The President who let America slide into Civil War

Abraham Lincoln is often honoured as America’s greatest president, but many historians regard his predecessor, James Buchanan, as the country’s worst. The official White House website can find nothing more positive to say about him than that he was ‘the only President to be elected from Pennsylvania and to remain a lifelong bachelor’. Yet his life is interesting as the story of a weak but well-meaning man who was overwhelmed by the tides of hatred over states’ rights and slavery, as his letters show.

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