Buchanan, James, 15th president of the United States, from 1857 to 1861, and under whose administration Kansas was admitted into the Union, was born at Mercersburg, Pa., April 23, 1791. His father, a native of County Donegal, Ireland, came to America in 1783 and settled in Cumberland county, Pa., where he married and raised a family of eleven children, of which James was the second. After attending the local schools, the future president entered Dickinson College, where he graduated in 1809. He then studied law and in 1812 began practice at Lancaster, Pa. Although a Federalist and opposed to the War of 1812, his first public address at Lancaster, in 1814, was in favor of enlisting more troops, and even enrolled his own name. In Oct., 1814, he was elected to the Pennsylvania legislature, and the succeeding year was reëlected. He then declined further political honors for the purpose of devoting all his talent and energies to the practice of his profession, but the death of the young woman to whom he was betrothed caused him to change his plans, and in 1820 he was elected to represent his district in Congress. After serving in that capacity for ten years, President Jackson appointed him minister to Russia in 1831. In the fall of 1833 he returned to Pennsylvania, and the following year was elected United States senator by the legislature of that state. In 1839 President Van Buren tendered him the attorney-generalship of the United States, but he declined, preferring to remain in the senate. In 1845 he entered the cabinet of President Polk as secretary of state, where his tact on the Oregon boundary question and the annexation of Texas proved of great value to the administration. In 1852 he was defeated by Franklin Pierce for the Democratic nomination for president, and after the latter was inaugurated he appointed Mr. Buchanan minister to England. He was nominated and elected president in 1856. The principal events of his administration were the Dred Scott decision; the Kansas troubles, which he had inherited from President Pierce's administration the John Brown raid on Harper's Ferry, Va.; the trial and execution of Brown, and the secession of some of the Southern states. Mr. Buchanan's alliance with the slave power; his efforts to force the admission of Kansas under the Lecompton constitution, which would have made Kansas a slave state; and his failure to prevent the secession of states, caused him to be severely criticised, yet he promptly signed the bill admitting Kansas under the Wyandotte constitution as a free state. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1861, and five days later retired to his country seat at Wheaton, where for a time he kept aloof from the cares of public life. Subsequently he spent some of his leisure time in writing a vindication of his policy, his book being published in 1866 under the title of "Buchanan's Administration." James Buchanan died at Lancaster, Pa., June 1, 1868.Pages 245-246 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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