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Franklin Pierce

In office
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
Vice President William R. King (1853)
None (1853 – 1857)
Preceded by Millard Fillmore
Succeeded by James Buchanan

In office
March 4, 1837 – February 28, 1842
Preceded by John Page
Succeeded by Leonard Wilcox

In office
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1837
Served with Benning M. Bean, Robert Burns, Joseph M. Harper, Henry Hubbard, Samuel Cushman, Joseph Weeks
Preceded by John Brodhead
Thomas Chandler
Joseph Hammons
Joseph M. Harper
Henry Hubbard
John W. Weeks
Succeeded by Charles G. Atherton
Samuel Cushman
James Farrington
Joseph Weeks
Jared W. Williams

In office
Governor Samuel Dinsmoor
Succeeded by Charles G. Atherton

Born November 23, 1804(1804-11-23)
Hillsborough, New Hampshire
Died October 8, 1869 (aged 64)
Concord, New Hampshire
Resting place Old North Cemetery
Concord, New Hampshire
Nationality United States
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Jane Appleton Pierce
Children Franklin Pierce, Jr.
Frank Robert Pierce
Benjamin Pierce
Alma mater Bowdoin College
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Episcopal
Military service
Service/branch United States Army
Rank Brigadier General
Battles/wars Mexican-American War

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 – October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857, 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. Graham by a 50% to 44% 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 referring to both his youthful appearance and his being the youngest president to take office to that point (although he was, in reality, only a year younger than James K. Polk when he took office).

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 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 embodied 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 1869 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."


Early life

Pierce Manse in Concord, New Hampshire


Franklin Pierce was born in a log cabin in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, on November 23, 1804, the first future U.S. president to be born in the nineteenth century.[1] 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[citation needed] 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.


Pierce attended school at Hillsborough Center and moved to the Hancock Academy in Hancock at the age of 11; he was transferred to Francestown Academy in the spring of 1820. Friends recalled that just after he entered the school, he became homesick and returned home barefoot. His father put him in a wagon, drove him half way back to the academy, and left him on the roadside, never saying a word. The boy trudged the remaining seven miles back to school. Later that year he was transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy to prepare for college. In fall 1820, he entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, where he participated in literary, political, and debating clubs.

There he met writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, with whom he formed a lasting friendship,[2] and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He also met Calvin E. Stowe, Seargent S. Prentiss, and his future political rival, John P. Hale, when he joined the Athenian Society, a group of students with progressive political leanings.

In his second year of college his grades were the lowest of his class, but he worked to improve them and upon graduation in 1824 ranked third among his classmates. In 1826 he entered a law school in Northampton, Massachusetts, studying under Governor Levi Woodbury, and later Judges Samuel Howe and Edmund Parker, in Amherst, New Hampshire. He was admitted to the bar and began a law practice in Concord, New Hampshire in 1827.

Early political career

After graduating from college, Pierce entered politics and rose to a central position in the Democratic party of New Hampshire and became a member of the Concord Regency leadership group. In 1828 he was elected to the lower house of the New Hampshire General Court, the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He served in the State House from 1829 to 1833, and as Speaker from 1832 to 1833. Pierce served in the state legislature of New Hampshire while his father was governor.

In 1832, Pierce was elected as a Democrat to the 23rd and 24th Congresses (March 4, 1833 – March 4, 1837). He was only 27 years old, the youngest U.S. Representative at the time.

In 1836, he was elected by the New Hampshire General Court as a Democrat to the United States Senate, serving from March 4, 1837, to February 28, 1842, when he resigned. He was chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Pensions during the 26th Congress.

After his service in the Senate, Pierce resumed the practice of law in Concord with his partner Asa Fowler. He was United States Attorney for the District of New Hampshire from 1845 to 1847. He refused the Democratic nomination for Governor of New Hampshire and declined the appointment as Attorney General of the United States tendered by President James K. Polk.


