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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation: James Buchanan



James Buchanan, U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, former secretary of state, was another “doughface.” From Federalist to Democrat, he was the winner of a three way presidential election between himself, Millard Fillmore and John C. Fremont.

Two days after his inauguration the the southern majority Supreme Court asserted in its Dred Scott decision that Congress had no constitutional power to exclude slavery in the territories, thus invalidating the Missouri Compromise and leading to escalation in “Bleeding Kansas,” a territory with two proposed state constitutions, the pro-slavery “Lecompton” and the abolitionist “Topeka.”

Throwing administrative support behind Lecompton, Buchanan further alienated his party; Stephen Douglas emerged the leader and the next Democratic presidential candidate facing Abraham Lincoln.

1826: “I believe (slavery) to be a great political and a great moral evil. I thank God, my lot has been cast in a State where it does not exist. But, while I entertain these opinions, I know it is an evil at present without a remedy. It has been a curse entailed upon us by that nation which now makes us a subject of reproach to our institutions. It is, however, one of those moral evils, from which it is impossible for us to escape, without the introduction of evils infinitely greater. There are portions of this Union, in which, if you emancipate your slaves, they will become masters. There can be no middle course. Is there any man in this Union who could, for a moment, indulge in the horrible idea of abolishing slavery by the massacre of the high-minded, and the chivalrous race of men in the South?”

1836: “The natural tendency of their publications is to produce dissatisfaction and revolt among the slaves, and to incite their wild passions to vengeance… Many a mother clasps her infant to her bosom when she retires to rest, under dreadful apprehensions that she may be aroused from her slumbers by the savage yells of the slaves by whom she is surrounded. These are the works of the abolitionists.”

1837: “When the States became parties to the federal compact, they entered into a solemn agreement that property in slaves should be as inviolable as any other property. Whilst the Constitution endures no human power, except that of the State within which slavery exists, has any right to interfere with the question..”

1852: “History teaches us that but for the provision in favor of the restoration of fugitive slaves, our present Constitution would never have existed. Think ye that the South will ever tamely surrender the Fugitive Slave Law to Northern fanatics and Abolitionists?”

1860: “The immediate peril arises… from the fact that the incessant and violent agitation of the slavery question throughout the North, for the last quarter of a century, has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves, and inspired them with vague notions of freedom.”

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Project and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series to be published during that time. The first part of the series covers the presidencies leading up to Lincoln in order to review national policy and experience leading to emancipation. With this article, the series on presidents concludes. We will now turn to the impact of these administrations on the emergent state of Nevada. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.

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