James Buchanan: advocate in congress, cabinet, and Buchanan:AdvocateinCongress,CabinetandPresidency. 19 ageoftwenty-threeandwithinfiveyearsprovedhewasanenter

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  • JAMES BUCHANAN:ADVOCATE IN CONGRESS, CABINET,

    AND PRESIDENCY

    By

    JOHN A. CAMPBELL, JR.

    A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF

    THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

    IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE

    DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

    UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

    1968

  • UNIVERs '"^ OF FL ORIDA

  • Copyright by

    John A. Campbell, Jr.

    1968

  • ACKNOWLEDGMEETS

    The writer gratefully acknowledges the assistance given him

    in the preparation of this dissertation by the members of his

    Superviso2:y Committee, Professors William E. Baxinger, Herbert J.

    Doherty, C. Franklin Karns, and Leland L. Zimmerman, and especially

    to the Chairman of the Committee, Professor Donald E. Williams.

    ixx

  • TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Chapter Page

    I. INTRODUCTION 1

    II. JMES BUCHANAN: A RHETORICAL PORTRAIT 18

    III. APPLICATION OF THE "LOWNDES FORMULA" IN HOUSE DEBATE . . 52

    rV. A JACKSONIAN "ADVOCATE" AMIDST SENATE PARTY BATTLES . . 95

    V. BETWEEN JAMES POLK AND JOHN BULL, A VOICEOF COMPROMISE 122

    VI. THE RHETORICAL STRATEGY OP PRESERVING PEACE 154

    VII. CONCLUSIONS . .'

    195

    BIBLIOGRAPHY 204

    IV

  • CHAPTER I

    INTRODUCTION

    A recent biographer of James Buchanan remarks that his many

    talents might have won him an honored place among the greater presi-

    dents had he served during a less turbulent era. His abilities

    were evidently recognized by many of his contemporaries, however,

    since his state and country called on him repeatedly to render public

    service. Buchanan served in so many important posts before reaching

    the White House, posts of wide ranging scope and complexity, that

    possibly it could be argued that no man ever came to the Presidency

    better qualified for the job in terms of len^h, breadth, and quality

    of experience. Inevitably, such a combination of experience and ability

    at work in American political life involves the art of public speaking.

    The purpose of this dissertation is to describe, analyze, and evalu-

    ate the public speaking of James Buchanan throughout his len^hy

    political career. This chapter sets forth the specific purposes of

    the work and methods of criticism to be employed in the study. Becaiise

    of the subject's controversial reputation, however, it will first

    be necessary to examine the conflicting schools of historians who

    have sought to appraise Buchanan since the Civil War.

    Philip S. Klein, President James Buchanan (University Park,Pa., 1962), p. 429.

  • 2

    The Verdict of History

    James Buchaxian served his state and nation for forty years

    but historians have chosen to judge him on his record during the

    last one hundred and fifty days of his presidency. Twenty years

    in Congress, five years abroad in ambassadorial positions, and

    four years as premier of Polk's Cabinet, all public years involving

    many significant events, are overshadowed by the crucial few months

    between Lincoln's election and inauguration. It was diiring this

    relatively short period that the seeds of secession sprouted, con-

    fronting Buchanan and his administration with several alternatives.

    Coercion, disunion, postponement were among the courses open to those

    at the helm in I86O-I86I. The wisdom of the tack Buchanan took has

    been debated for a century. Historians have judged Buchanan accord-

    ing to his action during this period seemingly on the assumption

    that he alone could alter the course of human events.

    A colorful variety of opinions have been offered. Aucham-

    paugh says Buchanan has been wrongly "hailed as the Arnold of the

    2Sixties," while Klein felt "a quieter era might have gained for

    5him a place among the great presidents of his country." Henry

    Cabot Lodge said that Buchanan, although not a traitor, did,

    "throiogh sheer weakness and helplessness, the things that a traitor

    would have done." Amid these conflicting judgments, there appears

    to be a division of historians into three distinct categories.

    rhilip G. Auchampaugh, James Buchanan and His Cabinet(Lancaster, Pa., 1926), p. 5.

    3Klein, Buchanan, p. 429

    Consrressional Record , Vol, 56, part 8, 7878

  • 5

    First, many nineteenth century post-bellum historians fall into the

    class of Northern "detractors." Revisionists sympathetic to Buchanan

    began to appear in the 1880' s. More recently, historians plead for

    dispassionate re-examination of Buchanan's role in the crisis of the

    sixties.

