Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce

Pierce, Franklin, 1804-69, 14th President of the United States (1853-57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of New Hampshire (1827, 1829). He served in the New Hampshire general court (1829-33), being speaker in 1831 and 1832, and had an undistinguished career in the U.S. House of Representatives (1833-37) and in the U.S. Senate (1837-42). On resigning from the Senate, he achieved success as a lawyer in Concord, N.H., and continued to be important in state politics. A strong nationalist, he vigorously supported and then served in the Mexican War, becoming a brigadier general of volunteers.

In 1852 the Democratic party was split into hostile factions led by William L. Marcy, Stephen A. Douglas, James Buchanan, and Lewis Cass, none of whom could muster sufficient strength to secure the presidential nomination. Pierce, personally charming and politically unobjectionable to Southerners since he favored the Compromise of 1850, was made the "dark horse" candidate by his friends. He won the nomination (on the 49th ballot) and went on to defeat the Whig candidate, Gen. Winfield Scott, his commander in the Mexican War.

Pierce's desire to smooth over the slavery quarrel and unite all factions of the Democratic party was reflected in the composition of his cabinet, for which he chose such outstanding sectional representatives as Marcy, Jefferson Davis, and Caleb Cushing. A vigorous expansionist foreign policy was adopted, but it failed in most of its objectives. After the Black Warrior affair (1854), which brought the United States to the brink of war with Spain, Pierce authorized his European ministers, Pierre Soulé, John Y. Mason, and Buchanan, to confer on the means by which the United States might acquire Cuba. Their report, the so-called Ostend Manifesto, was leaked to the press and caused such an uproar that the administration was forced to disavow it. Troubled relations with Great Britain were not improved by the U.S. naval bombardment (1854) of San Juan del Norte, British protectorate in Nicaragua; the filibustering activities of William Walker further aggravated Central American affairs. Moves to annex Hawaii, acquire a naval base in Santo Domingo, and purchase Alaska ended fruitlessly. One achievement, the successful Japanese expedition of Commodore Matthew C. Perry, had been initiated in Millard Fillmore's administration.

On the domestic scene Pierce stood for development of the West (the Gadsden Purchase was made during his administration), but plans for a transcontinental railroad fell through. The Kansas-Nebraska Act enraged many Northerners and precipitated virtual civil war between the pro- and antislavery forces in Kansas. Pierce, by that time very unpopular, was passed over by the Democrats for renomination, and Buchanan succeeded him. Pierce's opposition to the Civil War made him more than ever disliked in the North, where he died in obscurity.

See biography by R. F. Nichols (rev. ed. 1958).

Adams, Franklin Pierce, pseud. F. P. A., 1881-1960, American columnist and author, b. Chicago. He began (1903) work as a columnist on the Chicago Journal and continued it on the New York Evening Mail, the Tribune, the World, the Herald Tribune, and the Post. His column, "The Conning Tower," consisted of verse and humor by F. P. A. and his contributors, who included Ring Lardner and Dorothy Parker. On Saturdays his columns were accounts of his week's activities that imitated the style of Samuel Pepys. They were republished as The Diary of Our Own Samuel Pepys: 1911-1934 (1935). Adams's other works included So There! (1923), Christopher Columbus (1931), and Nods and Becks (1944).
Franklin Pierce Adams (November 15, 1881, Chicago, IllinoisMarch 23, 1960, New York City, New York) was an American columnist (under the pen name FPA) and wit, best known for his newspaper column, "The Conning Tower", and his appearances as a regular panelist on radio's Information Please. He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s and 1930s.

New York newspaper columnist

The son of Moses and Clara Schlossberg Adams, he graduated from the Armour Scientific Academy in 1899 and attended the University of Michigan for one year. He first worked for the Chicago Journal in 1903. The following year he moved to the New York Evening Mail, where he worked from 1904 to 1913 and began his famed column. In 1913, when he moved his column to the New York Tribune, where it was given the title, "The Conning Tower".

During his time on the Evening Mail he wrote what remains his best known work, Baseball's Sad Lexicon, a tribute to the Chicago Cubs double play combination of "Tinker to Evers to Chance".

During World War I, Adams was in the U.S. Army, assigned to the Stars and Stripes, where he worked with Harold Ross, Alexander Woollcott and other literary lights of the 1920s. After the war, Adams returned to New York. He went to the New York World, in 1921, writing there until that paper closed in 1931. He returned to his old paper, renamed the New York Herald Tribune, staying until 1937 when he went to the New York Post. He ended his column in September 1941.

During its long run, "The Conning Tower" publicized the work of such writers as Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dorothy Parker, George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Edna Ferber and Deems Taylor. Having one's work published in "The Conning Tower" was enough to launch a career, as in the case of Dorothy Parker and James Thurber. Parker quipped, "He raised me from a couplet."


FPA often included parodies in his column. His satire of Edgar Allan Poe's poem "Annabel Lee" was later collected in his book Something Else Again (1910):
Soul Bride Oddly Dead in Queer Death Pact
High-Born Kinsman Abducts Girl from Poet-Lover--Flu Said to Be Cause of Death-- Grand Jury to Probe
Annabel L. Poe of 1834½ 3rd Ave., the beautiful young fiancee of Edmund Allyn Poe, a magazine writer from the South, was found dead early this morning on the beach off E. 8th Street. Poe seemed prostrated and, questioned by the police, said that one of her aristocratic relatives had taken her to the "seashore," but that the cold winds had given her "flu," from which she never "rallied." Detectives at work on the case believe, they say, that there was a suicide compact between the Poes and that Poe also intended to do away with himself. He refused to leave the spot where the woman's body had been found.


As a panelist on the radio's Information Please (1938-48), he was the designated expert on poetry, old bar-room songs and Gilbert and Sullivan, which he always referred to as Sullivan and Gilbert. A running joke on the show was that his stock answer for quotes that he didn't know was that Shakespeare was the author. John Kieren was the real Shakespearean expert and could quote from his works at length.


His books include Tobogganning on Parnassus (1911) and Answer This One (a 1927 trivia book with Harry Hansen). His final volume, The Melancholy Lute (1936), featured Adams' selections from three decades of his work. He also was a translator of Horace and other classical authors, and he collaborated with O. Henry on Lo, a musical comedy.


"I find that a great part of the information I have was acquired by looking up something and finding something else on the way."
"To err is human; to forgive, infrequent."
"Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody."

See also

External links

Search another word or see Franklin Pierceon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature