Three years after the death (and rumored suicide) the woman who had
broken off her engagement to him, Buchanan - newly elected to Congress - writes
about finding a residence in Washington. Buchanan never married, and lived for
15 years with Alabama Senator Rufus King. Some modern scholars argue that
Buchanan was America's first gay President.
Autograph Letter Signed: "James Buchanan" as
Congressman, 1p, 7¾x9¾. Lancaster, 1822 September 26. In his first
term in Congress, 31-year-old Buchanan writes to Stephen Pleasanton Esq.,
Washington. After thanking Pleasanton for his help in obtaining a patent for
David Smith, whose name was incorrectly written "Daniel" on the receipt,
Buchanan continues: "It is my intention at present to take lodgings in
some part of the city near your residence. As I shall not be able to leave this
place for Washington before the middle of December it is probable that I may
then be able to select a more agreeable boarding house than if I were there the
first day of the Session. At that time the misses will all be formed...."
Integral leaf addressed by Buchanan to: "Stephen Pleasanton
Esquire/5th Auditor/Washington City". Postmarked: "FREE" and "LANC. PA SEP
27", the "27" in holograph. Admitted to the bar in 1812, Buchanan ran for office
in 1814 and served two years in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
(1815-1816) before resuming his law practice in Lancaster. During the summer
of 1819, the 28-year-old lawyer courted 23-year-old Anne Coleman of Lancaster
and they planned to wed, but they quarreled and Anne abruptly broke off the
engagement. She died suddenly in December. It was known that her father blamed
Buchanan for her death, and refused to allow his attendance at her funeral;
there were rumors of suicide by overdose. Buchanan always professed his love for
Anne Coleman, and never married. Buchanan was sworn in as Congressman in
1821 and wrote this letter in 1822, when he had decided to move to Washington,
D.C. rather than commute from Lancaster. For 15 years, he lived in Washington
with Alabama Senator Rufus King (elected as Pierce's VP, but deceased shortly
after the election). Andrew Jackson called Buchanan and King "Miss Nancy and
Aunt Fancy," while another contemporary called them "Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan."
In a 2012 essay, sociologist Jim Loewen wrote, "There can be no doubt that
James Buchanan was gay, before, during, and after his four years in the White
House. Moreover, the nation knew it, too - he was not far into the closet."
Others dispute this claim, arguing that the flowery language of intimacy
was often used to describe male friendships in the 19th century. Harriet
Lane, Buchanan's niece, acted as First Lady during the Buchanan Presidency
(1857-1861). Fragile, worn, folds. 2¼-inch horizontal tear at lower blank
left. 4-inch vertical tear at fold touches some text (all intact). 7½x1½-inch
shading at upper margin touches text. Upper left edge torn. Integral leaf,
creased with above tears only in blank areas.
For more documents by these signers click the names below:
PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN
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