Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
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Posts tagged "James Buchanan"
I am the last President of the United States!
James Buchanan, upon the secession of South Carolina, December 20, 1860
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hello Anthony! This is a two-part question, and one is personal, so I am very sorry if you take offense to the personal nature of it. First, what is your sexual orientation? Second, on that note, I recently read that there seems to be debate on the sexual orientation of James Buchanan. Do you think it is valid? Also, what were political attitudes toward sodomy/homosexuality back then? Did people just ignore it or did actual elected officials talk about "Sodomites"?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Hello to you, too!  I don’t take offense to personal questions, so no worries.

1.  I am heterosexual.

2.  With James Buchanan, we will never know for sure whether he was or was not a homosexual.  He burned any letters that would have helped shed some light on the issue and while we can speculate all that we want, it’s impossible and perhaps even unfair to out somebody or make a decision on somebody’s sexual identity when they’ve been dead for over 140 years.  During Buchanan’s time, there was definitely not any public statements by other politicians or journalists about his sexuality, but gossip was alive and well in the 19th Century and it was whispered about, particularly when it came to Buchanan’s close relationship with William Rufus DeVane King, who briefly served as Vice President under Buchanan’s predecessor, Franklin Pierce, but died in office after a few weeks.

People have asked me about Buchanan’s sexuality many times, so I’m going to paste what I’ve written in the past that was more in-depth:

First of all, this is all going to be speculation, so take my opinion about this subject very lightly. Secondly, please understand that I am socially liberal, so I don’t care whether or not a President is gay or straight as long as he or she can do the job.

It is very difficult to say that this President or that President was gay or not without simply guessing or making baseless accusations. My personal opinion is that it’s not our business to say that someone is or is not gay unless they choose to address it and make it our business.

It’s even more difficult to go back through history and say “so-and-so was obviously a homosexual because ___________”. I mean, let’s be honest, the first five Presidents wore knee breeches, buckled shoes, and powdered wigs, so we’d already be overloaded with suspicion right there.

Without going too far and becoming gossipy and National Enquirer-ish, I will point out the evidence which some believe strongly suggests that James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, was homosexual.

Buchanan was a lifelong bachelor — the only President to never marry. Early in life, he had been engaged to Ann Coleman, the daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania manufacturer who began worrying about rumors that Buchanan was marrying her for her money. After a difficult period in their relationship, Coleman broke off the engagement in 1819 and died shortly thereafter, likely by suicide. Buchanan was devastated by Coleman’s death and was shunned by Coleman’s family who blamed him for Ann’s demise. At that time, Buchanan vowed to never marry and he retained Ann Coleman’s letters for the remainder of his life.

It is possible that Buchanan was so devastated by the death of his first love that he couldn’t imagine spending his life with another woman. However, that doesn’t explain why he spent so much of his life with another man.

In 19th Century Washington, D.C., it was not unusual for Members of Congress to room together in boarding houses while Congress was in session. Many political deals were debated and decided in Washington’s boarding houses which were set up to appeal to a Congressman’s need for prepared meals and affordable housing. Buchanan, however, was a fairly wealthy man for his age and time period. The affordable housing that resulted from taking on a roommate wasn’t a necessity for Buchanan. It was a choice. And, instead of living with a variety of different colleagues over the years, Buchanan lived with one — Alabama Senator William Rufus DeVane King — for fifteen years.

The close relationship between Buchanan and King raised eyebrows even in their own time. Contemporaries referred to them as “Siamese twins”. Andrew Jackson called Buchanan and King “Aunt Fancy” and “Miss Nancy” respectively. President Polk’s law partner, Aaron Brown, went further, referring to King as “Mr. Buchanan’s wife”. The relationship between Buchanan and King was interrupted from time-to-time by each man’s foreign service (Buchanan as Minister to Russia during Jackson’s Presidency; King as Minister to France during Polk’s).

