He is perhaps our most forgotten President. Even his predecessor, Millard Fillmore, is better remembered, but I credit that entirely to the fact that he has a funny-sounding name.
Pierce was remembered, though not favorably, by Theodore Roosevelt, who said he was, "a servile tool of men worse than himself ... ever ready to do any work the slavery leaders set him."
A Jacksonian Democrat, he was called a "doughface" by his Whig opponents---a northerner with southern principles. On the other hand, while we're at it, who remembers the Whigs?
He was an ardent expansionist, even if such expansion led to the increase in the number of slave states in the Union.
His entry in the 2010 article in US News and World Report, "The 10 Worst Presidents", is sub-titled: "His fervor for expanding the borders helped set the stage for the Civil War."
Pierce is 4th on the list of worst Presidents. He is rated substantially worse than William Henry Harrison (only 8th worst), even though he was President only 30 days. He contracted pneumonia during his interminable inaugural speech. I understand there are some who believe that someone who only served 30 days might deserve to be included on a list of best US Presidents. But I digress.
Having helped set the stage for the Civil War, Pierce was a very vocal critic of President Abraham LIncoln during that conflict. By the way, Lincoln is not on the 10 Worst list.
A heavy drinker most of his life, Pierce died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869.
I think Pierce deserves better than to be, if not forgotten, then reviled. Today I saw a list of notable Franklin Pierce quotes. It was, admittedly, a very short list. But first among them (ahead of the other 3) was this gem:
"A Republic without parties is a complete anomaly. The histories of all popular governments show absurd is the idea of their attempting to exist without parties."
Heavy drinker though Pierce might have been, I don't think he was referring to cocktail parties.
A man astute enough to zero in on one of the paramount requirements of a functioning government, political parties, ought to be revered by all subsequent generations of Americans, as political genius (sarcasm alert).
I am sure if Franklin Pierce were alive today (assuming also he was substantially younger than 210), I have no doubt he would occupy high party office. Though which party, I couldn't say.
Happy Birthday, Frank. Partisanship thrives in government 145 years after your death.
I think I need a drink