Franklin Pierce (November 23, 1804 - October 8, 1869) was an American politician and the 14th President of the United States, serving from 1853 to 1857. Pierce was a Democrat and the first president to be born in the 1800s. He was a "doughface" (a Northerner with Southern sympathies) who served in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Later, Pierce took part in the Mexican-American War, becoming a brigadier general. His private law practice in his home state, New Hampshire, was so successful that he turned down several important positions. Later, he was nominated for president as a "dark horse" candidate on the 49th ballot at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. In the presidential election, Pierce and his running mate William R. King won in a landslide, beating Winfield Scott by a 50 to 44argin in the popular vote and 254 to 42 in the electoral vote. He became the youngest president up until that time.
His good looks and inoffensive personality caused him to make many friends, but he did not do what was necessary to avoid the impending American Civil War, thus giving him his reputation as one of the worst presidents in U.S. history. Pierce's popularity in the North went down sharply after he came out in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, repealing the Missouri Compromise and reopening the question of the expansion of slavery in the West. Pierce's credibility was further damaged when several of his foreign ministers issued the Ostend Manifesto. Abandoned by his own party, he was not renominated at the 1856 presidential election and was replaced by James Buchanan. After losing the Democratic nomination, Pierce continued his lifelong struggle with alcoholism as his marriage to Jane Means Appleton Pierce fell apart. He destroyed his reputation by declaring support for the Confederacy and died in 1869 from cirrhosis.
Philip B. Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt reflected the views of many historians when they wrote in The American President that Pierce was "a good man who didn't understand his own shortcomings. To his credit, he loved his wife and reshaped himself so that he could put up with her aristocratic, nervous ways and show her true affection. He was one of the most popular men in New Hampshire, polite and thoughtful, easy and good at the political game, charming and fine and handsome.
He was genuinely religious, yet he was a timid man with a shallow, rigid, old-fashioned mind which could not cope with a changing America. In addition, Pierce was hounded by guilt, temptation, and "just plain bad luck."
He is the great-great granduncle of current U.S. President George W. Bush.