Franklin Pierce was born November 13, 1804, in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, in a log cabin on the Contoacook River.
A skilled orator at 24, Pierce was elected to the New Hampshire legislature. Two years later, he became its Speaker. During the 1830s, he served as a Congressmen, then as a Senator. He volunteered to fight in the Mexican War and became a Colonel, but was often too sick to fight in any of the battles.
After he served in the Mexican War, Pierce’s New Hampshire friends proposed him for the Presidential nomination in 1852. At the Democratic Convention, delegates agreed to support the Compromise of 1850, but they balloted 48 times and eliminated all well-known candidates before nominating Pierce, a true “dark horse.” He won the election against Whig party candidate General Winfield Scott. His Vice President was William R. King.
He married Jane Means Appleton, and they had three sons, but all died very young. Two months before he took office, he and his wife saw their 11-year-old son killed when their train was wrecked. Pierce entered the Presidency grief-stricken and exhausted.
During Pierce’s term, Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and reopened the question of slavery in the West. Representing the U.S., James Gadsden negotiated with Mexico to buy the area now comprising southern Arizona and southern New Mexico for $10,000,000. In the midst of Pierce’s term, a land rush by Northerner and Southerners led to a shooting war in Kansas. “Bleeding Kansas” became a prelude to the Civil War.
By the end of Pierce’s term in 1856, relative peace was restored, but Democrats refused to renominate him, turning instead to the less controversial James Buchanan. After his term, Pierce retired to New Hampshire to work his farm, where he died in 1869.