When C-Span recently released their rankings of the 42 US Presidents in order of their effectiveness, my first inclination was to look at the top five (Lincoln, Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt and Truman).
Then, my next thought was to peruse the bottom five (Harding, William Henry Harrison, Pierce, Andrew Johnson and Buchanan). I then turned my attention to Buchanan (who served from 1857-1861) and decided to try and find out exactly what he did (or didn’t do) to be ranked on the very bottom of the totem pole. As I found out, this opinion is shared by many experts!
Wikipedia: His inability to avert the Civil War has subsequently been assessed as the worst single failure by any President of the United States. Buchanan has been consistently ranked by scholars as one of the worst Presidents.
Whitehouse.gov: Tall, stately, stiffly formal in the high stock he wore around his jowls, James Buchanan was the only President who never married. Presiding over a rapidly dividing Nation, Buchanan grasped inadequately the political realities of the time.
Pennsylvania State Historical & Museum Commission (Pennsylvania being his Buchanan’s home state): It is one of the ironies of history that, although Buchanan entered the White House with a more impressive set of qualifications than virtually any of his predecessors, historians have consistently given him poor marks for his performance in office. He was the last of a long series of presidents, going back to Thomas Jefferson, who hoped for an eventual peaceful end to slavery in an undetermined future when the right conditions came to pass. With the benefit of knowing how things turned out, it is easy to focus on Buchanan’s blunders such as his meddling in the Dred Scott Case, his ill-considered backing of the Lecompton Constitution, and his persistent efforts to appease southern secessionists while ignoring the rising tide of northern free soil ideology.
Answers.com: Buchanan sought to defuse the sectional crisis, but made decisions that only inflamed tensions. His greatest challenge was to settle the Kansas controversy and remove the issue of slavery’s expansion from national politics. Buchanan isolated himself from dissenting views, disliked confrontation, never understood northern feelings against slavery, and was excessively pro-southern in his views, qualities that eventually destroyed his political influence and wrecked his presidency … Rightly or wrongly, “Old Buck” has been tagged as one of history’s least effective Presidents.
Wow … just think how the media would’ve ripped this guy apart had there been the endless sea of television, print and online media in place during his time. If he was as bad and as wishy-washy as he’s made out to be, the poor guy may not have made it through the full term.