The Presidency of Franklin Pierce
Franklin Pierce was one of the least known, least liked, and least successful presidents in American history. In this new study of his administration, historian Larry Gara makes no attempt to revive Pierce's reputation. Instead he provides a clear analysis of Pierce's shortcomings as well as his few successes.
Franklin Pierce's administration (1853-1857) spanned a turbulent period in the life of the nation: North-South polarization reached new extremes due, in part, to Pierce's failure to understand the depth of Free Soil sentiment in the North; the Kansas-Nebraska Act and its aftermath made civil war likely, if not inevitable; and Pierce's apology for southern actions served only to widen the rift. The term "Bleeding Kansas" came to symbolize the failures of Pierce's administration.
“The best survey of Pierce’s presidency available.”
“Gara shows Pierce as a personable politician of limited ability who lacked the vision and leadership necessary to master the events of his time. There is no comparable previous study.”
—ChoiceSee all reviews...
“This detailed, insightful, and unsparing study of Franklin Pierce’s storm-tossed presidency sharpens our understanding of one of the most crucial chapters in American history. Drawing upon his own original research and a sophisticated examination of the rich secondary literature on the troubled 1850s, Gara has produced a book of genuine interest to specialists and general readers alike.”
—Richard H. Sewell, author of Ballots for Freedom: Antislavery Politics in the United States, 1837–1860
“Gara’s portrayal of Franklin Pierce as a tragic and complex figure is skillfully done. His major contribution, however, lies in his analysis of American politics and foreign policy during the 1850s. Especially compelling is his analysis of ‘young America’s’ obsession with Central American and the Caribbean—an obsession that not only illuminates our past and our present, but, God forbid, our future.”
—Richard O. Curry, author of The Border States during ReconstructionSee fewer reviews...
Pierce's few achievements were in the realm of foreign policy. In fact, Gara points out, the Pierce years were an important chapter in the history of American imperialisma time when Japan was opened to the West, U.S. trade in Central America and Asia was expanded, and additional land was acquired from Mexico. Pierce also initiated discussions on acquiring Alaska, the Hawaiian Islands, Nicaragua, Formosa, the Dominican Republic, the guano islands of the Pacific, and Cuba.
In this twenty-fourth volume of the American Presidency Series, Gara provides a clear, tough-minded analysis of the Pierce administration and a fair, though generally negative, assessment the man and the president.