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AMERICAN HISTORY

14th President:  Franklin Pierce
Years in Office:
  1853 -- 1857  ( 4 yrs )
Party:  Democratic
Vice President:  William R. King
First Lady:  Jane Appleton Pierce
Year Born:  1804
Year Died:  1864  ( 60 yrs old )

Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of Franklin Pierce's classmates at Bowdoin, recalled the future president as a "vivacious, mirthful, slender boy of a fair complexion, with light hair that had a curl in it; his bright and cheerful aspect made a kind of sunshine, both as regarded its radiance and its warmth."

    Pierce however was much criticized as president for his tendency to want to please everyone.  After a law career, he was elected to the state legislature in 1829 as his father was beginning a second term as New Hampshire's governor.  He served as speaker of the lower statehouse and then made the move to the U.S. House of Representatives, moving on to the Senate in 1837.  At 33, he was the youngest member of that body and kept company with the likes of Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun.

    At the urging of his wife, Pierce resigned his Senate seat in 1842 to return to law but soon enlisted in the military for the Mexican War - as a private.  He distinguished himself, was promoted to brigadier general, and at the 1852 Democrat convention found himself nominated for president on the 49th ballot.  As a compromise candidate, he soundly defeated the Whig candidate, his former commander General Winfield Scott.

    His administration was beset by problems stemming from the issue of slavery and led to the creation of the abolitionist Republican Party.  He also failed in his efforts to acquire Cuba from Spain.