President James Buchanan Books

President James Buchanan

Easton Press books:
President James Buchanan - Philip Shriver Klein - 1987

President James Buchanan biography

James Buchanan (1791-1868), fifteenth President of the United States, born near Mercersburg, Pa., and educated at Dickonson College, Carlisle, Pa. He began to practice law in 1812, and became prominent both as a lawyer and a political leader. He served in the State legislature (1815-16) and the U.S. House of Representatives (1821-31). As U.S. minister to Russia (1832-1834), James Buchanan negotiated the first commercial treaty between the United States and that country. From 1834 to 1845 he served in the U.S. Senate, and during the administration (1845-49) of President James Polk he was secretary of state; his most notable achievement in the later post was the settlement of the Oregon boundary dispute with Great Britain in 1846 on terms satisfactory to the United States. James Buchanan was ambassador to Great Britain from 1853 to 1856; in the later year he nominated for the Presidency by the Democratic Party, and was elected against the opposition of the "Know Nothing" (q.v.) candidate of the nearly organized Republican Party.

President James Buchanan books

During President James Buchanan's administration the slavery question steadily increased in gravity. President James Buchanan strongly favored the maintenance of slavery; his cabinet was composed mostly of advocates of the system, and he publicly supported proslavery elements in their attempt to establish Kansas as a slave State. As the close of his term approached it became evident an open, armed conflict was impending, and the election of Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency in November, 1860, deepened the crisis. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina formally seceded from the Union, but President Buchanan, hopeful of negotiating a settlement with the South, refused to employ coercive measures. Buchanan's cabinet, torn by the sectional disputes of the day, quickly broke up. In the closing weeks of President James Buchanan's administration the indecision and inactivity of the Federal government allowed the seceding southern States to gather their forces, and most of forts and arsenals in those States were seized during the winter. After his retirement from office James Buchanan took no part in public affairs, though during the remaining years of his life he supported the Union cause in the Civil War. In 1866 he wrote a defense of his administration.

President James Buchanan: A Biography
The life of James Buchanan is in essence the story of a man who declined to be a dictator. Republics are traditionally ungrateful, and in Buchanan's case the American republic has been notoriously thankless to the man who was, from log cabin to White House, the relentless foe of fanatics and demagogues; a man who held that reason and restraint were the essential tools of self-government, and who bent all his energies to achieve by means of law and diplomacy what others later sought to accomplish by civil war.

As a result of nearly fifty years' experience in the public service, James Buchanan entered the presidency with more advance training than any man who has ever held the post. As a Congressman he sustained the power of the Supreme Court to review state laws in an argument that Charles Warren has called "one of the great and signal documents in the history of American constitutional law." In the Senate he worked incessantly to keep clearly defined the live between the powers of the executive, judicial, and legislative branches and between the state and federal governments. While he was Minster to Russia he negotiated the first commercial treaty with that country; his English Mission diminished the traditional American hatred for England and laid the foundations for subsequent Anglo-American friendship.

As Secretary of State he presided over negotiations leading to the acquisition of the western third of the Continental United States, launched a "good neighbor" policy in Latin America, and insisted upon international rights of neutrals and the rights of American citizens abroad. Buchanan the politician maintained control of his home state against the challenge of such powerful rivals as Simon Cameron, George M. Dallas, and Thaddeus Stevens. In the presidency he fought sectionalism by initiating policies intended to arouse national patriotism, and he sought by law to attain a long-range solution to the slavery problem. In the closing months of his term of office, he refused to yield to the demands of extremists, both northern and southern, for he knew that either course would precipitate a war which almost no one wanted.

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