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Buchanan, James (1791-1868) to Isaac G. McKinley

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04903 Author/Creator: Buchanan, James (1791-1868) Place Written: Lancaster, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 16 July 1851 Pagination: 2 p. ; 25.6 x 20.4 cm.

Summary of Content: Buchanan voices his support for the Fugitive Slave Law, enacted under the Compromise of 1850. Believes the law will be the deciding issue in the upcoming election, and that the Democrats should strongly support it. He writes: "The great issue...ought to be: the maintenance of the fugitive slave law without modification." Another central issue must be "the repeal of our State law denying the use of our jails for the detention of fugitive Slaves." Worries that the South is already distressed, and will become more so if the Fugitive Slave Law is attacked. Mentions a Colonel, possibly Bigler, who is running for local office. Says Bigler's success may be crucial to his own, and discusses Bigler's enemies. Offers to assist McKinley with his "campaign paper." Written at Wheatland, Buchanan's estate in Lancaster.

Full Transcript: Wheatland, near Lancaster 16 July 1851.
My dear Sir,
I have received your favor & shall most cheerfully contribute my full & fair proportion [inserted: of the expense] towards sustaining your campaign paper; & I ...may & probably shall, in the course of the campaign, write some articles for it. -
You cannot be more deeply impressed than I am with the importance of our success in the coming contest to the safety & perpetuity of the Union". The great issues, therefore, ought to be, - the maintenance of the Fugitive Slave law, without modification; - and the repeal of our State law denying the use of our jails for the detention of fugitive slaves. - The former is all the South have obtained by the Compromise. Take this from them & nothing remains; - but their exclusion from all the vast territory conquered from Mexico by their and our arms. Do you read the Southern papers & observe the deep excitement & alarm which prevail in the far South?
In my opinion, the bold & manly course on these questions is the course not only of justice but of true policy. If we adopt it, we shall secure many union Whig votes for Bigler. Should we buckle, in the least degree to the [strikeout] principles of the free soilers, we may lose the race. I would say nothing unnecessarily to offend the free soilers; but would gladly receive [2] them into the Democratic party, if they will sustain the men & the principles of the National Democracy. -
Fighting the battle upon these principles I agree with you that Col: Biglers success may be of great importance to me. Independently of myself & for [struck: my] [inserted: his] own sake, [inserted: [struck: as well a] & that of the other candidates] as well as that of the great party, I ardently desire his [inserted: & their] success & shall do all in my power to promote it.
Do you see the Lancasterian? I do not; but am told by Mr. Sanderson that it has not said a word in favor of Bigler or the rest of the ticket, whilst it has praised the Whig Judicial ticket. Serious fears are entertained that Frazer & his men may secretly, if not openly, do all they can against it. He hates Bigler nearly, if not altogether as much as he does me. He has called a meeting of his defunct Committee & it is said is determined to settle a county ticket. Then there disorganisation will be complete; & the Democratic press throughout the State, ought to assail them. Had Col: Bigler stopped in Lancaster but two days, - Frazer could not have kept the rank & file of his friends, now not numerous, from calling to see him & from supporting him.
I think I shall go to Bedford on Saturday next & may remain part of a day in Harrisburg where I hope to enjoy the pleasure of seeing you.
from your friend
very respectfully
James Buchanan
Isaac G. McKinley Eq



See More

People: Buchanan, James, 1791-1868
McKinley, Isaac Gibson, 1810-1860

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PresidentSlaveryRunaway SlaveFugitive Slave ActAfrican American HistoryLawElectionPoliticsGovernment and CivicsDemocratic PartyPrisonerJournalismGovernment and Civics

Sub Era: Age of Jackson

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