Oh, James Buchanan. He was a really good lawyer. He really wanted to be president. Did he want to be president in the 1850s? No. Was he? Yes. How did he handle that? By hoping the problems of the 1850s would sort themselves out. Considering the fact that the problems of the 1850s eventually caused an ENORMOUS WAR, you could say he spent most of his presidency deluding himself.
During JB's presidency, the divided nation projected all its issues onto Kansas. Kansas was about to be admitted as a state, and after a long long battle, it was decided that the slavery question in KS would be decided by popular sovereignty — that is, the KS residents or their elected officials would vote on whether or not to have slavery. This resulted in both the North and the South trying to get lots of people to move to Kansas to vote for their cause. In the North, the New England Emigrant Aid Company was founded to essentially pay people to move to Kansas and vote against slavery.
Chaos! Shocking no one, the abolitionist and pro-slavery factions refused to work together, and instead set up two separate Constitutional conventions, and created two separate state constitutions for the population to vote on. Each faction boycotted the other's vote. The abolitionists wrote the Topeka Constitution, which only the abolitionists voted on. The pro-slavery faction wrote the Lecompton Constitution. When they sent it out for a vote, the only choices on the ballot were "Constitution w/ slavery" or "Constitution w/o slavery," but even the w/o slavery option would not have made Kansas a free state, it would have vaguely prohibited future importation of slaves, kind of. A very small minority of Kansas settlers (mostly Southerners) voted, and passed the Lecompton Constitution with slavery.
Both the Topeka and Lecompton Constitutions were sent to D.C. for ratification. What a lot of nonsense! every said, neither of these charters have anything like popular support in Kansas, one of them didn't even present a free state option, and really, the fact that there are two state constitutions proves that there was no viable state convention. COOL THANKS LET'S PASS IT, said President Buchanan. Um, WHAT, said the nation and federal government (except for the South, who were stoked). That is NONSENSE. But JB said that the Lecompton Constitution was legally drawn up and offered for a vote. The fact that the vast majority of Kansas boycotted the vote? Their fault, said JB, and asked Congress to admit Kansas as a slave state under the Lecompton.
The governor of Kansas RESIGNED rather than be associated with this nonsense. The Senate approved it, but the House did not. There was even a fist fight on the floor of the House, but this wasn't rare. The House decided that the constitution should be sent back to Kansas for another vote, this time with a yes/no option instead of a slavery/no slavery option, and it was voted down 6 to 1.
So now everybody is mad. The South is mad that it didn't go through, because they thought the original vote was fair. The North was mad that Buchanan had tried to force it through. The governor of Kansas was mad. Buchanan was mad that he looked like an idiot. And worst of all......Stephen Douglas was mad. Never make Stephen Douglas mad! The Douglas/Buchanan feud split the Democratic party in two. Buchanan never really had a shot at accomplishing anything after that.
And Kansas had to wait another 3 years for a constitution.