Birthday: April 23, 1791
Died At Age: 77
Sun Sign: Taurus
Born in: Cove Gap
Famous as: 15th U.S. President
Quotes By James Buchanan
political ideology: Democratic
father: James Buchanan Sr.
mother: Elizabeth Spear
siblings: b. 1793, d. 1791), d. 1839), d. 1849), d. 19-Dec-1826), d. 23-Jan-1840), d. 25-Jan-1895), d. 26-Sep-1832), d. 27-Jan-1825), d. 28-Aug-1801), d. 30-May-1811, d. 5-Dec-1804), Edward Young Buchanan (minister, Elizabeth Buchanan (b. 8-Mar-1800, Elizabeth Jane Buchanan Lane (Lane, George Washington Buchanan (b. 16-Apr-1808, Harriet Buchanan Henry (b. 5-Aug-1802, John Buchanan (b. 24-Nov-1804, Maria Buchanan Magaw Johnson Yates Fronk (b. 17-Dec-1795, Mary Buchanan (b. 1789, Sarah Buchanan Houston (b. 4-Nov-1797, William Speer Buchanan (b. 2-Oct-1805
Died on: June 1, 1868
place of death: Lancaster
education: Dickinson College (1809)
Who was James Buchanan?
During one of the most difficult phases in American history, when old resolved issues, were once again getting complicated James Buchanan Jr. came to power as the 15th President of the United States of America. Till date he remains the only president, who hailed from the state of Pennsylvania and stayed a bachelor his entire life. He also has the distinction of being the last American President, who had an eighteenth century birth date. His succession to the presidency renewed the hope of the optimists, who believed that a compromise could be reached on the issue of slavery, which was pushing the country to the brink of national crisis. However, he was not able to live up to these high hopes and in his efforts to broker peace, ended up alienating both northern and southern states. By the time he finished his term in the White House, the Southern States had announced their secession, breaking the Union. This further thickened the chances of an impending Civil War. His inability to maintain peace has led most of the historians to place him in the list of worst American Presidents. To know more about this man, known as the "doughface", read this biography.
Childhood & Early Life
Born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, James Buchanan was the second oldest of the eleven children of James Sr. and Elizabeth.
His father was a well established merchant, whereas his mother was an educated woman, this ensured that he got better opportunities than most other people of his time.
He received his early education in his village at the Old Stone Academy and later enrolled at Dickinson College from where he graduated with honors in 1809.
After graduation he went to Lancaster, Pennsylvania to gain proficiency in law and was granted admission to the bar in 1812.
He was an ardent Federalist and was not in favor of the United States going to war in 1812; however, when British troops marched into the neighboring Maryland, he joined the defense force created to protect Baltimore.
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Buchanan’s long political career began in 1814, when he won an election and became the member of Pennsylvania House of Representatives as a delegate of the Federalist Party.
Later from 1821 to 1831, he served back to back five successive terms as the member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
In 1832, Buchanan was appointed as American envoy to Russia by the then President Andrew Jackson. This posting gave Buchanan a chance to showcase his diplomatic skills.
He returned back to America in 1834 and contested for a Senate seat as a Democrat and won.
He served as a Senator for almost 10 years till 1845, when he resigned from the post, as he had been made the Secretary of State by the then President James K. Polk.
He made his first bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1852 but lost to Franklin Pierce.
In 1853, Buchanan was appointed as the minister to England by Franklin Pierce, after he became the American President. He held this position until 1856.
Buchanan successfully ran for the presidency in 1856, and was formerly sworn in as the 15th President of the United States, on March 4, 1857.
He won the presidential election with a huge margin against the Republican candidate John C. Fremont, as he was supported by the Southern States.
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The historians point his inaugural speech, in which Buchanan stated that he would resolve the north and south divide “speedily and finally”, as a flawed and misleading approach to the problem.
Between 1857 and 1860, Buchanan tried to resolve the unrest caused in Kansas, due to the slavery issue, however not much success could be achieved.Despite various efforts made by him on December 20, 1860, the first state, which was South Carolina, seceded from the Union.
Following the trend, six more states opted out of the Union by February of 1861 and formed the Confederate States of America.
Buchanan retired from the presidential post on March 3, 1861; at this time the country had a federal deficit of $17 million and was standing on the brink of civil war.
Personal Life & Legacy
He was engaged to be married to Ann Caroline Coleman in 1819, who was the heiress of a wealthy businessman who dealt in iron.
Ann broke off the engagement, due to long absences on Buchanan’s part and rumor mills linking him to a number of other women.
Highly depressed, she died on December 9, 1819 and her family held Buchanan responsible and hence he was not allowed to attend her funeral. As a result he vowed never to get married, a promise he kept till the end.
He died as a result of respiratory failure at his home in Wheatland, at the age of 77. His remains were buried in Lancaster, at Woodward Hill Cemetery.
On June 26, 1930 a bronze and granite memorial dedicated to Buchanan was unveiled at the corner of Washington, D.C.'s Meridian Hill Park.
Three counties have been given Buchanan’s namesake, one in Iowa, and other in Missouri and another in Virginia.
He was the only unmarried president in the history of the United States of America. During his presidency, the responsibilities of the first lady were essayed by his niece Harriet Lane.
He has the distinction of being the last American President, who had an eighteenth century birth date.
He was personally against slavery and at times bought slaves so that he could set them free.
After his retirement, he went into depression, since he could not handle the large-scale criticism meted out to him by the masses, however later he began to defend himself.
He published a memoir in 1866, in which he blamed the Civil War on abolitionists and Republicans.