Happy Birthday to James Buchanan, Our First Gay President (Possibly): 5 Odd Facts
Happy Birthday, Big Jim!
We doubt you're reading this, since you are out wildly celebrating the 221st birthday of President James Buchanan.
Of course you are. There are so many reasons to celebrate, like these five:
5. Some people believe he IS NOT the worst president ever, so take that!! Whenever a new survey of scholars comes out assessing best and worst presidents, it's a mano a mano duel between Buchanan and Warren G. Harding to see who's on the bottom. Sometimes Buchanan "wins," sometimes Harding.
Remember: It can be just as difficult to be the absolute worst at something as the absolute best. There's always someone out there willing to suck just a little bit more at the job. So both Buchanan and Harding, linked forever in their suckitude, deserve some credit.
4. He wrote the first presidential memoir It was called, thrillingly, Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion. From an Amazon review: "Buchanan writes in a very lawyerly style, in long rambling and convoluted sentences that run on for full paragraphs. He always refers to himself in the third person. I guess my point is that reading this book can be very laborious."
Get it on Kindle!!
3. His birthplace is marked by a big pyramid Because, ummm, why the hell not? The Buchanan Birthplace is isolated and difficult to get to, but it's more than worth the trip: "Recreation facilities are limited. There are two pavilions and a number of picnic tables. Drinking water and two restrooms are located near the picnic area," according to wiki, and we think all three of those sentences should have exclamation points.
Don't get too wild on your visit, though: According to the official site, "Hunting woodchucks, also known as groundhogs, is prohibited."
When you can't afford a Sphinx.
2. He became a lame duck moments after taking the presidential oath With a shrewd political sense that told him a lame-duck president is the strongest kind of president, moments after being sworn in, Buchanan stated in his inaugural address, "Having determined not to become a candidate for reelection, I shall have no motive to influence my conduct in administering the Government except the desire ably and faithfully to serve my country and to live in grateful memory of my countrymen."
1. He was GAY! GAY! GAY! (Not that there's yadda yadda) Well, Andrew Jackson thought so -- he called Buchanan "Miss Nancy" and Buchanan's alleged partner "Aunt Fancy."
Buchanan is the nation's only bachelor president. He lived for years with a very close friend, William Rufus King, an Alabama senator who became Franklin Pierce's vice president (becoming the only bachelor vice-president). There was much sniggering in Washington society about "Mr. and Mrs. Buchanan."
There is a lot of doubt about whether Buchanan was gay, was gay but didn't act on it, was straight but just never found Miss Right after a fiancée died, whatever. James Loewen, the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, is one of the chief arguers for the gay view. Others insist too much is being read into things by people unused to 19th-century society.
The answer might never be known -- almost all of the correspondence between Buchanan and King was burned by relatives after the president's death.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.
- College and NFL Football: Thanksgiving Weekend's Best Bets
Sat., Nov. 28, 2:30pm
Sat., Nov. 28, 7:00pm
Sun., Nov. 29, 12:00pm
Mon., Nov. 30, 7:00pm
- The 10 Best Things About the Holidays in Houston
- Prosecutors: Paxton's Hollow Outrage at "DEFCON 1"