June 22, 2011

Buchanan miscellany

I finished the Buchanan bio last night, but before I do a final post on that ill-fated administration, there are two fun facts worth noting.

THE FIRST: James Buchanan was the only president never to marry. In his 20s he was engaged to a rich, pretty girl, but he traveled a lot and rarely saw her. She started getting mad about it, and chastised him a few times in her letters, letting him know that he was on thin ice. He didn't mend his behavior. One time, when he returned home to Lancaster from a business trip, he went immediately to see a friend who was in town to visit, and then went home to sleep, and then visited his fiancee the next day. She was furious that he had waited so long to see her, especially when he'd been to visit other people and their pretty daughters, so she dumped hi. To get away from the heartbreak, she went to visit her sister. The day she arrived she took to bed, the doctor was called, but couldn't find anything wrong with her except that her heart was slowing down. It kept slowing down, until a day or two later she died. Apparently, her heart just slowed all the way down and she died, it's kind of bizarre.

After that he was rumored to be "attached" a few more times, but nothing ever came of it. When he lived in Washington, he usually shared a house with Senator King of Alabama. Andrew Jackson nicknamed Buchanan and King Aunt Nancy and Aunt Fancy, because they dressed well and were quite prim. Rumors abound, although Klein doesn't give them any quarter.

THE SECOND: During the last year of Buchanan's administration, Queen Victoria's son Albert announced a visit to Canada. JB wrote and invited him to visit the US as well, which Victoria decided he should do. This was the first time since the revolution (or before) that an English royal visited America. For 80 years relations between the two nations had been crawling from horrible to fine, and the fact that JB had been a well-liked minister to England definitely helped smooth the way.

Sub-fact: When Albert and his entourage were staying in the White House, JB threw a state dinner and afterwards had to put up many of the guests. When everyone was settled, he realized there were no more beds, and had to sleep on the couch.

Albert's visit to the US is enormously significant, and might have been recognized as such if it hadn't been the 1860. As it were, JB was a little annoyed at the distraction and all the duties of hosting him, with the nation crumbling all around him.

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