Wheatland, near Lancaster [Pa.]: April 28, 1852. pp. on a folded folio leaf, docketed on the fourth page. One horizontal and two vertical folds. Lightly dampstained. Two tiny edge tears. Very good. In a blue half leather and cloth folding box, gilt. Item #WRCAM48676
A remarkable political letter from future president James Buchanan, marked "Private" for Mayor David Lynch of Pittsburgh, whose support Buchanan secured for his potential presidential nomination at the 1852 Democratic Convention. Buchanan concisely conveys to Lynch his assessment of three close rivals for the White House. Buchanan had presidential aspirations as early as 1834 when he was elected to the Senate. He was considered for the 1844 Democratic nomination, which would eventually go to James K. Polk. For his support Buchanan was appointed by Polk as Secretary of State in 1845. Buchanan made a good run at the 1852 nomination, though the nomination and ultimately the presidency went to Franklin Pierce. In this letter, dated just over a month before the Democratic National Convention at Maryland Institute Hall in Baltimore, Buchanan writes candidly about other potential presidential nominees. Of Gen. Lewis Cass, Buchanan writes: "Your review of some matters relating to General Cass contains nothing but facts; & yet should it ever be traced to you from our known friendship & intimacy it will be employed by his friends to injure me....Neither Cass nor his leading friends in Pennsylvania deserve any forbearance at our hands; but he has friends in other States, who, I know, are strongly inclined in my favor, & we ought not to pursue any course which would drive them from their purpose." Buchanan's appraisal of Stephen A. Douglas is measured, but positive: "He possesses fine talents, a strong character & decided energy; & although I cannot approve all his conduct or that of some of his friends, he is not liable to so many objections as his western competitor [Lewis Cass]. With a few years good training, he would make an excellent President." Buchanan reserves the most heat for his Whig adversary, Gen. Winfield Scott: "Scott, in order to secure all the free soil votes of the non- slaveholding States, will refrain from signing a pledge to sustain the Fugitive Slave Law; but yet he will give assurances to his Southern friends that he will faithfully execute this law & there will be proclaimed every where in the South...." General Winfield Scott was nominated by the Whigs on the 53rd ballot at their June 17-20, 1852 convention, also held at Maryland Institute Hall, and then soundly defeated in November by Pierce, 296 to 42 electoral votes. Scott won just four states: Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Interestingly, Buchanan does not discuss Pierce in this letter, as the latter emerged as a compromise candidate well into the balloting process at the 1852 Democratic convention. A candid peek inside the political mind of a future president.