Monday, November 23, 2015

William Buchanan: The last pro-slavery president

Without the support of northern Whigs angered by his signing the fugitive slave act, Millard Fillmore lost the 1852 election to democrat James Buchanan.  He was the 15th president of the U.S., and the last president to succeed at avoiding a Civil War.  He was also the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor.

Shortly after his inauguration, a decision was to come about regarding Dred Scott, who was suing for his right to be a free man.  Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Dred Scott Decisions, claiming that anyone of African ancestry could never become U.S. Citizens, and could never sue in a Federal Court.  This included both slaves and free African Americans. It also ruled that Congress did not have the right to prohibit slavery in territories.  So Dred Scott remained a slave.

As a pro slavery president, Buchanan supported this decision.  This did not sit well with abolitionists in his own party, and anti-slavery republican party.

To settle disputes in Kansas, he pushed for it to enter into the union as a slave state.  But this angered republicans even more, and created a riff in his own party. His effort in this regard failed, and Kansas remained a territory.

To make matters worse in the nation, in 1858 republicans won a majority of seats in the House.  Every single bill they tried to pass met a political death in the Senate or by presidential veto.  Washington D.C. was in a complete stalemate.

Now, for his inability to avoid escalating tensions between the north and the south that would ultimately lead to the Civil War, and for his failure to stand up against slavery, he is often sited as a failed president. However, that aside, he was a classical liberal who championed for low tariffs and low taxes in order to stimulate the economy.

His democratic party was divided on slavery, and this resulted in the party dividing into southern democrats and northern democrats, and each nominated its own candidate for president: John Breckinridge and Stephen A. Douglas respectively.  The Whig party was destroyed.  This set the stage for the republican party president, Abraham Lincoln, to sneak into the office of the president.

Further reading