It was midweek and late in the day; the bank was empty. A lone teller sat at her cage waiting for customers.
I walked up to her and asked, "Do you have any Millard Fillmore Dollars?
The teller shook her head. "We've given out all that we had. We do have some Tyler and Franklin Pierce Dollars."
"Darn!" I exclaimed. "I was hoping for some more Fillmore dollars, but I'll buy a $25 roll of Pierce's."
"Do you collect them?" Asked the teller."
"Nope, I just spend them. I like to tell people stories about the different presidents."
"Okay then tell me about President Pierce" said a cheerful teller.
You can't imagine the joy that I felt. I actually had someone asking me to tell them something. "He was the 14th President of the United States and he followed Millard Fillmore."
I suspect that she thought that I was going to stop, but I was the only one in the bank and I was intent on impressing her with my knowledge of presidential trivia.
Franklin Pierce was born in 1804 and he would be 206 years old if he were still alive."
The teller didn't seem to be yawning. This encouraged me and I continued with my lecture: "Milliard Fillmore may have rubbed a number of people the wrong way, but he wasn't all that bad a President; Pierce however, managed to upset almost everyone.
The Democrats chose Pierce because he was easy going and likable. He was a brilliant New Hampshire Lawyer with a successful practice, who had served in both the House and the Senate. He was a Brigadier General in the Mexican-American War and was thought to actually have had some real ability as a military commander.
He was a nice looking man, known to be genuinely religious, and he was a good orator. It appeared that you couldn't ask for a better man to be a political candidate."
There were still no customers in the bank; I seemed to have sparked the interest of another teller who just walked over to listen. "Pierce wasn't initially considered as a presidential nomination. There were four other contenders, Stephen Douglas, William Marcy, James Buchanan and Lewis Cass. When the balloting began, all four candidates appeared deadlocked, not one of them could get a clear majority. On the 35th ballot, Pierce was introduced as a compromise candidate. He never mentioned much about slavery so he appeared acceptable to all factions. He seemed to have all the prerequisites for President and on the 49th ballot was nominated unanimously.
Unknown to many, Pierce had major marital problems; his wife, Jane Appleton, despised both politics and Washington D.C. Ten years earlier, she nagged Pierce into resigning as a Senator, so that they could return to New Hampshire.
Jane was from a wealthy Whig family. She was pro temperance (Pierce drank). She was sickly, shy and not a happy person. They had three children. Their first child died at birth, their second child died of Typhus at the age of four. Their last child died at age eleven in a rail accident shortly before Pierce was inaugurated as President. His wife never forgave him for the loss of their last child. She was convinced that God was punishing them for his acceptance of the Presidential nomination. She made President Pierce's life a living hell.
Pierce may have been a brilliant New Hampshire lawyer, but he was less than brilliant as a President. People referred to him as a "doughface," that is a northerner with southern sympathies.
While President, he came out in favor of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. This act repealed the Missouri Compromise, which gave new western states the option of becoming slave states. He also suffered a great deal of public criticism for his attempts at diplomacy. His Minister to Spain met with diplomats from France and Great Britain in Ostend Belgium to concoct a plan to buy Cuba from Spain. The document that they created was called the Ostend Manifesto. They were prepared to offer Spain 100 million dollars for the Island. If Spain was not willing to sell, they proposed to wrest Cuba from them by force. This plan was strongly supported by southern expansionists, since it was their intent to create another slave state.
When word of this "Manifesto" leaked out, the results were less then popular with most of the world as well as with our Northern States. Historians credit the Manifesto for splintering the Democratic Party and the downfall of the Pierce Presidency."
"I bet people were pretty angry with him" said the bank manager who had just had joined our little discussion group.
"You better believe it," said I. "Pierce became the first US President to have a full time bodyguard. He was attacked by someone throwing hard boiled eggs."
The tellers giggled.
"Franklin Pierce never was nominated for a second term. He was replaced by James Buchanan, who was also a "Dough face" and even more ineffective as a President than Pierce. Pierce and his wife left Washington D. C. for New Hampshire, where they spent the rest of their days."
One of the tellers asked: "Did they live happily ever after?"
I grinned. "Hardly. His wife still made his life a living hell and he drank himself to death. The man died of Cirrhosis of the liver."
A customer finally came in through the door of the bank. I took my Pierce dollars and put them in my pocket.
"I'll come back and get some more when the Buchanan dollars are issued."
"Have a good day," said the teller. " Enjoy your dollar coins, don't spend them all in one place."
The other teller's face split into a huge grin: "…And Mr. Eagle; you might want to watch out for hard boiled eggs."
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