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).
See D. J. Danelski, A Supreme Court Justice Is Appointed (1964).
Pierce is a Statutory Town in Weld County, Colorado, United States. The population was 884 at the 2000 census. The town is a rural agricultural community located on the Colorado Eastern Plains along U.S. Highway 85 north of Greeley. It was founded in 1869 and incorporated in 1918. It was named in honor of John Pierce, then president of the Union Pacific Railroad, in anticipation of the construction of an extension of the Union Pacific line southward into Colorado. The following year in 1870 it became a watering stop for steam locomotives on the newly built Denver Pacific Railroad . A box car was used as the first town post office, depot, and telegraph office. A depot was constructed in 1905 and demolished in 1963. As a railroad stop, it became a local shipping point for cattle, sheep, potatoes, beans, and sugar beets. The town underwent a decline in population (from 1,000 in 1976) and its economic base during the latter 20th century with the construction of highways that allowed more direct shipping of agricultural products. The town today consists of a small grid of gravel streets, with one paved thoroughfare (Main Street) west of U.S. Highway 85. The principal businesses in town include a grain elevator, as well as a grocery store, tavern, and other businesses along Main Street. The town also has a school, a volunteer fire station, a church, and a town park.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.7 square miles (1.9 km²), all of it land.
There were 312 households out of which 39.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.8% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.9% were non-families. 17.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the town the population was spread out with 30.4% under the age of 18, 7.7% from 18 to 24, 31.9% from 25 to 44, 19.0% from 45 to 64, and 11.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 102.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.7 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $36,944, and the median income for a family was $44,265. Males had a median income of $33,611 versus $22,174 for females. The per capita income for the town was $17,412. About 4.6% of families and 6.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.