1 page, 8vo, minor ink stain above date." />
15 November 2005
BUCHANAN, James. Autograph letter signed ("James Buchanan"), as President, to Rev. R. B. Westbrook, Washington City, 5 September 1857. 1 page, 8vo, minor ink stain above date.
"I SHALL ENDEAVOR TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT WITH A FIRM & UNFALTERING PURPOSE." Buchanan, six months into his term evokes the Almighty: "I thank Heaven," he tells Rev. Westbrook, "that my administration thus far has appeared to receive a larger amount of public commendation than I had anticipated. One thing I do know, that I shall endeavor to do what is right with a firm & unfaltering purpose, & then trust the event to Divine Providence." Immediately upon taking office Buchanan was confronted with Chief Justice Roger Taney's explosive opinion in the Dred Scott case. The Court decided that Scott could not sue for his freedom since slaves--"beings of an inferior order" in Taney's words-- did not fall within either the Constitution's definition of citizens, or the Declaration of Independence's notion of "all men" created equally and entitled to natural political rights. He went even further and held that the Missouri Compromise was invalid, and with it the de facto boundary between free and slave states. In spite of his personal distaste for slavery, Buchanan felt bound to support Taney's ruling. Likewise he approved the admission of Kansas as a slave state. The "public commendation" he boasts about here must have been from Southerners, as anti-slavery forces felt increasingly exasperated by what they saw as the President's tilt towards the "slaveocracy."
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