A President, and a Poet: Nathaniel Hawthorne & Franklin Pierce

"It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God."

Franklin Pierce was born November 23, 1804. His father served in the Revolutionary War and was Governor of New Hampshire.

Franklin attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, having one of the lowest grades in his class.

Meeting other students on campus, the future best-selling authors, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pierce's study habits changed and he graduated third in his class.

At age 24, Pierce was elected to the New Hampshire Legislature, supporting the agenda of 7th U.S. President, Democrat Andrew Jackson.

He was chosen as State Speaker of the House.

In 1834, he married Jane Means Appleton, the daughter of a Congregational minister and former president of Bowdoin College.

Her family opposed Democrats, being devoutly religious, pro-temperance, anti-slavery Whigs.

At age 29, Pierce was elected as a U.S. Congressman, and at age 33, as a U.S. Senator.

Like Jackson, Pierce opposed a central back, the Second Bank of the United States - a precursor to the Federal Reserve Bank.

He supported Democrat Martin Van Buren, the 8th President.

Van Buren lost reelection to the war hero William Henry Harrison, the 9th President, but he died 30 days in office, being succeeded by his Vice-President, John Tyler, the 10th U.S. President.

Being in the minority party, Pierce resigned from the Senate in 1842 to practice law.

Pierce campaigned strongly for the Democrat James K. Polk, whose prominent issue was the annexation of Texas. Upon election as the 11th President in 1844, Polk appointed Pierce as United States Attorney for New Hampshire.

Pierce served in the state militia, and when the Mexican-American War started, he enlisted in the Army, eventually being promoted to brigadier general.

He served with distinction under General Winfield Scott, till his leg was crushed at the Battle of Churubusco, 1847.

Another war hero of the Mexican-American War was Zachary Taylor, who was elected the 12th President. When he died in office, he was succeeded by 13th President Millard Fillmore.

Franklin Pierce ran as a Democrat for President against his former commander, General Winfield Scott.

Tragically, just weeks after winning the election, Franklin and his wife Jane saw their only surviving child, 11-year-old son Bennie, killed when their train rolled off its tracks.

On March 4, 1853, as the 14th U.S. President, Franklin Pierce stated in his Inaugural Address:

"It must be felt that there is no national security but in the nation's humble, acknowledged dependence upon God and His overruling Providence."

He signed the Gadsden Purchase in 1854, in which Mexico's debt-strapped leader Santa Anna, sold 29,670 square miles to the United States for $10 million. It became part of southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico.

President Pierce installed the first central heating system in the White House, as well as the first bathroom with hot and cold water.

He also placed the first Christmas Tree in the White House in 1856.

First Lady Jane Pierce convinced her husband to release an abolitionist from prison.

Though he stated: "I consider slavery a social and political evil ... and most sincerely wish that it had no existence upon the face of the earth," Pierce nevertheless opposed the abolitionist movement.

He tried to reconcile regional differences by enforcing the Fugitive Slave Act.

Pierce made his worst decision by caving in to the pressure of Democrat Senator Stephen A. Douglas, who convinced him to allow slavery to expand into the new territories by supporting the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act.

This put an end to President James Monroe's 1820 Missouri Compromise.

Opposition to Stephen Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act launched a new political party - the Republican Party, and the career of the young Illinois politician, Abraham Lincoln.

Unfortunately, instead of peace, the Kansas-Nebraska Act accelerated tension, resulting in "Bleeding Kansas" battles and eventually the Civil War.

The Democrat Party did not renominate Pierce, and James Buchanan was elected the 15th President in 1857.

Republican Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President in 1861.

Pierce opposed Lincoln's suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, stating that even in time of war, citizens should not have their rights taken away or be imprisoned without a public trial by a jury of their peers.

When Lincoln instituted the draft and arrested critics, Pierce told New Hampshire Democrats in July 1863, the government should not "dictate to any one of us ... when we may speak, or be silent upon any subject."

After the war, Pierce expressed optimism for the 18th U.S. President, Republican Ulysses S. Grant.

