Peter Wallner
Peter Wallner
Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son
ISBN: 0975521616
Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son
—from the publisher's website

The most recent biography of Franklin Pierce was published nearly seventy-five years ago. Yet the nation’s least known president is also one of the most charming, charismatic, and interesting men to ever hold the nation’s highest office. Described by his best friend Nathaniel Hawthrone as “deep, deep, deep,” with “most of the chief elements of a great ruler,” Pierce is also the greatest trial lawyer in New Hampshire history. A master politician at the state level, Pierce ruled over the most consistently successful state Democratic Party in the Northeast, before he and his supporters devised the executed the plan to capture the national party’s presidential nomination in 1852.

The first of two volumes on the life of Franklin Pierce, Wallner’s thoroughly researched, engagingly written account of Pierce’s rise to national prominence will surprise readers with accounts of the many triumphs and tragedies of Pierce’s life leading up to his presidency.

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TRANSCRIPT
Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire's Favorite Son
Program Air Date: November 28, 2004

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Peter A. Wallner, author of "Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire`s Favorite Son," why do we need a two-volume series on this president?

PETER WALLNER, FRANKLIN PIERCE, NEW HAMPSHIRE`S FAVORITE SON: Franklin Pierce is probably the least known and least studied president, and this is his bicentennial, so I thought it was a good time to do a reassessment of his life and career. And the reason for two volumes is that his first -- he had a 25-year career in public life before he ever became president, and I felt that it was worth studying that and publishing that separately, as a way of establishing who he was and what he stood for, before we get into his very controversial presidency.
LAMB: As you know, on a lot of charts, he comes up at the bottom of the 42 men that have been president of the United States. Is that fair?
WALLNER: I think it`s not entirely fair, but I certainly understand why he`s there. The Kansas-Nebraska bill, the resulting violence in Kansas, was seen as the turning point. From there on, it was a downward slide right to the Civil War, and Pierce is often blamed for the Kansas-Nebraska Act and for the coming of the Civil War as a result. So that`s the reason why he`s ranked so low. But there are other factors in his presidency that I think should be -- should give him a slightly higher rating, mainly, the fact that it was a very honest administration. One historian called the period of time that Pierce lived "the plundering generation." All the presidencies from Taylor up through Grant were known for their corruption. Pierce`s administration is a beacon of honesty and integrity. There were no scandals in his administration. And there were also some other achievements that he had.
LAMB: One term. What were the years?
WALLNER: He was president from 1853 to 1857.
LAMB: And why only one term?
WALLNER: He was not renominated. He`s the only sitting president to be denied nomination by his party for a second term, who wanted it
LAMB: And where did he grow up?
WALLNER: He grew up in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, about 20 miles west of the state capital, Concord, in what was known as the hill country of southwest New Hampshire, and he lived 30 years in Hillsborough and the rest of his life in Concord.
LAMB: How old was he when he became a United States senator?
WALLNER: He was 31 when he became senator... (CROSSTALK)
WALLNER: ... the youngest.
LAMB: How about when he became president?
WALLNER: He was 47 when was elected, 48 when he was inaugurated, the youngest president up to that time.
LAMB: There`s a story that is told in almost any book about the president that you have more in that I`ve seen anywhere else, and it`s a story of his son, who was killed -- when and under what circumstances?
WALLNER: Benny (ph) Pierce was killed January 6, 1853, after Pierce had been elected president and before he was inaugurated. He was killed in a train wreck in Andover, Massachusetts. Franklin Pierce, his wife and son were on the way back to Concord after visiting relatives over the holidays and after attending the funeral of Jane Pierce`s uncle, Amos Lawrence, of the famous Lawrence, Massachusetts, manufacturing company. And just outside of Andover, the train in which they were riding, the car in which they were riding, the rear axle broke. The car started bouncing violently along the tracks. Pierce grabbed his wife. He was sitting in the front bench of the car with his -- with Jane. He grabbed Jane. He tried to reach behind him for Benny. He missed Benny. The car tumbled down the embankment, and Benny`s head was crushed and he was killed instantly. He was 11-and-a-half at the time.
LAMB: Here`s a -- you`ve got a picture in your book of Jane and son, Benny. Do you know how old he was in this picture?
WALLNER: I don`t know for sure. I think he was maybe 8 or -- 7 or 8 at that time. So it was a few years before he was killed.
LAMB: Again, this was in January of 1852
WALLNER: In 1853.
LAMB: I`m sorry, `53.
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: And in those days, it was March 4.
WALLNER: March 4 was inauguration day. Actually, it was March 2, I think, in Pierce`s case. And so the family was heading back to Concord to begin to prepare to head for Washington, D.C. Franklin Pierce had planned to travel with Benny because, as the new president, he would be feted in different cities along the way, as many presidents were at that time. They took a long trip down to Washington, stopping in all the major cities. So he had planned to do that with Benny. He thought it would be fun to share that experience with Benny. And of course, those plans were all changed, and he entered the presidency in a state of mourning.
LAMB: Go back to -- because you write a lot about Jane`s illness -- how old was she at that time, do you remember?
WALLNER: How old was she?
LAMB: Yes.
WALLNER: She would have been -- she would have been about 45, I think.
LAMB: So here`s this woman on this train with her husband -- and by the way, did they have Secret Service around them at the time?
WALLNER: No, there was no -- no security at all.
LAMB: How many cars were there in the train?
WALLNER: I believe this was the only car, the only passenger car on the train, just a small train on the way to -- from Massachusetts -- from Boston to New Hampshire.
LAMB: And how far is Andover from Concord, New Hampshire?
WALLNER: Oh, it would only be about 45 miles, maybe 50 miles.
LAMB: When you researched this, what did you find in the press on that day?
WALLNER: Well, it was covered greatly throughout the nation. There was a tremendous amount of sympathy for Franklin Pierce. Many of his friends read about it, of course, in the newspapers, and they were all very shocked. It received a lot of press.
LAMB: How big victory had he had in the election?
WALLNER: It was quite a landslide, at least in the Electoral College it was. It was the large Electoral College victory since 1820. He only lost four states out of the 31 states in the union. On the popular vote, it was closer, but he still had 50 percent and about a 250,000-vote lead over his Whig opponent.
LAMB: And I think you said there was, like, 3.1 million votes cast?
WALLNER: Yes. That`s right.
LAMB: Back in 18...
WALLNER: It was 3.1 -- it was about 70 percent of the electorate voted in those days, and even then, it was one of the lower turnouts of the 19th century.