Unfortunately, the long letters that Buchanan and King wrote to each other throughout their lives are unable to explain their close relationship. After each man’s death, their nieces burned almost all of their correspondence with one another.

There are hints which further the mystery in the few pieces of correspondence between the two men that have survived. In 1844, President Tyler appointed King as the Minister to France and King wrote to Buchanan, “I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation. For myself, I shall feel lonely in the midst of Paris, for here I shall have no Friend with whom I can commune as with my own thoughts.”

With King in Paris, Buchanan wrote an equally curious letter to a female friend of his in Washington, “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.”

Whether or not Buchanan and King were truly homosexual will likely never be known. This much is true: In 1852, King was elected Vice President and died of tuberculosis in April 1853, 45 days after his inauguration. In 1856, Buchanan was elected President and served one term while his adopted niece, Harriet Lane, performed the duties of official White House hostess.

To this day, Buchanan and King are the only lifelong bachelors to ever serve as President or Vice President.

I love the noise of democracy.
James Buchanan
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Some bad presidents are said to have been good candidates who were in the right place at the wrong time, but is there any president you'd say was just simply not suited for the office?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Absolutely.  Some of the most highly-qualified Presidents — men who seemed far more experienced and ready for the job than others — just weren’t suited to be chief executive.  No matter how impressive the resume is, sometimes the job simply doesn’t fit the man (and vice versa).

The best examples of exceptionally well-prepared and extremely qualified politicians who never got the hang of the Presidency would be (along with their resumes prior to becoming President):

•John Quincy Adams: One of the most brilliant and naturally gifted politicians in U.S. history; Served in diplomatic posts in Russia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Prussia by the time he was 40 years old; Massachusetts State Senator; U.S. Senator; head of the delegation which negotiated the Treaty of Ghent and ended the War of 1812; spent 8 years as President Monroe’s Secretary of State and is widely-regarded as one of the greatest Secretaries of State in American history

•Martin Van Buren: Master politician at all levels except in the White House; New York State Senator; U.S. Senator; Governor of New York; Secretary of State under President Jackson; Vice President of the United States under President Jackson

•James Buchanan: Possibly the most experienced politician to be elected President; Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives; Five-term member of the U.S. House of Representatives; U.S. Minister to Russia; Elected to three terms in the U.S. Senate; Secretary of State under President Polk; U.S. Minister to Great Britain

•Andrew Johnson: An accidental President who succeeded Lincoln following his assassination; City Alderman and Mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee; Member of the Tennessee House of Representatives; Tennessee State Senator; Member of the U.S. House of Representatives for five terms; Governor of Tennessee; U.S. Senator (only Southern Senator to remain loyal to the Union during the Civil War); Military Governor of Tennessee; Vice President of the United States under President Lincoln

•William Howard Taft: Better suited for the judiciary than the Presidency and eventually landed his dream job as Chief Justice of the United States; Local governmental official in Hamilton County, Ohio/Cincinnati, Ohio; Judge of the Cincinnati Superior Court; United States Solicitor General; Judge of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court and Court of Appeals; Dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School; Military Commissioner of the Philippines; Governor-General of the Philippines; Secretary of War under President Theodore Roosevelt; Acting Secretary of State under President Roosevelt; Provisional Governor of Cuba; Reluctantly turned down three nominations to the Supreme Court prior to being elected President

Interestingly, all of these leaders who weren’t quite Presidential material continued to have active (and often more successful) careers following their Presidencies (with the exception of Buchanan who was nearly 70 years old upon leaving office). Adams spent 17 years in the U.S. House of Representatives; Van Buren ran for President two more times and remained a Democratic power broker; Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate; and Taft finally got his chance to accept a spot on the Supreme Court and spent the last 9 years of his life as the Chief Justice of the United States.

Mr. Buchanan is an able man, but is in small matters without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid.

James K. Polk, on his Secretary of State (and future President) James Buchanan, personal diary entry, February 27, 1848

I love the noise of democracy.

