Founding Presidents (1789-1829)
- George Washington: The Father of the United States – Lesson
- John Adams: A Stubborn but Dedicated Leader – Lesson
- Thomas Jefferson: The Author of Independence – Lesson
- Founding Presidents: Washington, Adams, and Jefferson – Quiz
- James Madison: The Father of the Constitution – Lesson
- James Monroe: Opposing the Federalists – Lesson
- John Quincy Adams: The Federalists who Abandoned the Party – Lesson
- Founding Presidents: Madison, Monroe, and Adams – Quiz
Civil War Presidents (1829-1869)
- Andrew Jackson: The First Democrat – Lesson
- Martin Van Buren: The Little Magician – Lesson
- Civil War Presidents: Jackson and Van Buren – Quiz
- William Henry Harrison: The Indian-Fighter – Lesson
- John Tyler: The First President to Not Be Elected – Lesson
- James Polk: Young Hickory – Lesson
- Zachary Taylor: Old Rough and Ready – Lesson
- Millard Fillmore: The Last Whig President – Lesson
- Franklin Pierce: A President Ruined by Slavery – Lesson
- Franklin Pierce: A President Ruined by Slavery – Quiz
- James Buchanan: A President for States’ Rights – Lesson
- James Buchanan: A President for States’ Rights – Quiz
- Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator – Lesson
- Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator – Quiz
- Andrew Johnson: The First President to Be Impeached – Lesson
Reconstruction Presidents (1865-1901)
- Ulysses S. Grant: A Friend of Mark Twain – Lesson
- Ulysses S. Grant: A Friend of Mark Twain – Quiz
- Rutherford B. Hayes: The First President to Lose the Popular Vote – Lesson
- Rutherford B. Hayes: The First President to Lose the Popular Vote – Quiz
- James A. Garfield: The Last of the Log Cabin Presidents – Lesson
- James A. Garfield: The Last of the Log Cabin Presidents – Quiz
- Chester A. Arthur: A One Term President – Lesson
- Chester A. Arthur: A One Term President – Quiz
- Grover Cleveland: A President of Principle – Lesson
- Grover Cleveland: A President of Principle – Quiz
- Benjamin Harrison: The Second President in His Family – Lesson
- Benjamin Harrison: The Second President in His Family – Quiz
- William McKinley: The Third Presidential Assassination – Lesson
- William McKinley: The Third Presidential Assassination – Quiz
20th Century Presidents
- Richard Nixon: The Only President to Ever Resign – Lesson
- Richard Nixon: The Only President to Ever Resign – Quiz
- Gerald Ford – America’s First Unelected President – Lesson
- Gerald Ford – America’s First Unelected President – Quiz
- Jimmy Carter – the President Who Promised He’d Never Lie – Lesson
- Jimmy Carter – the President Who Promised He’d Never Lie – Quiz
- Ronald Reagan – The ‘Peace Through Strength’ President – Lesson
- Ronald Reagan – The ‘Peace Through Strength’ President – Quiz
Franklin Pierce: A President Ruined by Slavery – Lesson
Like many pro-slavery politicians, President Pierce’s support for the institution killed his political career.
Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, on November 23, 1804. He was elected to the New Hampshire state legislature at the young age of 24, and then at 26, he became the body’s speaker.
Pierce was a strong member of the Democratic Party and an avid supporter of President Andrew Jackson. In 1833, Pierce started his terms in Congress, serving twice in the House of Representatives. He also served one term, from 1837 to 1842, in the Senate. In 1834, he married Jane Appleton, whose father had been the president of Bowdoin University, where Pierce had studied.
Pierce took office in 1853. During his inaugural address, Pierce said, “I fervently hope that the [slavery] issue is at rest,” and then went on to explain his desire to expand the nation’s border. This idea did not go over well, since many in the North feared this would just open up the doors to more slavery territory. Far from being resolved, the issue of slavery became one of the president’s greatest downfalls.
The Kansas-Nebraska Act, proposed in 1854 by Senator Stephen Douglas, made Kansas and Nebraska territories and repealed the ban on slavery in the former. The legislation made it so that citizens of the territory, and not Congress, could choose whether to allow slavery. Pierce’s support for slavery led to the establishment of a new opposition group, the Republican Party, made up of Free Soilers, former Whigs, and even some anti-slavery Democrats.
Fighting between pro- and anti-slavery citizens began breaking out across the territory. The conflict became so volatile that it reached even into Washington, when Preston Brooks, a South Carolina representative, assaulted abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner on the Senate floor in May 1856. “Bleeding Kansas,” as the clash became known, was the downfall of Pierce’s presidency and prevented him from winning the Democratic nomination for the next election.
Civil War broke out in 1861, and, since Pierce supported the southerners so-called right to own slaves, he said Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans had been reckless. He condemned Lincoln’s Emancipation Act of 1863, and, during a Democratic rally on July 4, he said the war was “fearful, fruitless, [and] fatal.” After news of the Union victory at Gettysburg, Pierce retreated from the spotlight. Jane died that same year, and the former president passed on in 1869.