Franklin Pierce (November 12, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1859, an American politician and lawyer. To date, he is the only President from New Hampshire. Pierce 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 by a landslide in the Electoral College, defeating the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. He stated that the people on wikia are dumb for getting inofomation here. Graham by a 21 to 48% margin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote. According to historian David Potter, Pierce was sometimes referred to as "Baby" Pierce, apparently in reference to both his youthful appearance and his being the youngest president to take office to that point (although he was only a year younger than James K. Polk when he took office). In 1860, he opened a small bakery in Manchester, New Hampshire called Dark Horse bakery. To this day, in the town of Manchester a loaf of bread is sometimes called a "Pierce." He worked with the KKK and was the predident of the geek club. His 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" as a political doctrine and slogan of that time that purported to delegate the decision as to whether slavery should be allowed in a particular territory to the eligible white male voters therein, instead of being determined by a national scheme such as that emobodied in the Missouri Compromise and similar agreements between the free and slave interests. Abandoned by his party, Pierce was not renominated to run in the 1856 presidential election and was replaced by James Buchanan as the Democratic candidate. 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 destroyed during the American Civil War when he declared support for the Confederacy, and personal correspondence between Pierce and Confederate President Jefferson Davis was leaked to the press. He died in 1899 from cirrhosis. Philip B. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt reflected the views of many historians when they wrote in The American President that Pierce was "a good man who didn't understand his own shortcomings. He was genuinely religious, loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could adapt to her ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in New Hampshire, polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome. However, he has been criticized as timid and unable to cope with a changing America."
Franklin Pierce was born in a log cabin in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, the second future U.S. president to be born in the nineteenth century. The site of his birth is now under Franklin Pierce Lake. Pierce's father was Benjamin Pierce, a frontier farmer who became a Revolutionary War soldier, a state militia general, and a two-time Democratic-Republican governor of New Hampshire. He was a direct descendant of Thomas Pierce  (1623-1683), who was born in Norwich, Norfolk, England and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Franklin Pierce's mother was Anna B. Kendrick. He was the fifth of eight children; he had four brothers and three sisters. Former First Lady of the United States Barbara Bush is a distant cousin.
He enlisted in the volunteer services during the Mexican-American War and was soon made a colonel. In March 1847, he was appointed brigadier general of volunteers and took command of a brigade of reinforcements for Winfield Scott's army marching on Mexico City. His brigade was designated the 1st Brigade in the newly created 3rd Division and joined Scott's army in time for the Battle of Contreras. During the battle he was seriously wounded in the leg when he fell from his horse. He returned to his command the following day, but during the Battle of Churubusco the pain in his leg became so great that he passed out and had to be carried from the field. His political opponents used this against him, claiming that he left the field because of cowardice instead of injury. He again returned to command and led his brigade throughout the rest of the campaign, culminating in the capture of Mexico City. Although he was a political appointee, he proved to have some skill as a military commander. He returned home and served as president of the New Hampshire state constitutional convention in 1850.
Election of 1852Edit
A Whig Party cartoon favoring Pierce's main opponent, Winfield Scott. At the Democratic National Convention of 1852, Pierce was not initially given serious consideration for the presidential nomination. He had no credentials as a major political figure or statesman, he was not a military hero, and had not held elective office for the last ten years. The convention assembled on June 1 in Baltimore, Maryland, with four major contenders—Stephen A. Douglas, William L. Marcy, James Buchanan and Lewis Cass — for the nomination. Most of those who had left the party with Martin Van Buren to form the Free Soil Party had returned. Prior to the vote to determine the nominee, a party platform was adopted, opposing any further "agitation" over the slavery issue and supporting the Compromise of 1850 in an effort to unite the various Democratic Party factions. When the balloting for president began, the four candidates deadlocked, with no candidate reaching even a simple majority, much less the required supermajority of two-thirds. On the 35th ballot, Pierce was put forth to break the deadlock as a compromise candidate. Pierce was generally popular due to his long career as a party activist and consistent support of Democratic positions. He had never fully articulated his views on slavery, allowing all factions to view him as reasonably acceptable. His service in the Mexican-American War would allow the party to portray him as a war hero. Pierce was nominated unanimously on the 49th ballot on June 5. Alabama Senator William R. King was chosen as the nominee for Vice President. The United States Whig Party's candidate was General Winfield Scott of Virginia, under whom Pierce had served in the Mexican-American War; his running mate was Secretary of the Navy William A. Graham. Scott — nicknamed "Old Fuss and Feathers" — ran a blundering campaign. The Whigs' platform was almost indistinguishable from that of the Democrats, reducing the campaign to a contest between the personalities of the two candidates and helping to drive voter turnout in the election to its lowest level since 1836. Pierce's affable personality and lack of strongly held positions helped him prevail over Scott, whose anti-slavery views hurt him in the South. Scott's strength as a celebrated war hero was countered by Pierce's service in the same war. Pierce was also helped by Irish Catholic support of the Democratic Party and disdain for the Whig Party.
