Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Franklin Pierce: 'Bleeding Kansas'

Okay, so Franklin Pierce installed heating in the White House and reduced the national debt.  Other than that, his inability to allay tensions between the north and the south regarding slavery make him one of the worse presidents ever.

Pierce gained notoriety as an officer in the Mexican war, and for his ability to gain support for Lewis Cass during the 1848 presidential election.

Still, when you consider potential democratic presidential nominees for 1952 were Cass, Stephen A. Douglass, and James Buchanan, Pierce was a clear underdog candidate; a clear dark horse.  Yet those leading three candidates managed to take enough votes from each other for Pierce to escape with the nomination.

He ran under the platform of ardent support for the Compromise of 1850.  This worked, because, at the time of the 1852 election, there was general calm regarding the differences between the north and the south, and the Compromise was cited as the reason.  He was also a strong supporter of slavery, and would not sign any bill that would work to the detriment of slave states.

Pierce, a democrat, narrowly defeated Whig General Winfield Scott. During his inauguration he declared an era of peace and calm.  Of course, at the present time, it was peaceful and calm in the U.S. Helping matters was that the economy was flourishing. This was significant considering the tensions that escalated prior to the signing of the Compromise of 1850.

However, early on in his presidency he hinted at the idea of expanding the borders of the United States, thereby hinting at the idea of adding slave states.  This agitated northern voters.  Adding to the tension was his support for the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  This Act was written by Stephen A. Douglas to reverse the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  The Act allowed white males in those territories to determine by popular sovereignty whether their territory would be a free or a slave state.

Douglas thought the Act would be well received because it created land for the expansion of the Transcontinental Railroad and allowed people living in the territories to decide on their own whether their state would be a free or slave state.

However, this Act completely backfired.  Instead of garnering peace, it created angst, particularly among northern free states who felt betrayed.  You see, the Missouri Compromise made Kansas a free territory, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act reversed this.

To make matters worse, in an attempt to influence how the people of Kansas would vote, both free and slave states send potential voters to that territory.  This ultimately gave rise to shootings and bloodshed, or what became known as "Bleeding Kansas" -- a prelude to the Civil War.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was therefore considered a betrayal to the north.  Northern supporters of freeing the slaves were infuriated by Pierce.  This inspired many of them to organize and form the republican party, which had a platform to stop the spread of slavery.  It quickly became the dominant party in the north.

While his term began in a state of peace, it ended with tensions growing. While he championed for peace as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, his fellow democrats refused to renominate him. They turned instead to James Buchanan.

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