Sunday, September 12, 2010
Nickname: Handsome Frank
Pierce's presidency started with tragedy. A train that was carrying the president elect, his wife, and young son Bennie, derailed and killed Bennie before the couple's eyes. Pierce's wife, Jane, having lost their other two sons, decided that this was an omen that she not interfere with her husbands presidency at all, and retreated from public view. This dark cloud hovered over Pierce for his entire presidency.
Pierce was a pro-southern democrat who was in favor of compromise. It seemed that at the time, this was the best decision for the U.S. Everyone still wanted to compromise over the slavery issue and not hit it head on. Pierce himself considered the slavery issue solved due to the compromise of 1850. But, Stephen A. Douglas reopened the issue when he declared that Kansas and Nebraska should decide for themselves if they are free or slave. Douglas lobbied for the Kansas-Nebraska act, which would have all territories and states that have not been determined free or slave to put it to popular sovereignty, or vote on the issue. Feeling the pressure from pro-slavery forces, Pierce went along with it and basically caused a mini Civil War in the Kansas territory. Pro-slavery forces flooded into the territory to try and offset the vote towards slavery and vice versa. Both sides even went as far as murdering each other. The famous case of this was extreme abolitionist John Brown and his sons snuck into a pro-slavery house and hacked the inhabitants to pieces with broadswords.
Pierce had become very unpopular for siding mainly with the south and was the first president not touted as a nominee for their party in the next election. The democrats chose James Buchanan.
He gets a few pity points for the bad luck with his kids, but he is widely considered one of the worst presidents of all time. He basically worked with the south even though he was brought in for compromise. By accepting the Kansas-Nebraska act, he had done away with the Missouri Compromise, and caused the whole western part of the country to be tossed into chaos and uncertainty. Popular sovereignty unfortunately didn't work in this instance, due to people's strong feelings on the subject and apparent blood lust.