Thursday, February 12, 2009

Handsome Frank and Honest Abe

Today is the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth. As the nation honors a President famous for his honesty and wisdom, let us reflect on the life of an earlier President renowned for having good hair.

From the web site, American President: An Online Reference Resource:
Pierce settled in New Hampshire after his presidency. When the Civil War erupted, Pierce voiced support for the northern cause, as did many doughfaces—that is, northern men with southern principles. A loyal Democrat, Pierce did not support the new president, Abraham Lincoln. In fact, Pierce publicly blamed Lincoln for the war. This outspoken criticism cost the former President a number of longtime friendships.

By the end of the war, Franklin Pierce was all but forgotten, as reclusive as his wife had been in the White House. Always fond of liquor, he had returned to it. When Lincoln was assassinated in April 1865, an angry mob surrounded Pierce's home. Only a final display of the old lawyer's once-famed oratorical skills kept his house in one piece: he gave a speech urging the crowd to disperse peacefully, and they did. When Franklin Pierce died in the fall of 1869, little was written about him.
At least the hapless Pierce was able to talk his way out of the tight spot he had gotten himself into.

While I'm on the topic of people who didn't like Abraham Lincoln, here's a photo of me at the tombstone of Edgar Lee Masters in Petersburg, Illinois in 2005, and a closeup of the plaque on the tombstone.

The curmudgeonly Masters, author of Spoon River River Anthology, was a one-time friend and later a rival of Carl Sandburg, who had placed Lincoln on a pedestal in his biography, Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years. Masters tried his best to knock Abe off that pedestal in his own 1931 Lincoln biography, Lincoln The Man. I have a copy of the book but I haven't read it yet.

According to John Aloysius Farrell, writing in his U.S. News and World Report blog, Masters depicted Abe Lincoln as "... cold, and cunning, and devious, and a sexual misfit, and a blundering politician who helped bring on the Civil War, trampled on civil liberties, and was ever-beholden to Eastern financial and manufacturing interests."

Link to American Presidents: An Online Reference Resource

Link to Farrell's article, "Abraham Lincoln Myth Had Its Doubters, Like Edgar Lee Masters"

Link to more information about Franklin Pierce's hair


  1. Pierce still had the better haircut. And although I've never seen a picture of Edgar Lee Masters, I bet Pierce had better hair than him, too.

  2. It's no contest. Compare Masters' stamp to that of Pierce.

  3. Found your blog as I was looking for information that Michael Smith used to base his song Spoon River...

    Nice blog.


  4. Dave,

    Thanks. I didn't know about Michael Smith's song till now.