President James Buchanan
b.23 Apr 1791 Mercersburg, Franklin, Pennsylvania, United States
d.1 Jun 1868 Wheatland, Pennsylvania
Facts and Events
James Buchanan, Jr. (; April 23, 1791June 1, 1868) was the 15th President of the United States (1857–1861). He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor, and the last president born in the 18th century. At the end of his term he was the oldest to serve, a record surpassed by Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1960 and Ronald Reagan in 1981.
He represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives and later the Senate and served as Minister to Russia under President Andrew Jackson. He was also Secretary of State under President James K. Polk. After he turned down an offer for an appointment to the Supreme Court, President Franklin Pierce appointed him minister to the Court of St. James', in which capacity he helped draft the controversial Ostend Manifesto.
Buchanan was nominated in the 1856 election. Throughout most of Franklin Pierce's term he was stationed in London as a minister to the Court of St. James' and therefore was not caught up in the crossfire of sectional politics that dominated the country. Buchanan was viewed by many as a compromise between the two sides of the slavery question. His subsequent election victory took place in a three-man race with John C. Frémont and Millard Fillmore. As President, he was often called a "doughface", a Northerner with Southern sympathies, who battled with Stephen A. Douglas for the control of the Democratic Party. Buchanan's efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South alienated both sides, and the Southern states declared their secession in the prologue to the American Civil War. Buchanan's view of record was that secession was illegal, but that going to war to stop it was also illegal. Buchanan, first and foremost an attorney, was noted for his mantra, "I acknowledge no master but the law."
When he left office, popular opinion had turned against him, and the Democratic Party had split in two. Buchanan had once aspired to a presidency that would rank in history with that of George Washington. However, his inability to impose peace on sharply divided partisans on the brink of the Civil War has led to his consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst Presidents. Historians in both 2006 and 2009 voted his failure to deal with secession the worst presidential mistake ever made. James Buchanan was a Pennsylvania State Representative and a United States Senator from Pennsylvania. He was born in a log cabin at Cove Gap, near Mercersburg , Franklin County, Pennsylvania , on April 23, 1791, to James Buchanan and Elizabeth Speer as the second of ten children, two of whom did not survive past infancy. The Buchanan family claims descent from King James I of Scotland In 1802, he moved to Mercersburg with his parents, where he was privately tutored. He later attended the village academy and graduated from Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At one point, he was expelled from Dickinson for wild behavior and bad conduct, but after pleading for a second chance, he graduated with honors three years later on September, 1809 Later that year he moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. For the next three years he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1812. He then opened a practice in Lancaster. A dedicated Federalist Party, he strongly opposed the War of 1812 on the grounds that it was an unnecessary conflict. Nevertheless, when the British invaded neighboring Maryland, he joined a volunteer light dragoon unit and served in the defense of Baltimore, Maryland.
Buchanan never married.
James Buchanan Political career
Buchanan started his political career in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from 1814–1816. He was elected to the Seventeenth Congress and to the four succeeding Congresses (March 4, 1821 – March 4, 1831). He was chairman of the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary (Twenty-first Congress). He was not a candidate for renomination in 1830. Buchanan served as one of the managers appointed by the House of Representatives in 1830 to conduct the impeachment proceedings against James H. Peck judge of the United States District Court for the District of Missouri . Buchanan served as ambassador to Russia from 1832 to 1834. With his original party of choice, the Federalists, long defunct, Buchanan was elected as a Democrat to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy and served from December 1834; he was reelected in 1837 and 1843 and resigned in 1845. He was chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations (Twenty-fourth through Twenty-sixth Congresses).
After the death of Supreme Court Justice Henry Baldwin in 1844, Buchanan was nominated (and refused the nomination) by President Polk to serve as a Justice of the Supreme Court (the seat was filled by Robert Cooper Grier
Buchanan served as Secretary of State in the Cabinet of President James K. Polk from 1845 to 1849, during which time he negotiated the 1846 Oregon Treaty establishing the 49th parallel as the northern boundary in the western William_Howard_Taft, the 27.S. No Secretary of State has become President since James Buchanan, although the President of the United States, often served as Acting Secretary of State during the Theodore Roosevelt administration.
