I write a weekly travel column for the Columbia Daily Tribune. This blog had focused on stories about American Indian Sites and includes more pictures than my column allows for. I added some stories about native people in other places and will now be putting in stories about American Presidents homes and museums and stories I have written about historical places and museums in the United States.
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
President Franklin Pierce
Pierce: Rethinking an unpopular president
Franklin Pierce, our 14th
president (1853-1857), often is listed in history books as one of the worst U.S.
He is considered to have been
a weak president. He was pro-slavery and is blamed for the Kansas-Nebraska
problems over the right of states to choose slavery that resulted in the clash
known as "Bloody Kansas." Some reports also claim he was an
Need an account? Create one now. But at the Pierce Manse in Concord,
N.H., the only museum dedicated
to his presidency, a major attempt is made to correct these myths. After my
visit, I certainly would move him up the list.
Pierce had an ideal
background for a president. He had served in both the House and the Senate and
went from private to brigadier general in the Mexican War, where he performed
Although he was a compromise
candidate after 49 ballots at the nominating convention, he won the
presidential election by a major margin against Whig candidate Winfield Scott,
who had been commander of the U.S.
forces during the Mexican War.
Pierce experienced much
tragedy in his life; two sons died early, and his beloved son Benny was killed
at age 11 in a train accident as Pierce watched. His wife went into a
depression but still managed to help him entertain when he was president. Only
after she died of tuberculosis in 1863 did he develop problems with alcohol.
What about the visit changed
my mind as to where he should stand in the rankings? He made the Gadsden
Treaty, which established the contiguous 48 states. His support of Commodore
Perry established trade with Japan.
He set up the Civil Service Department, which required holders to have the
necessary skills for the job. He had surveys made for plans for four railroads
across the United States.
He reduced the national debt. And, he was interested in the welfare of American
His strict interpretation of
the Constitution got him in trouble with the anti-slavery groups because he
believed the Constitution gave the states rights to set their own laws about
such things as slavery. The alcoholism charge did not hold during the
presidency as his wife would not let him drink, even at parties.
The Pierce Manse, where he
and his family lived before he became president, is a large, well-preserved
home with period furniture.
another attraction I also enjoyed: New
Hampshire's state capitol. It is the oldest capitol
building in which the legislature uses its original chambers. The Senate is one
of the smallest, with only 24 members, and the House of Representative the
largest with 400 members — one for every 3,000 residents of New Hampshire.
Constructed in 1819, it was enlarged twice and still is the smallest capitol
building in the country. The most noteworthy feature is the Hall of Flags in
the entrance, which includes 103 flags of New Hampshire military units from all of our
wars and memorabilia of Alan Shepard's moon walk. It is obvious from their
condition that many of the flags had seen battle and perhaps other hardships.