Elections Have Consequences

The election of 1856 put James Buchanan in the White House. He is generally viewed as one of the worst presidents in the nation’s history. Buchanan won the election by carrying every slave state except Maryland while the rest of the country split their votes between Republican John Fremont and Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore. Buchanan understood who elected him.

Buchanan intervened in the Supreme Court to gather majority support of the pro-slavery decision in the Dred Scott case. He supported the Southern attempt to bring Kansas into the Union as a slave state, angering both the Republicans and also many Northern Democrats. Finally, he failed to take action to stop Southern states from seceding during the last months of his administration.

That’s the sort of thing that happens when the Democrats win an election and come to believe that their grasp on the reins of power is so absolute they can act with impunity.

History doesn’t repeat itself in the sense of actual do-overs. Indeed, it does a very poor job of rhyming. But certain themes do reoccur, and one of them in impatient overreach by wannabe elitists.

The next couple of years may be quite ugly.

6 thoughts on “Elections Have Consequences


  1. Remember that President Elect Lincoln endorsed the Corwin Amendment, what would have been the 13th amendment, that would have forever enshrined slavery into American law. Buchanan and Lincoln both agreed to this amendment. You can’t detect the full rhyme of history if critical meter is omitted.

    From Wikipedia:
    Abraham Lincoln, in his first inaugural address on March 4, said of the Corwin Amendment:

    I understand a proposed amendment to the Constitution—which amendment, however, I have not seen—has passed Congress, to the effect that the Federal Government shall never interfere with the domestic institutions of the States, including that of persons held to service … holding such a provision to now be implied constitutional law, I have no objection to its being made express and irrevocable.

    Just weeks prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, Lincoln sent a letter to each state’s governor transmitting the proposed amendment, noting that Buchanan had approved it.


    • The unintended consequences of the “corrective” action taken to deal with the South’s revolt have been far reaching. One was the change in the nation’s understanding of the United States. Before 1860, the country was usually spoken of as “The United States are … .” After 1865, that became “The United States is … .”


      • I am familiar with that quote and I believe it originates with Shelby Foote. But, oddly, your reply is entirely non-responsive. You rightly take Buchanan to task for his support of slavery but make no mention that Lincoln held the same views and repeated the same actions of Buchanan. Or did I miss something.

        I idolized Lincoln as a boy. But, I confess the more I study Lincoln the less I admire him in several key regards.


        • Yes, Lincoln’s opening position was the accept making slavery “permanent” as a means of preserving the Union. As circumstances changed, his position changed.

          Slavery was doomed economically. Over the long run, it would not have been able to compete with mechanized agriculture. Eventually, even cotton production became too capital intensive.


          • Yes, slavery was doomed as a viable economic system. It was rightfully condemned as a great moral failure though ironically, not by Lincoln, the first Republican winner. More ironically, the Party was founded with the guiding principle to end slavery. And yet Lincoln was all too willing to enshrine slavery “forever” if the word has any real meaning in a political sense. His position changed because he realized he could forestall European intervention in the war. His “emancipation proclamation” quite literally freed no one. Oddly, Lincoln had been very open about all of this. It was his post-assassination makeover that hid these details.

            Buchanan and Lincoln made the war inevitable, though it is a question as to whether a different winner in 1860 might have been able to avoid a terrible and tragic war. However, that result would have had other tragic results with slavery lasting much longer than it did.

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