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Buchanan, James (1791-1868) to L. Harper

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04508 Author/Creator: Buchanan, James (1791-1868) Place Written: Lancaster, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 6 August 1851 Pagination: 4 p. ; 25.7 x 20.4 cm. Order a Copy

Written from Buchanan's estate, Wheatland. Discusses a recent trip to a General Bowman's home in Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, where he and other guests held "meetings... which were not confined to Democrats." Referring to an upcoming judicial election, expresses his hope in the election of James Campbell, noting Campbell was the first Catholic to hold a state office. Discusses the Presidential election of 1852, seeing the Democrats/Free Soil alliance in Ohio as a bad omen, alienating Southern Democrats. Writes, "No Democrat can be elected President who shall not receive the Democratic vote of the South. Thus will be necessary to defeat General Scott. And no candidate can receive the vote of the Southern States who voted for the Compromise." Discusses division resulting from the Compromise (of 1850), the Fugitive Slave Act (part of the Compromise), and politicians in the South. Writes, "If we desire to perpetuate the Union we must let the slave holding states alone & suffer them to manage their domestic situations according to their own discretion." Asks Harper to exert his influence in Allegheny County regarding Buchanan's Presidential campaign.

Campbell was unable to obtain a seat as Justice of the Supreme Court, but was later elected as postmaster general under Franklin Pierce.

Wheatland, near Lancaster, 6 August 1851
My dear Sir,
I have just returned from the Bedford Springs & was quite disappointed in not meeting you there. A number of the politicians of the State were present & we had a gay & agreeable time of it. General Bowman, as usual, was kind & hospitable & we had several agreeable meetings at his house which were not confined to Democrats. I think all looks well for our ticket throughout the State, which I trust we shall elect by an old fashioned Democratic majority. It would be a sad affair for the party, should Campbell fail & the remainder of the Judicial ticket be elected. He is the first Catholic, I believe, who has ever been upon a ticket for a State office & he is worthy & well qualified. Should he fail, this will be attributed to his religious faith; of course, very naturally exasperate the Catholic democrats. I hope our friends every where will bear this in mind. You exercise a potent influence & can do much to prevent such a catastrophe. I perceive that the Democrats of Ohio are about to form an alliance with the free soilers. This is an evil omen. The Democrats of the South will most probably never sit in a National Convention with free soil Democrats: no Democratic Candidate who can be nominated for the Presidency, with the least hope of success; will ever receive the votes of the free soilers. In my opinion, the Democrats of Ohio are in a worse situation than in any other State of the Union. I most gratefully appreciate your friendship, kindness in urging me as a candidate in that state; but with my known sentiments on the slavery question, I fear I have but little to hope in Ohio. I trust I may be disappointed. No Democrat can be elected President who shall not receive the Democratic vote of the South. This will be necessary to defeat General Scott. And no candidate can receive the vote of the Southern States who voted for the compromise. The people of the South are now seriously divided in regard to all the measures of compromise, except the Fugitive Slave Law. Whilst, out of South Carolina, a large majority will, I trust & believe, finally though reluctantly acquiesce in these measures, a powerful, talented & active minority are utterly opposed to them, (with this exception) many of these advocating secession, should they not be modified. Indeed from present appearances, I shall not be astonished, since McDonald & Quitman the Democratic State Rights candidates for Governor in Georgia & Mississippi have repudiated secession, should they be elected. In Tennessee General Cass had many friends; but he destroyed himself in that Union State, by refusing to vote for the Fugitive Slave Bill. The Southern Democracy may & doubtless will unite upon a candidate who will strongly sustain the measures of compromise, but not upon any man whether justly or not who was instrumental in inflecting upon them what they believe to be so serious an evil. What madness is it in the people of the North to insist upon the re[fusal] or modification of the only measure of the compromise calculated to benefit the South; & this measure simply carrying into effect a clear & explicit constitutional provision in their favor. The compromise will be a final settlement of the question should the fugitive Slave Law be maintained & agitation cease within a reasonable time. Its continuance irritates & inflames the South, produces a feeling of personal insecurity which no people care long endure. If we desire to perpetuate the Union we must let the slave holding states alone & suffice them to manage their domestic institutions according to their own discretion. What a blessing this would prove both for the Master & the Slaves! But why have I written all this to a friend who knows their business as well as myself. I really do not know why not having the least intention of inflicting such a letter upon you where I commenced writing.

I learn that there is to be a violent opposition to me in Allegheny County, some of my friends there are alarmed for the result. I trust, hope their fears may prove unfounded. Should all go well there, B[u]ks County will certainly follow; I should then esteem the contest in this State virtually ended. Defeat in Allegheny County at the present crisis would be very inauspicious. May I ask in addition to your numerous acts of friendship, that you would exert your known influence on this occasion.
from your friend
Very respectfully,
James Buchanan
~ L. Harper Esq.

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