Tuesday, April 15, 2008

#14 - Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857

Unaware that we have had two presidents with the first name of Franklin? Well, Franklin Pierce is also our only president from New Hampshire. Pierce's administration started under a personal cloud for Pierce. Between the time he was elected in November and his inauguration, Pierce and his wife watched as their son was killed when the train they were riding on was wrecked. He had two other sons who had died previously. He entered the presidency wracked with grief.

Sectional crisis reared its ugly head again. While the Compromise of 1850 had given the nation a period of calm, Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois wanted to get a railroad built across the country. To facilitate that goal, Douglas proposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The passage of the act prompted people to pour into the newly formed territories to try and tip the majorities to make them into slave states, including John Brown and his minions. The fighting that broke out led to the designation of the Kansas territory as "Bleeding Kansas."

While Pierce managed to bring calm to the territories, the Democratic party denied him the nomination in 1856. He returned to New Hampshire and died in 1869, never returning to public office.

The Facts
  • Born November 23, 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire
  • Died October 8, 1869 in Concord, New Hampshire
  • Party - Democrat
The Election of 1852
  • Franklin Pierce (D) - 1,607,510 popular votes /254 electoral votes
  • Winfield Scott (Whig) - 1,386,942 popular votes / 42 electoral votes
  • Pierce was nominated on the 49th ballot at the Democratic convention as a dark horse, overcoming prominent Democrats like Stephen A. Douglas and Pierce's successor, James Buchanan.
  • Pierce's Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis, who would go on to become the President of the Confederacy.
  • Pierce was arrested while in office for running over an old woman with his horse, but his case was dropped due to insufficient evidence in 1853.
  • Because of religious considerations Pierce affirmed rather than swore the Presidential oath of office.
  • Pierce gave his 3,319-word inaugural address from memory, without the aid of notes.
  • Pierce went to Bowdoin College in Maine, where he nearly flunked out in his second year. He changed his study habits, graduating third in his class, which included Nathaniel Hawthorne (who wrote an extensive biography of his class mate, see below) and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  • Pierce was the first president to have a Christmas tree in the White House.


Anna van Schurman said...

One of the best things about the current Bush presidency is that he may knock Pierce off the list of five worst presidents. And New Hampshirites will no longer have to live in shame. I've never been to either of his homes, but I drove through Rindge once...

Mary Witzl said...

We can but hope, I had no idea that Pierce was from New Hampshire or that he was the only president from that state! My best friend moved to New Hampshire a few decades ago. She told me a funny story about a NH resident who taped over the 'Live Free or Die' slogan on his license plate -- and was promptly arrested.

Brave Astronaut said...

Anna - As I typed this post, I kept saying to myself, "You know that some dope mapmaker added an "N" to the town of Ridge, NH, because that just looks wrong."

Mary - And, as you will learn next week, Pierce was followed by the only president from Pennsylvania.

Lana Gramlich said...

Gads, what a depressing life story...

Brave Astronaut said...

Lana - They say being president is one of the loneliest jobs on earth. Think Frank was the first to think that? Did I mention that he died of cirroshsis from too much drinking?

Unknown said...

Pierce was a fascinating tragic figure in the annals of American politics. By the way, I believe the story about him running over a woman is false. See my article
"Franklin Pierce Runs Over Woman- Not!". There are numerous other Pierce-related posts at my blog, Lugubrious Drollery.