Monday, May 31, 2010
In 1852 Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States because the four strongest candidates were in a stalemate. Pierce was selected because he strongly favored the option to settle the slavery issue by the Compromise of 1850. Pierce was only 48 when he became President and thus was the youngest President to that time. Pierce was good looking and had an impressive speaking manner. The people of New Hampshire thought he was a good Representative and Senator and appreciated his military service in the Mexican War. He was not well known outside his home state. Pierce had two main problems during his administration: 1) The North grew increasingly in opposition to slavery. 2) Prejudice against immigrants was increasing. One of the most prosperous times in American history happened during Pierce's presidency. Two popular songs came out during the time period - "My Old Kentucky Home Good Night" by Stephen Foster and "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" (Christmas 1855). Franklin Pierce was born on November 23, 1804, in Hillsboro, New Hampshire. He had eight siblings, six older and two younger. His father fought in the Revolutionary War, was a brigadier general in the state militia and served two terms as governor of New Hampshire. Franklin attended an academy in Hancock at age 11. He also attended the academy at Francestown, New Hampshire, and Phillips Exeter Academy. Pierce and Nathaniel Hawthorne became good friends while attending Bowdoin College. For the first two years of college Pierce was mainly interested in the social life. At the end of his first two years, he was ranked last in his class. He apparently settled down a lot because he was ranked third in his class at graduation in 1824. Pierce studied law and opened his own law office in Concord, New Hampshire. He served two terms in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. In 1833 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. After serving two terms there, he was elected to the United States Senate where he was the youngest Senator at age 33. Pierce married Jane Means Appleton in 1834. She had tuberculosis and disliked Washington. She rarely went to Washington with Pierce. Two of their three sons died in early childhood. Pierce resigned from the Senate in 1842, just prior to the end of his term, in order to be with his wife. Pierce was commissioned a colonel in the United States Army by President James K. Polk when the Mexican War began in 1846. A few months later he was promoted to brigadier general. After the war he resumed his law practice and became a leading Democrat in New Hampshire. After 49 ballots at the Democratic Convention, he was chosen to head the Democratic ticket. Pierce won the popular vote and carried the most states. Pierce's remaining son, Benjamin, died in a railroad accident at age 11 just two months before the inauguration. Mrs. Pierce did not attend the inauguration because she had collapsed with grief. For nearly two years she secluded herself in an upstairs bedroom while her aunt served as White House hostess. After January 1, 1855, Mrs. Pierce frequently attended state dinner but was still melancholy. Important events during the Pierce presidency: 1) The Gadsden Purchase from Mexico in 1853 settled the boundary question with Mexico, added property to the United States, and allowed for a southern railroad route to the Pacific Coast. 2) Congress organized the Kansas and Nebraska territories in 1854 and allowed the territories to decide if they wanted to be slave or free. 3) The Crimean War was fought from 1853 to 1856 between Russia and allied forces of France, Great Britain, Turkey, and Sardinia. It ended in a Russian defeat. 4) Florence Nightingale of England took charge of a hospital in Turkey during the Crimean War and established new hospital and nursing care standards. She gained international acclaim because her efforts saved many lives. 5) The Republican Party was established in 1854 by anti-slavery groups who opposed the Kansas-Nebraska Act. 6) Frederick Douglas, a runaway slave who became the leading spokesman for black rights in the 1800's, published his autobiography, My Bondage, My Freedom, in 1855. 7) The Bessemer steel process was invented by Sir Henry Bessemer of England in 1856. It was the first process invented to make large quantities of steel inexpensively. Facts for this post came from an article by Philip S. Klein in the World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, pp 454-457.