147 Facts About Franklin Pierce


Franklin Pierce was the 14th president of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857.


Franklin Pierce served in the House of Representatives from 1833 until his election to the Senate, where he served from 1837 until his resignation in 1842.


Franklin Pierce's private law practice was a success, and he was appointed New Hampshire's US Attorney in 1845.


Franklin Pierce and running mate William R King easily defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A Graham in the 1852 presidential election.


Franklin Pierce was a Young America expansionist who signed the Gadsden Purchase of land from Mexico and led a failed attempt to acquire Cuba from Spain.


Franklin Pierce signed trade treaties with Britain and Japan and his Cabinet reformed its departments and improved accountability, but political strife during his presidency overshadowed these successes.


Franklin Pierce's administration was further damaged when several of his diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto calling for the annexation of Cuba, a document that was roundly criticized.


Franklin Pierce fully expected the Democrats to renominate him in the 1856 presidential election, but they abandoned him and his bid failed.


Franklin Pierce was popular and outgoing, but his family life was difficult; his three children died young and his wife, Jane Franklin Pierce, suffered from illness and depression for much of her life.


Franklin Pierce was born on November 23,1804, in a log cabin in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.


Franklin Pierce was a sixth-generation descendant of Thomas Pierce, who had moved to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from Norwich, Norfolk, England in about 1634.


Franklin Pierce's father Benjamin was a lieutenant in the American Revolutionary War who moved from Chelmsford, Massachusetts to Hillsborough after the war, purchasing 50 acres of land.


Franklin Pierce was the fifth of eight children born to Benjamin and his second wife Anna Kendrick; his first wife Elizabeth Andrews died in childbirth, leaving a daughter.


Franklin Pierce's father ensured that his sons were educated, and placed Franklin Pierce in a school at Hillsborough Center in childhood and sent him to the town school in Hancock at age 12.


Not fond of schooling, Franklin Pierce grew homesick and walked 12 miles back to his home one Sunday.


Franklin Pierce's father fed him dinner and drove him part of the distance back to school before ordering him to walk the rest of the way in a thunderstorm.


Franklin Pierce later cited this moment as "the turning-point in my life".


In fall 1820, Franklin Pierce entered Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, one of 19 freshmen.


Franklin Pierce joined the Athenian Society, a progressive literary society, alongside Jonathan Cilley and Nathaniel Hawthorne, with whom he formed lasting friendships.


Franklin Pierce was the last in his class after two years, but he worked hard to improve his grades and graduated in fifth place in 1824 in a graduating class of 14.


Franklin Pierce organized and led an unofficial militia company called the Bowdoin Cadets during his junior year, which included Cilley and Hawthorne.


The students rebelled and went on strike, an event that Franklin Pierce was suspected of leading.


Franklin Pierce read law briefly with former New Hampshire Governor Levi Woodbury, a family friend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.


Franklin Pierce then spent a semester at Northampton Law School in Northampton, Massachusetts, followed by a period of study in 1826 and 1827 under Judge Edmund Parker in Amherst, New Hampshire.


Franklin Pierce was admitted to the New Hampshire bar in late 1827 and began to practice in Hillsborough.


Franklin Pierce lost his first case, but soon proved capable as a lawyer.


In Hillsborough, his law partner was Albert Baker, who had studied law under Franklin Pierce and was the brother of Mary Baker Eddy.


The work of the New Hampshire Democratic Party came to fruition in March 1827, when their pro-Jackson nominee, Benjamin Franklin Pierce, won the support of the pro-Adams faction and was elected governor of New Hampshire essentially unopposed.


Franklin Pierce actively campaigned in his district on behalf of Jackson, who carried both the district and the nation by large margins in the November 1828 election, even though he lost New Hampshire.


The outcome further strengthened the Democratic Party, and Franklin Pierce won his first legislative seat the following year, representing Hillsborough in the New Hampshire House of Representatives.


Franklin Pierce's father was elected again as governor, retiring after that term.


The younger Franklin Pierce was appointed as chairman of the House Education Committee in 1829 and the Committee on Towns the following year.


Interested in revitalizing and reforming the state militias, which had become increasingly dormant during the years of peace following the War of 1812, Pierce worked with Alden Partridge, president of Norwich University, a military college in Vermont, and Truman B Ransom and Alonzo Jackman, Norwich faculty members and militia officers, to increase recruiting efforts and improve training and readiness.


