Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the
President of the United States
President of the United States (1853–57), a northern Democrat
who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity
of the nation. He alienated anti-slavery groups by championing and
Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave
Act; yet he failed to stem conflict between North and South, setting
the stage for Southern secession and the American Civil War.
Pierce was born in New Hampshire, and he served in the U.S. House of
Representatives and the Senate until he resigned from the Senate in
1842. His private law practice in
New Hampshire was a success, and he
was appointed U.S. Attorney for his state in 1845. He took part in the
Mexican–American War as a brigadier general in the Army. He was seen
by Democrats as a compromise candidate uniting northern and southern
interests and was nominated as the party's candidate for president on
the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. He and
William R. King
William R. King easily defeated the Whig Party ticket of
Winfield Scott and William A. Graham in the 1852 presidential
As president, Pierce simultaneously attempted to enforce neutral
standards for civil service while also satisfying the diverse elements
of the Democratic Party with patronage, an effort which largely failed
and turned many in his party against him. He was a Young America
expansionist who signed the
Gadsden Purchase of land from Mexico and
led a failed attempt to acquire
Cuba from Spain. He signed trade
treaties with Britain and Japan, while his Cabinet reformed their
departments and improved accountability, but these successes were
overshadowed by political strife during his presidency.
His popularity declined sharply in the Northern states after he
supported the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which nullified the Missouri
Compromise, while many whites in the South continued to support him.
Passage of the act led to violent conflict over the expansion of
slavery in the American West. Pierce's administration was further
damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto
calling for the annexation of Cuba, a document which was roundly
criticized. He fully expected to be renominated by the Democrats in
the 1856 presidential election, but he was abandoned by his party and
his bid failed. His reputation in the North suffered further during
American Civil War
American Civil War as he became a vocal critic of President
Pierce was popular and outgoing, but his family life was a grim
affair, with his wife Jane suffering from illness and depression for
much of her life. All of their children died young, their last son
being gruesomely killed in a train accident while the family was
traveling shortly before Pierce's inauguration. He was a heavy drinker
for much of his life, and he died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869.
Historians and scholars generally rank Pierce as one of the worst and
least memorable U.S. Presidents.
1 Early life and family
1.1 Childhood and education
1.2 State politics
1.3 Marriage and children
2 Congressional career
2.1 U.S. House of Representatives
2.2 U.S. Senate
3 Party leader
3.1 Lawyer and politician
3.2 Mexican–American War
3.3 Return to New Hampshire
4 Election of 1852
5.1 Tragedy and transition
5.2 Administration and political strife
5.3 Economic policy and internal improvements
5.4 Foreign and military affairs
5.5 Bleeding Kansas
5.6 1856 election
6 Later life
6.2 Civil War
6.3 Final years and death
7 Sites, memorials, and honors
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Early life and family
Franklin Pierce Homestead
Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough, where Pierce grew up,
is now a National Historic Landmark. He was born in a nearby log
cabin as the homestead was being completed.[note 1]
Childhood and education
Franklin Pierce was born on November 23, 1804 in a log cabin in
Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He was a sixth-generation descendant of
Thomas Pierce, who had moved to the
Massachusetts Bay Colony
Massachusetts Bay Colony from
Norwich, Norfolk, England in about 1634. His father Benjamin was a
lieutenant in the
American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War who moved from
Chelmsford, Massachusetts to Hillsborough after the war, purchasing 50
acres (20 ha) of land. Pierce was the fifth of eight children
born to Benjamin and his second wife Anna Kendrick; his first wife
Elizabeth Andrews died in childbirth, leaving a daughter. Benjamin was
a prominent Democratic-Republican[note 2] state legislator, farmer,
and tavern-keeper. During Pierce's childhood, his father was deeply
involved in state politics, while two of his older brothers fought in
the War of 1812; public affairs and the military were thus a major
influence in his early life.
Pierce's father ensured that his sons were educated, and he placed
Pierce in a school at Hillsborough Center in childhood and sent him to
the town school at Hancock at age 12. The boy was not fond of
schooling. He grew homesick at Hancock and walked 12 miles
(19 km) back to his home one Sunday. His father fed him dinner
and drove him part of the distance back to school before kicking him
out of the carriage and ordering him to walk the rest of the way in a
thunderstorm. Pierce later cited this moment as "the turning-point in
my life". Later that year, he transferred to Phillips Exeter
Academy to prepare for college. By this time, he had built a
reputation as a charming student, sometimes prone to misbehavior.
Nathaniel Hawthorne remained lifelong friends with Pierce. He
wrote the glowing biography The Life of
Franklin Pierce in support of
Pierce's 1852 presidential campaign.
In fall 1820, Pierce entered
Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, one
of 19 freshmen. He joined the Athenian Society, a progressive literary
Jonathan Cilley (later elected to Congress) and
Nathaniel Hawthorne, with whom he formed lasting friendships. He was
the last in his class after two years, but he worked hard to improve
his grades and graduated in fifth place in 1824 in a graduating
class of 14.
John P. Hale
John P. Hale enrolled at Bowdoin in Pierce's junior
year; he became a political ally of Pierce's and then his rival.
Pierce organized and led an unofficial militia company called the
Bowdoin Cadets during his junior year, which included Cilley and
Hawthorne. The unit performed drill on campus near the president's
house, until the noise caused him to demand that it halt. The students
rebelled and went on strike, an event that Pierce was suspected of
leading. During his final year at Bowdoin, he spent several months
teaching at a school in rural Hebron, Maine, where he earned his first
salary and his students included future Congressman John J.
Pierce read law briefly with former
New Hampshire Governor Levi
Woodbury, a family friend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He then
spent a semester at
Northampton Law School in Northampton,
Massachusetts, followed by a period of study in 1826 and 1827 under
Judge Edmund Parker in Amherst, New Hampshire. He was admitted to the
New Hampshire bar in late 1827 and began to practice in
Hillsborough. He lost his first case, but soon proved capable as a
lawyer. Despite never being a legal scholar, his memory for names and
faces served him well, as did his personal charm and deep voice.
In Hillsborough, his law partner was Albert Baker, who had studied law
under Pierce and was the brother of Mary Baker Eddy.
New Hampshire was a hotbed of partisanship, with figures such
as Woodbury and
Isaac Hill laying the groundwork for a party of
Democrats in support of General Andrew Jackson. They opposed the
established Federalists (and their successors, the National
Republicans), who were led by sitting President John Quincy Adams. The
work of the
New Hampshire Democratic Party came to fruition in March
1827, when their pro-Jackson nominee, Benjamin Pierce, won the support
of the pro-Adams faction and was elected governor of New Hampshire
essentially unopposed. While the younger Pierce had set out to build a
career as an attorney, he was fully drawn into the realm of politics
as the 1828 presidential election between Adams and Jackson
approached. In the state elections held in March 1828, the Adams
faction withdrew their support of Benjamin Pierce, voting him out of
office,[note 3] but
Franklin Pierce won his first election:
Hillsborough town moderator, a position to which he would be elected
for six consecutive years.
Pierce actively campaigned in his district on behalf of Jackson, who
carried both the district and the nation by large margins in the
November 1828 election, even though he lost New Hampshire. The outcome
further strengthened the Democratic Party, and Pierce won his first
legislative seat the following year, representing Hillsborough in the
New Hampshire House of Representatives. Pierce's father, meanwhile,
was elected again as governor, retiring after that term. The younger
Pierce was appointed as chairman of the House Education Committee in
1829 and the Committee on Towns the following year. By 1831 the
Democrats held a legislative majority, and Pierce was elected Speaker
of the House. The young Speaker used his platform to oppose the
expansion of banking, protect the state militia, and offer support to
the national Democrats and Jackson's re-election effort. At the age of
27, he was a star of the
New Hampshire Democratic Party. Though
attaining early political and professional success, in his personal
letters he continued to lament his bachelorhood and yearned for a life
Like all white males in
New Hampshire between the ages of 18 and 45,
Pierce was a member of the state militia, and was appointed aide de
camp to Governor
Samuel Dinsmoor in 1831. He remained in the militia
until 1847, and attained the rank of colonel before becoming a
brigadier general in the Army during the Mexican–American
War. Interested in revitalizing and reforming the state
militias, which had become increasingly dormant during the years of
peace following the War of 1812, Pierce worked with Alden Partridge,
president of Norwich University, a military college in Vermont, and
Truman B. Ransom
Truman B. Ransom and Alonzo Jackman, Norwich faculty members and
militia officers, to increase recruiting efforts and improve training
and readiness. Pierce served as a
Norwich University trustee
from 1841 to 1859, and received the honorary degree of LL.D. from
Norwich in 1853.
In late 1832, the Democratic Party convention nominated Pierce for one
of New Hampshire's five seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
This was tantamount to election for the young Democrat, as the
National Republicans had faded as a political force, while the Whigs
had not yet begun to attract a large following. Democratic strength in
New Hampshire was also bolstered by Jackson's landslide re-election
New Hampshire had been a marginal state politically,
but from 1832 through the mid-1850s became the most reliably
Democratic state in the North, boosting Pierce's political career.
