Franklin Pierce
by R.D. Monroe, Ph.D.


Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, into a politically active family. His father was a former governor of New Hampshire. The future president graduated from Bowdoin College, studied law, and began his practice in 1827. He became involved in Democratic politics, served in the state legislature and the U.S. House and Senate. He left the Senate in 1842 and returned to his law practice. He served as a brigadier general in the Mexican War, in which his service was marred by injuries and mishaps. He remained politically active after the war and when the Democratic convention in 1852 could not agree on a candidate and finally settled on Pierce, he reluctantly accepted the nomination. Victory in November over Winfield Scott was overshadowed by the tragic death of Pierce's young son soon after. As president, Pierce was a "doughface," a northern politician with southern sympathies. His presidency was marred by a reemergence of sectional tensions in the wake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and resulting violence in Kansas. Pierce was linked in the public mind with these events and was denied re-nomination. During the Civil War, he was a critic of the Lincoln administration.

Read the campaign biography:
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Life of Franklin Pierce. Boston: Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, 1852.