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History

How President Buchanan Deepened Divisions Over Slavery Before the Civil War

When James Buchanan gave his inaugural address on March 4, 1857, he was remarkably optimistic that the United States’ debate over slavery was about to end. Knowing that the Supreme Court would soon rule against Dred Scott—a man who’d escaped enslavement in the south only to be recaptured in the north—he believed this ruling would settle the debate over slavery, and urged white Americans to stop arguing about it.

“Most happy will it be for the country when the public mind shall be diverted from this question to others of more pressing and practical importance,” he stated in his address.

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