Buchanan's service abroad conveniently placed him outside of the country while the debate over the "Kansas-Nebraska Act roiled the nation. While Buchanan did not overtly seek the presidency, he most deliberately chose not to discourage the movement on his behalf, something that was well within his power on many occasions. The "1856 Democratic National Convention met in June 1856, writing a platform that largely reflected Buchanan's views, including support for the "Fugitive Slave Law, an end to anti-slavery agitation, and U.S. "ascendancy in the Gulf of Mexico." President Pierce hoped for re-nomination, while Senator "Stephen A. Douglas also loomed as a strong candidate. Buchanan led on the first ballot, boosted by the support of powerful Senators "John Slidell, "Jesse Bright, and "Thomas F. Bayard, who presented Buchanan as an experienced leader who could appeal to the North and South. Buchanan won the nomination after seventeen ballots, and was joined on the ticket by "John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky.
Buchanan faced not just one but two candidates in the general election: former Whig President "Millard Fillmore ran as the American Party (or ""Know-Nothing") candidate, while "John C. Frémont ran as the "Republican nominee. Sticking with the convention of the times, Buchanan did not himself campaign, but he wrote letters and pledged to uphold the Democratic platform. In the election, Buchanan carried every slave state except for Maryland, as well as five free states, including his home state of Pennsylvania. He won 45 percent of the popular vote and, most importantly, won the electoral vote, taking 174 electoral votes compared to Frémont's 114 electoral votes and Fillmore's 8 electoral votes. Buchanan's election made him the "first and so far only president from Pennsylvania. In his victory speech, Buchanan denounced Republicans, calling the Republican Party a "dangerous" and "geopraphical" party that had unfairly attacked the South. President-elect Buchanan would also state, "the object of my administration will be to destroy sectional party, North or South, and to restore harmony to the Union under a national and conservative government." He set about this initially by maintaining a sectional balance in his appointments and persuading the people to accept constitutional law as the Supreme Court interpreted it. The court was considering the legality of restricting slavery in the territories and two justices had hinted to Buchanan their findings.
Buchanan was inaugurated on March 4, 1857, taking the oath of office from "Chief Justice "Roger B. Taney. In his inaugural address, Buchanan committed himself to serving only one term, though Pierce had made the same commitment. Buchanan also deplored the growing divisions over slavery and its status in the territories. Stating that Congress should play no role in determining the status of slavery in the states or territories, Buchanan argued for popular sovereignty. Furthermore, Buchanan argued that a federal slave code should protect the rights of slave-owners in any federal territory. He alluded to a pending Supreme Court case, "Dred Scott v. Sandford, which he stated would permanently settle the issue of slavery. In fact, Buchanan already knew the outcome of the case, and had even played a part in its disposition.
Cabinet and administration
|The Buchanan Cabinet|
|"Vice President||"John C. Breckinridge||1857–1861|
|"Secretary of State||"Lewis Cass||1857–1860|
|"Jeremiah S. Black||1860–1861|
|"Secretary of Treasury||"Howell Cobb||1857–1860|
|"Philip Francis Thomas||1860–1861|
|"John Adams Dix||1861|
|"Secretary of War||"John B. Floyd||1857–1860|
|"Attorney General||"Jeremiah S. Black||1857–1860|
|"Edwin M. Stanton||1860–1861|
|"Postmaster General||"Aaron V. Brown||1857–1859|
|"Secretary of the Navy||"Isaac Toucey||1857–1861|
|"Secretary of the Interior||"Jacob Thompson||1857–1861|
As his inauguration approached, Buchanan sought to establish a harmonious cabinet, as he hoped to avoid the in-fighting that had plagued "Andrew Jackson's top officials. Buchanan chose four southerners and three northerners, the latter of whom were all considered to be doughfaces. Buchanan sought to be the clear leader of the cabinet, and chose men who would agree with his views. Anticipating that his administration would concentrate on foreign policy and that Buchanan himself would largely direct foreign policy, he appointed the aging "Lewis Cass as Secretary of State. Buchanan's appointment of southerners and southern sympathizers alienated many in the north, and his failure to appoint any followers of Stephen Douglas divided the party. Outside of the cabinet, Buchanan left in place many of Pierce's appointments, but removed a disproportionate number of northerners who had ties to Pierce or Douglas. Buchanan quickly alienated his vice president, Breckinridge, and the latter played little role in the Buchanan administration.
Buchanan appointed one Justice to the "Supreme Court of the United States, "Nathan Clifford. Buchanan appointed only seven other Article III federal judges, all to "United States district courts. He also appointed two Article I judges to the "United States Court of Claims.
Dred Scott case
Two days after Buchanan's inauguration, Chief Justice Taney delivered the "Dred Scott decision, asserting that Congress had no "constitutional power to exclude slavery in the territories. Prior to his inauguration, Buchanan had written to Justice "John Catron in January 1857, inquiring about the outcome of the case and suggesting that a broader decision would be more prudent. Catron, who was from "Tennessee, replied on February 10 that the Supreme Court's southern majority would decide against Scott, but would likely have to publish the decision on narrow grounds if there was no support from the Court's northern justices—unless Buchanan could convince his fellow Pennsylvanian, Justice "Robert Cooper Grier, to join the majority. Buchanan hoped that a broad Supreme Court decision protecting slavery in the territories could lay the issue to rest once and for all, allowing the country to focus on other issues, including the possible annexation of Cuba and the acquisition of more Mexican territory. So Buchanan wrote to Grier and successfully prevailed upon him, allowing the majority leverage to issue a broad-ranging decision that transcended the specific circumstances of Scott's case to declare the "Missouri Compromise of 1820 unconstitutional. The correspondence was not public at the time; however, at his inauguration, Buchanan was seen in whispered conversation with Chief Justice Roger B. Taney. When the decision was issued two days later, Republicans began spreading word that Taney had revealed to Buchanan the forthcoming result. Buchanan had hoped that the Dred Scott decision would destroy the Republican platform, but outraged northerners denounced the decision.
