Featured Meet Franklin Pierce, the 14th President of the United States

Discussion in 'Coin Chat' started by johnmilton, Mar 12, 2019.

  1. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    One game that professional and amateur historians like to play is rate the presidents. Abraham Lincoln gets the top spot in many polls, but the bottom spots have changed over the years. When I was junior high school, Warren G. Harding and Ulysses S. Grant got the bottom spots because of the scandals that marked their time in office. Today Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan get the lowest marks because of their inability to deal with the issues that lead to the Civil War.

    Here is a rare campaign piece that was isued on behalf of candidate "General" Franklin Piece. This piece is made of white metal and there are very few original examples like this one. This variety is most often find as in bronze. Those pieces, which are scarce, were made for collectors in the 1860s

    FP 1852-1 O.jpg FP 1852-1 R.jpg

    Franklin Pierce was a political "boy wonder" in his youth. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 1833 when he was 28 years old. He moved up to Senate in 1837 when he was 32. In both houses he supported the Democratic line and had no scandals attached to his name.

    Frank was a party animal, however, and he did enjoy his liquor. That was one thing that made him popular in Washington. His wife, who was a withdrawn and deeply religious woman didn't care for that, she finally pushed him to resign his Senate seat and go back home to New Hampshire to practice law.

    Politics was still in Frank's blood, however, he made himself available for the 1852 Democratic presidential nomination. When the party deadlocked, Frank won the nomination as a dark horse candidate on the 49th ballot.

    For much of our history, a candidate who could claim a good military record got a big boost in the polls. Frank claimed to be a hero of the Mexican War. While he had served, his record had not been stellar. He was injured early on when his horse bucked and pushed his groin on the pommel of his saddle with resulted a painful injury. Later he wrenched his knee twice and passed out on two more occasions from the heat. One Louisville newspaper put this way:

    Pierce tumbled from his horse just as he was getting ready for one fight … fainted and fell in the opening of the second … got sick and had to go to bed on the eve of the third, and came pretty near to getting into a fourth, missing it only by an hour.”

    Pierce's problems with alcohol were noted in one slogan, "A general who never lost a bottle."

    The Democrats were the majority party, and the opposition Whigs were in the process of disintegrating. The Republican Party would rise in part from the Whig ashes. All of this led to the election of Franklin Pierce as president over General Winfield Scott.

    Pierce would serve only one term. In 1856 Pierce wanted to run for a second term, but the Democrats refused to nominate him. After he lost the nomination, Piece commented to one of his friends, "Well I guess there's nothing else to do but to go get drunk."

    During the Civil War Pierce came out for the South, which was a very unpopular position in his native state of New Hampshire. He died in 1869 reportedly from cirrhosis of the liver.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2019
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  3. furham

    furham Good Ole Boy

    Outstanding article John. Our politics of today don't hold a candle to the politics of the 19th century.
    Randy Abercrombie likes this.
  4. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Here are a couple of Winfield Scott medals from the 1852 campaign. The first is an original medal issued during the 1852 campaign.

    WS 1852 - 1 O org.jpg WS 1852 - 1 R org.jpg

    The second one in bronze was a restrike that was made for collectors in the 1860s. This looks much nicer, but it does not have as history behind it.

    WS 1852 1 O.jpg WS 1852 1 R.jpg
    kaparthy, Nathan401, Chris B and 2 others like this.
  5. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    You have to feel bad for Pierce though: after his election but before he took office, he and his family were in a train accident and his son was killed. So that's how his term began.
    furham likes this.
  6. Hiddendragon

    Hiddendragon World coin collector

    The whole 19th century political process is really interesting in how it differs from today. To begin with, it was unseemly to appear to be seeking office, so even though many people desperately wanted to be president, they had to make it seem like it was the furthest thing from their mind. Behind the scenes their allies and friends would be pushing their cause, but publicly they had to appear to be above it. Unlike today, when the party convention began a few months before the election, there was no candidate already selected - it was wide open. Many states would have their "favorite son" candidate who they would put forth, not really expecting him to win, but basically looking to trade their support after the first ballot to someone else. The various state delegations would be working behind the scenes to trade political appointments and other things like that in exchange for their support of a candidate. The leading politicians often had too many enemies and thus were unable to generate enough support, so the candidate would end up coming from the second tier. Abraham Lincoln fits this description as he was really a frontier lawyer with one term in Congress, some time in the state legislature and a failed senate campaign behind him (though at the time the Senate was appointed by the state legislature, not through direct election) with little distinction and William Seward was the leading Republican of his day, but couldn't secure the nomination.

