James Buchanan character jug produced by Sebastian Originals of Encino, California, circa 1973. James Buchanan Jr. (1791-1868) was an American lawyer, diplomat, and politician who served as the 15th president of the United States from 1857 to 1861. He previously served as secretary of state from 1845 to 1849 and represented Pennsylvania in both houses of the U.S. Congress. He was an advocate for states' rights, particularly regarding slavery, and minimized the role of the federal government preceding the Civil War. Buchanan's leadership during his lame duck period before the American Civil War has been widely criticized. He simultaneously angered the North by not stopping secession and the South by not yielding to their demands.