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Franklin Pierce (The American Presidents, #14)
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Franklin Pierce (The American Presidents #14)

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  146 ratings  ·  40 reviews
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.

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Hardcover, 176 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by Times Books (first published 2010)
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karen

it's franklin pierce, y'all!!!




new hampshire's favorite son!
watch out abolitionists!

it's true, he is considered to be one of the worst. presidents. ever. but it's not his fault he was woefully unqualified. he was pretty, and pretty people are used to everybody paying attention to them and supporting everything they do whether it should be supported or not. it doesn't mean they are competent to serve. franklin was nominated, he batted his big eyes and said "sure, i'll do it. we going to the bar a...more
William Kerrigan
This well written, engaging biography is part of the American President's Series, published by Times books. The books in the series are brief and focus primarily but not exclusively on each man's Presidency. Most are penned by very highly regarded historians of the era, and that is certainly the case here. I find the books in this series appealing in part because, while I am very interested in life stories, I rarely have the attention span devote to standard biographies which can run 800 pages i...more
Arminius
Known as one of the handsomest presidents Franklin Pierce also became known as one of America’s worst presidents. He was rugged and athletically built. He preferred hiking and hunting to studying. He was born in New Hampshire. He attended Bowdoin College in Maine and studied law under Levi Woodbury. Woodbury was the Treasury Secretary under President Andrew Jackson. Pierce became an admirer of President Jackson and his politics ran in sync with Jackson. He became a successful lawyer then transfe...more
Kierstin
OMG people, Franklin Pierce is a train wreck to locate, digest, and analyze. Our 14th President and a Democrat, he was elected in 1852 and served one term. He was a lawyer and local politician in his home state of New Hampshire, and was considered a good looking and charming guy who made friends easily.

He was elected in a landslide following the dismal service of VP-turned-POTUS Millard Fillmore, and largely considered a consensus candidate in the era of sectional rigidity (which ultimately al...more
Gary Schantz
After reading about this president on Wikipedia, I became intrigued about his biography. This book was very informative and detailed about the Pierce's life. This was man who experienced many heartbreaks such as the death of all his children (while they were young and all of these deaths took place before he became president). The most recent death was of the only child who lived to be 12 and was killed a few weeks before Pierce was inaugurated. From the get-go his presidency was doomed because...more
Steve
http://bestpresidentialbios.com/2014/...

“Franklin Pierce” by Michael Holt was published in 2010 and is one of the newest members of The American Presidents Series. Holt is a professor of American History at the University of Virginia and the author of a half-dozen books. Among these are “By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876″ and “The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party.”

The American Presidents Series has been criticized for advancing the political views of its long-time e...more
Doug
I picked this up based on the flyleaf description...'handsome, friendly and immensely popular...but destroyer of his own party...' I was struck by what I thought were similarities between Franklin Pierce and current president Obama. It is the authors thesis, that Pierce spent so much time & effort in trying to unite his party (who at that time enjoyed majorities in both the house & senate - just as now), split along multi-sectional lines about slavery, that in the end he doomed his party...more
Stephen
Pierce is one of the lesser recognized men who have held the presidency. I have been reading up on presidents for awhile now and specifically chose to seek out a lesser known one. Pierce's s administration is an interesting one. The author focuses on his complicated and insightful role in playing party politics. Unfortunately, these concentrations led for less time in the affairs of the nation. His pro-slavery stance as a Northerner helped spark several issues that led to the Civil War. His own...more
Jennifer Nelson
This book is a short yet pithy examination of the meteoric political career of Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United States of America. Mr. Holt writes in a clear, free-flowing style that makes this an enjoyable and quick read.

Franklin Pierce jumped into politics at a young age, quickly rose through the ranks, and became president at the age of 48. He was an athletic, energetic person who enjoyed the thrill of public life. He was also a people pleaser and wanted to be on the winning...more
Andy Miller
A good biography of a not so good President. The author, Michael Holt, does a good job of portraying Franklin Pierce the man, a handsome, successful, very popular and genial person, and shows how these traits worked against a successful Presidency. Holt argues that Pierce wanted to be liked by everyone and wanted to keep the Democratic party at all costs. He assumed the Presidency shortly after the Compromise of 1850, which Pierce supported and was passed mainly by Democrats. However, after beco...more
Dan
Picked this one up at the library mostly b/c of its length; it seemed like a good break from a much longer book I am currently working through. Holt is a great historian, and these short biographies are great introductions to America's "mediocre presidents."

Pierce stands out here for his administration's honesty, but he inherited a damned-near impossible situation and failed to overcome it. It's also funny, in some ways: Holt's argument is that Pierce's failings were due to his "obsession with p...more
Regina Lindsey
"Historians, indeed, usually rank Pierce among the six or eight worst presidents the country has ever had. Two things primarily account for that negative judgment. A passionately committed Democratic loyalist, Pierce during his presidency managed to divide his party into fiercely warring factional camps. More important, he helped propel the nation down the road to the Civil War." (pg 2)

