James Buchanan Jr. was born on April 23rd, 1973 and passed away on June 1st, 1868. He was the fifteenth President of the United States and served from 1857 to 1861. His Presidency was marked by growing tensions between the North and the South.
A lawyer by education, Buchanan climbed the career ladder to the Presidential Chair slowly but steadily. First, he was elected a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives from the Federalists’ quota.
Then, he became a member of the United States House of Representatives with the support of Andrew Jackson’s Democratic Party. Jackson himself served as the 7th President of The United States. He appointed Buchanan as his Minister for Russia, which paved the latter’s way to the U.S. Senate. Then, he became Secretary of State under President James K. Polk.
Interesting Facts About James Buchanan
1. Buchanan was a troublesome kid
James Buchanan’s father was a well-to-do merchant of farming equipment and his mother, Elizabeth, was an educated woman. As a schoolboy, Buchanan studied at the Old Stone Academy in his village Cove Gap, Pennsylvania.
His education continued at Dickinson College, where he was almost suspended for misbehavior. Eventually, he graduated and changed his views on education, an interesting fact about James Buchanan. With the financial support of his father, Buchanan moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where he studied law. In 1812, he became a practicing lawyer.
2. The star-crossed love of Ann Caroline Coleman and James Buchanan
In 1819, Buchanan and Ann Caroline Coleman, the daughter of an iron magnate, promised each other to tie the knot. Unfortunately, Ann was duped to believe that James had been unfaithful to her. In her outrage, she threw his engagement ring into a sewer.
Heartbroken, she died only a few months after the end of their engagement. Buchanan was absolutely shattered by this wretched turn of events. Ann’s family even said he should not attend her funeral. Grief-stricken, James vowed to never marry again. A promise that he kept until his final day.
3. He is America’s only bachelor president
Naturally, this fact about James Buchanan has provoked many historians and political scientists to speculate on Buchanan’s sexuality. A group of sociologists and researchers led by James W. Loewen has maintained that James Buchanan was, in all probability, homosexual.
Another group of biographers led by Jean Baker has supported the idea that Buchanan was asexual, meaning that he showed little or no interest in sexual intercourse. In any case, he had to have a First Lady so as to perform his official duties according to the established protocol and appointed his niece, Harriet Lane, as such.
4. Buchanan had a close relationship with William Rufus King
Supporters of the hypothesis that James Buchanan was a homosexual have based their theory on his long and very close relationship with William Rufus King, the 13th U.S. Vice President. They moved in together in a house in Washington D. C. and their communion continued from 1834 to 1844.
As the two men used to attend public events together, Buchanan’s patron and mentor Andrew Jackson started referring to King as “Miss Nancy”, while Democrat Aaron V. Brown went even further calling him Buchanan’s “better half”.
5. James Buchanan’s military career was modest, to say the least
James Buchanan became the last American president to fight in the War of 1812 against the British invaders, an interesting fact about James Buchanan. To be more precise, his participation began two years later, when British troops occupied Maryland. He fought to defend Baltimore but reached no higher than the rank of private.
6. Balancing between For and Against Slavery
James Buchanan, although elected President with the support of the Democratic Party, could not assume a firm stance against slavery. Rather, he acted as a balance-keeper and spent most of his term in office trying to find a win-win deal between the North and the South.
Buchanan kept his balanced stance until the very end of his tenure. The Civil War broke out just two months after he stepped down. Some biographers suggest that Buchanan believed that having slaves was one’s Constitutional right. Furthermore, he believed that each state was free to decide if it needed to have slaves or not.
7. Buchanan’s role in John Brown’s Plot
In October 1859, abolitionist John Brown led a group of about twenty men on a dangerous mission. Their plan was to take control of the armory in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Brown’s idea was to spark a spontaneous riot of the locals that would eventually transform into a national war against slavery.
Buchanan saw the rising threat and sent the US Marines and their battle-hardened field commander Robert E. Lee to quench Brown’s improvised raid. The rebels offered feeble resistance, and the skirmish lasted for less than three minutes. In the end, Brown was charged with murder, high-treason, and conspiracy against the state, and sent to the gallows.
8. Buchanan was trying to keep the nation together
Towards the end of Buchanan’s term in office, the slavery issue loomed larger and threatened to cause a political and territorial crisis. When Abraham Lincoln won the Presidential vote in 1860, it became clear that several states would break away from the Union.
In his final speech in Congress, Buchanan said that while the states’ secession had no legal grounds, the federal government had no right to annul their decision, an interesting James Buchanan fact. Despite Buchanan’s attempts to keep the Union, on December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to walk out.
By February 1861, six more states followed its example. Thus, the Confederate States of America emerged. When James Buchanan stepped down on March 3rd, 1861, he left the nation on the verge of civil war. He spent the rest of his life in his estate on the outskirts of Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
The events described above sketch in broad outlines the remarkable life of James Buchanan, a prominent man of law, statesman and President of the United States. He devoted all his energy and creative power to serving American society as best he could.
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