William E. Gienapp, “Buchanan, James,” American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/04/04-00170.html.
Tall and stout, with an imposing physique and flowing white hair, the meticulously dressed Buchanan presented a distinguished appearance that was reinforced by his courtly manners. Fussy and legalistic, he had a passion for precision, displayed great diligence, and was an indefatigable correspondent. Although he enjoyed society and dancing and brought a festive air to the White House, he did not make friends easily and was unusually dependent emotionally on his closest associates. He enjoyed good liquor and cigars and spent long evenings conversing with friends. Plodding and unimaginative, he was a useful subordinate but an unsuccessful leader. He lacked a brilliant mind and had no gift for writing memorable words or uttering striking phrases and thus was ineffective at rallying popular support. Acquaintances were struck by his exceedingly cautious nature, and his closest friends found him very timid about voicing his own opinions on controversial issues, even in private. He was sincere and well-intentioned, but his presidential term was largely a disaster. He isolated himself from dissenting views, disliked confrontation, never understood northern feelings against slavery, and was excessively prosouthern in his views, qualities that eventually destroyed his political influence and wrecked his presidency.