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1857 in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Events from the year 1857 in the United States.

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  • ✪ James Buchanan: The Civil War Approaches (1857 - 1861)
  • ✪ Franklin Pierce: The Compromise Candidate (1853 - 1857)
  • ✪ American President #14: Franklin Pierce (1853-1857)
  • ✪ Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) - Complete Audiobook of the United States Supreme Court Opinion
  • ✪ History of the Indian wars


Professor Dave here, let’s talk about James Buchanan. James Buchanan was not only incompetent, but he also woefully overrated his own place in the Presidency. “History shall vindicate my memory,” he predicted the day before he died. In this, as with most everything of his presidency, he was dead wrong. Historians consistently rate Buchanan at the very bottom for his indecisiveness and passivity in times of crisis, his lack of authority, and continuous attempts at having things both ways while pleasing no one. Even before he became president he was ridiculed by none other than former President James Polk, who dismissed Buchanan as a man who was “without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid.” Nor was Polk the only president to ridicule Buchanan, who was more than likely the first homosexual occupant of the White House. Buchanan and William Rufus King, Franklin Pierce’s Vice President, shared a boarding house for ten years and attended social events together, causing Andrew Jackson to refer to them as “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy.” They were both described as being “soft, effeminate and eccentric,” and Buchanan came to adopt King’s mannerisms as well as the Alabaman’s romantic view of Southern culture. They had discussed running for President and Vice President, although it was unclear who was to be on the top of the ticket. After King was appointed as Minister to France, Buchanan was disconsolate, writing to a friend, “I am now solitary and alone, having no companion in the house with me. I have gone wooing to several gentlemen but have not succeeded with any one of them.” Buchanan assumed office when the long simmering tensions regarding the issue of slavery that had long bedeviled the country were finally about to explode. Yet his failure to act in any meaningful way when South Carolina finally seceded, as it had been threatening to do for decades, set the stage for the cataclysm of the Civil War. After serving as a private in the War of 1812, Buchanan then began his political career as a Federalist just as that party was undergoing extinction. He then joined the Democrats, which were then a Southern-based, States Rights, pro-slavery party. He was elected to Congress as a Representative from Pennsylvania in 1821, then to the Senate in 1834, and finally became President Polk’s Secretary of State in 1845. He is the last Secretary of State to have become President. He was also appointed Minister to England and was out of the country while the bitter arguments over admitting Kansas and Nebraska as free or slave states divided the country. Because he was untainted by the controversy, he was felt to be a safe choice for the Presidential nomination in 1856. In a three way race against, “Know Nothing” candidate former President Millard Fillmore, and the first Republican nominee John C. Fremont, Buchanan won the election. Astonishingly, he is the last Democrat to be elected after a previous Democratic Administration. Buchanan’s attempts at restoring harmony to the Union were ineffective, as passions had grown so inflamed that such efforts were doomed to fail. Two days after he was sworn in, the Supreme Court issued its landmark Dred Scott decision, one of the most egregious miscarriages of justice in American History. The Court ruled, in its words, that “A Negro, whose ancestors were imported into the U.S. and sold as slaves,” whether enslaved or free, could not be an American citizen and therefore had no standing to sue in federal court. Additionally, it ruled that the Federal Government had no power to regulate slavery in the territories acquired after the creation of the United States. This catastrophic decision all but ensured the Civil War. Slavery was still legal in the Southern states but had been outlawed in the North since 1803. After earning the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, Abraham Lincoln condemned the Dred Scott decision by quoting the Gospel of Mark, “A house divided among itself cannot stand,” and he condemned Buchanan, the Supreme Court, and former President Franklin Pierce as being accomplices to the slave oligarchy. In May of 1857, pro-slavery forces in the Kansas Territory organized a seat of government in Lecompton while anti-slavery settlers organized a rival government in Topeka. For admission to the Union, a state constitution had to be submitted to congress that was supported by a majority of its population. Although most Kansans were opposed to slavery, a pro-slavery faction was able to pass the Lecompton Constitution due to a boycott by the anti-slavery partisans and by deceptive trickery. In one of his greatest blunders, Buchanan not only eagerly backed the Lecompton Constitution but made every effort to secure congressional approval, offering favors, patronage appointments, and even cash for votes, and though it passed in the House it was rejected by the Senate due to the strenuous objections of fellow Democrat Stephen Douglas, who opposed the fraudulent way the Constitution had been passed. Efforts were made to impeach Buchanan for his heavy-handed attempts in trying to secure passage for the Kansas Admission and these efforts were even supported by some Democrats. Since he was not running for re-election the efforts came to little more than a slap on the wrist, though it further damaged Buchanan politically. The Democratic Convention in 1860 was held in South Carolina, which had been threatening to secede since the Jackson Administration thirty years earlier. Buchanan had sworn he would not run for re-election, so the party was torn apart by internal dissent. The hard-line pro slavery Southern faction walked out and nominated Buchanan’s Vice President John C. Breckinridge, who Buchanan favored. A moderate faction nominated Buchanan’s enemy Stephen Douglas, and yet a third faction nominated Speaker of the House John Bell, who took no position on slavery at all. With the Democrats in disarray, it became obvious that the Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln, who opposed the extension of slavery, would be elected. The Commanding General of the Army, Winfield Scott, warned Buchanan that Lincoln’s almost certain election would likely cause at least seven Southern States to secede. He also recommended that massive amounts of federal troops and artillery be sent to protect federal property, although Congress had allowed the Army to fall into deplorable condition. At first, Buchanan ignored his recommendations but after Lincoln’s election, he ordered reinforcements of southern forts with provisions, arms, and men, but the Secretary of War convinced him to revoke the order. With secession reaching critical mass Buchanan was forced to address it in his final message to Congress on December 3rd, 1860. In his message, Buchanan denied the legal right of states to secede but held that the federal government legally could not prevent them from doing so. He placed the blame for the crisis solely on “interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States”, and warned that if they did not cease “their unconstitutional and obnoxious enactments” the injured states would be justified in revolutionary resistance. As was typical, he managed to offend both North and South with his speech; in the North he was criticized for refusing to stop secession and in the South for denying their right to secede. Two weeks after Buchanan’s speech, South Carolina seceded from the Union. Alternately gripped by indecisiveness and paralysis and then lurching into manic proposals, Buchanan began grasping at straws, first proposing to Lincoln a new Constitutional Convention, which Lincoln rejected, then a complete overhaul of his cabinet, ridding it of all Southern sympathizers. By February 1861, the seven secessionist states of the Deep South had formed their own government, the Confederate States of America, and seized Federal property in their states, as General Scott had predicted they would. Again, Buchanan took no action. Even worse was the action Buchanan eventually did take, telling the legislators of South Carolina he would not reinforce the garrison at Charleston in exchange for no interference from the secessionists. Buchanan compounded this bizarre strategy by failing to inform the garrison’s commander, who moved his men to the island of Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on December 26, enraging the Southerners, while the North demanded Buchanan support the Union troops. Panicked, Buchanan sent reinforcements but the ship was fired upon by Southern cannons and returned to New York, again inflaming both North and South. Paralyzed, he took no further actions in the remaining months of his presidency. The Civil War began on April 12th 1861 with the shelling of Fort Sumter and its surrender the following day.



Federal Government


March 4: James Buchanan becomes President
March 4: James Buchanan becomes President





See also


  1. ^ Chisholm, Hugh. "The Encyclopaedia Britannica : a dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information". New York : Encyclopaedia Britannica – via Internet Archive.

External links

This page was last edited on 12 July 2019, at 16:27
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