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On April 23, 1791, a great man was born; fifteenth president of the United States, James Buchanan.He was born near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. His father, James Buchanan, and his mother Elizabeth Speer Buchanan, raised their son a Presbyterian. He grew up in a well to do home, being the eldest of eleven other siblings. His parents cared for them all in their mansion in Pennsylvania. They sent him to Dickinson College.
Buchanan graduated in 1809, was admitted to the bar in 1812, and then moved to Lancaster to set up his law practice. His political career was initiated in 1814 with his election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; in 1821 he began his first five elective terms in the House of Representatives. President Andrew Jackson appointed James Minister to Russia, upon his return in 1834. Buchanan was in the service of the United States Senate for a decade, and then became a secretary under James K. Polk, and as President Pierce’ s minister to Great Britain.
During this Foreign Service, Buchanan’s name was mentioned as the Democratic Party’s for the 1856 Presidential Election. Buchanan had strived for this election in the three previous elections; it had seemed to pass over him. But by 1856, Buchanan was ready to retire from public service and only accepted the nomination out of duty and obligation. Buchanan didn’t actively campaign for the presidency, but instead remained quietly at home in Wheatland.
Buchanan’s presidency was characterized by the state’s rights and slavery issues, which tore our country apart. Following the election of Abraham Lincoln, and by the time Buchanan left office, six states had seceded from the union. When seven of the fifteen stated seceded from the union, in 1860-1861, Buchanan did not force them to stay in the union. He felt that violence would only make more states leave. His policy delayed the Civil War until after Abraham Lincoln took office. So, therefore, Buchanan actually was president during the very beginnings of the Civil War
Being a minister to Great Britain, the Whig party regained the presidency in 1849, and Buchanan retired to Wheatland. He ran for the democratic presidential nomination. Franklin Pierce won the nomination and the election though. He appointed Buchanan minister to Great Britain.
In London, Buchanan tried for two years to modify the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 1850. This treaty provided that neither nation should occupy territory in Central America.
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Buchanan was almost sixty-six years of age when he succeeded his fellow democrat, Franklin Pierce. The public respected him for his faithful service in both houses of Congress. People knew him as a warm and friendly man, who could be trusted. His nephew once described him as, “ Tall- over six feet, broad shouldered, with a portly, dignified bearing… his eyes were blue, intelligent, and kindly, with the peculiarity that one was far and the other one near sighted, which resulted in a slight habitual inclination of the head to one side…”
Buchanan also was president during a large fight over slavery. He wasn’t for it; he thought it was very wrong. But as the storm of it gathered more and more, Abolitionist authors aroused New England. The Lincoln-Douglas debates in Illinois focused attention on the moral wrongness of slavery. People became uneasy, wild speculation in the Western lands and railroads brought on an economic panic. Banks, railroads, and factories failed. Thousands of unemployed and hungry people stood in line for free food.