Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Team of Confederates: The Political Ineptitude of James Buchanan
by Allen, Rick, M.A., Southeast Missouri State University, 2017, 182; 10268355
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis argues that Pennsylvanian James Buchanan’s political principles were formed early by classical republicanism as practiced in southern colonies/states during the pre-Revolutionary era and the early republic. An early and devoted admirer of South Carolina political theorists William Lowndes and John Calhoun, Buchanan developed a desire for harmony above all else, encouraging him throughout his entire political career to foster southern appeasement. When selecting his Cabinet in 1856-1857, he chose only men who agreed with him on all important issues, disdaining the advice and counsel of those who did not. While considered a master politician prior to his term, his actions during a critical time in the nation’s history served to hasten the boiling sectional conflict. He followed the desires of the South in Kansas Territory despite all opposition from Free-Soilers and his own duly appointed Governor. He initiated a war with Brigham Young in Utah Territory. He pursued territorial expansion in the Caribbean to satisfy his Southern constituency. After the election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860, his Cabinet disintegrated and his Attorney General Jeremiah S. Black stepped forward to strengthen Buchanan’s resolve in maintaining the sanctity of the federal Union above all else.

This thesis provides two important historiographical contributions. Historians have mostly focused on Buchanan’s “dough-face” actions without examining the roots of the belief system fostering them. As Lincoln and Buchanan were the only two American presidents to face a crisis in which states actually seceded from the Union, we must examine how one man succeeded while another one failed. While Doris Kerns Goodwin produced a much-acclaimed work on Lincoln’s relationship with his cabinet in Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, historians have not contrasted his approach to leadership within his Cabinet with that of his predecessor (Buchanan).

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Criblez, Adam
Commitee: Rieger, Christopher, Santoro, Lily
School: Southeast Missouri State University
Department: College of Liberal Arts
School Location: United States -- Missouri
Source: MAI 56/04M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: History
Keywords: Cabinet, James Buchanan, Jeremiah S. Black, Secession, Team of rivals, William Lowndes
Publication Number: 10268355
ISBN: 9781369837780
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