The Early Years
Franklin Pierce was born in a log cabin in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Soon after his birth, his family moved into a spacious home nearby. Pierce's father was active in politics, attaining the governorship of New Hampshire.
Pierce received formal schooling from a young age. He attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, from which he graduated in 1824. Among his schoolmates were the future authors Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth. After college, Pierce studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1827.
From 1829-1832, Pierce served in the New Hampshire legislature. From 1831 to 1832 he was that body's speaker. From 1833- 1837 Pierce served as a member of the US House of Representative as a Democrat. In 1836 he was elected to the US Senate by the New Hampshire legislature. When he took his seat the following year he was 32 years old, the youngest member of the senate.
In 1842 Pierce resigned his seat and returned to New Hampshire to practice law. During the Mexican War, Pierce enlisted and soon became a Brigadier General.
Pierce did not actively seek the Presidential nomination, but it was thrust on him when the convention found itself deadlocked.
Accomplishments in Office
At his inauguration, Pierce was the youngest President ever. He was 48 years old. His greatest success was in the Gadsen Purchase, in which the United States purchased what has become southern Arizona and New Mexico from Mexico for $10 million.
Pierce also attempted to purchase Cuba from Spain, but was not successful. He considered using force to seize the island, but ultimately decided against it.
Pierce supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed Kansas and Nebraska to enter the Union without prior definition of their slave status. This was a refutation of the Missouri compromise, as Kansas was located north of the line below which slavery was to be permitted. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act was controversial and another step in the process that led to the Civil War.
Pierce acquired a reputation as an alcoholic. He completed his term and was denied renomination.
The First Family
Father: Benjamin Pierce
Mother: Ana Kendrick
Wife: Jane Means Appleton
Son: Benjamin Pierce
Violence in Washington
Compromise in Kansas
Secretary of State: William Marcy
Secretary of Treasury: James Guthrie
Secretary of War: Jefferson Davis
Attorney General: Caleb Cushing
Secretary of Navy: James Dobbin
Postmaster General: James Campell
Secretary of Interior: Robert McClelland
US forces attack Greytown, Nicaragua.
Did You Know?
First President born in New Hampshire.
First President born in the 19th Century.
Only President to "affirm" rather than "swear" the oath of office.
Only elected President who sought but did not recieve renomination