President Franklin Pierce
b.23 Nov 1804 Hillsborough, Hillsborough, New Hampshire, United States
d.8 Oct 1869 Concord, Merrimack, New Hampshire, United States
m. 1 Feb 1790
Facts and Events
Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States (1853–1857) and 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 the Senate. Pierce took part in the Mexican–American War and became a brigadier general in the Army. His private law practice in his home state was so successful that he was offered several important positions, which he turned down. Later, he was nominated as the party's candidate for president 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. They defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham by a 50 percent to 44 percent margin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote.
He made many friends, but he suffered tragedy in his personal life; all of his children died young. As president, he made many divisive decisions which were widely criticized and earned him a reputation as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Pierce's popularity in the Northern states declined sharply after he supported the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which replaced the Missouri Compromise and renewed debate over the expansion of slavery in the American West. Pierce's credibility was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto. The 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 importantly, says Potter, they permanently discredited Manifest Destiny and "popular sovereignty" as political doctrines.
Despite a reputation as an able politician and a likable man, during Pierce's presidency he served only as a moderator among the increasingly bitter factions that were driving the nation towards civil war. Abandoned by his party, Pierce was not renominated to run in the 1856 presidential election. His reputation was destroyed during the Civil War when he declared support for the Confederacy, and personal correspondence between Pierce and the Confederate President Jefferson Davis was leaked to the press.
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, he loved his wife, and he 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."