Panic of 1857
The "Panic of 1857 began in the summer of that year, ushered in by the sequential collapse of fourteen hundred state banks and five thousand businesses. While the South escaped largely unscathed, northern cities experienced drastic increases in unemployment. Buchanan agreed with the southerners who attributed the economic collapse to overspeculation.
Reflecting his Jacksonian background, Buchanan's response was "reform not relief". While the government was "without the power to extend relief", it would continue to pay its debts in specie, and while it would not curtail public works, none would be added. He urged the states to restrict the banks to a credit level of $3 to $1 of specie, and discouraged the use of federal or state bonds as security for bank note issues. The economy did eventually recover, though many Americans suffered as a result of the panic. Though Buchanan had hoped to reduce the deficit, by the time he left office the federal deficit stood at $17 million.
"Utah had been settled by "Mormons in the decades preceding Buchanan's presidency, and under the leadership of "Brigham Young the Mormons had grown increasingly hostile to federal intervention. Young harassed federal officers and discouraged outsiders from settling in the "Salt Lake City area, and in September 1857 the "Utah Territorial Militia perpetrated the "Mountain Meadows massacre against Arkansans headed for California. Buchanan was also personally offended by the "polygamous behavior of Young.
Accepting the wildest rumors and believing the Mormons to be in open rebellion against the United States, Buchanan sent the army in November 1857 to replace Young as governor with the non-Mormon "Alfred Cumming. While the Mormons' had frequently defied federal authority, some question whether Buchanan's action was a justifiable or prudent response to uncorroborated reports. Complicating matters, Young's notice of his replacement was not delivered because the Pierce administration had annulled the Utah mail contract. After Young reacted to the military action by mustering a two-week expedition destroying wagon trains, oxen, and other Army property, Buchanan dispatched "Thomas L. Kane as a private agent to negotiate peace. The mission succeeded, the new governor was shortly placed in office, and the "Utah War ended. The President granted amnesty to all inhabitants who would respect the authority of the government, and moved the federal troops to a nonthreatening distance for the balance of his administration. Though he continued to practice polygamy, Young largely accepted federal authority after the conclusion of the Utah War.
The "Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 created "Kansas Territory, and allowed the settlers there to choose whether to allow slavery. This resulted in violence between ""Free-Soil" (antislavery) and proslavery settlers in what became known as the ""Bleeding Kansas" crisis. The antislavery settlers organized a government in "Topeka, while proslavery settlers established a seat of government in "Lecompton, Kansas. For Kansas to be admitted as a state, a constitution had to be submitted to Congress with the approval of a majority of residents. Under President Pierce, a series of violent confrontations known as ""Bleeding Kansas" escalated as supporters of the two governments clashed. The situation in Kansas was watched closely throughout the country, and some in Georgia and Mississippi advocated secession should Kansas be admitted as a free state. Buchanan himself did not particularly care whether or not Kansas entered as a slave state, and instead sought to admit Kansas as a state as soon as possible since it would likely tilt towards the Democratic Party. Rather than re-starting the process and establishing one territorial government, Buchanan chose to recognize the Lecompton government.
Upon taking office, Buchanan appointed "Robert J. Walker to replace "John W. Geary as territorial governor, with the mission of reconciling the settler factions and approving a constitution. Walker, who was from "Mississippi, was expected to assist the proslavery faction in gaining approval of a new constitution. However, after months in office, Walker came to believe that slavery was unsuited for the region, and thought that Kansas would ultimately become a free state. In October 1857, the Lecompton government organized territorial elections that were so marked by fraud that Walker threw out the returns from several counties. Nonetheless, that same month, the Lecompton government framed a pro-slavery state constitution (known as the ""Lecompton Constitution") and, rather than risking a referendum, sent it directly to Buchanan. Though eager for Kansas statehood, even Buchanan was forced to reject the entrance of Kansas without a state constitutional referendum, and he dispatched federal agents to bring about a compromise. The Lecompton government agreed to a limited referendum in which Kansas would vote not on the constitution overall, but rather merely on whether or not Kansas would allow slavery after becoming a state. The Topeka government boycotted the December 1857 referendum, and slavery overwhelmingly won the approval of those who did vote. A month later, the Topeka government held its own referendum in which voters overwhelmingly rejected the Lecompton Constitution.
Despite the protests of Walker and two former governors of Kansas, Buchanan decided to accept the Lecompton Constitution. In a December 1857 meeting with Stephen Douglas, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories and an important northern Democrat, Buchanan demanded that all Democrats support the administration's position of admitting Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution. On February 2, Buchanan transmitted the Lecompton Constitution to Congress. He also transmitted a message that attacked the "revolutionary government" in Topeka, conflating them with the Mormons in Utah. Buchanan made every effort to secure congressional approval, offering favors, patronage appointments, and even cash for votes. The Lecompton Constitution won the approval of the Senate in March, but a combination of Know-Nothings, Republicans, and northern Democrats defeated the bill in the House. Rather than accepting defeat, Buchanan backed the "English Bill, which offered Kansans immediate statehood and vast public lands in exchange for accepting the Lecompton Constitution. In August 1858, a Kansas referendum strongly rejected the Lecompton Constitution.
