Franklin Pierce, born on November 23, 1804, was the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857. Hailing from New Hampshire, Pierce had a distinguished political career before his presidency, including serving as a U.S. Senator and a brigadier general in the Mexican-American War. Despite his impressive credentials, Pierce’s presidency was marred by the escalating tensions over the issue of slavery, which eventually led to the outbreak of the Civil War.
One of Pierce’s notable achievements was the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, which secured a strip of land from Mexico, contributing to the eventual completion of the transcontinental railroad. However, his presidency is often criticized for his handling of the contentious issue of slavery, as his support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act further fueled sectional divisions and set the stage for the violent clashes that would characterize the years leading up to the Civil War. Pierce’s commitment to the Union was questioned as he struggled to navigate the tumultuous political landscape of his time.
After his presidency, Pierce withdrew from active politics and faced personal tragedies, including the death of his son in a train accident shortly before his inauguration. He lived out his post-presidential years in relative obscurity and passed away on October 8, 1869. Despite the challenges and controversies of his time in office, Franklin Pierce’s legacy is a complex one, reflecting the intricate political climate of pre-Civil War America.
Let’s take a look at these 10 fun facts about Franklin Pierce to know more about him.
- Nickname: Franklin Pierce was often referred to as the “Young Hickory of the Granite Hills,” a nod to his political alignment with Andrew Jackson, who was nicknamed “Old Hickory.”
- Athletic Prowess: Pierce was known for his athleticism and love of sports. He was an accomplished wrestler and participated in various athletic activities during his time at Bowdoin College.
- Dark Horse Candidate: Pierce became the Democratic nominee for president in 1852 as a dark horse candidate, meaning he was a relatively unknown figure who unexpectedly secured the nomination.
- Mexican-American War Service: During the Mexican-American War, Pierce served as a brigadier general and earned praise for his service, enhancing his political reputation upon his return.
- Tragedy Strikes: Pierce’s life was marked by personal tragedy. His wife, Jane Pierce, deeply religious and opposed to his political career, reportedly fainted when she learned of his nomination and never fully recovered from the trauma of their young son’s death.
- The First “First Lady” to Publish a Book: Jane Pierce, despite her reservations about her husband’s political career, was the first “First Lady” to publish a book. She wrote a biography of her deceased husband titled “The Life of Franklin Pierce.”
- Anti-Abolitionist Stance: Pierce’s presidency was characterized by his pro-Southern and pro-slavery positions. He supported the controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act, which further heightened tensions between Northern and Southern states.
- Gadsden Purchase: One of Pierce’s significant accomplishments was the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, acquiring a strip of land from Mexico for $10 million. This land acquisition aimed to facilitate the construction of a southern transcontinental railroad route.
- Alcohol Abstainer: Pierce, unlike many of his political peers, abstained from alcohol during his presidency. This was a stark contrast to the prevailing drinking culture of the time.
- Post-Presidential Years: Following his presidency, Pierce largely withdrew from public life. He returned to his law practice but faced criticism for his perceived role in contributing to the tensions that led to the Civil War. Despite the controversies of his time, Pierce’s legacy is a fascinating chapter in American political history.
Franklin Pierce’s legacy is a complex tapestry woven with political achievements, personal tragedy, and a tumultuous period in American history. From his unexpected rise as a dark horse candidate to the presidency and his athletic prowess to the profound personal losses that marked his tenure, Pierce’s life reflects the intricacies of 19th-century politics. While he made significant contributions with the Gadsden Purchase, his stance on pro-Southern and pro-slavery issues exacerbated the already mounting tensions leading up to the Civil War. Pierce’s post-presidential years were marked by withdrawal from the public eye, and despite the controversies surrounding his presidency, his story remains a compelling chapter in the nation’s narrative, showcasing the complexities of leadership in times of profound change and unrest.