Pierce's term began in March 1833, but he would not be sworn in until
Congress met in December, and his attention was elsewhere. He had
recently become engaged and bought his first house in Hillsborough.
Franklin and Benjamin Pierce were among the prominent citizens who
welcomed President Jackson to the state on his visit in mid-1833.
Marriage and children
Pious and reserved,
Jane Pierce was her husband's opposite in many
On November 19, 1834, Pierce married Jane Means Appleton (March 12,
1806 – December 2, 1863), the daughter of Jesse Appleton, a
Congregational minister and former president of Bowdoin College, and
Elizabeth Means. The Appletons were prominent Whigs, in contrast with
the Pierces' Democratic affiliation. Jane was shy, devoutly religious,
and pro-temperance, encouraging Pierce to abstain from alcohol. She
was somewhat gaunt, and constantly ill from tuberculosis and
psychological ailments. She abhorred politics and especially disliked
Washington, D.C., creating a tension that would continue throughout
Pierce's political ascent.
Jane disliked Hillsborough as well, and in 1838, the Pierces relocated
to the state capital, Concord, New Hampshire. They had three sons,
all of whom died in childhood. Franklin Jr. (February 2–5, 1836)
died in infancy, while Frank Robert (August 27, 1839 – November 14,
1843) died at the age of four from epidemic typhus. Benjamin (April
13, 1841 – January 6, 1853) died at the age of 11 in a train
U.S. House of Representatives
Pierce departed in November 1833 for Washington, D.C., where the
United States Congress convened its regular session on
December 2. Jackson's second term was under way, and the House had a
strong Democratic majority, whose primary focus was to prevent the
Second Bank of the
United States from being rechartered. The
Democrats, including Pierce, defeated proposals supported by the newly
formed Whig Party, and the bank's charter expired. Pierce broke from
his party on occasion, opposing Democratic bills to fund internal
improvements with federal money. He saw both the bank and
infrastructure spending as unconstitutional, with internal
improvements the responsibility of the states. Pierce's first term was
fairly uneventful from a legislative standpoint, and he was easily
re-elected in March 1835. When not in Washington, he attended to his
law practice, and in December 1835 returned to the capital for the
As abolitionism grew more vocal in the mid-1830s, Congress was
inundated with petitions from anti-slavery groups seeking legislative
action to restrict slavery in the United States. From the beginning,
Pierce found the abolitionists' "agitation" to be an annoyance, and
saw federal action against slavery as an infringement on southern
states' rights, even though he was morally opposed to slavery
itself. He was also frustrated with the "religious bigotry" of
abolitionists, who cast their political opponents as sinners. "I
consider slavery a social and political evil," Pierce said, "and most
sincerely wish that it had no existence upon the face of the
earth." Still, he wrote in December 1835, "One thing must be
perfectly apparent to every intelligent man. This abolition movement
must be crushed or there is an end to the Union."
James Henry Hammond
James Henry Hammond of South Carolina looked to prevent
anti-slavery petitions from reaching the House floor, however, Pierce
sided with the abolitionists' right to petition. Nevertheless, Pierce
supported what came to be known as the gag rule, which allowed for
petitions to be received, but not read or considered. This passed the
House in 1836. He was attacked by the
New Hampshire anti-slavery
Herald of Freedom as a "doughface", which had the dual meaning of
"craven-spirited man" and "northerner with southern sympathies".
Pierce had stated that not one in 500 New Hampshirites were
abolitionists; the Herald of Freedom article added up the number of
signatures on petitions from that state, divided by the number of
residents according to the 1830 census, and suggested the actual
number was one in 33. Pierce was outraged when South Carolina Senator
John C. Calhoun
John C. Calhoun read the article on the Senate floor as "proof" that
New Hampshire was a hotbed of abolitionism. Calhoun apologized after
Pierce replied to him in a speech which stated that most signatories
were women and children, who could not vote, which therefore cast
doubt on the one in 33 figure.
Pierce in 1852
The resignation in May 1836 of Senator Isaac Hill, who had been
elected governor of New Hampshire, left a brief interim opening to be
filled by the state legislature. With Hill's term as senator due to
expire in March 1837, the legislature also had to fill the six-year
term to follow. Pierce's candidacy for the Senate was championed by
state Representative John P. Hale, a fellow Athenian at Bowdoin. After
much debate, the legislature chose John Page to fill the rest of
Hill's term. In December 1836, Pierce was elected to the full term, to
commence in March 1837, becoming at age 32 one of the youngest members
in Senate history to that point. The election came at a difficult time
for Pierce, as his father, sister, and brother were all seriously ill,
while Jane continued to suffer from chronic poor health. As senator,
he was able to help his old friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, who often
struggled financially, procuring a sinecure as measurer of coal and
salt at the Boston Customs House that allowed the author time to
Pierce voted the party line on most issues. He was an able senator,
but not an eminent one; he was overshadowed by the Great Triumvirate
of Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, who dominated the
Senate. Pierce entered the Senate at a time of economic crisis, as
Panic of 1837
Panic of 1837 had begun. He considered the depression a result of
the banking system's rapid growth, amidst "the extravagance of
overtrading and the wilderness of speculation". So that federal money
would not support speculative bank loans, he supported newly elected
Martin Van Buren
Martin Van Buren and his plan to create an
independent treasury, a proposal which split the Democratic Party.
Debate over slavery continued in Congress, and abolitionists proposed
its end in the District of Columbia, where Congress had jurisdiction.
Pierce supported a resolution by Calhoun against this proposal, which
Pierce considered a dangerous stepping stone to nationwide
emancipation. Meanwhile, the Whigs were growing in congressional
strength, which would leave Pierce's party with only a small majority
by the end of the decade.
One topic of particular importance to Pierce was the military. He
challenged a bill which would expand the ranks of the Army's staff
officers in Washington without any apparent benefit to line officers
at posts in the rest of the country. He took an interest in military
pensions, seeing abundant fraud within the system, and was named
chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Pensions in the
Twenty-sixth Congress (1839–1841). In that capacity, he urged the
modernization and expansion of the Army, with a focus on militias and
mobility rather than on coastal fortifications, which he considered
Pierce campaigned vigorously throughout his home state for Van Buren's
re-election in the 1840 presidential election. The incumbent carried
New Hampshire but lost the national vote to William Henry Harrison,
the military hero, whose Whigs took a majority of seats in the
Twenty-seventh Congress. Harrison died after a month in office, and
John Tyler succeeded him. Pierce and the Democrats were
quick to challenge the new administration, questioning the removal of
federal officeholders, and opposing Whig plans for a national bank. In
December 1841 Pierce decided to resign from Congress, something he had
been planning for some time.
New Hampshire Democrats felt that no
one should hold one of the state's Senate seats for longer than one
six-year term. Thus, he had little likelihood of re-election. Also, he
was frustrated at being a member of the legislative minority and
wished to devote his time to his family and law practice. His last
acts in the Senate before resigning in February 1842 were to oppose a
bill distributing federal funds to the states – believing that the
money should go to the military instead – and to challenge the Whigs
to reveal the results of their investigation of the New York Customs
House, where the Whigs had probed for Democratic corruption for nearly
a year but had issued no findings.
Lawyer and politician
The Concord house where Pierce lived from 1842 to 1848 is now known as
the Pierce Manse. The house was restored in the 1970s and is now
maintained as a historic attraction.
Despite his resignation from the Senate, Pierce had no intention of
leaving public life. The move to Concord had given him more
opportunities for cases, and allowed Jane a more robust community
life. Jane had remained in Concord with her young son Frank and
her newborn Benjamin for the latter part of Pierce's Senate term, and
this separation had taken a toll on the family. Pierce, meanwhile, had
begun a demanding but lucrative law partnership with
Asa Fowler during
congressional recesses. Pierce returned to Concord in early 1842,
and his reputation as a lawyer continued to flourish. Known for his
gracious personality, eloquence, and excellent memory, Pierce would
attract large audiences to hear him in court. He would often represent
poor people for little or no compensation.
Pierce remained involved in the state Democratic Party, which was
split by several issues. Governor Hill, who represented the
commercial, urban wing of the party, advocated the use of government
charters to support corporations, granting them privileges such as
limited liability and eminent domain for building railroads. The
radical "locofoco" wing of his party represented farmers and other
rural voters, who sought an expansion of social programs and labor
regulations and a restriction on corporate privilege. The state's
political culture grew less tolerant of banks and corporations in the
wake of the Panic of 1837, and Hill was voted out of office. Pierce
was closer to the radicals philosophically, and reluctantly served as
attorney against Hill in a dispute regarding ownership of a
newspaper—Hill lost, and founded his own, in which Pierce was a
In June 1842 Pierce was named chairman of the State Democratic
Committee. In the following year's state election he helped the
radical wing take over the state legislature. The party remained
divided on several issues, including railroad development and the
temperance movement, and Pierce took a leading role in helping the
state legislature settle their differences. His priorities were
"order, moderation, compromise, and party unity", which he tried to
place ahead of his personal views on political issues. As he would
as president, Pierce valued Democratic Party unity highly, and saw
opposition to slavery as a threat to that.
