|15th President of the United States|
From: March 4, 1857 – March 4, 1861
|Vice President||John C. Breckinridge|
|17th United States Secretary of State|
From: March 10, 1845 – March 7, 1849
|President||James Knox Polk; Zachary Taylor|
|Predecessor||John C. Calhoun|
|Successor||John M. Clayton|
|Former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania|
From: December 6, 1834 – March 5, 1845
|Former U.S. Representative from Pennsylvania's 3rd and 4th Congressional District|
From: March 4, 1821 – March 3, 1831
|Predecessor||Jacob Hibshman; James S. Mitchell|
|Successor||Daniel H. Miller; William Hiester|
|Party||Federalist (until 1824)
Democrat (1828 - onwards)
For other uses of "Buchanan", see Buchanan.
James Buchanan was the 17th Secretary of State and the 15th President of the United States of America, serving from 1857–1861. He was born on April 23, 1791 in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania. He was President during the unsuccessful raid on Harper's Ferry by John Brown. He left office shortly before the firing on Fort Sumter and Civil War started. He died in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on June 1, 1868 at age 78.
Buchanan was elected in 1856. The 1856 election was very good for the upstart Republican Party, which was formed in opposition to polygamy and slavery. Republican candidate John C. Frémont did not manage to capture enough votes to defeat Buchanan, but the party would seat its next presidential nominee in the White House, Abraham Lincoln, four years later. Buchanan also ran against former President Millard Fillmore, who ran as a part of the "Know Nothing Party", a third party formed largely in opposition to immigration and Catholic influence. Buchanan received 174, Fremont received 116, and Fillmore received 8.
Buchanan's presidency was marred by several disasters stemming from misgauging of public opinion. He did not realize the political weight of the importance of slavery, despite the storm clouds brewing that would soon lead to the Civil War. He felt that the Dred Scott court decision had settled the issue for good. Also, the newly acquired territory of Kansas was struggling to decide on a constitution, and several drafts had been proposed, which differed widely on a number of issues, most notably slavery. Buchanan publicly supported the pro-slavery LeCompton Constitution, which was rejected both by most Kansans and by Congress.
Buchanan is notable as being the only bachelor president of the United States. He lived with Alabama Senator Rufus King in Washington for many years. Andrew Jackson called them “Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy,” suggesting that the two men were effeminate and overly intimate. (Buchanan served as Jackson's minister to Russia.) Some modern writers have argued that the relationship was sexual, but this accusation is likely to be scurrilous. James Buchanan has been described as the most inept U.S. president ever to have occupied the White House.
- Encyclopedia of Presidents James Buchanan by Marlene Targ Brill, Children's Press, 1988.
- "Question 15: So, Uh... James Buchanan? (Part II)"