15th U.S. President: James Buchanan

About the fifteenth President of the United States James Buchanan, his birth, death, biography, description, facts and quotes.

15th President JAMES BUCHANAN

Born: April 23, 1791, Cove Gap, Pa.

Died: June 1, 1868, at his mansion "Wheatland" near Lancaster, Pa.

Career: Graduate of Dickinson College, prosperous lawyer, member of the Pennsylvania State legislature, congressman, Ambassador to Russia, senator, Secretary of State, Ambassador to Britain. Three times (1844, 1848, and 1852) Buchanan tried unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Personal Life: When Buchanan was 28, his fiancee committed suicide following a lover's quarrel. This experience scarred him permanently, and though he enjoyed the company of beautiful women, he never married. For many years his niece, Miss Harriet Lane--a statuesque blonde with violet eyes--lived with him and acted as his official hostess.

His Person: Heavyset, nearly 6' tall. His sight was uneven (one eye nearsighted and the other farsighted) so he always held his head at a tilt, cocked down and to one side.

Election: On his 4th try, at age 65, Buchanan finally won the Democratic presidential nomination. His chief opponent in the general election of 1856 was the candidate of the newly organized Republican party, John C. Fremont. Former President Millard Fillmore was the candidate of the anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant "Know Nothing" party. Buchanan won only a minority of the popular vote (45%--to 33% for Fremont and 22% for Fillmore), but in the Electoral College he triumphed over his 2 opponents--174 to their 114 and 8 respectively.

Term of Office: March 4, 1857-March 4, 1861 (4 years). Buchanan's obvious pro-Southern bias in the bitter conflicts over slavery extension made him unpopular, and he did not try for reelection.

Little-Known Facts: Buchanan's niece and hostess, the stunning Harriet Lane, was more popular than her President-uncle. The well-known song "Listen to the Mocking Bird" was one of dozens of popular entertainments dedicated to her.

Quotes from Buchanan:

"There are portions of the Union in which if you emancipate your slaves they will become your masters. Is there any man who would for a moment indulge the horrible idea of abolishing slavery by the massacre of the chivalrous race of men in the south?"

"Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that I at least meant well for my country."

Quote about Him:

"By half measures, evasions and stealthy approaches, by all the arts of weakness, he had gained the Presidency at just the moment when a man of all but superhuman vision and strength was needed."--Historian Allan Nevins

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