The battle over Kansas escalated into a battle for control of the Democratic Party. On one side were Buchanan, most Southern Democrats, and northern Democrats allied to the Southerners ("Doughfaces"); on the other side were Douglas and most northern Democrats plus a few Southerners. Douglas's faction continued to support the doctrine of popular sovereignty, while Buchanan insisted that Democrats respect the Dred Scott decision and its repudiation of federal interference with slavery in the territories. The struggle lasted the remainder of Buchanan's presidency. Buchanan used his patronage powers to remove Douglas' sympathizers in Illinois and Washington, DC and installed pro-administration Democrats, including postmasters.
1858 mid-term elections
Douglas's Senate term ended in 1859, so the Illinois legislature elected in 1858 would determine whether Douglas would win re-election. The Senate election was the primary issue of the legislative election, marked by the famous "Lincoln-Douglas debates. Buchanan, working through federal patronage appointees in Illinois, ran candidates for the legislature in competition with both the Republicans and the Douglas Democrats. This could easily have thrown the election to the Republicans—which showed the depth of Buchanan's animosity toward Douglas. In the end, Douglas Democrats won the legislative election and Douglas was re-elected to the Senate. Douglas forces took control throughout the North, except in Buchanan's home state of Pennsylvania. Buchanan was reduced to a narrow base of southern supporters.
The division between northern and southern Democrats allowed the Republicans to win a "plurality in the House in the "elections of 1858. Their control of the chamber allowed the Republicans to block most of Buchanan's agenda. Buchanan, in turn, vetoed six substantial pieces of Republican legislation, causing further hostility between Congress and the White House. Among the pieces of legislation that Buchanan vetoed were the "Homestead Act, which would have given 160 acres of public land to settlers who remained on the land for five years, and the "Morrill Act, which would have granted public lands to establish "land-grant colleges. Buchanan argued that these acts were beyond the power of the federal government as established by the Constitution.
Buchanan had hoped that his presidency would focus on foreign policy issues, and viewed the Utah War and debates over slavery as distractions from his foreign policy goals. Buchanan hoped to re-negotiate the "Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which he viewed as a mistake that limited U.S. influence in Central America. He also hoped to minimize British influence in the Western hemisphere (aside from Canada) and continue the spirit of Manifest Destiny. Buchanan sought to finally achieve his long-term goal of acquiring Cuba, and also sought to establish American protectorates over the Mexican states of "Chihuaha and "Sonora. After long negotiations with the British, he convinced them to agree to cede the "Bay Islands to "Honduras and the "Mosquito Coast to "Nicaragua. Buchanan's ambitions in Cuba and Mexico were largely blocked by the House. In 1858, Buchanan ordered the "Paraguay expedition to punish "Paraguay for firing on the "USS Water Witch, and the expedition resulted in a Paraguayan apology and the payment of an indemnity.
In March 1860, the House created the "Covode Committee to investigate the administration for evidence of offenses, some impeachable, such as bribery and extortion of representatives in exchange for their votes. The committee, with three Republicans and two Democrats, was accused by Buchanan's supporters of being nakedly partisan;ey also charged its chairman, Republican Rep. "John Covode, with acting on a personal grudge (since the president had vetoed a bill that was fashioned as a land grant for new agricultural colleges, but was designed to benefit Covode's railroad company). However, the Democratic committee members, as well as Democratic witnesses, were equally enthusiastic in their pursuit of Buchanan, and as pointed in their condemnations, as the Republicans.
The committee was unable to establish grounds for impeaching Buchanan; however, the majority report issued on June 17 exposed corruption and abuse of power among members of his cabinet, as well as allegations (if not impeachable evidence) from the Republican members of the Committee, that Buchanan had attempted to bribe members of Congress in connection with the Lecompton constitution. (The Democratic report, issued separately the same day, pointed out that evidence was scarce, but did not refute the allegations; one of the Democratic members, Rep. "James Robinson, stated publicly that he agreed with the Republican report even though he did not sign it.)
Buchanan claimed to have "passed triumphantly through this ordeal" with complete vindication. Nonetheless, Republican operatives distributed thousands of copies of the Covode Committee report throughout the nation as campaign material in that year's presidential election.
Election of 1860
The "1860 Democratic National Convention convened in April 1860. Although Douglas led after every ballot, he was unable to win the two-thirds majority required. The convention adjourned after 53 ballots, and re-convened in Baltimore in June. After Douglas finally won the nomination, several southerners refused to accept the outcome, and nominated Vice President Breckinridge as their own candidate. Douglas and Breckinridge agreed on most issues except for the protection of slavery in the territories. Failing to reconcile the party, and nursing a grudge against Douglas, Buchanan tepidly supported Breckinridge. With the splintering of the Democratic Party, Republican nominee "Abraham Lincoln won a four-way election that also included "John Bell of the "Constitutional Union Party. Though Lincoln had virtually no support in the South, his support in the North was enough to give him an Electoral College majority. Buchanan would be the last Democrat to win a presidential election until the 1880s.
