“Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy”: Gay, Liberal, Leaders of the Free World; …and Mid 1800’s Democrats
Although, not everyone agrees fully on their exactly sexual identity, and although I’m not personally sure which one was Nancy, the fact that Buchanan and King were in a relationship (and that Buchanan otherwise sought same-sex relationships and never married) seems to be provably true via documented history, letters, and recorded comments.
In terms of firsts, we can’t prove other past Presidents or Vices weren’t gay, but there is no evidence to suggest any before Buchanan and King were. Still, firsts aside, Buchanan was most certainly not purely straight and it can only stand to reason that his boyfriend wasn’t either.
Real First Gay President Was James Buchanan? Not everyone fully aggress Buchanan was gay, but to be fair people thought Rock Hudson and Liberace (who was oddly conservative despite the name) were straight. Logic says “not everyone is straight“.
TIP: James Buchanan is seen as a “Bad President” by many historians, I actually reject that idea as an armchair historian. The nation was in a bad place in the late 1850’s, blaming Buchanan for the Civil War is a bit like blaming Hoover for the Great Depression or Obama for the Great Recession, just because the levy begins to break on your watch doesn’t mean you caused the problem or could have stoped it…. although, to be fair, I generally defend all past Presidents (as people are too quick to slander the greats over partisan politics in any era).
Was James Buchanan Gay? And if So, Do You Think he is Single?
Put simply, historians are almost positive that Buchanan and King were gay and in a relationship, although it is easier to prove their relationship than other specifics.
It is not unrelated that Buchanan was the only president to remain a lifelong bachelor (His niece, Harriet Lane, handled the duties of First Lady during his term in office.)
According to lore, William Rufus King (Franklin Pierce’s VP) and Buchanan lived together in a Washington boardinghouse for 10 years from 1834 until King’s departure for France in 1844.
In one letter to a confidante dated May 13, 1844, Buchanan wrote about his life after King moved to Paris to become the American ambassador to France:
“I am now ‘solitary and alone,’ having no companion in the house with me. I have gone a wooing to several gentlemen, but have not succeeded with any one of them. I feel that it is not good for man to be alone; and should not be astonished to find myself married to some old maid who can nurse me when I am sick, provide good dinners for me when I am well, and not expect from me any very ardent or romantic affection.”
King referred to the relationship as a “communion”, and the two attended social functions together. Contemporaries also noted the closeness. Aaron V. Brown referred to King as Buchanan’s “better half”, James W. Loewen described Buchanan and King as “Siamese twins”, and in later years, Catherine Thompson, the wife of cabinet member Jacob Thompson, expressed her anxiety that “there was something unhealthy in the president’s attitude”.
LGBT Snapshots: James Buchanan.
Unfortunately, for all the great Buchanan stories, Buchanan spent most of his last years defending himself from public blame for the Civil War, which was even referred to by some as “Buchanan’s War”. He was President right before the Civil War and his centered stance on slavery (being against it but not wanting to go to war over it) is considered a tipping point that led to war (like Lincoln’s election). Buchanan was a Democrat and was accused of colluding with the Confederacy, but he was more a Van Buren Democrat (a more liberal and less Confederate one speaking mid 1800’s terms). Learn more about the history of the political parties.
FACT: Buchanan was the last president born in the 18th century.