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Franklin Pierce Bicentennial

The Franklin Pierce Bicentennial is next year! Are you excited yet?

Who's Franklin Pierce? The 14th President of the United States, described as a "hapless bungler."

He is the only president in American history whose own party did NOT nominate him for a second term.

A survey of historians in 2000 by C-SPAN ranked Pierce 39th among 41 presidents. Only Andrew Johnson (#17) and James Buchanan (#15) did worse.

The mid-19th Century must've been a rough time for the presidency. And, in fact, it was: All three men were challenged by the same forces that nearly pulled apart the Union in the Civil War — states' rights and slavery — and failed to rise to the occasion.

Aha! "Where's the stamps tie-in?" you say. It was during Pierce's presidency that the first perforated postage stamps were issued (Sc. 11). That's "the only important thing that happened during his administration," says presidential trivia buff David Holzel.

And according to Stamp Collecting For Dummies, the U.S. wasn't even the first country to do so.

During his 1852 campaign for the presidency, his opponents issued a one-inch by one-half-inch book called "The Military Services of Gen. Pierce," and, referring to his reputation as a heavy drinker, called him "the hero of many a well-fought bottle."

In his first military encounter, he fell off his horse and fainted, hurting himself, uh, somewhere sensitive.

However, he was good-looking and charismatic, and thus "After Pierce, the country was made safe for good-looking empty suits," said Todd Leopold, entertainment editor of CNN.com.

While he can't be blamed for the Civil War, the New Hampshire native "did his best to bring it on," says Larry Gara, author of The Presidency of Franklin Pierce. His actions as president inflamed abolitionists, including using federal troops to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Oh, and his best friend and Secretary of War was Jefferson Davis, later the president of The Confederacy.

Gara calls him "one unlucky guy." None of his three children survived to adulthood; the last died at age 11 in a train crash a few months before Pierce took office.

There were some accomplishments to his presidency, though, but largely in foreign policy: The U.S. acquired land from Mexico and he supported the country's first trade agreement with Japan. He was also the first president to appoint a Jew to a federal office, and a supporter of rights for immigrants.

The site promoting his bicentennial is at  www.franklinpierce.ws (and it features the Franklin Pierce stamp from the 1986 Presidents Sheets, also shown here).

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