—James Buchanan "welcoming" Abraham Lincoln.
—Ken Burns, "The Civil War"
Tropes he embodied:
- Ambiguously Gay: As noted above, he's often speculated to have been gay. Made fun of here.
- Embarrassing Nickname: several.
- "The Old Public Functionary" was one he accidentally gave himself during a State of the Union Address
- Old Buck - because Buchanan can be hard to say.
- Andrew Jackson referred to Buchanan and Senator King as "Miss Nancy and Aunt Fancy". This is actually even more of a blatant innuendo than it seems: both nicknames were contemporary euphamisms for gay men and dandies. Could represent an Insult of Endearment, however, because despite their conflicts Jackson never openly accused them of being homosexuals, which would have destroyed both men at that time. note
- Ten Cent Jimmy- for his rather lukewarm attitude toward the idea of a minimum wage, which he considered should be about 10 cents a day (even at that time, fairly low- 25 cents was considered a good day's pay at a decent job)
- Hidden Depths: During his presidency, he secretly bought nearly a hundred slaves and set them free in Pennsylvania with 100 dollars for each to start their lives as freemen.
- The Namesake: His cousin named her son James Buchanan Eads (who later became a famous engineer, building more than thirty ironclads for the Union during the American Civil War) after him in 1820 - of course, at that point he was still a young Pennsylvania politician and hadn't reached his full flower of ineptitude.
- Our Presidents Are Different: President Focus Group, definitely, with maybe a touch of President Buffoon
- Reassigned to Antarctica: After he screwed up the House of Representatives impeachment trial of heavily corrupt Judge James H. Peck, then President Andrew Jackson appointed him as Ambassador to Russia, believing that it would be a position where Buchanan would "do the least harm". Buchanan proceeded to screw up a trade agreement by erroniously sending a boat to America with Russian goods that hadn't been purchased yet and nearly caused an international incident. Whoops.
- Spirited Young Lady: Not Buchanan himself, obviously, but rather his orphaned niece, Harriet Lane. Due to him being unmarried, she served as his First Lady and helped create the modern role of the First Lady (in fact, the term "First Lady" was coined to describe her, since she couldn't be called "the President's wife"). She was very popular with the public, even after her uncle had become very unpopular.
- Transparent Closet / Open Secret: While it will probably forever be left a Riddle for the Ages, there is quite a bit of evidence that Buchanan was likely homosexual. Buchanan's effeminacy and general non-interest in women aside, if Buchanan and King were not life partners, they certainly did nothing to discourage others from making that assumption. They openly shared an apartment, attended dinners and public events together, adopted each other's mannerisms, traveled together constantly, and the two planned to run as President and Vice President together prior to King's death (four years before Buchanan assumed office). Years later in a letter to a friend Buchanan wrote the following:
"I am now 'solitary and alone,' having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone, 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."
- In a time when the social convention regarding sexuality was "Don't ask, don't tell", Buchanan seems to have done everything but tell.
- Vindicated by History: The day prior to his death, Buchanan said "History will vindicate me". It did not.
- While Rome Burns: History has judged him guilty of this.