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District of Columbia Historical Markers, Washington, DC

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Historical Marker

Historical Marker

Buchanan was our only bachelor president and relied upon his orphaned niece, Harriet Lane, to act as his First Lady during his years in the White House (1857 to 1861). In her estate, Harriet Lane Johnson made a bequest to fund a memorial to her uncle. Designed by architect William Gordon Beecher and sculpted by Maryland artist Hans Schuler, the memorial was dedicated on June 26, 1930. It features a bronze statue of Buchanan with stone figures of Law and Diplomacy at each end, representing Buchanan's career in public service.

Before becoming president, Buchanan served in the House of Representatives for nearly 18 years. He was Minister to Russia from 1832 to 1834, then a Senator until 1845. He declined an appointment to the Supreme Court by President Polk in 1844, serving instead as Polk's Secretary of State. In that post, helped negotiate the 1846 Oregon Treaty, which established the 49th parallel as the northern boundary of the western United States.

Hostilities in Congress over slavery, abolition, and secession made Buchanan's presidency difficult. His was plagued by financial panic and then a revolt of Mormons in 1857, which the press called the Utah War. On Buchanan's final day as president, March 4, 1861, he remarked to the incoming Lincoln, "If you are as happy entering the White House as I shall feel returning to Wheatland you are a happy man."

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District of Columbia Historical Markers

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DC, Washington

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President James Buchanan

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Posted By: Ray Gurganus

  1. Email: Ray Gurganus, personal photograph;

Updated: 7-29-2020