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Fifty-Four Forty or Fight

From Academic Kids

The phrase "Fifty-Four Forty or Fight" was a campaign slogan of United States President-to-be James K. Polk.

In the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, the Americans and the British chose a joint sovereignty of the Oregon Country, which consisted of what is now the Pacific Northwest of the United States and southern British Columbia, Canada. The northern boundary of the jointly controlled area was the parallel 54 40′ north, with Russian claims on Alaska to the north. By the election of 1844, this Anglo-American agreement was growing shaky, with western settlers wanting the land for the United States.

Polk was ready to go to war to claim all the land, and used the slogan "Fifty-four Forty or Fight!" to help win the election. The Democrat Polk beat the Whig Henry Clay 1,337,243 to 1,299,068; in the electoral college, Polk won 170 to 105. Following the election, fortifications like Fort Wayne (in present-day Detroit) were built along the U.S.-Canadian border in anticipation of combat. However, the dispute was settled diplomatically, with the Oregon Treaty of 1846. The border was set at the 49th parallel, which already served to mark much of the border between the continguous 48 states United States and Canada. 54 40′ remains the southernmost latitude of the state of Alaska.

The Canadian rock band 54-40 takes its name from this slogan.

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