning in his grave at the thought of being moved yet again.

[h/t The New York Times]

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geography
Why Macedonia Is Getting a New Name
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For the first time since becoming an independent nation in 1991, the Republic of Macedonia is rebranding itself. As CNN reports, the Balkan nation will soon be called the Republic of Northern Macedonia, a name change that will hopefully help to heal the country's tense relationship with Greece.

Macedonia adopted its former title after gaining independence from Yugoslavia 27 years ago, and the name immediately caused conflict. Its neighbor to the south, Greece has a region of its own called Macedonia. Greece claimed that Macedonia's name suggested a sense of entitlement to territory that belonged to them and took it as an insult.

Even decades later, the bad blood stirred by the decision remained. Greece's issue with the name has even prevented Macedonia from joining the European Union and NATO. The new title, which was agreed upon by Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras on June 11, is meant to be a step towards better relations between the two countries.

"Our bid in the compromise is a defined and precise name, the name that is honorable and geographically precise—Republic of Northern Macedonia," Prime Minister Zaev said at a press conference, as reported by Reuters. Macedonia will hold a popular vote to officially change the name in a referendum later this year.

A country changing its name isn't uncommon, but reasons for the revision vary. In April 2018, the country formerly known Swaziland announced it would be called eSwatini, the name it went by prior to British colonization.

[h/t CNN]

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Why Did Russia Sell Alaska to the United States of America?
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Adam Weymouth:

America bought Alaska from Russia in 1867, a deal negotiated by William Seward, then US Secretary of State. That Russian heritage is still preserved in Alaska, in the surnames of those that live along the Yukon, names like Demoski and Kozevniko and Shaishniko, and in the onion domes of the Orthodox churches in the villages downriver. The U.S. purchase much derided at the time: the press dubbed it 'Seward’s folly," and the new acquisition as Walrussia.

The Russians had exhausted the fur trade after wiping out most of the sea otters, and they had then lost interest in Alaska, believing it had to have few other natural resources. Not sure what to do with their new half-billion acres, the U.S. governed [it] as a far-flung territory, with all the lawlessness that entailed. Statehood would not come until 1959, with the United States capitalizing on Alaska’s strategic military importance vis-à-vis Japan and Russia. But it was in 1967 that Seward’s folly hit pay dirt: The oilfield discovered on the North Slope would prove to be the largest in the United States.

Who can say what the situation would be if the Russians owned Alaska today? Russia would share a land border with Canada. The Russians would have benefited hugely from the 16 billion barrels of oil that have so far been extracted from Prudhoe Bay. The U.S. would have no claim on the Arctic, a place that will have huge political and economic importance as the icecap thaws during this century. It is quite possible that the world would look very different.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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