James Buchanan

In my opinion, yes, by any way you look at it.  If you look at all of the Presidents, including William Henry Harrison, who only spent a month in office, Buchanan was still the worst because Harrison didn’t do anything harmful to the country in his 31-day Presidency.  He didn’t really have a chance to do anything at all.  

Buchanan had four years in office and the country was crumbling around him while he did nothing. I would have more respect for President Buchanan if he would have tried something and made some sort of stand against secession.  It’s a good thing that secession didn’t start until the final months of Buchanan’s Administration because if it had taken place in 1859 who knows how conciliatory Buchanan would have been towards the seceded states.  Had secession happened earlier, the wishy-washy, ineffectual President might have recognized the Confederacy.

Also, with the sectional crisis, secession, and threat of Civil War, most people aren’t aware of the fact that the Panic of 1857, just five months after Buchanan was inaugurated, triggered a brutal economic depression that continued throughout the rest of Buchanan’s term and was inherited by Abraham Lincoln.  That means that, on top of everything else the nation was going through during Buchanan’s Administration, the country was also mired in an economic depression.

And if you know anything about what James Buchanan did (or, I guess I should say, DIDN’T do) as states began to secede from the Union, you probably can make a very good guess about what President Buchanan did to combat the economic depression triggered by the Panic of 1857.  Did he speak out in an attempt to shore up confidence in the nation’s finances?  Well, no, not that.  Did he try to temper the domino effect caused by a run on banks?  Not quite.  Did he work with his Treasury Secretary to clear up some of the murky banking laws causing trouble throughout the country?  No…his Treasury Secretary, Howell Cobb, was busy being one of the leading voices for secession and Founding Fathers of the Confederacy, which nearly elected Cobb as their President instead of Jefferson Davis.  

So, what did President Buchanan do in response to the Panic of 1857 and the economic depression of 1857, 1858, 1859, 1860, and 1861?  The exact same thing that President Buchanan did in response to the threat of secession, the actual secession of states from the Union, and the seizure of federal property (including military installations and weapons caches) by insurrectionists as states began to secede:  NOTHING.

That’s why James Buchanan is the worst President in our history.  Not because he had the misfortune to hold office at a tumultuous, troublesome time in our nation’s history, but because he did absolutely nothing to respond to those troubles. 

John Hay was one of America’s great diplomats.  He served overseas during the Administrations of Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant, worked in the State Department of Rutherford B. Hayes, and held the nation’s top two diplomatic posts — Ambassador to the Court of St. James and Secretary of State under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

Hay also may have been one of 19th Century America’s most prolific and talented writers, an astute observer of everything and everybody.  Late in life, he and his close friend Henry Adams became such institutions of Washington, D.C. society that today the Hay-Adams Hotel is literally one of Washington, D.C.’s great institutions.

But in March 1861, the 22-year-old Hay was in the nation’s capital for the very first time, and he was there as one of the two private secretaries (along with John Nicolay) to Abraham Lincoln, who was about to be inaugurated President of a rapidly fracturing United States.  Even at that young age, however, Hay’s gifts of observation were apparent — and one of the reasons why Lincoln had brought the young man with him to Washington from Illinois.

On March 4, 1861, Lincoln was inaugurated, and Hay was nearby when Lincoln met with the outgoing President James Buchanan.  With Southern states seceding and Civil War approaching, Hay was curious to hear what advice or words of warning President Buchanan might have for his successor.  As he later wrote, “I waited with boyish wonder and credulity to see what momentous counsels were to come from that gray and weather-beaten head.  Every word must have its value at such an instant.”

Buchanan had spent decades in Washington and his Presidency had taken place in one of the most difficult moments of American history — a moment that Lincoln was now sharing.  As John Hay listened carefully, the 15th President, with his head cocked to the left to compensate for the fact that one of his eyes was nearsighted and one of his eyes was farsighted, spoke to the 16th President.  

