James Buchanan Papers, 1811-1865

1458

Collection Overview

Title:
James Buchanan papers
Dates (Inclusive):
1811-1865
Creator:
Buchanan, James
Abstract:
James Buchanan was the fifteenth president of the United States (1857-1861), from Lancaster, Pa., and a moderate Democrat whose efforts to find a compromise in the conflict between the North and the South failed to avert the Civil War.
Abstract:
The collection consists of items spanning Buchanan's entire political career. They include correspondence, portraits, a land patent,and a presidential appointment.
Collection Number:
1458
Size:
0.39 Cubic feet
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical or Historical Note

James Buchanan was the fifteenth president of the United States (1857-1861), and a moderate Democrat whose efforts to find a compromise in the conflict between the North and the South failed to avert the Civil War (1861-1865.

James Buchanan was born 23 April 1791, near Mercersburg, Pa., the son of James Buchanan and Elizabeth Speer, both of Scottish Presbyterian stock from the north of Ireland. His father had immigrated to the United States in 1783 and worked as a storekeeper. Buchanan was educated at Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, graduating in 1809, and studied law in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He was admitted to the bar in 1812 and soon established a successful law practice. His gift for oratory led him to politics.

A Federalist, Buchanan served in the Pennsylvania legislature (1814-1816) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1821-1831). When his party disintegrated in the 1820s, Buchanan associated himself with the emerging Democratic Party. He served as U.S. minister to St. Petersburg (1831-1833) for the Andrew Jackson administration, U.S. senator (1834-1845), and secretary of state (1845-1849) in the cabinet of President James K. Polk. The annexation of Texas and subsequent Mexican War took place during Buchanan's tenure as secretary of state.

Failing to receive the presidential nomination in 1844 and 1848, Buchanan retired from public service until 1853, when he was appointed minister to Britain by President Franklin Pierce. In Congress, Buchanan tended to side with the South, and, although he felt that slavery was morally wrong, he did not want the country to eliminate the institution by the "introduction of evils infinitely greater." Having consolidated his position in the South, Buchanan was nominated for president in 1856 and was elected. Upon leaving office (4 March 1861), Buchanan retired to Wheatland, his home near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He died there on 1 June 1868.

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Collection Overview

The James Buchanan Papers cover the entire span of his political career. They consists of a check payable to Joseph Ogelby, 1834; twenty-four letters and one envelope from Buchanan, 1811-1865; five engraved portraits of Buchanan at various stages of his life; an 1859 patent for land in Michigan to the widow of John Crocker for his service in the War of 1812; and the appointment of Friedrich Kühne as Vice-Consul of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, 1859.

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Collection Arrangement

The James Buchanan Papers are organized into four series: Financial Records, Letters, Portraits, and Presidential Documents.

The items are arranged chronologically within their series.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

None

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], James Buchanan Papers (1458), Historical Collections and Labor Archives, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Buchanan, James

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Collection Inventory

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