“Obituary: Death of James Buchanan...” New York Times, June 2, 1868, p. 4: 7.
Death of James Buchanan, Ex-President of the United States.
JAMES BUCHANAN, the fifteenth President of the United States, died at half-past eight yesterday morning, at his residence in Wheatland. He had been seriously ill for several days, and his decease was not unexpected...
[Throughout his political career] Mr. BUCHANAN took very decided ground against the agitation of the slavery question. He was afraid of its ultimate political consequences, and desired to prevent them by an act of Congress which should shut out the question of slavery from the deliberations of that body. In 1835, when petitions for the abolition of slavery began to pour in upon Congress, he advocated their reception and a declaration Congress had no power to legislate on the subject. He shared, with many statesmen of his time, the belief that the agitation of the slavery question might be kept out of Congress and deprived of its power to disturb the councils of political parties. Time has proved how vain and short-sighted was this policy of repression…
On the accession of Mr. PIERCE to the Presidency, Mr. BUCHANAN was appointed Minister to England. This fact of his public career chiefly memorable for the part he took in the Conferences at Ostend, subsequently adjourned to Aix la Chapeles—but still known as the Ostend Conference. This consultation exhibited the importance of the Island of Cuba to the United States in a commercial and [strategic] point of view. The American Ministers believed that if Cuba was to be transformed into another St. Domingo the example might act perniciously on the slave population of the Southern States, and excite the blacks to insurrection. In this case they held that the instinct of self-preservation would call for the armed intervention of the United States, and we should be justified in wresting the island from Spain. Mr. BUCHANAN returned to the United States in April, 1856. He was tendered the hospitalities of the City of New-York, and his journey to Lancaster resembled a triumphant march.
The Democratic National Convention, which assembled at Cincinnati in June following, nominated him unanimously to the Presidency; and he was elected over his Republican competitor, Col. FREMONT, by a large majority of the electoral college, receiving 174 electoral votes from 19 states.
To give even an outline of the exciting political events that agitated the whole country during his term of office would require more space that we have at command; nor would such a recapitulation be necessary. Those events are still fresh in the recollection of all our readers. It is hardly necessary to remind them that President BUCHANAN held the North responsible fro the troubles arising out of the Kansas disputes; and in his messages to Congress wrote vehemently against was he styled “the long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in a timid and vacillating spirit, temporizing with both parties, and studiously avoiding the adoptions of a decided policy. In his message of December 3, 1860, he characteristically argued that while the Constitution affords no warrant for the secession of a State, it also affords no warrant for the “coercion” of a State that desires to secede, and its compulsory retention in the Union. To every appeal from the loyal men of the country for an energetic and patriotic opposition to the plots of the Secessionists, his only reply was: “The South has no right to secede, but I have no power to prevent them.” Temporizing in this pitiful manner with the gravest crisis that ever fell upon a nation, he did nothing to prevent the accomplishment of secession: and when his successor, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, was inaugurated, on the 4th of march, 1861, he retired to the privacy of his home in Wheatland, followed by the ill-will of every section of the country.
During the long and bitter struggled that ensued, Mr. BUCHANAN maintained the strictest privacy. In 1865 he published a history of his Administration, intended to be a justification of his course on the eve of the rebellion of Southern States. The attempt was feeble and inconclusive, and made no impression on the judgment of the country.