What Buchanan said to Lincoln was memorable to Hay, albeit not very momentous:  ”I think you will find the water of the right-hand well at the White House better than that at the left.”  Hay would recall that Buchanan “went on with many intimate details of the kitchen and pantry.  Lincoln listened with that weary, introverted look of his, not answering, and the next day, when I recalled the conversation, admitted he had not heard a word of it.”

In researching some Presidential trivia, a friend mentioned that Buchanan never married because he was gay. Not that it matters at all, but now I'm curious if it's true.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

You’re right, it doesn’t matter whether or not President Buchanan was gay, but for the historical record, we’d love to have a definitive answer.  Unfortunately, that’s never going to happen.  So, we have to use the evidence that we have and make our own personal conclusions.

I’ve answered this question in-depth before, so I’m just going to copy and paste that answer.  Since this a question that is asked frequently and a genuine mystery to historians, I, like many other historians, have looked at Buchanan’s life and have a personal opinion on the question. Personally, yes, I do think that James Buchanan was a homosexual.  Still, Buchanan has been dead for almost 145 years and contemporary opinions will always be speculation.  Here’s what I’ve previously written when asked about President Buchanan’s sexuality:

It is very difficult to say that this President or that President was gay or not without simply guessing or making baseless accusations.  My personal opinion is that it’s not our business to say that someone is or is not gay unless they choose to address it and make it our business.

It’s even more difficult to go back through history and say “so-and-so was obviously a homosexual because ___________”.  I mean, let’s be honest, the first five Presidents wore knee breeches, buckled shoes, and powdered wigs, so we’d already be overloaded with suspicion right there.

Without going too far and becoming gossipy and National Enquirer-ish, I will point out the evidence which some believe strongly suggests that James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, was homosexual. 

Buchanan was a lifelong bachelor — the only President to never marry.  Early in life, he had been engaged to Ann Coleman, the daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania manufacturer who began worrying about rumors that Buchanan was marrying her for her money.  After a difficult period in their relationship, Coleman broke off the engagement in 1819 and died shortly thereafter, likely by suicide.  Buchanan was devastated by Coleman’s death and was shunned by Coleman’s family who blamed him for Ann’s demise.  At that time, Buchanan vowed to never marry and he retained Ann Coleman’s letters for the remainder of his life. 

It is possible that Buchanan was so devastated by the death of his first love that he couldn’t imagine spending his life with another woman.  However, that doesn’t explain why he spent so much of his life with another man.

In 19th Century Washington, D.C., it was not unusual for Members of Congress to room together in boarding houses while Congress was in session.  Many political deals were debated and decided in Washington’s boarding houses which were set up to appeal to a Congressman’s need for prepared meals and affordable housing.  Buchanan, however, was a fairly wealthy man for his age and time period.  The affordable housing that resulted from taking on a roommate wasn’t a necessity for Buchanan.  It was a choice.  And, instead of living with a variety of different colleagues over the years, Buchanan lived with one — Alabama Senator William Rufus DeVane King — for fifteen years.

The close relationship between Buchanan and King raised eyebrows even in their own time.  Contemporaries referred to them as “Siamese twins”.  Andrew Jackson called Buchanan and King “Aunt Fancy” and “Miss Nancy” respectively.  President Polk’s law partner, Aaron Brown, went further, referring to King as “Mr. Buchanan’s wife”.  The relationship between Buchanan and King was interrupted from time-to-time by each man’s foreign service (Buchanan as Minister to Russia during Jackson’s Presidency; King as Minister to France during Polk’s).

Unfortunately, the long letters that Buchanan and King wrote to each other throughout their lives are unable to explain their close relationship.  After each man’s death, their nieces burned almost all of their correspondence with one another.

There are hints which further the mystery in the few pieces of correspondence between the two men that have survived.  In 1844, President Tyler appointed King as the Minister to France and King wrote to Buchanan, “I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation.  For myself, I shall feel lonely in the midst of Paris, for here I shall have no Friend with whom I can commune as with my own thoughts.