The surprise victory of dark horse Democratic candidate James K. Polk
in the 1844 presidential election was welcome news to Pierce, who had
befriended the former Speaker of the House while both served in
Congress. Pierce had campaigned heavily for Polk during the election,
and in turn Polk appointed him
United States Attorney for New
Hampshire. Polk's most prominent cause was the annexation of
Texas, an issue which caused a dramatic split between Pierce and his
former ally Hale, now a U.S. Representative. Hale was so impassioned
against adding a new slave state that he wrote a public letter to his
constituents outlining his opposition to the measure. Pierce
responded by re-assembling the state Democratic convention to revoke
Hale's nomination for another term in Congress. The political
firestorm led to Pierce cutting off ties with his longtime friend, and
with his law partner Fowler, who was a Hale supporter. Hale
refused to withdraw, and as a majority vote was needed for election in
New Hampshire, the party split led to deadlock and a vacant House
seat. Eventually, the Whigs and Hale's Independent Democrats took
control of the legislature, elected Whig
Anthony Colby as governor and
sent Hale to the Senate, much to Pierce's anger.
Pierce in his brigadier general's uniform
Active military service was a long-held dream for Pierce, who had
admired his father's and brothers' service in his youth, particularly
his older brother Benjamin's, as well as that of John McNeil Jr.,
husband of Pierce's older half-sister Elizabeth. As a legislator, he
was a passionate advocate for volunteer militias. As a militia officer
himself, he had experience mustering and drilling bodies of troops.
When Congress declared war against Mexico in May 1846, Pierce
immediately volunteered to join, although no New England regiment yet
existed. His hope to fight in the
Mexican-American War was one reason
he refused an offer to become Polk's Attorney General. General Zachary
Taylor's advance slowed in northern Mexico, and General Winfield Scott
proposed capturing the port of Vera Cruz and driving overland to
Mexico City. Congress passed a bill authorizing the creation of ten
regiments, and Pierce was appointed colonel and commander of the 9th
Infantry Regiment in February 1847, with
Truman B. Ransom
Truman B. Ransom as
lieutenant colonel and second-in-command.
Pierce's brief term as a general in the
Mexican–American War boosted
his public image.
On March 3, 1847, Pierce was promoted to brigadier general, and took
command of a brigade of reinforcements for General Scott's army, with
Ransom succeeding to command of the regiment. Needing time to assemble
his brigade, Pierce reached the already-seized port of Vera Cruz in
late June, where he prepared a march of 2,500 men accompanying
supplies to take to Scott. The three-week journey inland was perilous,
and the men fought off several attacks before joining with Scott's
army in early August, in time for the Battle of Contreras. The
battle was disastrous for Pierce: his horse was suddenly startled
during a charge, knocking him groin-first against his saddle. The
horse then tripped into a crevice and fell, pinning Pierce underneath
and leaving him with a debilitating knee injury. The incident made
it look like he had fainted, causing one soldier to call for someone
else to take command, "General Pierce is a damned coward." Pierce
returned for the following day's action, but again injured his knee,
forcing him to hobble after his men, and by the time he caught up, the
battle had mostly been won.
Battle of Churubusco
Battle of Churubusco approached, Scott ordered Pierce to the
rear to convalesce. He responded, "For God's sake, General, this is
the last great battle, and I must lead my brigade." Scott yielded, and
Pierce entered the fight tied to his saddle, but the pain in his leg
became so great that he passed out on the field. The Americans won the
battle and Pierce helped negotiate an armistice. He then returned to
command and led his brigade throughout the rest of the campaign,
eventually taking part in the capture of Mexico City in mid-September,
although his brigade was held in reserve for much of the battle.
He spent much of Mexico City fight in the sick tent, plagued with
acute diarrhea. Pierce remained in command of his brigade during
the three-month occupation of the city, while frustrated with the
stalling of peace negotiations, and tried to distance himself from the
constant conflict between Scott and the other generals.
Pierce was finally allowed to return to Concord in late December 1847.
He was given a hero's welcome in his home state and issued his
resignation from the Army, which was approved on March 20, 1848. His
military exploits elevated his popularity in New Hampshire, but his
injuries and subsequent troubles in battle led to accusations of
cowardice which would long follow him. He had demonstrated competence
as a general, especially in the initial march from Vera Cruz, but his
short tenure and his injury left little for historians to judge his
ability as a military commander.
Ulysses S. Grant, who had the opportunity to observe Pierce firsthand
during the war, countered the allegations of cowardice in his memoirs,
written several years after Pierce's death: "Whatever General Pierce's
qualifications may have been for the Presidency, he was a gentleman
and a man of courage. I was not a supporter of him politically, but I
knew him more intimately than I did any other of the volunteer
Return to New Hampshire
By the 1850s, Pierce had become a de facto leader of the New Hampshire
Returning to Concord, Pierce resumed his law work; in one notable case
he defended the religious liberty of the Shakers, the insular sect who
were being threatened with legal action over accusations of child
abuse. His role as a party leader, however, continued to take up most
of his attention. He continued to wrangle with Senator Hale, who was
stridently anti-slavery and had opposed the war, stances that Pierce
regarded as needless agitation.
Mexican Cession of land had divided the United States
politically, with many in the North insisting that slavery not be
allowed there (and offering the
Wilmot Proviso to ensure it), while
others wanted slavery barred north of the
Missouri Compromise line of
36°30′ N. Both proposals were anathema to many Southerners, and the
controversy divided the Democrats. At the 1848 Democratic National
Convention, the majority nominated former Michigan senator Lewis Cass
for president, while a minority broke off to become the Free Soil
Party, backing former president Van Buren. The Whigs chose General
Zachary Taylor, a Louisianan, whose views on most political issues
were unknown. Despite his past support for Van Buren, Pierce supported
Cass, turning down the quiet offer of second place on the Free Soil
ticket, and was so effective that Taylor, who was elected president,
was held in
New Hampshire to his lowest percentage in any state.
Senator Henry Clay, a Whig, hoped to put the slavery question to rest
with what became known as the Compromise of 1850, which would give
some victories to both slaveholders and abolitionists, and gained the
support of his fellow Whig, Webster. With the proposal stalled in the
Senate, Illinois Senator
Stephen A. Douglas
Stephen A. Douglas led an effort to split it
into separate bills so that each legislator could vote against the
parts his state opposed without endangering the overall package. This
was done, and the bills passed, to be signed by President Millard
Fillmore (who had succeeded Taylor after the president's death earlier
in 1850). Pierce strongly supported the compromise, giving a
well-received speech in December 1850 pledging himself to "The Union!
Eternal Union!" The same month, the Democratic candidate for
governor, John Atwood, issued a letter opposing the Compromise, and
Pierce helped to recall the state convention and remove Atwood from
the ticket. The fiasco would compromise the election for the
Democrats, who lost several races. Still, Pierce's party retained its
control over the state, and was well positioned for the upcoming
Election of 1852
1852 Democratic National Convention
1852 Democratic National Convention and United States
presidential election, 1852
Campaign poster for the Pierce/King ticket
As the 1852 presidential election approached, the Democrats were
divided by the slavery issue, though most of the "Barnburners" who had
left the party with Van Buren to form the
Free Soil Party
Free Soil Party had
returned. It was widely expected that the 1852 Democratic National
Convention would result in deadlock, with no major candidate able to
win the necessary two-thirds majority.
New Hampshire Democrats,
including Pierce, supported his old teacher, Levi Woodbury, by then an
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, as a compromise candidate, but
Woodbury's death in September 1851 opened up an opportunity for
Pierce's allies to present him as a potential dark horse in the mold
New Hampshire Democrats felt that, as the state in which
their party had most consistently gained Democratic majorities, they
should supply the presidential candidate. Other possible
standard-bearers included Douglas, Cass,
William Marcy of New York,
James Buchanan of Pennsylvania,
Sam Houston of Texas, and Thomas Hart
Benton of Missouri.
Despite the backing of his home state, Pierce faced obstacles in
gaining the nomination, as he had not held elective office in a
decade, and lacked the front-runners' national reputation. He publicly
declared that such a nomination would be "utterly repugnant to my
tastes and wishes", but given the desire of
New Hampshire Democrats to
see one of their own elected, knew that his position as a party leader
would be endangered if he was unwilling to run. Thus, he quietly
allowed his supporters to lobby for him, with the understanding that
his name would not be entered at the convention unless it was clear
none of the front-runners could win. To broaden his potential base of
southern support as the convention approached, he wrote letters
reiterating his support for the Compromise of 1850, including the
controversial Fugitive Slave Act.
The convention assembled on June 1 in Baltimore, Maryland, and the
deadlock occurred as expected. The first ballot was taken on June 3.
Of 288 delegates, Cass claimed 116, Buchanan 93, and the rest were
scattered, without a single vote for Pierce. The next 34 ballots
passed with no-one near victory, and still no votes for Pierce. The
Buchanan team decided to have their delegates vote for minor
candidates, including Pierce, to demonstrate that no one but Buchanan
could win. It was hoped that once delegates realized this, the
convention would unite behind Buchanan. This novel tactic backfired
after several ballots as Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine switched
to Pierce; the remaining Buchanan forces began to break for Marcy, and
before long Pierce was in third place. After the 48th ballot, North
James C. Dobbin
James C. Dobbin delivered an unexpected and
passionate endorsement of Pierce, sparking a wave of support for the
dark horse candidate. On the 49th ballot, Pierce received all but six
of the votes, and thus gained the Democratic nomination for president.
