Pierce, Franklin

Born: 1804-11-23 Hillsborough County, New Hampshire

Died: 1869-10-08 Concord, New Hampshire

Born in New Hampshire to a prominent political family, Franklin Pierce graduated from Bowdoin College in 1824. He subsequently studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1827. He married Jane Means Appleton in 1834, with whom he had three children. A Democrat, Pierce won election to the New Hampshire General Court in 1829 and remained there until 1833. That year, voters elected him to the U.S. House of Representatives and then to the U.S. Senate in 1836. He resigned his Senate seat in 1842 and practiced law in Concord, New Hampshire. James K. Polk appointed him U.S. attorney for New Hampshire, and he remained in that office until enlisting in the Mexican War. During the war, Pierce rose to the rank of brigadier general, returning afterward to again resume his practice in Concord. Following a divisive Democratic National Convention in 1852, the party selected Pierce as its presidential nominee. Pierce handily defeated the Whig candidate, Winfield Scott, leading to a very conservative presidency. His primary foreign policy achievement was negotiating the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico, while his attempts to annex new territory almost entirely failed. These failures and the increasing violence in Kansas put Pierce in a poor position going into the 1856 election, and the Democrats instead selected James Buchanan as their candidate. Pierce spent much of his subsequent career traveling. He opposed Abraham Lincoln's presidential campaign and, during the Civil War, regularly spoke out against the Lincoln administration, leading some to erroneously suspect him of treason.

Larry Gara, The Presidency of Franklin Pierce (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991); Roy Franklin Nichols, Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1969); Nathaniel Hawthorne, Life of Franklin Pierce (Boston, Mass.: Ticknor, Reed and Fields, 1852).