2½ pages, small 4to, in fine condition." />
17 June 2003
BUCHANAN, James. Autograph letter signed ("James Buchanan") to James M. Carlisle (1814-1877), Wheatland, [PA], 8 May 1863. 2½ pages, small 4to, in fine condition.
BUCHANAN DEFENDS HIS PRESIDENTIAL RECORD: "I HAVE TAKEN CARE THAT I SHALL YET BE TRULY PRESENTED TO MY COUNTRYMEN"
A fine letter in which the much-maligned former President expresses the hope that he will ultimately be vindicated for the actions he took before the Civil War. Elected as President in 1856, Buchanan entered office in the midst of national debate over the potential expansion of slavery in Kansas. Hoping to avert a crisis that might cause secession, Buchanan, who believed that slavery was protected under the Constitution, endeavored to appease the South by supporting the admission of Kansas under the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution. When the South ultimately seceded in 1860 and 1861, Buchanan took no steps to prevent it and chose a conciliatory approach to dealing with the Confederacy. Criticism of the President's actions was widespread. Future Secretary of State William Seward sarcastically noted that Buchanan had demonstrated that "no state has the right to secede unless it wishes to" and that "it is the President's duty to enforce the laws, unless somebody opposes him." (McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 248).
Here, two years after leaving the White House, Buchanan congratulates noted Supreme Court lawyer Carlisle on his successful career: "It is highly gratifying for me to know that you have more appearances in the Supreme Court than any other barrister. May your success long continue!" Buchanan somberly notes the impact of recent criticism directed towards his administration: "The Chief Justice for the District of Columbia has doomed me in a public speech to the gallows." The former President remains confident, however, that his term will ultimately be praised: "The impotent malice so disgraceful to the ermine gives me but little concern. I have taken care that I shall yet be truly presented to my countrymen & entertain no fears in regard to their verdict." To support his case, Buchanan quotes the resignation letter of his former Secretary of War, Joseph Holt: "'In the full conviction that your labors will yet be crowned by the glory that belongs to an enlightened statesmanship & to an unsullied patriotism'."
Unfortunately, Buchanan's confidence proved optimistic. Modern polls of American historians consistently rank Buchanan as one of the worst Presidents in United States History.
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