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Remembering Franklin Pierce

Former president’s name graces college, county landmarks

October 18, 2017

Portrait of Franklin Pierce as a General mounted on a horse.

Portrait of Franklin Pierce as a General mounted on a horse.

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Portrait of Franklin Pierce as a General mounted on a horse.

It is no challenge to the imagination where Pierce College got its name. However, it may be only the student who just finished a civics or local history class who knows how Pierce County was named.

Franklin Pierce had just been elected President of the United States in November 1852. The Territorial Legislature of Oregon determined that the Thurston territory was too large. On Dec. 22, 1852, a piece of land was cut, creating Pierce County to honor the new president.

Franklin Pierce was born into politics on Nov. 23, 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Pierce’s father, Benjamin, had served in the Revolutionary War and served two terms as New Hampshire’s governor.

The younger Pierce studied to become a lawyer and was admitted to the bar in 1827 and eventually became known as one of the most successful lawyers in New England, according to  Following in his father’s footsteps, Franklin entered politics with a successful run for a seat in the New Hampshire legislature. He was then elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1832.

A Democrat who supported President Andrew Jackson, his career as a politician continued to rise when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1836. But he resigned in 1842 before his term as Senator was complete. His wife Jane Pierce, who was in chronic poor health, had prevailed upon him to leave Washington and return to New Hampshire and resumed his law practice, according to a biography presented by

In 1852, the Democratic Party was searching for a candidate that would appease the North and South. It was Pierce’s promise to keep the Union together and to protect slavery that won him the nomination for president.

Franklin Pierce would win the election defeating his Whig opponent Gen. Winfield Scott in a landslide. Pierce won 254 electoral votes to Scott’s 42.

In a biography published on, he is described as a “doughface,” a Yankee who possessed Southern sympathies. Pierce believed the Constitution protected the South’s right to own slaves and the U.S. Congress had no right to pass legislation limiting the expansion of slavery in the new territories acquired from Mexico after winning the Mexican War (1846-1848), according to xxxx.

The tragic death of his 11-year-old son while on the campaign trail only added to his trials when he took his oath of office.

The dark cloud continued to spread as he was unable to find a solution to the increasing division between the North and the South over the institution of slavery, His push to expand the borders past the Kansas and Nebraska territories helped to set the stage for the Civil War.

Because of legislation he backed to support expansion of the railroad, in 1854, an outbreak of violence became known as “Bleeding Kansas.”

As a result, his popularity declined and he was not nominated for a second term. His administration is considered by historians to be one of the worst in the history of U.S Presidents, returned to New Hampshire and became an alcoholic, He died Oct. 8, 1869.

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