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Biography

President Franklin Pierce

President Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
by Matthew Brady
Franklin Pierce was the 14th President of the United States.

Served as President: 1853-1857
Vice President: William Rufus De Vane King
Party: Democrat
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

Biography:

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.

Growing Up

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.

First Lady Jane Appleton Pierce, Wife of Franklin
Jane Pierce 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.

Presidential Election

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.

Other Events Post Presidency

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.
Portrait of Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce
by G.P.A. Healy


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Biographies for Kids >> US Presidents for Kids

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