LAMB: But who could vote then?
WALLNER: Only white adult males.
LAMB: Go back to this accident for a moment. This was what child that those two had lost?
WALLNER: Well, it was their youngest of three sons and the last surviving child. Their first child died few days after he was born in 1836, I believe. And their second son, Frankie, died in 1843 of typhus at age 4-and-a-half. So this was their last surviving child.
LAMB: What did it do to Jane?
WALLNER: Well, it`s hard to know because Jane was always a semi-invalid and seemed to be a depressed person, but this certainly complicated her life greatly.
LAMB: What happened to her when she went into the White House?
WALLNER: She spent about two years in mourning, which was quite long, even for those days. During that time, she didn`t attend any public events. She did attend some dinners in the White House. She wasn`t totally absent from the scene. She did leave the White House at times. But she didn`t appear in any public events until January of 1855, when she attended her husband`s New Year`s levy (ph), which was a tradition at the time that the White House had an open house on New Year`s Day. And that was the first time that Jane appeared in public after the death.
LAMB: You say that she wrote a letter to her dead son?
WALLNER: Yes. She wrote a lengthy letter...
LAMB: And is that available? Could you read it?
WALLNER: Oh, yes. That`s available. It`s on the New Hampshire Historical Society`s Web site, in fact, if someone wants to check it out. It basically -- it was written a few weeks after Benny died. She was lamenting the fact that she hadn`t been a more effusive, I guess you`d say, or affectionate parent, blaming herself for the fact that she had been too critical of Benny. She supposedly wrote other letters to her dead son in the White House, but I haven`t found any others. This is the one that survives.
LAMB: What was the impact on Franklin Pierce?
WALLNER: Well, he was certainly devastated by it. And it came at a very crucial time politically. What I say in the book was not only was this a devastating personal loss, but it also came at a key time because he was in the process of choosing his cabinet, and he was getting some flak from many leading politicians about some of his choices, or at least the people they thought he was going to choose. And as a result, this took him out of action for about two or three weeks and allowed the opposition to some of his cabinet choices to solidify and to gel, so that by the time he got back to the position of actually making selections, he was under a lot of pressure from different groups and wasn`t able to choose the cabinet that he wanted.
LAMB: Go back to the accident again. One car, one passenger car.
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: How did the axle break?
WALLNER: Nobody knows. There were no investigations at that time. Benny was the only person killed in the wreck, although there were several other serious injuries. But amazingly, Jane and Franklin Pierce walked away. They were shaken up. Franklin Pierce was quite bruised, but Jane, who was always so sickly, was not even injured.
LAMB: And so what happened to the actual railroad car?
WALLNER: It tumbled down the embankment, onto a rocky embankment, about 15, 20 feet, rolled over, landed on its roof on a rocky ground. And nobody knows even exactly what killed Benny. All they know is something hit his head, and Franklin Pierce, when he shook himself -- the cobwebs out after the accident, he looked around for Benny and found him lying on the ground, and he thought he looked fine. He went over, thought he was stunned or unconscious. He went over and picked him up and found that the back of his head had been crushed, and he had been killed instantly.
LAMB: So that was on January what again?
WALLNER: January 6, 1853.
LAMB: And what did he do between January 6 and March 2?
WALLNER: Well, for the next two weeks, he basically was going through the ceremony of the funeral. His wife didn`t even attend the funeral. It took place in Andover, where the accident occurred and where they had relatives. Then Franklin Pierce accompanied the body back to Concord by himself -- Jane didn`t even return to Concord -- where there was a burial ceremony at the Old North Cemetery, where Franklin Pierce is buried now. And then he stayed in Concord for a while and received visitors and also began to deal again with his cabinet. He made frequent trips back and forth to Andover, where Jane remained with relatives. And Jane was in such a bad state mentally as a result of the accident that he spent a lot of his time in Andover trying to comfort her and then running back to Boston or Concord to meet with key political leaders as he began to choose his cabinet.
LAMB: You say that Franklin Pierce won on the 49th ballot.
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: Is that the longest number of ballots there have ever been?
WALLNER: No. No, the 1924 Democratic convention had 103 ballots, I believe it was, or maybe even 106. But that was the longest.
LAMB: How did he win the nomination?
WALLNER: That was, I think, one of things that I found in the book that was -- in my research that was most interesting because it`s always been assumed that he was chosen because the party couldn`t agree on anybody else and they just picked Pierce, who was sort of an amiable nonentity, according to the history books, out of the blue because they could agree on him. But in reality, Pierce had a very small but determined group of politicians that he had mentored in Concord. They were known as the "Concord clique." There were several of them who were -- had government jobs in Washington, D.C. And they had begun to consider him a presidential candidate a year in advance of the convention, and they worked -- they devised a strategy where he would be -- he was a candidate. He knew he was a candidate, but they kept it a secret. At a time when the leading candidates were knocking each other off by criticizing each other, he sort of stayed below the -- under the radar screen. And at the convention, they waited for the right moment and they got Virginia to nominate him, more as test, to see how it would fly with the other delegates. But it was well planned, well crafted in advance, and it worked exactly as they planned.
LAMB: You say he was called a "dough face."
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: What`s that mean?
WALLNER: A "doughface" is a term that refers to Northerners who had Southern sympathies, Northern politicians with Southern sympathies. In other words, the belief that he was -- leaned towards the South in his policies, was more pro-slavery. The term -- I believe it came from John Randolph, a senator from Virginia, and it was first used to refer to Northerners who voted for the Missouri Compromise back in 1820. And Randolph referred to them as "doughfaces," meaning that they were easily manipulated.
LAMB: How did he become a Southern sympathizer?
WALLNER: I don`t think he was. I think he had a strong set of political principles which tended to be the same as those in the South. He believed in the strict construction of the Constitution. He believed in limited power to the federal government. He believed in states` rights. And these were -- this was his political philosophy. It was also the political philosophy of the Jacksonian Democratic Party, of which he was a member. So when people say that Franklin Pierce was pro-Southern or pro-slavery, that`s not actually true. He was simply a strict constructionist and a Jacksonian Democrat, and that`s their -- that was their stand at the time.
LAMB: Who were some of the people that were in politics at the time, in and around him, that our audience would recognize?
WALLNER: Well, Daniel Webster was a friend of Franklin Pierce`s. Even though he was a different political party, he was also a native of New Hampshire and served mostly from the Senate in Massachusetts. Franklin Pierce was a great admirer of Daniel Webster, and they were quite good friends.
LAMB: Let me stop you there just a second. Didn`t he run for the nomination of the Whig Party at the same time...
WALLNER: Yes, he did, and he failed to get it and died shortly after. But even between the time that he failed to get the nomination for the Whig Party and he died in October, just before the election, he stated to everybody who came to call that he was going to support Franklin Pierce, even though Pierce was a Democrat, because he admired Pierce and preferred Pierce to the Whig candidate, Winfield Scott.
LAMB: That`d be similar to John McCain endorsing John Kerry.
WALLNER: Right. Exactly.
LAMB: Yes. Who else was around Franklin Pierce?
WALLNER: Stephen A. Douglas was a major figure in the Democratic Party, senator from Illinois. In Franklin Pierce`s cabinet was Jefferson Davis, and Jefferson Davis and Franklin Pierce were very good friends, which would cause Franklin Pierce enormous difficulty when the Civil War began. He was good friends with Nathaniel Hawthorne, the novelist. They went to college together, and they were probably best friends. He also knew, of course, Henry Clay and people of that type.
LAMB: This is just small story you have in your book about Jefferson Davis falling into the creek.
WALLNER: Yes
LAMB: When was that?
WALLNER: In 1838. That`s when Pierce first met Jefferson Davis. Pierce was a young senator. Jefferson Davis had come to Washington to spend a few months to lobby for a commission in the Army. He had left the Army. He was a West Point graduate, had left the Army a few years earlier because saw no future in it for himself. But then the Congress passed a bill to create some new regiments, and they thought that maybe he could return to the Army as commander of one of these regiments. So he came to Washington and met Pierce. They became good friends then. Pierce in fact, took him to meet President Van Buren. And one night, Jefferson Davis was at a party of some kind and had a little too much to drink, and he was heading back to his hotel or boarding house with Senator Allen (ph) from Ohio, and the two men fell into Tiber (ph) Creek. And Jefferson Davis was unconscious for three days.
LAMB: What kind of a cabinet officer was he?
WALLNER: He was very good. He was one of the best secretaries of war in our history.
LAMB: Why?
WALLNER: He helped -- he modernized the Army. He increased the size of the Army, added new regiments. He modernized it by switching from muskets to rifles. They started to purchase only rifles and to make only rifles, rather than muskets. He had the Pacific Railway surveys done, five different routes, which all later became transcontinental railroad lines. He was responsible for building the wings on the Capitol and for the Washington Monument because it was all done by the Army Corps of Engineers under the secretary of war. And he supervised that work.
LAMB: What was the country like then? What were people concerned about in 1852?
WALLNER: In 1852, we always think of think of slavery as the big concern, and it was a major concern. At the time Pierce was elected, it had somehow -- it was somewhat muted because of the Compromise of 1850. But the putative slave law was causing a lot of anguish in the North, as Northern federal marshals and Northern officials were expected to return runaway slaves. Other issues, though, that were emerging -- one was the anti-immigrant -- there was a lot of immigration coming in. Over half a million immigrants were coming into the United States every year. There were many who believed that that was a danger to the nation and that that should be slowed down. There was a strong anti-Catholic sentiment at the time, which later would blow up into what was known as the Know Nothing Party. There was a concern about a transcontinental railroad. California was a new state. There was a definite need for a transcontinental railroad. The problem, of course, was, Where do you build it? The South wanted it to go through Texas. The North wanted it to go, you know, farther north. So those were some of the issues. And foreign policy -- we still had a lot of problems with Great Britain over central America. There was a desire to take Cuba, which becomes one of the big issues in the Pierce administration. Spain had control of Cuba, as it did until the late 19th century, and the South saw Cuba as a natural growth of its territory.
LAMB: So how many states were there in the union?
WALLNER: Thirty-one.
LAMB: How big was our population?
WALLNER: It was about less than 30 million, probably 25 to 30 million.
LAMB: And you say Franklin Pierce went into the Senate in what year?
WALLNER: In 1838 he was elected... (CROSSTALK)
LAMB: Didn`t stay a full term?
WALLNER: No, he lasted about five years, and then he left in 1842. And the reason he said he was leaving was because his wife didn`t like politics and he had, at that point, two young children at home in Concord, and he wanted to concentrate on his family. However, I contend that he left really because the Democrat Party in New Hampshire was divided, and he came back to New Hampshire it lead it and to take over leadership of the party. And he did an effective job of that in the next 10 years. He was basically the boss of the Democratic Party in New Hampshire.
LAMB: And how had he gotten to the Senate in the first place? Who put him in there?
WALLNER: Well, he was a congressman for two years, or for two terms in the House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. Congress when he was only 27 years old. He served two terms in Congress, and then the state legislature chose him for a term in the Senate.
LAMB: You`ve got a picture of him in here inside. Where`s that from? How old was he there?
WALLNER: Well, that actually -- that picture was actually taken in 1852 for the presidential campaign. Somebody asked him to dress up in his old brigadier general`s uniform to take a campaign shot. So -- but he`s wearing his brigadier general`s uniform from the Mexican war. Pierce served as volunteer, political general in the Mexican war, sort of as Teddy Roosevelt will do in the Spanish-American War.
LAMB: Stop you for a second there because in the campaign, a couple things that people were using against him sounded an awful lot like this election we just finished.
WALLNER: Very much.
LAMB: One of them was his military record, and the other was his drinking.
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: Go with the military record first. What were they doing -- what were they campaigning against him with?
WALLNER: They were claiming that his military record was -- had been exaggerated, that he had not been a successful general, that he had actually been a coward. Pierce had been injured in the very first major battle that his brigade engaged in. His horse had thrown him and then landed on top of him, and he was knocked out of that particular battle.
LAMB: Where was this?
WALLNER: This was at Battle Contreras (ph), on the outskirts of Mexico City. He was -- had a brigade under General Winfield Scott, his later opponent in the election of 1852, on the campaign to take Mexico City. And Pierce`s brigade was ordered to charge an entrenched Mexican force that was on top of a hill, and the artillery barrage apparently startled his horse, and his horse threw him and landed on him, and he was injured an knocked out of that particular battle.
LAMB: How did we get into the Mexican war in the first place?
WALLNER: It resulted from the annexation of Texas. Texas had, as we know, broken away from Mexico, the Alamo and all of those famous battles. And then Texas had been an independent nation for a number of years, wanting to join the United States, but the United States was reluctant because again of the slavery issue. Texas had slavery. Eventually, James K. Polk and Tyler had Texas annexed, but then the question was, What was the boundary of Texas? The United States claimed the boundary was at the Rio Grande. The Mexicans claimed the boundary was further North at the Nueces River. And eventually, war broke out over the southern boundary of Texas.