Delegates selected Alabama Senator William R. King, a Buchanan
supporter, as Pierce's running mate, and adopted a party platform that
rejected further "agitation" over the slavery issue and supported the
Compromise of 1850.
When word reached
New Hampshire of the result, Pierce found it
difficult to believe, and his wife fainted. Their son Benjamin wrote
to his mother hoping that Franklin's candidacy would not be
successful, as he knew she would not like to live in Washington.
This anti-Pierce political cartoon depicts him as weak and cowardly
The Whig candidate was General Scott, whom Pierce had served under in
Mexico; his running mate was Secretary of the Navy William A. Graham.
The Whigs could not unify their factions as the Democrats had, and the
convention adopted a platform almost indistinguishable from that of
the Democrats, including support of the Compromise of 1850. This
incited the Free Soilers to field their own candidate, Senator Hale of
New Hampshire, at the expense of the Whigs. The lack of political
differences reduced the campaign to a bitter personality contest and
helped to dampen voter turnout in the election to its lowest level
since 1836; it was, according to Pierce biographer Peter A. Wallner,
"one of the least exciting campaigns in presidential history".
Scott was harmed by the lack of enthusiasm of anti-slavery northern
Whigs for the candidate and platform;
New-York Tribune editor Horace
Greeley summed up the attitude of many when he said of the Whig
platform, "we defy it, execrate it, spit upon it".
Electoral map of the 1852 presidential election
Pierce kept quiet so as not to upset his party's delicate unity, and
allowed his allies to run the campaign. It was the custom at the time
for candidates to not appear to seek the office, and he did no
personal campaigning. Pierce's opponents caricatured him as an
anti-Catholic coward and alcoholic ("the hero of many a well-fought
bottle"). Scott, meanwhile, drew weak support from the Whigs, who
were torn by their pro-Compromise platform and found him to be an
abysmal, gaffe-prone public speaker. The Democrats were confident:
a popular slogan was that the Democrats "will pierce their enemies in
1852 as they poked [that is, Polked] them in 1844." This proved to
be true, as Scott won only Kentucky, Tennessee, Massachusetts and
Vermont, finishing with 42 electoral votes to Pierce's 254. With 3.2
million votes cast, Pierce won the popular vote with 50.9 to 44.1
percent. A sizable block of Free Soilers broke for Pierce's in-state
rival, Hale, who won 4.9 percent of the popular vote. The
Democrats took large majorities in Congress.
Main article: Presidency of Franklin Pierce
Tragedy and transition
Jane Pierce and "Benny", whose death cast a shadow over Pierce's term
Pierce began his presidency in mourning. Weeks after his election, on
January 6, 1853, the President-elect's family had been traveling from
Boston by train when their car derailed and rolled down an embankment
near Andover, Massachusetts. Pierce and Jane survived, but in the
wreckage found their only remaining son, 11-year-old Benjamin, crushed
to death, his body nearly decapitated. Pierce was not able to hide the
gruesome sight from Jane. They both suffered severe depression
afterward, which likely affected Pierce's performance as
president. Jane wondered if the train accident was divine
punishment for her husband's pursuit and acceptance of high office.
She wrote a lengthy letter of apology to "Benny" for her failings as a
mother. Jane would avoid social functions for much of her first
two years as First Lady, making her public debut in that role to great
sympathy at the public reception held at the White House on New Year's
Jane remained in
New Hampshire as Pierce departed for his
inauguration, which she did not attend. Pierce, the youngest man to be
elected president to that point, chose to affirm his oath of office on
a law book rather than swear it on a Bible, as all his predecessors
George Washington and
John Quincy Adams
John Quincy Adams had done. He was the
first president to deliver his inaugural address from memory. In
the address he hailed an era of peace and prosperity at home and urged
a vigorous assertion of U.S. interests in its foreign relations,
including the "eminently important" acquisition of new territories.
"The policy of my Administration", said the new president, "will not
be deterred by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion." Avoiding
the word "slavery", he emphasized his desire to put the "important
subject" to rest and maintain a peaceful union. He alluded to his own
personal tragedy, telling the crowd, "You have summoned me in my
weakness, you must sustain me by your strength."
Administration and political strife
See also: List of federal judges appointed by Franklin Pierce
BEP-engraved portrait of Pierce as president
In his Cabinet appointments, Pierce sought to unite a party that was
squabbling over the fruits of victory. Most of the party had not
originally supported him for the nomination, and some had allied with
the Free Soil party to gain victory in local elections. Pierce decided
to allow each of the party's factions some appointments, even those
that had not supported the Compromise of 1850.
All of Pierce's cabinet nominations were confirmed unanimously and
immediately by the Senate. Pierce spent the first few weeks of his
term sorting through hundreds of lower-level federal positions to be
filled. This was a chore, as he sought to represent all factions of
the party, and could fully satisfy none of them. Partisans found
themselves unable to secure positions for their friends, which put the
Democratic Party on edge and fueled bitterness between factions.
Before long, northern newspapers accused Pierce of filling his
government with pro-slavery secessionists, while southern newspapers
accused him of abolitionism.
Factionalism between the pro- and anti-administration Democrats ramped
up quickly, especially within the New York Democratic Party. The more
conservative Hardshell Democrats or "Hards" of New York were deeply
skeptical of the Pierce administration, which was associated with
Marcy (who became Secretary of State) and the more moderate New York
faction, the Softshell Democrats or "Softs".
Pierce's Vice President
William R. King
William R. King died a little more than one
month into his term, leaving a vacancy that could not be filled.
Buchanan had urged Pierce to consult Vice President-elect King in
selecting the Cabinet, but Pierce did not do so—Pierce and King had
not communicated since they had been selected as candidates in June
1852. By the start of 1853, King was severely ill with tuberculosis,
and went to
Cuba to recuperate. His condition deteriorated, and
Congress passed a special law, allowing him to be sworn in before the
American consul in Havana on March 24. Wanting to die at home, he
returned to his plantation in Alabama on April 17 and died the next
day. The office of vice president remained vacant for the remainder of
Pierce's term, as the Constitution then had no provision for filling
the vacancy. The extended vacancy meant during almost all of the
Pierce Administration the Senate President pro tempore, initially
David Atchison of Missouri, was next in line to the presidency.
Pierce sought to run a more efficient and accountable government than
his predecessors. His Cabinet members implemented an early system
of civil service examinations which was a forerunner to the Pendleton
Act passed three decades later. The Interior Department was
reformed by Secretary Robert McClelland, who systematized its
operations, expanded the use of paper records, and pursued fraud.
Another of Pierce's reforms was to expand the role of the U.S.
attorney general in appointing federal judges and attorneys, which was
an important step in the eventual development of the Justice
Department. There was a vacancy on the Supreme Court—Fillmore,
having failed to get Senate confirmation for his nominees, had offered
it to newly elected Louisiana Senator Judah P. Benjamin, who had
declined. Pierce also offered the seat to Benjamin, and when the
Louisianan persisted in his refusal, nominated instead John
Archibald Campbell, an advocate of states' rights; this would be
Pierce's only Supreme Court appointment.
Economic policy and internal improvements
Indian Peace Medal
Indian Peace Medal depicting Pierce
Pierce charged Treasury Secretary James Guthrie with reforming the
Treasury, which was inefficiently managed and had many unsettled
accounts. Guthrie increased oversight of Treasury employees and tariff
collectors, many of whom were withholding money from the government.
Despite laws requiring funds to be held in the Treasury, large
deposits remained in private banks under the Whig administrations.
Guthrie reclaimed these funds and sought to prosecute corrupt
officials, with mixed success.
Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, at Pierce's request, led surveys
Corps of Topographical Engineers
Corps of Topographical Engineers of possible transcontinental
railroad routes throughout the country. The Democratic Party had long
rejected federal appropriations for internal improvements, but Davis
felt that such a project could be justified as a Constitutional
national security objective. Davis also deployed the Army Corps of
Engineers to supervise construction projects in the District of
Columbia, including the expansion of the
United States Capitol and
building of the Washington Monument.
Foreign and military affairs
The Pierce administration fell in line with the expansionist Young
America movement, with
William L. Marcy
William L. Marcy leading the charge as
Secretary of State. Marcy sought to present to the world a
distinctively American, republican image. He issued a circular
recommending that U.S. diplomats wear "the simple dress of an American
citizen" instead of the elaborate diplomatic uniforms worn in the
courts of Europe, and that they only hire American citizens to work in
consulates. Marcy received international praise for his 73-page
letter defending Austrian refugee Martin Koszta, who had been captured
abroad in mid-1853 by the Austrian government despite his intention to
become a U.S. citizen.
