James Buchanan – The Fifteenth President – History Essay
The fifteenth president of the United States has been either one of the most ineffective presidents or one of the biggest casualties of his era. James Buchanan was president from1857 till 1861 and like the fourteenth and thirteenth presidents, Millard Fillmore and Franklin Pierce, before him he was unable to mediate the country over the issue of slavery.
James Buchanan was effective during his life starting with graduating from Dickinson College. Before being elected president on the Democratic ticket in 1957, Buchanan was a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for a year. He became an accomplished lawyer before taking a seat on the United States House of Representatives from 1821 till 1831. Buchanan was a minister to Russia for two years immediately following his appointed seat. Buchanan’s life was occupied with the United States Senate from the time he stopped being a minister till the time 1845. He further held government positions of Secretary of State for four years under President Polk and Minister of England from 1953 till 1956 under President Pierce. Buchanan was elected president with one hundred seventy four votes to beat the other two candidates combined.
Buchanan however staled politically as a president. The political savvy man from Pennsylvania served abroad during time of bitter domestic controversy which helped him get to the white house. AT first he thought the debate over slavery specifically the issue of whether new territories should be slave states would be over if he maintained a sectional balance with his appointments and to accept constitutional law as the Supreme Court interpreted it. The northern part of the nation did not accept constitutional law as the Supreme Court interpreted it when the Dred Scott Decision occurred. The decision decreed that Congress had no right to deprive persons of their property rights in slaves in the territories.
Buchanan then tried to settle the matter just in Kansas by urging the admission of the territory as a slave state. He in doing this angered the Republicans and distance members of the Democratic Party. Kansas remained merely a territory and then the Republicans gained plurality in the House of Representatives. The plurality of Republicans in the House of Representatives effectively stalemated the Federal Government. Although this is not to the fault of Buchanan, The stale mate occurring when bills are not passed by either the House of Representatives or the southern part of the Senate did significantly stop effective government actions.
Then the Democratic Party split between into northern and southern factions. The two democratic factions nominated their own candidates for office with the Republicans nominating only one. Southerners not in favor of a republican administration moved to secede. The decision came upon Buchanan and he decided that legally states could not secede but also that the federal government couldn’t stop them. One of the most effective acts as president came when Cabinet members began to resign he replaced them with northerners.
It may even be argued that Abraham Lincoln a man with more failures than success in his life would not have found his glory had James Buchanan found a solution to the most pressing issue of his term. If there weren’t more northerners in the Cabinet it may not have created the same environment and power as that of the civil war era when Lincoln held office. He also sent The Star of the West to reinforce Fort Sumter. He ended his presidency within a year with the period after the Fort Sumter order being highly inactive.