James Buchanan was the 15th President of the United States of America. He served as the President from 1857 to 1861.
He is famous for being the last American President before the Civil War started. Even during his Presidency, the differences between North and South grew very sharply.
However, Buchanan was not effective in resolving these differences and proved to be an indecisive President.
James Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania on April 23, 1791.
James Buchanan came of an Irish family which had immigrated to United States from Ireland. By the time he was born, his family had become well-established.
James had the chance to attain formal education at an early age. After gaining primary education, he took admission at the Dickinson College in Carlisle and graduated with honors.
He then decided to study law and after passing the bar exam, he started practicing law in 1812. As was the case with many other lawyers of the period, Buchanan soon developed an interest in politics.
James Buchanan began his political career when he was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
As a member of the U.S. Congress, Buchanan distinguished himself by taking on many versatile roles and positions. He served as the U.S. Minister to Russia during the Presidency of Andrew Jackson.
Later he was elected a U.S. Senator and remained in that position for nearly a decade. He was later made the Secretary of the State during the Presidency of James K. Polk.
When Franklin Pierce became President, Buchanan was given the ambassadorship of Great Britain where he represented USA.
During the Presidential elections of 1856, slavery was a major issue. The North opposed slavery while the South supported it.
James Buchanan had been away from USA for a few years before 1856. So no one knew what he thought of slavery. When the Democratic Party nominated him as their Presidential candidate, Buchanan was able to secure the support of both the North and the South. This helped him win the election and become the President.
During his term, relationships worsened between the northern and the southern states. Things were made even worse when the Supreme Court gave the famous Dred Scott ruling.
This ruling favored slavery and the southern states but it angered the northern states. Buchanan believed in the rule of law, so he supported the Dred Scott ruling. This put him at odds with the North.
When he failed to resolve the differences between the North and the South, southern states started to secede from USA. The first to do so was South Carolina which seceded on December 20, 1860. Even then, Buchanan did nothing since he believed that the states had a right to choose whether or not to stay in the Union.
When Buchanan’s Presidency ended in 1861, the country was in turmoil and Civil War had started. Buchanan retired to his home in Pennsylvania where he died a few years later on June 1, 1868.