Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Buchanan, James

821889Collier's New Encyclopedia — Buchanan, James

BUCHANAN, JAMES, an American statesman, 15th President of the United States, born near Mercersburg, Fa., April 23, 1791; graduated at Dickinson College in 1809, admitted to the bar in 1812. He supported the War of 1812, although affiliated with the Federalist party. In 1820 he was elected to Congress, serving successive terms by re-election for 10 years, where he made some reputation in the advocacy of bills for reorganizing the courts and judiciary. In 1828 he supported Andrew Jackson for the Presidency, who, in turn, appointed him Minister to Russia, where he distinguished himself by arranging an important commercial treaty. In 1834, he entered the United States Senate, serving there 12 years, where he defended the spoils system instituted by Jackson, and declared against the right or power of the Government to interfere with slavery in the States. He was appointed Secretary of State by President Polk, after which service he was in retirement for four years. Under President Pierce he was sent in 1853 as Minister to England, where his advocacy of the annexation of Cuba by the United States led to his nomination to the Presidency in 1856. His cabinet contained men who supported the secession of South Carolina, and eventually joined the Confederacy. While holding that the States had no right to secede, he announced in 1860 that the President had neither the right nor the constitutional power to prevent a State from seceding. This unwillingness to take decisive action enabled the seceding States to arm and prepare for war before the Government did anything to prevent. After he retired, however, he supported the Union cause. He died in Lancaster, Pa., June 1, 1868.