James Buchanan took office just as the schism surrounding states' rights had grown so wide in the national consciousness that it could no longer be ignored. His presidency was defined by the Dred Scott case, his choices for cabinet, and the secession crisis. Despite his central role in a crucial hour in U.S. history, few presidents have been more ignored by historians. Michael Birkner and John Quist seek to fix this oversight with this collection of cutting-edge essays analysing Buchanan and his presidency.
This highly focused and groundbreaking work will significantly alter how James Buchanan is remembered as man, politician, and president. It forces historians to reconsider whether Buchanan's failures stemmed from his own mistakes or from circumstances that no president could have overcome. By taking a closer look at some of the defining moments in his presidency-including his contentious Kansas Policy and the Star of the West incident-the contributors paint a much clearer picture of the man who came to be known as one of America's worst presidents.
Analysing everything from the president's dealings with Brigham Young to his foreign policy, interpretations of Buchanan and his presidency differ widely throughout the collection. These essays truly grappled with the complexities of the debate surrounding the man who sat in the White House prior to the towering figure of Lincoln.
John Quist is professor of history at Shippensburg University and author of Restless Visionaries: The Social Roots of Antebellum Reform in Alabama and Michigan. Michael J. Birkner is Franklin Professor of Liberal Arts and professor of history at Gettysburg College and author of James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s.