Looking back, one can see that in 1852 as in 1856 only a “doughface,” a northerner supportive of southern aspirations, could have won either the Democratic nomination or

the presidency itself. Historians disagree, however, on whether the alleged ineptitude of the 1850s presidents-lilliputians, in the words of one scholar-hastened the dissolution of the Union or postponed it until circumstances allowed for a stronger leader to come to the fore.