James Buchanan Live-in Companion William Rufus DeVane King
February 20, 2012 by staff
James Buchanan Live-in Companion William Rufus DeVane King, William Rufus DeVane King (April 7, 1786 – April 18, 1853) was the 13th Vice President of the United States for about six weeks (1853), and earlier a U.S. Representative from North Carolina, Minister to France, and a Senator from Alabama. He was a Unionist and his contemporaries considered him to be a moderate on the issues of sectionalism, slavery, and westward expansion that would eventually lead to the American Civil War. He helped draft the Compromise of 1850.
The only United States executive official to take the oath of office on foreign soil, King died of tuberculosis after only 45 days in office. With the exceptions of John Tyler and Andrew Johnson-both of whom succeeded to the Presidency-he remains the shortest-serving Vice President.
King was born in Sampson County, North Carolina, to William King and Margaret deVane, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1803. He was admitted to the bar in 1806 and began practice in Clinton, North Carolina. King was a member of the North Carolina House of Commons from 1807 to 1809 and city solicitor of Wilmington, North Carolina, in 1810.
He was elected to the Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth Congresses, serving from March 4, 1811 until November 4, 1816, when he resigned. King was Secretary of the Legation to William Pinkney at Naples, Italy, and later at St. Petersburg, Russia. He returned to the United States in 1818 and purchased property at what would later be known as King’s Bend on the Alabama River in Dallas County, Alabama, between what is now Selma and Cahaba.
There he established a large Black Belt cotton plantation that he named Chestnut Hill. King and his relatives were reportedly one of the largest slave-holding families in Alabama, collectively owning as many as five hundred slaves.
James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States. A companion of William R. King with whom he shared his home.
King was close friends with James Buchanan, and the two shared a house in Washington, D.C. for fifteen years prior to Buchanan’s presidency. Buchanan and King’s close relationship prompted Andrew Jackson to refer to King as “Miss Nancy” and “Aunt Fancy”, while Aaron V. Brown spoke of the two as “Buchanan and his wife”. Further, some of the contemporary press also speculated about Buchanan and King’s relationship. Buchanan and King’s nieces destroyed their uncles’ correspondence, leaving some questions as to what relationship the two men had, but surviving letters illustrate the affection of a special friendship, and Buchanan wrote of his communion with his housemate.
Buchanan wrote in 1844, after King left for France, “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.” While the circumstances surrounding Buchanan and King have led authors such as Paul Boller to speculate that Buchanan was “America’s first hmosxl president”, there is no direct evidence that he and King had a sexual relationship.
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