James Buchanan: Twitching Eye


eye twitch
 
One of Buchanan's eyelids twitched, which, combined with his personality (in 1825, at least) led a modern Jackson biographer to describe Buchanan as a "winking, fidgeting little busybody" 1a. SEE BELOW

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Remini 1b describes Buchanan's role in the events surrounding the farcical election of 1824, in which Henry Clay threw his support behind Monroe's secretary of state, John Quincy Adams, enabling Adams to steal the presidential election from Andrew Jackson in the House of Representatives:

As the new year, 1825, commenced and the time for the House election [of the President] drew closer rumors of "bargain & sale" grew louder and the pressures on Clay mounted. Several Congressmen sought out the Kentuckian to see what could be arranged. Others offered to play go-between. Representative James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, a born busybody and a Jackson supporter, had heard that Clay's friends were disturbed over the rumor that the General [Jackson], if elected, would "punish" the Kentuckian by excluding him and his cronies from the cabinet. Concerned that these friends of Clay's would go over to Adams, Buchanan took this information to John Eaton [a Jackson aid] and afterward to Jackson himself. As he stood before the wary General repeating what he had heard, he could not control the nervous affliction that troubled one eye. He kept winking at Old Hickory as he spoke. Clay's friends, said Buchanan after a barrage of winks, gave assurances that they would "end the presidential election within the hour" if the General would first declare his intention of dismissing Adams as secretary of state.

Jackson stared in disbelief at the winking, fidgeting little busybody. Everything he had heard about intrigues and plots now stood twitching before him. In return for his support, Clay obviously wanted to become secretary of state (because it was the fastest and the traditional road to the White House) and so Buchanan had been sent to sound him out with winks and blinks.

It is unclear to me why Remini focuses on Buchanan's blinks as he does. It may be because Clay had, in fact, never authorized anyone to approach Buchanan, nor had he proposed a deal of the type Buchanan outlined.
Cited Sources
  1. Remini, Robert V. The Life of Andrew Jackson. New York: Penguin, 1990 (hardback 1988).
        
    a  p.153  b  p.152-153

    Comment: Well-written, coherent distillation of Remini's definitive three-volume biography of Jackson.


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