LAMB: And so what were the circumstances of Franklin Pierce getting into the military?
WALLNER: As soon as the war declared, he went down to the local office in Concord and volunteered as a private. At the time, there were no regiments being organized in New England, and by the time, about six months later, when the Congress finally got around to creating some new regiments, Pierce was immediately promoted to colonel and was told to raise a regiment in New England. Then within a few weeks, they made him brigadier general and told him to organize a brigade, a whole brigade of three regiments, and take them to Mexico and join Winfield Scott on the march to Mexico City.
LAMB: What year?
WALLNER: This would have been 1847.
LAMB: If I remember correctly, wasn`t Abraham Lincoln a member of Congress then?
WALLNER: He was. And he was opposed to the Mexican war, as many of the Whigs were.
LAMB: OK. Trying to relate it to today, Abraham Lincoln opposed to the Mexican war.
WALLNER: Right. Again, because they saw it as an extension of slave territory. There was a sense on the part of many people in the country that the reason to go to war with Mexico was to take not just the boundary of Texas but also to take all of Mexico, or at least a lot of Mexican territory, that would be Southern territory and might, in fact, support slavery.
LAMB: His boss in the Mexican war, Winfield Scott, was what kind of a general?
WALLNER: He was a brilliant general, one of the best generals in our entire history. But he was also a very difficult person to deal with. He was...
LAMB: What was his nickname?
WALLNER: Winfield -- oh, "Old Fuss and Feathers," which I think demonstrates his personality. Every picture you see of him, he`s wearing every ribbon and braid you could possibly wear, and he had literally created his own uniforms. And he was also quite a prickly character, someone who tended to argue and fight with all of his leading officers. But his strategy was terrific. And he was a real professional soldier who wanted to professionalize the American military. He made a tremendous contribution to the professionalism of the American Army.
LAMB: So in 1847, both of these men were at war in Mexico, and in 1852, they ran against each other.
WALLNER: That`s right.
LAMB: Did they know each other?
WALLNER: Yes. Well, Pierce was one of the generals under Winfield Scott. On the day when Winfield Scott decided that he was going to invade Mexico City, Pierce was there in the room with him as they devised the strategy. And what`s to Pierce`s credit is that there`s a lot of politics in this war. Both Winfield Scott and Zachary Taylor, the two leading generals for the United States, were Whigs. And the president, James K. Polk, was a Democrat, and he was afraid the Whig generals were going to get all the credit and, of course, one of them or both of them might end up becoming president. So he tried to appoint a lot of other Democrats to the other general positions, hoping that they may get some of the glory. And throughout the Mexico City campaign, there was a lot of tension between Scott and these generals beneath him, including Gideon Pillow (ph), who was the commander of the 3rd Brigade, or the 3rd Army under Scott. And Gideon Pillow was James K. Polk`s law partner in Nashville and was a totally inexperienced political general. And the two of them -- Pillow was constantly sending reports to the press in the United States, giving all of the credit to himself and the other Democratic generals. Scott was furious when he found that Pillow was going over his head and communicating with the press, and he at one point tried to have Pillow sacked. At that point, the war was already over. The fighting had ended. And instead of sacking Pillow, Polk recalled Scott and brought him back from Mexico.
LAMB: How long was the war?
WALLNER: It only lasted about a year.
LAMB: How many Americans were involved?
WALLNER: Well, in Pierce`s -- Scott`s army in Mexico had about 11,000 men, and then, of course, there was Taylor`s army in northern Mexico, I`d say of about a similar size.
LAMB: Who won?
WALLNER: Well, the Americans won, of course, and in the battle -- or the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (ph), we took California, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, all of the territory in the Southwest.
LAMB: Was the criticism of Franklin Pierce in the campaign of 1852 about his military performance -- - was it warranted?
WALLNER: No. I don`t think it was.
LAMB: And what would they say about him?
WALLNER: They were saying that he was a coward. In fact, they said the exact same thing that Bob Dole said recently about John Kerry, that how could you miss a battle when you didn`t shed a drop of blood. He criticized Kerry for taking Purple Hearts when he had actually apparently not shed any blood. Pierce had a similar case. He was knocked out and had a very severe knee injury which made it impossible for him to walk for a couple of days. And the same criticism was made of him, that how could you claim to be a courageous officer when you were out of battle without shedding a drop of blood.
LAMB: Now, had Franklin Pierce tried to use his military in the campaign?
WALLNER: Not really. I think -- well, you saw that picture which we showed, and that was an example of -- the thing about the campaigns at that time was that the president -- the candidate didn`t campaign at all. It was his surrogates who did, the leaders of the Democratic Party. And what`s interesting about the Pierce and Scott campaign is that almost all of the Mexican war officers preferred Pierce to Scott. They campaigned for Pierce and not for Scott.
LAMB: The second criticism in the campaign that is very familiar due to the last couple of years was that he was a drunk.
WALLNER: Yes, he did have a drinking problem, but I don`t believe that he was -- that it was a serious impairment to him at that time in his life. He had -- there were several instances in his life where drinking was a factor. One time in Congress, he had been involved in an incident at a theater in which he was clearly drunk and with several other congressmen, and that was used against him later on. I think he -- but he joined the temperance movement for a number of years. He was actually president of the New Hampshire state Temperance Society for a while. He did tried to -- he did battle with an alcohol problem I think throughout his life. But I contend that it was only at the very end of his life that it was totally out of control.
LAMB: You actually said that in 1841, he quit.
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: Did he ever come back and drink any more after that, did you find?
WALLNER: Yes. Oh, yes, he did. He drank in Mexico, for example. I think Pierce was the kind of person who, if he was surrounded by people who were drinking, he was going to drink. I think his wife had an influence on him not to drink when she was around, but I think he was just too outgoing and convivial a man to avoid drinking when drinking was what people did at that time.
LAMB: This sounds so familiar with what we`ve been listening to for the last couple years. Are you surprised at how much of this has gone on before?
WALLNER: Not really. I think when you`re a historian, you see parallels and similar things happening throughout our history.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
WALLNER: Originally New Jersey, went to school at Pennsylvania, have a Ph.D. in history from Penn State. And I spent 30 years as a teacher, mostly junior high and high school history, and as a school administrator, principal, and then decided -- I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to study Pierce a little more. I kept waiting for someone else to do a new biography of him, and no one ever did. So I took off a year to start working on this, and then after the year was over, I just couldn`t give it up. I had to finish the job.
LAMB: We had a historian on our series on presidents about 10 years ago -- I think it was -- was it 10 years ago? Maybe not that long. But he said he was working -- I think his name was Parris (ph) -- was working on...
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: Whatever happened to that?
WALLNER: He`s still apparently working on a biography. He lives in Pittsburgh. I have not had any direct contact with him, but I`ve -- indirectly, I`ve heard that he`s still working on it.
LAMB: All right, go back to your high school for a moment. Where did you teach?
WALLNER: I taught in Ohio first, near Akron, and then out in Milwaukee. For 17 years, I was the principal of the middle school at the University School in Milwaukee, a very fine private school. And then I was headmaster of a school in Pennsylvania for five years.
LAMB: Where do you live now?
WALLNER: I live in Concord. I moved up there to work on the Pierce biography.
LAMB: Where did you get the idea?
WALLNER: I was in graduate school. I studied under a professor, Philip Schreiber Klein (ph), who had written a biography of James Buchanan. And Dr. Klein was a student of Roy Nichols (ph) at the University of Pennsylvania. And Roy Nichols had written the only other biography of Franklin Pierce, which was first published in 1931. And through my interest in Pierce and Buchanan, I hoped to someday get a chance to do some work on it. And that`s what I`m doing now.
LAMB: But as you know, people who follow politics are saying, why would these men want to hang around Franklin Pierce and James Buchanan, who were - again, both of them were at the bottom of the popularity list. What`s motivating you to do this?
WALLNER: Well, I think, the fact is that they were president at a very crucial time in our history. And I think they deserve some additional study. Pierce`s political career spans a very interesting time. He had to deal - he was involved with the rise of the common man in politics, with the westward expansion, with the rise of corporations, banking and railroads in this country, with immigration, with religious intolerance and anti-Catholic sentiment, with the rise of manufacturing. Pierce engaged in all these things. He was involved in all these issues in his 25-year career before he every got to the presidency. So I think when you study someone like Franklin Pierce, whether or not he was a great man, you`re dealing with all the big issues of the time.
LAMB: You say that at his inauguration, he actually had memorized a 30-minute ...
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: ... inaugural speech.
WALLNER: Exactly.
LAMB: How`d he do it?
WALLNER: He just had a brilliant memory. That`s one of the things that is clear in all of the research on him, is he just had an amazing memory. He was known to remember every juror he ever - who was ever on a case that he was trying as a lawyer in New Hampshire. I don`t know how he did it, but he did it. And he made a very good, fine inaugural address. Not only did he have it memorized, but he also projected in a way that most of the 15,000 people who were standing in front of him could actually hear what he was saying, which was unusual, too, at the time, when there was no amplification.
LAMB: No amplification.
WALLNER: No.
LAMB: They had to hear him strictly - what, was it on the east front or the west front of ...
WALLNER: That was the east front in those days. The east front of the Capitol.
LAMB: The gag rule that comes up periodically in your book.
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: Or rule 21, or the 21st rule.
WALLNER: Twenty-third, I think it was.
LAMB: What was it?
WALLNER: It was a rule - Congress was being deluged with petitions from anti-slavery groups, mostly to ban slavery in the District of Columbia. The way petitions were presented in those days in Congress was, there would be a couple of days a week taken out for the reading of petitions. Every congressman who`d received a petition would stand up, read the petition, and then it would be accepted and sent to a committee for further investigation. The Northerners - the anti-slavery groups - had a, really a campaign going to simply bombard the Congress with these petitions. And the Southerners were having to listen to hour after hour of these petitions being presented every day. And it was taking up a lot of time. So, there was a proposal to - by the Southerners - to simply not accept any petitions from the North dealing with slavery. Well, of course, that is against the First Amendment. But a compromise, sort of, was worked out, which became known as the gag rule where petitions would be accepted by the table. They would not be read. They would not be sent to a committee. But they would, in fact, be received. And that was seen as a compromise. But, of course, the Northerners saw that as a restriction on the right of petition. And it became a big issue at the time.
LAMB: What was Franklin Pierce`s role in all of this?
WALLNER: He opposed the Southern extreme position, but he did vote for the gag rule several times while he was in Congress.
LAMB: You mention the Compromise of 1850, and that`s two years before ...
WALLNER: This would have been a number of years before. The gag rule first came up around, I think it was 1835 or 1836, and was passed every year in Congress after that for about nine or 10 years.
LAMB: But I wanted to move to the next, because I wanted to get you to explain what the Compromise of 1850, because they both, as you say, affected what happened in 1853, ...
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: ... as he moved on. What was the compromise?
WALLNER: The - after the Mexican War, there was all kinds of new territory that we had to decide how to organize and to put on the move towards statehood. California, of course, the Gold Rush occurred very soon after the Mexican War. And California suddenly had enough people to become a state. So, California was applying for statehood as a free state. That would have been the 31st state, and it would have - and there were 15 slave and 15 free states at the time. If you took in a 31st state and it was a free state and there were no other Southern states coming in, this would offset the South`s equal balance in the Senate. Every state had two senators. Therefore, the South had a veto, basically, in the Senate, because they had an equal number of senators. So, they insisted, if we`re going to take in California, then let`s try to solve some of the slavery problems that we`re having so that we have some assurance that the fact that we`re going to be outvoted in the Senate is not going to impact our slave system. So they insisted on a stronger fugitive slave law, which the North was opposed to. And there were a whole other series of compromises. The slave trade was finally banned in the District of Columbia, the buying and selling of slaves. Utah and New Mexico territories were organized and set on the road to statehood with the issue of slavery not being mentioned. Apparently, therefore, leaving it up to the settlers of those two states. The Texas debt was resolved. Texas still had a debt owed to foreign countries after - when it was an independent nation. And the State of Texas wanted the federal government to assume that debt. So, there was a whole series of compromises which eventually were passed in 1850, and which many politicians at the time claimed were a final settlement of all the issues existing with regard to slavery. Of course, that wasn`t to be the case.
LAMB: Have you found things - you live in Concord. Do you work full-time for anybody now?
WALLNER: I work for the New Hampshire Historical Society on a part-time basis. And I also teach classes at some of the local colleges.
LAMB: Have you found anything new about Franklin Pierce in your research?
WALLNER: Yes. Quite a bit, I think. First of all, I found out what close friends Franklin Pierce was with John Parker Hale. Now, John Parker Hale is not a nationally known figure. But at the time, he was a very significant - he was considered the first anti-slavery senator, who was chosen and elected to the United States Senate because of his anti-slavery views.