As early as October, the army's "Commanding General, "Winfield Scott, warned Buchanan that Lincoln's election would likely cause at least seven states to secede. He also recommended to Buchanan that massive amounts of federal troops and artillery be deployed to those states to protect federal property, although he also warned that few reinforcements were available (Congress had since 1857 failed to heed both men's calls for a stronger militia and had allowed the army to fall into deplorable condition). Buchanan distrusted Scott (the two had long been political adversaries) and ignored his recommendations. After Lincoln's election, Buchanan directed War Secretary Floyd to reinforce southern forts with such provisions, arms and men as were available; however, Floyd convinced him to revoke the order.
With Lincoln's victory, talk of secession and disunion reached a boiling point. Buchanan was forced to address it in his final message to Congress. Both factions awaited news of how Buchanan would deal with the question. In his message, Buchanan denied the legal right of states to secede but held that the federal government legally could not prevent them. He placed the blame for the crisis solely on "intemperate interference of the Northern people with the question of slavery in the Southern States", and suggested that if they did not "repeal their unconstitutional and obnoxious enactments ... the injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union." Buchanan's only suggestion to solve the crisis was "an explanatory amendment" reaffirming the constitutionality of slavery in the states, the fugitive slave laws, and "popular sovereignty in the territories. His address was sharply criticized both by the north, for its refusal to stop secession, and the south, for denying its right to secede. Five days after the address was delivered, Treasury Secretary "Howell Cobb resigned, feeling that his views and the President's had become irreconcilable.
South Carolina, long the most radical southern state, "declared its secession on December 20, 1860. However, unionist sentiment remained strong among many in the South, and Buchanan sought to appeal to the southern moderates who might prevent secession in other states. He proposed passage of constitutional amendments protecting slavery in the states and territories. He also met with South Carolinian commissioners in an attempt to resolve the situation at "Fort Sumter, which federal forces remained in control of despite its location in "Charleston, South Carolina. He refused to dismiss Interior Secretary Jacob Thompson after the latter was chosen as Mississippi's agent to discuss secession, and he refused to fire Secretary of War John B. Floyd despite an embezzlement scandal, though the latter did eventually resign. Before resigning, Floyd sent numerous firearms to southern states, where they would eventually fall into the hands of the Confederacy. Despite Floyd's resignation, Buchanan continued to meet to receive advice from counselors from the Deep South, including "Jefferson Davis and "William Henry Trescot, who informed the South Carolina government about the content of his conversations with Buchanan. Other southern sympathizers also leaked the administration's plans.
Efforts were made by statesmen such as Sen. "John J. Crittenden, Rep. "Thomas Corwin, and former president "John Tyler to negotiate a compromise to stop secession, with Buchanan's support; all failed. Failed efforts to compromise were also made by a group of governors meeting in New York. Buchanan employed a last-minute tactic, in secret, to bring a solution. He attempted in vain to procure President-elect Lincoln's call for a constitutional convention or national referendum to resolve the issue of slavery. Lincoln declined.
Despite the efforts of Buchanan and others, six more "slave states had seceded by the end of January 1861. Buchanan replaced the departed southern cabinet members with "John Adams Dix, "Edwin M. Stanton, and "Joseph Holt, all of whom were committed to preserving the union. When Buchanan considered surrendering Fort Sumter, the new cabinet members threatened to resign, and Buchanan changed his position. On January 5, Buchanan finally decided to reinforce Fort Sumter, sending the Star of the West with 250 men and supplies. However, Buchanan failed to ask Major "Robert Anderson to provide covering fire for the ship, and it was forced to return North without delivering troops or supplies. Buchanan chose not to respond to this act of war, and instead sought to find a compromise to avoid secession. On March 3, a message from Anderson reached Buchanan stating that Anderson's supplies were running low. But on March 4, Buchanan was succeeded by Lincoln, who was left to deal with the emerging sectional crisis that eventually became the "American Civil War.
- March 2, 1861: Congress approved an amendment to the "United States Constitution that would shield "domestic institutions" of the states (which in 1861 included slavery) from the constitutional amendment process and from abolition or interference by Congress, and submitted it to the "state legislatures for "ratification. (Note: This amendment, commonly known as the "Corwin Amendment, has not been ratified by the requisite number of states to become part of the Constitution, and is still pending before the states.)
States admitted to the Union
Three new states were "admitted to the Union while Buchanan was in office:
Buchanan considered the essence of good self-government to be founded on restraint. The constitution he considered to be "...restraints, imposed not by arbitrary authority, but by the people upon themselves and their representatives.... In an enlarged view, the people's interests may seem identical, but "to the eye of local and sectional prejudice, they always appear to be conflicting ... and the jealousies that will perpetually arise can be repressed only by the mutual forbearance which pervades the constitution."
One of the greatest issues of the day was "tariffs. Buchanan condemned both "free trade and prohibitive tariffs, since either would benefit one section of the country to the detriment of the other. As the senator from Pennsylvania, he said: "I am viewed as the strongest advocate of protection in other states, whilst I am denounced as its enemy in Pennsylvania."
Buchanan, like many of his time, was torn between his desire to expand the country for the benefit of all and his insistence on guaranteeing to the people settling the expanded areas their rights, including slavery. On territorial expansion, he said, "What, sir? Prevent the people from crossing the "Rocky Mountains? You might just as well command the "Niagara not to flow. We must fulfill our destiny." On the resulting spread of slavery, through unconditional expansion, he stated: "I feel a strong repugnance by any act of mine to extend the present limits of the Union over a new slave-holding territory." For instance, he hoped the acquisition of Texas would "be the means of limiting, not enlarging, the dominion of slavery".
Nevertheless, in deference to the intentions of the typical slaveholder, he was quick to provide the benefit of much doubt. In his third annual message, Buchanan claimed that the slaves were "treated with kindness and humanity.... Both the philanthropy and the self-interest of the master have combined to produce this humane result."
Historian Kenneth Stampp wrote: "Shortly after his election, he assured a southern Senator that the 'great object' of his administration would be 'to arrest, if possible, the agitation of the Slavery question in the North and to destroy sectional parties. Should a kind "Providence enable me to succeed in my efforts to restore harmony to the Union, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain.' In the northern anti-slavery idiom of his day, Buchanan was often considered a "doughface", a northern man with southern principles."
Buchanan also felt that "this question of domestic slavery is the weak point in our institutions, touch this question seriously ... and the Union is from that moment dissolved. Although in Pennsylvania we are all opposed to slavery in the abstract, we can never violate the constitutional compact we have with our sister states. Their rights will be held sacred by us. Under the constitution it is their own question; and there let it remain."
Buchanan was irked that the abolitionists, in his view, were preventing the solution to the slavery problem. He stated, "Before [the abolitionists] commenced this agitation, a very large and growing party existed in several of the slave states in favor of the gradual abolition of slavery; and now not a voice is heard there in support of such a measure. The abolitionists have postponed the emancipation of the slaves in three or four states for at least half a century."
Near the end of his administration, he had a serious exchange with the Rev. William Paxton. After what Paxton described as quite a probative discussion, Buchanan said, " Well, sir ... I hope I am a Christian. I have much of the experience you have described, and as soon as I retire, I will unite with the "Presbyterian Church." Paxton asked why he delayed, to which he replied, "I must delay for the honor of religion. If I were to unite with the church now, they would say 'hypocrite' from Maine to Georgia."
The Civil War erupted within two months of Buchanan's retirement. He supported the United States, writing to former colleagues that "the assault upon Sumter was the commencement of war by the Confederate states, and no alternative was left but to prosecute it with vigor on our part". He also wrote a letter to his fellow Pennsylvania Democrats, urging them to "join the many thousands of brave & patriotic volunteers who are already in the field".
Buchanan spent most of his remaining years defending himself from public blame for the Civil War, which was even referred to by some as "Buchanan's War". He began receiving angry and threatening letters daily, and stores displayed Buchanan's likeness with the eyes inked red, a noose drawn around his neck and the word "TRAITOR" written across his forehead. The Senate proposed a resolution of condemnation which ultimately failed, and newspapers accused him of colluding with the Confederacy. His former cabinet members, five of whom had been given jobs in the Lincoln administration, refused to defend Buchanan publicly.
Initially so disturbed by the attacks that he fell ill and depressed, Buchanan finally began defending himself in October 1862, in an exchange of letters between himself and "Winfield Scott that was published in the "National Intelligencer newspaper. He soon began writing his fullest public defense, in the form of his memoir Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of Rebellion, which was published in 1866.
Buchanan caught a cold in May 1868, which quickly worsened due to his advanced age. He died on June 1, 1868, from "respiratory failure at the age of 77 at his home at "Wheatland and was interred in "Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.
The only president to remain a bachelor, Buchanan's personal life has attracted great historical interest. In 1818, Buchanan met Anne Caroline Coleman at a grand ball at Lancaster's White Swan Inn, and the two began courting. Anne was the daughter of the wealthy iron manufacturing businessman (and protective father) Robert Coleman and sister-in-law of Philadelphia judge "Joseph Hemphill, one of Buchanan's colleagues from the House of Representatives. By 1819, the two were engaged, but could spend little time together; Buchanan was extremely busy with his law firm and political projects during the "Panic of 1819, which took him away from Coleman for weeks at a time. Conflicting rumors abounded, suggesting that he was marrying her for her money, because his own family was less affluent, or that he was involved with other women. Buchanan never publicly spoke of his motives or feelings, but letters from Anne revealed she was paying heed to the rumors.
After Buchanan visited a friend's wife, Coleman broke off the engagement. She died suddenly soon afterward, on December 9, 1819. The records of a Dr. Chapman, who looked after her in her final hours, and who commented just after her death that it was "the first instance he ever knew of "hysteria producing death", reveal that he theorized, despite the absence of any valid evidence, that she had overdosed on "laudanum, a concentrated tincture of opium. In a letter to her father, Buchanan asked to attend the funeral, and wrote that "I feel happiness has fled from me forever"; Coleman's father refused permission.
After Coleman's death, Buchanan never courted another woman or seemed to show any emotional or physical interest; a rumor circulated of an affair with President "James K. Polk's widow, "Sarah Childress Polk, but it had no basis. It has been suggested that Anne's death in fact served to deflect awkward questions about his sexuality and bachelorhood. While his biographers such as Jean Baker argue that Buchanan was "asexual or "celibate, several writers have put forth arguments that he was "homosexual or "bisexual, including sociologist "James W. Loewen, and authors Robert P. Watson and Shelley Ross.
A source of this interest has been Buchanan's close and intimate relationship with "William Rufus King (who became Vice President under "Franklin Pierce). The two men lived together in a Washington boardinghouse for 10 years from 1834 until King's departure for France in 1844. King referred to the relationship as a "communion", and the two attended social functions together. Contemporaries also noted the closeness. Andrew Jackson called them "Miss Nancy" and "Aunt Fancy" (the former being a 19th-century euphemism for an effeminate man), while "Aaron V. Brown referred to King as Buchanan's "better half". James W. Loewen described Buchanan and King as "Siamese twins". In later years, Catherine Thompson, the wife of cabinet member "Jacob Thompson, expressed her anxiety that "there was something unhealthy in the president's attitude".