Davis, an advocate of a southern transcontinental route, persuaded
Pierce to send rail magnate
James Gadsden to Mexico to buy land for a
potential railroad. Gadsden was also charged with re-negotiating the
provisions of the
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which required the U.S.
to prevent Native American raids into Mexico from New Mexico
Territory. Gadsden negotiated a treaty with Mexican President Antonio
López de Santa Anna in December 1853, purchasing a large swath of
land to America's southwest. Negotiations were nearly derailed by
William Walker's unauthorized expedition into Mexico, and so a clause
was included charging the U.S. with combating future such
attempts. Congress reduced the
Gadsden Purchase to the region now
Arizona and part of southern New Mexico; the price
was cut from $15 million to $10 million. Congress also
included a protection clause for a private citizen, Albert G. Sloo,
whose interests were threatened by the purchase. Pierce opposed the
use of the federal government to prop up private industry and did not
endorse the final version of the treaty, which was ratified
nonetheless. The acquisition brought the contiguous United States
to its present-day boundaries, excepting later minor adjustments.
The Pierce Cabinet
William R. King
Secretary of State
William L. Marcy
Secretary of Treasury
Secretary of War
Secretary of the Navy
James C. Dobbin
Secretary of the Interior
Relations with the United Kingdom were tense, as American fishermen
felt menaced by the British navy's increasing enforcement of Canadian
waters. Marcy completed a trade reciprocity agreement with British
minister to Washington, John Crampton, which would reduce the need for
aggressive coastline enforcement. Buchanan was sent as minister to
London to pressure the British government, which was slow to support a
new treaty. A favorable reciprocity treaty was ratified in August
1854, which Pierce saw as a first step towards the American annexation
of Canada. While the administration negotiated with Britain over
the Canada–US border, U.S. interests were also threatened in Central
America, where the
Clayton–Bulwer Treaty of 1850 had failed to keep
Great Britain from expanding its influence. Gaining the advantage over
Britain in the region was a key part of Pierce's expansionist
British consuls in the
United States sought to enlist Americans for
Crimean War in 1854, in violation of neutrality laws, and Pierce
eventually expelled minister Crampton and three consuls. To the
President's surprise, the British did not expel Buchanan in
retaliation. In his December 1855 message to Congress Pierce had set
forth the American case that Britain had violated the Clayton-Bulwer
Treaty. The British, according to Buchanan, were impressed by the
message and were rethinking their policy. Nevertheless, Buchanan was
not successful in getting the British to renounce their Central
American possessions. The Canadian treaty was ratified by Congress,
the British Parliament, and by the colonial legislatures in
Pierce's administration aroused sectional apprehensions when three
U.S. diplomats in Europe drafted a proposal to the president to
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 at the insistence of
Secretary of State Marcy, provoked the scorn of northerners who viewed
it as an attempt to annex a slave-holding possession to bolster
Southern interests. It helped discredit the expansionist policy of
Manifest Destiny the Democratic Party had often supported.
Pierce favored expansion and a substantial reorganization of the
military. Secretary of War Davis and Navy Secretary James C. Dobbin
found the Army and Navy in poor condition, with insufficient forces, a
reluctance to adopt new technology, and inefficient management.
Under the Pierce administration, Commodore
Matthew C. Perry
Matthew C. Perry visited
Japan (a venture originally planned under Fillmore) in an effort to
expand trade to the East. Perry wanted to encroach on Asia by force,
but Pierce and Dobbin pushed him to remain diplomatic. Perry signed a
modest trade treaty with the Japanese shogunate which was successfully
ratified. The 1856 launch of the USS Merrimac, one of six newly
commissioned steam frigates, was one of Pierce's "most personally
satisfying" days in office.
Kansas–Nebraska Act and Bleeding Kansas
Kansas–Nebraska Act organized Kansas (in pink) and Nebraska
The greatest challenge to the country's equilibrium during the Pierce
administration was the passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act.
Organizing the largely unsettled Nebraska Territory, which stretched
Missouri to the Rocky Mountains, and from Texas north to what is
now the Canada–US border, was a crucial part of Douglas's plans for
western expansion. He wanted a transcontinental railroad with a link
Chicago to California, through the vast western territory.
Organizing the territory was necessary for settlement as the land
would not be surveyed nor put up for sale until a territorial
government was authorized. Those from slave states had never been
content with western limits on slavery, and felt it should be able to
expand into territories procured with blood and treasure that had
come, in part, from the South. Douglas and his allies planned to
organize the territory and let local settlers decide whether to allow
slavery. This would repeal the
Missouri Compromise of 1820, as most of
it was north of the 36°30′ N line the
Missouri Compromise deemed
"free". The territory would be split into a northern part, Nebraska,
and a southern part, Kansas, and the expectation was that Kansas would
allow slavery and Nebraska would not. In the view of pro-slavery
Southern politicians, the
Compromise of 1850
Compromise of 1850 had already annulled the
Missouri Compromise by admitting the state of California, including
territory south of the compromise line, as a free state.
Pierce had wanted to organize the
Nebraska Territory without
explicitly addressing the matter of slavery, but Douglas could not get
enough southern support to accomplish this. Pierce was skeptical
of the bill, knowing it would result in bitter opposition from the
North. Douglas and Davis convinced him to support the bill regardless.
It was tenaciously opposed by northerners such as Ohio Senator Salmon
P. Chase and Massachusetts' Charles Sumner, who rallied public
sentiment in the North against the bill. Northerners had been
suspicious of the Gadsden Purchase, moves towards
Cuba annexation, and
the influence of slaveholding Cabinet members such as Davis, and saw
the Nebraska bill as part of a pattern of southern aggression. The
result was a political firestorm that did great damage to Pierce's
Pierce and his administration used threats and promises to keep most
Democrats on board in favor of the bill. The Whigs split along
sectional lines; the conflict destroyed them as a national party. The
Kansas–Nebraska Act was passed in May 1854 and would come to define
the Pierce presidency. The political turmoil that followed the passage
saw the short-term rise of the nativist and anti-Catholic American
Party, often called the Know Nothings, and the founding of the
Northerners resented Pierce's attempted expansion of slavery through
Kansas–Nebraska and Cuba. In this 1856 cartoon, a Free Soiler
is held down by Pierce, Buchanan, and Cass while Douglas shoves
"Slavery" (depicted as a black man) down his throat.
Even as the act was being debated, settlers on both sides of the
slavery issue poured into the territories so as to secure the outcome
they wanted in the voting. The passage of the act resulted in so much
violence between groups that the territory became known as Bleeding
Kansas. Thousands of pro-slavery
Border Ruffians came across from
Missouri to vote in the territorial elections although they were not
resident in Kansas, giving that element the victory. Pierce supported
the outcome despite the irregularities. When Free-Staters set up a
shadow government, and drafted the Topeka Constitution, Pierce called
their work an act of rebellion. The president continued to recognize
the pro-slavery legislature, which was dominated by Democrats, even
after a Congressional investigative committee found its election to
have been illegitimate. He dispatched federal troops to break up a
meeting of the Topeka government.
Passage of the act coincided with the seizure of escaped slave Anthony
Burns in Boston. Northerners rallied in support of Burns, but Pierce
was determined to follow the
Fugitive Slave Act
Fugitive Slave Act to the letter, and
dispatched federal troops to enforce Burns' return to his Virginia
owner despite furious crowds.
The midterm congressional elections of 1854 and 1855 were devastating
to the Democrats (as well as to the Whig Party, which was on its last
legs). The Democrats lost almost every state outside the South. The
administration's opponents in the North worked together to return
opposition members to Congress, though only a few northern Whigs
gained election. In Pierce's New Hampshire, hitherto loyal to the
Democratic Party, the Know-Nothings elected the governor, all three
representatives, dominated the legislature, and returned John P. Hale
to the Senate. Anti-immigrant fervor brought the Know-Nothings their
highest numbers to that point, and some northerners were elected under
the auspices of the new Republican Party.
Main article: 1856 Democratic National Convention
Partisan violence spilled into Congress in May 1856 when Free Soil
Charles Sumner was assaulted with a walking cane by Democratic
Preston Brooks in the Senate chamber.
Pierce fully expected to be renominated by the Democrats. In reality
his chances of winning the nomination were slim, let alone
re-election. The administration was widely disliked in the North for
its position on the Kansas–Nebraska Act, and Democratic leaders were
aware of Pierce's electoral vulnerability. Nevertheless, his
supporters began to plan for an alliance with Douglas to deny James
Buchanan the nomination. Buchanan had solid political connections and
had been safely overseas through most of Pierce's term, leaving him
untainted by the Kansas debacle.
When balloting began on June 5 at the convention in Cincinnati, Ohio,
Pierce expected a plurality, if not the required two-thirds majority.
On the first ballot, he received only 122 votes, many of them from the
South, to Buchanan's 135, with Douglas and Cass receiving the rest. By
the following morning fourteen ballots had been completed, but none of
the three main candidates were able to get two-thirds of the vote.
