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Franklin Pierce: Young Hickory of the Granite Hills Hardcover – August, 1993

ISBN-13: 978-0945707066 ISBN-10: 0945707061

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 625 pages
  • Publisher: American Political Biography Press (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0945707061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0945707066
  • Product Dimensions: 2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #180,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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55 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Burns VINE VOICE on August 13, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I turned to Roy Nichols' work because truthfully there isn't much of a Franklin Pierce bibliography. Nichols' work dates back to 1931, an era of different writing styles and certainly different interpretations of American political life.
When I refer to this work as a "Plodder," I intend no disrespect. Nichols work is, for the most part, a straightforward biography of a New Hampshire politician who became an unlikely compromise candidate for the presidency in 1852. To borrow a sports analogy, one has to be in a position to win in order to win, and the author painstakingly traces the steps of this methodical politician that put him in lightning's way.
Nichols leaves the reader with ample evidence to believe that Franklin Pierce owed at least something of his steady rise through local offices to the reputation of his father, General Benjamin Pierce, a Revolutionary war hero and governor of New Hampshire in his own right. Franklin graduated from Bowdoin and began his lawn practice precisely at the heydey of his father's own success. A late twentieth century biographer most certainly would have delved into the psychodynamics between father and son.
In the style of the day, Nichols hints at, but does not detail, several critical factors in Pierce's life. His marriage to Jane Appleton smacks of Lincoln's trials with Mary Todd. His drinking was problematic. His absence of commitment to one of the proper religious denominations of the day was noted then by those who charted such things. He seemed to have been unduly shaken early in his congressional career when John Calhoun denounced him on the floor over a ludicruously insignificant matter.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By mrliteral VINE VOICE on January 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had always been somewhat intrigued by Franklin Pierce, perhaps our most obscure president. I would wonder why he was almost neglected by history while other presidents got much more press. As I eventually learned - and as this book reaffirms - there is a reason he is almost completely ignored. Pierce represented the nadir of the Presidency, a period that by historical circumstances and Pierce's own lack of ability made presidential power as weak as it ever would be.
Nichols's book describes the early life of Pierce. The son of a Revolutionary War veteran, Pierce used his family connections and his own gifts of intelligence and oratory to rise in the local political community, first on a state level and then eventually into both houses of Congress. While adept enough to get these positions, he never really sparkled at any of them; his period as a general in the Mexican War is similarly unimpressive.
The Democratic Party, desperate to find a nominee in 1852, eventually settled on Pierce, not because he was a great candidate, but - as a Northerner with distinctly pro-Southern views - he was the only candidate with wide geographical appeal. Attaining the Presidency, he did little to calm the growing North-South rift and, in fact, left things in a sadder state than when he left.
Nichols portrays Pierce sympathetically enough as a man beset by poor health, a hard-to-live-with wife and a series of family tragedies, culminating with seeing the death of his last child in an accident just prior to his inauguration. Pierce, however, was also a politician with little political awareness, oblivious to the growing conflict over slavery and with sympathies in complete contrast to that of his New Hampshire neighbors.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Robert E. Litke on August 1, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
625 pages, 76 chapters, 10 illustrations. Comprehensive, scholarly, thoroughly researched biography of an underrated President who was a victim of his times and of the tragedies of his own life. Many important American historical events, which the author puts in context, occurred during the Pierce administration. Events leading to, and immediately following, the Civil War were paramount. Preface to first edition was written in 1931. Second editon was published 27 years later and was "completely revised." Difficult but fascinating reading.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Thomas A. Wheeler on February 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Over the last several years I have read more than 25 presidential biographies, using Amazon readers' reviews to guide my selections. I was a bit reluctant to try this biography of Franklin Pierce; but, reading it was a pleasant surprise. I found Nichols' work to be well organized and very readable. He did a nice job of weaving together Pierce's private life, his politics, and the times. Pierce was often stymied by misfortune and occasionally by tragedy and was simply is not equipped to be a great leader. Pierce was a charming courtroom lawyer, the inevitable 19th century party stalwart, and became deeply religious, but he lacked the vision or skill to do much more than react to problems. Often, he falls prey to others' subterfuge. He became famous for vacillating from one position to another .

The 1850's were a fascinating but difficult time The Whig Party collapsed, No Nothings rose and fell, the Republicans got their start, and sectionalism was often as important as party loyalty. The country's greatest statesmen - Jackson, Polk, Calhoun, Webster, and Clay - had died off. The US was attempting to come to grips with Western expansion and the opportunity to be a world power, but every foreign policy Pierce tried stalled or failed. He constantly misjudged the North's evolving opinions against slavery. During much of Pierce's administration the Executive and Legislative branches vied for supremacy. But neither branch had the leadership or vision to be effective, and perhaps no leader or party could have found a way to avoid the Civil War. Nichols' biography captures all of this and I strongly recommend it.
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