Franklin Pierce came into this world in a cabin in New Hampshire.
Father Benjamin Pierce was twice the governor of New Hampshire. Anna Kendrick
was his mother. Pierce was the seventh amongst eight siblings. His schooling was
in Hillsborough Centre and from there he went to Hancock Academy. He attended
Phillips Exeter Academy and later joined Bowdoin College, Maine.
Pierce was a good debater and formed friendships with Nathaniel
Hawthorne as well as H.W. Longfellow. He graduated in 1824, enrolled in a law
school and later joined the bar. Pierce was good looking and amiable. This made
him too soft and he came to be dubbed as one of the worst presidents of US. In
his personal life he struggled with a broken marriage with Jane Means Appleton
He was a good man who did not understand his own failures. He was
polite, thoughtful, and attractive and could play the political game well but he
could not understand the nature of changing America. His wife came from an
aristocratic Whig family and she was deeply religious. They lost all their
children – the last one in a tragic accident.
Pierce was a Democrat with a ‘doughface’ because he
was a Northerner with sympathies for Southern causes. He served in the House of
Representatives and the Senate. Pierce played an active role in the Mexican war.
Pierce practiced law in his home state of New Hampshire and success made him
turn down many rewarding offers.
Pierce joined local politics after graduation. He served in the
State House and was for sometime the Speaker. In 1832 he was elected to the
Congress as a Democrat when only 27 years old. He was also chairman of US
Committee on Pension.
Pierce was a compromise Presidential candidate because a dead lock
had reached and a tie breaker was required. Till then he was a political
nonentity with no major credentials to sing about. As a party activist he
had a long career and he never fully came out with his views on the sensitive
Pierce’s participation in the Mexican war projected him as a
war hero. He was nominated unanimously. He also got support of the Irish
Catholics. His opponent was a Whig – the last time the party would contend
for the post. At that time he was the youngest president being 48 years of
At the time of his inauguration there was peace and the storm
around slavery seemed to have died down. But when it resurfaced Pierce could not
tackle it firmly. He followed the footsteps of the Presidents who had preceded
him. However he entered the presidency a shaken man having seen for himself the
tragic death of his son in a train accident in which both he and his wife were
also involved. Shaken he took oath on a law book rather than the Bible.
His cabinet consisted of a diverse group. It remained unbroken
throughout his tenure. In matters of foreign policy he remained a traditional
Democrat in aggressiveness. At that time Spain was weak, Japan retiring and
England meddling in Central America. In the Ostend Manifesto he openly suggested
seizure of Cuba by force. It shocked many although it was this policy of
expansion that had brought success to the Democrats. The most controversial
event was the Kansas-Nebraska Act that opened up again the question of
Pierce hoped but was denied re-nomination. He left White House to
go on a European tour with his wife. He settled in Concord and spent his last
years in seclusion until his death in 1869.