Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

James Buchanan Jr. is Born

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. The area has been since renamed to Buchanan's Birthplace State Park. Buchanan attended Old Stone Academy and later Dickinson College. He would graduate 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 would join a volunteer light dragoon unit to defend Baltimore when the British invaded. He would serve 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 would serve until 1816 under the Federalist Party.

In 1820, Buchanan was elected to the United States House of Representatives and would serve 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 would serve in the Senate until 1845 when he would resign 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 would serve as Secretary of State under Polk until 1849. It is of note that, 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 would serve in that 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 nomination that he did not actively seek, neither did he discourage the nominations, he had several opportunities to do so. He would take office in 1857. At the time he took office he would be the oldest president to that point in history and the last president born in the 18th century. He would serve only one term as he promised in his inauguration address. Also in the address he stated that he wanted to see the issue of slavery resolved in the Supreme Court.

It was just days into Buchanan's Presidency that the Dred Scott decision was handed down from the Supreme Court. In the decision the Supreme Court declared that the United States Congress had no constitutional authority to prohibit slavery.

It was at the end of Buchanan's term as President that the secession of states had begun. By the time Buchanan had left office all southern forts had been lost or abandoned except Fort Sumter which was where the first shots of the Civil War would be fired.

Buchanan passed away on June 1st, 1868. He would be 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.