Post-presidency, death, and legacy
In 1866 Buchanan published Mr Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion — the first presidential memoir. He died June 1, 1868, at the age of 78 at his home at . He was interred in Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster. On the day before his death, he predicted that "history will vindicate my memory." Nevertheless, historians continue to emphasize his failure to deal with secession. The policy of appeasement practiced by Buchanan and his predecessor, Franklin Pierce, toward the pro-slavery lobby is often criticized. There is no evidence, however, that Pierce and Buchanan taking a harder line against slavery would have done anything but provoke the Southern states to secede a few years earlier than they eventually did. Whether America's slide toward secession during his administration was Buchanan's fault or whether it was simply his bad luck to have presided over it remains a matter for debate.
A bronze and granite memorial residing near the Southeast corner of Washington, D.C.'s Meridian Hill Park was designed by architect William Gorden Beecher and sculpted by Maryland artist Hans Schuler. Commissioned in 1916, but not approved by the U.S. Congress until 1918, and not completed and unveiled until June 26, 1930, the memorial features a statue of Buchanan bookended by male and female classical figures representing law and diplomacy, with the engraved text reading: "The incorruptible statesman whose walk was upon the mountain ranges of the law," a quote from a member of Buchanan's cabinet, Jeremiah S. Black. The memorial in the nation's capital complemented an earlier monument, constructed in 1907–08 and dedicated in 1911, on the site of Buchanan's birthplace in StonyBatter, Pennsylvania. Part of an 18.5-acre memorial site, the monument is a 250-ton pyramid structure designed to show the original weathered surface of the native rubble and mortar.
An active Freemason during his lifetime, he was Master of Masonic Lodge #43 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a District Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
Three counties are named in his honor: Buchanan County in Iowa, Missouri, and Virginia.
Historians in 2006 voted his failure to deal with secession the worst presidential mistake ever made. James Buchanan's average historical ranking of United States Presidents by scholars considering presidential achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults (such as corruption), place him as the second worst president in U.S. history.
Tall, stately, stiffly formal in the high stock he wore around his jowls, James Buchanan was the only President who never married.
Presiding over a rapidly dividing Nation, Buchanan grasped inadequately the political realities of the time. Relying on constitutional doctrines to close the widening rift over slavery, he failed to understand that the North would not accept constitutional arguments which favored the South. Nor could he realize how sectionalism had realigned political parties: the Democrats split; the Whigs were destroyed, giving rise to the Republicans.
Born into a well-to-do Pennsylvania family in 1791, Buchanan, a graduate of Dickinson College, was gifted as a debater and learned in the law.
He was elected five times to the House of Representatives; then, after an interlude as Minister to Russia, served for a decade in the Senate. He became Polk's Secretary of State and Pierce's Minister to Great Britain. Service abroad helped to bring him the Democratic nomination in 1856 because it had exempted him from involvement in bitter domestic controversies.
As President-elect, Buchanan thought the crisis would disappear if he maintained a sectional balance in his appointments and could persuade the people to accept constitutional law as the Supreme Court interpreted it. The Court was considering the legality of restricting slavery in the territories, and two justices hinted to Buchanan what the decision would be.
Thus, in his Inaugural the President referred to the territorial question as "happily, a matter of but little practical importance" since the Supreme Court was about to settle it "speedily and finally."
Two days later Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Dred Scott decision, asserting that Congress had no constitutional power to deprive persons of their property rights in slaves in the territories. Southerners were delighted, but the decision created a furor in the North.
Buchanan decided to end the troubles in Kansas by urging the admission of the territory as a slave state. Although he directed his Presidential authority to this goal, he further angered the Republicans and alienated members of his own party. Kansas remained a territory.
When Republicans won a plurality in the House in 1858, every significant bill they passed fell before southern votes in the Senate or a Presidential veto. The Federal Government reached a stalemate.
Sectional strife rose to such a pitch in 1860 that the Democratic Party split into northern and southern wings, each nominating its own candidate for the Presidency. Consequently, when the Republicans nominated Abraham Lincoln, it was a foregone conclusion that he would be elected even though his name appeared on no southern ballot. Rather than accept a Republican administration, the southern "fire-eaters" advocated secession.
President Buchanan, dismayed and hesitant, denied the legal right of states to secede but held that the Federal Government legally could not prevent them. He hoped for compromise, but secessionist leaders did not want compromise.
Then Buchanan took a more militant tack. As several Cabinet members resigned, he appointed northerners, and sent the Star of the West to carry reinforcements to Fort Sumter. On January 9, 1861, the vessel was far away.
Buchanan reverted to a policy of inactivity that continued until he left office. In March 1861 he retired to his Pennsylvania home Wheatland--where he died seven years later--leaving his successor to resolve the frightful issue facing the Nation.