Monday, February 22, 2016

Lesser Known Presidents- President Franklin Pierce

by Hunter Langley
February 19, 2016

Franklin Pierce was our 14th United States President. He was a democrat and his running mate was William R. King. Before he became President, he was a member in the House of New Hampshire from 1833-1837, and he was the Senator of New Hampshire from 1837-1842. Pierce privately practiced law in his home and was appointed U.S. Attorney for his state in 1845. He took office for president March 4th, 1853 and held that position until March 4th, 1857. He married Jane Appleton in 1834, and they had three sons, all of which died very young. Franklin Jr, who died in infancy, Frank Robert who died at the age of four from epidemic typhus, and Benjamin who died at the age of 11 in a train accident. Because of losing all of her children, Jane was very depressed and constantly ill from tuberculosis and psychological ailments.
Pierce saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. His action in championing and signing the Kansas-Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act failed to stem intersectional conflict, setting the stage for Southern secession. Franklin was a part of the Mexican-American war as a brigadier general in the army. He signed the Gadsden Purchase of Land from Mexico and led a failed attempt to acquire Cuba from Spain. He also signed trade treaties with Britain and Japan. But, his popularity in the Northern states declined quickly when supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which also nullified the Missouri Compromise.
In the mid-1869, Pierce started heavily drinking, and was suffering from severe cirrhosis of the liver, he moved to Concord that September knowing he wouldn’t recover. He died at 4:35am on October 8th. President Grant, who later defended Pierce’s service in the Mexican War, declared a day of national mourning. Newspapers across the country  carried front page examining Pierce’s controversial career. In his last will, which he signed January 22nd, he left a large number of specific bequests such as; paintings, swords, horses, and other items to his family, friends, and neighbors. He also left $72,000 to his brother Henry’s family.