LAMB: Let me stop you, though. You`re saying, he`s the first in the entire country ...
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: ... to run as a anti-slavery senator.
WALLNER: Right. And to win. And that would have been 1845. And he and Pierce ...
LAMB: Well, how big a deal was that back then?
WALLNER: Well, it was a big deal in New Hampshire, certainly, because he had broken away from the Democratic Party. In fact, Pierce threw him out of the Democratic Party. Pierce was the chairman of the state Democratic Party, and Hale had been a Democratic congressman. And Pierce had mentored Hale`s political career since their days at Bowdoin College together. They were very good friends. And Hale, however, voted against the gag rule. And then he voted against the annexation of Texas, because of the fact that it was a slave state. And Pierce at that point felt that he could no longer endorse Hale as a Democratic candidate for Congress. So, the Democratic Party threw Hale out of Congress, and then Hale ran as a third party candidate. Eventually, over time, a coalition of Hale Democrats and Whigs managed to win a temporary majority in the state legislature, and they elected Hale to the U.S. Senate instead. So, he went from being a former - or a state - or a U.S. representative to being the first anti-slavery senator.
LAMB: And after 20 years, their friendship came to a stop. Did it ever ...
WALLNER: No, no.
LAMB: ... get back?
WALLNER: In fact, Hale was very bitter towards Pierce. Pierce seemed to be quite willing to, you know, be friendly with Hale. But Hale was very bitter towards Pierce for the rest of his career.
LAMB: Before I forget, there`s another story you tell, I believe about another Bowdoin class member. And I`m not sure how you pronounce it. Is it "silly"?
WALLNER: Yes. Jonathan Cilley.
LAMB: Who was he?
WALLNER: He was a Bowdoin graduate, a good friend of Pierce and Hawthorne. There`s their little group that they had at Bowdoin College. Cilley became a congressman from Maine in 1836, I believe it was. And he was killed in a duel in Washington - the only time a sitting congressman was killed in a duel between two sitting congressmen. And it was quite an event at the time, obviously. It got tremendous publicity and a tremendous uproar throughout the country against dueling. Eventually, the District of Columbia passed a rule, a law, banning dueling.
LAMB: What was the story behind it?
WALLNER: Well, it was a matter that doesn`t seem very significant today. Cilley had made a speech in the Congress criticizing a story that had appeared in a Whig newspaper in New York, claiming that the editor of the paper was crooked and had been involved in some corrupt dealings previously. The editor of the paper headed to Washington immediately to have it out with Cilley, and instead found a surrogate on the floor of the Congress to - a man named Graves from Kentucky - to actually give a note to Cilley. Cilley refused to accept the note, at which point then Graves took offense. And it all ended up with the two of them fighting a duel.
LAMB: Where did they fight it?
WALLNER: It was in Maryland. I don`t recall the exact location, but it was just outside of the District of Columbia.
LAMB: The first and only congressman ever to die in a duel? Or ...
WALLNER: With another congressman.
LAMB: Where did you find that?
WALLNER: Oh, that was, ...
LAMB: Very well known?
WALLNER: ... you know, quite prominent in Pierce`s research and in Maine and other places.
LAMB: Back to the early years of his life. We have some video, what we did during our series on the presidents, and some of his homes. The first one is the Pierce homestead, ...
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: ... want to show. Where is that?
WALLNER: That`s in Hillsborough, New Hampshire, which is about 20 miles west of Concord. It`s a beautiful home. Pierce`s father, Benjamin Pierce, was a Revolutionary War officer, who settled on cheap land in southwest New Hampshire and eventually built up a very successful life for himself as a farmer, a tavern keeper. It was a tavern on the stagecoach lines. He was a businessman and a politician. And Benjamin Pierce became governor of New Hampshire.
LAMB: How many children did Franklin Pierce`s father have?
WALLNER: He had nine children. Pierce was the seventh of nine, the fourth of five boys.
LAMB: And do they keep this house up today?
WALLNER: Yes, yes.
LAMB: Is it a tourist place?
WALLNER: It is. Yes, it`s open the public. They give tours there. It`s a wonderful group of people, the Hillsborough Historical Society. They just celebrated their 50th anniversary.
LAMB: At some point in your book, you say that Franklin Pierce followed his father in respect to the following. Respect for the common man, a reverence for the founding fathers, love of politics, loyalty to the Democratic Party, interest in the military and, quote, his suspicion of government.
WALLNER: Yes.
LAMB: How suspicious was he of government?
WALLNER: Suspicious of big government. Pierce believed, as the Jeffersonians did, that the - that strong federal government could do only one thing, and that was restrict the rights of the common man. They saw big government as restricting freedoms, restricting - or overtaxing. They didn`t see it as promoting the common man, as many people do today.
LAMB: What did his parents do regarding his early education?
WALLNER: He went to several schools. He went to a little schoolhouse in Hillsborough for his early years. Then he went to several boarding schools in nearby towns. And eventually he went off to Bowdoin College. And Bowdoin College was his father`s choice, apparently, because his father knew the president of the college.
LAMB: And the relationship with Nathaniel Hawthorne was how significant?
WALLNER: Very significant. They were really very good friends. They met at Bowdoin. Hawthorne was a somewhat reclusive, awkward person who didn`t deal too well with other people at that time. Pierce was the big man on campus, the popular, outgoing fellow. And he took Hawthorne under his wing. And for the rest of his life, Pierce was a sponsor of Hawthorne`s. Three times in Hawthorne`s life he was given government jobs, largely at the influence of Franklin Pierce, which allowed Hawthorne to make a living and to continue his writing.
LAMB: How significant was the biography that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about his in the campaign?
WALLNER: I don`t know that it was very significant in winning the campaign for Pierce. It`s significant in the sense that Hawthorne took time to write about Franklin Pierce, and it`s a book that`s still worth reading today. I don`t know of any other, very many times in our history when a writer of that renowned has sat down and written a campaign biography.
LAMB: Who published your book?
WALLNER: Plaidswede. It`s a Concord, New Hampshire publisher. P-L-A-I-D-S-W-E-D-E.
LAMB: How many did they print?
WALLNER: Two thousand.
LAMB: How`s it doing?
WALLNER: It`s doing well in-state, because this is the Pierce bicentennial. And hopefully, it`ll start selling around the country.
LAMB: And the price on this?
WALLNER: Twenty-nine ninety-five.
LAMB: And if somebody, you know, hasn`t seen this in a bookstore, and they wonder, how can they get it?
