Lincoln’s Election, Southern Secession: 1860 to April 1861


Was there anything President Buchanan could have done to stop the states from seceding?

Buchanan has been thoroughly vilified over the decades, and no doubt exists that he was a rather poor chief executive. Andrew Jackson had faced down the South Carolina nullifiers in 1832, but Jackson was essentially a military man in civilian clothing while Buchanan was a civilian who had become “the Old Public Functionary.” Then, too, Buchanan had the disadvantage of knowing he would soon leave office. Only if he and Lincoln, the president-elect, had gotten together to make joint statements would action have been possible. And where holding off, or standing back, was concerned, Lincoln was just as bad as Buchanan.

Lincoln’s predecessor, James C. Buchanan, is justly regarded as among the poorest of all American presidents.


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