Wednesday, May 08, 2024

The Worst President--The Story of James Buchanan

My book for May was The Worst President--The Story of James Buchanan by Garry Boulard. It fits into my long term project to read books about all of the presidents.

Buchhanan was a lawyer from Pennsylvania, He had a long political career, including: the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; the U.S. House of Representatives; Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee; United States Minister to Russia; United States Senator; Secretary of State under James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor; United States Minister to the United Kingdom, and; 15th President of the United States. As President, Buchanan was an advocate for states' rights, particularly regarding slavery, and minimized the role of the federal government preceding the Civil War.

Significant events during this presidency include the Dred Scott Case and controversy over Kansas constitution. In the 1857 Dred Scoot Case, the United States Supreme Court upheld slavery in United States territories, denied the legality of black citizenship in America, and declared the Missouri Compromise to be unconstitutional. Buchanan had hoped that a broad decision protecting slavery in the territories would lay the issue to rest, quell the slavery debate and allow him to focus on other issues.

Buchanan never married and was the only U.S. president to remain a lifelong bachelor. He was 66 when he become president.

Buchanan is widely considered a failure, presiding over a fractured nation on the brink of civil war. Boulard delves into the reasons why, painting a picture of a president unwilling or unable to confront the country's deepening crisis.

The book doesn't shy away from portraying Buchanan as a flawed leader. His characterization as "timid" and "vacillating" rings true. It underscores how Buchanan's inaction opened the door to the Civil War.

This is a short book. It really doesn't examine Buchanan's Presidency in depth. I probably need to read another more indepth book at some point.

Fort Sumter plays a major role at the end of his presidency. Sharon and I visited Fort Sumter in March of 2015 when we were in Charleston.

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