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The Religious Affiliation of
James Buchanan
U.S. President


From: Jean H. Baker, James Buchanan, Time Books/Henry Holt and Company: New York, New York (2004), page 10:
James Buchanan... Inspired by the implacable doctrine of his Presbyterian faith that he must serve the Lord through hard work and stern duty in this world so that he might find a place in the next, he intended to go ahead.

When he was a boy, James Buchanan's family moved from the frontier to Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where the family was surrounded by fellow Presbyterian Scotch-Irish neighbors. (Source: Baker, page 12).

James Buchanan began attending Dickinson College in 1807. After some disorderly drinking, he was almost expelleced from the college. From: Baker, page 13:

Only through the intervention of his [Buchanan's] Presbyterian rector with the trustees and the Presbyterian minister who was head of the college was Buchanan reinstated.

As a young man, James Buchanan courted Ann Coleman. They intended to get married. Like his own father, Ann's father's roots were Scotch-Irish Presbyterian (source: Baker, page 19).

James Buchanan's beloved intended wife Ann Coleman died unexpectedly at the age of 23. A doctor diagnosed her cause of death as "hysterical convulsions." Ann Coleman's father refused to let Buchanan attend the funeral. Buchanan sent Ann's father a sympathy note, saying he hoped "Heaven would enable you to bear the shock with the fortitude of a Christian." (Source: Baker, page 20)

James Buchanan was a life-long Presbyterian, but he apparently did not "officially" become a full member of the Presbyterian Church until late in life. From: Baker, page 142-143:

Throughout the war [Civil War] Buchanan was a good Unionist. He supported the draft, but not the Emancipation Proclamation, and he never publicly criticized what he considered Lincoln's violations of the Constitution. Actually the freeing of the slaves gave him an opportunity to join the Presbyterian Church, which he did in 1865 [3 years before his death]. Earlier he had refused to do so, considering the denomination too abolitionist.


From: Peter Roberts, "James Buchanan" page in "God and Country" section of "Science Resources on the Net" website (http://www.geocities.com/peterroberts.geo/Relig-Politics/JBuchanan.html; viewed 29 November 2005):
Religious Affiliation: Presbyterian

Summary of Religious Views:
Buchanan had desired to join the Presbyterian church during the Civil War, but they at that time refused him. He was finally admitted to membership in the church on 23 September 1865. In his will, Buchanan made a generous bequest to the Presbyterian church.

Quotations:
"I hope I am a Christian. I think I have much of the experience which you describe, and as soon as I retire, I will unite with the Presbyterian Church." -- said to Rev. William M. Paxton, August 1860

"I must delay for the honor of religion. If I were to unite with the church now, they would say 'hypocrite' from Maine to Georgia." -- said to Rev. William M. Paxton, August 1860, explaining why he would delay joining until his retirement

Webpage created 12 September 2005. Last modified 29 November 2005.
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