With King in Paris, Buchanan wrote an equally curious letter to a female friend of his in Washington, “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.

Whether or not Buchanan and King were truly homosexual will likely never be known.  This much is true:  In 1852, King was elected Vice President and died of tuberculosis in April 1853, 45 days after his inauguration.  In 1856, Buchanan was elected President and served one term while his adopted niece, Harriet Lane, performed the duties of official White House hostess. 

To this day, Buchanan and King are the only lifelong bachelors to ever serve as President or Vice President.

JAMES BUCHANAN
15th President of the United States (1857-1861)

Full Name: James Buchanan, Jr.
Born: April 23, 1791, Cove Gap, Pennsylvania
Term: March 4, 1857-March 4, 1861
Political Party: Democratic
Vice President: John C. Breckinridge
Died: June 1, 1868, Wheatland estate, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Buried: Woodward Hill Cemetery, Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Poor Mr. Buchanan.  One of the most qualified men to ever serve as President, and, in my opinion, the absolute worst.  Perhaps no one could have succeeded in the years leading immediately up to the outbreak of the Civil War, but President Buchanan occupies the bottom spot not merely because states began to secede from the Union while he was in the White House, but because he did nothing about it.  There were no flashes of hope during the Buchanan Administration — from the day that he inherited a crumbling nation from Franklin Pierce the 15th President was in office for the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision (which he agreed with), rising tension between settlers in Kansas, the Panic of 1857, and, finally, secession.  All Buchanan did was watch the calendar and happily flee to his estate in Pennsylvania after Abraham Lincoln’s inauguration.

PREVIOUS RANKINGS:
1948: Schlesinger Sr./Life Magazine:  26 of 29
1962: Schlesinger Sr./New York Times Magazine:  29 of 31
1982: Neal/Chicago Tribune Magazine:  36 of 38
1990: Siena Institute:  38 of 40
1996: Schlesinger Jr./New York Times Magazine:  38 of 39
2000: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  41 of 41
2000: C-SPAN Public Opinion Poll:  41 of 41
2005: Wall Street Journal/Presidential Leadership:  40 of 40
2009: C-SPAN Survey of Historians:  42 of 42
2010: Siena Institute:  42 of 43
2011: University of London’s U.S. Presidency Centre:  40 of 40

Stephen Foster was perhaps the most-celebrated American songwriter of the 19th Century.  Foster composed familiar favorites like “My Old Kentucky Home”, “Beautiful Dreamer”, “Camptown Races”, “Swanee River”, “Oh! Susanna”, and countless others.  In 1856, the composer penned the Presidential campaign song for his fellow Pennsylvanian, James Buchanan.  Besides both hailing from the Keystone State, Buchanan’s brother, Edward, was married to Foster’s sister, Ann Eliza.

Fittingly, Foster was also born on a day steeped in Presidential (and American) History.  Not only was the composer’s birthday the Fourth of July, but he happened to be born on July 4, 1826 — the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and the exact same day that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died just a few hours apart in one of history’s most remarkable coincidences.

t-gibby asked:  Statistically, at least one President was gay.  Who do you think it was? (or they were?)

First of all, this is all going to be speculation, so take my opinion about this subject very lightly.  Secondly, please understand that I am socially liberal, so I don’t care whether or not a President is gay or straight as long as he or she can do the job.

It is very difficult to say that this President or that President was gay or not without simply guessing or making baseless accusations.  My personal opinion is that it’s not our business to say that someone is or is not gay unless they choose to address it and make it our business.

It’s even more difficult to go back through history and say “so-and-so was obviously a homosexual because ___________”.  I mean, let’s be honest, the first five Presidents wore knee breeches, buckled shoes, and powdered wigs, so we’d already be overloaded with suspicion right there.

