Monday, December 7, 2015

Oddments 12: The Contrast with President James Buchanan

Before Lincoln's 1860 election the Buchanan administration had done virtually nothing to put down what looked like an incipient rebellion. Buchanan himself, although he viewed secession as flagrantly unconstitutional, could not - or would not - see any way to counter the hemorrhaging of states seceding from the Union [in the ten weeks leading up to Lincoln's inauguration seven states had seceded from the then total of 34l]. The lame duck Congress had done little better. To be sure, the House had introduced a bill that would have authorized the president to call out state militias, but the Senate – with the aid of senators from states about to secede - had actually passed a resolution requesting a lowering of the War Department's budget. When Lincoln took the oath he found that he had lost control to those seven states of all federal agencies; they had also seized every federal fortification except Forts Pickens and Sumter. In addition, the Mississippi River was obstructed or in Southern hands. Oh, and Washington, sandwiched between the southern-leaning states of Maryland and Virginia, was virtually defenseless...

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