Presidential History Blog

James Buchanan was nearly seventy in 1861, a time when 75 was a ripe old age.

The Election of 1856

When James Buchanan (1791-1868) was elected in 1856, he was a) the last President born in the 18th century; b) had a good reputation and resume of accomplishment, and c) was a loyal Pennsylvania Democrat from a “free” state, but one who was personally sympathetic toward many of the southern issues.

A successful lawyer, state legislator, congressman, senator, cabinet member and diplomat, “Buck” had been shortlisted as a Democratic presidential candidate for a dozen years. But  as a popular and successful Ambassador to Great Britain during the Pierce Administration (1853-57)  he was out of the country for four very turbulent years.

Since it was a fact of political life that a “southerner” could never win the nomination let alone the election, the Democrats needed to look elsewhere. A Pennsylvanian, whose…

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