Without going too far and becoming gossipy and National Enquirer-ish, I will point out the evidence which some believe strongly suggests that James Buchanan, the 15th President of the United States, was homosexual. 

Buchanan was a lifelong bachelor — the only President to never marry.  Early in life, he had been engaged to Ann Coleman, the daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvania manufacturer who began worrying about rumors that Buchanan was marrying her for her money.  After a difficult period in their relationship, Coleman broke off the engagement in 1819 and died shortly thereafter, likely by suicide.  Buchanan was devastated by Coleman’s death and was shunned by Coleman’s family who blamed him for Ann’s demise.  At that time, Buchanan vowed to never marry and he retained Ann Coleman’s letters for the remainder of his life. 

It is possible that Buchanan was so devastated by the death of his first love that he couldn’t imagine spending his life with another woman.  However, that doesn’t explain why he spent so much of his life with another man.

In 19th Century Washington, D.C., it was not unusual for Members of Congress to room together in boarding houses while Congress was in session.  Many political deals were debated and decided in Washington’s boarding houses which were set up to appeal to a Congressman’s need for prepared meals and affordable housing.  Buchanan, however, was a fairly wealthy man for his age and time period.  The affordable housing that resulted from taking on a roommate wasn’t a necessity for Buchanan.  It was a choice.  And, instead of living with a variety of different colleagues over the years, Buchanan lived with one — Alabama Senator William Rufus DeVane King — for fifteen years.

The close relationship between Buchanan and King raised eyebrows even in their own time.  Contemporaries referred to them as “Siamese twins”.  Andrew Jackson called Buchanan and King “Aunt Fancy” and “Miss Nancy” respectively.  President Polk’s law partner, Aaron Brown, went further, referring to King as “Mr. Buchanan’s wife”.  The relationship between Buchanan and King was interrupted from time-to-time by each man’s foreign service (Buchanan as Minister to Russia during Jackson’s Presidency; King as Minister to France during Polk’s).

Unfortunately, the long letters that Buchanan and King wrote to each other throughout their lives are unable to explain their close relationship.  After each man’s death, their nieces burned almost all of their correspondence with one another.

There are hints which further the mystery in the few pieces of correspondence between the two men that have survived.  In 1844, President Tyler appointed King as the Minister to France and King wrote to Buchanan, “I am selfish enough to hope you will not be able to procure an associate who will cause you to feel no regret at our separation.  For myself, I shall feel lonely in the midst of Paris, for here I shall have no Friend with whom I can commune as with my own thoughts.

With King in Paris, Buchanan wrote an equally curious letter to a female friend of his in Washington, “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.

Whether or not Buchanan and King were truly homosexual will likely never be known.  This much is true:  In 1852, King was elected Vice President and died of tuberculosis in April 1853, 45 days after his inauguration.  In 1856, Buchanan was elected President and served one term while his adopted niece, Harriet Lane, performed the duties of official White House hostess. 

To this day, Buchanan and King are the only lifelong bachelors to ever serve as President or Vice President. 

John C. Frémont

FULL NAME:  John Charles Frémont
BORN:  January 21, 1813, Savannah, Georgia
COLLEGE:  College of Charleston (South Carolina)
RELIGION:  Episcopalian
POLITICAL PARTY:  Republican
STATE REPRESENTED:  California
VICE PRESIDENTIAL RUNNING MATE: Former Senator William L. Dayton of New Jersey
OPPONENT:  Ambassador James Buchanan (D-PA)
AGE ON ELECTION DAY, 1856: 43 years old
AGE AT DEATH: 77 years old
DIED:  July 13, 1890, New York City, New York
BURIAL PLACE:  Rockland Cemetery, Nyack, New York

1856 Presidential Election
•Came in 2nd in a three-way race featuring James Buchanan (Democrat) and Millard Fillmore (American/”Know-Nothing” Party)
•Popular Vote:  Buchanan - 1,838,169 votes; Frémont - 1,341,264 votes; Fillmore - 874,534 votes
•Electoral Vote: Buchanan - 174 votes (19 states); Fremont - 114 votes (11 states); Fillmore - 8 votes (1 state)

