Franklin Pierce (1804-1869) was born in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, on November 23, 1804. He was elected to the state’s 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 a 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 as 14th president in 1853. He supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act, a law proposed in 1854 by Senator Stephen Douglas. It made Kansas and Nebraska territories and ended the ban on slavery in Kansas. The law said that citizens of the territory, and not Congress, could choose whether to allow slavery. Pierce’s support of slavery led to the creation of a new opposition group, the Republican Party.
Fighting between pro- and anti-slavery citizens began breaking out across the territory. The conflict became so heated that it even reached 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. Since Pierce supported the southerners’ so-called right to own slaves, he said Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans had been reckless. After news of the Union victory at Gettysburg, Pierce left the spotlight. Jane died that same year, and the former president passed on in 1869.