In the presidential election of 1856, Democrats manipulated the body and sexuality of James Buchanan to present him as the embodiment of their conservative political ideology and gender norms. In contrast to his image as an unmanly Yankee bachelor and pro-southern Doughface, Democrats portrayed Buchanan as a manly conservative whose bachelorhood actually enhanced his conservatism and nationalism. Without his own family, he could embody the Democrats' policy of popular sovereignty, which ostensibly treated southern and northern white men as equal masters of household dependents. Antislavery critics, however, attacked Buchanan as pro-southern, arguing that his bachelorhood only underscored his unmanliness and inability to stand up to the Slave Power on behalf of white northern families. Buchanan's 1856 candidacy reveals that the politics of sectionalism and slavery in the Civil War era was also a politics of domesticity, gender, and sexuality.


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 591-620
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.