Publication Date: March 30, 2010
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The genial but troubled New Englander whose single-minded partisan loyalties inflamed the nation's simmering battle over slavery
Charming and handsome, Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire was drafted to break the deadlock of the 1852 Democratic convention. Though he seized the White House in a landslide against the imploding Whig Party, he proved a dismal failure in office.
Michael F. Holt, a leading historian of nineteenth-century partisan politics, argues that in the wake of the Whig collapse, Pierce was consumed by an obsessive drive to unify his splintering party rather than the roiling country. He soon began to overreach. Word leaked that Pierce wanted Spain to sell the slave-owning island of Cuba to the United States, rousing sectional divisions. Then he supported repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which limited the expansion of slavery in the west. Violence broke out, and "Bleeding Kansas" spurred the formation of the Republican Party. By the end of his term, Pierce's beloved party had ruptured, and he lost the nomination to James Buchanan.
In this incisive account, Holt shows how a flawed leader, so dedicated to his party and ill-suited for the presidency, hastened the approach of the Civil War.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (October 15, 1917-February 28, 2007) was a renowned American historian, social critic, and the prolific author of numerous books including, most recently, "War and the American Presidency," He twice won both the Pulitzer Prize, for "The Age of Jackson" and "A Thousand Days," and the National Book Award, also for "A Thousand Days" as well as "Robert Kennedy and his Times," In 1998 he was awarded the prestigious National Humanities Medal.
Sean Wilentz, a professor of history at Princeton University, is the author or editor of seven books, including "Chants Democratic" and "The Rise of American Democracy". He has also written for" The New York Times", the "Los Angeles Times", "The New Republic", and other publications. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.