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Biographies for Kids >> US Presidents for Kids
President Franklin Pierce
was the 14th President of the United States.
by Matthew Brady
Served as President: 1853-1857
Vice President: William Rufus De Vane King
Age at inauguration: 48
Born: November 23, 1804 in Hillsboro, New Hampshire
Died: October 8, 1869 in Concord, New Hampshire
Married: Jane Means Appleton Pierce
Children: Frank, Benjamin
Nickname: Handsome Frank
What is Franklin Pierce most known for?
Franklin Pierce is known for being a handsome young president whose policies may have helped to push the United States into Civil War.
Franklin was born in New Hampshire in a log cabin. His father, Benjamin Pierce, became quite successful. First his father fought in the Revolutionary War and later moved into politics where he eventually became the governor of New Hampshire.
Franklin attended Bowdoin College in Maine. There he met and became friends with writers Nathanial Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He struggled with school at first, but worked hard and ended up graduating near the top of his class.
After graduating, Franklin studied law. He eventually passed the bar and became a lawyer in 1827.
by John Chester Buttre
Before He Became President
In 1829 Pierce began his career in politics winning a seat on the New Hampshire State Legislature. Next, he was elected to the U.S. Congress, first serving as a member of the House of Representatives and later as a U.S. Senator.
When the Mexican-American War began in 1846, Pierce volunteered for the army. He quickly rose in the ranks and was soon a brigadier general. During the Battle of Contreras he was seriously wounded when his horse fell on his leg. He tried to return to battle the next day, but passed out from the pain.
Pierce had a tough personal life before he became president. All three of his children passed away young. His last son, Benjamin, died in a train wreck at eleven years old while traveling along side his father. It is thought that this is why Pierce became so depressed and turned to alcoholism.
Although Franklin had no real aspirations to run for president, the Democratic Party nominated him for president in 1852. He was largely chosen because he had made no firm stance on slavery and the party thought he had the best chance to win.
Franklin Pierce's Presidency
Pierce is widely considered one of the least effective presidents of the United States. This is largely because he helped reopen the slavery issue with the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act
In 1854 Pierce supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act. This act put an end to the Missouri Compromise and allowed new states to decide whether they would permit slavery or not. This greatly angered northerners and set the stage for the Civil War. Support of this act would mark Pierce's presidency and overshadowed the other events during that time.
- Purchase of land in the Southwest - Pierce sent James Gadsden to Mexico to negotiate the purchase of land for a southern railroad. He ended up buying land that today makes up southern New Mexico and Arizona. It was purchased for only $10 million.
- Treaty with Japan - Commodore Matthew Perry negotiated a treaty with Japan opening up the country for trade.
- Bleeding Kansas - After he signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act there were a number of small fights between pro and anti-slavery groups in Kansas. These became known as Bleeding Kansas.
- Ostend Manifesto - This document stated that the U.S. should purchase Cuba from Spain. It also stated that the U.S. should declare war if Spain refused. This was another policy that angered northerners as it was seen as support for the South and slavery.
Because of Pierce's failures in keeping the country together, the Democratic Party did not nominate him again for president despite being the incumbent. He retired to New Hampshire.
How did he die?
He died of liver disease in 1869.
by G.P.A. Healy
Fun Facts About Franklin Pierce
- Pierce was a member of the New Hampshire State Legislature at the same time his father was governor of New Hampshire.
- In the 1852 election for president, he defeated General Winfield Scott, his commander from the Mexican-American War.
- He was the only president to keep his entire cabinet in place for the full four year term.
- He was the first president to "promise" his oath instead of "swearing" it. He also was the first president to memorize his inaugural speech.
- Pierce's vice president, William King, was in Havana, Cuba at the time of the inauguration. He was very sick and died one month after taking office.
- His Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis who later became president of the Confederacy.
- He had no middle name.
- He was the first president to put a Christmas tree in the White House.
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