For many, the classification of the “worst American President” is often exclusively reserved for those chief executives who hold different political ideologies than the person making the classification.
This is a very trite assessment because to be truly considered “the worst” would require having made one disastrous decision after the other leading to serious collapse and decline in the United States. Out of all the American Presidents, no one typifies this assessment that James Buchannan.While Buchannan (1857 – 1861) was personally opposed to slavery, he did nothing to address the issue. In fact, it was during Buchannan’s tenure as president that slavery wildly expanded into new territories. This meant that more and more territory was open to the abuses slavery brought forth.Additionally, slavery was a very divisive issue in the United States. The south considered slavery integral to its individual rights. The north was home to a very strong abolitionist movement.
As such, the division between the north and the south grew and grew under Buchannan’s watch. Again, he was completely impotent to pulling the nation together.Worst of all, Buchannan essentially publicly stated he supported the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision. This decision stated that Congress had no authority on keeping slavery out of new territories. This was a disastrous decision to the nation and further weakened the divisions present. While Buchanan could not overrule a Supreme Court decision, he could have made public statements that would have quelled public anger and outcry. He did not.
He was ineffective and indifferent to dealing with thisgrowing division.As history shows us, Buchannan’s weak leadership had enormous consequences. Namely, because he did not work to heal the divisions between the north and the south, the nation was heading towards a Civil War. And, no, Buchannan had no idea how to deal with the situation. Such a fact is obvious since the United States eventually descend into Civil War as a result of Buchannan’s bungling of the issuesWhat was even more maddening was Buchannan’s notion that the south’s succession was illegal, but it was not in his power to stop it. For a president to sit idly by while looking at a nation fall in half is utter insanity. Yet, this is exactly what had happened.
Buchannan was ineffective and weak and, furthermore, he was utterly clueless as to how to rectify the situation. And, yes, it did get worse as the Civil War was the end result of the action.A major reason for Buchannan’s weakness was the fact he tried to placate the south far too much.
It seemed that he wanted to avoid confrontation with the southern states since he had no effective idea as to how to deal with them. Since he was allowing the south to essentially do whatever it wanted, great discontent developed in the north as a result. Many wondered who Buchannan truly represented.Beyond his obvious disasters leading to the Civil War, Buchannan further weakened the nation with his economic policies. Wide spread panic and recession was occurring in the nation and Buchannan did little to curtail it. Actually, many of his tariff policies had caused the panic.
Needless to say, holding a nation together while it is in economic decline is no easy task. Buchannan was not up for it. Nor, really, was he ever up for the job of being President of the United States.