Franklin Pierce (March 4, 1853 - March 4, 1857)

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 - October 8, 1869) was an American politician and the fourteenth President of the United States. He was the first president born in the nineteenth century and is to date the only president from New Hampshire.

Franklin PiercePierce was a Democrat and a "doughface" (a Northerner with Southern sympathies) who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Later, Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War and became a brigadier general. His private law practice in his home state, New Hampshire, was so successful that he was offered several important positions, which he turned down. Later, he was nominated for president as a dark horse candidate on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. In the presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William R. King won in a landslide, defeating the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham by a 50 to 44% margin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote.

His good looks and inoffensive personality caused him to make many friends, but he suffered tragedy in his personal life and as president subsequently made decisions which were widely criticized and divisive in their effects, thus giving him the reputation as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Pierce's popularity in the North declined sharply after he came out in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise and reopening the question of the expansion of slavery in the West. Pierce's credibility was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto. Historian David Potter concludes that the Ostend Manifesto and the Kansas-Nebraska Act were "the two great calamities of the Franklin Pierce administration.... Both brought down an avalanche of public criticism." More important says Potter, they permanently discredited Manifest Destiny and popular sovereignty.

Abandoned by his party, Pierce was not renominated at the 1856 presidential election and was replaced by James Buchanan. After losing the Democratic nomination, Pierce continued his lifelong struggle with alcoholism as his marriage to Jane Means Appleton Pierce fell apart. His reputation was further damaged when he declared support for the Confederacy. He died in 1869 from cirrhosis.¹

Quotes

"Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion."

"The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded."

"A Republic without parties is a complete anomaly. The histories of all popular governments show how absurd is the idea of their attempting to exist without parties."

“With the Union my best and dearest earthly hopes are entwined.”

Noteworthy Sites

¹ Franklin Pierce - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Books on Franklin Pierce
Biography of Franklin Pierce
Essays on Franklin Pierce and His Administration
POTUS -- Franklin Pierce

 


 
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