My Turn: Franklin Pierce Day? No way!
A Franklin Pierce statue in the Franklin Pierce Homestead in Hillsboro.
Democratic state Reps. Linda Lauer of Haverhill and Dick Patten of Concord want to recognize Nov. 23 of every year as President Franklin Pierce Day. Pierce, born in Hillsboro, was elected president in 1852 and is the only president from New Hampshire. He first gained fame as a handsome and dashing officer during the U.S. war with Mexico. He retired as a brigadier general. Otherwise, there’s nothing about Pierce’s legacy that New Hampshire ought to feel proud about. Pierce’s presidency was a disaster.
Pierce was a Democrat and Southern sympathizer. He supported forcibly annexing Cuba to the union as a slave state. His hallmark act was to sign into law the 1854 Nebraska-Kansas Act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and allowed slavery into the nation’s western territories. For this, Pierce was widely and justifiably denounced throughout the northern states. He was especially excoriated by New Hampshire’s abolitionists. For instance, in 1845, U.S. Sen. John Hale of New Hampshire had established himself as the first anti-slavery senator, and Pierce became Hale’s sworn enemy.
Pierce’s signing of the Nebraska-Kansas Act precipitated bloody civil war in Kansas and it set the entire nation on the path to civil war. New Hampshire’s returning Union soldiers, when considering their dead and wounded, expressed hatred for Pierce and for his Southern proclivities. New Hampshire regiments had, after all, suffered the highest number of casualties among those who fought and served, and the many Civil War regimental flags displayed in our State House Hall of Flags remind us of this.
Pierce’s presidency was and remains a New Hampshire embarrassment. Lauer’s and Patten’s desire to elevate Pierce’s legacy by establishing a state holiday in his memory is inexplicable.
The last line of the bill says that schools should “commemorate the day with appropriate educational activities.” Why would anyone, and especially a New Hampshire Democrat, want every classroom to elevate Pierce’s Southern Democrat, pro-slavery sentiments to the same status as New Hampshire’s revered anti-slavery, pro-liberty legacy? Hale, once a Democrat, abandoned his party because of its pro-slavery sentiments. Lauer’s and Patten’s Democratic colleagues ought to kill HB 576 for the same reason.
(Paul Mirski of Enfield is a former Republican state representative.)