Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Pierce and Guano in the LA Times

The Sunday LA Times included a feature with a little different twist on usual top or bottom Presidential lists. Historians who have written about great Presidents were asked about the failings of those Presidents, and historians who have written about "failed" Presidents were asked about good things those Presidents did:

Franklin Pierce


Pierce enabled the expansion of slavery in the West. He also secretly plotted to acquire Cuba from Spain. A drinker of some renown, he was referred to derisively as "hero of many a well-fought bottle."

The best thing Pierce did as president had to do with excrement. Specifically, guano, or bird droppings, which were so essential to U.S. agriculture in the mid-1800s that the era is sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Guano. In 1856, Pierce signed the Guano Island Act, which allowed U.S. citizens to mine guano on any unclaimed island in the world. It was a time of expansion, and what the guano law did was enable the U.S. to claim rights to whatever land it wanted, as long as somebody else didn't already own it. It was a very smart move -- if you like empires.

-- Larry Gara

Author, "The Presidency of Franklin Pierce"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Franklin Pierce on Jeopardy!

Tonight, one of the categories on the TV game show Jeopardy was Jefferson Davis. The last and most valuable answer in the category was:

Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! I know, Alex! I know!

Unfortunately, I was not on the set. My hat is off to Shawn, who knew the correct question: "Who is Pierce?" Shawn, you are the man!

Too bad Shawn lost out in final Jeopardy to Samantha. C'est la vie.

TR on Pierce

Another assessment of Franklin Pierce from one of his successors:

Theodore Roosevelt later wrote of Pierce that he was "a servile tool of men worse than himself ... ever ready to do any work the slavery leaders set him."
from a post by Jay Tolson at US News and World Report, 2/16/07.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Handsome Frank Elevated by Dubya?

Thanks to The Commander Guy's Lair for pointing out Daniel Barrick's article, "The future of Pierce's legacy looks bright: Some historians say Bush will trump him as worst president," in the December 30, 2008 Concord Monitor. Barrick writes:
Michael Holt, a history professor at the University of Virginia who's writing a new Pierce biography, warned Pierce fans against hopes of historical redemption. Bush's slide in the presidential rankings "may move Pierce up a notch, but I'm not sure it will move him out of the bottom five," he said.
Holy cow! Maybe David H. was right when he commented on a previous post, "Someday, everyone will have written a biography of Franklin Pierce."