Ranked #41: It could be said that Pierce had no business being President. However, during this point in US history, only an uninspiring, un-forceful candidate could have been elected. To be fair, although he was considered inept, prior Presidents had also been unable to resolve the issue of slavery. I think his biggest fault was that he let himself be manipulated by members of Congress.
Summary: Pierce was sort of a paradox of a person. He was agreeable, open and easygoing. He was an avid fisherman. He also lacked any sustaining self-confidence, and as a result, often searched for approval from his peers. He was the type of guy that had a hard time saying no to people. As President, he often based his decisions on the opinion of the last person he had talked. He was approachable and friendly. This caused people to understand that Pierce agreed with them, even when that was not particularly the case.
Bio: Pierce is considered one of the more handsome Presidents. He stood 5’ 10” inches tall. He had a classic Roman nose, curly dark hair, gray eyes and thin lips.
Pierce was a prisoner to alcohol throughout his entire life. During his time, a great deal of politics took place in taverns, so it was almost unavoidable. He would later develop liver disease as a result, as well as tuberculosis of the lungs.
Pierce politically had a lot of help from the very beginning. His father was a two-term governor of New Hampshire. This would help Franklin serve in the New Hampshire legislature before the age of 30. He would then go on to become a US Representative and eventually a US Senator before the age of 40. Pierce would go on to become the youngest President ever elected, (at that time) at the age of 48. He was also a successful attorney and a brigadier general in the Mexican-American War.
As much as Pierce’s professional career flourished, it was his personal life that placed great weight on him. The unfortunate case for Pierce is that things began to seriously unravel when he became President. All three of his children died very young. Between the time that he won the election of 1852 and his inauguration, his son Benny was killed in a train accident that both Pierce and his wife were also in. This caused great gloom in the family. Afterwards, his wife Jane, became a depressed recluse who never left the bedroom in the White House. She had declared at the time that the death of Benny was punishment for Franklin winning the election. I don’t think Pierce ever got over the loss of his son. Even at his own inauguration, he asked the country to give him strength.
Pierce was a dark-horse candidate, nominated by the Democrats. His appeal was the fact that although he was from the North, he at the same time was sympathetic to the Southern cause. He was viewed as the one candidate that would not offend any American. Almost every President up until this point had sidestepped the issue of slavery. There is no doubt Pierce contributed to the acceleration of the Civil War with a law called the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The South wanted an equal number of free and slave states. The area comprised of Kansas and Nebraska was unsettled when Pierce took office; however, people wanted to live there. The Missouri Compromise of of 1820 had banned slavery in this territory. The South wanted that law repealed. Under heavy pressure, Pierce agreed to repeal it. The repercussions were huge. Violence broke out, the political party known as the Whigs were disbanded and a new Northern political party known as the Republicans were created and led by a lawyer named Abraham Lincoln. It got so bad for Pierce that his own party did not nominate him for re-election.
ierce returned to New Hampshire after his term. When the Civil War broke out, he blamed it all on President Lincoln. His wife Jane died during the war. Once the war was over, Pierce was more or less a forgotten man. When Lincoln was assassinated, an angry mob surrounded Pierce’s home. He barely came out of it alive as he gave a speech expressing sadness over the death. This proved to have saved his house, because the mob disbursed. Following the war and his wife’s death, Pierce’s drinking got worse and he eventually died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. Little was written about him until many years later.
Pros: Attempted to avoid the approaching Civil War by appeasing the Southern States
Cons: Appeased Southern States. Signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Supported slavery. Was arrested as president for running over a woman with a horse.
Born: November 23, 1804, Hillsborough, New Hampshire
Died: October 8, 1869 (aged 64) Concord, New Hampshire