February 20, 1857
James Buchanan, Ill with Dysentery Before His Inauguration, Declines Jefferson Davis’ Invitation to Dine
Buchanan, suffering from a particularly persistent kind of dysentery, is in uncharacteristic seclusion at Wheatland: he cannot meet with Davis for dinner, he writes, though there is no gentleman in the land with whom it would afford him greater pleasure to dine. But he must not be ill on March 4th – his inauguration – and so is “now living with great caution.” He thinks Davis will be pleased to learn that he is offering the position of Secretary of State to Davis' choice, General Lewis Cass. “It is, I think, the best that under all circumstances could have been made.” What Buchanan does not reveal here is that he thinks Cass too old, lethargic, indolent and Anglophobic to make a good Secretary. His plan is to appoint Cass, and then instruct others to do his work.
Buchanan’s virulent diarrhea abated, on March 4th, long enough for him to take the Oath of Office with dignity.
Autograph Letter Signed, as President-Elect, 2 pages, recto and verso, quarto, Wheatland [near Lancaster, Pennsylvania], February 20, 1857. To Jefferson Davis.