He was a Representative and a Senator from New Hampshire prior to his election
as President. He was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire on November 23
, 1804 , and attended the academies of Hancock and Francestown. He prepared
for college at Phillips Exeter Academy and graduated from Bowdoin College
, Brunswick, Maine , in 1824 . He studied law, then was admitted to the
bar and commenced practice in Hillsborough in 1827 . He was a member of
the State general court from 1829 to 1833 , and served as Speaker from
1832 to 1833 . He was elected as a Democrat to the Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth
Congresses ( March 4 , 1833 - March 3 , 1837 ). He was elected as a Democrat
to the United States Senate and served from March 4 , 1837 , to February
28 , 1842 , when he resigned. He was chairman of the Committee on Pensions
After his service in the Senate, Pierce resumed the practice of law
in Concord . He was district attorney for New Hampshire, and declined the
appointment as Attorney General of the United States tendered by President
James Polk . He served in the Mexican War as a colonel and brigadier general.
He was a member of the New Hampshire State constitutional convention in
1850 and served as its president.
Pierce was elected President of the United States on the Democratic
ticket and served from March 4 , 1853 , to March 3 , 1857 .
Two months before he took office, he and his wife saw their eleven-year-old
son killed when their train was wrecked. Grief-stricken, Pierce entered
the Presidency nervously exhausted.
In his Inaugural he proclaimed an era of peace and prosperity at home,
and vigor in relations with other nations. The United States might have
to acquire additional possessions for the sake of its own security, he
pointed out, and would not be deterred by "any timid forebodings of evil."
Pierce had only to make gestures toward expansion to excite the wrath
of northerners, who accused him of acting as a cat's-paw of Southerners
eager to extend slavery into other areas. Therefore he aroused apprehension
when he pressured Great Britain to relinquish its special interests along
part of the Central American coast, and even more when he tried to persuade
Spain to sell Cuba.
But the most violent renewal of the storm stemmed from the Kansas-Nebraska
Act , which repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the question
of slavery in the West. This measure, the handiwork of Senator Stephen
A. Douglas , grew in part out of his desire to promote a railroad from
Chicago to California through Nebraska. Already Secretary of War Jefferson
Davis , advocate of a southern transcontinental route, had persuaded Pierce
to send James Gadsden to Mexico to buy land for a southern railroad. He
purchased the area now comprising southern Arizona and part of southern
New Mexico for $10,000,000 commonly known as the Gadsen Purchase .
Douglas's proposal, to organize western territories through which a
railroad might run, caused extreme trouble. Douglas provided in his bills
that the residents of the new territories could decide the slavery question
for themselves. The result was a rush into Kansas, as southerners and northerners
vied for control of the territory. Shooting broke out, and " bleeding Kansas
" became a prelude to the Civil War.
After losing the Democratic nomination, he reportedly quipped "there's
nothing left to do but get drunk", which he apparently did frequently,
once running down a pedestrian while drunk-driving a carriage. Franklin
Pierce died in Concord on October 8 , 1869 , from cirrhosis of the liver,
and was interred in Minat Inclosure in the Old North Cemetery.