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 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 of Polk. 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 Carolina Congressman "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.
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".
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.
Tragedy and transition
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 Day, 1855.
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 except 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
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".
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
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 with the "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 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 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 comprising southern "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|
|"Vice President||"William R. King||1853|
|"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|
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 goals.
British consuls in the United States sought to enlist Americans for the "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 Canada.
Pierce's administration aroused sectional apprehensions when three U.S. diplomats in Europe drafted a proposal to the president 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 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 "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.
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 from "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 from "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 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 presidency.
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 "Republican Party.
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 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.
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 term.
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 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 candidate, former California senator "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.
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 sectarian 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 candidate "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 anti-administration Democrat "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 while farming it 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. Grant.
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 $1,300,000 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 (1860).
Two places in New Hampshire have been listed on the "National Register of Historic Places specifically because of their association with Pierce. The "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 New Hampshire:
- The "Franklin Pierce University in "Rindge, New Hampshire, was chartered in 1962.
- The "University of New Hampshire School of Law was founded in 1973 as the 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.
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 peers in "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 politics.
Historian "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"
Biographer "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 discredited 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 Online:
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 Cuba and Kansas policies led only to deeper sectional strife. His support for the Kansas–Nebraska Act and his determination to enforce the 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) – "Wikipedia book
- Some local accounts suggest he was born in the Homestead. The "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.
- At the time this was called the Republican or Jeffersonian Republican Party; it soon became known as the "Democratic-Republican Party. Modern writers prefer this term to distinguish it from the modern-day "Republican Party.
- 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.
- "Pierce, Franklin, Homestead". "National Park Service. 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-storey 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)..
- 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 Hampshire. New Hampshire Historical Society: 24.
- Boulard (2006), p. 23.
- Waterman, Charles E. (March 7, 1918). "The Red Schoolhouse in Action". The Journal of Education. New England Publishing Company. 87-88: 265.
- 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 Register, and 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.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 44–47.
- Holt (2010), locs. 273–300
- 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. Retrieved December 10, 2010.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 79–80.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 241–44.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 47–57.
- 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.
- "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.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 154–157.
- Holt (2010), loc. 490.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 144–47.
- Holt (2010), loc. 505.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 147–54.
- "Grant, Ulysses S. (1892) . Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant. 1. C. L. Webster. pp. 146–147.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 157–61.
- Holt (2010), pp. 549–65.
- Gara (1991), pp. 21–22.
- Holt (2010), loc. 608.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 173–80.
- Wallner (2004), pp. 181–84; Gara (1991), pp, 23–29.
- 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 Gara, 38.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 5–24.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 15–18, and throughout.
- Wallner (2007), pp. p. 21–22.
- 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.
- 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 p. 25.
- Etchison, p. 14.
- 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.
- 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.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 309–27.
- Boulard (2006), p. 20.
- Boulard (2006), pp. 55–56.
- Boulard (2006), pp. 65–66.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 327–38.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 337–43.
- Wallner (2007), pp. 341–343, Boulard (2006), pp. 85–100.
- 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.
- "History". Franklin Pierce University. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "Franklin Pierce Center for IP". University of New Hampshire. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "Mountains of the Presidential Range". Mount Washington Observatory. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- "History". Pierceton, Indiana. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- 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.
- 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.
- His fervor for expanding the borders helped set the stage for the Civil War.
- "C-SPAN Survey". "C-SPAN. 2009. Retrieved June 30, 2014.
- Gara (1991), p. 182.
- Crockett, David A. (December 2012). "The Historical Presidency: The Perils of Restoration Politics: Nineteenth-Century Antecedents". Presidential Studies Quarterly. 42 (4): 881–902. "doi:10.1111/j.1741-5705.2012.04023.x.
- 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.
- Flagel, Thomas R. (2012). History Buff's Guide to the Presidents. Nashville, Tennessee: Cumberland House. p. 404. "ISBN "978-1-4022-7142-7.
- 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): 612.
- Potter (1976), p. 192.
- Nivison, Kenneth (March 2010). "Purposes Just and Pacific: Franklin Pierce and the American Empire". Diplomacy & Statecraft. 21 (1): 17.
- Gara, Larry (February 2000). "Pierce, Franklin". American National Biography Online.(subscription required)
- Boulard, Garry (2006). The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce: The Story of a President and the Civil War. iUniverse, Inc. "ISBN "0-595-40367-0.
- "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. "ISBN "0-7006-1287-4.
- 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. "ISBN "978-0-8050-8719-2.
- 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.
- "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. University of 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. "OCLC 426247.
- 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.
- Works by Franklin Pierce at "Project Gutenberg
- Essays on Franklin Pierce and shorter essays on each member of his cabinet and First Lady, from the "Miller Center of Public Affairs
- Works by or about Franklin Pierce at "Internet Archive
- United States Congress. "Franklin Pierce (id: P000333)". "Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Franklin Pierce: A Resource Guide from the Library of Congress
- Biography from the White House
- Franklin Pierce Bicentennial
- "Life Portrait of Franklin Pierce", from "C-SPAN's "American Presidents: Life Portraits, June 14, 1999
- "Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son"—"Booknotes interview with Peter Wallner, November 28, 2004
- Franklin Pierce Personal Manuscripts
- Exterior Statues and Memorials - N.H. Division of Historical Resources