Buchanan adopted King's mannerisms and romanticized view of southern culture. Both had strong political ambitions, and in 1844 they planned to run as president and vice president. Author Robert Thompson described them both as soft, effeminate, and eccentric. In May 1844, Buchanan wrote to "Cornelia Roosevelt, "I am now 'solitary and alone', having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection."
King became ill in 1853 and died of tuberculosis shortly after Pierce's inauguration, four years before Buchanan became President. Buchanan described him as "among the best, the purest and most consistent public men I have known." While author Jean Baker indicated in her biography of Buchanan that his and King's nieces may have destroyed some correspondence between Buchanan and King, she also stated that the length and intimacy of their surviving letters illustrate only "the affection of a special friendship."
During Buchanan's presidency, his orphaned niece, "Harriet Lane, whom he had adopted, served as official White House hostess.
The day before his death, Buchanan predicted that "history will vindicate my memory". Historians have defied that prediction and criticize Buchanan for his unwillingness or inability to act in the face of secession. "Historical rankings of United States Presidents, considering presidential achievements, leadership qualities, failures and faults, consistently place Buchanan among the least successful presidents. When scholars are surveyed he ranks close to the bottom in terms of vision/agenda-setting, domestic leadership, foreign policy leadership, moral authority and positive historical significance of their legacy.
Buchanan biographer Philip Klein explains the challenges Buchanan faced:
Buchanan assumed leadership ... when an unprecedented wave of angry passion was sweeping over the nation. That he held the hostile sections in check during these revolutionary times was in itself a remarkable achievement. His weaknesses in the stormy years of his presidency were magnified by enraged partisans of the North and South. His many talents, which in a quieter era might have gained for him a place among the great presidents, were quickly overshadowed by the cataclysmic events of civil war and by the towering Abraham Lincoln."
Buchanan never had a strong reputation.["citation needed] Years before Buchanan won the White House, President "James K. Polk confided to his diary: "Mr. Buchanan is an able man, but is in small matter without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid." The National Intelligencer, a leading opposition newspaper, ridiculed Buchanan on January 24, 1859, for his follies as president, citing a series of his "magnificent" proposals that all failed:
We must retrench the extravagant list of magnificent schemes which received the sanction of the Executive ... the great Napoleon himself, with all the resources of an empire at his sole command, never ventured the simultaneous accomplishments of so many daring projects. The acquisition of Cuba ... ; the construction of a Pacific Railroad ... ; a Mexican protectorate, the international preponderance in Central America, in spite of all the powers of Europe; the submission of distant South American states; ... the enlargement of the Navy; a largely increased standing Army ... what government on earth could possibly meet all the exigencies of such a flood of innovations?
A bronze and granite memorial residing near the southeast corner of Washington, D.C.'s "Meridian Hill Park was designed by architect William Gorden Beecher and sculpted by Maryland artist "Hans Schuler. Commissioned in 1916 but not approved by the "U.S. Congress until 1918, and not completed and unveiled until June 26, 1930, the memorial features a statue of Buchanan bookended by male and female classical figures representing law and diplomacy, with the engraved text reading: "The incorruptible statesman whose walk was upon the mountain ranges of the law", a quote from a member of Buchanan's cabinet, "Jeremiah S. Black.["citation needed]
The memorial in the nation's capital complemented an earlier monument, constructed in 1907–08 and dedicated in 1911, on the site of Buchanan's birthplace in "Stony Batter, Pennsylvania. Part of the original 18.5-acre (75,000 m2) memorial site is a 250-ton pyramid structure which stands on the site of the original cabin where Buchanan was born. The monument was designed to show the original weathered surface of the native rubble and mortar.
Three counties are named in his honor: "Buchanan County, Iowa, "Buchanan County, Missouri, and "Buchanan County, Virginia. Another in Texas was christened in 1858 but renamed "Stephens County, after the newly elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America, "Alexander Stephens, in 1861. The city of "Buchanan, Michigan was also named after him. Several other communities are named after him: the unincorporated community of "Buchanan, Indiana, the city of "Buchanan, Georgia, the town of "Buchanan, Wisconsin, and the townships of "Buchanan Township, Michigan, and Buchanan Township, Missouri.
- "Historical rankings of United States Presidents
- "List of Presidents of the United States
- "List of Presidents of the United States, sort-able by previous experience
- "Presidential Dollar
- "U.S. Presidents on U.S. postage stamps
- "List of federal political sex scandals in the United States
- Klein 1962, p. xviii.
- Dunbar, Elizabeth (February 19, 2006). "Scholars Rate 10 Worst Presidential Mistakes". Shreveport Times. Shreveport, LA. Associated Press. p. 10. (subscription required (. ))
- "Buchanan Family 1430 – 1903". ancestry.com. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Baker 2004, pp. 9-12.
- "The James Buchanan Hotel, Pub & Restaurant – A Brief History". Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Baker 2004, pp. 12.
- Klein 1962, pp. 9–12.
- Baker 2004, pp. 13-16.
- Curtis 1883, p. 22.
- Baker 2004, p. 18.
- Baker 2004, pp. 17-18.
- Buchanan, James; Moore, John Bassett, editor (1911). The Works of James Buchanan. 12. Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company. p. 294.
- O'Brien, Marco. "Military trivia facts". Military.com. Military Advantage, a division of Monster Worldwide. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
Only one President (James Buchanan) served as an enlisted man in the military and did not go on to become an officer.
- Klein 1962, p. 27.
- Baker 2004, pp. 23-30.
- Baker 2004, pp. 30-31.
- Baker 2004, pp. 30-38.
- Baker 2004, pp. 38-43.
- Baker 2004, pp. 43-51.
- Klein 1962, p. 210, 415.
- Baker 2004, pp. 51-58.
- Baker 2004, pp. 58-65.
- McPherson 1988, p. 110.
- Tucker 2009, pp. 456–57.
- Baker 2004, pp. 67-68.
- Klein 1962, pp. 248–252.
- Baker 2004, pp. 69-70.
- Baker 2004, pp. 70-73.
- Klein 1962, pp. 261–262.
- Chadwick 2008, p. 48.
- Baker 2004, pp. 80–83, 85.
- Baker 2004, pp. 77-80.
- Baker 2004, pp. 86-88.
- Klein 1962, p. 316.
- Klein 1962, pp. 271–272.
- Hall 2001, p. 566.
- Baker 2004, pp. 83–84.
- Armitage et al. 2005, p. 388.
- Baker 2004, p. 85.
- Baker 2004, pp. 85-86.
- Baker 2004, p. 90.
- Klein 1962, pp. 314–315.
- Baker 2004, pp. 90-91.
- Klein 1962, p. 317.
- Baker 2004, pp. 92-93.
- Baker 2004, pp. 93-98.
- Potter 1976, pp. 297–327.
- Baker 2004, pp. 97-100.
- Baker 2004, pp. 100-105.
- Baker 2004, pp. 120-121.
- Chadwick 2008, p. 91.
- Chadwick 2008, p. 117.
- Klein 1962, pp. 286–299.
- Klein 1962, p. 312.
- Baker 2004, pp. 117-118.
- Baker 2004, pp. 107-112.
- Klein 1962, p. 338.
- Klein 1962, pp. 338–9.
- Grossman 2003, p. 78.
- Baker 2004, pp. 114–118.
- Klein 1962, p. 339.
- Baker 2004, pp. 118-120.
- Klein 1962, pp. 356–358.
- Baker 2004, pp. 76, 133.
- "James Buchanan, Fourth Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union, December 3, 1860". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Buchanan (1860)
- Klein 1962, p. 363.
- "The Resignation of Secretary Cobb. The Correspondence.". The New York Times. December 14, 1860.
- Baker 2004, pp. 123-134.
- Klein 1962, pp. 381–387.
- Baker 2004, pp. 135-140.
- Huckabee, David C. (September 30, 1997). "Ratification of Amendments to the U.S. Constitution" (PDF). "Congressional Research Service reports. Washington D.C.: "Congressional Research Service, The "Library of Congress.
- "Today in History: May 11". loc.gov. Library of Congress.
- "Oregon". A+E Networks Corp. Retrieved February 16, 2017.
- "Today in History: January 29". loc.gov. Library of Congress.
- Klein 1962, p. 143.
- Klein 1962, p. 144.
- Klein 1962, p. 147.
- "Third Annual Message (December 19, 1859)". The Miller Center at the University of Virginia. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Stampp 1990, p. 48.
- Klein 1962, p. 150.
- Klein 1962, pp. 349–350.
- Birkner, Michael (September 20, 2005). "Buchanan's Civil War". Archived from the original on October 19, 2011. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
- Klein 1962, pp. 408–413.
- Klein 1962, pp. 417–418.
- Baker 2004, pp. 142-143.
- Baker 2004, pp. 25-26.
- Boertlein, John (2010). Presidential Confidential: Sex, Scandal, Murder and Mayhem in the Oval Office. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press. p. 101. "ISBN "978-1-57860-361-9.
- Klein 1955.
- Charles Dunn, The scarlet thread of scandal: Morality and the American presidency, Maryland, 2001
- Sandburg, Carl (1939). Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. 1. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & Company. p. 22.
- Watson 2012["page needed]
- Baker 2004, p. 26.
- Loewen, Jim (May 14, 2012). "Our real first gay president". Salon. Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved February 19, 2014.
- Ross 1988, pp. 86–91: Today there is evidence that President James Buchanan was a homosexual.
- Watson 2012, p. 233.
- The Wordsworth Book of Euphemisms by Judith S. Neaman and Carole G. Silver (Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire)
- Baker 2004, p. 75.
- Baker 2004, pp. 25–26.
- "Harriet Lane". The White House – Our First Ladies. The White House. Retrieved 11 May 2013.
- "Buchanan's Birthplace State Park". Pennsylvania State Parks. Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 2009-03-28.
- Tolson, Jay (February 16, 2007). "The 10 Worst Presidents". "U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
- Hines, Nico (October 28, 2008). "The 10 worst presidents to have held office". The Times. London. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
- "The top US presidents: First poll of UK experts". BBC News. January 17, 2011.
- Klein 1962, p. 429.
- "James K. Polk, Polk: The Diary of a President 1845–1849, ed. Allan Nevins (London: Longmans, Green, 1929, p. 355 (February 27, 1849), quoted in Walter R. Borneman, Polk: The Man Who Transformed the Presidency and America. New York: Random House, 2008 "ISBN 978-1-4000-6560-8, p. 335.
- Chadwick 2008, pp. 251–52.
- "Buchanan's Birthplace State Park". Retrieved 2012-06-04.
- Beatty 2001, p. 310.
- Hoogterp, Edward (2006). West Michigan Almanac, p. 168. The University of Michigan Press & The Petoskey Publishing Company.
