James Buchanan Birthplace, Mercersburg, PA 17236, Stati Uniti
Dickinson College, 28 N College St, Carlisle, PA 17013, Stati Uniti
Woodward Hill Cemetery, 508 S Queen St, Lancaster, PA 17603, Stati Uniti
The only president to remain a bachelor, James Buchanan (April 23, 1791 – June 1, 1868)'s personal life has attracted great historical interest. His biographer Jean Baker argues that Buchanan was asexual or celibate. Several writers have put forth arguments that he was homosexual, including sociologist James W. Loewen, and authors Robert P. Watson and Shelley Ross.
In 1818, Buchanan met Anne Caroline Coleman at a grand ball at Lancaster's White Swan Inn, and the two began courting. Anne was the daughter of the wealthy iron manufacturer (and protective father) Robert Coleman and sister-in-law of Philadelphia judge Joseph Hemphill, one of Buchanan's colleagues from the House of Representatives. By 1819, the two were engaged, but could spend little time together; Buchanan was extremely busy with his law firm and political projects during the Panic of 1819, which took him away from Coleman for weeks at a time. Conflicting rumors abounded. Some suggested that he was marrying for her money, because his own family was less affluent, or that he was involved with other women. Buchanan never publicly spoke of his motives or feelings, but letters from Anne revealed she knew of several rumors. Coleman broke off the engagement, and soon afterward, on December 9, 1819, died suddenly. Buchanan wrote her father for permission to attend the funeral, claiming "I feel happiness has fled from me forever"; However, Robert Coleman refused permission.
After Coleman's death, Buchanan never courted another woman, nor seemed to show any emotional or physical interest. An unfounded rumor circulated of an affair with President Polk's widow, Sarah Childress Polk. Some believe that Anne's death served to deflect awkward questions about Buchanan's sexuality and bachelorhood. During Buchanan's presidency, his orphaned niece, Harriet Lane, whom he had adopted, served as official White House hostess.
Buchanan had a close and intimate relationship with William Rufus King, an Alabamian politician who briefly served as vice president under Franklin Pierce. Buchanan and King lived together in a Washington boardinghouse for many years, from 1834 until King's departure for France in 1844. King referred to the relationship as a "communion", and the two attended social functions together. Contemporaries also noted the closeness. Andrew Jackson called King "Miss Nancy" and prominent Democrat Aaron V. Brown referred to King as Buchanan's "better half", "wife" and "Aunt Fancy" (the last being a 19th-century euphemism for an effeminate man), Sociologist Loewen noted that "wags" described Buchanan and King as "Siamese twins", that Buchanan late in life wrote a letter acknowledging that he might marry a woman who could accept his "lack of ardent or romantic affection", and also that Buchanan was expelled from his Lancaster church, reportedly for pro-slavery views acquired during the King relationship. Catherine Thompson, the wife of cabinet member Jacob Thompson, later noted that "there was something unhealthy in the president's attitude". King became ill in 1853 and died of tuberculosis shortly after Pierce's inauguration, four years before Buchanan became president. Buchanan described him as "among the best, the purest and most consistent public men I have known." Jean Baker's biography of Buchanan notes that his and King's nieces may have destroyed some correspondence between Buchanan and King. She opines that the length and intimacy of their surviving letters (one written by King upon his ambassadorial departure being specifically cited by Loewen) illustrate only "the affection of a special friendship."