BUCHANAN, James. Autograph letter signed ("James Buchanan") as Minister to Great Britain, to William Hunter, "U.S. Legation, London," 15 June 1855. 3½ pages, 8vo (7¼ x 4 9/16 in.), light browning, professional repairs to folds of second leaf affecting a few letters of text on page 4.
EX-PRESIDENTS VAN BUREN AND FILLMORE AT VICTORIA'S COURT: "THE DIRECT DESCENDANT OF WILLIAM THE CONQUERER MAY BE EXCUSED FOR NOT APPRECIATING THE EX-REPRESENTATIVES OF THE...AMERICAN PEOPLE"
An letter documenting the first appearance of an ex-President before the court of a foreign nation. In this case, two ex-President's, by coincidence, both made their appearance at the same time. After leaving the White House, both Van Buren and Fillmore had remained active in politics and both sought another term in the White House on a third party ticket. Their trips to London served no political agenda and the occasion of their joint appearance at court was purely coincidental.
Here, Buchanan described their reception: "Mssrs. Van Buren & Fillmore are both in London & have received much attention, indeed, more than I had anticipated." He notes, however, that their reception at court seemed not adequate for their importance: "Still, the position has not been assigned to them at Court, to which an Ex President is surely entitled," but, he adds, "Her Majesty, however, is an excellent lady as well as excellent Sovereign; & the direct descendant of William the Conqueror may be excused for not appreciating the ex Representatives of the Sovereignty of the American people at their just value."
Buchanan then writes about the franking privilege and the use of a diplomatic despatch bag for private mail, despite a new law forbidding it: "I enclose to you a packet of letters with Post Office stamps upon them...They are entirely private & do not in the language of the Despatch relate 'to official business.' If for this reason, 'they cannot go forward to their destination,' without payment of the foreign postage, then please to use the check...which I send you for this purpose. I shall continue to send some of my private letters by Despatch Bag to Washington...I approve entirely of the pre-payment law. It ought to be extended to all cases. The Queen of Great Britain cannot frank a letter. I did not, however, anticipate that it would deprive me of the use of the Despatch Bag, provided I placed the proper American stamp upon my letters."