Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State

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Web Property of the U.S. Department of State


Object Details

Eliphalet F. Andrews (American, 1835-1915), after George Peter Alexander Healy (American, 1813-1894)
North American
oil on canvas
Overall: 29 in x 24 in; 73.66 cm x 60.96 cm
This portrait of James Buchanan, which is a copy of one by George Peter Alexander Healy (1813-1894), was purchased by the Department of State from Mr. Andrews on February 8, 1893.
Signed "E.F. Andrews. Aft. Healy. 1892"
Credit Line
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
The Diplomatic Reception Rooms, U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C.
Accession Number


James Buchanan (1791–1868) was born near Mercersburg, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Dickinson College and entered politics, and in 1820 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1832, President Andrew Jackson made Buchanan minister to Russia. Returning after two years in St. Petersburg, Buchanan was elected to the U.S. Senate. He hoped to be the Democratic nominee in the presidential election of 1844, but the nomination went to James K. Polk, who appointed Buchanan secretary of state in return for his support during the election. 

Both Polk and Buchanan promoted westward expansion and believed in Manifest Destiny—the idea that the nation should expand all the way to the Pacific—and this goal was accomplished during Polk’s administration. The 1846 Oregon Treaty partially achieved this aim by settling the long-standing boundary dispute with Britain at the 49th parallel and bringing the Pacific Northwest into the United States. President Polk also signed the joint resolution that formally brought Texas into the United States and then pursued a border dispute with Mexico that led to the Mexican-American War. Following U.S. victory in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought California and New Mexico Territory (today parts or all of Arizona. Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming) into the United States.

Buchanan thought that Baja and the northern provinces of Mexico should have been included as well, but Polk directed most aspects of U.S. foreign policy during his presidency, allowing Buchanan little control. Buchanan again sought the presidency in 1852 but failed and was appointed by President Franklin Pierce as minister to Great Britain, where he continued his interest in U.S. expansion. With the U.S. ministers to France and Spain, he drafted the so-called Ostend Manifesto that detailed the rationale for the purchase or even the seizure of Cuba from Spain. The manifesto proved to be an embarrassment to the Pierce administration but seems not to have damaged Buchanan’s reputation, as he won the Democratic nomination in 1856 and was elected president. His administration was notable primarily for its failure to prevent the Civil War.