Pierce, whose support had been slowly declining as the ballots passed,
directed his supporters to break for Douglas, withdrawing his name in
a last-ditch effort to defeat Buchanan. Douglas, only 43 years of age,
believed that he could be nominated in 1860 if he let the older
Buchanan win this time, and received assurances from Buchanan's
managers that this would be the case. After two more deadlocked
ballots, Douglas's managers withdrew his name, leaving Buchanan as the
clear winner. To soften the blow to Pierce, the convention issued a
resolution of "unqualified approbation" in praise of his
administration and selected his ally, former Kentucky Representative
John C. Breckinridge, as the vice-presidential nominee. This loss
marked the only time in U.S. history that an elected president who was
an active candidate for reelection was not nominated for a second
Pierce endorsed Buchanan, though the two remained distant; he hoped to
resolve the Kansas situation by November to improve the Democrats'
chances in the general election. He installed
John W. Geary
John W. Geary as
territorial governor, who drew the ire of pro-slavery
legislators. Geary was able to restore order in Kansas, though
the electoral damage had already been done—Republicans used
"Bleeding Kansas" and "Bleeding Sumner" (the brutal caning of Charles
Sumner by South Carolina Representative
Preston Brooks in the Senate
chamber) as election slogans. The Buchanan/Breckinridge ticket
was elected, but the Democratic percentage of the popular vote in the
North fell from 49.8 percent in 1852 to 41.4 in 1856 as Buchanan won
only five of sixteen free states (Pierce had won fourteen), and in
three of those, Buchanan won because of a split between the Republican
John C. Frémont
John C. Frémont and the Know
Nothing, former president Fillmore.
Pierce did not temper his rhetoric after losing the nomination. In his
final message to Congress, delivered in December 1856, he vigorously
attacked Republicans and abolitionists. He took the opportunity to
defend his record on fiscal policy, and on achieving peaceful
relations with other nations. In the final days of the Pierce
administration, Congress passed bills to increase the pay of army
officers and to build new naval vessels, also expanding the number of
seamen enlisted. It also passed a tariff reduction bill he had long
sought. Pierce and his cabinet left office on March 4, 1857, the
only time in U.S. history that the original cabinet members all
remained for a full four-year term.
Artist: George Peter Alexander Healy, Pierce, seen here in 1858,
remained a vocal political figure after his presidency.
After leaving the White House, the Pierces remained in Washington for
more than two months, staying with former Secretary of State
Marcy. Buchanan altered course from the Pierce administration,
replacing all of his appointees. The Pierces eventually moved to
Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where Pierce had begun to speculate in
property. Seeking warmer weather, he and Jane spent the next three
years traveling, beginning with a stay in
Madeira and followed by
tours of Europe and the Bahamas. In Rome, he visited Nathaniel
Hawthorne; the two men spent much time together and the author found
the retired president as buoyant as ever.
Pierce never lost sight of politics during his travels, commenting
regularly on the nation's growing sectional conflict. He insisted that
northern abolitionists stand down to avoid a southern secession,
writing that the bloodshed of a civil war would "not be along Mason
and Dixon's line merely", but "within our own borders in our own
streets". He also criticized New England Protestant ministers,
who largely supported abolition and Republican candidates, for their
"heresy and treason". The rise of the Republican Party forced the
Democrats to defend Pierce; during his debates with Republican Senate
Abraham Lincoln in 1858, Douglas called the former president
"a man of integrity and honor".
As the Democratic Convention of 1860 approached, some asked Pierce to
run as a compromise candidate that could unite the fractured party,
but Pierce refused. As Douglas struggled to attract southern support,
Pierce backed Cushing and then Breckinridge as potential alternatives,
but his priority was a united Democratic Party. The split Democrats
were soundly defeated for the presidency by the Republican candidate,
Lincoln. In the months between Lincoln's election, and his
inauguration on March 4, 1861, Pierce looked on as several southern
states began plans to secede. He was asked by Justice Campbell to
travel to Alabama and address that state's secession convention. Due
to illness he declined, but sent a letter appealing to the people of
Alabama to remain in the Union, and give the North time to repeal laws
against southern interests and to find common ground.
After efforts to prevent the Civil War ended with the firing on Fort
Sumter, Northern Democrats, including Douglas, endorsed Lincoln's plan
to bring the Southern states back into the fold by force. Pierce
wanted to avoid war at all costs, and wrote to Van Buren, proposing an
assembly of former U.S. presidents to resolve the issue, but this
suggestion was not acted on. "I will never justify, sustain or in any
way or to any extent uphold this cruel, heartless, aimless,
unnecessary war," Pierce wrote to his wife. Pierce publicly
opposed President Lincoln's order suspending the writ of habeas
corpus, arguing that even in a time of war, the country should not
abandon its protection of civil liberties. This stand won him admirers
with the emerging Northern Peace Democrats, but others saw the stand
as further evidence of Pierce's southern bias.
In September 1861, Pierce traveled to Michigan, visiting his former
Interior Secretary, McClelland, former senator Cass, and others. A
Detroit bookseller, J. A. Roys, sent a letter to Lincoln's Secretary
of State, William H. Seward, accusing the former president of meeting
with disloyal people, and saying he had heard there was a plot to
overthrow the government and establish Pierce as president. Later that
month, the pro-administration
Detroit Tribune printed an item calling
Pierce "a prowling traitor spy", and intimating that he was a member
of the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle. No such
conspiracy existed, but a Pierce supporter, Guy S. Hopkins, sent to
the Tribune a letter purporting to be from a member of the Knights of
the Golden Circle, indicating that "President P." was part of a plot
against the Union. Hopkins intended for the Tribune to make the
charges public, at which point Hopkins would admit authorship, thus
making the Tribune editors seem overly partisan and gullible. Instead,
the Tribune editors forwarded the Hopkins letter to government
officials. Seward then ordered the arrest of possible "traitors" in
Michigan, which included Hopkins. Hopkins confessed authorship of the
letter and admitted the hoax, but despite this, Seward wrote to Pierce
demanding to know if the charges were true. Pierce denied them, and
Seward hastily backtracked. Later, Republican newspapers printed the
Hopkins letter in spite of his admission that it was a hoax, and
Pierce decided that he needed to clear his name publicly. When Seward
refused to make their correspondence public, Pierce publicized his
outrage by having a Senate ally, California's Milton Latham, read the
letters between Seward and Pierce into the Congressional record, to
the administration's embarrassment.
The institution of the draft and the arrest of outspoken
Clement Vallandigham further incensed
Pierce, who gave an address to
New Hampshire Democrats in July 1863
vilifying Lincoln. "Who, I ask, has clothed the President with power
to dictate to any one of us when we must or when we may speak, or be
silent upon any subject, and especially in relation to the conduct of
any public servant?", he demanded. Pierce's comments were
ill-received in much of the North, especially as his criticism of
Lincoln's aims coincided with the twin Union victories at Gettysburg
and Vicksburg. Pierce's reputation in the North was further damaged
the following month when the Mississippi plantation of the Confederate
president, Jefferson Davis, was seized by Union soldiers. Pierce's
correspondence with Davis, all pre-war, revealing his deep friendship
with Davis and predicting that civil war would result in insurrection
in the North, was sent to the press. Pierce's words hardened
abolitionist sentiment against him.
Jane Pierce died of tuberculosis in
Andover, Massachusetts in December
1863; she was buried at Old North Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire.
Pierce was further grieved by his close friend Nathaniel Hawthorne's
death in May 1864; he was with Hawthorne when the author died
unexpectedly. Hawthorne had controversially dedicated his final book
to Pierce. Some Democrats tried again to put Pierce's name up for
consideration as the 1864 presidential election unfolded, but he kept
his distance; Lincoln easily won a second term. When news spread of
Lincoln's assassination in April 1865, a mob gathered outside Pierce's
home in Concord, demanding to know why he had not raised a flag as a
public mourning gesture. Pierce grew angry, expressing sadness over
Lincoln's death but denying any need for a public gesture. He told
them that his history of military and public service proved his
patriotism, which was enough to quiet the crowd.
Final years and death
Pierce's drinking worsened his health in his last years, and he grew
increasingly spiritual. He had a brief relationship with an unknown
woman in mid-1865. During this time, he used his influence to improve
the treatment of Davis, now a prisoner at
Fortress Monroe in Virginia.
He also offered financial help to Hawthorne's son Julian, as well as
to his own nephews. On the second anniversary of Jane's death, Pierce
was baptized into his wife's Episcopal faith at St. Paul's Church in
Concord. He found this church to be less political than his former
Congregational denomination, which had alienated Democrats with
anti-slavery rhetoric. He took up the life of an "old farmer", as he
called himself, buying up property, drinking less, farming the land
himself, and hosting visiting relatives. He spent most of his
time in Concord and his cottage at Little Boar's Head on the coast,
sometimes visiting Jane's relatives in Massachusetts. Still interested
in politics, he expressed support for Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction
policy and supported the president's acquittal in his impeachment
trial; he later expressed optimism for Johnson's successor, Ulysses S.
Pierce's health began to decline again in mid-1869; he resumed heavy
drinking despite his deteriorating physical condition. He returned to
Concord that September, suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver,
knowing he would not recover. A caretaker was hired; none of his
family members were present in his final days. He died at 4:35 am
on October 8. President Grant, who later defended Pierce's service in
the Mexican War, declared a day of national mourning. Newspapers
across the country carried lengthy front-page stories examining
Pierce's colorful and controversial career. Pierce was interred next
to his wife and two of his sons in the Minot enclosure at Concord's
Old North Cemetery.
