Our 14th President: 1853-1857
Just the Facts:
- Franklin Pierce delivered his inaugural speech from memory – no notes!
- His wife, Jane, fainted when she heard Franklin was running for president.
- Pierce liked to drive really fast! Once, he even knocked over a woman with his carriage.
- His nickname was “Handsome Frank.”
- Pierce didn’t really like politics.
- President Pierce and First Lady Jane were the first to put a Christmas tree in the White House.
- Pierce was thrown from his horse in his very first battle.
Franklin Pierce was born in a log cabin in New Hampshire. His father was a politician and they moved to a large house when he was a young boy. Franklin spent many hours fishing as a child, a love that stayed with him all his life. He graduated from Bowdoin College in Maine, and became good friends with the literary giants Nathaniel Hawthorne and Ralph Waldo Emerson. He then went on to study law and open his own practice. Before long, he followed his father into politics. He served in the New Hampshire state legislature and Congress for over 10 years, until he retired because he found it boring.
Franklin Pierce didn’t plan to run for president, but was unanimously nominated at the democratic convention. He didn’t have much of a choice! In fact, Pierce was surprised when he was elected. He didn’t have a Vice-President – Mr. King was elected to the position but passed away before his term started. Some people think he was one of the least effective president we have ever had.
Franklin Pierce spent a lot of time trying to keep the peace between the North and South. He re-opened the issue of slavery by approving the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which allowed the people in each new state to decide whether to allow slavery or not (it undid President Fillmore’s work with the Missouri Compromise of 1850). This caused controversy in Kansas – the state was divided and people started fighting over whether Kansas should allow slavery or not – it got so bad that it was called “Bleeding Kansas.” Pierce’s goal of keeping the peace failed.
Franklin married Jane, who grew up in Maine. Her parents didn’t approve of her marrying a politician. They had three sons, all whom passed away – his 11 year old died right before Franklin became president. As a result, he was pretty depressed for most of his presidency.
And, on top of it, Jane didn’t like being in Washington DC at all – she just wanted to go home to New Hampshire. Pierce was happy when his term was over, even if his presidency wasn’t a success.
“If your path is limited, your future is boundless.”
“The stars upon your banner have become nearly threefold their original number; your densely populated possessions skirt the shores of the two great oceans.”
Want to Learn More?
Take a virtual tour of his house, the Pierce Manse, in New Hampshire at: http://www.piercemanse.org
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