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James Buchanan

James Buchanan
George Peter Alexander Healy, 15 Jul 1813 - 24 Jun 1894
James Buchanan, 21 Apr 1791 - 1 Jun 1868
Oil on canvas
Frame (Verified): 179.4 x 142.2 x 9.5cm (70 5/8 x 56 x 3 3/4")
Stretcher: 157.5 × 119.4cm (62 × 47")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of the A.W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, 1942
Restrictions & Rights
Object number
Exhibition Label
Fifteenth president, 1857–1861
Democrat James “Old Buck” Buchanan came to the presidency after fulfilling several other roles. The congressman and senator from Pennsylvania traveled extensively as the minister to Russia (under President Jackson), secretary of state (under President Polk), and minister to Great Britain (under President Pierce). Unfortunately, his diplomatic experience abroad did little to strengthen his effectiveness on the domestic front. Two days after Buchanan’s inauguration in 1857, the Supreme Court ruled in the Dred Scott case that African Americans could never be U.S. citizens and that the federal government could not prohibit the practice of slavery in any territory. Buchanan subsequently moved to admit Kansas into the Union as a slave state, but failed upon facing considerable uproar from anti-slavery Northerners. Following Republican Abraham Lincoln’s narrow victory in the 1860 federal election, Buchanan did little to prevent the first seven Southern states from seceding. The Civil War broke out on April 12, 1861, only a few weeks after he had left office.
15to presidente, 1857–1861
El demócrata James “Old Buck” Buchanan llegó a la presidencia luego de ocupar varios otros puestos. Fue congresista y senador por Pensilvania y viajó extensamente como ministro de relaciones con Rusia (bajo el presidente Jackson), secretario de estado (bajo el presidente Polk) y ministro de relaciones con Gran Bretaña (bajo el presidente Pierce). Lamentablemente, su experiencia diplomática en el extranjero no le sirvió de mucho en el ámbito nacional. Dos días después de su toma de posesión en 1857, el Tribunal Supremo dictaminó, en el caso de Dred Scott, que los afroamericanos nunca podrían ser ciudadanos de EE.UU. y que el gobierno federal no podía prohibir la esclavitud en ningún territorio. Buchanan propuso admitir a Kansas en la Unión como estado esclavista, pero fracasó ante el clamor de los norteños antiesclavistas. Luego de la estrecha victoria del republicano Abraham Lincoln en la elección federal de 1860, Buchanan hizo poco por evitar la secesión de los primeros siete estados sureños. La Guerra Civil estalló el 12 de abril de 1861, a pocas semanas de finalizar su presidencia.
The artist. H.M. Pierce; (M. Knoedler & Co., New York); The A. W. Mellon Educational and Charitable Trust, PIttsburgh; gift to NGA 1942; transferred 1965 to NPG.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
America's Presidents (Reinstallation September 2017)
On View
NPG, South Gallery 240
United States\District of Columbia\Washington