Portrait of James Buchanan painted by J. Eichholtz in 1834. Oil on canvas 36 1/8 x 28 1/4 in. (91.7 x 71.8 cm) at Smithsonian American Art Museum.
James Buchanan Jr. (/bjuːˈkænən/; April 23, 1791 – June 1, 1868) was the 15th president of the United States from 1857 to 1861, serving immediately prior to the American Civil War. He was a member of the Democratic Party and the 17th Secretary of State, and he had served in the Senate and House of Representatives before becoming president.
Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania of Ulster Scots descent. He became a prominent lawyer in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and won election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a Federalist. In 1820, he won election to the United States House of Representatives, eventually becoming aligned with Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party. He served as Jackson’s Minister to Russia, then won election as a senator from Pennsylvania. In 1845, he accepted appointment as President James K. Polk’s Secretary of State. He was a major contender for his party’s presidential nomination throughout the 1840s and 1850s and was finally nominated in 1856, defeating incumbent President Franklin Pierce and Senator Stephen A. Douglas at the 1856 Democratic National Convention. Buchanan and running mate John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky defeated Republican John C. Frémont and Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore to win the 1856 election.
Shortly after his election, Buchanan lobbied the Supreme Court to issue a broad ruling in Dred Scott v. Sandford, which he fully endorsed. He allied with the South in attempting to admit Kansas to the Union as a slave state under the Lecompton Constitution. In the process, he alienated both Republican abolitionists and Northern Democrats, most of whom supported the principle of popular sovereignty in determining a new state’s slave-holding status. He was often called a “doughface”, a Northerner with Southern sympathies, and he fought with Douglas, the leader of the popular sovereignty faction, for control of the Democratic Party. The Panic of 1857 struck the nation in the midst of the growing sectional crisis. Buchanan indicated in his 1857 inaugural address that he would not seek a second term, and he kept his word and did not run for re-election in the 1860 presidential election. He supported the North during the Civil War and publicly defended himself against charges that he was responsible for the war. He died in 1868 at age 77, and is the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor.
Buchanan aspired to be a president who would rank in history with George Washington by using his tendencies toward neutrality and impartiality. Historians fault him, however, for his failure to address the issue of slavery and the secession of the southern states, bringing the nation to the brink of civil war. His inability to bring together the sharply divided pro-slavery and anti-slavery partisans with a unifying principle on the brink of the Civil War has led to his consistent ranking by historians as one of the worst presidents in American history. Historians who participated in a 2006 survey voted his failure to deal with secession as the worst presidential mistake ever made.[5 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Buchanan