    Once the nominee was picked, he would sit at home and welcome various notables who wanted to talk to him, but campaigning was also beneath his dignity. Instead, other friendly politicians would make speeches in his favor, partisan newspapers would write about him and little books about his life would circulate to give people an idea of what he stood for, often inflated or full of outright lies.

    All in all, a very different process from how it's done today.
    kaparthy, Nathan401, Chris B and 2 others like this.
  7. 7Calbrey

    7Calbrey Well-Known Member

    IMHO I would always try to shed light on the positive aspects of historical events and great persons in great countries that are the very essence of world modern civilization. That's only a modest and very personal opinion.
  8. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan helped lead this country to the Civil War. As one of my dealer friends described them at the Winter FUN show, they were both disasters. We were talking about the best president of the 1850s, and our conclusion was, get this, Millard Filmore. Millard at least tried to fix things with the Compromise of 1850.

    I don't think that any president could have solved the Civil War issues peacefully. The South had a huge investment in their slaves, and they were not about to give them up, but Pierce and Buchanan made things worse.

    Pierce supported the purchase of Cuba so that it could be turned into another slave state. If Spain refused to sell it, he was ready to go to war to take it. Instead of containing slavery, he wanted to expand it.

    Pierce also supported William Walker, the South American “filibusterer,” who was looking to set himself up as a dictator in South American countries. Once he was in control, he was going to turn them into slave states with eye toward perhaps joining the Union down the road.

    Buchanan thought he had the slavery question settled with the Dred Scott Decision. He interfered with the Supreme Court to help push it along. Dred Scott declared that African-Americans were not citizens and had no right to bring suits in the American court system. It further ruled that slave holders had the right to take their slaves to any state the chose and keep them as slaves, even in states that had outlawed slavery. It was one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in history.

    It’s hard to say many good things about Pierce and Buchanan presidencies. That why they are rated at the bottom.

    Bringing out the fact that Pierce would have probably been a great drinking buddy was one of the better things I could say about him. He had a very pliable personality and has been rated as the most handsome president by some.

    Yes, his home life had to have been awful. After their last surviving child died in a train acident before their eyes, his wife lost her mind and became a recluse in the upstairs of the White House. That would have been enough to drive many men to drink. But you need to look at the big picture and what these two incompetent presidents met to the history of our country. Over 600,000 soldiers died in the Civil War, and it’s hard to put rose colored glasses on that.
  9. Nathan401

    Nathan401 Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Supporter

    Thanks to Johnmilton for the post! Here’s a tiny coin, minted during the middle of Pierce’s term C260BAE3-5C71-4B3C-B913-8543664C398F.jpeg 97A9B9FE-E901-48F2-B7EE-8D7F02101E93.jpeg and a larger coin from the same year 8C0A6243-73EE-4423-985A-D8426DB41178.jpeg 1343ABA2-8A30-46D1-B7A4-03A164D140AA.jpeg
  10. beerandchips

    beerandchips New Member

    Very interesting. Thank you for posting and then expanding on the original post. I notice that the more common tokens have a hole. Did they originally have a ribbon or other piece of material through the hole? Were they worn on the outer garment like campaign buttons today?
  11. Mainebill

    Mainebill Wild Bill

    A good New Hampshire boy. I drive past his home often. I don’t think any of the pre war presidents are that bad as it was unavoidable. Personally I wish the civil war had a different outcome. And pierce and Buchanan were far better than quite a few of the post war presidents. The presidents of the 1840s were uninspiring too. Edited: political discussion.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2019
  12. johnmilton

    johnmilton Well-Known Member

    Since some people showed interest in the James Buchanan post, here is one I did back in March for Franklin Pierce. I thought about posting a Piece message, but I remembered this one in the back of my mind and searched for it.
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