President James Buchanan, who believed that the Republican Party and the abolitionists were destroying the nation, personally lobbied the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case, hoping it would get him (and the Democratic Party) off the hook on the slavery question. The decision, however, only intensified the conflict over the question. Buchanan was a man of contradictions. A professed strict constructionist, he nonetheless used his presidential powers aggressively when faced with a “rebellion” of Mormons in Utah. Yet, he stood paralyzed and powerless when Southern states began seceding from the Union; he claimed that the Constitution gave him no authority to intervene. Although he would spend the rest of his life denying responsibility, some historians would view the Civil War that ensued as “Mr. Buchanan’s War.”
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