Review of Philip Shriver Klein’s President James Buchanan: A Biography

Published in 1962 by Penn State University Press, Klein’s biography of the Pennsylvania Democrat and the fifteenth President who is overshadowed by the sixteenth President is a comprehensive presentation of Buchanan’s life and policies.

A bachelor in the White House, this book reviews his life, policy, and legacy one hundred years after his administration.

Though he was maligned by political enemies and former friends who became enemies; though he was subject to threats and insults by those in power during America’s greatest crisis; Buchanan was an accomplished politician and diplomat who sought a middle ground in attempting to keep the Union together at just about any cost.

Klein does a wonderful job of sketching the emotionally tense and anxious times of the 1840’s and 50’s when America grew closer to civil war and sectionalism, instead of a vibrant nationalism that Buchanan sought, was the norm.

Well researched, the reader will learn of the tense months after Lincoln’s election and Buchanan’s desperate attempts to keep the Union together while refusing to give up the US forts in Charleston harbor; receive a clear and lengthy study of Buchanan’s political philosophy (what this reviewer would call a center right position) that developed over the decades of public office and service; and be provided with an appropriate sweep of American foreign policy history in the tumultuous decades of the 1840’s and 50’s that would set the stage for American diplomacy in the decades ahead.

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2 thoughts on “Review of Philip Shriver Klein’s President James Buchanan: A Biography

  1. playwright larry myers—-a presidential historian from PA has written a play

    “Presidents James Buchanon & Benjamin Harrison at Cape May”
    both leaders unwind by the sea haunted by ghosts & detractors
    a fantastical well thought out fantasy
    a sea of ideas a cape of creativity amidst dreary plays!

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