BUCHANAN, James. A collection of 69 autograph letters signed to Jehu Glancy Jones, London, Washington and Wheatland, 21 May 1842 - 18 July 1857 (one from 1867). Together 130 pages, 4to and 8vo, all in fine condition, in a custom brown leather case.
A CORRESPONDENCE SPANNING A CAREER IN POLITICS: SEEKING THE PRESIDENCY, CONFRONTING SLAVERY, FORSEEING DISUNION: "THE UNION IS IN DANGER & THE PEOPLE EVERY WHERE BEGIN TO KNOW IT"
A rich archive covering many of the most eventful fifteen years of Buchanan's political career, documenting his views on the most important political events of the period. Buchanan memorably confesses that "when the Presidential maggot invades the brain...it prompts him to do many foolish things." The correspondence follows Buchanan from the Senate, to the office of Secretary of State, as Minister to England, during his campaign for the presidency, and into his first year in the White House. Buchanan's friend and correspondent, Jehu Glancy Jones (1811-1878) served as Pennsylvania Congressman and was appointed Minister to Austria during Buchanan's presidency.
Virtually every letter deals with some aspect of politics, national state or local. On several occasions, Buchanan writes of his presidential ambitions, in one case commenting "this question, however, I shall leave entirely to the people, believing that the 'Presidential office is one neither to be sought nor declined'." By 1850, the issue of slavery's extension threatened to disrupt the Union and in one letter, Buchanan reveals a degree of sympathy with the South: "I can assure you that the deep and bitter feeling among the Southern members in regard to the Slavery question cannot be justly appreciated except by those on the spot..." In another letter, he states that "had the Wilmot Proviso become a law, we should have witnessed the greatest of all political calamities, a dissolution of the Union." Buchanan frequently comments on the tariff: "the days of a protective tariff have forever passed away. I am in favor of a fair, honest, bona fide revenue tariff." Both positive and negative commentary on political colleagues is common, as in his remark on newly elected Franklin Pierce: "The President's message is a poor affair."
Buchanan, who was stationed in England during the bitter debates over slavery after the organization of the Kansas-Nebraska Territory, tried to maintain a discreet silence on the controversy: "I have not expressed nor do I intend to express an opinion upon the subject, not because of any bearing it might have on future political prospects," and stated his desire to avoid "any angry controversy in which my political & personal friends are divided." But, by 1855, Buchanan again began to eye the White House. In 1856, he notes that "Governor Marcy...is now an active candidate," and in a graphic metaphor observes that "when the Presidential maggot invades the brain of the wisest, happily I am not in that category, it prompts him to do many foolish things." Elsewhere Buchanan states his conviction that the Know Nothing Party will be short-lived: "It has severed many rotten branches from the tree of Democracy, whose places will be more than supplied by fresh, pure & vigorous branches." In the fall of 1855, Buchanan voiced his desire to enlarge the Democrtatic party: "We ought to receive into the party, without hesitation, those honest & independent Clay Whigs who...[will] battle with us against Knownothingism, Free Soilism & all the other isms of the day." In fact, he vows, "the next Presidential term will be the most important & responsible of any since the days of Washington. Still I entertain no serious fears for the Union; because when the people approach the precipice they will recoil from the abyss before them."
In March of 1856, beginning preparations for his campaign, Buchanan breaks his taciturn silence on Kansas-Nebraska: "It is well known how I labored in company with Southern men to have the Missouri line extended to the Pacific. But it has departed & the time for it has forever passed away. The only mode now left of pulling down & keeping down the fanatical & reckless spirit of abolition at the North is to adhere to the existing settlement without the shadow of change." Later that summer, he alluded to its benefit to his campaign: "I am cautious myself about talking on the subject, but have not heard a man express an opinion on the subject which was not against the course of the Union...The Union is in danger & the people every where begin to know it. The Black Republicans must be as they can be with justice boldly assailed as disunionists & this charge must be reiterated again & again...This race ought to be run on the question of union or disunion."