Saturday, July 05, 2008

Franklin Pierce Says "Ouch!"

The usual complaint about biographers is that they fall too much in love with their subjects. This was not, apparently, a problem that Franklin Pierce biographer Larry Gara encountered. He puts the best face on matters by emphasizing the difficult period in which Pierce held office, but his conclusion is fairly blunt:
[T]here is no question that by the mid-fifties it was no longer possible to persuade northern voters to accept a program of further slave extension. Yet that is precisely what Pierce tried to do. Moreover, it would have taken political genius to persuade the South to relinquish not only slavery itself but the power disproportionate to the southern voting population which derived from slavery. Franklin Pierce was no genius. Indeed, the ordinary demands of the office were often beyond his ability. He was a politician of limited ability, and instead of growing in his job, he was overwhelmed by it.

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