My former student Gayle Thomas sent to me this e-mail this morning (shared here with Gayle’s kind permission and with links added):
I noted with interest your post on Buchanan’s birthday . I have recently borrowed “Better Than Plowing ,” his collection of autobiographical essays, and this morning read the following on page 4:
“…officer training school in New York radicalized me. Along with many others, I was subjected to overt discrimination based on favoritism for products of the eastern establishment universities. This sobering experience made me forever sympathetic to those who suffer discriminatory treatment…”
Of course, I immediately thought of the eminent scholarship of Nancy MacLean and her masterful reading of the psyche of James Buchanan. Had she taken a moment to read even the first essay in this collection, she might have had a better insight into his character.
UPDATE: As Ross Emmett correctly points out, MacLean does note Buchanan’s expressed antipathy toward eastern-establishment elites. She does not, however, seem to think that this knowledge of Buchanan matters much for assessing his role in the intellectual debates.