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"Frank Perse was rale sot be down to Dover. He was a good deal of a man f'r Dover an' f'r Strafford County; indeed he done very well f'r th' State o' Noo Hampshire; but when ye come t' spread him over t' United States he was a l-e-e-tle thin."—New Hampshire farmer reminiscing about Pierce, recorded in The Yale Review, 1916.
Mrs. Pierce was very much against her husband's political career, viewing it as sinful, and apparently got him to promise he'd quit right before he was nominated for President--she spent most of the campaign praying he would lose. The Pierces were involved in a train wreck shortly before the inauguration, in which their only living child, Benny, was brutally decapitated right before his parents' eyes. Mrs. Pierce was convinced God had taken their son so as not to distract her husband during his presidency. Pierce was a heavy drinker for much of his life, especially after the death of his children. Pierce was able to quit drinking after he left the White House, and then, after his wife died, he relapsed pretty hard.
You would think people would remember that.
People had high hopes for Pierce going into the presidency, as his comparatively young age and the way in which he gained the nomination were more than a little reminiscent of James K Polk. The Democrats played up this similarity with their campaign slogan: "We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852." You may groan now.
Senator Stephen Douglas strong-armed Pres. Pierce into signing the Kansas-Nebraska act, effectively nullifying the 1850 Compromise signed by Millard Fillmore. Ironically, Douglas believed slavery was a cancer to the union and preached about the illegality of secession.
He was a good friend of writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, and made him America's consul in Liverpool. When Hawthorne's health failed he took the writer on vacation and unexpectedly ended up witnessing his death.
Pronounced his surname "Purse", though even at the time almost everyone pronounced it as spelled anyway.
- Barats and Bereta portrayed him in a skit, playing up how no one knows who he is.
- Stephen King's novel Pet Sematary mentions a man who was "trader to the Indians, a Frenchman from the north country in the days when Franklin Pierce had been a living President."
- A one-minute biography can be found here. Like the Barats and Bereta skit, it portrays him as a tragic figure, but more of a screw-up than just an obscurity. Oh, Pierce...
- In iParty with Victorious, a joke about the competence of a home-schooled child was made by him actually knowing who Pierce was.
- In Robert Wuhl's history lesson / stand-up comedy special "Assume the Position 201", he discusses Pierce to demonstrate how America has had worse presidents than George W. Bush.
That's about it.