Messages and Papers of James Buchanan

Author: James Buchanan

Messages and Papers of

March 4, 1857, to March 4, 1861.

JAMES BUCHANAN was born near Mercersburg, Pa., April 23, 1791. His father, a Scotch-Irish farmer, came from the county of Donegal, Ireland, in 1783. His mother was Elizabeth Speer. The future President was educated at a school in Mercersburg and at Dickinson College, Pennsylvania, where he was graduated in 1809. Began to practice law in Lancaster in 1812. His first public address was made at the age of 23 on the occasion of a popular meeting in Lancaster after the capture of Washington by the British in 1814. Although a Federalist and with his party opposed to the war, he urged the enlistment of volunteers for the defense of Baltimore, and was among the first to enroll his name. In October, 1814, was elected to the legislature of Pennsylvania for Lancaster County, and again elected in 1815. At the close of his term in the legislature retired to the practice of the law, gaining early distinction. In 1820 was elected to Congress to represent a district composed of Lancaster, York, and Dauphin counties, and took his seat in December, 1821. He was called a Federalist, but the party distinctions of that time were not clearly defined, and Mr. Buchanan’s political principles as a national statesman were yet to be formed. His first speech in Congress was made in January, 1822, sustaining the Administration of President Monroe, and of John C. Calhoun, Secretary of War, in particular, with reference to a military establishment. President Monroe’s veto, in May, 1822, of a bill imposing tolls for the support of the Cumberland road, for which Mr. Buchanan had voted, produced a strong effect upon his constitutional views, and he began to perceive the dividing line between the Federal and the State powers. He remained in the House of Representatives ten years--during Mr. Monroe’ s second term, through the Administration of John Quincy Adams, and during the first two years of Jackson’s Administration. In December, 1829, became chairman of the Judiciary Committee of the House. During Mr. Adams’s term the friends of the Administration began to take the name of National Republicans, while the opposing party assumed the name of Democrats. Mr. Buchanan was one of the leaders of the opposition in the House of Representatives. Was always a strong supporter and warm personal friend of General Jackson. In March, 1831, at the close of the Twenty-first Congress, it wasMr. Buchanan’s wish to retire from public life, but at the request of President Jackson he accepted the mission to Russia; negotiated a commercial treaty with that country.August 8, 1833, left St. Petersburg, spent a short time in Paris and London, and reached home in November. In 1834 was appointed one of the commissioners on the part of Pennsylvania to arrange with commissioners from New Jersey concerning the use of the waters of the Delaware River. December 6, 1834, was elected to the United States Senate to fill a vacancy, and was reelected in January, 1837. Was conspicuous in the Senate as a supporter of Jackson’s financial policy throughout his Administration and that of his successor, Mr. Van Buren, of the same party. In 1839 declined the office of Attorney-General, tendered by President Van Buren. In 1843 was elected to the Senate for a third term, and in 1844 his name was brought forward as the Democratic candidate of Pennsylvania for the Presidential nomination, but before the national convention met he withdrew his name. At the beginning of the Administration of James K. Polk became Secretary of State, and as such had a number of important questions to deal with, including the settlement of the boundary between Oregon Territory and the British possessions and the annexation of Texas, which resulted in the Mexican War. On the accession of Mr. Taylor to the Presidency Mr. Buchanan retired for a time from official life. Was an unsuccessful candidate for the Presidential nomination before the Democratic national convention June 1, 1852. In April, 1853, was appointed minister to England by President Pierce; was recalled at his own request in 1855. June 3, 1856, was nominated for President of the United States by the Democratic national convention at Cincinnati, Ohio, and on November 4, 1856, was elected, receiving 174 electoral votes to 114 for John C. Fremont and 8 for Millard Fillmore. Was inaugurated March 4, 1857. In 1860 refused the use of his name for renomination. At the conclusion of his term returned to his home at Wheatland, near Lancaster, Pa. Died June 1, 1868, and was buried at Wheatland.


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Chicago: James Buchanan, "Title Page," Messages and Papers of James Buchanan in 2961. Original Sources, accessed November 28, 2022,

MLA: Buchanan, James. "Title Page." Messages and Papers of James Buchanan, in , page 2961. Original Sources. 28 Nov. 2022.

Harvard: Buchanan, J, 'Title Page' in Messages and Papers of James Buchanan. cited in , , pp.2961. Original Sources, retrieved 28 November 2022, from