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Robert F. Stockton, conquered southern California. Meantime General Stephen W. Kearny had been sent out by the United States government to take command of California, superseding Commodore Stockton. For a time Kearny admitted the practical authority of Stockton, and therefore, when he asserted his command, Frémont continued to obey the Commodore as his superior officer. For this Kearny brought him to Washington, where he was court-martialed. President Polk remitted the penalty, but Frémont resigned his commission. In 1848 he set out on an expedition at his own expense to find a passage to California by the upper waters of the Rio Grande. After enduring frightful hardships he reached Sacramento in the spring of 1849. Thereafter he was known as “The Pathfinder." He settled in California, where he had bought a rich gold-bearing estate in 1847. He was elected to the United States Senate, taking his seat in 1850 on the day California was admitted to the Union. However he had drawn by lot the short term, which expired March 4, 1851. In his brief service he devised and partly won for his State a comprehensive system of legislation adapted to its peculiar conditions. The anti-slavery party in California, of which Frémont was the leader, was defeated in 1851, and he failed of return to the Senate. In 1852 he visited Europe, where he was greatly honored by courts and scientific societies for his explorations.
In 1853 he led another private expedition to complete the surveys of the preceding one, and met with similar hardships, his party living on horse-flesh for fifty days. In 1855 he took up residence in New York in order to prepare for publication the narrative of the expedition. He was regarded as the hero of the day. Frémont's subsequent career, as a General in the Civil War, in which his premature proclamation of emancipation brought great trouble on President Lincoln; as a rival of Lincoln for the Presidency in 1864; and as governor of Arizona Territory, falls beyond the scope of this volume. He died in 1890.
Sketch of Buchanan. James Buchanan was born of Scots Presbyterian stock near Mercersburg, Pa., in 1791. He was graduated from Dickinson College in 1809, and began the practice of law at Lancaster. He served as a volunteer in the War of 1812. In 1814 he was elected to the legislature. He entered Congress in 1821, and, while at first holding what were to be known later as Whig opinions on internal improvements, etc., came in time, through study, to adopt Jeffersonian principles. In 1829 he was appointed chairman of the Judiciary Committee, in which capacity he introduced and carried through important reforms of the Federal judicial system. In 1831 he was appointed by President Jackson minister to Russia. In the following year he negotiated a commercial treaty with that country. He returned home in 1833, and in 1834 was elected to the Senate. Here he became one of the leading supporters of President Jackson in his “war on the United States Bank.” In a debate on the “French spoliation claims,” to secure the payment of which the President had recommended partial non-intercourse with France, Buchanan was the Administration leader in the Senate, opposed to Clay and Webster. He contended that “there is a point in the intercourse between nations at which diplomacy must end, and a nation must either consent to abandon her rights or assert them by force.' His ablest effort, however, was his speech in favor of expunging the resolution of censure passed upon President Jackson for his removal of government deposits from the United States Bank. He upheld the right of petition while opposing the object of the anti-slavery memorials, emancipation in the District of Columbia. Nevertheless he supported prohibition from the mails of Abolitionist literature. He defended President Tyler against the attacks of Clay and other Whigs for his vetoes. He opposed the Webster-Ashburton Treaty. In 1845 he was appointed Secretary of State by President Polk, and became responsible for the acts of that administration in regard to the Oregon boundary, the annexation of Texas, and the Mexican War. He reasserted the Monroe Doctrine to defeat British designs in Central America, and to the same end encouraged union among the republics of the region. This design was frustrated by the ambiguous terms of the ClaytonBulwer Treaty in Taylor's administration, and Buchanan was appointed by President Pierce to go as minister to Great Britain chiefly for the purpose of protecting the Central American states from British occupation.
In the meantime Buchanan, as a private citizen, had opposed the Wilmot Proviso, and supported the Clay Compromises and the Fugitive Slave Law.
When Lord Clarendon, in 1854, presented to Buchanan a projet for a treaty between Great Britain, France, and the United States making it piracy for neutrals to serve on privateers against one of the parties in war time, the weighty reasoning of the American minister against the principle caused the proposal to be abandoned. His success abroad made him exceedingly popular at home, and on his return in April, 1856, he was welcomed at New York with a great public reception, which launched his "boom" for the Democratic nomination for President. He was nominated, as we have seen, and was elected, receiving 174 electoral votes to 114 cast for Frémont, and 8 (Maryland's) for Fillmore. Some of his acts as President have been recounted in Volume I., Chapter XII., and others will follow in these pages. He published a vindication of his policy in Buchanan's Administration (1866). His biography was published in 1883 by George Ticknor Curtis. He died in 1868.
Buchanan's character is indicated by the term he applied to himself in his annual message of 1859, “an old public functionary”—which was abbreviated by his opponents to "Old Pub. Func." No one has ever claimed that he was a man of genius, but it cannot be denied that he was an earnest, conscientious servant of his country, who made the Constitution the constant guide of his public acts. Had he devoted himself entirely to diplomacy he would probably now stand in American history near to the side of Franklin.
The crucial nature of the Kansas question was indicated by President Pierce beginning his message to Congress on December 2, 1856, not, as customary, with foreign affairs, but with the situation in that distracted Territory. This he treated from an extreme partisan standpoint, justifying the Administration's course in the matter, which, it must be admitted, had been most vacillating; denouncing the policy of the Opposition; and exulting over their defeat in the late election.' Upon this message Senator John P. Hale [N. H.] caustically commented:
“The President undertakes to pronounce ex cathedra upon what were the issues involved in the last presidential
* The speech under the title of “The Defeat of Sectionalism" is given in Great Debates in American History, vol. iv., p. 372.
election, and to tell what the people have decided. I will tell him, to begin with, that there was one thing which they decided before they went into the contest, and that was, let who would be chosen, they would not have a second edition of him."
In his inaugural address on March 4, 1857, President Buchanan presented his policy upon Kansas. The principle of Popular Sovereignty he pronounced a “happy conception," the acquiescence in which by the country in the late election had exhibited a "grand and striking spectacle of the capacity of man for selfgovernment."
A difference of opinion has arisen in regard to the point of time when the people of a Territory shall decide this question (slavery or freedom) for themselves. This is, happily, a matter of little practical importance. Besides, it is a judicial question which legitimately belongs to the Supreme Court, before whom it is now pending, and will, it is understood, be speedily and finally settled.
The Dred Scott Decision. The case before the Supreme Court to which the President referred was that of "Dred Scott vs. Sanford.":
Dred Scott, a negro, was, previously to 1834, held as a slave in Missouri by Dr. Emerson, a surgeon in the army. In that year the doctor was transferred to the military post at Rock Island, Ill., and took Scott as a slave with him. Here Major Taliaferro had, in 1835, a negress in his service known as Harriet, whom he, too, held as a slave. The doctor and the major were transferred in the same year to Fort Snelling on the site of the present St. Paul in Minnesota, which was then
i For an interesting story of this case the reader is referred to Decisive Battles of the Law, by Frederick Trevor Hill, Esq.