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James Buchanan: The American Presidents Series: The 15th President, 1857-1861 Hardcover – June 7, 2004
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About the Author
Jean H. Baker is a professor of history at Goucher College. She is the author of several books, including The Stevensons and Mary Todd Lincoln, and is at work on a book about the suffrage movement. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland.
Top Customer Reviews
With his background, the question must be asked "why was Buchanan, arguably, our worst president?" The author states "This book seeks to suggest some of the reasons for Buchanan's failure and specifically to explain the gap between Buchanan's experience and training before his presidency and his lamentable performance in office.... only in the literal sense did the Civil War begin.... When the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. It began in Buchanan's administration."
The book outlines Buchanan's political career. While still a Unionist, by the 1830s he was "more and more a states rights man" as he gravitated toward southerners after arriving in Washington and considered New Englanders radical extremists. By the 1840s, he opposed any interference with slavery and by then desperately wanted the presidency. In the Senate he espoused the principle of manifest destiny. As a bachelor he cultivated southern friends many of whom, as president, he included in his cabinet.
Having observed chief executives for more than thirty-five years, when Buchanan took the presidential oath in 1857, he knew more about the American presidency than anyone in the United States. However, the composition of his "cabinet revealed the incoming chief executive as no peacemaker...." Who was ".... surrounded by advisers who agree with him.Read more ›
Upon buying this book but before reading it, I checked on Amazon and read the reviews that already existed. Needless to say, the multiple one-star reviews were not very encouraging, and I was expecting a lesser effort in this series. Instead, I was surprised and delighted both at Jean Baker's high degree of scholarship and understanding of her subject, and at her superb facility in expressing herself, hardly the inarticulate, poorly informed historian some of the earlier reviewers detected. How to account for this? I have a theory.Read more ›
This "American Presidents" series is surprisingly top notch. I also recommend the biography of US Grant, the most underrated and slandered chief exec of American history.
Both men were awful presidents, contributing almost nothing positive while exacerbating events that would eventually lead to the Civil War. They were both pro-Southern Northerners (Buchanan from Pennsylvania, Pierce from New Hampshire), which led to their elections as candidates with wide geographical appeal, but their reluctance to take a strong stance on the divisive issues of the day - in particular, slavery and related problems - would eliminate any real hopes for peace.
What makes Buchanan worse than Pierce? Is it his support for the Dred Scott decision, his improper recognition of the Lecompton Consitution of Kansas or his weak initial response to the secession movement. Yes, to all these, but one thing stands out even more. Pierce was an inexperience politician plagued by family issues, so his ineptness could be expected. Buchanan, on the other hand, was a veteran politician, with decades of experience in various national posts including Secretary of State and U.S. Senator. The fact that he failed to use his skills as president - and often abdicated his responsibilities on domestic matters - makes him worse than the overmatched Pierce.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book jumped out at me in the library and I just couldn't put it down.Published 1 month ago by Lee Wolfe
This was a very interesting short view of a man and the times. Learned a lot very quickly. If you want a good snap shot this is the book for you.Published 1 month ago by Karen
A flawed man and President, but an epic story on the doorstep of the Civil War.Published 3 months ago by Richard Folsom
It was like the scene in a movie where everything goes incredibly wrong and the main character is the last to know. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ricardo Mio
James Buchanan did not want slavery to define his presidency, but he refused to face up to the fact that it did. Read morePublished 6 months ago by MJ
Very insightful. Learned a lot about Buchanan's relationship to slavery and how he lead the nation into the Civil War. Well written. Good read.Published 7 months ago by The Rog
This is a pretty good short biography of our most under appreciated president.
Starting with his Scottish family background, the book covers his childhood and education, legal... Read more
Boring book, bad president. Chapters a bit long and confusing. But I think I got most of it. 15 down, 38 to go.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
Better written than some in this series. The author did better at presenting a "biography" and not unwarranted personal commentary.Published 12 months ago by Roger Rung