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James Buchanan
Suggested Reading



"Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country."
- From his autobiography.

Buchanan Dying : A Play
(John Updike)
New foreword by the author Praise for the original edition of Buchanan Dying "Buchanan Dying is an abundant, even opulent, creative act . . . very often Mr. Updike's fantastic talent for mimicry produces quite marvelous results." -Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The Atlantic Monthly "Using the excuse of 19th Century speech, Updike has indulged his love of beautiful, ornate prose; we can sink deep into sentences balanced like mobiles and turned like pots on the wheel." -Joyce B. Markle, The Chicago Tribune To the list of John Updike's well-intentioned protagonists-Rabbit Angstrom, George Caldwell, Piet Hanema, Henry Bech-add James Buchanan, of Pennsylvania, the harried fifteenth President of the United States (1857-1861). In a play meant to be read, Buchanan, on his death bed, relives his political and private lives. A wide-ranging afterword rounds out the dramatic portrait of one of America's lesser known and least appreciated leaders. For this edition Updike has written a new foreword, discussing the two productions of the play and the historical context in which it was written. John Updike was born in 1932, in Shillington, Pennsylvania, and has lived in Massachusetts since 1957. He is the author of more than fifty books, and his novels have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics' Circle Award, and the Howells Medal.

James Buchanan: [The American Presidents Series]
(Jean H. Baker)
Almost no president was as well trained and well prepared for the office as James Buchanan. He had served in the Pennsylvania state legislature, the U.S. House, and the U.S. Senate; he was Secretary of State and was even offered a seat on the Supreme Court. And yet, by every measure except his own, James Buchanan was a miserable failure as president, leaving office in disgrace. Virtually all of his intentions were thwarted by his own inability to compromise: he had been unable to resolve issues of slavery, caused his party to split-thereby ensuring the election of the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln-and made the Civil War all but inevitable. Historian Jean H. Baker explains that we have rightly placed Buchanan at the end of the presidential rankings, but his poor presidency should not be an excuse to forget him. To study Buchanan is to consider the implications of weak leadership in a time of national crisis. Elegantly written, Baker's volume offers a balanced look at a crucial moment in our nation's history and explores a man who, when given the opportunity, failed to rise to the challenge.

President James Buchanan: A Biography
(Philip S. Klein)


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