On this date WILLIAM RUFUS KING, the U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Senator from Alabama, and the thirteenth Vice President of the United States was born (d. 1853).
Historians have argued about the extremely close relationship that King had with President James Buchanan. Mostly the heterosexual historians like looking the other way or whistling to distraction that there was nothing going on at all between these two. But the two were rather inseparable. They shared a summer cottage outside of D.C. during the summers (interestingly right across the path from the cottage Lincoln would use during the Civil War).
The 1852 Democratic National Convention was held at the 1851 Maryland Institute for the Promotion of the Mechanic Arts Hall in Baltimore. Franklin Pierce was nominated for president, and King was nominated for vice president.
Pierce and King defeated the Whig candidates, Winfield Scott and William Alexander Graham. Because King was ill with tuberculosis and had traveled to Cuba in an effort to regain his health, he was not able to be in Washington to take his oath of office on March 4, 1853. By a special Act of Congress passed on March 2, he was allowed to take the oath outside the United States, and was sworn in on March 24, 1853, near Matanzas, Cuba, by the US consul to Cuba, William L. Sharkey. King is the first and, to date, only Vice President of the United States to take the oath of office on foreign soil.
Shortly afterward, King made the journey to return to Chestnut Hill., and promptly died within two days of his arrival on April 18, 1853, aged 67, of tuberculosis. He was interred in a vault on the plantation and later reburied in Selma’s Old Live Oak Cemetery. King never carried out any duties of the office.
Following his death, the office of vice president was vacant until John C. Breckinridge was inaugurated with President James Buchanan in March 1857.
Buchanan was widely considered the worst American President (before Trump, who rescued Bush) for acceding to the demands of the Southern pro-slavery forces. Now why would a Northerner president from Pennsylvania have acted that way? Might it have had something to do with his attachment with the slave-owning Southerner King?
In any case, people noticed. Buchanan and King’s close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to refer to King as “Miss Nancy” and Buchanan as “Aunt Fancy,” while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as “Buchanan and his wife.” Further, some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan and King’s relationship. If there was nothing happening, why did Buchanan and King’s nieces destroy their uncles’ correspondence after their deaths? We know why of course. Surviving letters illustrate “the affection of a special friendship,” and Buchanan wrote of his “communion” with his housemate.
King County, in Washington State (Seattle’s county) was was originally named after King and was recently changed to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.