Years after Pierce's death, Ulysses S. Grant described in his memoirs his courage and character during the Mexican-American War:

"Whatever General Pierce's qualifications may have been for the Presidency, he was a gentleman and a man of courage. I was not a supporter of him politically, but I knew him more intimately than I did any other of the volunteer generals."

Franklin Pierce's wife, Jane, died in 1863.

The next year, he accompanied his ill college friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne on a trip to the New Hampshire mountains in hopes it would benefit his health.

On the trip, Nathaniel Hawthorne died, May 19, 1864.

Franklin Pierce gave financial help to Hawthorne's son, Julian.

On the second anniversary of his wife's death, Franklin Pierce was baptized into the church she had been a member of, St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Concord, New Hampshire.

Nathaniel Hawthorne had written a campaign biography of Franklin Pierce , 1852, in which he stated:

"Whether in sorrow or success he has learned ... that religious faith is the most valuable ... of human possessions ...

With this sense, there has come ... a wide sympathy for the modes of Christian worship and a reverence for religious belief as a matter between the Deity and man's soul."

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Nathaniel Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804. He was an American author and poet, most famous for his novel, The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850.

Hawthorne's most notable literary contemporaries included:

  • Henry Wadsworth Longfellow,

  • Walt Whitman,

  • Ralph Waldo Emerson,

  • Henry David Thoreau,

  • Louisa May Alcott,

  • Edgar Alan Poe, and

  • Herman Melville.

Melville read Hawthorne's short story collection Mosses from an Old Manse, and praised it in a famous review, "Hawthorne and His Mosses."

Melville dedicated his book, Moby-Dick, to Hawthorne "in appreciation for his genius."

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia had three children: Una, Julian and Rose.

Rose, after her husband's death, became a nun, and founded the religious order, Dominican Sisters of Hawthorne, to care for victims of incurable cancer.

Hawthorne's short tales were published as collections in Twice-Told Tales (1837), and Mosses from an Old Manse (1850), with some of the more popular ones being:

"My Kinsman, Major Molineux" (1832);

"The Maypole of Merrymount" (1832);

"Young Goodman Brown" (1835);

"The Minister's Black Veil" (1836);

"The Birth-Mark" (1843);

"Rappaccini's Daughter" (1844);

"Ethan Brand" (1850);

"Tanglewood Tales" (1853).

Hawthorne's major romance works were:

  • The Scarlet Letter (1950);

  • The House of Seven Gables (1851);

  • Blithedale Romance (1852); and

  • The Marble Faun (1860).

The pallbearers at Hawthorne's funeral were Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, Swiss-American biologist Louis Agassiz, and Louisa May Alcott.

Louisa May Alcott wrote "A Song for a Christmas Tree" (Morning-Glories And Other Stories, NY: G.W. Carleton & Co., 1871, pp. 5-6):

"... Come and gather as they fall,

Shining gifts for great and small;

Santa Claus remembers all

When he comes with goodies piled.

Corn and candy, apples red,

Sugar horses, gingerbread,

Babies who are never fed,

Are handing here for every child ...



Gathered in a smiling ring,

Lightly dance and gayly sing,

Still at heart remembering

The sweet story all should know,

Of the little Child whose birth

Has made this day throughout the earth

A festival for childish mirth,

Since the first Christmas long ago."

In Ethan Brand, written in 1850, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote:

"'What is the Unpardonable Sin?' asked the lime-burner ... 'It is a sin that grew within my own breast," replied Ethan Brand ... 'The sin of an intellect that triumphed over the sense of brotherhood with man and reverence for God.'"

In his poem, "The Star of Calvary," Hawthorne wrote:

"It is the same infrequent star,

The all mysterious light,

That, like a watcher gazing on

The changes of the night,

Toward the hill of Bethlehem, took

Its solitary flight.

It is the same infrequent star;

Its sameness startleth me;

Although the disk is red a-blood

And downward silently

It looketh on another hill,

The hill of Calvary.

Behold, O Israel! behold!

It is no human One

That ye have dared to crucify.

What evil hath he done?

It is your King, O Israel,

The God-begotten Son!"

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