In his last will, which he signed January 22, 1868, Pierce left a
large number of specific bequests such as paintings, swords, horses,
and other items to friends, family, and neighbors. Much of his $72,000
estate (equal to $1,320,000 today) went to his brother Henry's family,
and to Hawthorne's children and Pierce's landlady. Henry's son Frank
Pierce received the largest share.
Sites, memorials, and honors
In addition to his LL.D. from Norwich University, Pierce also received
honorary doctorates from
Bowdoin College (1853) and Dartmouth College
Two places in
New Hampshire have been listed on the National Register
of Historic Places specifically because of their association with
Franklin Pierce Homestead
Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough is a state park
and a National Historic Landmark, open to the public. The Franklin
Pierce House in Concord, where Pierce died, was destroyed by fire in
1981, but is nevertheless listed on the register. The Pierce
Manse, his Concord home from 1842 to 1848, is open seasonally and
maintained by a volunteer group, "The Pierce Brigade".
Several institutions and places have been named after Pierce, many in
Franklin Pierce University
Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, was chartered
The University of
New Hampshire School of Law was founded in 1973 as
Franklin Pierce Law Center. When the school was renamed in 2010, a
Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property was established.
There is a
Mt. Pierce in the
Presidential Range of New Hampshire's
White Mountains, renamed from Mt. Clinton in 1913.
The small town of Pierceton, Indiana, was founded in the 1850s and
honors President Pierce.
Pierce County, Washington, the second most populous county in the
state, is named in honor of President Pierce.
Pierce's image has been used on a U.S. postage stamp (1938) and a
Presidential Dollar Coin (2010).
After Pierce died, he mostly passed from the American consciousness,
except as one of a series of presidents whose disastrous tenures led
to civil war. Pierce's presidency is widely regarded as a
failure; he is often described as one of the worst presidents in
American history.[a] The public placed him third-to-last among his
C-SPAN surveys (2000 and 2009). Part of his failure was
in allowing a divided Congress to take the initiative, most
disastrously with the Kansas–Nebraska Act. Although he did not lead
that fight—Senator Douglas did—Pierce paid the cost in damage to
his reputation. The failure of Pierce, as president, to secure
sectional conciliation helped bring an end to the dominance of the
Democratic Party that had started with Jackson, and led to a period of
over seventy years when the Republicans mostly controlled national
Eric Foner says, "His administration turned out to be one of
the most disastrous in American history. It witnessed the collapse of
the party system inherited from the Age of Jackson"
Roy Nichols argues:
As a national political leader Pierce was an accident. He was honest
and tenacious of his views but, as he made up his mind with difficulty
and often reversed himself before making a final decision, he gave a
general impression of instability. Kind, courteous, generous, he
attracted many individuals, but his attempts to satisfy all factions
failed and made him many enemies. In carrying out his principles of
strict construction he was most in accord with Southerners, who
generally had the letter of the law on their side. He failed utterly
to realize the depth and the sincerity of Northern feeling against the
South and was bewildered at the general flouting of the law and the
Constitution, as he described it, by the people of his own New
England. At no time did he catch the popular imagination. His
inability to cope with the difficult problems that arose early in his
administration caused him to lose the respect of great numbers,
especially in the North, and his few successes failed to restore
public confidence. He was an inexperienced man, suddenly called to
assume a tremendous responsibility, who honestly tried to do his best
without adequate training or temperamental fitness.
Despite a reputation as an able politician and a likable man, during
his presidency Pierce served only as a moderator among the
increasingly bitter factions that were driving the nation towards
civil war. To Pierce, who saw slavery as a question of property
rather than morality, the Union was sacred; because of this, he
saw the actions of abolitionists, and the more moderate Free Soilers,
as divisive and as a threat to the constitutionally-guaranteed rights
of southerners. Although he criticized those who sought to limit
or end slavery, he rarely rebuked southern politicians who took
extreme position or opposed northern interests.
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
Manifest Destiny and "popular sovereignty" as political
doctrines. Historian Kenneth Nivison, writing in 2010, takes a
more favorable view of Pierce's foreign policy, stating that his
expansionism prefaced those of later presidents
William McKinley and
Theodore Roosevelt, who served at a time when America had the military
might to make her desires stick. "American foreign and commercial
policy beginning in the 1890s, which eventually supplanted European
colonialism by the middle of the twentieth century, owed much to the
paternalism of Jacksonian Democracy cultivated in the international
arena by the Presidency of Franklin Pierce."
Historian Larry Gara, who authored a book on Pierce's presidency,
wrote in the former president's entry in American National Biography
He was president at a time that called for almost superhuman skills,
yet he lacked such skills and never grew into the job to which he had
been elected. His view of the Constitution and the Union was from the
Jacksonian past. He never fully understood the nature or depth of Free
Soil sentiment in the North. He was able to negotiate a reciprocal
trade treaty with Canada, to begin the opening of Japan to western
trade, to add land to the Southwest, and to sign legislation for the
creation of an overseas empire [the Guano Islands Act]. His
Kansas policies led only to deeper sectional strife. His support for
Kansas–Nebraska Act and his determination to enforce the
Fugitive Slave Act
Fugitive Slave Act helped polarize the sections. Pierce was
hard-working and his administration largely untainted by graft, yet
the legacy from those four turbulent years contributed to the tragedy
of secession and civil war.
New Hampshire portal
United States portal
Washington, D.C. portal
Presidents of the
United States (1789–1860) – book
^ Some local accounts suggest he was born in the Homestead. The
National Register of Historic Places
National Register of Historic Places cites the log cabin as the more
likely birthplace, while historian Peter A. Wallner asserts without
reservation he was born in the log cabin.
^ This was called the Republican or Jeffersonian Republican Party at
the time; it soon became known as the Democratic-Republican Party.
Modern writers prefer this term to distinguish it from the modern-day
^ The governor of
New Hampshire was then elected annually; see also
List of Governors of New Hampshire.
^ Wallner writes:
It is doubtful if any former president was as reviled in later life as
Franklin Pierce was, and his reputation has hardly improved in the
century and a half since his death. If anything, he has been forgotten
and relegated to a footnote in history books—as an amiable nonentity
who had no business being president and who reached that lofty
position purely by the accident of circumstance.
^ Jeffrey W. Coker (2002). Presidents from Taylor Through Grant,
1849–1877: Debating the Issues in Pro and Con Primary Documents.
Greenwood. p. 54. ISBN 978-0-313-31551-0.
^ a b "Pierce, Franklin, Homestead". National Park Service. Archived
from the original on March 9, 2015. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
^ "Nomination Form: Franklin Pierce" (PDF). National Register of
Historic Places. 1976. p. 8. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 3.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 1–8.
^ The two-story school building burned some years later, and Hancock
Academy was founded in 1836 to fill its place. (D. Hamilton Hurd,
History of Hillsborough County,
New Hampshire (Philadelphia: J.W.
Lewis & Co.) 1885, "Hancock" p 350ff)
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 10–15.
^ Gara (1991), pp. 35–36.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 16–21.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 229.
^ Wallner, Peter A. (Spring 2005). "
Franklin Pierce and Bowdoin
College Associates Hawthorne and Hale" (PDF). Historical New
New Hampshire Historical Society: 24. Archived from the
original (PDF) on August 17, 2015.
^ Boulard (2006), p. 23.
^ Waterman, Charles E. (March 7, 1918). "The Red Schoolhouse in
Action". The Journal of Education. New England Publishing Company.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 230.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 28–32.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 258.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 56.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 28–33.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 33–43.
^ John Farmer, G. Parker Lyon, editors, The New-Hampshire Annual
United States Calendar, 1832, p. 53
^ Brian Matthew Jordan, Triumphant Mourner: The Tragic Dimension of
Franklin Pierce, 2003, p. 31
^ Betros, Lance (2004). West Point: Two Centuries and Beyond. McWhiney
Foundation Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-1-893114-47-0. Retrieved
August 30, 2014.
^ Ellis, William Arba (1911). Norwich University, 1819–1911; Her
History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor, Volume 1. Capital City
Press. pp. 87, 99. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
^ Ellis, William Arba (1911). Norwich University, 1819–1911; Her
History, Her Graduates, Her Roll of Honor, Volume 2. Capital City
Press. pp. 14–16. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 44–47.
^ Holt (2010), locs. 273–300
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 31–32, 77–78; Gara (1991), pp. 31–32;
see also Jean H. Baker. "Franklin Pierce: Life Before the Presidency".
American President: An Online Reference Resource. University of
Virginia. Archived from the original on December 17, 2010. Retrieved
December 10, 2010.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 79–80.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 241–44.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 47–57.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 57–59.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 92.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 71–72.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 67.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 59–61.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 362–75.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 64–69.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 68, 91–92.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 69–72.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 80.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 78–84.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 84–90.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 419.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 91–92.
^ a b "The Pierce Manse". Retrieved June 29, 2014.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 79.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 86.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 98–101.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 93–95.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 103–10.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 431.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 131–32.
^ Wadleigh, George (1913). Notable Events in the History of Dover, New
Hampshire. Dover, NH: G. H. Wadleigh. p. 249.
