James Buchanan


1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Feb 20, 2005
Dillsburg, PA
I was expecting to be asked about Pennsylvania's only president when I was in the spotlight, so I read a book about him. As it turned out, nobody asked, but I'll review the book, anyway.

"James Buchanan and the American Empire" by Frederick Moore Binder.

This book focuses primarily on Buchanan's experience in the area of foreign affairs. Prior to becoming president, Buchanan served as Ambassador to Russia, Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Great Britain. The author points out that, "with the possible exception of John Quincy Adams, Buchanan came to the Executive Mansion with more experience in foreign affairs than any president before or since."

Buchanan believed ardently in Manifest Destiny and in expanding American influence as far as possible throughout the Western Hemisphere. The book recounts his many actions taken with a mind to acquiring new territory for the United States and, particularly, to making sure that England's influence in the Americas was kept to a minimum.

The author spends virtually the entire book going over what Buchanan did before he arrived in the White House and very little discussing what he did while he was there.

The author does recount one action of Buchanan's from late in his presidency. In December, 1860, Buchanan sent a request to Congress for additional military appropriations - not to prepare for any sort of anticipated hostilities in the Southern United States, but to protect American interests in Mexico. Buchanan stated in his request that he had no doubt that defending interests in Mexico was the most pressing need facing the U.S. military at the time, which seems to indicate that he was focused on Manifest Destiny, virtually to the exclusion of everything else, almost to the bitter end.

This book should be read with the idea of finding out what kind of a man the United States elected as its 15th president. If you want to read a book detailing the actions and decisions Buchanan took during his presidential years, this probably is not the one you want.