WALLNER: They can get it through the publisher, plaidswede.com, or they can get it from New Hampshire Booksellers dot com. That`s nhbooksellers.com. And they can get it on Amazon.
LAMB: You know, I`ve got to tell you that we had planned for a long time to have you as a guest on this program. But I got a kick out of reading the "L.A. Times" story that they did on you, in which you even mention the fact that you might get on C-SPAN`s BOOKNOTES. It just - I was interested in how - you didn`t try very hard, though. I mean, we didn`t hear from (UNINTELLIGIBLE) ...
WALLNER: No. No, well, I don`t know whether - what the publisher did as far as contacting other stations. I think there was a publicity release about the book, several of them. But the - and that`s how the "Los Angeles Times" reporter heard about it. And he took a - did an interesting take on the book, because it came out the same month that Bill Clinton`s book came out, and I think they printed three million of those. And there was a bookstore in Concord that had my book and Bill Clinton`s book side by side in the entry to the bookstore. And I thought - he used that as a focus in his article.
LAMB: How long did it take you to write this book?
WALLNER: I was working on it for about 2.5 years full-time, with only some part-time work at the historical society.
LAMB: So, what makes it a success for you?
WALLNER: The fact that it`s done and I`m working on volume two. I`ve always wanted to do it. I think I found some new things about Franklin Pierce that were not known before. I think I established Franklin Pierce`s role from place, from New Hampshire. I think the influence of the New Hampshire political climate was significant in understanding Franklin Pierce. So, it is a quite different take on Franklin Pierce than what`s generally out there.
LAMB: Do you think you would have liked him?
WALLNER: I definitely think I would have liked him.
LAMB: Why?
WALLNER: Well, he was charming. He was absolutely charming. I would say he was probably more like Bill Clinton than any other president we`ve had. He was someone who, everybody who met him felt he was just a very charming and outgoing, gracious and kind man.
LAMB: Now, I`ve read somewhere where people think he may have been the most handsome president.
WALLNER: Well, he certainly was at that time. He was known as "Handsome Frank." That was one of his nicknames.
LAMB: Now, where is this - this is the cover of your book. Where is that from?
WALLNER: That`s a portrait by a man named Adna Tenney, a New Hampshire portrait artist. And I felt it was the best portrait I`d seen of Pierce. And it`s on display at the New Hampshire Historical Society.
LAMB: Are there other things on the Web site - the New Hampshire Historical Society Web site - that people might be interested in and that connects to your book?
WALLNER: Well, they have - well, there`s a lot there. They have other documents and things that you can go to dealing with Franklin Pierce and other important people in New Hampshire history. Lots of - they have a whole Web site for student groups dealing with the - they have a new display called the Franklin Pierce, defining democracy in America, which is the largest display of Franklin Pierce artifacts and ephemera. It`s on display now and through next May. It`s part of the celebration of his bicentennial. And there`s a whole Web site of artifacts and things related to that.
LAMB: What`s the Web site address?
WALLNER: NHhistory.org.
LAMB: So, your second volume will come out when?
WALLNER: Hopefully in the next two years.
LAMB: And what are you learning already for the second volume that we don`t know?
WALLNER: I think there`s a lot about Pierce`s presidency that is not usually studied, because of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. That got all the attention. But in reality, there was a lot going on with regard to foreign affairs that I think is quite fascinating. The attempt to buy Cuba from Spain, or to win Cuba from Spain, was a major goal of the Pierce administration. And there are some quite some fascinating people over in Europe who were his diplomats, who were really an interesting group of people, including Daniel Sickles, who later became the Civil War general. He served as the secretary to James Buchanan, who was our minister to London. Pierre Soule, a French immigrant who was sent back to Spain to be our minister to Spain. Just a very interesting cast of characters in foreign affairs at that time under Pierce. He definitely had an aggressive foreign policy. He was - he believed in the expansion of the nation, believed in nationalism. And his goal was to acquire more territory.
LAMB: Did he?
WALLNER: No. No. In fact, the blundering that took place in Cuba is quite interesting on the Cuba deal. It is quite an interesting story.
LAMB: What did he do?
WALLNER: Well, what happened was, Soule and Sand - a man named George Sanders - and Daniel Sickles were so blatant in their support of the republicans and the revolutionaries in Europe, that all of the monarchies, of course, in Europe, were - didn`t even want to deal with them. And yet, here they are trying to purchase Cuba from Spain, while at the same time they`re entertaining Mazzini and Garibaldi, and people like that, in their homes. So, it just was a very interesting set of stories that relate to our foreign policy at that time.
LAMB: And during the time he was president, who else was putting up their hand and saying, I want to be president?
WALLNER: Well, James Buchanan was always interested in the presidency. The problem during Pierce`s administration, the Whig Party basically fell apart. It ceased to exist as a national party, and the Republican Party was formed. But in between the time the Whig Party fell apart and the Republicans organized, there was another national party, the Know-Nothings, which was an anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant party. And many of the anti-slavery people joined that party temporarily, as a way of getting their message across. And Pierce was very opposed to the Know-Nothing Party, and basically said that, if there`s anybody in my administration who has any connection with the Know-Nothings, well, they`re to be fired immediately. He was very strong in his belief in religious tolerance, which I found something I hadn`t realized going into the research.
LAMB: And the Know-Nothing Party was headed by who?
WALLNER: Well, there wasn`t any individual person. There was a variety of people who joined the party temporarily.
LAMB: Who ran on the ticket?
WALLNER: They didn`t run a - well, in 1856, they formed what were known as the American Party. They had transitioned from the Know-Nothing Party to the American Party, and Millard Fillmore ran at that time. So there were three candidates in 1856. Fillmore on the American Party, John C. Fremont on the Republican Party - their first presidential nominee - and Buchanan got the nomination for the Democrats.
LAMB: You say that when Franklin Pierce was putting his own cabinet together after he`d gotten elected, he went to James Buchanan for ideas, ...
WALLNER: Right.
LAMB: ... but didn`t take any of them.
WALLNER: Generally not. No, I think that he and Buchanan were very similar in their political views, in their views of the Constitution, the Jacksonian Democratic views. But I think in their methods, they were somewhat different. Pierce really wanted a coalition cabinet. He was elected by all branches of the Democratic Party. That`s how he won, because all the branches - including the Free-Soilers, those anti-slavery Democrats - all supported Franklin Pierce in 1852. And he believed that, therefore, he had a responsibility to try to keep that coalition together, and to appoint people from various wings of the party into his cabinet. Buchanan had a different view. He believed that you only support - you only appoint your close friends, those totally loyal to you personally, to your cabinet.