On November 19, 1834, Pierce married Jane Means Appleton (1806–63), the daughter of a former president of Bowdoin College. Appleton was Pierce's opposite. Born into an aristocratic Whig family, she was extremely shy, often ill, deeply religious, and pro-temperance. They had three children, all of whom died in childhood. The last child, who lived the longest, was killed in a train wreck at the age of 11. None lived to see their father become president.[3]

Brigadier General Franklin Pierce

Jane was never happy with her husband's involvement in the political world. She took no pleasure from life in Washington, D.C., and encouraged Pierce to resign his Senate seat and return to New Hampshire, which he did in 1841. After the gruesome death of her last child, shortly before Pierce's inauguration, she was overcome with melancholia and distanced herself from her husband during his presidency. She became known as "the shadow of the White House."

Franklin Pierce, Jr. (February 2, 1836 – February 5, 1836) died three days after birth.

Frank Robert Pierce (August 27, 1839 – November 14, 1843) died at the age of four from epidemic typhus.

Benjamin "Bennie" Pierce (April 13, 1841 – January 16, 1853) died at the age of 11 in a railway accident in Andover, Massachusetts which his parents witnessed, two months before the inauguration of his father.

Mexican-American War

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 1852

The Gamecock & the Goose
A Whig Party cartoon favoring Pierce's main opponent, Winfield Scott.

At the Democratic National Convention of 1852, Pierce was not initially considered for the presidential nomination. He had no credentials as a major political figure or leader, 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. Before 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 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 thirty-fifth 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 supporter 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.[4]

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 antislavery 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.

Electoral map of the 1852 presidential election.

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).[5] 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.

Presidency 1853–1857

Franklin Pierce
Pierce's Vice President William R. King died just a little more than one month after his inauguration; for the remainder of his term, Pierce had no Vice President.


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".[6]

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.[7]


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.[8]

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.

Forcing Slavery Down the Throat of a Freesoiler
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 invalid; 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.

Franklin Pierce, by George Healy

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act triggered a series of events that became 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.

Major legislation signed

Portrait of Franklin Pierce as a general mounted on a horse.


The Pierce Cabinet
Office Name Term
President Franklin Pierce 1853–1857
Vice President William R. King 1853
None 1853–1857
Secretary of State William L. Marcy 1853–1857
Secretary of Treasury James Guthrie 1853–1857
Secretary of War Jefferson Davis 1853–1857
Attorney General Caleb Cushing 1853–1857
Postmaster General James Campbell 1853–1857
Secretary of the Navy James C. Dobbin 1853–1857
Secretary of the Interior Robert McClelland 1853–1857

Supreme Court appointments

Pierce appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

States admitted to the Union


Later life

Pierce postage stamp

After losing the Democratic nomination for reelection in 1856, Pierce retired and traveled with his wife overseas. He returned to the U.S. in 1859 in time to comment on the growing sectional crisis between the South and the North, often criticizing Northern abolitionists for encouraging ugly feelings between the two sections. In 1860 many Democrats viewed Pierce as a solid compromise choice for the presidential nomination, uniting both Northern and Southern wings of the party, but Pierce declined to run.

During the Civil War, Pierce attacked Lincoln for his order suspending habeas corpus. Pierce argued that even in a time of war, the country should not abandon its protection of civil liberties.

Pierce's stand won him admirers with the emerging Northern Peace Democrats, but enraged certain members of the Lincoln administration: in 1862 Secretary of State William Seward sent Pierce a letter virtually accusing him of being a member of the seditious Knights of the Golden Circle. Outraged, Pierce responded and demanded that Seward put his response in the official files of the State Department. When that didn't happen, a Pierce supporter in the US Senate, Milton Latham of California, had the entire Seward-Pierce correspondence read into the Congressional Globe. Nearly every Seward biographer has since considered the Pierce-Seward exchange as a blot on the Secretary's otherwise notable career.

Presidential Dollar of Franklin Pierce

In 1864, friends again put his name in play for the Democratic nomination, but by a letter read out loud to the delegates, Pierce said he would not run.

