|The Lancaster Historical Society, next door to Wheatland
Buchanan was a Pennsylvania lawyer who ran for Congress, then became a U. S. Senator. He was named Secretary of State by President James Polk, then served as ambassador to the United Kingdom for Franklin Pierce. He came home to run for president in 1856.
First he beat out incumbent Franklin Pierce and Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas for the Democratic nomination, then he won the presidency in a three-way race, defeating Republican John Fremont and the Know-Nothing candidate, former president Millard Fillmore.
|We walked down to the mansion
The division between northern and southern Democrats allowed Republicans to take control of Congress in 1858. Buchanan had pledged not to run for re-election, and in 1860 Lincoln won in a four-man race against two competing Democrats and another candidate.
Buchanan went back to Lancaster and lived out his days hosting dignitaries at Wheatland and defending his political legacy. He was the last president to be born in the 18th century, the only president from Pennsylvania, and the only president who was a lifelong bachelor. He is also consistently regarded as one of America's worst presidents for his failure to address the most important issue of his time.
|The parlor, with a docent in period costume
Some people gossiped that Buchanan was only marrying Coleman for her money; others insinuated that he was seeing other women. In any case, in the fall of 1819 Coleman found out that Buchanan had stopped in to visit a friend's wife, and Coleman, suspecting the worst, called off the engagement.
Soon after, on December 9, 1819, Coleman fell sick and died. Her doctor attributed her death to "hysteria," while others suspected she overdosed on laudanum, a form of opium, either by accident or on purpose. Heartbroken, Buchanan never courted another woman, and resolved to live out his days as a bachelor.