Magazine October 14, 2019, Issue

Was James Buchanan Gay?

From the cover of Bosom Friends (Oxford University Press)
Bosom Friends: The Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King, by Thomas J. Balcerski (Oxford University Press, 352 pp., $34.95)

Was President James Buchanan gay? Probably not. At least, so says the historian Thomas Balcerski (who is gay himself, if that matters). There’s no need for a spoiler alert on this revelation, since Balcerski states his conclusion on page twelve and then spends the rest of the book intermittently setting forth the mixture of documentation (mostly letters), antique gossip, and retro-gaydar that has led him to it. And the case he makes is pretty convincing; every dozen pages or so we see Buchanan, who died a bachelor, chasing, flirting with, mooning over, or writing poetry for another young woman, well

This article appears as “The ‘Siamese Twins’ of Washington” in the October 14, 2019, print edition of National Review.

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