Essay on The Failure of James Buchanan

1375 Words 6 Pages
In 1856, a Presidential election occurred in the United States at a crucial period. Sectionalism was at an all time high and a leader was needed to unite the country. However, the man who won the election did not prove to be this leader. Instead, his platform was based on a deliberate failure to lead. Due to James Buchanan’s position that supported popular sovereignty in the expanding United States, the country divided even further over the topic of slavery to the point that the Civil War became inevitable.
One of Buchanan’s most significant failures came in regards to the Dred Scott case. Although he had good intentions in how he wanted to handle this case, he did a terrible job. Phillip Auchampaugh describes this by stating, “His desire
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Since the decision did not occur until two days after Buchanan’s inaugural address, this address would be a good place to look to discover how much Buchanan actually knew. In the address, he states, “To their decision, in common with all good citizens, I shall cheerfully submit” (Buchanan “Inaugural Address”). Here, Buchanan shows that he is willing to abide by whatever decision the Supreme Court comes to. However, it can be inferred that he knows what the outcome will be. He goes on to state, “though it has ever been my individual opinion that under the Nebraska-Kansas act the appropriate period will be when the number of actual residents in the Territory shall justify the formation of a constitution with a view to its admission as a State into the Union” (Buchanan “Inaugural Address”). Basically, he is revealing his opinion that the Kansas-Nebraska act, or as he refers to it, the Nebraska-Kansas act, has already made this decision clear that popular sovereignty is what will govern the territories instead of congressional jurisdiction. A President would not give their opinion on such an important decision before it occurs unless they already knew what the outcome of the case was going to be. So, through Buchanan’s correspondence with Supreme Court Justices, his Inaugural address, and desire to keep the Union together, it can be inferred that he knew the outcome of the Dred Scott decision before it actually occurred. All this is irresponsible because a President Elect
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