James Buchanan

Early Career

Given his impressive career as a lawyer with political connections, did Buchanan ever aspire to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice?

Yes, when Buchanan was serving as President James K. Polk’s secretary of state, he asked Polk if he could be nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court. Earlier, President John Tyler had offered Buchanan a seat on the high court, but Buchanan declined. From 1843 to 1845, there were several openings on the Supreme Court, as Justices Smith Thompson and Gabriel Duvall had died and esteemed Justice Joseph Story had retired. Buchanan asked Polk for a seat on the Court but then withdrew the request, fearing that he might not be confirmed. Then, he changed his mind once again, and decided to ask Polk for the appointment. Polk declined his request and Buchanan remained as secretary of state.


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