James Buchanan: Remarks to Congress on Slavery


In his Remarks to Congress on Slavery of 1836, James Buchanan, the senator who would become the fifteenth U.S. president, spoke for the second time in only a few weeks on the topic of the abolition of slavery. His remarks came in response to a petition presented by Pennsylvania Quakers, calling for an end to slavery and the slave trade in the District of Columbia. While Buchanan did not cast Quakers in the same light as abolitionists (whom he saw as directly inciting insurrection and stirring up sectional divisiveness), he strongly disagreed with their views. To abolish slavery in the District of Columbia, he believed, would simply establish a place of refuge for slaves and further encourage sectional strife. He declares, moreover, that the slavery question should be left “where the Constitution has left it”—to the individual states.

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James Buchanan (Library of Congress)

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