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Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt
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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 administration failed mainly because Pierce put the good of his political party ahead of that of the nation--and as a consequence has the plodding earnestness of a graduate thesis, rather than the confident sweep of the work of an eminent historian at the end of a distinguished career. Still, I'd recommend it as an introduction to the sectional crisis of the 1850s for a reader who prefers history filtered through biography. ( )
  middlemarchhare | Nov 25, 2015 |
As with other books in this series it is short and well written. Despite such small format it gives all the necessary details of both Franklin Pierce' personality and political life. Well intentioned but misguided policy directly contributing to the start of Civil war is his unfortunate legacy. ( )
  everfresh1 | Sep 28, 2014 |
Unlike Larry Gara's book "The Presidency of Franklin Pierce", this entry in The American Presidents Series is actually about Pierce, and it does a very good job of giving the reader some insight into Pierce's personal and political lives and failures. Pierce is often touted as one of the worst of our leaders and a leading candidate for "The President Who Did the Most to Bring On the Civil War". If you're reading through the presidents, give this one a try - short, well-written, enough detail to get on to #15 (Buchanan) and then to the main course: Lincoln and his era. ( )
  auntmarge64 | Oct 13, 2011 |
This is a very helpful book, especially if you're new to pre-Civil War era history. It not only introduces you to an American president, albeit one not favored by historians, but it also explains the laws and political groups that were important in that time period.

The book talks about the Wilmot Proviso, the Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act, all laws essential to understanding how the Civil War got started. It also talks about the Whigs, the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Know-Nothings, and how these parties got started or what they were going through at the time.

The author claims not to be too sympathetic to Pierce, but I found myself being somewhat sympathetic anyway. A good first book on the ante-bellum period of American history. ( )
  geoffreymeadows | Jul 31, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805087192, Hardcover)

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.

Michael F. Holt, a leading historian of nineteenth-century partisan politics, argues that in the wake of the Whig collapse, Pierce was consumed by an obsessive drive to unify his splintering party rather than the roiling country. He soon began to overreach. Word leaked that Pierce wanted Spain to sell the slave-owning island of Cuba to the United States, rousing sectional divisions. Then he supported repeal of the Missouri Compromise, which limited the expansion of slavery in the west. Violence broke out, and "Bleeding Kansas" spurred the formation of the Republican Party. By the end of his term, Pierce's beloved party had ruptured, and he lost the nomination to James Buchanan.

In this incisive account, Holt shows how a flawed leader, so dedicated to his party and ill-suited for the presidency, hastened the approach of the Civil War.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:45 -0400)

Creates a solid portrait of both man and President. Pierce, a New Englander known for his charm and good looks, traditionally ranks as one of our nation's worst leaders. Holt does not dispel or challenge any previous assessments but rather tries to explain the pre-Civil War President's actions. Holt's thesis is that Pierce's obsession with the Democratic Party and priority of party over country in the tumultuous 1850s in fact damaged his party and pushed the country more quickly toward war.… (more)

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