Franklin Pierce served as a Norwich University trustee from 1841 to 1859, and received the honorary degree of LL.


Franklin Pierce's term began in March 1833, but he would not be sworn in until Congress met in December, and his attention was elsewhere.


Franklin Pierce had recently become engaged and bought his first house in Hillsborough.


Franklin and Benjamin Pierce were among the prominent citizens who welcomed President Jackson to the state on his visit in mid-1833.


On November 19,1834, Franklin Pierce married Jane Means Appleton, a daughter of Congregational minister Jesse Appleton and Elizabeth Means.


Jane Franklin Pierce was shy, devoutly religious, and pro-temperance, encouraging Franklin Pierce to abstain from alcohol.


Franklin Pierce was somewhat gaunt, and constantly ill from tuberculosis and psychological ailments.


Franklin Pierce abhorred politics and especially disliked Washington, DC, creating a tension that would continue throughout Pierce's political ascent.


Franklin Pierce departed in November 1833 for Washington, DC, where the Twenty-third United States Congress convened its regular session on December 2.


The Democrats, including Franklin Pierce, defeated proposals supported by the newly formed Whig Party, and the bank's charter expired.


Franklin Pierce broke from his party on occasion, opposing Democratic bills to fund internal improvements with federal money.


Franklin Pierce saw both the bank and infrastructure spending as unconstitutional, with internal improvements the responsibility of the states.


Franklin Pierce was frustrated with the "religious bigotry" of abolitionists, who cast their political opponents as sinners.


James Henry Hammond of South Carolina looked to prevent anti-slavery petitions from reaching the House floor Franklin Pierce sided with the abolitionists' right to petition.


Nevertheless, Franklin Pierce supported what came to be known as the gag rule, which allowed for petitions to be received, but not read or considered.


Franklin Pierce had stated that not one in 500 New Hampshirites were abolitionists; the Herald of Freedom article added up the number of signatures on petitions from that state, divided by the number of residents according to the 1830 census, and suggested the actual number was one-in-33.


Calhoun apologized after Franklin Pierce replied to him in a speech which stated that most signatories were women and children, who could not vote, which therefore cast doubt on the one-in-33 figure.


In December 1836, Franklin Pierce was elected to the full term, to commence in March 1837, and at age 32, was at the time one of the youngest members in Senate history.


Franklin Pierce voted the party line on most issues and was an able senator, but not an eminent one; he was overshadowed by the Great Triumvirate of Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster, who dominated the Senate.


Franklin Pierce entered the Senate at a time of economic crisis, as the Panic of 1837 had begun.


Franklin Pierce considered the depression a result of the banking system's rapid growth, amidst "the extravagance of overtrading and the wilderness of speculation".


Franklin Pierce supported a resolution by Calhoun against this proposal, which Franklin Pierce considered a dangerous stepping stone to nationwide emancipation.


One topic of particular importance to Franklin Pierce was the military.


Franklin Pierce challenged a bill which would expand the ranks of the Army's staff officers in Washington without any apparent benefit to line officers at posts in the rest of the country.


Franklin Pierce took an interest in military pensions, seeing abundant fraud within the system, and was named chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Pensions in the Twenty-sixth Congress.


Franklin Pierce campaigned vigorously throughout his home state for Van Buren's re-election in the 1840 presidential election.


In December 1841 Franklin Pierce decided to resign from Congress, something he had been planning for some time.


Franklin Pierce, meanwhile, had begun a demanding but lucrative law partnership with Asa Fowler during congressional recesses.


Franklin Pierce returned to Concord in early 1842, and his reputation as a lawyer continued to flourish.


Franklin Pierce remained involved in the state Democratic Party, which was split by several issues.


In June 1842 Franklin Pierce was named chairman of the State Democratic Committee, and in the following year's state election he helped the radical wing take over the state legislature.


The party remained divided on several issues, including railroad development and the temperance movement, and Franklin Pierce took a leading role in helping the state legislature settle their differences.


Franklin Pierce's priorities were "order, moderation, compromise, and party unity", which he tried to place ahead of his personal views on political issues.


Franklin Pierce had campaigned heavily for Polk during the election, and in turn Polk appointed him as United States Attorney for New Hampshire.


