Franklin Pierce

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Franklin Pierce

Author: Michael F. Holt
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 176
Cover Price: $ 23.00

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The genial but troubled New Englander whose single-minded partisan loyalties inflamed the nation's simmering battle over slavery Charming and handsome, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire was drafted to break the deadlock of the 1852 Democratic convention. Though he seized the White House in a landslide against the imploding Whig Party, he proved a dismal failure in office.

Michael F. Holt, a leading historian of nineteenth-century partisan politics, argues that in the wake of the Whig collapse, Pierce was consumed by an obsessive drive to unify his splintering party rather than the roiling country. He soon began to overreach. Word leaked that Pierce wanted Spain to sell the slave-owning island of Cuba to the United States, rousing sectional divisions. Then he supported repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which limited the expansion of slavery in the west. Violence broke out, and "Bleeding Kansas" spurred the formation of the Republican Party. By the end of his term, Pierce's beloved party had ruptured, and he lost the nomination to James Buchanan.

In this incisive account, Holt shows how a flawed leader, so dedicated to his party and ill-suited for the presidency, hastened the approach of the Civil War.

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Background Information

Between 1828 and the Civil War, the Whig Party was the primary national alternative to the Democratic Party founded by Andrew Jackson. The Missouri Compromise, which permitted statehood for Missouri, required that all future states be admitted in pairs, one free and one slave.