In a log cabin in Cove Gap, now Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park, James Buchanan was born in Franklin County, Pennsylvania, on April 23, 1791, to James Buchanan, Sr. (1761–1833). James Buchanan, Jr. was the 15th President of the United States and was in office between 1857 and 1861. He is the only president from Pennsylvania, the only president who remained a lifelong bachelor, and the last president born in the 18th century.
In the 1856 election Buchanan was nominated. As a Minister to the Court of St. James’s throughout most of Franklin Pierce’s term he was stationed in London and therefore was not caught up in the crossfire of sectional politics that dominated the country. Buchanan was viewed by many as a compromise between the two sides of the slavery question. His subsequent election victory took place in a three-man race with John C. Fremont and Millard Fillmore. Buchanan was often called a “doughface”, a Northerner with Southern sympathies as President, who battled with Stephen A. Douglas for the control of the Democratic Party. Buchanan’s efforts to maintain peace between the North and the South alienated both sides, and the Southern states declared their secession in the prologue to the American Civil War. Buchanan’s view of record was that secession was illegal, but that going to war to stop it was also illegal. Noted for his mantra, “I acknowledge no master but the law” Buchanan was first and foremost an attorney.
When he left office, popular opinion had turned against him, and the Democratic Party had split in two. Buchanan had once aspired to a presidency that would rank in history with that of George Washington. The only President to remain a bachelor, Buchanan turned to Harriet Lane, an orphaned niece, whom he had earlier adopted, to act as his official hostess of the White House.
In 1866 Buchanan published Mr Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion, the first published presidential memoir, in which he defended his actions. The day before his death he predicted that “history will vindicate my memory”. Buchanan died on June 1, 1868, from respiratory failure at the age of 77 at his home at Wheatland and was interred in Woodward Hill Cemetery in Lancaster.