5 facts: James Buchanan, not the best president, but Pennsylvania’s only | TribLIVE.com

5 facts: James Buchanan, not the best president, but Pennsylvania’s only

Paul Guggenheimer
America’s 15th President James Buchanan, photographed in the mid 1800s.

Despite Pennsylvania’s prominent role in the American Revolution and the founding of the United States — it even had the nation’s capital for a time — the Keystone State has produced only one U.S. president.

Meet James Buchanan.

Buchanan served as the 15th president of the United States from 1857 to 1861. Often referred to as a “doughface,” Buchanan was regarded as a northerner with southern sympathies in the days leading up to the Civil War.

In fact, Buchanan’s failure to adequately address the issue of slavery and the secession of southern states has led historians to blame him for bringing the nation to the brink of civil war.

Here now are five facts about Buchanan, Pennsylvania’s one and only president.

1. Old Glory: He was the last president to be born in the 18th century. Buchanan was born April 23, 1791, in Cove Gap in Franklin County. It is now Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park.

2. Wild child: Buchanan apparently had a wild streak in college. He attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, and according to author Phillip Shriver Klein, he was nearly expelled at one point for bad behavior. Only after pleading for a second chance, did Buchanan subsequently graduate with honors.

3. No first lady: He was the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor. This has led to plenty of speculation over the years about Buchanan’s personal life. His biographer Jean Baker argues that Buchanan was asexual or celibate. Other writers have suggested that he was homosexual.

4. The worst: Buchanan is consistently ranked as one of America’s worst presidents. In a 2006 Associated Press survey, historians voted his failure to deal with secession as the worst presidential mistake ever made.

5. Keeping promises: In his inaugural address on March 4, 1857, Buchanan stated that he would only serve one term, a promise he would keep.

Paul Guggenheimer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-226-7706 or [email protected].

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