The year before, Pierce's reputation was greatly damaged in the North 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.[9] However, Ewing also sent copies of the letters to friends in Ohio. Those letters again revealed his deep friendship with Davis and his ambivalence about the goals of the war. As early as 1860, Pierce had written to Davis about "the madness of northern abolitionism." Another letter 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."[10][11] Abolitionist author Harriet Beecher Stowe, who had long disliked Pierce, now referred to him as "the archtraitor."[9]

On April 16, 1865, when news had spread of the murder of President Lincoln, an angry mob composed mostly of young teenagers gathered outside of Pierce's home in Concord. Earlier that day a different mob had thrown black paint on the front porch of former President Millard Fillmore, who, like Pierce, was also regarded as a Lincoln detractor. The crowd in Concord wanted to know why Pierce's house was not dressed with black bunting and American flags, the visual proof of grief being used that day by millions of people across the country. Pierce came outside to confront the crowd and said he, too, was saddened by Lincoln's passing. When a voice in the crowd yelled out "Where is your flag?" Pierce became angry and recalled his family's long devotion to the country, including both his and his father's service in the military. He said he needed to display no flag to prove that he was a loyal American. The crowd soon quieted down and even cheered and applauded the former president as he went back into his home.

Franklin Pierce died in Concord, New Hampshire at 4:49 a.m. on October 8, 1869, at 64 years old. President Ulysses S. 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 various aspects of Pierce's colorful and controversial career. He was interred in the Minot Enclosure in the Old North Cemetery of Concord.

Pierce's grave at the Old North Cemetery, Concord, NH

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.[12]


Places named after President Pierce:


  1. ^ Wright, John (2001). The New York Times Almanac 2002. Routledge. p. 89. ISBN 1579583482. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  2. ^ Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991: 68. ISBN 0-87745-332-2.
  3. ^ Franklin Pierce from the Internet Public Library
  4. ^ "1852 Democratic Presidential Conventions". Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  5. ^ Franklin Pierce
  6. ^ "Franklin Pierce: Inaugural Address. U.S. Inaugural Addresses. 1989". Retrieved 2010-02-14. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Brinkley, A. and Dyer, D. The American Presidency, 2004. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  9. ^ a b Allen, Felicity (1999). Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart. University of Missouri Press. pp. 359–360. ISBN 0826212190. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  10. ^ Robert Melvin to Jefferson Davis, July 22, 1863, in Mississippi in the Confederacy: As They Saw it, ed. John K. Bettersworth, pp. 210–12
  11. ^ Crist, Lynda Lasswel. A Bibliographical Note: Jefferson Davis's Personal Library: All Lost, Some Found. Journal of Mississippi History 45 (1983): 191–93
  12. ^ Wills of the U.S. Presidents, ed. by Herbert R. Collins and David B. Weaver, New York: Communications Channels, Inc, 1976, pp. 108–113. ISBN 0-916164-01-2


  • Allen, Felicity. Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart. St. Louis, Missouri: University of Missouri Press. 1999. ISBN 0-8262-1219-0.
  • Boulard, Garry, "The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce--The Story of a President and the Civil War." (iUniverse, 2006)
  • Brinkley, A. and Dyer, D. The American Presidency. 2004. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • DiConsiglio, John. Franklin Pierce. Vol. 14. New York: Children's Press-Scholastic, 2004. ISBN 0-516-24235-0
  • Gara, Larry, The Presidency of Franklin Pierce (1991), standard history of his administration
  • Nichols; Roy Franklin. Franklin Pierce, Young Hickory of the Granite Hills (1931), standard biography
  • Nichols; Roy Franklin.The Democratic Machine, 1850–1854. Columbia University Press, 1923. online version
  • Potter, David M, The Impending Crisis, 1848 – 1861. New York, New York: Harper & Row, 1976. ISBN 0-06-013403-8.
  • Taylor; Michael J.C. "Governing the Devil in Hell: 'Bleeding Kansas' and the Destruction of the Franklin Pierce Presidency (1854–1856)" White House Studies, Vol. 1, 2001, pp 185–205

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Millard Fillmore
President of the United States
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
Succeeded by
James Buchanan
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Page
United States Senator (Class 3) from New Hampshire
March 4, 1837 – February 28, 1842
Served alongside: Henry Hubbard, Levi Woodbury
Succeeded by
Leonard Wilcox
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Joseph Hammons
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New Hampshire's At-large congressional district

Seat Three
March 4, 1833 – March 3, 1837
Succeeded by
Jared W. Williams
Party political offices
Preceded by
Lewis Cass
Democratic Party presidential candidate
Succeeded by
James Buchanan


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution.

Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804October 8, 1869) was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857.


  • I do not believe that our friends at the South have any just idea of the state of feeling, hurrying at this moment to a pitch of intense exasperation, between those who respect their political obligations, and those who apparently have no impelling power but that which a fanatical position on the subject of domestic Slavery imparts. Without discussing the question of right — of abstract power to secede — I have never believed that actual disruption of the Union can occur without blood; and if, through the madness of Northern Abolitionists, that dire calamity must come, the fighting will not be along Mason's and Dixon's line merely. It [will] be within our own borders, in our own streets, between the two classes of citizens to whom I have referred.
  • I never justify, sustain, or in any way or to any extent uphold this cruel, heartless, aimless unnecessary war.
  • Do we not all know that the cause of our casualties is the vicious intermeddling of too many of the citizens of the Northern States with the constitutional rights of the Southern States, cooperating with the discontents of the people of those states? Do we not know that the disregard of the Constitution, and of the security that it affords to the rights of States and of individuals, has been the cause of the calamity which our country is called to undergo? And now, war! war, in its direst shape — war, such as it makes the blood run cold to read of in the history of other nations and of other times — war, on a scale of a million of men in arms — war, horrid as that of barbaric ages, rages in several of the States of the Union, as its more immediate field, and casts the lurid shadow of its death and lamentation athwart the whole expanse, and into every nook and corner of our vast domain.

    Nor is that all; for in those of the States which are exempt from the actual ravages of war, in which the roar of the cannon, and the rattle of the musketry, and the groans of the dying, are heard but as a faint echo of terror from other lands, even here in the loyal States, the mailed hand of military usurpation strikes down the liberties of the people, and its foot tramples on a desecrated Constitution.

    • Address to the Citizens of Concord, New Hampshire (1863-07-04)
  • I speak of the war as fruitless; for it is clear that, prosecuted upon the basis of the proclamations of September 22d and September 24th, 1862, prosecuted, as I must understand these proclamations, to say nothing of the kindred blood which has followed, upon the theory of emancipation, devastation, subjugation, it cannot fail to be fruitless in every thing except the harvest of woe which it is ripening for what was once the peerless republic.
    • Address to the Citizens of Concord, New Hampshire (1863-07-04)
  • You have summoned me in my weakness. You must sustain me by your strength.


  • A Republic without parties is a complete anomaly. The histories of all popular governments show absurd is the idea of their attempting to exist without parties.
  • Frequently the more trifling the subject, the more animated and protracted the discussion.
  • I believe that involuntary servitude, as it exists in different States of this Confederacy, is recognized by the Constitution. I believe that it stands like any other admitted right, and that the States where it exists are entitled to efficient remedies to enforce the constitutional provisions.
  • I wish I could indulge higher hope for the future of our country, but the aspect of any vision is fearfully dark and I cannot make it otherwise.
  • Remember that time is money.
  • The stars upon your banner have become nearly threefold their original number; your densely populated possessions skirt the shores of the two great oceans.
  • The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded.
  • The storm of frenzy and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock of the Constitution.
  • We have nothing in our history or position to invite aggression; we have everything to beckon us to the cultivation of relations of peace and amity with all nations.
  • With the Union my best and dearest earthly hopes are entwined.

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"Franklin Pierce" may refer to:
Franklin Pierce (1804-1869):   Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804October 8, 1869) was an American politician and the fourteenth President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857. He is to date the only president from New Hampshire and was the first president born in the nineteenth century.


