Born in New Hampshire in 1804, Franklin Pierce became the 14th president of the United States in 1853 after a career as a lawyer, state legislator, congressman and U.S. Senator. A member of the Democratic party, known better for his ability to work behind the scenes, Pierce was nominated after a stalemated and divisive 1852 Democratic National Convention needed a compromise candidate to break warring between political factions within the party. Pierce was a traditionalist Democrat who believed compromise was the only solution to the developing agitation between the North and South. Seen by many at the time as a direct political descendant of Andrew Jackson, he was sometimes known as "Young Hickory."

The Kansas-Nebraska Act was the turning point of Pierce's presidency. Originally introduced by Stephen A. Douglas to ensure construction of a transcontinental railroad, the bill further divided the nation be creating two new territories under the assumption the more northern territory would become a "free state" while the more southern would permit slavery. This resulted in a bloody, internal civil war within the territory of Kansas before it was admitted as a state in 1861. Pierce's support of Douglas and his southern allies helped to create a serious rift in the Democratic party, as many Democrats joined members of the Whig party to form the new Republican party.

Franklin Pierce continued to seek a formula of compromise measures and unity that would put an end to the tensions between the states, but his chief concerns were with improving foreign relations and opposing the government's direct involvement with economic affairs. He attempted to run for a second term, but the Democratic party sought someone who was not connected so directly with the failures of Nebraska-Kansas and the disruptions that followed.

After his defeat, Pierce returned to New Hampshire and was only again seen on the national scene as part of a group of statesmen attempting to find one last compromise that would avoid the dissolution of the nation.

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