Franklin Pierce
Burial Location Visited President Grave #
Concord, New Hampshire February 19, 2005 18th Visited

Franklin Pierce, the only president from
New Hampshire, left the White House in
1857 after one term, as the U.S. edged
closer to civil war. A historical marker near
his burial site touts Pierce as an "effective
political leader" and a "courageous
advocate of States' Rights."

In 1869, the former president
was laid to rest in Old North
Cemetery's Minot Enclosure, a
section that belonged to his
friend, Judge Josiah Minot. The
monument that covers Pierce's
grave at present was placed in
1946. His wife and two of their
children are interred with him.

Fast Facts *

- First Lady: Jane Means Appleton Pierce
- Spouse: Jane Means Appleton Pierce (m. 1834-1863)

- Political Party: Democratic Party

- Term: 1853-1857
- Vice President: William Rufus DeVane King (1853)

- Born: November 23, 1804

- Died: October 8, 1869

- Age:

- Cause of Death: Cirrhosis of the Liver

Cemetery: Old North Cemetery, Concord, New Hampshire
- GPS Coordinates: 43°12'53.8"N 71°32'42.0"W

* * * Background on Franklin Pierce * * *

* In 1852, the Democratic Party nominated New Hampshirite Franklin Pierce to take on Whig presidential candidate Winfield Scott. Though he had served in both bodies of Congress, Pierce was not a nationally-known figure before his nomination. He fought as a brigadier general in the Mexican-American War, but unlike Scott and Zachary Taylor, whose conquests made them renowned heroes, Pierce’s military reputation was shaped by an unfortunate mishap. At the Battle of Contreras in August 1847, he was thrown from his horse and broke his leg. Pierce passed out from the pain and garnered the moniker “Fainting Frank.” This did not prevent the Democrats from nominating Pierce for president in 1852. He appealed to them as a northerner who believed southerners had the legal right to practice slavery. Democrats hoped that he would be able to mend an increasingly sectional nation, and after his election, Pierce filled his cabinet with people from assorted states throughout the North and South. Massachusetts, Kentucky, New York, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Michigan were represented in the Pierce cabinet.

* Despite Democratic hopes, Pierce’s presidency only deepened the rift between North and South. In 1854, the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Territories, Stephen Douglas, crafted a bill to organize land west of the Mississippi River into federal territories. Douglas was motivated in part because he supported a path for the pending transcontinental railroad that would guide trains to San Francisco via Nebraska and Kansas country. Douglas secured Pierce’s approval, but southern senators would not agree unless residents of the new territories were allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to legalize slavery within their borders. They successfully lobbied for Douglas to amend the bill so that it repealed the free state-slave state line enacted by the Missouri Compromise in 1820. Douglas' fellow northern Democrats denounced the legislation and turned against him. Nonetheless, the Kansas-Nebraska Bill passed through Congress and was signed by President Pierce. Over the next few years, Border Ruffians from Missouri crossed into Kansas to pressure residents to accept slavery, while northerners traveled there to voice opposition. In April 1856, slavery proponents burned and ransacked the anti-slavery community of Lawrence. The following month, abolitionist John Brown led fatal attacks against pro-slavers in Franklin County. President Pierce took no action to quell the violet saga, termed Bleeding Kansas, believing any potentially successful tactics would exceed executive authority.

* President Pierce's choices alienated both major factions of his party; northerners felt he sold out to the South, while southerners believed he was too ambivalent and did not support their cause strongly enough. As such, Democrats replaced Pierce on the 1856 presidential ticket with James Buchanan, who was recently recalled as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Pierce, who had a proclivity for consuming alcohol, reportedly said upon his departure from office that there was nothing left for him to do "but get drunk." As the former president slipped further into despair, his country moved closer to civil war. In 1860, Pierce endorsed Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge for president, but the nation elected Republican Abraham Lincoln, whose ideology clashed with Pierce's. Lincoln issued a call to arms under the threat of southern secession, whereas Pierce believed states had a right to leave the Union peacefully. Pierce spent much of Lincoln's administration supporting political candidates who opposed the incumbent president, and he carried on a secret correspondence with Jefferson Davis, his former war secretary, who by then was president of the Confederate States of America. The discovery of their letters further damaged Pierce's reputation, and the death of his wife, Jane, in 1863 exacerbated his heavy drinking. He wound up outliving both of his immediate presidential successors, Buchanan and Lincoln, but succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver in 1869 at his home in Concord, New Hampshire.

Sources Consulted                                                                                                                                                     

Baker, Jean H. "Franklin Pierce: Life Before the Presidency." Miller Center. Accessed April 30, 2019.

Craughwell, Thomas J., with M. William Phelps. Failures of the Presidents. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press, 2008.

DeRose, Chris. "When Lincoln saved the union and freed the slaves, five ex-presidents tried to stop him." Washington Post, June 27, 2014. union-and-freed-the-slaves-five-ex-presidents-tried-to-stop-him/2014/06/27/21de5d80-f0ba-11e3-9ebc- 2ee6f81ed217_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.61f1540c4711.

"Franklin Pierce in Concord, New Hampshire." Robinson Library. Last modified January 6, 2019.

Lamb, Brian, and the C-SPAN Staff. Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. New York: PublicAffairs, 2000. Reprinted. New York: PublicAffairs, 2003.

"President Grant announces the death of former President Pierce." Last modified February 25, 2019.

The Presidents. "Taylor to Lincoln (1849-1865)." History Channel, 2005.

Silbey, Joel H. "Franklin Pierce." In The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency, edited by Alan Brinkley and Davis Dyer, 166-75. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.

The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents. "A House Divided 1849-1865." History Channel, 2013.

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