Franklin Pierce: Unlucky Number 14?

Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States, and New Hampshire native, has always

placed very low in polls of “best liked” Presidents.  Even in New Hampshire, in certain  grammar and high school history classes, Pierce’s Presidency is briefly mentioned, and his existence quickly passed over. Possibly because he was not as flashy or well known as other Presidents, or because he was opposed to the Civil War, he is perceived in a bad light. Was his position as our 14th President unlucky?

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity to attend a lecture at the Pierce Manse in Concord, New Hampshire. Peter A. Wallner, the Director of the Library at the NH Historical Society presented on Franklin Pierce’s life before his presidency. Mr. Wallner is an authority on Pierce, and an author of two books about him.

What I learned about Pierce–his dedication to the common man, his dislike of a powerful federal government, and his desire to resolve issues without war, piqued my interest.  I purchased Wallner’s two books so I could discover more. Kudos to Peter Wallner and others who present an accurate picture of Franklin Pierce within his original historic landscape, and help us achieve a better understanding of both the man and the world he lived in.

Interesting and less known facts about Franklin Pierce

Nathaniel Hawthorne, a school mate, and life long friend of Franklin Pierce, [author of such books as The Scarlet Letter, and House of Seven Gables] wrote an early biography of Pierce.  Hawthorne notes: “when a friend, dear to him almost from boyish days, stands up before his country, misrepresented by indiscriminate abuse, on the one hand, and by aimless praise, on the other, he should be sketched by one who has had opportunities of knowing him well, and who is certain inclined to tell the truth.” [The Life of Franklin Pierce, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1852, preface]  When Franklin Pierce became president, he appointed Nathaniel Hawthorne to the post of American consul (advisor) at Liverpool, England.

— A Highway is named after him in New Hampshire (Route 9 aka Franklin Pierce Highway).  I found amusing that among the more distinguished landmarks that include both the Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsborough NH, and the Pierce Manse in Concord NH, are the “cabin that Franklin Pierce was born in … today located at the bottom of Franklin Pierce Lake,” and the Pierce Barbecue Pit “used for Benjamin Pierce’s annual barbecue, and to stage a huge celebration to send Franklin off to Washington,” (according to the official Franklin Pierce Highway booklet).  However, I am been informed by David C. (see responses by readers below this article), that The Franklin Pierce Bicentennial web site is incorrect about the stone oven in Hillsborough being used for an annual barbecue by Benjamin Pierce (Franklin’s father). It was built solely for a presidential campaign rally in 1852. I’ve researched this topic pretty thoroughly, and you can read more in my article, “The Great Pierce Barbecue of 1852.”

— Franklin Pierce was the first President whose Vice-President never served, because he died before assuming any responsibilities.

— Franklin Pierce was the first U.S. President to have the a decorated Christmas tree in the White House (1856)

— The wife of President George H. W. Bush (1924), First Lady Barbara Pierce Bush (1925-), is a fourth cousin four times removed of President Franklin Pierce.

Photo Notes:
The likeness of Franklin Pierce is from “Sketches of the lives of Franklin Pierce and Wm. R. King, candidates of the Democratic Republican Party for the Presidency and Vice Presidency,” By Democratic National Committee (U.S.), 1852

The Photos of the Pierce Manse, and of Peter Wallner presenting “”Franklin Pierce: Democratic Leader” in Concord NH on 24 February 2011, taken by Janice Brown, iPhone

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4 Responses to Franklin Pierce: Unlucky Number 14?

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