    As many Southerners feared, "to the South' s overflowing cup

    would be added the bitter taste of having the history of the war

    5written by Northerners for at least fifty years." The names of

    James Schouler, Herman E. von Hoist, and James . Burgess are among

    those northern writers who grew up during the dispute over slavery,

    inherited the Northern point of view toward that institution, and

    ;vrote the history of the fifties and sixties from an anti-Buchanan

    bias. These men, more literary than historical, less scientific

    than passionate, chose to dwell upon Buchanan's weaknesses rather

    than his strengths. All nationalists, they accepted Seward's thesis

    of the "inevitable conflict" and indicted Buchanan for not taking

    forthright military action against the . seceding states. These

    "prosecuting historians" wrote as though individual men could in-

    fluence the march of history especially during "sublime episodes of

    political and military strife." Most Northern detractors found

    Buchanan's December Jrd, I860, Address to Congress an inexcusable

    and cowardly pronouncement of ineptness and indecisiveness.

    James Schouler, author of an exhaustive series of works on

    American history, not only thought the December 52^

  • 4

    of cowardice and a "renunciation of responsibility," but also said

    it encouraged disunion because Buchanan's loyalty to the Union was

    expressed in the form of an apology. These conclusions were prompted

    by Schouler's strong personal conviction that slavery was "both

    wasteful and unrighteous."

    Another historian with a strong anti-slavery bias was Herman

    E. von Hoist. Von Hoist agreed with Buchanan that there were Con-

    stitutional limitations upon executive power to maintain the Union

    but condemned the President for not inspiring "the people with a

    qwill to take the bull by the horns at this stage of the secession."

    Buchanan did not provide leadership, von Hoist continued, and there-

    fore "it came to pass that the years of the republic's highest moral

    energy were preceded by those months of deepest darkness, during

    which it seemed as if the people... had fallen into a condition of

    10the most wretched impotence." These passages reveal von Hoist's

    nonobjective approach to Buchanan and exemplify the "great man"

    11premise common among nineteenth century post-bellum writers.

    Another Northern detractor was James Ford Rhodes. Rhodes

    was less attached to the view that a single man may chart the course

    of history but was still representative of the Northern nationalist

    "^James Schouler, A History of the United States Under the

    Constitution , (New York, 1880-89), V, 427-

    Klingberg, p. 459.

    "von Hoist, as cited in Klingberg, p. 459.

    Ibid.

    11Klingberg, p. 457.

  • 5

    school of \vriters subscribing to the "irrepressible conriicL" idoa

    and critical of Buchanan's personal weaknesses. Buchanan alone

    could not have averted the secession crisis as Jackson had done with

    the niillification emergency in 18^2; the crisis of I86O-6I was far

    greater than that facing Jackson, but its very greatness provided

    an opportunity for glory. Such an opportunity, contended Ehodes,

    was wasted on Buchanan, a man lacking innate qualities of greatness.

    More sympathetic toward Buchanan than Schouler and von Hoist, his

    overall evaluation was nonetheless critical:

    Those of us who hold to the idea of the irrepressible conflictcan see in such a project [one of Buchanan's compromise proposals]no more than the delay of a war that was inevitable, a postpone-ment proper indeed, if the compromise were not dishonorable

    for the stars in their courses were fighting on the side of theNorth. Yet the weight of probability tends to the view thatthe day of compromise was past , and that the collision of senti-ment shaping the ends of the North and the South, had now broughtthem both to the last resort of earnest men.''^

    Ehodes, writing e^ post fact

    o

    , expected Buchanan to see as clearly

    as he that all "last resorts" had been expended.

    Nicolay and Hay also thought Buchanan had "served a lost

    cause" and led the nation through "a certain process of national

    suicide." Burgess conceded that Buchanan had been a man "of

    fair judgment and pure patriotism" as a younger man but thought

    14.that by I860 he had become "old, timid, and ineffectual."

    The position of Northern detractors regarding Buchanan as

    12James Ford Rhodes, History of the United States from the

    Compromise of 1850 (New York, 1892-1906), III, 1 $5-1 36.

    13John G. Nicolay and JohnoHay, Abraham Lincoln: A History

    (New York, 1917), II , 381.

    14-John U. Burgess, The Civil War and the Constitution, 1859-1865

    (New York, 19OI), p. 85.

  • 6

    expressed by representative historians in the class such as Schoxiler,