President James Buchanan: A Biography 1st Edition
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An excellent biography. --St. Louis, MO Post-Dispatch
Klein has been prodigiously industrious. . . . If the general picture is not altered, proportions are. --Times Literary Supplement
- Publisher : American Political Biography Press; 1st edition (May 1, 1995)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 506 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0945707118
- ISBN-13 : 978-0945707110
- Item Weight : 1 pounds
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.75 x 10 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #73,890 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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As an aside, I am a Pennsylvanian who grew up about 50 miles from our only President's home, Wheatland. This book helped me realize it was time to visit that home and give the man some credit for serving as he thought best in the coming storm.
These opinions and reviews are unfounded and unfair. Philip Klein does a great job in telling the true story of Buchanan in this outstanding biography.
Buchanan just happened to be President during leadup to the most difficult crisis in the history of the country and was handcuffed greatly by radicals on the Republican side and by the slavery at all costs folks on the other side. He did his best to navigate the middle of these extremes according to his interpretation of the law as laid out in the constitution.
Some might say that Klein is to easy on Buchanan and that he isn't completely fair when looking at his public or personal life. That is hogwash in my opinion. In fact, Klein goes to great lengths to tell the true story of Buchanan's life and provides supporting documentation that is pretty convincing... I was convinced.
One interesting thing to note is toward the end of the biography, Klein writes the following: "(17th President Andrew) Johnson wavered and at last failed to enact the program laid out by the Radicals... for that they impeached him." This is making reference to Andrew Johnson's Presidency that is considered a failure as well due to his inaffective leadership in carrying out the beginnings of reconstruction. The tone of this paragraph suggests to me that Klein thinks Johnson is viewed in an unfair life and thus Buchanan is viewed in the same light.
I totally agree with both notions that Buchanan and Johnson are viewed unfairly. In nearly every respect, Buchanan's Presidency should not be viewed as a failure but rather unfortunate timing. He was, in fact, a scapegoat and not dealt with fairly by his party, Stephen Douglas, Lincoln (not to bad mouth Lincoln though), and the public and media following his Presidency. Not to say he was a great President... he wasn't and neither was Johnson. But Buchanan in particular got no help from his cabinet and congress to handle any of the complicated issues of the time. On those issues where he could make a difference he did.
I would rate this Presidency as effective and unspectacular. Klein is a fair evaluator and a concise and interesting writer in his account of the man and his public life.
The one issue I'm still left wondering about however is Buchanan's sexuality. He never married and never had children. He sounds like he was a bit of a fancy lad. Was he gay? Perhaps. Klein doesn't go into this and in fact talks at length about Buchanan's supposed relationship(s) with women. But, this book was written many years ago when perhaps a biographer might sweep something like Presidential homosexuality under the rug.
Homosexuals routinetly now make the case that Lincoln was gay because of his tendency to share a bed with men. That is complete BS. Buchanan lived with a man much of the time he was in Washington and is considered by the gay community to be the first gay President. Not that there is anything wrong with that... Seinfeld... but I was left wondering if Klein looked into it and found no grounds or again swept it under the rug out of respect for the office and the fact that this book was researched and written in the early 1960s.
This is the book to read on Buchanan though I would just say there were some unanswered questions and your opinion of the President may not mesh with Klein's which could lead to disappointment.
The product descriptions should have told the consumer about this fact!
I am returning this book.
Buchanan's reputation and rating as one of the worst president's in our nation's history can also be attributed to his unbending political stands, especially on the most pivotal issue of his term - the expansion of slavery into new territories. Along with this, he did everything in terms of the political gain for himself and his party. This frequently put him in positions that were either untenable or ineffective. He also tended to stick with past practices politically and not avail himself of the advice of "younger" and/or more forward thinking members of his party. He spent too much time concerning himself with political patronage and not enough time governing. He felt that his job as president was to administer and not lead or develop. Modern-day politicians in both parties could learn from his failings.
Thorough, well written biography that brings to light the life of a little know president.