Category: US President
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) was the 14th President of the United States. Franklin Pierce was a northern Democrat who opposed abolition out of concerns it would destroy the nation.
About the President
Franklin Pierce (1853-1857) first served in the New Hampshire legislature. He was then elected to the House of Representatives and then the Senate. Franklin Pierce resigned from the Senate in 1842, in part due to his wife’s refusal to live in Washington, DC. Franklin Pierce returned to private legal practice before being made a U.S. attorney.
Franklin Pierce was a brigadier general in the Army during the Mexican-American War. Fanklin
Pierce died in 1869 from liver cirrhosis.
Major Policies and Actions
Franklin Pierce was elected in 1852 with 254 electoral votes against Winfield Scott’s 42 electoral votes. Winfield Scott had been Pierce’s commanding officer in the Mexican American War.
Franklin Pierce was a Democrat who saw abolition of slavery as a threat to the unity of the country. This is why he enforced the Fugitive Slave Act that cost Millard Fillmore the Presidential nomination. Franklin Pierce signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act which was an attempt to open the territories to settlement by free individuals while leaving the decision of slave versus free state being left to the local settlers. This led to the formation of the Republican Party, a party aimed at stopping the expansion of slavery.
The Nebraska Act was seen as the legislation that set the nation on the path to civil war, because it broke the pattern of painful compromises that had kept free and slave states together up to that time.
Franklin Pierce signed the Gadsden Purchase, which purchased a large area that now includes Tucson, Arizona. This was the last territorial acquisition of the lower 48 states. This agreement also set the current U.S.-Mexican border. This area was purchased because a southern east-west transcontinental route further north would pass through land too mountainous to be developed commercially using technology at the time. A southern transcontinental route was sought so that the northern states could not use the transcontinental route to trade with Asia and potentially hurt the South economically; this was a viable concern at the time, since the Northern states had repeatedly sought tariffs to protect their manufacturing base while the Southern states preferred to trade agricultural products for English manufactured goods.
In 1856, Franklin Pierce chose to recognize the dictatorship set up by American William Walker. Walker was removed from power in 1857. Walker was executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.
Franklin Pierce signed the treaty with Japan that was negotiated by Naval Commodore Matthew Perry.
Franklin Pierce tried to negotiate to buy Cuba from Spain but failed. Franklin Pierce’s diplomats issued the Ostend Manifesto, calling for the violent annexation of Cuba. This led to the Democrat party abandoning Pierce.
Sitting presidents receive their party’s nomination for the next election by default. Franklin Pierce is the only sitting president to have been defeated in his party’s nomination for the next presidential election.
Historical Events during His Presidency
Franklin Pierce’s presidency was a mixture of clean-up of the Mexican-American War, efforts to avoid an American Civil War, failure of American expansion into the Caribbean and success in establishing trade in Asian.
Jefferson Davis, who became the President of the Confederacy, was Secretary of War for Franklin Pierce (1853-1857). Davis was briefly married to the daughter of Zachary Taylor (1849-1850).
Franklin Pierce was a classmate of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at Bowdoin College.