JAMES BUCHANAN Autograph Letter Signed.
American politician. The 15th President of the United States.
An exceptionally fine ALS in which he talks of the end of the Civil War, the emancipation of the slaves, etc. 4pp. Wheatlands, Nr Lancaster, Pa. 21st May 1866. To Dr. Thomas Shapter.
"My Dear Mr Shapter, Your letter acknowledging receipt of my book affords me much satisfaction. Among the most agreeable recollections of my sojourn in England are those of my friendly intercourse with Mrs Shapter and yourself and your family. Miss Lane and myself have often, very often, talked of you all, with the most ardent wishes for your health, prosperity and happiness. I am rejoiced at the unmistakable evidence of your success and distinction in your profession. I am now an old man commencing my 76th year but thank God! I enjoy good, good health considering my advanced age. I rejoice to learn that Mr Justice Byles entertains a favourable opinion of my book. I might say to him "Law est a te crudari"[?]. Our civil war has ended and the rebellion has been fortunately suppressed; but we are still surrounded by difficulties which I trust and believe will be gradually removed. It has left us, North and South, throughout the masses [?] the most warlike people on the face of the earth, and I regret to say, with no very friendly feelings towards England. I hope however these will gradually die away, under the wise diplomacy and actions of the two Governments. I do not place profound confidence in the statesmanship of either Mr Seward or Lord Russell. I fear it will be long before your anticipations in regard to our emancipated slaves will be realised. The great efforts now being made by the Republicans to confer on them the right of suffrage will keep the country in a state of agitation. In their present condition they are wholly unfit for the exercise of their rights. Social equality between the two races in their intercourse with each other is wholly out of the question. This may be prejudice; but still the fact exists. The abolishing of serfdom in Russia, was the emancipation of the people of the same race and color with their masters and when the badge of slavery is removed they will naturally mingle with the masters and become part of the society. Not so in this country. It will be long, if ever, before equality before the law will produce social equality. Although no person desires the restoration of slavery, yet it is unquestionable that the slaves have suffered more from their sudden and enforced emancipation than any other class of our people. But time is a great conservative power and all may yet be well. I am looking with much interest to the progress of the Reform Bills in Parliament. That you will eventually have an extension of the franchise and a redistribution of the seats is almost certain. It is true wisdom to regulate [?] ... what you cannot eventually control. Mrs Johnston is, in my opinion, well and happily married. She made her own free and deliberate choice without the exercise of any influence on my part. Although she has not made a very brilliant match, yet she has married a man of excellent education, high social position and of independent circumstances. Besides Baltimore is, I think, the most agreeable city in the Union. With my most affectionate regards for Mrs Shapter and "Sissey", I remain always sincerely and respectfully, your friend, James Buchanan".
4to. In fine condition.
In 1866 James Buchanan had published 'Mr Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion', the first published presidential memoir, in which he defended his actions leading up to the American Civil War and to his replacement as President by Abraham Lincoln. This is presumably the book that he had sent to Dr. Shapter. The only President to have remained a bachelor, James Buchanan had turned to Harriet Lane, an orphaned niece, whom he had earlier adopted, to act as his official hostess. Harriet Lane waited until she was almost 36 to marry. She chose, with Buchanan's approval, Henry Elliott Johnston, a Baltimore banker. Mr Justice Byles is presumably Sir John Bernard Byles (1801-1884), the British barrister, judge and author. The recipient of the letter, Dr Thomas Shapter, was a British physician, best known for his book on Cholera and his early researches into epidemiology. He was also a Justice of the Peace and in 1848 had been mayor of Exeter. James Buchanan had been appointed minister to Great Britain in 1853 and it is clear from his letter that he and Miss Lane had met the Shapters and had been their guests during their stay in England and had developed a close friendship. An extraordinary letter in which James Buchanan gives his candid views on a range of subjects to a friend. Such letters from American Presidents of this period are exceedingly rare.
From a 19th century album compiled by a daughter of Thomas Shapter and, so far as we can establish, previously unpublished and unrecorded.