James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s: A Panel Discussion

Document Type


Publication Date


Department 1



For two days in Septenmbel; 1991, Franklin & Marshall College sponsored a bicentennial conference on the life and times of James Buchanan, marking the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Pennsylvania's only president. Papers were delivered on a range of subjects, including assessments of Buchanan's political leadership, his foreign policy and his health. On Saturday, September 21, four leading scholars formed a panel to reassess James Buchanan 's presidential leadership. Before a large audience in F&M's Stager Hall, Kenneth Stampp, Elbert Smith, Don Fehrenbacher and Robert Johannsen provided acute and occasionally clashing commentary on a dramatic era. Among the members of the audience was Buchanan's leading biographer, Philip S. Klein, emeritus Professor of History at the Pennsylvania State University and a former president of the Pennsylvania Historical Association. It seems appropriate to dedicate what follows to the memory of Philip Klein. He was a distinguished scholar and gentleman, and a great friend of the PHA and other historical associations. [Editor's Note]


This article is the transcription of the panel discussion, moderated by Michael J. Birkner, held at Franklin & Marshall College in September 1991.