James Buchanan

Presidential term: March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1861

The slavery question created such very strong and bitter feeling that the next election saw the rise of what is still called the Republican party, which soon included all those in favor of free soil. The Democrats proving the stronger, however, James Buchanan, their candidate, became the fifteenth President of the United States.

As Buchanan was already sixty–six and unmarried, he is sometimes called the “Bachelor President.” Many had hoped that his election would put an end to all quarrels. But he was neither firm nor tactful, and things had already reached such a state that it seemed as if no power could prevent the terrible events which were soon to take place.

In the beginning of Buchanan’s term a dispute was settled which was to be talked about in all parts of the country. A doctor had taken his slave, Dred Scot, north. After living in a free state and a free territory several years, this slave fancied he was free, and when his master took him south again, and sold him, he appealed to the courts.

The question was finally laid before the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided that a man’s slaves belonged to him, no matter where he happened to live. When people in the free states heard this, they made a great outcry, because, as they said, slaves could now be held anywhere.

The people in the South, on the other hand, were greatly pleased, for this was just what they wanted. The result was that both parties felt all the more determined, the one to stop the spread of slavery, the other to extend it over the whole country. Fiery speeches were again made on both sides of the question, and people grew more and more excited.

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