-Franklin Pierce, (1804-1869), served as president during a period of increasing bitterness between North and South that later led to the American Civil War. He won the Democratic nomination for president in 1852 after the four strongest candidates had fought to a stalemate.
-Early life. Franklin Pierce was born in Hillsboro, New Hampshire, on Nov. 23, 1804. His father, Benjamin Pierce, had served in the American Revolution (1775-1783) and later became a brigadier general in the state militia. The elder Pierce served two terms as governor of New Hampshire. Franklin spent a happy childhood with his six older and two younger brothers and sisters.
-Political and public career. Pierce began studying law under Governor Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire. He later studied under Judge Samuel Howe and Judge Edmund Parker. In 1827, Pierce opened his own law office in Concord, New Hampshire.
-Entry into politics. Pierce supported Andrew Jackson's campaign for the presidency. In 1829, he won election to the New Hampshire House of Representatives. He was reelected two years later and became speaker of the House.
-Pierce's family. Pierce's years in Congress were not happy. In 1834, he had married Jane Means Appleton (March 12, 1806-Dec. 2, 1863), whose father had been a Congregational minister and president of Bowdoin College. Mrs. Pierce suffered from tuberculosis. She disliked Washington and seldom accompanied her husband to the capital. Pierce finally agreed to his wife's wishes and resigned from the Senate in 1842, shortly before his term ended. Mrs. Pierce's natural shyness deepened to melancholy after two of their three sons died in early childhood.
-Soldier. Soon after the Mexican War began in 1846, President James K. Polk commissioned Pierce a colonel in the U.S. Army. Only months earlier, Pierce had declined an offer to serve in Polk’s Cabinet as attorney general. A few months after the war began, Pierce was promoted to brigadier general.
-Election of 1852. Pierce resumed his law practice in Concord after the war. He had become one of New Hampshire's leading Democrats by the time his party's national convention met in 1852. After 34 ballots, it began to appear that none of the favored candidates could win the nomination. Delegates from Virginia then nominated Pierce. The Whigs nominated General Winfield Scott for president and Secretary of the Navy William A. Graham for vice president. The Compromise of 1850 had temporarily settled the slavery problem, and no real issues appeared to separate the two parties. But the campaign disclosed that Scott really opposed slavery, causing opposition to him in the South. Pierce won a majority of the popular vote and carried many more states than did Scott.
-Cabinet. Pierce tried to promote harmony in the Democratic Party by choosing men from all factions for his Cabinet.
-Life in the White House began in an atmosphere of tragedy and grief for the Pierces. They had seen their 11-year-old son Benjamin die in a railroad accident just two months before the inauguration. Mrs. Pierce collapsed from grief and did not attend her husband's inauguration. She secluded herself in an upstairs bedroom for nearly half of his term. Washington gossips called her "the shadow in the White House."
-Later years. Pierce became a bitter critic of President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. Pierce charged that Lincoln could have avoided the conflict by proper leadership. During the war, Secretary of State William Seward suggested Pierce was a member of a seditious (rebellious) group known as the Knights of the Golden Circle and therefore disloyal to the Union. But the charge was proved false, and Seward later apologized for his suggestion. Pierce died on Oct. 8, 1869, and was buried in the Old North Cemetery at Concord.
Boulard, Garry. "Pierce, Franklin." World Book Student. World Book, 2012. Web. 22 Jan. 2012.