^ Notable Events in the History of Dover, New Hampshire
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 111–22.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 447.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 131–35.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 154–157.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 490.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 144–47.
^ a b c Holt (2010), loc. 505.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 147–54.
^ Grant, Ulysses S. (1892) . Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant. 1.
C. L. Webster. pp. 146–147.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 157–61.
^ Holt (2010), pp. 549–65.
^ Gara (1991), pp. 21–22.
^ a b Holt (2010), loc. 608.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 173–80.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 181–84; Gara (1991), pp, 23–29.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 184–97; Gara (1991), pp. 32–33.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 197–202; Gara (1991), pp. 33–34.
^ Gara (1991), p. 34.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 210–13; Gara (1991), pp. 36–38. Quote from
^ Holt (2010), loc. 724.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 231; Gara (1991), p. 38, Holt (2010), loc. 725.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 206; Gara (1991), p. 38.
^ Gara (1991), p. 38.
^ Wallner (2004), p. 203.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 229–30; Gara (1991), p. 39.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 740.
^ a b Wallner (2004), pp. 241–49; Gara (1991), pp. 43–44.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 241–49.
^ Boulard (2006), p. 55.
^ Hurja, Emil (1933). History of Presidential Inaugurations. New York
Democrat. p. 49.
^ Wallner (2004), pp. 249–55.
^ Holt, loc. 767.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 5–24.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 15–18, and throughout.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 21–22.
^ a b Wallner (2007), p. 20.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 35–36.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 36–39.
^ Butler (1908), pp. 118–19.
^ Wallner (2007), p. 10.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 32–36.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 40–41, 52.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 25–32; Gara (1991), p. 128.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 61–63; Gara (1991), pp. 128–29.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 75–81; Gara (1991), pp. 129–33.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 106–08; Gara (1991), pp. 129–33.
^ Holt, loc. 872.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 27–30, 63–66, 125–26; Gara (1991), p. 133.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 26–27; Gara (1991), pp. 139–40.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 902–17.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 131–57; Gara (1991), pp. 149–55.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 40–43.
^ Wallner (2007), p. 172; Gara (1991), pp. 134–35.
^ Wallner (2007), p. 256.
^ a b c Wallner (2007), pp. 90–102, 119–22; Gara (1991), pp.
88–100, Holt (2010), loc. 1097–1240.
^ Jefferson Davis, The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government at
^ Etchison, p. 14.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 158–67; Gara (1991), pp. 99–100.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 195–209; Gara (1991), pp. 111–20.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 122–25; Gara (1991), pp. 107–09.
^ Gara (1991), pp. 120–21.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 266–70; Gara (1991), pp. 157–67, Holt
(2010), loc. 1515–58.
^ Rudin, Ken (July 22, 2009). "When Has A President Been Denied His
Party's Nomination?". NPR. Retrieved February 15, 2017.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 272–80.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 1610.
^ Holt (2010), loc. 1610–24.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 292–96; Gara (1991), pp. 177–79.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 303–04.
^ Wallner (2007), p. 305.
^ a b c d Wallner (2007), pp. 309–27.
^ Boulard (2006), p. 20.
^ Boulard (2006), pp. 55–56.
^ Boulard (2006), pp. 65–66.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 327–38.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 337–43.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 341–343, Boulard (2006), pp. 85–100.
^ a b Wallner (2007), pp. 343–357, Boulard (2006), pp. 109–123.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 357–62.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 363–66.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 366–71.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 369–73.
^ Wallner (2007), p. 374.
Dartmouth College (1900). General Catalogue. Dartmouth College.
p. 405. Retrieved August 30, 2014.
Franklin Pierce House" (PDF). National Register of Historic Places.
Retrieved June 29, 2014.
Franklin Pierce Home Burns". The New York Times. Associated Press.
September 18, 1981.
Franklin Pierce University. Retrieved June 29,
Franklin Pierce Center for IP". University of New Hampshire.
Retrieved June 29, 2014.
^ "Mountains of the Presidential Range". Mount Washington Observatory.
Archived from the original on November 5, 2013. Retrieved June 29,
^ "History". Pierceton, Indiana. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
^ Junius Rochester (November 10, 1998). "King County, Founding of".
HistoryLink.org. Retrieved January 31, 2017.
^ Gara (1981), p. 180.
^ Wallner (2007), pp. 377–79
^ Wallner (2004), pp. xi–xii:
History has accorded to the Pierce administration a share of the blame
for policies that incited the slavery issue, hastened the collapse of
the second party system, and brought on the Civil War. ... It is
both an inaccurate and unfair judgment. Pierce was always a
nationalist attempting to find a middle ground to keep the Union
together. ... The alternative to attempting to steer a moderate
course was the breakup of the Union, the Civil War and the deaths of
more than six hundred thousand Americans. Pierce should not be blamed
for attempting throughout his political career to avoid this fate.
Gara (1991), pp. 180–84:
Those who play the presidential ratings game have always assigned to
Franklin Pierce a below-average score. ... In light of subsequent
events, the Pierce administration can be seen only as a disaster for
the nation. Its failure was as much a failure of the system as a
failure of Pierce himself, whom
Roy Franklin Nichols has skillfully
portrayed as a complex and tragic figure.
U.S. News & World Report, "Worst Presidents: Franklin Pierce"
Archived October 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. (2007):
His fervor for expanding the borders helped set the stage for the
C-SPAN Survey". C-SPAN. 2009. Archived from the original on July
22, 2014. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
^ Gara (1991), p. 182.
^ a b Crockett, David A. (December 2012). "The Historical Presidency:
The Perils of Restoration Politics: Nineteenth-Century Antecedents".
Presidential Studies Quarterly. 42 (4): 881–902.
^ Eric Foner, Give Me Liberty! An American History (2006) vol 1 p 413
^ Roy F. Nichols, "Franklin Pierce", Dictionary of American Biography
(1934) reprinted in Nancy Capace, ed. (2001). Encyclopedia of New
Hampshire. pp. 268–69. ISBN 978-0-403-09601-5. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Flagel, Thomas R. (2012). History Buff's Guide to the Presidents.
Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House. p. 404.
^ Robert Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical
Biography (1988) 3:1237
^ Gara (1991), p. 181.
^ Gara, Larry (September 2005). "Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's
Favorite Son [book review]". Journal of American History. 92 (2):
^ a b Potter (1976), p. 192.
^ Nivison, Kenneth (March 2010). "Purposes Just and Pacific: Franklin
Pierce and the American Empire". Diplomacy & Statecraft. 21 (1):
^ Gara, Larry (February 2000). "Pierce, Franklin". American National
Biography Online. (subscription required)
Booknotes interview with Peter Wallner on Franklin Pierce: New
Hampshire`s Favorite Son, November 28, 2004, C-SPAN
Boulard, Garry (2006). The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce: The Story
of a President and the Civil War. iUniverse, Inc.
Butler, Pierce (1908). Judah P. Benjamin. American Crisis Biographies.
George W. Jacobs & Company. OCLC 664335.
Etchison, Nicole (2004). Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the
Civil War Era. University Press of Kansas.
Gara, Larry (1991). The Presidency of Franklin Pierce. University
Press of Kansas. ISBN 0-7006-0494-4.
Holt, Michael F. (2010). Franklin Pierce. The American Presidents
(Kindle ed.). Henry Holt and Company, LLC.
Nichols, Roy F. "Franklin Pierce," Dictionary of American Biography
(1934) reprinted in Nancy Capace, ed. (2001). Encyclopedia of New
Hampshire. pp. 262–69. ISBN 978-0-403-09601-5. CS1
maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
Potter, David M. (1976). The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. Harper
& Row. ISBN 0-06-013403-8.
Wallner, Peter A. (2004). Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite
Son. Plaidswede. ISBN 0-9755216-1-6.
Wallner, Peter A. (2007). Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union.
Plaidswede. ISBN 978-0-9790784-2-2.
Allen, Felicity (1999). Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart.
Missouri Press. ISBN 0-8262-1219-0.
Barlett, D.W. (1852). The life of Gen. Frank. Pierce, of New
Hampshire, the Democratic candidate for president of the United
States. Derby & Miller. OCLC 1742614.
Bergen, Anthony (May 30, 2015). "In Concord: The Friendship of Pierce
and Hawthorne". Medium.
Brinkley, A; Dyer, D (2004). The American Presidency. Houghton Mifflin
Company. ISBN 0-618-38273-9.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1852). The Life of Franklin Pierce. Ticknor,
Reed and Fields. OCLC 60713500.
Nichols, Roy Franklin (1923). The Democratic Machine, 1850–1854.
Columbia University Press. OCLC 2512393.
Nichols, Roy Franklin (1931). Franklin Pierce, Young Hickory of the
Granite Hills. University of Pennsylvania Press.
Silbey, Joel H. (2014). A Companion to the Antebellum Presidents
1837–1861. Wiley. pp 345–96
Taylor, Michael J.C. (2001). "Governing the Devil in Hell: 'Bleeding
Kansas' and the Destruction of the
Franklin Pierce Presidency
(1854–1856)". White House Studies. 1: 185–205.
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