Career
1828-1830: Studied at Charleston College
1833-1835: Mathematics instructor, USS Natchez
1838-1848: Civil engineering assistant and explorer for the United States Army; explored the West with Kit Carson including the Missouri River, the Oregon Trail, the Sierra Nevada, and the Sacramento Valley as second lieutenant of Topographical Engineers of the United States Army; served in the Mexican War
1847: 3rd Military Governor of California
1848: Arrested and charged with mutiny, court-martialed and convicted for his part in a dispute between Commodore Robert F. Stockton and General Stephen W. Kearney; Pardoned by President Polk
1849: Resigned from the Army, settled on a land grant in California, struck gold during the California Gold Rush
1850-1851:  Elected and served as one of California’s first United States Senators
1856: Republican nominee for President of the United States; Defeated in the general election by James Buchanan
May 1861: Appointed Major General in the U.S. Army by President Lincoln and placed in command of the Department of the West
November 1861:  Removed from command by President Lincoln after General Frémont imposed martial law in Missouri and emancipated the slaves in the state
March 1862:  Placed in command of the Mountain Department
June 1864:  Resigned from the U.S. Army
1878-1881: Governor of the Arizona Territory

Five Facts
1.  Frémont was of French descent and was the illegitimate son of a refugee from the French Revolution.  Frémont’s mother had been married to a wealthy Virginian who hired Frémont’s father to tutor his wife, but she ended up running away with Frémont’s father and giving birth to John C. Frémont in 1813.
2.  One of the great explorers and adventurers of the 19th Century, Frémont earned the nickname the “Pathfinder of the West”.  He helped map the area between the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, searched for a transcontinental railroad route across the West, and was one of California’s most prominent explorers.  Frémont briefly served as the Military Governor of California during the Mexican War and was one of California’s first U.S. Senators.
3.  Frémont was the first-ever Presidential nominee of the newly-formed Republican Party, in 1856.  In 1864, as Abraham Lincoln sought reelection, the Radical Republicans who were impatient with Lincoln’s efforts on emancipation nominated Frémont in a separate convention.  Frémont originally accepted the nomination and the 1864 election was nearly a three-way race between Lincoln, George B. McClellan, and Frémont, but Frémont bowed out of the race after making a deal with Lincoln to remove Montgomery Blair — the Postmaster General who was tremendously unpopular with Radical Republicans — from the Cabinet.
4.  Frémont was married to Jessie Benton, the daughter of influential U.S. Senator Thomas Hart Benton (who once got into a shootout with Andrew Jackson).  Senator Benton frowned on the proposed marriage at first and used his influence to have Frémont, then a soldier in the U.S. Army, transferred to a frontier outpost on the Des Moines River.  Frémont and Jessie eventually eloped, and when Senator Benton saw Frémont’s fame rising as a Western explorer, he reconciled with his daughter and new son-in-law.  Benton later became one of the foremost supporters of Frémont’s exploration efforts in Congress.
5.  After the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, President Lincoln appointed Frémont as Major General and placed him in command of the Department of the West.  Part of Frémont’s command included Missouri, which was a border state that was half-slave/half-free and in quite a bit of danger of falling into the hands of the Confederacy.  General Frémont took drastic actions in Missouri, imposing martial law.  In the process, Frémont ordered the property of disloyal Missourians to be confiscated and, most dramatically of all, ordered the emancipation of all slaves in Missouri.  Frémont’s order of emancipation came early in the war, long before Lincoln considered a similar order, and understanding the tenuous politics of Missouri, Lincoln ordered Frémont to revoke his general order.  When Frémont refused, Lincoln used his powers as Commander-in-Chief, revoked the order himself, and removed Frémont from command.