James Buchanan composed his cabinet members from both the north and south to appease the already heated Americans. Immediately after his entering the office, the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court concluded that denied slaves as citizens of the United States, meaning that they could not present their case to the federal court and that the federal government could not intervene in the affairs of slavery. The court also commented on the unconstitutionality of the Missouri compromise that banned states from practicing slavery. James Buchanan thought that the court’s decision would solve the disputes, but the decision only furthered the division of the union.
The “Bleeding Kansas” disputes caused by the Kansas-Nebraska act continued into Buchanan’s Presidency and in order to appeal and gain the support of the democrats pushed for the Lecompton Constitution. The Lecompton Constitution would quickly solve the problems in Kansas by admitting the state as a “slave state”, but by doing so would anger northerners. This would later by rejected and in a vote during the constitutional convention for Kansas, the state was admitted as a free state.
John Brown, a abolition extremist who committed murder in Kansas and tried organize an armed rebellion in Harper’s Ferry against slavery. He would be persecuted and hung for treason. For the Northern abolitionist, Brown was a martyr for their cause, but for the south Brown showed how far the North was willing to push for abolition. James Buchanan would lose control of the situation and stated in a speech “How easy it would be for the American people to settle the slavery question forever and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They, and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object, and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and the world for slavery existing among them. For this the people of the North are not more responsible and have no more right to interfere than with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil.” James Brown worked to hold onto whatever integrity and unity remained of our nation, but at this point in time, it seemed that succession was imminent. Brown was too moderate in his actions, not extreme enough in his actions to appease neither the north or south. One may ask however, would a more forceful president like Taylor would have been better at this task.
Buchanan’s Fourth Annual Message 1860