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Published on September 03, 2019

Dr. Balcerski’s book released by Oxford University Press

Book cover of Bosom Friends: the Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus KingDr. Thomas Balcerski’s new book, Bosom Friends: the Intimate World of James Buchanan and William Rufus King, was released this summer by Oxford University Press. The friendship of the bachelor politicians James Buchanan (1791-1868) of Pennsylvania and William Rufus King (1786-1853) of Alabama has excited much speculation through the years. Doctor Balcerski explores the lives of these two politicians and discovers one of the most significant collaborations in American political history. He traces the parallels in the men’s personal and professional lives before elected office, including their failed romantic courtships and the stories they told about them. Unlikely companions from the start, they lived together as congressional messmates in a Washington, DC, boardinghouse and became close confidantes. Around the nation’s capital, the men were mocked for their effeminacy and perhaps their sexuality. Over time, their intimate friendship blossomed into a significant cross-sectional political partnership.

Dr. Balcerski closely narrates each man’s rise to national prominence, as William Rufus King was elected vice-president in 1852 and James Buchanan the nation’s fifteenth president in 1856, despite the political gossip that circulated about them. While exploring a same-sex relationship that powerfully shaped national events in the antebellum era, Bosom Friends demonstrates that intimate male friendships among politicians were—and continue to be—an important part of success in American politics.

Read an excerpt from the book on Medium and an article Dr. Balcerski wrote about it for the Smithsonian, and view photos on OUP’s blog