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In A Brown Study, 20 C

November 7, 2016

“The evil men do lives after them; the good is oft’ interred with their bones.”

Pierce opposed the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, not understanding why people wanted “to butcher their race to inflict freedom on 40 million blacks.” He had hoped that the South could act peacefully, and he wrote, “The southern states must not act precipitately, but give their Northern friends an opportunity to right the South’s wrongs peacefully.”His letter was published, but made no difference. The war was on, but war generally does not solve our problems.

Pierce wrote a letter to President Lincoln upon the death of Lincoln’s son Willie. “The impulse to write you, the moment I heard of your great domestic affliction was very strong, but it brought back the crushing sorrow which befell me just before i went to Washington in 1853, with such power that I feel your grief to be too sacred for instruction.” The letter is considered one of the most moving letters ever written from one president to another.

After Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, an angry mob appeared at Pierce’s house, accusing him of being a traitor. Pierce was never again referred to as a great statesman.

Pierce’s friend Nathaniel Hawthorne came to visit Pierce after his wife died to comfort him and accompany him to the gravesite. Hawthorne had been ill most of the year, but he was determined to be with his grieving friend that cold day in December. The wind was penetrating, and Pierce leaned over to wrap Hawthorne’s collar more securely around his neck. In May, 1864 Hawthorne died.

Pierce began to drink too much which took a further toll on his health. Many people had turned against him because of his position on slavery, but others revered him for the many kindnesses he had bestowed . Some believed his personal tragedy had made him incapable of understanding the ills of the nation.

Pierce liked to remind young people that not all of life’s lessons are taught in the classroom. Many lessons are learned by interacting with others and serving them.

Franklin Pierce was devoted to the flag, to the Constitution, and to the Union, but his last years were lonely ones. He had been guided by principle and not personal gain. He brought to the presidency a dignity and concern for the basic rights of the people despite personal tragedy and national confusion.

In Concord, at the age of 64, Pierce died. President Grant ordered a period of national mourning. His body was taken to the state capitol where townspeople paid their respect. Pierce was buried in Concord’s Old North Cemetery.







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