"During the critical four months that intervened between Abraham Lincoln's election in November 1860 and his inauguration in March 1861, President James Buchanan, a Democrat, was faced with the problem of secession. The Southerners in his cabinet were creating confusion and dissension. The secretary of war, a Virginia slaveholder, ordered arms and ammunition transferred from Northern arsenals to the South. In his last annual message to Congress on December 3, 1860, the president did not take a strong stand in asserting federal authority because Jeremiah S. Black, the attorney general, advised him that a state could not be legally coerced by the federal government. Two weeks after the message was delivered, South Carolina seceded from the Union."
"The papers of James Buchanan (1791-1868), representative and senator of Pennsylvania, secretary of state, and fifteenth president of the United States, and those of his niece and White House hostess Harriet Lane Johnston (1830-1903) contain approximately 1,600 items dating from 1825 to 1887. James Buchanan’s papers include correspondence, notes, drafts of remarks, commissions, land patents and other papers relating chiefly to Buchanan’s career in the United States Senate, as secretary of state, and as minister to Great Britain prior to his presidency. Subjects include politics in Pennsylvania and nationally, sectional disputes, nullification, the National Bank, relations with Mexico, the Oregon question, trade treaties, tariffs, and the Ostend Manifesto. Harriet Lane Johnston’s correspondence relates primarily to fashion, social affairs, family matters, and the selection of a biographer of James Buchanan."