Lot 1217

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(1791 - 1868) Fifteenth President of the United States whose hands-off attitude toward states' rights directly contributed to the start of the Civil War. Most important draft A.L.S. as Secretary of State, 5pp. various sizes, Washington, July 20, 1848, Buchanan's tortured, heavily edited letter to the Democrats of York County, Pennsylvania, declining all efforts to draft him to run for the office of Governor of Pennsylvania. At the time, Buchanan intended this to be his farewell to politics as he awaited the end of his term in Polk's cabinet. Not only is Buchanan's agony vividly reflected in this letter, but the divisive politics of the era are also readily apparent. In small part:"…I have received your very kind letter…inquiring whether I would consent to become a candidate for nomination as Governor…I had fully determined not to become a candidate…& had expressed this determination in answer to numerous inquiries…I must, therefore, respectfully request that my name not be mentioned…It is both my intention & desire to return to private life at the close of the present administration, but I shall bear with me into retirement a deep devotion to these principles & a heart overflowing with gratitude…[I will not] stand in the way of worthy Democratic friends…The election…will doubtless exercise a commanding influence on the Presidential election…Our candidate…ought to be a Democrat in whose support the whole party would…enthusiastically unite…[Buchanan here deletes: "…I would then consider the election of Cass & Butler as morally certain]…There has scarcely been a Presidential election since the origin of the Government of greater importance…Dark and portentous clouds from an unexpected quarter now obscure our political horizon. In the hour of danger, our only security is to follow, with our time honored flag…it will guide us into the haven [Buchanan deletes: "which presided at the birth of our Institutions, will enable us to settle the delicate & dangerous question of slavery upon a fair & equitable principle & thus preserve our"]…And now, how shall I adequately express my obligations…all that I can offer then is the devoted homage of a grateful heart…Your friend, James Buchanan". The very last line in the draft, which also has a line deleting it, reads: "probably the most trying occasion of my public life". Very good. Buchanan would entirely remove himself from politics until 1853 when he would serve as Minister to England. On assuming the presidency in 1856, the sentiments he expressed here concerning slavery and appeasement of the slave states would be carried on by his administration…with disastrous results.

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December 10, 2015 10:30 AM EST
Chesapeake City, MD, US

Alexander Historical Auctions LLC

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