James Buchanan was the final president born in the 18th century and the only president from Pennsylvania. On April 23, 1971, he was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania to Elizabeth and James Buchanan Sr. His parents were an immigrant from Ireland and owned a mercantile in rural Pennsylvania. He had eleven siblings and was the second oldest.
He attended the Old Stone Academy during his formative years due to his mother’s interest in education. Then, at the age of sixteen, he moved to Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. It was seventy miles away from home. James Buchanan was rowdy and nearly suspended and expelled from school over disciplinary and behavior matters. Eventually, he graduated with honors in 1809.
James Buchanan immediately began studying law and was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar in 1813. He started practicing law in Lancaster. Soon after, James Buchanan had the opportunity to put his college rowdiness as he was called to serve and defend the nation during 1812. He was assigned to protect Baltimore; however, he never saw any combat or action.
As James Buchanan returned to the Lancaster area, he continued to his law career. He exhibited a remarkable skill and talent in the courtroom, which enables him to accumulate his fortune.
At the age of 23, James Buchanan was elected as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He was able to maintain his law practice and served as a legislator from 1814 until 1819.
By the time he ended his service as a legislator, James Buchanan had met Ann Caroline Coleman. She came from a family of a wealthy businessman who began the Pennsylvania iron trade. However, Anne’s family much opposed their relationship. Many speculated that James Buchanan was only interested in her family fortune, but he owned a sizable amount of wealth he made for himself because of his career. There are also claims that he had an affair that resulted in Anne’s decision to break off their engagement. She died a few days after she sent the letter to James. Her family blamed him for the untimely death of Anne and prohibited him from attending the funeral.
Due to the tragedy he experienced, James Buchanan never married for the rest of his life, making him the first and only bachelor president. He found refuge in his work to grieve over Anne’s tragic death. James Buchanan became ambitious and aimed for a seat in the United States’ House of Representatives. He was triumphant and won the position in the Congress. He served from 1821 until 1831.
He served in the House of Judiciary Committee as he made a notable performance as a constitutional lawyer. The Federalist Party was thriving, and he was left with no choice but to be drawn towards Andrew Jackson, a charismatic war hero, and began assembling the Democratic Party.
James Buchanan supported the emerging movement and was appointed to become the leader in Pennsylvania. However, Andrew Jackson suspected that James Buchanan was part of the “corrupt bargain,” but he remained a loyal supporter of Andrew Jackson despite all of this. To redeem himself, he aided him to win the presidential election, and after the second term, he was commissioned to be the Minister to Russia.
James Buchanan was an efficient and effective foreign minister. His magnificent negotiating and reasoning skills enabled him to pursue an agreement between the United States and Russia. As he returned to Washington in 1833, he was elected as a United States senator.
His time as a senator, slavery became a pressing issue. He objects slavery but sees abolitionists as troublemakers. James Buchanan also believed that they are a threat to the Union. He remained sympathetic to the interests of the Southerners, especially related to slavery matters.
He held the position of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Senate because of his diplomatic experience. Soon, James Buchanan became one of the most prominent and influential senators by the end of his term. From then on, James Buchanan aspired to office in the White House; however, the Democrats nominated James K. Polk. Soon, President Polk appointed James Buchanan as his Secretary of State.
Despite his opposition to James Polk’s demand to get the farthest northern boundary of Oregon from the British, he still prepared a legal document to support the claim. James Buchanan then diligently encouraged a compromise between the president and the British to prevent further armed wars. Also, during the Mexican-American War, he supported the final peace treaty. The war gave birth to new heroes out of victorious generals, and one of them was Zachary Taylor, who ran under the Whig Party.
The president was under the Whig Party, so James Buchanan took a break from politics and returned to Pennsylvania. From then, he plotted to win the Democratic nomination for the 1852 campaign. One of his contenders was Stephen A. Douglas, who possesses a tremendous political talent. Eventually, the Democrats decided to nominate Franklin Pierce for the presidential race and denied James Buchanan presidency, again.
Franklin Pierce included James Buchanan in his administration as a foreign minister. It helped him kept his political reputation unblemished because of the troubled administration of Franklin Pierce, but it does not mean he was free from controversy. The attempt to devise a plan to purchase or conquer Cuba for agriculture and expansion failed after the Ostend Manifesto was publicized.
Because of his political and diplomatic experience, James Buchanan became an attractive political asset after the Kansas-Nebraska Act poisoned the reputation of those who supported it. He became the Democrat’s presidential candidate and chose to use the traditional approach in his campaign.
James Buchanan successfully defeated John C. Fremont in 1856 and swore as the United States’ fifteenth president on March 4, 1857.