200 Years Of Franklin Pierce

How do you throw a birthday party for one of America’s least charismatic presidents?

In our water-cooler discussions here at American Heritage, when we get tired of dissecting Longstreet’s tactical errors at Seven Pines and debating whether George Templeton Strong or Philip Hone was the superior diarist, the conversation often turns to picking the least-known President. Some, like Garfield and Fillmore, are disqualified by being famous for their obscurity (both have cartoon characters named after them). Others, like Hayes and Andrew Johnson, achieved modest notoriety as bit players in grand historical dramas.Read more »

Presidents On Presidents

They’ve all had things to say about their fellow Executives. Once in a great while one was even flattering.

John Adams said Thomas Jefferson’s mind was “eaten to a honeycomb with ambition, yet weak, confused, uninformed, and ignorant.” Ulysses S. Grant said James Garfield did not have “the backbone of an angleworm.” Theodore Roosevelt called Woodrow Wilson “a Byzantine logothete.” Wilson called Chester Arthur “a nonentity with sidewhiskers.” Harry Truman summed up Lyndon Johnson with a curt “No guts!” Read more »

In Praise Of Pierce

He had all the right qualities. Only the time was wrong.

It’s been a long time since anyone put in a good word, or in fact any kind of word at all, for Franklin Pierce. I am a New Hampshire man who lives not far from the house where the fourteenth President was born and who therefore grew up, so to speak, beneath his paling shadow. From such a position I would like to take this opportunity to rearrange the perspectives now distorting or, indeed, obscuring the nature of his career. Words from Samuel Butler will serve as a text for my remarks.Read more »

The Inspired Leak

The leak was known of old. It can afflict either a ship or a government, it invariably means that something invisible has gone wrong, and in certain cases it ends in disaster. It is instructive to reflect on the differences between the leak as known to mariners and the leak as known to politicians, political scientists, and newspaper correspondents. Read more »