Franklin Pierce responded by re-assembling the state Democratic convention to revoke Hale's nomination for another term in Congress.


The political firestorm led to Franklin Pierce severing ties with his longtime friend, and with his law partner Fowler, who was a Hale supporter.


Active military service was a long-held dream for Franklin Pierce, who had admired his father's and brothers' service in his youth, particularly his older brother Benjamin's, as well as that of John McNeil Jr.


When Congress declared war against Mexico in May 1846, Franklin Pierce immediately volunteered to join, although no New England regiment yet existed.


Congress passed a bill authorizing the creation of ten regiments, and Pierce was appointed commander and colonel of the 9th Infantry Regiment in February 1847, with Truman B Ransom as lieutenant colonel and second-in-command.


On March 3,1847, Franklin Pierce was promoted to brigadier general, and took command of a brigade of reinforcements for General Scott's army, with Ransom succeeding to command of the regiment.


The Americans won the battle and Franklin Pierce helped negotiate an armistice.


Franklin Pierce remained in command of his brigade during the three-month occupation of the city; while frustrated with the stalling of peace negotiations, he tried to distance himself from the constant conflict between Scott and the other generals.


Franklin Pierce was finally allowed to return to Concord in late December 1847.


Franklin Pierce was given a hero's welcome in his home state, and submitted his resignation from the Army, which was approved on March 20,1848.


Franklin Pierce continued to wrangle with Senator Hale, who was anti-slavery and had opposed the war, stances that Pierce regarded as needless agitation.


The fiasco compromised the election for the Democrats, who lost several races; still, Franklin Pierce's party retained its control over the state, and was well positioned for the upcoming presidential election.


New Hampshire Democrats, including Franklin 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 Franklin Pierce's allies to present him as a potential dark horse in the mold of Polk.


Franklin Pierce 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, he knew his future influence depended on his availability to run.


When word reached New Hampshire of the result, Franklin Pierce found it difficult to believe, and his wife fainted.


Franklin Pierce kept quiet so as not to upset his party's delicate unity, and allowed his allies to run the campaign.


Franklin Pierce's opponents caricatured him as an anti-Catholic coward and alcoholic.


Franklin Pierce was not able to hide the gruesome sight from his wife.


Jane Franklin Pierce wondered if the train accident was divine punishment for her husband's pursuit and acceptance of high office.


Franklin Pierce wrote a lengthy letter of apology to "Benny" for her failings as a mother.


Franklin Pierce avoided social functions for much of her first two years as First Lady, making her public debut in that role to great sympathy at the annual public reception held at the White House on New Year's Day, 1855.


When Franklin Pierce departed New Hampshire for the inauguration, Jane Pierce chose not to accompany him.


Franklin Pierce was the first president to deliver his inaugural address from memory.


Franklin Pierce decided to allow each of the party's factions some appointments, even those that had not supported the Compromise of 1850.


Franklin Pierce spent the first few weeks of his term sorting through hundreds of lower-level federal positions to be filled.


Franklin Pierce sought to run a more efficient and accountable government than his predecessors.


Franklin Pierce 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 Franklin Pierce's only Supreme Court appointment.


Franklin Pierce charged Treasury Secretary James Guthrie with reforming the Treasury, which was inefficiently managed and had many unsettled accounts.


Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, at Franklin Pierce's request, led surveys by the Corps of Topographical Engineers of possible transcontinental railroad routes throughout the country.


The Franklin Pierce administration aligned with the expansionist Young America movement, with Marcy leading the charge as Secretary of State.


Franklin Pierce issued a circular recommending that US 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.


Davis, an advocate of a southern transcontinental route, persuaded Franklin Pierce to send rail magnate James Gadsden to Mexico to buy land for a potential railroad.


Franklin 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.


British consuls in the United States sought to enlist Americans for the Crimean War in 1854, in violation of neutrality laws, and Franklin Pierce eventually expelled minister Crampton and three consuls.


Franklin Pierce favored expansion and a substantial reorganization of the military.


Franklin Pierce wanted a transcontinental railroad with a link from Chicago to California, through the vast western territory.


Franklin Pierce had wanted to organize the Nebraska Territory without explicitly addressing the matter of slavery, but Douglas could not get enough Southern votes to accomplish this.


Franklin Pierce was skeptical of the bill, knowing it would result in bitter opposition from the North.


