ames Buchanan was a Democratic politician and diplomat whose single term as
U.S. president (1857-1861) saw seven states from the Deep South secede from the
union. He is often considered to have been among the worst presidents in
James Buchanan was born near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, to Elizabeth Speer
Buchanan and James Buchanan, a storekeeper. He attended school at a local
academy then nearby Dickinson College, graduating in 1809. He studied law in
Lancaster and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1812. He proved to be a
successful lawyer and an astute investor, quickly accumulating substantial
Buchanan entered politics at an early age, serving in the Pennsylvania
legislature (1814-1816) as a Federalist and in the U.S. House of Representatives
(1821-1831). He eventually became a Democrat and a supporter of Andrew Jackson,
who as president appointed him to be the U.S. minister to Russia (1832-1833).
After he returned to America at the end of Jacksonís second term, the
Pennsylvania legislature elected Buchanan to the U.S. Senate. His closest
friends were Southerners and he took a pro-Southern position on most sectional
issues, including slavery. He believed that the institution of slavery was
legally and constitutionally protected, and he endorsed the exclusion of
abolitionist materials from the U.S. mails, the gag rule that tabled antislavery
petitions to Congress, and the annexation of Texas as a slave state.
In 1844 Buchanan was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination,
but a deadlocked convention turned to dark horse candidate James K. Polk. After
Polk became president, he appointed Buchanan as his secretary of state, but,
dismayed with the Pennsylvanianís indecisiveness, the president largely
administered foreign policy himself. In 1848 and 1852 Buchanan again
unsuccessfully sought his partyís presidential nomination. Although he hoped
to serve as secretary of state once more under President Franklin Pierce, he was
assigned to be minister to Great Britain.
Buchanan gained notoriety in his new position when he and the American
ministers to Spain and France met in Ostend, Belgium, in 1854 to draft a policy
recommendation for President Pierce. They suggested that the United States try
to buy Cuba and, if Spain was unwilling, to seize the island by force. When the
Ostend Manifesto, as it was dubbed, was leaked to the press, it created an
uproar, with supporters and detractors dividing primarily along sectional lines.
In early 1856 Buchanan resigned and returned to America in order to secure
the Democratic presidential nomination. This time, he was successful. He went on
to win the presidency with a plurality of the vote against two other candidates.
Some southerners had threatened to secede if the Republican nominee, John C.
Frťmont, won the election. During his presidential term, therefore, Buchanan
attempted to appease southern concerns in order to preserve the union. His
policies, however, only contributed to more sectional animosity.
In the interim between election and inauguration, Buchanan tried to exert
undue influence on one of the Supreme Court justices who was deciding the Dred
Scot case. The decision, announced two days after his inauguration, affirmed
in sweeping terms the southern view that neither the federal nor territorial
government could ban slavery in the territories. Although the president thought
the decision would settle the matter, it further exacerbated sectional tensions,
including within the Democratic party, and strengthened the Republican party.
Buchananís handling of the slavery issue in the Kansas territory also
widened the divide between northern and southern Democrats. To the dismay of
Stephen Douglas, leader of the northern wing of the party, Buchanan endorsed the
pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution. Submitted to Congress by a rump legislature,
it would have allowed Kansas to enter the union as a slave state, against the
wishes of the anti-slavery majority in the territory. The Buchanan
administration did everything it could to ensure passage, including a resort to
bribery. While the Senate approved the Lecompton Constitution, it was narrowly
rejected by the House after a bitter fight. The damage done to the Democratic
party and national unity was almost irreparable.
President Buchanan pursued an expansionist foreign policy, stoking Republican
fears of a political conspiracy to expand slavery. His administration failed in
attempts to purchase Alaska and Cuba and to impose a protectorate on northern
Mexico, but did secure trade treaties with China and Japan. The Buchanan
presidency was plagued by a series of scandals, making his administration one of
the most corrupt in American history. An economic depression also undermined the
Douglas had broken publicly with Buchanan over the Lecompton Constitution, so
the president worked behind the scenes to derail the senatorís reelection in
1858. Douglas prevailed, but discord with the Democratic party increased. The
final break came at the 1860 Democratic National Convention in Charleston, South
Carolina. Buchanan aides joined forces with southern radicals to stop Douglasís
nomination for president. After the convention failed to endorse a federal slave
code for the territories, the southern delegates walked out and reconvened in
Richmond to nominated Vice President John Breckinridge for president. The
northern Democrats met in Baltimore and nominated Douglas. The split in the
Democratic party allowed the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, to win the
When seven states of the Deep South left the union after Lincolnís
election, Buchanan condemned northern antislavery agitators. The lame-duck
president denied both a constitutional right to secede and the constitutional
authority of the president to intervene and stop the process. Instead, he called
for a constitutional convention to draft amendments protecting slavery in the
South and in the territories. Yet, Buchanan remained a unionist and would not
recognize the Confederate seizure of federal property. After the Star of the
West, an unarmed
Henry Raymond was the first and long-time editor of the New York Times
and a Republican politician.