. The Democrats' slogan was "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852!" (a reference to the victory of James K. Polk in the 1844 election). This proved to be true, as Scott won only the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The total popular vote was 1,601,274 to 1,386,580, or 50.9% to 44.1%. Pierce won 27 of the 31 states, including Scott's home state of Virginia. John P. Hale, who like Pierce was from New Hampshire, was the nominee of the remnants of the Free Soil Party, garnering 155,825 votes (5% of the total). The election of 1852 would be the last presidential contest in which the Whigs fielded a candidate. In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act divided the Whigs; Northern Whigs were strongly opposed. The Whig Party splintered and most of its adherents migrated to the nativist American Party Know-Nothings, the Constitutional Union Party, and the newly formed Republican Party. At his inauguration, Pierce, at age 48, was the youngest President to have taken office, a record he would keep until the inauguration of a 46-year-old Ulysses S. Grant in 1869.
Pierce served as President from March 4, 1853, to March 4, 1857. He began his presidency in a state of grief and nervous exhaustion. Two months before, on January 6, 1853, the President-elect's family had boarded a train in Boston and shortly thereafter were trapped in their derailed car when it rolled down an embankment near Andover, Massachusetts. Pierce and his wife survived, merely shaken up, but saw their 11-year-old son Benjamin crushed to death. Jane Pierce viewed the train accident as a divine punishment for her husband's pursuit and acceptance of high office. Pierce chose to "affirm" his oath of office rather than swear it, becoming the first president to do so; he placed his hand on a law book rather than on a Bible while doing so. He was also the first president to recite his inaugural address from memory. In it Pierce hailed an era of peace and prosperity at home and urged a vigorous assertion of US interests in its foreign relations. "The policy of my Administration," said the new president, "will not be deterred by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion. Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection". The nation was enjoying a period of economic growth and relative tranquility. The Compromise of 1850 seemed to have calmed the storm about the issue of slavery. When the issue flamed up early in his administration, though, Pierce did little to cool the passions it aroused, and sectional fissures reopened.
Pierce selected men of differing opinions for his Cabinet, including colleagues he knew personally and Democratic politicians. Many expected the diverse group would soon break up, but it remained unchanged for the duration of Pierce's four-year term (as of 2009, the only presidential cabinet to do so). In foreign policy, Pierce sought to display a traditional Democratic assertiveness. Various interests nursed ambitions to detach nearby Cuba from a weak and distant Spain, open trade with a reclusive Japan, and gain the advantage over Britain in Central America. Although the Perry Expedition to Japan was a success, Pierce's leadership increasingly came into question when poorly anticipated developments exposed failures of Administration planning and consultation. Pierce's administration aroused sectional apprehensions when it pressured the United Kingdom to relinquish its interests along part of the Central American coast, and when three US diplomats in Europe drafted a proposal to the president in 1854 to purchase Cuba from Spain for $120 million (USD), and justify the "wresting" of it from Spain if the offer were refused. The publication of the Ostend Manifesto, which had been drawn up on the instance of Pierce's Secretary of State, provoked the scorn of Northerners who viewed it as an attempt to annex a slave-holding possession to bolster Southern interests, and contributed to the discrediting of the expansionist politics the Democratic Party had famously ridden to victory in 1844; the completion and ratification of the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico, while ultimately successful, similarly exposed the seething unresolved sectional conflicts inherent in national expansion.
