James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States, serving from 1857 to 1861. His presidency was considered by many historians a failure since his efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South were fruitless. He is best-remembered as the only president from Pennsylvania and the only one who remained single during his entire term as president.
Born into a wealthy family on April 23, 1791 in Pennsylvania, Buchanan started his long political career in 1814 when he was 23-years-old and was elected as a member of the Federalist Party to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Six years later,he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and served five consecutive terms until 1831. In 1932, President Andrew Jackson appointed Buchanan the U.S. ambassador to Russia and when he returned to the United States, he won a seat in Senate as a Democrat.
He resigned from the Senate in 1845 and served as James K. Polkís secretary of state. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce made him minister to England. After years of serving the country in many different positions, Buchanan finally got the Democratic nomination for President and successfully defeated John C. Fremont, thus becoming the 15th president of the United States.
Slavery at the time was the main issue which Buchanan faced at the beginning of his presidency. He endorsed the southern position and believed that slavery was a matter for each state to decide if they would allow it.
Apparently, Buchanan was morally opposed to slavery and he tried to show that he was against sit. He regularly bought slaves with his money in Washington D.C and took them back to Pennsylvania to set them free. However, he never confronted the issue during his presidency and his efforts to restore peace and harmony in the country eventually led to civil war.
Shortly after his inauguration, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Dred Scott decision, stating that the Congress had no constitutional power to exclude slavery in the territories; that African-Americans were not citizens and had no right to sue for their freedom.
Buchanan even deepened the crisis when he accepted and supported the Lecompton Constitution written by proslavery supporters. According to the Lecompton Constitution, Kansas would have secured the continuation of slavery and would have become a slave state but the Senate blocked it, and Kansas joined the Union as a free state.
In the next period of Buchananís presidency, the crises escalated, and the country was just about to be torn apart. The president believed that the states didnít have the right to secede, but on the other hand, he also claimed that there was nothing that the Federal Government could do to prevent it.
As the Civil War approached, it was clear that Buchanan would not seek reelection as he didnít manage to prevent the secession and he only deepened the slavery crises. Upon leaving Washington, he reportedly told Lincoln, ďSir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.Ē