James Buchanan

15th President James Buchanan, 1857-186115th President James Buchanan, 1857-186115th President James Buchanan, 1857-186115th President James Buchanan, 1857-186115th President James Buchanan, 1857-1861

15th President James Buchanan, 1857-1861

15th President of the United States
(March 4, 1857 to March 3, 1861)

Nickname: "Old Buck"

Born: April 23, 1791, in Cove Gap (near Mercersburg), Pennsylvania
Died: June 1, 1868, at Wheatland (near Lancaster, Pennsylvania)

Father: James Buchanan (1761-1821)
Mother: Elizabeth Speer Buchanan (1767-1833)
Married: Never married. The White House hostess was his orphaned niece Harriet Lane.
Children: Harriett Lane (adopted) (1830-1903)

Religion: Presbyterian
Education: Graduated from Dickinson College (1809)
Occupation: Lawyer
Political Party: Democrat
Other Government Positions:

  • Member of Pennsylvania House of Representatives, 1815-16
  • Member of U.S. House of Representatives, 1821-31
  • Minister to Russia, 1832-34
  • United States Senator, 1834-45
  • Secretary of State, 1845-49 (under Polk)
  • Minister to England, 1853-56

Presidential Salary: $25,000/year

Presidential Election Results:

YearCandidatePopular VotesElectoral Votes
1856James Buchanan1,832,955174
(map)John C. Fremont1,339,932114
Millard Fillmore871,7318

Vice President: John C. Breckinridge (1857-61)


Secretary of State
Lewis Cass (1857-60)
Jeremiah S. Black (1860-61)
Secretary of the Treasury
Howell Cobb (1857-60)
Philip F. Thomas (1860-61)
John A. Dix (1861)
Secretary of War
John B. Floyd (1857-60)
Joseph Holt (1861)
Attorney General
Jeremiah S. Black (1857-60)
Edwin M. Stanton (1860-61)
Postmaster General
Aaron V. Brown (1857-59)
Joseph Holt (1859-61)
Horatio King (1861)
Secretary of the Navy
Isaac Toucey (1857-61)
Secretary of the Interior
Jacob Thompson (1857-61)

Supreme Court Justices:
Nathan Clifford (1858-1881)

Notable Events:
  • 1857
    • Two days after Buchanan's inauguration the Supreme Court ruled on the Dred Scott case.
    • The financial Panic of 1857 predominantly affected the northern economy.
  • 1859
    • John Brown led a raid on a federal armory in Harpers Ferry, Virginia in hopes of initiating a slave revolt.
  • 1860
    • The Covode Committee established to investigate corruptions in government.
    • On December 20, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.
Internet Biographies:
James Buchanan -- from The Presidents of the United States of America
Compiled by the White House.
James Buchanan -- from The American President
From the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, in addition to information on the Presidents themselves, they have first lady and cabinet member biographies, listings of presidential staff and advisers, and timelines detailing significant events in the lives of each administration.
James Buchanan -- from Encyclopaedia Britannica
Facts about Buchanan and his presidency.
Timeline: President James Buchanan -- from the LandcasterHistory.org
Interactive timeline biography.
James Buchanan -- from the James Buchanan Resource Center
Brief biography with links to more complete biographies published in the 19th centrury.
Historical Documents:
Inaugural Address (1857)
James Buchanan Digital Collections - from the Library of Congress


Other Internet Resources:
The Best Biographies of James Buchanan
In 2012, Stephen Floyd started his search for the best biography of each president. He usually has reviews of multiple biographies for each president.
Buchanan's Birthplace State Park
Park and memorial near Cove Gap, Pennsylvania
Health and Medical History of James Buchanan
Medical background of each president with references. Compiled by John Sotos, MD.
James Buchanan Memorial
Located in Meridian Hill Park in Washington, D.C.
The home of James Buchanan located near Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Tourist information, biographies of Buchanan and Harriet Lane, and information on the mansion.
Points of Interest:

Moved to Mercersburg Academy

300 East Seminary Street, Mercersburg, Pennsylvania

6235 Aughwick Road, Fort Loudon, PA 17224

Woodward Hill Cemetery

508 South Queen Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

1120 Marietta Avenue, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Additional Facts:
  • In his inaugural address, Buchanan committed to serving only one term.
  • Buchanan is the only president to have never married.
  • James K. Polk offered his Secretary of State, Buchanan, a seat on the Supreme Court. Buchanan declined.
  • Buchanan bought and freed slaves - sort of.
  • Buchanan was nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other. To compensate for his poor vision he tilted his head to the left and closed one eye.
  • Buchanan never had to shave.

“The test of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.”

“The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among freemen.”

“What is right and what is practicable are two different things.”

“I like the noise of democracy.”

Previous President: Franklin Pierce
Next President: Abraham Lincoln