Born in 1791 near Mercersburg
, Pennsylvania, Buchanan graduated from Dickinson College
in 1809 and was admitted to the bar in 1812. He volunteered in the War of 1812
and was later elected to the Pennsylvania genral assembly and to the United States House of Representatives
. After a brief stint as minister to Russia, Buchanan was elected to the United States Senate
. Under President James K. Polk
, Buchanan served ably as Secretary of State.
Nominated by the Democrats in 1856, Buchanan was elected President. During his term of office, he wavered on the great issues raised by slavery. He opposed secession but also opposed coercion.
Buchanan died at Wheatland, his estate, near Lancaster on June 1, 1868.