1868-06-01

JAMES BUCHANAN, 15th President of the United States died on this date (b. 1791); For fifteen years in Washington D.C., prior to his presidency, Buchanan lived with his close friend, Alabama Senator William Rufus King.

King became Vice President under Franklin Pierce. He took ill and died shortly after Pierce’s inauguration, and four years before Buchanan became President. Buchanan and King’s close relation prompted the Donald Trump of his day, Andrew Jackson (who could be a serious horse’s ass without much effort before he had even had his morning whiskey…no surprise the current occupant hung his portrait in the Oval Office) to refer to King as “Miss Nancy” and “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. Buchanan and King’s nieces destroyed their uncles’ correspondence, leaving some questions as to what relationship the two men had, but the length and intimacy of surviving letters illustrate “the affection of a special friendship”, and Buchanan wrote of his “communion” with his housemate. Such expression, however, was not necessarily unusual among men at the time. Circumstances surrounding Buchanan and King’s close emotional ties have led to speculation that he was America’s first Gay president.

The only President never to marry, Buchanan turned to Harriet Lane, an orphaned niece whom he had earlier adopted, to act as his First Lady. “I feel that it is not good for man to be alone”, he wrote, “and [I] should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”