Childhood & Early Life
Born in the rural town of Hillsboro, New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce was one of the eight children of Benjamin and Anna Kendrick Pierce.
He received his early education at various private schools, first at Hillsborough Center and then at the Hancock Academy and in the fall of 1820, he took admission at the Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine
At college, he excelled in public speaking as well as academics, thus when he graduated in 1824, he was amongst the top three students of his class.
Later, in 1826, with the intention to study law, he entered Northampton Law School, located in the state of Massachusetts. He did his apprenticeship under Governor Levi Woodbury and Judge Edmund Parker.
He was accepted by the bar in 1827, after which he began his practice in Concord, New Hampshire.
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In 1829, Pierce’s political career took off, when he became member of the Legislative Assembly of New Hampshire.
In 1831, he was appointed as the Speaker of the House with a little help from his father, who had recently become the governor of the state.
Later in 1830’s he essayed the role of a state representative at Washington, which further established him as a serious politician. However during this time, he also developed signs of alcoholism. He continued to retain his post as the member of House of Representatives till 1837.
In 1837, he was appointed to the United States Senate, where he served till 1842, when he resigned from the post on his wife’s request and joined the temperance movement, while focusing on his law practice.
With the outbreak of the Mexican-American War, Pierce voluntarily joined the army as a Colonel, in 1847.
The same year on March 3, he was promoted to the post of Brigadier General and fought bravely in the Battles of Contreras and Churubusco and was present during the final capture of the Mexico City.
On March 28, 1848 he resigned from the Army, having proven his mettle as a military commander, despite being a political appointee.
In 1850, after returning to his home and family, he served as the president of the state constitutional convention at New Hampshire.
In 1852 presidential elections, when the Democratic Party found itself in a stalemate over electing the presidential candidate, Pierce’s name was recommended, which was unanimously accepted by the delegates, on June 5.
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Pierce and his vice presidential nominee Senator William R. King contested the popular elections against the Whig Party’s candidates General Winfield Scott of Virginia and his running mate William A. Graham. Scott.
He won the presidential elections comfortably, due to his likeable personality and lack of hard and fast stand on the slavery issue, which was the burning topic of the time.
He took over the presidential post on March 4, 1853, while mourning for his beloved son’s loss; this greatly affected his performance as the President.
On May, 1854, Pierce approved the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which reopened the issue of slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska.
The Ostend Manifesto came into light on October 18, 1854, which came to be viewed as a rash diplomatic step on the government’s part; it dashed Pierce's hopes to annex Cuba.
Due to the Ostend Manifesto, Pierce was distanced from many of his Democratic Party supporters, which cost him his 1856 presidential reelection bid.
His presidential term ended on March 4, 1857, after which he went into retirement and spent about two years traveling with his wife.
After his return to the U.S., he was once again offered presidential candidacy in 1860 and then a third time in 1864, both of which he refused.
During his retirement, he remained a vociferous critic of President Abraham Lincoln because he had suspended habeas corpus, during the Civil War.
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Personal Life & Legacy
He got married to Jane Means Appleton, in 1834 and the couple together had three sons, none of whom survived to see adolescence.
Weeks after being elected as the President of the United States of America, he lost his only remaining son, in a train accident, on January 6, 1853.
After their son’s death the Pierce couple became distant and during Franklin’s presidency Jane came to be known as "the shadow in the White House."
At the age of 64, he breathed his last in Concord, New Hampshire. Cirrhosis of the liver was declared as the cause of death.
His legacy lives on through various educational institutes, counties and geographical features that have been named after him.
The most noted among his namesakes are Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire; Pierce County in Washington, Nebraska, Georgia, and Wisconsin; Mt. Pierce in the Presidential Range of the White Mountains and Franklin Pierce Lake.
Pierce’s character was seen in ‘The Great Moment’, a film released in 1944.
He is the only president, who took his inauguration oath by keeping his hand on the law book, instead of the Bible.
He was the first president, who brought a Christmas tree into the White House.
His vice president William King took oath of his office in Havana, Cuba.
During his presidential term the United States of America, acquired 45,000 square miles of land from Mexico, this acquisition came to be known as the Gadsden Purchase.
He was buried in the Minot Enclosure in the Old North Cemetery of Concord, right next to his wife and sons.