Today in Masonic History James Buchanan Jr. is born in 1791.
James Buchanan Jr. was an American President.
Buchanan was born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania on April 23rd, 1791. The area has been since renamed to Buchanan’s Birthplace State Park. Buchanan attended Old Stone Academy and later Dickinson College. He graduated with honors, at one point he was almost expelled though. His poor behavior was the reason given for the near dismissal. After his graduation in 1809 he traveled to Lancaster to study law and was admitted to the bar in 1812.
Buchanan was a staunch Federalist. He initially opposed the War of 1812 considering it unnecessary. Eventually he joined a volunteer light dragoon unit to defend Baltimore when the British invaded. He served as a private and he is, to date, the only American President with military service who did not serve as an officer.
Buchanan began his political career in 1814 in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. He served until 1816 under the Federalist Party.
In 1820, Buchanan was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served for four consecutive terms until from 1821 to 1831. In 1834, with the Federalist Party defunct he was elected to serve in the United States Senate. He served in the Senate until 1845 when he resigned to accept the nomination of President James Polk of Secretary of State. Shortly after Polk nominated him as Secretary of State he wanted to nominate Buchanan as a Supreme Court Justice. Buchanan declined wanting to continue working on the Oregon Treaty. Buchanan served as Secretary of State under Polk until 1849. It is of note, to date, Buchanan is the last Secretary of State to be elected President.
In 1853 Buchanan became the minister (ambassador) to the Court of St. James’s (Britain) he served in this capacity until 1856. He had also previously served as minister to Russia in 1832 and 1833.
In 1856, Buchanan was nominated by the Democratic Convention to the Presidential nominee of the party. It was a nomination he did not actively seek, neither did he discourage the nominations, he had several opportunities to do so. He took office in 1857. At the time he took office he was the oldest president in American history and the last president born in the 18th century. He served only one term as he promised in his inauguration address. Also in the address he stated he wanted to see the issue of slavery resolved in the Supreme Court.
It was just days into Buchanan’s Presidency when the Dred Scott decision was handed down from the Supreme Court. In the decision the Supreme Court declared the United States Congress had no constitutional authority to prohibit slavery.
It was at the end of Buchanan’s term as President when the secession of states had begun. By the time Buchanan left office all southern forts had been lost or abandoned except Fort Sumter which was where the first shots of the Civil War were fired.
Buchanan passed away on June 1st, 1868. He was a lifelong bachelor.
Buchanan was a member of Masonic Lodge No. 43 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He also served as Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
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