When Free-Staters set up a shadow government, and drafted the Topeka Constitution, Franklin Pierce called their work an act of rebellion.


Franklin Pierce dispatched federal troops to break up a meeting of the Topeka government.


Northerners rallied in support of Burns, but Franklin Pierce was determined to follow the Fugitive Slave Act to the letter, and dispatched federal troops to enforce Burns's return to his Virginia owner despite furious crowds.


Buchanan had solid political connections and had been safely overseas through most of Franklin Pierce's term, leaving him untainted by the Kansas debacle.


Franklin Pierce installed John W Geary as territorial governor, who drew the ire of pro-slavery legislators.


Franklin Pierce did not temper his rhetoric after losing the nomination.


Franklin Pierce took the opportunity to defend his record on fiscal policy, and on achieving peaceful relations with other nations.


Buchanan altered course from the Franklin Pierce administration, replacing all his appointees.


Franklin Pierce never lost sight of politics during his travels, commenting regularly on the nation's growing sectional conflict.


Franklin Pierce 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".


Franklin Pierce criticized New England Protestant ministers, who largely supported abolition and Republican candidates, for their "heresy and treason".


Franklin Pierce was asked by Justice Campbell to travel to Alabama and address that state's secession convention.


Franklin Pierce wanted to avoid war at all costs, and wrote to Van Buren, proposing an assembly of former US presidents to resolve the issue, but this suggestion was not acted on.


Franklin 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.


In September 1861, Franklin Pierce traveled to Michigan, visiting his former Interior Secretary, McClelland, former senator Cass, and others.


Later that month, the pro-administration Detroit Tribune printed an item calling Franklin Pierce "a prowling traitor spy", and intimating that he was a member of the pro-Confederate Knights of the Golden Circle.


Hopkins confessed authorship of the letter and admitted the hoax, but despite this, Seward wrote to Franklin Pierce demanding to know if the charges were true.


Later, Republican newspapers printed the Hopkins letter in spite of his admission that it was a hoax, and Franklin Pierce decided that he needed to clear his name publicly.


When Seward refused to make their correspondence public, Franklin Pierce publicized his outrage by having a Senate ally, California's Milton Latham, read the letters between Seward and Franklin 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 Franklin Pierce, who gave an address to New Hampshire Democrats in July 1863 vilifying Lincoln.


Jane Franklin Pierce died of tuberculosis in Andover, Massachusetts in December 1863; she was buried at Old North Cemetery in Concord, New Hampshire.


Franklin Pierce was further grieved by the death of his close friend Nathaniel Hawthorne in May 1864; he was with Hawthorne when the author died unexpectedly.


Franklin Pierce grew angry, expressing sadness over Lincoln's death but denying any need for a public gesture.


Franklin Pierce told them that his history of military and public service proved his patriotism, which was enough to quiet the crowd.


Franklin Pierce's drinking impaired his health in his last years, and he grew increasingly spiritual.


Franklin Pierce had a brief relationship with an unknown woman in mid-1865.


Franklin Pierce offered financial help to Hawthorne's son Julian, as well as to his own nephews.


Franklin Pierce found this church to be less political than his former Congregational denomination, which had alienated Democrats with anti-slavery rhetoric.


Franklin Pierce took up the life of an "old farmer", as he called himself, buying up property, drinking less, farming the land himself, and hosting visiting relatives.


Franklin Pierce 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.


Franklin Pierce's health began to decline again in mid-1869; he resumed heavy drinking despite his deteriorating physical condition.


Franklin Pierce was interred next to his wife and two of his sons in the Minot enclosure at Concord's Old North Cemetery.


The Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough is a state park and a National Historic Landmark, open to the public.


Franklin Pierce's presidency is widely regarded as a failure; he is often described as one of the worst presidents in American history.


Franklin Pierce 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.


Franklin Pierce 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.


Franklin Pierce was an inexperienced man, suddenly called to assume a tremendous responsibility, who honestly tried to do his best without adequate training or temperamental fitness.


Historian Larry Gara, who authored a book on Franklin Pierce's presidency, wrote in the former president's entry in American National Biography Online:.


Franklin Pierce 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.


Franklin Pierce 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].


Franklin 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.


Franklin Pierce was always a nationalist attempting to find a middle ground to keep the Union together.