Person Birth Death Father Mother Spouse
Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) Hillsborough, New Hampshire Concord, New Hampshire Jane Appleton Pierce

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Notes and references

See also

  • Franklin Pearce
  • Franklin Pearse

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Franklin Pierce

In office
March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857
Vice President William R. King
Preceded by Millard Fillmore
Succeeded by James Buchanan

Born November 23, 1804
Hillsborough, New Hampshire
Died October 8, 1869
Concord, New Hampshire
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse Jane Appleton Pierce

Franklin Pierce was born on November 23, 1804, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. He attended school at Hillsborough Center but then moved to Hancock Academy in Hancock at the age of 11. After attending school there for five years, he was transferred to Francetown in the spring of 1820. After he entered, he felt homesick and returned home. Consequently, his father then put him in a wagon, drove him half way back to school, and left him on the roadside without saying a word. Franklin walked the seven remaining miles back to school. Later that year, he was transferred to Phillips Exeter Academy to prepare for college. That fall, he was sent to Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. While he was there, Franklin Pierce participated in literary, political, and debating clubs. During his second year there, his grades were the lowest in his class, but he was able to improve them and graduated with the rank of third best in his class.

Once finished with college, he went to law school in Northampton, Massachusetts. Pierce was admitted to the bar and began law practice in Concord, New Hampshire, in 1827. Franklin Pierce rose to a central position in the Democratic party of New Hampshire and was elected to the lower house in New Hampshire’s General Court in 1828. Pierce served in the State House from 1829 to 1833 and also served as Speaker from 1832 to 1833. Then in 1832, Franklin was elected Democrat to the 23rd and 24th of Congress from March 4, 1833, to March 4, 1837. At 27 years of age, Pierce was the youngest U.S. Representative at that time. In 1836, he was elected by the New Hampshire General Court as a Democrat to the U.S Senate, serving from March 4, 1837, to February 28, 1842. After serving in the Senate, Pierce went back to Concord to resume law practice. He then was U.S. Attorney from 1845 to 1847 for the district of New Hampshire, though he declined Democratic nomination for Governor of New Hampshire and refused the appointment as General of the United States.

On November 19, 1834, Franklin Pierce married Jane Means Appleton. They had three children, all of which died in childhood. Franklin Pierce Jr. died only three days after birth; and Frank Robert Pierce died at four years of age from epidemic typhus; just two months before his inauguration, Franklin Pierce and his family boarded a train bound for Boston. Shortly after, their derailed car started to roll down an embankment. Franklin and Jane survived, merely shaken up, but saw their 11 year old son Benjamin get crushed to death. Jane Pierce thought the train accident was a divine punishment for Franklin’s pursuit and acceptance of high office.

Franklin Pierce served as President from March 4, 1853, to March 4, 1857. He was the first President to “affirm” his oath of office instead of swearing it (the only other president to do this has been Herbert Hoover).[1] So rather then placing his hands on the Bible, Franklin Pierce placed his hands on a law book. He was also the first President to recite his inaugural address from memory. Surprisingly, Franklin Pierce selected men of different opinions for his Cabinet. Many people expected a diverse group to break up quickly, but the Cabinet stayed together for Pierce’s four-year term.

Franklin Pierce’s toughest challenge as President was the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise and, in the west, reopened the question of slavery. These and more triggered a series of events known as "Bleeding Kansas". Pro-slavery Border Ruffians, mostly from Missouri, illegally voted in a government. Pierce recognized this and called the Topeka Constitution, set up by Free-Staters, as an act of “rebellion.” Overall, Franklin Pierce is ranked among the least effective Presidents of the United States, as he was unable to steer a steady, prudent course.

After losing the Democratic reelection in 1856, Pierce retired with his wife. Franklin Pierce died in Concord, New Hampshire on October 8th, 1869, 4:49am, at the age of 64. He was buried in Old North Cemetery in Concord.


  1. Hess, Stephen (2008). What do we do now?: a workbook for the president-elect. Brookings Institution Press. pp. 129. ISBN 9780815736554. 

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