Pierce At Any Cost
A meditation on failure.
What do you have to do to
become one of the worst presidents ever? How do you
manage to be largely forgotten, but when you are
remembered, it is as the "fifth of six below-average
presidents"? That's how a 1962 poll of historians
ranked Franklin Pierce. It placed him "above
Buchanan, and below Coolidge."
Pierce still watches over the partiers in his parlor. (mouseover the image)
That Pierce's hot-button
issues are irrelevant to us today makes me wonder what
history will make of our most recent sheaf of presidents.
Will the chief executives of the last quarter of the 20th
century be remembered as hazily as those who served
during the two decades before the Civil Waror the
last quarter of the 19th century? The fact that Millard
Fillmore is considered the most obscure president just
shows how little people know about Franklin Pierce.
The manse, in Concord, New Hampshire,
is a comfortable, although not impressive, wood house with Greek Revival
aspirations.The Pierce family lived there for six years
during the 1840s. In those heady days Pierce either was a
highly successful lawyer, a dashing Army officer, or an
up-and-coming politician who became the youngest in
practically whatever office he held. Including, at 48,
|"The last round was too weak, so we fixed it this time," Pierce says, elbowing me conspiratorially.||
"If each family threw a party, I'm sure I'd enjoy myself more at the Pierces'," Chips said. I imagined myself over at the Appletons', holding my half-cup of watery punch, staring at my feet and listening to the shuffle of the other guests, the only
other sound an
occasional cough. O, to be back in the Pierces'
parlorthe singing round the piano, the good cheer
and jolly talk, the jovial Franklin Pierce himself
refilling my glass until it overflows. "The last
round was too weak, so we fixed it this time," he
says, elbowing me conspiratorially.