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Franklin Pierce: 14th President

Updated on February 20, 2017
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Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past. Without it, we as a country are destined to repeat the past.

President Franklin Pierce

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Franklin Pierce was elected as the 14th President of the United States of America from 1853-1857 when slavery was still strong. He was thought to be soft towards the South, despite having been a Northerner. He became known as a "doughface," because people felt his opinion was easily molded like a piece of bread dough by those who supported slavery.

Franklin was born on November 23, 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire to his parents Benjamin Pierce and Anna Kendrick Pierce. His father fought in the American Revolution and became the state's senator. His mother suffered from both alcoholism and depression. These were vices that he would struggle with as well, due to many heartbreaks he experienced.

1852 Election

Although Pierce had a vast majority of the electoral votes, he only had a slight advantage in the popular votes.
Although Pierce had a vast majority of the electoral votes, he only had a slight advantage in the popular votes. | Source

Basic Facts

Question
Answer
Born
November 23, 1804 - New Hampshire
President Number
14th
Party
Democratic
Military Service
United States Army
Wars Served
Mexican–American War • Battle of Contreras • Battle of Churubusco • Battle of Molino del Rey • Battle of Chapultepec • Battle for Mexico City
Age at Beginning of Presidency
49 years old
Term of Office
March 4, 1853 - March 3, 1857
How Long President
4 years
Vice-President
William R. King (1853) None (1853–1857)
Age and Year of Death
October 8, 1869 (aged 64)
Cause of Death
cirrhosis of the liver

List of United States Presidents

1. George Washington

2. John Adams

3. Thomas Jefferson

4. James Madison

5. James Monroe

6. John Quincy Adams

7. Andrew Jackson

8. Martin Van Buren

9. William Henry Harrison

10. John Tyler

11. James K. Polk

12. Zachary Taylor

13. Millard Fillmore

14. Franklin Pierce

15. James Buchanan

16. Abraham Lincoln

17. Andrew Johnson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

20. James Garfield

21. Chester A. Arthur

22. Grover Cleveland

23. Benjamin Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

25. William McKinley

26. Theodore Roosevelt

27. William Howard Taft

28. Woodrow Wilson

29. Warren G. Harding

30. Calvin Coolidge

31. Herbert Hoover

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

33. Harry S. Truman

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

35. John F. Kennedy

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

37. Richard M. Nixon

38. Gerald R. Ford

39. James Carter

40. Ronald Reagan

41. George H. W. Bush

42. William J. Clinton

43. George W. Bush

44. Barack Obama

45. Donald Trump

Franklin Pierce's Political Career

Pierce was very well-educated, having entered college at age fifteen after spending many years in private schools. He attended college with Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at Bowdoin College. After graduation he studied law for two years, then held many state offices including as a New Hampshire legislature and later its Speaker. While there, it became clear that he was strongly against the abolition of slavery. He then went to Washington where he worked as a Representative, then in 1836 he became the youngest Senator in Washington having been elected to Congress at 32 years of age.

During the Mexican American War, Pierce had a strong desire to fight. He appealed to President James K. Polk, despite having never served in military before. He served as Brigadier General and led a group of volunteers at the Battle of Contreras, where he was injured after he fell from his horse. Many respected him for his assistance in the capture of Mexico City.

Unlike most that held his office, he never sought to become president. Instead he was nominated by friends due to his likeable personality, when the Democratic convention became deadlocked after they balloted 48 times without agreement. Despite never having given any speeches, he won against General Winfield Scott, whom he fought with in the Mexican American war and a Whig candidate. The Whigs were very against him becoming president due to his bout with alcoholism, and they even had a slogan that stated, "Hero of Many a Well-Fought Bottle." Due to the dying interest in the Whig party, their candidate did not win.

He remained fun-loving, despite having experienced great tragedy in adulthood. He had three sons. Two died shortly after birth and his third son died at 11, shortly after his inauguration, when a train they were on derailed and was overturned.

One of the most controversial acts passed while he was in office was the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that they the new settlers could decide whether they wanted to become a slave or free state. This angered many, because it repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and further inflamed the argument of pro and anti-slavery believers. Much fighting occurred as a result, which was just a mere foreshadow that a Civil War was on its way. Due to the severity of the fighting, the Kansas territory became known as "Bleeding Kansas."

Later the Gasden Purchase was completed, which allowed the final border between Mexco and the United States to be formed, costing the United States ten million dollars. Unfortunately it added more fuel to the fire towards those who argued on opposing sides of slavery, since more land would need to determine whether they were free or slave states. There had been a longtime dispute between the countries due to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and the United State's wanting to use the land for a transcontinental railroad that would run through Chicago to California. This land would later become New Mexico and Arizona.

His popularity continued to dwindle, when in 1854, an internal presidential memo leaked that would be known as the Ostend Manifesto. It stated that the United States should take aggressive action towards Spain if they did not agree to sell Cuba. Many anti-slavery supporters felt his strong stance was due to Pierce's attempt to extend slavery even further.

Due to lots of conflict during his presidency, the Democratic party rejected him during the National Convention in 1856. Instead they chose James Buchanan, because he was much more neutral on the slavery issue.

In his personal life, this was a good move, as his wife Jane Means Appleton suffered greatly due to the loss of their three sons. He was able to take time to travel to Europe and the Bahamas, as he took care of his wife while she coped with her losses.

He did speak out during the Civil War, maintaining his pro-slavery stance, although he did not agree with secession. Many accused him of becoming a traitor to the north. He died in 1869.

Do you believe that Franklin Pierce's decisions during his presidency contributed to the Civil War?

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General Franklin Pierce

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Fun Facts

  • He is one of our youngest presidend. He was elected at the age of 48.
  • He became the youngest Senator in Washington, having become Senator at the age of 32.
  • He never chose to run for President, nor did he give any campaign speeches. His friends put his name on the nomination ballot, and he won despite, due to the poor choices at the time.
  • Suffered from both alcoholism and depression, much like his mother Anna Kendrick Pierce.
  • Despite being from the North, he was pro-slavery.
  • He had three sons, all whom died by the age of twelve. Two died during infancy, the third died while riding on a train shortly after he became president. His wife never recovered from the loss, which caused him to retire after his presidency and help support her.

Excerpt from the History Channel

Sources

  • Freidel, F., & Sidey, H. (2009). Franklin Pierce. Retrieved April 22, 2016, from
    https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/franklinpierce
  • Kelley, M. (2015, September 01). Top 10 Things to Know About Franklin Pierce. Retrieved May 10, 2016, from http://americanhistory.about.com/od/franklinpierce/tp/10-Things-To-Know-About-Franklin-Pierce.htm
  • Sullivan, George. Mr. President: A Book of U.S. Presidents. New York: Scholastic, 2001. Print.

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    • Readmikenow profile image

      Readmikenow 4 months ago

      Very interesting. I never knew too much about Franklin Pierce, but now I do. Enjoyed reading this article.

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