Very often my varied interests and activities overlap. This time the overlap was divorce and the Presidents. I recently was thinking how Newt Gingrich’s divorces did not prevent him from running, the issue made over Adlai Stevenson’s divorce, that Reagan’s divorce put the issue to rest. It got me thinking of doing a DTV show on Divorce Marriage and the Presidents. I thought if I was doing the research for that I might as well do a blog too. I thought of possible guests – Doris Kearns Goodwin was a little of reach for me, Jim Nintzel and Andrea Kelly from Arizona Media were too busy and Jeff Spiers of American Political Biography and a source for many of my Presidential biographies did not want to be a guest let alone use Skype. Then I realized I was a good guest and asked Vicki Evans, my friend at Access Tucson to interview me. It turns out the Vicki is very knowledgeable about Presidents and it should be a great show. If I was doing a Divorce TV show, I should also do a blog and so here I am blogging. It has been very interesting researching the topic. I realized it would be too long for one blog so this will me multiple blogs focus on one or more Presidents. This is as much the story of the First Ladies as the President. The wife’s role has evolved as the role of women in society has changes. Attitude toward divorce has changed. Many couples including Presidents stayed in unhappy marriages. Many Presidents were widowers and remarried. The stigma of a divorced candidate changed with Ronald Reagan as a Catholic candidate changed with Kennedy. It really has not been a significant issue with Newt Gingrich but he has other problems. I had forgotten until I started my research that Presidential candidates Bob Dole and John Kerry were divorced. Another question which creeps in is the sexual orientation of Presidents. This was the case with Lincoln and with the first President I will discuss – James Buchanan.
Buchanan was the only President who remained a bachelor his entire term. Grover Cleveland was a bachelor when elected but married in office. Buchanan was our 15th President and served before Lincoln. As a quick aside Buchanan was also alleged to have eyes of different colors. I turned to Philip Shriver Klein’s definitive biography of Buchanan. It turns out that attorney Buchanan was actually engaged to Ann Coleman, the daughter of a very wealthy Father who was one of America’s first millionaires. Buchanan was more concerned with business than Ann and she was afraid he was only marrying her for her money. Buchanan was away on business and when he returned he visited Mrs. William Jenkins and her pretty and charming sister, Miss Grace Hubley. Ann was indignant that Buchanan should visit anyone and especially a women before seeing her and released Buchanan from the engagement. Ann went to Philadelphia where she suddenly died. Buchanan was looked upon as a murderer. An article in the May 19, 1901 New York Times elaborates. It says, “Throughout the rest of his life Buchanan is not known to reveal to anybody the circumstances of this romantic tragedy. He would only say that it had changed his hopes and plans, and had led him more deeply than ever into politics as a distraction from his grief.” Being a bachelor did not hurt Buchanan from getting elected but he was helped more by being Ambassador to England and was not caught up in the crossfire of sectional politics that dominated the country. He was also the last of the so called “doughface” Presidents who in the years leading up to the Civil War were Northerners who favored the Southern position in political disputes. No unmarried candidate has run since Stevenson. I am not sure if it would make a difference. Time will tell.
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