- Baker, Jean H. (2004). James Buchanan. New York: Times Books. "ISBN "0-8050-6946-1. excerpt and text search
- Curtis, George Ticknor (1883). Life of James Buchanan: Fifteenth President of the United States. 2. Harper & Brothers.  
- Klein, Philip S. (1962). President James Buchanan: A Biography (1995 ed.). Newtown, Connecticut: American Political Biography Press. "ISBN "0-945707-11-8.
- Nevins, Allan (1950). The Emergence of Lincoln: Douglas, Buchanan, and Party Chaos, 1857–1859. New York: Scribner. "ISBN "9780684104157.
- Potter, David Morris (1976). The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. New York: Harper & Row. "ISBN "9780060905248. Pulitzer prize.
- Rhodes, James Ford (1906). History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the End of the Roosevelt Administration. 2. Macmillan.
- Stampp, Kenneth M. (1990). America in 1857: A Nation on the Brink. New York: Oxford University Press. "ISBN "9780195074819.
- Watson, Robert P. (2012). Affairs of State: The Untold History of Presidential Love, Sex, and Scandal, 1789–1900. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. "ISBN "9781442218369.
- McPherson, James M. (1988). Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford: Oxford University Press. "ISBN "9780199743902.
- Tucker, Spencer C., ed. (2009). The Encyclopedia of the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History: A Political, Social, and Military History. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO. "ISBN "9781851099528.
- Chadwick, Bruce (2008). 1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See. Sourcebooks, Inc. "ISBN "140220941X.
- Hall, Timothy L. (2001). Supreme Court justices: a biographical dictionary. New York, NY: Infobase Publishing. "ISBN "978-0-8153-1176-8.
- Armitage, Susan H.; Faragher, John Mack; "Buhle, Mari Jo; Czitrom, Daniel J. (2005). Out of Many, TLC Combined, Revised Printing (4th Edition). Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice Hall. "ISBN "0-13-195130-0.
- Grossman, Mark (2003). Political Corruption in America: An Encyclopedia of Scandals, Power, and Greed. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. "ISBN "1-57607-060-3.
- Ross, Shelley (1988). Fall from Grace: Sex, Scandal, and Corruption in American Politics from 1702 to the Present. New York, NY: Ballantine Books. "ISBN "978-0-345-35381-8.
- Beatty, Michael A. (2001). County Name Origins of the United States. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. "ISBN "0-7864-1025-6.
- Klein, Philip Shriver (December 1955). "The Lost Love of a Bachelor President". American Heritage Magazine. 7 (1). Retrieved 2012-11-29.
- Buchanan, James. Fourth Annual Message to Congress. (1860, December 3).
- Buchanan, James. Mr Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion (1866)
- National Intelligencer (1859)
- Binder, Frederick Moore. "James Buchanan: Jacksonian Expansionist" Historian 1992 55(1): 69–84. ISSN 0018-2370 Full text: in Ebsco
- Binder, Frederick Moore. James Buchanan and the American Empire. Susquehanna U. Press, 1994.
- Birkner, Michael J., ed. James Buchanan and the Political Crisis of the 1850s. Susquehanna U. Press, 1996.
- Boulard, Garry. The Worst President--The Story of James Buchanan iUniverse, 2015. "ISBN 978-1-4917-5961-5.
- Meerse, David. "Buchanan, the Patronage, and the Lecompton Constitution: a Case Study" Civil War History 1995 41(4): 291–312. ISSN 0009-8078
- "Nevins, Allan. The Emergence of Lincoln 2 vols. (1960) highly detailed narrative of his presidency
- Nichols, Roy Franklin; The Democratic Machine, 1850–1854 (1923), detailed narrative; online
- Quist, John W. and Birkner, Michael J. (eds.), james Buchanan and the Coming of the Civil War. Gainesville, FL: University Press of Florida, 2013.
- Rhodes, James Ford History of the United States from the Compromise of 1850 to the McKinley-Bryan Campaign of 1896 vol 2. (1892)
- Silbey, Joel H. (2014). A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents 1837–1861. Wiley. pp 397–464
- Smith, Elbert B. The Presidency of James Buchanan (1975). "ISBN 0-7006-0132-5, standard history of his administration
- "Updike, John Buchanan Dying: A Play (1974). "ISBN 0-394-49042-8, "ISBN 0-8117-0238-3, containing an 80-page historical "Afterword" that discusses sources, etc.
|""||"Wikisource has original works written by or about:
|""||Wikiquote has quotations related to: James Buchanan|
|""||Wikimedia Commons has media related to James Buchanan.|
- United States Congress. "James Buchanan (id: B001005)". "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- James Buchanan: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress
- Biography of James Buchanan (Official "White House site)
- The James Buchanan papers, spanning the entirety of his legal, political and diplomatic career, are available for research use at the "Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- University of Virginia article: Buchanan biography
- James Buchanan at "Tulane University
- Essay on James Buchanan and shorter essays on each member of his cabinet and First Lady from the "Miller Center of Public Affairs
- Buchanan's Birthplace State Park, Franklin County, Pennsylvania
- "Life Portrait of James Buchanan", from "C-SPAN's "American Presidents: Life Portraits, June 21, 1999
- Works by James Buchanan at "Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about James Buchanan at "Internet Archive
- James Buchanan Ill with Dysentery Before Inauguration: Original Letters Shapell Manuscript Foundation
- Mr. Buchanans Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. President Buchanans memoirs.
- Inaugural Address
- Fourth Annual Message to Congress, December 3, 1860