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1857 to 1861 - President James Buchanan (Democratic Party)

In a speech on April 11, 1826, James Buchanan referred to slavery as "a curse" and "a great political and a great moral evil."

After becoming president, however, the "evil" that Buchanan condemned was not slavery but the North's interference with slavery. In Buchanan's Third Annual Message to Congress on December 19, 1859, he declared: "Had it been decided that either Congress or the territorial legislature possess the power to annul or impair the right to property in slaves, the evil would be intolerable."

In this speech, Buchanan argued that Black people benefited from slavery: "Advancement [of our domestic slaves] in civilization has far surpassed that of any other portion of the African race. The light and the blessings of Christianity have been extended to them, and both their moral and physical condition has been greatly improved .... [The slave] is treated with kindness and humanity. He is well fed, well clothed, and not overworked .... Both the philanthropy and the self-interest of the master have combined to produce this humane result."

To Buchanan, abolitionists were "dangerous fanatics; and the more so, because they believe they are doing God service." While campaigning, he wrote: "The agitation of the question of domestic slavery has too long distracted and divided the people of this Union .... During its whole progress it has produced no practical good to any human being."

Even more to the point, Buchanan pledged after being elected president: "The great object of my administration will be to arrest, if possible, the agitation of the Slavery question at the North."

Nor did Buchanan's civil rights record stop with slavery. He also opposed suffrage and equal rights for Black Americans:

  • "What would be your situation, fellow-citizens, if negroes were admitted to an equality of political and social rights with white men and white women? .... The subject is too disgusting, and I recoil from it." (speech on August 18, 1838)

  • "Alas for the South! It is already ruined for years to come without immediate remedy. Negro equality & negro suffrage have already done their work." (letter of November 2, 1867)

  • "The opposition to Negro Suffrage in the South, as well as in the North, has been the principal cause of our triumph everywhere. Abandon this, & we are gone." (letter of November 9, 1867)


#Presidents #18501899

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