Henry Raymond was born in Lima, New York, to Lavinia Brockway Raymond and
Jarvis Raymond, who were farmers. A precocious child, young Raymond was reading
at age three and reciting speeches at age five. He studied at a local Methodist
prep school, then at the University of Vermont, where he was a standout speaker
and a contributing writer for the New Yorker, edited by Horace Greeley.
Raymond graduated summa cum laude in 1840. That same year he entered
politics by campaigning for William Henry Harrison, the Whig presidential
Raymond moved to New York City hoping to gain full-time employment with the New
Yorker. After a brief apprenticeship, he was made an editorial assistant,
but had to augment his low salary by writing items for out-of-state newspapers
and ad copy for patent medicines. In 1841 Greeley launched the New York Tribune,
a penny paper that served as the organ of the Whig party, and Raymond followed
the editor as his chief assistant. Although both men were Whigs, Raymond
disagreed with his bossís affinity for reform schemes, especially socialism.
In 1843 he left the Tribune for a better-paying position as associate
editor for the Morning Courier and New York Enquirer, published by James
Watson Webb. In 1848 Raymond joined forces with representatives from five other
New York newspapers to form a cooperation news-gathering service, the Associated
In 1844 and 1848 Raymond campaigned for the Whig presidential candidates
Henry Clay and Zachary Taylor, respectively. He also ran for public office
himself, gaining election to the New York state legislature in 1849. Reelected
in 1850, his Whig colleagues in the majority selected him to serve as speaker.
In that same year he also began a six-year stint as the first managing editor of
Harperís Monthly. At this time he began to speak and write against the
immorality of slavery and its expansion into the western territories. When Webb
censored one of Raymondís Courier and Enquirer editorials, he quit. In
1851 Raymond and George Jones founded the New York Times, with Raymond
serving as its first editor. It quickly enjoyed high circulation and became one
of the nationís leading newspapers.
In 1852 Raymond was a major force behind the Whig nomination of Winfield
Scott for president. The editor gained renown for an anti-slavery speech he
delivered at the convention, even though the delegates crafted a platform that
waffled on the issue. In 1854 New York Whigs nominated Raymond for lieutenant
governor. During the campaign he spoke against the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which
repealed the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery in the Louisiana Purchase
territory. He and the Whig candidate for governor, Myron Clark, were elected by
a slim margin.
The days of the Whig party were numbered, though, and like many northern
Whigs, Raymond gravitated to the new Republican party. In fact, he was one of
the founders of the Republican party in New York and helped draft its original
charter. He transformed the Times into a solidly Republican newspaper,
although it was officially independent of the party apparatus. In 1857 the Times
moved into a new five-story building on the corner of Nassau Street and Park
Row. In 1859 he personally covered the Franco-Austrian War for the paper,
sending back realistic battle reports.
Raymond traveled to the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago as a
delegate for fellow-New Yorker, Senator William Henry Seward, but loyally
endorsed the partyís eventual nominee, Abraham Lincoln. During the campaign
Raymond published a series of open letters to former Representative William
Yancey, a southern fire-eater who was traveling through the North arguing for
the constitutionality of secession. The Times editor countered with the
theory that the constitution created a perpetual union that could not be
dissolved, and that secession would provoke war.
During the Civil War the Times was a staunchly pro-Union paper, and it
shifted from its prewar anti-slavery-expansion stance to endorse abolition as a
war aim. Raymond attended some of the battles himself, including First Bull Run
(Manassas) at which he prematurely telegrammed of Union victory. For protection
during the Draft Riots in New York City, he installed Gatling guns on the roof
of the Times building. Under his direction, the Times expanded its
circulation and influence and was barely able to keep up with the demand for its
Raymond was elected to the state legislature in 1861 and was again chosen as
speaker. In early 1863 he hoped to take Preston Kingís vacated seat in the
U.S. Senate, but Edwin Morgan was selected, instead. Raymond was in accord with
Lincolnís policies and authored a campaign biography of the president in 1864
and drafted the National Union platform. That same year the Times editor
was elected to Congress by a margin of less than 500 votes. He strongly
supported Lincoln and, initially, his successor, Andrew Johnson, against the
Radical Republicans. After voting against the Civil Rights Act of 1866, though,
he voted for the 14th Amendment that granted citizenship and federal
civil rights protection to black Americans. Critics accused him of
In 1866 Raymond organized a National Union convention, which Radicals
condemned for its control by Democrats. His involvement cost the Times
readership and, therefore, revenue. Within a few months he concluded that the
Radicals were correct about the National Union party, and the Times
endorsed the Radical Republican candidate for New York governor and began
criticizing President Johnson. In Congress, however, Raymond voted against both
the impeachment resolution and the Radicalsí military Reconstruction bills.
After Raymondís term ended, Johnson nominated him to be minister to Austria,
but the Senate tabled the nomination indefinitely. He remained as the editor of
the Times until his death in 1869.
Fort Sumter, Buchanan took no further provocative action and handed the
precarious situation over to the incoming president, Abraham Lincoln.
Buchanan retired to his "Wheatland" estate outside of Lancaster,
Pennsylvania. Reviled by critics, the former president published his memoirs in
1866 in which he defended his public actions as constitutional and proper.