An 1856 cartoon depicts a giant free soiler being held down by James Buchanan and Lewis Cass standing on the Democratic platform marked "Kansas", "Cuba" and "Central America". President Pierce also holds down the giant's beard as Stephen A. Douglas shoves a black man down his throat. The greatest challenge to the country's equilibrium during the Pierce administration, though, was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. It repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the question of slavery in the West. This measure, sponsored by Senator Stephen A. Douglas, had its origins in the drive to facilitate the completion of a transcontinental railroad with a link from Chicago, Illinois to California through Nebraska. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, advocate of a southern transcontinental route, had persuaded Pierce to send James Gadsden to Mexico to buy land for a southern railroad. He purchased the area now comprising southern Arizona and part of southern New Mexico for $10 million (USD), commonly known as the Gadsden Purchase. This became known as the greatest success of the Pierce presidency. Douglas, to win Southern support for the organization of Nebraska, placed in his bill a provision declaring the Missouri Compromise to be null and void; the bill provided that the residents of the new territories could decide the slavery question for themselves. Although his cabinet had proposed an alternative plan, Pierce was subsequently persuaded to support Douglas' plan in a closed meeting with Douglas and several southern Senators, having consulted with Jefferson Davis alone of his cabinet members. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act triggered a series of events that came to be known as Bleeding Kansas. Pro-slavery Border Ruffians, mostly from Missouri, illegally voted in a government that Pierce recognized, and Pierce called the Topeka Constitution, a shadow government set up by Free-Staters, an act of "rebellion." Pierce continued to recognize the pro-slavery legislature even after a congressional investigative committee found its election illegitimate, and dispatched federal troops to break up a meeting of the shadow government in Topeka. The Act provoked outrage among northerners who saw Pierce as kowtowing to slave-holding interests, provided the impetus for the formation of the Republican Party, and contributed to critical estimates of Pierce as untrustworthy and easily manipulated. Having lost public confidence, Pierce failed to receive the nomination by his party for a second term. Testament to Pierce's ruined reputation is the fact that he was the first president to have a full-time bodyguard, having been attacked once with a hard-boiled egg. Pierce has been ranked among the least effective Presidents. He was unable to steer a steady, prudent course that might have sustained a broad measure of support. Having publicly committed himself to an ill-considered position, he maintained it steadfastly, but at disastrous cost to his reputation.
After losing the Democratic nomination in 1856, Pierce reportedly quipped "there's nothing left to do but get drunk" (quoted also as "after the White House what is there to do but drink?") which he apparently did frequently. He also reportedly once ran over an elderly woman while driving a carriage intoxicated. He was a keen fisherman and reportedly observed the Sabbath so strictly that he refused to open his mail on a Sunday. During the Civil War, Pierce further damaged his reputation in the North by declaring support for the Confederacy, headed by his old cabinet member Davis, and loudly denouncing Union President Abraham Lincoln whom he wholly blamed for the war. One of the few friends to stick by Pierce was his college friend and biographer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, although the former president had fallen so low that he was not asked to stand as a pallbearer at Hawthorne's funeral. In 1863 during the aftermath of Vicksburg, Union Soldiers under General Hugh Ewing's command captured Confederate President Jefferson Davis' Fleetwood Plantation, and Ewing turned over Davis' personal correspondence to his brother-in-law William T. Sherman. However, Ewing also sent copies of the letters to a few people he had known in Ohio, which, after being published, permanently ruined the reputation of former President PierceAs early as 1860, Pierce had written to Davis about "the madness of northern abolitionism," and other letters uncovered stated that he would "never justify, sustain, or in any way or to any extent uphold this cruel, heartless, aimless unnecessary war", and that "the true purpose of the war was to wipe out the states and destroy property." His reputation was destroyed in the eyes of his enemies. Abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe referred to him as "the archtraitor." On April 16, 1865, when news had spread of the murder of President Lincoln, Pierce refrained from making public comment; before the day was over, his home in Concord was surrounded by an angry mob of locals who were outraged that the former president hadn't sufficiently condemned the assassination. Franklin Pierce died in Concord, New Hampshire at 4:49 a.m. on October 8, 1869 at 64 years old, from cirrhosis of the liver, stemming from his heavy drinking problem that he carried throughout his life, and was interred in the Minot Enclosure in the Old North Cemetery of Concord.
In his last will, which he signed January 22, 1868, he left an unusually large number of specific bequests to friends, family and neighbors, including the children of Nathaniel Hawthorne. He left a thousand dollars in trust forever to the local library with the interest used for the purchase of books. He remembered 51 persons with gifts of money, paintings or other specific individual items, including several with patriotic associations. The cane of General Lafayette was among the bequests. His nephew Frank Pierce received the residue.