- NAME: James Buchanan
- OCCUPATION: U.S. President, U.S. Representative
- BIRTH DATE: April 23, 1791
- DEATH DATE: June 01, 1868
- EDUCATION: Old Stone Academy, Dickinson College
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Cove Gap, Pennsylvania
- PLACE OF DEATH: Lancaster, Pennsylvania
- Full Name: James Buchanan Jr.
- AKA: James Buchanan
- Nickname: "Old Buck"
Best Known For
James Buchanan was the 15th president of the United States. He served from 1857 to 1861, during the build-up to the Civil War.
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James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, in 1791. Serving as president during the run-up to the Civil War, Buchanan's inability to halt the Southern States' drive toward secession has led most historians to consider his presidency a failure. Buchanan was the only U.S. president from Pennsylvania, and the only one to remain a lifelong bachelor. He died in 1868 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
"Prevent the American people from crossing the Rocky Mountains? You might as well command Niagara not to flow. We must fulfill our destiny."
"What is right and what is practicable are two different things."
James Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, on April 23, 1791. His father, James Sr., was a well-to-do merchant and farmer, and his mother, Elizabeth, intelligent and well-read. As a young boy, Buchanan was educated at the Old Stone Academy in his village, and later, Dickinson College, where he was nearly suspended for bad behavior before finally graduating in 1809.
After graduating from college, Buchanan moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he studied law, and, in 1812, he was admitted to the bar. Shortly thereafter, he enlisted in the military at the start of the War of 1812 and participated in the defense of Baltimore.
In 1814, at age 23, Buchanan began what would be a long political career when he was elected as a member of the Federalist Party to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He later won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served five consecutive terms, from 1821 to 1831. In 1832, when Andrew Jackson was elected to his second term as president, he appointed Buchanan as his envoy to Russia, a post in which Buchanan further proved his aptitude as a diplomat.
In 1834 Buchanan returned to the United States and won a seat in Senate as a Democrat, a position he would hold for the next 10 years, until, in 1845, he resigned to serve as James K. Polk's secretary of state, a position he used to further an expansionist agenda. In 1852 he made an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, losing to Franklin Pierce, who, after being elected president, made Buchanan his minister to England.
In 1856 Buchanan successfully defeated Republican candidate John C. Fremont and, on March 4, 1857, was sworn in as the 15th president of the United States. In his inaugural address, Buchanan, who had won, in no small part, due to the support he had garnered in the southern states, reiterated a belief that had been one of the major running points of his campaign: that slavery was a matter for states and territories to decide, not the federal government. He went on to suggest that the matter was one that would be easily resolved, both "speedily and finally." Historians have cited these remarks as indicative of Buchanan's fundamental misunderstanding of the issue.
Shortly after his inauguration, the Dred Scott decision was delivered, essentially stating that the federal government had no right to exclude slavery in the territories. Around this time, Buchanan also attempted to resolve the slavery dispute in Kansas, so that it could agree on a constitution and be admitted to the Union.
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