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Franklin Pierce: 14th President: Pro-Slavery

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else be destined to repeat it.

President Franklin Pierce

Doughface

Franklin Pierce was elected as the 14th President of the United States of America and served 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.

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

Franklin Pierce's Political Career

Pierce was very well-educated. After attending private schools, he entered college at only fifteen years old. Pierce attended Bowdoin College with Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. After graduation, he studied law for two years, then held many state offices, including New Hampshire legislature and later its Speaker. It became clear that he was firmly against the abolition of slavery.

He then went to Washington, where he worked as a Representative. In 1836, at the age of 32, he became the youngest Senator in Washington to be elected to Congress.

During the Mexican American War, Pierce had a strong desire to fight, despite never having served before. He appealed to President James K. Polk and became Brigadier General, where he led a group of volunteers at the Battle of Contreras. During that battle, 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 this office, he never sought to become president. Instead, he was nominated by friends due to his likable personality after the Democratic convention became deadlocked. They balloted 48 times without agreement before finally nominating him. Despite never having given any speeches, he won against General Winfield Scott, a Whig candidate, whom he fought within the Mexican American war. 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. His third son died at 11, shortly after his inauguration when a train they were on derailed and turned over.

One of the most controversial acts passed while he was in office was the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The Kansas-Nebraska Act stated that the new settlers could decide whether they wanted to become a slave or free state, which 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 battle, the Kansas territory became known as "Bleeding Kansas."

Later the Gadsden Purchase was completed, which allowed the final border between Mexico and the United States to form, 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 States 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.

In 1854, his popularity continued to dwindle, when an internal presidential memo leaked that would become 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.

General Franklin Pierce

Fun Facts

  • He is one of our youngest presidents. 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. He won despite.
  • He 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 who 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

List of American Presidents

1. George Washington

16. Abraham Lincoln

31. Herbert Hoover

2. John Adams

17. Andrew Johnson

32. Franklin D. Roosevelt

3. Thomas Jefferson

18. Ulysses S. Grant

33. Harry S. Truman

4. James Madison

19. Rutherford B. Hayes

34. Dwight D. Eisenhower

5. James Monroe

20. James Garfield

35. John F. Kennedy

6. John Quincy Adams

21. Chester A. Arthur

36. Lyndon B. Johnson

7. Andrew Jackson

22. Grover Cleveland

37. Richard M. Nixon

8. Martin Van Buren

23. Benjamin Harrison

38. Gerald R. Ford

9. William Henry Harrison

24. Grover Cleveland

39. James Carter

10. John Tyler

25. William McKinley

40. Ronald Reagan

11. James K. Polk

26. Theodore Roosevelt

41. George H. W. Bush

12. Zachary Taylor

27. William Howard Taft

42. William J. Clinton

13. Millard Fillmore

28. Woodrow Wilson

43. George W. Bush

14. Franklin Pierce

29. Warren G. Harding

44. Barack Obama

15. James Buchanan

30. Calvin Coolidge

45. Donald Trump

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.

Questions & Answers

Question: When did Franklin Pierce retire?

Answer: Franklin Pierce retired when he left office on March 3rd, 1857. He spent the remaining years with his wife who was severely depressed since their three sons had all passed away. They traveled together. He sometimes spoke out afterward, but he did not actively work in politics.

© 2017 Angela Michelle Schultz

Comments

Readmikenow on February 03, 2017:

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