Franklin Pierce

Presidential term: March 4, 1853 – March 4, 1857

Fillmore, in the meantime, had been succeeded by Franklin Pierce, fourteenth President of the United States. Pierce had been a poor lad, but he managed to secure a good education. He then became a lawyer, and was so determined to succeed that when some people made fun of him, after a first failure, he firmly said: “I will try nine hundred and ninety–nine cases, if clients continue to trust me; and if I fail just as I have failed today, I will try the thousandth. I shall live to argue cases in this courthouse in a manner that will mortify neither myself nor my friends.” As the young man proved as good as his word, it will not surprise you to hear that he did succeed.

All through Pierce’s term of office, the quarrels between the slavery and antislavery parties continued. Charles Sumner, a senator from Massachusetts, once spoke so strongly against slavery that Preston Brooks, saying that he was insulting all Southerners, attacked him in the Senate chamber, and hit him such a cruel blow on the head that Sumner was ill for more than two years. But, although a few slavery men approved of what Brooks had done, and made him a present of a fine cane as a reward, most people believed that he had done wrong. It was not in Pierce’s power, however, to put an end to the quarrel of those who were for or against slavery, although he made a good President.

The first summer of his term was an interesting time, for people in our country, wishing to follow an example set by England, held their first world’s fair, or exhibition, in the Crystal Palace in New York. At first, people in Europe made fun of the idea of having a world’s fair in America, but it soon proved a great success. Not only were there exhibits from every foreign country, but our own was well represented. Indeed, when foreigners saw the McCormick reaper, and heard of the changes it had brought about, one of them declared the inventor had “done more for the cause of agriculture than any man living.”

England and the United States were now on such friendly terms that when the English explorer, Sir John Franklin, was lost in the ice of the Arctic Sea, Dr. Kane, an American, went off in search of him. Unfortunately, as was found out later, Franklin and all his companions were dead; but Kane made many interesting discoveries in the north. To show their gratitude to the Americans for Kane’s friendly deed, the English, finding the remains of one of his ships some time after, had a beautiful desk made out of it, and sent it to the White House, where it is reserved for the President’s use.

It was under Pierce, too, that our fleet came home from Japan, where, as we have seen, a treaty was made which allowed our ships to trade there. Ever since then, America has kept up a lively trade with Japan, where the people are learning civilized ways so rapidly that it is said they will soon overtake the most advanced countries.

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