LAMB: There`s another house in Concord called, I guess, the Manse.
WALLNER: It`s known as the Manse. It was the house that Pierce and his wife Jane lived in for four or five years in the 1840s. That`s the only house in Concord that they owned. Unlike almost any other president that I can think of, Pierce spent most of his life living in boarding houses. Because his wife was ill and not able to really take care of and manage a house, and because he was away a lot, that seemed to be the best solution for them.
LAMB: And is it open?
WALLNER: Yes, it is open. I think it`s - at this time of year, because of the cost of heating buildings like this, it`s only open by appointment. During the summer months and in better weather, it`s open.
LAMB: How many years did Franklin Pierce live?
WALLNER: He was 65, just before - he just died before his 65th birthday. So he died in 1869.
LAMB: So, he would have been how old when he left the presidency?
WALLNER: He was only 52 years old, and he never worked again. He spent the next, the rest of his life trying to take care of his wife, and she was - she finally died in 1863. But he never held a job after he left the White House.
LAMB: And what was - how would you sum up her experience for the four years in the White House?
WALLNER: She was certainly a very reluctant First Lady. She was not a very gracious or outgoing hostess. However, she, in the last two years of his administration, she did do her share of entertaining and her share of hosting and greeting people. I think she tried hard to be a good First Lady, within the limits of her ability and her health.
LAMB: At what point did Franklin Pierce find out that he wasn`t going to be the nominee in 1856?
WALLNER: Not until the Democratic convention in June, at Cincinnati.
LAMB: Did he think he was?
WALLNER: He thought he had a chance. He had support. He knew Buchanan was a leading candidate. But he had a coalition with Stephen A. Douglas, that he thought would possibly get him the nomination. But Douglas supporters agreed they would support - vote for Pierce in the early ballots, if the Pierce people would switch to Douglas in later ballots if Pierce`s candidacy was not going to succeed. And after the second or third ballot, the Douglas people deserted Pierce and went to Buchanan, and Buchanan got the nomination.
LAMB: And what was the relationship with Buchanan during the time that Franklin Pierce was president? Did he let him know that he was interested in the presidency? Did he run a ...
WALLNER: I don`t think Buchanan ever let Pierce know he was interested in the presidency, but Pierce certainly knew it. All of Buchanan`s friends - he had a number of Buchanan`s friends who were in his cabinet - or in his administration, not necessarily in his cabinet. And he was aware that Buchanan was a candidate. So, Pierce was very gracious about it. He was very kind to Buchanan, was very helpful in the transition. He seemed to take some measure of gratification in the fact that the Democratic Party won the election, that it was the same platform that he had run on. It was the same platform in 1856. It was simply - I think Pierce understood that he was personally too unpopular.
LAMB: As you know, our presidents today are very active after they leave the White House, especially, a lot of them have been fairly young. What did he do to stay busy? Is there any evidence of how he lived the rest of his life?
WALLNER: Well, he was involved in politics. He was very upset about the move towards the Civil War. He spent 2.5 years in Europe after he left the White House. He and his wife went on an extended tour of Europe. When he returned, he returned just before John Brown`s raid at Harper`s Ferry. And he just was very upset about that, and spent a lot of time writing letters to people and speaking - or sending letters to the papers, and so forth, talking about the need for what he would consider as sort of the silent majority, to speak out against this fanaticism that he saw happening on both sides, North and South. When Lincoln was elected and the Southern states began to secede, Pierce proposed that all the former presidents who were still living gather in Washington and issue some kind of a statement. It didn`t happen. None of the others would join him. So, he worked very hard to try to prevent the war from occurring.
LAMB: We have some video of his gravesite. One of the things you notice is, there`s not much of a fuss made about his gravesite, even around the cemetery.
WALLNER: No. And, no, in fact, even the stone that you`re seeing was not installed until about 50 or 60 years ago. So, for many years after he died, it was a much more modest site than that.
LAMB: I mean, you have to look to find this tombstone.
WALLNER: You do. It`s in the Old North Cemetery.
LAMB: Why do you think that they don`t make a bigger deal out of it there?
WALLNER: Well, I think there are a couple of reasons. First of all, when Pierce died he had no close relatives, so there was nobody around to follow him, to keep his memory alive. And when he died, he was very unpopular. Not only was he an unpopular president, but his actions during the Civil War made him extremely unpopular. He spoke out continuously and loudly against the Lincoln administration, particularly because of the suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus, the imposition of martial law, the restrictions on freedom of the press and freedom of speech, which the Lincoln administration imposed on the North. And Pierce believed that was unnecessary, and was not justified. And he spoke out very loudly about that, so much so that he was considered a traitor by many people in the North.
LAMB: Any evidence at the end that he was really pro-slavery?
WALLNER: No. No. He spoke out many times saying that he thought slavery was a moral evil, that he wished it didn`t exist, that he thought it was a moral stain on the nation. But he believed that it was up to the states, the individual states, to decide what to do about slavery. He also thought - and he sincerely believed this - that if the North hadn`t attacked the South so much for being for this moral sin of slavery, that the South eventually over time would have ended slavery on its own, that he felt that the Civil War was unnecessary. And he always said that, and he never took that back, even at the height of the war itself. He always believed the Civil War was unnecessary, and it was brought upon the nation by fanatics on both sides.
LAMB: By the way, who in history is your favorite president?
WALLNER: Boy, that`s a tough one. I`m not sure I can give an answer to that. I ...
LAMB: Are there more than one that you can mention?
WALLNER: Oh, there are a lot of good presidents. I guess Franklin D. Roosevelt would probably be the closest to a favorite for me.
LAMB: After you`ve thought about it a lot, what position would you put Franklin Pierce in?
WALLNER: I would certainly not put him in the successful category. I think he might be a few notches higher than what he`s presently rated.
LAMB: And what`s the thing that you think somebody reading this, far away from New Hampshire, what would they benefit the most from reading?
WALLNER: I think what they would realize is that Franklin Pierce was a more significant figure as a political leader in the mid 19th century than he`s generally considered to have been. He - and if you read his views, if you read what he believed in at the time, it wasn`t so far removed from the mainstream of political thinking, even today.
LAMB: Our guest has been Peter Wallner. This is the cover of the book. It`s "Franklin Pierce: New Hampshire`s Favorite Son and Only President." Thank you very much for joining us.
WALLNER: Thank you.
END

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