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Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union Hardcover – July 4, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Exhaustively researched, the volume is rich in detail on topics that are routinely granted only a cursory glance in other books on the period ... [Wallner] has succeeded in the goal, outlined in the first volume of the biography, to put Pierce the man back on the antebellum stage. --Kenneth Nivison, Historical New Hampshire

Having studied Franklin Pierce for half a decade with laudable industry and a sympathetic eye, Peter Wallner has produced a valuable corrective to the easy put-downs of the nation's 14th president. -- --Michael Birkner in the Concord Monitor --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Peter Wallner earned a BA from Waynesboro College and MA and PhD in U.S. history from The Pennsylvania State University. For 30 years he taught history and was an administrator in Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania to research this two-volume biography. Wallner is library director for the N.H. Historical Society.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 514 pages
  • Publisher: Plaidswede Publishing Co.; 1 edition (July 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979078423
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979078422
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.1 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,669,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Glenn R. Springstead on March 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a much needed contribution to the study of the presidency in the ante-bellum era generally, and of Franklin Pierce, the nation's 14th chief executive, in particular. As reviewers of the author's first volume have noted, Wallner is the first author to provide a significant work on behalf of Pierce since the 1930's. Wallner's task is made all the more difficult by the fact that Pierce apparently did not save many of his letters.

On the postive side, there is a lot of very good material here relating to the minutia of administrative governance and the challenges facing Pierce in the turbulent 1850's. Internationally, Pierce faced a Great Britain illegally recruiting Americans in America to serve as soldiers in the Crimean War and encroaching upon American interests in Latin America, all of which Pierce ably and honorably resolved by the end of his term. Domestically, Pierce faced a splintering Democratic Party whose leading factions were not favorable to Pierce's equitable patronage policies or to the president's determination to squash the actions of American speculators and adventurers filibustering throughout Latin America. Nor did Pierce's support for Senator Stephen Douglas's Kansas-Nebraska Act--which at the demand of the southern states, overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820 with its prohibition of slavery in the northern districts of the Lousiana Purchase--increase the president's popularity. While the bill passed by large margins in Congress, northerners fervently opposed it, a response that soon lead to the creation of the Republican Party and the election in 1854 of a Republican-controlled House of Representatives. The southern states, meanwhile, faulted Pierce for not successfully insuring that Kansas would enter the nation as a slave state.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By S. Heinen on January 17, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book (together with volume 1) did what I hoped it would do--give me new insights into the Pierce Presidency, his times and President Pierce's life. It certainly painted a highly sympathetic portrait of Mr. Pierce, forcing the reader to consider this new perspective in light of Pierce's horrid historical reputation. In that sense, the book was highly successful and worthwhile.

However, as Mr. Springstead eloquently stated in his review, I thought the author appeared unwilling or incapable of overcoming his personal biases in favor of Pierce to even lay out the facts objectively enough that we could draw our own conclusions. As Mr. Springstead stated, according to Wallner Pierce was "always" principled, diligent, fair, upholding the Constitution and Union, consistent in his policies and beliefs and completely selfless in all of his actions (this is a politician we are talking about, right?). Whereas, Pirce's opponents were always duplicitous, cunning, crass and ambitious agitators merely seeking personal or sectional gain. The facts were often presented in such a clearly biased fashion, that many statements had to be deeply discounted as lacking credibility.

So expect this work to be highly biased in favor of Pierce (maybe he was due a highly favorable treatment afetr being probably unfairly and unequivocably bashed throughout history), but, getting past that, it is a very readable, interesting, illuminating and a sorely-needed modern assessment of a largely forgotten president.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful By V. Gardino on February 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Wallner has followed up a tremendous first volume work on this "forgotten" President with yet another meticulously researched book on Pierce's Presidency and sad final years. This second volume completes a dynamic re-assessment of Pierce's life and Presidency with new insights that heretofore had not been brought to light. Wallner, as in the first volume, has left no stone unturned with a highly readable text.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is difficult to think of Antebellum America as a bucolic time after reading biographies of the Political giants of those times, and watching the recent spate of movies dealing with slavery in the South. Franklin Pierce has been relegated to obscurity and a low ranking by historians because he did not save his letters nor his diary. He has also suffered from being sandwiched in betwen the administrations of Taylor/Fillmore and Buchanan.

This was certainly a low ebb of Chief Executives in American history, but it has been easy to dismiss the Pierce Presidency with these others because few historians had much to read about his life and Presidency, or really evaluate.

Peter Wallner has done American history a favor in giving a definitive biography of his life and times to study and learn about. Pierce, under greater scrutiny appears as a strong, principled, and committed figure who happened to the Presidency in a time that was embattled politically, and polarized nationally. He cared deeply about keeping the Union together, and looked to avoid the Civil War he foresaw.

He looked to the Constitution to guide his policy, and his conscience, as did his less principled successor, James Buchanan. It is easy to look at a man in light of his times and judge him by today's mores. Pierce was anti-abolitionist, and by today's standards, this seems odious. However, his reasons were not necessarily that he supported slavery. It was that he abhored the thought of Civil War.

The traits he bore were noble. Loyalty, principle, strength of character. He is the only President ever to serve a full term and keep his entire Cabinet intact.
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