James Buchanan was simply a by-the-books kind of President, which, going by the Constitution, made him very bland and apathetic. I wanted to include the greater part of Buchanan’s rationale for letting the South secede, but decided to keep it pithy. But I’ll include it here which he said in part in his final State of the Union address:

“Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance I confess I still greatly rely. Without their aid it is beyond the power of any President, no matter what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony among the States. Wisely limited and restrained as is his power under our Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little for good or for evil on such a momentous question.”

Of course, it’s worth noting that we celebrate Lincoln for completely ignoring this advice. Yes, they both thought that secession was illegal, but Buchanan believed that doing anything about it would be unconstitutional. Most Presidents that we celebrate, we do so by praising their willingness to stretch the role of the office far beyond what was originally intended. The Presidents we forget about are the ones trying to remain faithful to the “Founders.”