The group known as the ex-Presidents of the United States are sometimes called the Fourth Branch of government, wise men who normally stay out of politics but will offer sage advice during times of crisis. This book details how the five living Presidents who preceded Abraham Lincoln - John Tyler, Martin Van Buren, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan - could not help but getting involved in the quagmire that led to the Civil War, as well as during the war itself. Tyler plainly put his lot in with the South, while the others did everything they could to make Lincoln's life even more miserable than it already was. What the book ultimately says is that the former chief executives were trying to fight for the old America where slavery was tolerated in some states and prohibited in others. What emerged was Lincoln's vision of no slavery, period; although it is made clear he certainly did not support equal rights for blacks. I enjoyed reading this book from front to back. (Sidebar: Some light is made about Harriet Lane, the only niece to serve as First Lady; her uncle was the never married Buchanan.)
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