Ok, up front confession: I guess I was confused when I bought this biography. Even now, looking at the page on Amazon I don’t really see where it says this, but the book I read is book one in a two book series on Pierce. What this means is that I read 270-ish pages about Franklin Pierce’s life and the last page is his first night in the White House. I was a bit disappointed about that, but because I started late in the month I didn’t have time to order and read the second volume. I had to rely on the ol’ internet to tell me about the rest of his life. This may be one of those presidents that I re-visit once I finish the challenge.
That being said, this was a really, really well researched book. For a president that is pretty unpopular and fairly unknown, this dude got a LOT of detail on his life. I was pleased to learn a lot about his family life growing up, his time in college and his wife and kids. A lot of the biographies I’ve read lately have been pretty sparse in that department, so this was refreshing. I actually came to really like Pierce. He was a pretty handsome, likable guy. In college he was known for pulling little pranks and getting in trouble here and there. He was really popular throughout his youth and this is really what catapulted him into politics- he was just naturally prone to that type of thing.
He was the youngest senator and then the youngest congressman to ever be elected (at the time, I’m sure that there have been younger now) and when he took some time off to grow his law practice it grew so quickly that he had to hire help. When he was in the Mexican-American war he was fairly useless (he fainted on the battlefield then spent a lot of time behind a desk) but was one of the most loved Generals. When it came time for him to run for president, he won by an absolute landslide. This guy just really had it going on.
The thing is he was a huge supporter of slavery and made in a solid point that he was going to continue to uphold the Fugitive Slave Act and was going to do nothing whatsoever to end slavery. Because he was super charismatic and could talk his way around it during campaigning, this didn’t stop him from becoming elected but it did really hurt him once he was in office. From what I read (on Wikipedia, my bio stopped when he reached the White House), his presidency kind of came apart at the seams as did his personal life after he got into office…. but the crazy thing about reading about only HALF of his life is that from what I read, this dude’s life was just absolutely charmed.
This biography was, as I said, super well-researched and I was glad for that, but as a result it often became a bit heavy and hard to trudge through. There were chapters that probably could have been left out as a whole and during those spots I found my mind drifting.
During one of those “drifting” moments, I tweeted this:
I cracked up when I received this as a reply:
Oh man, I die when I think about someone signing up for a Twitter account to impersonate Franklin Pierce. So, so funny. Maybe my favorite thing ever.
Anyway, good stuff overall but I wish I would have researched a bit better and ended up with a bio of Pierce’s whole life so I could have gotten to the “triumph and tragedy” part.