Main Content

A north view of President Buchanan’s White House, 1859.

In the 1850s, African Americans were dismissed from the White House ranks, not to be seen again until after the Civil War. President James Buchanan’s household staff was entirely white. Buchanan specified that the new employees were to be British. He believed that people trained in the British system of domestic service would be less of a threat to his privacy and peace of mind. In his view, they were accustomed to big houses and loyalty was part of their ethic. Except for the butler, Pierre Vermereu, who was Belgian, all of the servants living under the Buchanan roof were from England, Ireland, and Wales. Some of these continued in service during Lincoln’s administration.

Footnotes & Resources

William Seale, The President’s House, White House Historical Association, 1986

You Might Also Like