BUCHANAN, James. Autograph letter signed ("Mr. Buchanan," in third person) as President, TO OUTGOING PRESIDENT FRANKLIN PIERCE, [Washington, D.C.], 5 March 1857. 1 page, 8vo (7 x 4 7/8 in.), tipped at corners to a larger sheet, early pencilled note in an unidentified hand at bottom edge: "To President Pierce Written the day after his [Buchanan's] Inauguration."
WHITE-HOUSE TRANSITION: THE DAY AFTER HIS INAUGURATION, BUCHANAN PREPARES TO TAKE CHARGE
The newly inaugurated President summons the outgoing cabinet of his predecessor for a meeting: "Mr. Buchanan will be most happy to receive & welcome the members of Gen. Pierce's Cabinet, at 2 O'Clock to day Thursday 5 March 1857."
Franklin Pierce had promised reconciliation in his 1853 inaugural address in 1853, but during his Presidency, sectional conflict intensified. In 1854, Stephen A. Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1850, touched off bloody partisan struggles in Kansas and precipitated the formation of the Republican Party by anti-slavery Democrats. Pierce and Buchanan were old rivals. Buchanan had made a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1852, only to lose to Pierce, for whom he later campaigned in the general election. While U.S. Minister to Great Britain, Buchanan had been one of the drafters of the so-called Ostend Manifesto of 1854, asserting that the United States should purchase or seize Cuba, where slavery was intrenched. In the public furor which erupted when that plan was made public, Pierce and his Secretary of State, William Marcy, were forced to repudiate it.
In the 1856 convention, Buchanan and Stephen A. Douglas both contended with incumbent Pierce for the Democratic Party's nomination. On the first ballot Buchanan led Pierce by 13 votes; Douglas withdrew after 16 ballots and on the 17th, Buchanan was unanimously nominated (Pierce, therefore, has the dubious distinction of being the only President elected to office and not renominated by his own party.) The Democrats ÿbelieved, correctly, that Buchanan was acceptable to southerners, since he had not been involved in the controversy over the Kansas-Nebraska Act, was unsympathetic to abolition agitation and had urged the annexation of Cuba. The new Republican Party nominated John C. Fremont and adopted a strong anti-slavery platform. In the election, Buchanan carried every southern state except Maryland, and won 45 of the popular vote (Fremont garnered 33 and Fillmore, the Whig and Know-Nothing candidate, tallied a respectable 21.
In his Inaugural Address, the day prior to this letter, Buchanan went to great lengths to conciliate the south, criticising the anti-slavery agitators and calling on "every Union-loving man," to help "suppress this agitation." One of Buchanan's first acts after his inauguration was to meet with Pierce's cabinet before replacing it with his own carefully chosen cabinet, which included a number of influential southerners, three of whom (Howell Cobb, Secretary of the Treasury; John B. Floyd, Secretary of War; and Jacob Thompson, Secretary of Interior) later joined the Confederate cause. Presidential ALSs of Buchanan are quite uncommon.
Provenance: Jerome Shochet (sale, Christie's, 20 May 1994, lot 8).