James Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War

Overview

"Provides scholars with a fresh and thoughtful examination of the first administration that had to deal with Southern secession."--Jonathan M. Atkins, author of Politics, Parties, and the Sectional Conflict in Tennessee, 1832-1861

As James Buchanan took office in 1857, the United States found itself at a crossroads. Dissolution of the Union had been averted and the Democratic Party maintained control of the federal government, but the nation watched to see if Pennsylvania's ...

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Overview

"Provides scholars with a fresh and thoughtful examination of the first administration that had to deal with Southern secession."--Jonathan M. Atkins, author of Politics, Parties, and the Sectional Conflict in Tennessee, 1832-1861

As James Buchanan took office in 1857, the United States found itself at a crossroads. Dissolution of the Union had been averted and the Democratic Party maintained control of the federal government, but the nation watched to see if Pennsylvania's first president could make good on his promise to calm sectional tensions.
         
Despite Buchanan's central role in a crucial hour in U.S. history, few presidents have been more ignored by historians. In assembling the essays for this volume, Michael Birkner and John Quist have asked leading scholars to reconsider whether Buchanan’s failures stemmed from his own mistakes or from circumstances that no president could have overcome. 
         
Buchanan's dealings with Utah shed light on his handling of the secession crisis. His approach to Dred Scott reinforces the image of a president whose doughface views were less a matter of hypocrisy than a thorough identification with southern interests. Essays on the secession crisis provide fodder for debate about the strengths and limitations of presidential authority in an existential moment for the young nation.
        
Although the essays in this collection offer widely differing interpretations of Buchanan's presidency, they all grapple honestly with the complexities of the issues faced by the man who sat in the White House prior to the towering figure of Lincoln, and contribute to a deeper understanding of a turbulent and formative era. 

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“It’s not an attempt to contradict the standard portrayal of Buchanan as one of the least effective presidents. . . . But it does try to get people to argue about him a bit more, and reassess what he did well and did badly.”—BBC News

“An especially rewarding book. . . . The intellectual verve with which the writers dispute Buchanan’s record make those essays especially tempting.”—Journal of American History

“The impressive set of contributors . . . explore diverse aspects of Buchanan’s presidency and offer different judgments of his performance.”—American Historical Review

“This fine volume . . . demonstrates that Buchanan’s presidency deserves more consideration.”—North Carolina Historical Review

“A much-needed, and satisfyingly comprehensive, reassessment of the Buchanan presidency from a variety of informed perspectives. . . . [A] must-read.”—Civil War Books and Authors

“A portrait of the fifteenth president that acknowledges his weaknesses and shortcomings, yet also recognizes that his failures were not universal.”—Civil War Book Review

“The breadth of topics and the variability of analytical approaches . . . broaden an understanding of the many channels by which the Civil War came about.”—Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography

“Buchanan’s management of the secession crisis is at the heart of the book, and its bounty of informed views on his role during this seminal moment in American history is refreshingly diverse. The collection might very well come to be regarded as the most comprehensive and useful reconsideration of the Buchanan presidency.”—Civil War Monitor

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813060996
  • Publisher: University Press of Florida
  • Publication date: 9/16/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 300
  • Product dimensions: 6.14 (w) x 9.21 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

John W. Quist is professor of history at Shippensburg University and author of Restless Visionaries. Michael J. Birkner is Franklin Professor of Liberal Arts and professor of history at Gettysburg College and editor of James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s.

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