In only 133 pages, Holt sets about supporting his thesis by laying out the theory that Pierce's achilles heel...more
Shawn Thrasher
Holt does an admirable job of exploring the failures (I'm not sure if there were any successes - I certainly don't remember any from the book) of the Pierce presidency. There's actually not a whole lot to say about what Pierce did do during his one term in office, but it sounds like he basically sat back and did mostly nothing. At least some presidents dither and worry - Pierce seemed to just sit. He makes Calvin Coolidge seem like a mover and shaker, that's for sure. Nero at least fiddled while...more
Charles M.
Time Books bio on a rather obscure president, who had a significant effect on accelerating hostilities between the North and South. Pierce, born in NH, was a southern sympathizer, who infuriated northern pols and voters against him during the 1850s; resulting in a tragic,disgraceful retirement after his White House years. His personal and family was very sad, in that he lost three children to childhood deaths, including his beloved Bennie whom died in a train crash before his parents' eyes---res...more
Eliot
Because I came to it knowing so little about Pierce, I learned quite a bit from Holt's biography, but there's no denying it is thin broth. I was surprised by Holt's admission that he had not bothered to read Hawthorne's campaign biography of Pierce--surprised as well as disappointed, since Pierce's friendship with Hawthorne is one of the things that most made me want to read up on this miserably unsuccessful president. The book is highly thesis-driven--arguing single-mindedly that Pierce's admin...more
Steven Peterson
This is a solid biography of Franklin Pierce, often rated as in the bottom tier of American presidents. The book does a nice job of describing Pierce's ascent to political power, from his base in New Hampshire. His father had been a political figure and James followed in his footsteps.

He became president because of a deadlock in the 1852 convention. He emerged as an acceptable candidate to other factions and won. However, his presidency was not successful. In his zeal to hold the fractious Democ...more
Jennie
Pierce is one of those Presidents who couldn’t see past his own thoughts to consider the bigger picture, which might be why his entire political party melted down during his term and basically empty handed for the next election. I must confess, that even through my dislike of him, I still shed a few tears when his son died and how he handled it.

I shouldn’t be surprised given that I’ve been feeling this way since George Washington’s time, but I’m still shocked by how slavery impacted so many deci...more
Christopher Litsinger
Back to "The American Presidents" for another biography.
This book starts with the troubling sentence: "Franklin Pierce was arguably the most handsome man ever to serve as president of the United States." Thankfully, the book does get over that superficial start and does a reasonable job of covering Pierce's life, and makes that case that his political errors were committed in an attempt to hold together the Democratic party.
Holt does so without attempting to defend Pierce's tolerance (even advo...more
Stacy
There really isn't a whole to say regarding this book about one of our lesser known presidents and apparently one of the worst. Pierce seemed to have married the wrong woman for him - at least personality wise. He was quite the fun loving, partying type and she was the quiet, no nonsense type. While his politics were really way off from mine, I admired that he tried to work with all parties by giving out positions to people in political parties other than his own. Granted that may have been one...more
William J. Shep
An excellent book by a good historian about a decent man who was a bad president. Unlike other contributions to The American Presidents series, especially Burns and Dunn on Washington, the choice of Michael Holt, American History professor at the University of Virginia, was a great choice. In this brief work Holt is able to convey the affable manner, charm, and decency of Pierce who was otherwise a 'Doughface' president whose paramount dedication to Democratic Party unity (and slavish favoritism...more
Robert Sparrenberger
Concise review of the life of Franklin Pierce. 130 pages is about all the treatment he needs.
Darren
I've really enjoyed the American Presidents Series. It's a good opportunity to find out the important details of each president, but not get bogged down in minutiae, like longer books tend to do.

As far as Pierce goes, he seemed like a decent guy who made a couple bad decisions that ended up ruining his presidency. Unfortunately, the bad decisions were mostly a result of his blind partisanship and directly set the stage for the Civil War. The result of his bad decisions ended getting him ranked a...more
Robert Brents
133 pages because that's about all Pierce's Presidency is worth.
Stephen Kubiatowski
Excellent style, and appropriate level of detail. An enjoyable bio.
David Nichols
A short and clearly-written account of the 14th president's life, though one suspects it could have been shorter - Holt spends too little time on Pierce's presidency (he doesn't even mention the opening of Japan, which occurred on Pierce's watch), and too much on the concurrent disintegration of the Whig Party. I suppose the author, who wrote a famous doorstop on the American Whig Party, felt the obligation to write what he knew, but in this case I wish he had strayed a bit outside his comfort z...more
Katie
Basically just a consolidated version of other biographies; very little original research or analysis. The book's brevity is really its only virtue.
Melanie
A pretty good biography. I don't love the American Presidents Series books because the authors seem to tell you their opinion of the president rather than presenting evidence for you to make your own conclusions. Sure, most authors come to their subject with some bias, but I feel that the bias is much more overt in these books. That being said, I felt this biography was a bit better than the others that I've read from this series.
Alan
A fairly concise biography of mostly reviled president. The author doesn't defend the failed presidency of Pierce, but tries to put it in the context of the times and Pierce's over-riding desire to keep the Democratic Party together. In doing so, he loses sight of the bigger issues of the day and the changes in U.S. eletorate and demograhics. In this respect it's good reading for many current Republicans.
Jerry Landry
A good introduction to one of the lesser known presidents in US history. Holt provides a fair assessment of Pierce's failed presidency and a knowledgable explanation of the political/social turmoil of the time period leading up to the Civil War. This book is a good starting point to other, more detailed texts about the Pierce presidency.
Don Heiman
Excellent analysis of the forces that caused the Pierce Administration to be ineffective. The discussion of Bleeding Kansas and the political conditions of the 1850's helped me better understand why the Civil War was inevitable. I recommend Holt's book to anyone interested in presidential biography and political movements in America.
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The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party: Jacksonian Politics and the Onset of the Civil War The Fate of Their Country: Politicians, Slavery Extension, and the Coming of the Civil War The Political Crisis of the 1850s By One Vote: The Disputed Presidential Election of 1876 (American Presidential Elections) Political Parties and American Political Development: From the Age of Jackson to the Age of Lincoln

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