James Buchanan (1791 – 1868) [cite this] More images » Life in Brief: In the 1850s, the question of slavery divided the United States. Hopes ran high that the new President, "Old Buck," might be the man to avert national crisis. He failed entirely. During his administration, the Union broke apart, and when he… more life in brief » Essays about James Buchanan Life in Brief Life in Brief: In the 1850s, the question of slavery divided the United States. Hopes ran high that the new President, "Old Buck," might be the man to avert national crisis. He failed entirely. During his administration, the Union broke apart, and when he left office, civil war threatened. James Buchanan… Life Before the Presidency Life Before the Presidency: James Buchanan was the last President born in the eighteenth century, on April 23, 1791. Although he was born in a log cabin, his origins were far from humble. His father, for whom he was named, had emigrated from Ireland a decade before, married Elizabeth Speer, and became a successful merchant in … Campaigns and Elections Campaigns and Elections: The Campaign and Election of 1856: The Kansas-Nebraska Act had poisoned the careers of both men who had supported it—Franklin Pierce and Stephen Douglas: Douglas would be a serious contender for the Democratic nomination in 1856, with strong support from the South and the West, but he would f…Domestic Affairs Domestic Affairs: At his inauguration, James Buchanan wasted little time clarifying his stand on the all-important slavery issue. Speaking to a crowd enjoying 1,200 gallons of ice cream furnished for the occasion, he declared slavery a matter for individual states and territories to decide. The new President said…Foreign Affairs Foreign Affairs: The sectional crisis and threat of civil war meant that James Buchanan could not pursue an activist foreign policy. Virtually his entire foreign policy was focused on strengthening the influence of the United States in nations to the south of it. He told Congress in 1858, "It is, beyond questio…Life After the Presidency Life After the Presidency: Even though a comfortable private life awaited James Buchanan at his Pennsylvania home, his last years were difficult. Rightly or wrongly, considerable blame for the Civil War fell upon him. His portrait had to be removed from the Capitol to keep vandals from damaging it, and posters captioned "…Family Life Family Life: Though a bachelor, James Buchanan did not lack for family life. He had what seemed to friends like dozens of young relatives under his guardianship whom he cared for after their parents had died. A wealthy man, he was very generous to his family. Buchanan had a housekeeper named Esther "Miss He…The American Franchise The American Franchise: By the end of James Buchanan's presidency, America was home to 31.4 million people. During the decade between 1850 and 1860, the population of the U.S. grew by 26 percent, including a substantial number of immigrants, chiefly German and Irish. Speed-of-Light Communication: Several ma…Impact and Legacy Impact and Legacy: Slavery made the presidency an incredibly difficult task in the mid-19th century. The debate over it disrupted American society. In this volatile atmosphere, strong presidential leadership might have saved the nation from civil war if it had been exercised early and firmly enough to warn off rad… About His Administration First Lady Harriet Lane Vice President John C. Breckinridge (1857–1861) Secretary of State Jeremiah S. Black (1860–1861) Lewis Cass (1857–1860) Secretary of the Interior Jacob Thompson (1857–1861) Attorney General Edwin M. Stanton (1860–1861) Jeremiah S. Black (1857–1860) Postmaster General Horatio King (1861–1861) Joseph Holt (1859–1861) Aaron V. Brown (1857–1859) Secretary of the Treasury John A. Dix (1861–1861) Philip F. Thomas (1860–1861) Howell Cobb (1857–1860) Secretary of the Navy Isaac Toucey (1857–1861) Secretary of War Joseph Holt (1861–1861) John B. Floyd (1857–1860) Facts about James Buchanan Term: 15th President of the United States (1857 – 1861) Born: April 23, 1791, Cove Gap (near Mercersburg), Pennsylvania Political Party: Democrat Died: June 01, 1868 Nickname: “Old Buck” Education: Dickinson College (graduated 1809) Religion: Presbyterian Marriage: None Children: Career: Lawyer Buried: Woodward Hill Cemetery, Lancaster, Pennsylvania WritingsMr. Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion (1866); Works of James Buchanan (12 vols., 1908–1911), ed. by John Bassett Moore James Buchanan Image Gallery More images » Having determined not to become a candidate for reelection, I shall have no motive to influence my conduct in administering the Government except the desire ably and faithfully to serve my country and to live in grateful memory of my countrymen. March 4, 1857 Citation Information Consulting Editor William Cooper Professor Cooper is the Boyd Professor of History at Louisiana State University. His writings include: The American South: A History (with Thomas T. Terrill, McGraw-Hill College, 3d., 2002) Jefferson Davis: American (Alfred A. Knopf, 2000) Liberty and Slavery: Southern Politics to 1860 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1983) The South and the Politics of Slavery (Louisiana State University Press, 1978) The Conservative Regime: South Carolina, 1877–1890 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1968) Abraham Lincoln » « Franklin Pierce American President has changed! Click here to take a short survey and tell us what you think!