November 2, 1852 — Franklin Pierce is elected the 14th president of United States today. Historians and other political commentators rank Pierce’s presidency among the worst.
Pierce was a northern Democrat who saw the abolitionist movement as a fundamental threat to the unity of the nation. His polarizing actions in championing and signing the Kansas–Nebraska Act and enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act failed to stem intersectional conflict, setting the stage for Southern secession.
Although Pierce fully expected to be renominated by the Democrats in the 1856 presidential election, he was abandoned by his party and his bid failed. His reputation in the North suffered further during the Civil War as he became a vocal critic of President Abraham Lincoln.
Born in New Hampshire on November 23, 1804, Pierce took part in the Mexican–American War as a brigadier general in the Army. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate until he resigned from the latter in 1842. His private law practice in his home state was a success; he was appointed U.S. Attorney for his state in 1845. Seen by Democrats as a compromise candidate uniting northern and southern interests, he was nominated as the party’s candidate for president on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. In the 1852 presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William R. King easily defeated the Whig Party ticket of Winfield Scott and William A. Graham.
Pierce was popular and outgoing, but his family life was grim. His wife, Jane, suffered from depression for much of her life. All of their children died young, their last son being gruesomely killed in a train accident while the family was traveling shortly before Pierce’s inauguration. Pierce, who had been a heavy drinker for much of his life, died of severe cirrhosis of the liver on October 8, 1869.
Words of Wisdom
The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded.