Franklin Pierce's Obituary

[From page 3 of The New York Times, October 9, 1869]


Death of the Ex-President at Concord, N.H.

Official Announcement by President Grant -- Sketch of His Life.

     Concord, N.H., Oct. 8. -- Ex-President Pierce died at 4:40 o'clock this morning. His disease was chronic inflammation of the stomach, attended with dropsical effusion of the abdomen. The funeral has been fixed to take place on Monday noon, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, of which he was a member, Rev. Dr. Eames. Should the attendance be very large, it will be held in the State House adjoining. The Bar of Merrimac County held a meeting this forenoon at the Court House, Judge I. A. Eastman Chairman, and W. Case Secretary. A committee was appointed to make arrangements pertinent to the occasion, and report the resolutions at an adjourned meeting. The Committee consisted of Ex-Chief Justice Perley, Ex-Judge Ira A. Eastman and Hon. M.W. Tappan.

Official Recognition of His Decease -- Order from President Grant.

     Washington, Oct. 8. -- The painful duty devolves upon the President of announcing to the people of the United States the death of one of his honored predecessors, Franklin Pierce, which occurred at Concord early this morning. Eminent in the public councils and universally beloved in private life, his death will be mourned with a sorrow befitting the loss which this country sustains by his decease. As a mark of respect to his memory, it is ordered that the Executive Mansion and the several Departments at Washington be draped in mourning, and all business suspended on the day of the funeral. It is further ordered that the War and Navy Departments cause suitable military and naval honors to be paid on this occasion to the memory of the illustrious citizen who has passed from among us.

Sketch of His Career -- His Public and Private Life.

     Franklin Pierce was born at Hillsborough, N.H., on Nov. 23, 1804. His father, General Benjamin Pierce, was an old Revolutionary soldier, who, removing from Massachusetts to New-Hampshire, was one of the earliest settlers of the town of Hillsborough. He was a man of influence and power, and politically a Democrat. In the years 1827 and 1829 he was Governor of New-Hampshire. His son Franklin was educated at the academies of Hancock and Francistown, and in 1824, at the age of 20, was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Me. While in College he displayed a great fondness for military life, and commanded a company of students, of which his friend, Nathaniel Hawthorne, the future novelist and biographer, was a private. After his graduation he adopted law as his profession, beginning his studies with Judge Levi Woodbury, at Portsmouth, then passing two years at the Law School at North Hampton, Mass., and completing them in the office of Judge Parker, at Amherst, N.H. He was admitted to the Bar in 1827, and began practice in his native town of Hillsborough. At first he was not successful as an advocate, but persevered with a determination to attain eminence in his profession.
     In politics, Mr. Pierce was a strong Democrat, as his father had been before him, and he strongly advocated the election of General Jackson to the Presidency. In 1829 he was himself chosen to represent the town of Hillsborough in the Legislature of New-Hampshire. He was four years in that body, and during the last two was Speaker of the House. In 1833 he was elected member of Congress, where he served on important committees, but did not distinguish himself in debate. He strongly supported the Administration of General Jackson; was opposed to all internal improvements, and even made a speech against a bill providing for the support of the West Point Military Academy. He was, as he continued through life, thoroughly pro-slavery in his views and sided with the South in all measures calculated to advance the "institution."
     He had been a member of the House of Representatives four years, when he was elected to the Senate in 1837, and upon taking his seat he was the youngest member of that august body. At that time the seats of the council chamber of the nation were occupied by such men as Webster, Clay, Calhoun, Buchanan, and Silas Wright, and feeling his inability to cope with those giant intellects, the young Senator took no conspicuous part in debate, and it was not until 1840 that he made his first speech on the question of Revolutionary pensions. In 1842 he resigned his position, and resumed the practice of the law at Concord, to which city he had removed in 1838. It was then he first began to distinguish himself as an advocate. In 1846 he was offered a place in the Cabinet of Polk as Attorney-General, but declined. He also declined the nomination for Governor of his native State, tendered him by his party. Yet, although refusing to take an active part in politics, he retained his interest in them, and strongly opposed the annexation of Texas, in opposition to his political friends and the Democratic Party of New-England.
     In 1847, at the beginning of the Mexican War, and when New-Hampshire was called upon for troops, Mr. Pierce immediately enlisted as a private in a Concord volunteer company for a New-England regiment. He did not long remain in this position, for an act to increase the army having passed Congress, he was given command of a regiment, and afterward commissioned Brigadier-General. During the war he was in several engagements, and was severely injured at Contreras by the falling of his horse. After the battle of Cherubusco he was appointed by General Scott one of the Armistice Commissioners. After the fall of Mexico General Pierce returned home and again resumed the duties of his profession. In 1850 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention of New-Hampshire, and was selected as its presiding officer.
     On the 12th of June, 1852, the Democratic National Convention assembled at Baltimore, Md. The principal candidates for the Presidential nomination were Buchanan, Cass, Douglas and Marcy. The partisans of each were present in full force, and the discussions in regard to their claims upon the party for a nomination were long and earnest. Thirty-five ballots were taken without reaching any result, when, as the next ballot begun, the name of Franklin Pierce, of New-Hampshire, was brought forward by the Virginia delegation. At first it was received with but little favor, but continuing to gain strength as the balloting advanced, and the members of the Convention becoming wearied with the long session, which had continued for nearly a week, on the forty-ninth ballot he was nominated for President, receiving all the votes of the Convention but eleven. His nomination was most unexpected to the whole country, but although comparatively unknown in the canvass which followed, the same unanimity of sentiment which had pervaded the deliberations of the Convention seemed to take possession of the minds of the people, and he was elected fourteenth President of the United States in the following November by an almost unanimous vote, his old Commander-in-Chief, General Scott, the Whig candidate, receiving only the electoral votes of Massachusetts, Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee. To this overwhelming defeat of the Whig party, and the subsequent Pro-Slavery Administration of Pierce and the acts of his political advisors, can be traced the formation of the present Republican organization.
     Soon after this brilliant political success, the newly elected President was smitten by a family affliction, in which he received the sympathy of the whole country. In taking a railway journey with his wife and child, from Andover to Lawrence, Mass., the train was thrown from the track, and his only son, a bright boy of thirteen years, was instantly killed.
     President Pierce was inaugurated March 4, 1853, and in his address on assuming the duties of his office he clearly foreshadowed the policy of his Administration, taking strong ground that slavery was recognized by the Constitution, and that the Fugitive Slave law should be enforced. He denounced the agitation of the slavery question, regarding it as settled by the compromise of 1850, and hoped that "no sectional ambitions or fanatical excitement might again threaten the durability of our institutions." His Cabinet, as appointed three days afterward, clearly showed him to be consistent in his policy, for in it were Jefferson Davis, James Guthrie and Caleb Cushing, and his entire administration was characterized, if by nothing else, by a steady adherence to his pro-slavery friends and his pro-slavery views.
     The first question of importance which came up during the Administration of President Pierce, and soon after he had taken his oath of office, was the dispute in regard to the boundary between the United States and Mexico, which was finally settled by negotiations, and resulted in the present Territory of Arizona becoming the property of this Government.
     It was also during the early portion of his term of office in 1858 that the Fishery questions between Great Britain and this country, in which the rights as to certain fisheries on the coast of Newfoundland were in dispute, threatened to cause serious disturbance between the two countries. The matter was, however, amicably adjusted by mutual concession.
     While these negotiations were in progress, the case of Martin Koszta came up, which at the time excited the greatest interest on both sides of the Atlantic. Koszta was a Hungarian by birth, but having resided nearly two years in the United States and taken out his first papers, declaring his intention of becoming a citizen, was entitled to the protection of the Government. He had been seized and imprisoned on an Austrian ship of war in the Mediterranean Sea. Captain Ingraham, of the United States Navy, in command of the sloop-of-war St. Louis, coming into the port of Smyrna, and being apprized of these facts by the American Consul, immediately took steps to effect his release, and demanded his instant surrender from the Austrian Government, which resulted in Koszta's soon being set at liberty and returned to the United States. The whole affair was discussed at length in Washington, and notwithstanding it might have led to grave complications, the conduct of Captain Ingraham was thoroughly approved by the Government.
     The first Congress of President Pierce's Administration assembled in December, 1853, and early in January, 1854, the famous Kansas and Nebraska bill was introduced by Mr. Douglas, then Chairman of the Senate Committee on Territories. This bill introduced slavery into a section of the country from which it had been formerly excluded by the Missouri Compromise, and thus repealed that measure. The bill received the warm and earnest support of the Administration, and was passed, but not without the most violent opposition from the anti-slavery members of Congress. The act became a law, and the signature making it such affixed by the hand of the then Executive, was but another link in the chain which was to pull down the Democratic Party from the heights of power. The passage of the bill aroused a strong feeling of indignation throughout the free States, and it was everywhere denounced. Another measure at this time also conspired to weaken the Administration, and that was the noted Ostend Conference between the American Ministers of England, France, and Spain, Buchanan, Mason and Soule, in which they proposed to pay Spain $120,000,000 for Cuba or take it by force. The sure prospect of largely-increased taxation in either event, without any regard to the rights of international law, rendered this measure most unpopular among the people and created dissatisfaction with the Government which favored the project.
     In 1854 also, which was a memorable year in the term of President Pierce, the treaty between England and the United States was ratified by the Senate, in which commercial reciprocity was provided for between the two countries and the British Provinces. The Commodore Perry treaty, negotiated with Japan and opening up that land to the trade of the civilized world, was also ratified at the same session of Congress. It was in this year that Greytown, Nicaragua, was bombarded by the United States frigate Cyane for refusing to make reparation or restitution for property stolen from American citizens, although it was not until 1855 that Walker made his fillibustering expedition, and subsequently sent a Minister to Washington, who was recognized by the President, and diplomatic intercourse opened with Nicaragua.
     President Pierce during his administration distinguished himself for the number of his vetoes. In 1854 the bill making appropriations for the completion and repair of certain public works, and giving another ten million acres of the public lands for the relief of the indigent insane, failed to receive his signature. In 1855 he vetoed the bills passed for the payment of the French spoliation claims, and also the one providing for an increase in the annual appropriation for the Collins steamers, which eventually rendered it necessary to draw off the line. Among some of the most important measures which became law, he assenting thereto, were the act to reorganize the diplomatic and consular system of the United States; to organize the Court of Claims; to provide a retired list for the navy, and to establish the rank of Lieutenant-General for General Scott.
     In 1855 occurred the difficulty between Great Britain and this country in regard to the enlistment of recruits in the United States for the British Army in the Crimea. President Pierce having learned that Mr. Crampton, the English Minister at Washington, was conniving at this violation of the Neutrality laws, demanded his recall, which was refused, whereupon he dismissed the Minister, and also the British Consuls at New-York, Philadelphia and Cincinnati. His firmness in the matter threatened to embroil the two countries in a serious difficulty, but it was finally adjusted by negotiation, and a new Legation sent from England to Washington.
     The last two years of the Administration was principally noted for the disturbances and the scenes of strife and sectional discord which took place in Kansas, and were intensified in their severity by the weak and vacillating course of the Executive. The whole power of the Administration was used to prevent Kansas becoming a free State, and in 1856 he sent a message to Congress in which he justified the principles of the Kansas and Nebraska act, and characterized the attempt to establish freedom in Kansas as an act of rebellion, and in his last message, in 1857, he reviewed the condition of affairs in that distracted State, taking the strongest grounds against the Free State Party.
     In the Democratic Convention which met at Cincinnati in 1856, on the first ballot President Pierce received 122 votes for a renomination, but subsequent ballots proved that his popularity with his party was gone; his votes became less and less, and on the seventeenth ballot Ja. Buchanan received the nomination, was elected, and on March 4, 1857, succeeded Franklin Pierce as the fifteenth President of the United States.
     At the termination of his official career Mr. Pierce went to the Island of Madeira for the benefit of his wife's health, and subsequently traveled in Europe, returning to his home in Concord, N.H., in 1860, where he has since resided, taking no prominent part in public affairs. At the breaking out of the war, in 1861, at a mass meeting held in Concord, he made a speech in which he declared himself for the Union, opposed to a Southern Confederacy, and urged a cordial and hearty support of the Administration in the suppression of the rebellion.
     Mr. Pierce, at home, was a popular man, engaging in his manners, agreeable in all social intercourse, and, generous and kindly in his disposition, he inspired the personal respect and love of those with whom he came in contact. He was excessively fond of sporting, particularly fishing, and would spend days in his favorite amusement. Before his nomination for the Presidency he was the law partner of Colonel George, of Concord, but since his retirement from office he has formed no professional connection; neither has he devoted himself to active practice, although his services have been engaged as counsel in the management of important cases. For some months past the failing health of the Ex-President and the repeated reports which have been telegraphed over the country, have led the public mind to expect his death at any moment. From his non-connection with public matters, his place will not be missed by those actively engaged in political affairs, and although his record as a statesman cannot command the approbation of the nation, he still should be followed to the grave with that respect which is due to one who has filled the highest office in the gift of the people -- a President of the United States.