From: "Biographical Review of Cass, Schuyler and
Brown Counties, Illinois 1892", by Biographical Review Publishing
Company, Chicago, Illinois; pages 80-83, a reprinted by Stevens
Publishing Co., Astoria, Ill., 1971, is sold by the Schuyler County
Historical Society, Rushville, Illinois.
JAMES BUCHANAN, the fifteenth President of the United States,
1857-'61, was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, April 23, 1791.
The place where his father's cabin stood was called Stony Batter, and
it was situated in a wild, romantic spot, in a gorge of mountains, with
towering summits rising all around. He was of Irish ancestry, his
father having emigrated in 1783, with very little property, save his
own strong arms.
James remained in his secluded home for eight years enjoying
very few social or intellectual advantages. His parents were
industrious, frugal, prosperous and intelligent. In 1799 his father
removed to Mercersburg, where James was placed in school and commenced
a course in English, Greek and Latin. His progress was rapid and in
1801 he entered Dickinson College at Carlisle. Here he took his stand
among the first scholars in the institution, and was able to master the
most abstruse subjects with facility. In 1809 he graduated with the
highest honors in his class.
He was then eighteen years of age, tall, graceful and in
vigorous health, fond of athletic sports, an unerring shot and
enlivened with an exuberant flow of animal spirits. He immediately
commenced the study of law in the city of Lancaster, and was admitted
to the bar in 1812. He rose very rapidly in his profession and at once
took undisputed stand with the ablest lawyers of the State. When but
twenty-six years of age, unaided by counsel, he successfully defended
before the State Senate one of the Judges of the State, who was tried
upon articles of impeachment At the age of thirty it was generally
admitted that he stood at the head of the bar, and there was no lawyer
in the State who had a more extensive or lucrative practice.
In 1812, just after Mr. Buchanan had entered upon the practice
of the law, our second war with England occurred. With all his powers
he sustained the Government, eloquently urging the rigorous prosecution
of the war; and even enlisting as a private soldier to assist in
repelling the British, who had sacked Washington and were threatening
Baltimore. He was at that time a Federalist, but when the Constitution
was adopted by both parties, Jefferson truly said, "We are all
Federalists; we are all Republicans."
The opposition of the Federalists to the war with England, and
the alien and sedition laws of John Adams, brought the party into
dispute, and the name of Federalist became a reproach. Mr. Buchanan
almost immediately upon entering Congress began to incline more and
more to the Republicans. In the stormy Presidential election of 1824,
in which Jackson, Clay, Crawford and John Quincy Adams were candidates,
Mr. Buchanan espoused the cause of General Jackson and unrelentingly
opposed the administration of Mr. Adams.
Upon his elevation to the Presidency, General Jackson appointed
Mr. Buchanan, minister to Russia. Upon his return in 1833 lie was
elected to a seat in the United States Senate. He there met as his
associates, Webster, Clay, Wright and Calhoun. He advocated the
measures proposed by President Jackson of making reprisals against
France, and defended the course of the President in his unprecedented
and wholesale removals from office of those who were not the supporters
of his administration. Upon this question he was brought into direct
collision with Henry Clay. In the discussion of the question respecting
the admission of Michigan and Arkansas into the Union, Mr. Buchanan
denned his position by saying:
"The older I grow, the more I am inclined to be what is called a State-rights man."
M. de Tocqueville, in his renowned work upon "Democracy in
America, "foresaw the trouble which was inevitable from the doctrine of
State sovereignty as held by Calhoun and Buchanan. He was convinced
that the National Government was losing that strength which was
essential to its own existence, and that the States were assuming
powers which threatened the perpetuity of the Union. Mr. Buchanan
received the book in the Senate and declared the fears of De
Tocqueville to be groundless, and yet he lived to sit in the
Presidential chair and see State after State, in accordance with his
own views of State rights, breaking from the Union, thus crumbling our
Republic into ruins; while the unhappy old man folded his arms in
despair, declaring that the National Constitution invested him with no
power to arrest the destruction.
Upon Mr. Polk's accession to the Presidency, Mr. Buchanan became
Secretary of State, and as such took his share of the responsibility in
the conduct of the Mexican war. At the close of Mr. Polk's
administration, Mr. Buchanan retired to private life; but his
intelligence, and his great ability as a statesman, enabled him to
exert a powerful influence in National affairs.
Mr. Pierce, upon his election to the Presidency, honored Mr.
Buchanan with the mission to England. In the year 1856 the National
Democratic convention nominated Mr. Buchanan for the Presidency. The
political conflict was one of the most severe in which our country has
ever engaged. On the 4th of March, 1857, Mr. Buchanan was inaugurated
President. His cabinet were Lewis Cass, Howell Cobb, J. B. Floyd, Isaac
Toucey, Jacob Thompson, A. V. Brown and J. S. Black.
The disruption of the Democratic party, in consequence of the
manner in which the issue of the nationality of slavery was pressed by
the Southern wing, occurred at the National convention, held at
Charleston in April, 1860, for the nomination of Mr. Buchanan's
successor, when the majority of Southern delegates withdrew upon the
passage of a resolution declaring that the constitutional status of
slavery should be determined by the Supreme Court.
In the next Presidential canvass Abraham Lincoln was nominated
by the opponents of Mr. Buchanan's administration. Mr. Buchanan
remained in Washington long enough to see his successor installed and
then retired to his borne in Wheatland. He died June 1, 1868, aged