Franklin Pierce was the Fourteenth President of the United States and served in office for one term, from 1853 to 1857. In many ways, he has not been considered a particularly notable President, and there are few biographies available for him. One of the earliest and most important was The Life of Franklin Pierce from 1852, important not simply because it is the life of Pierce but because it was written by the noted American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. In some ways, this biography can be considered a campaign tract extolling the virtues of Hawthorne's choice for the next President of the United States, for the book ends with the nomination of Pierce to be his party's candidate. Indeed, in the lat paragraph, Hawthorne suggests that the country would do well to elect the Democrat Pierce over the Whig General Scott, Pierce's former commanding officer.
Hawthorne's biography indeed has a military sub-theme, beginning with Pierce's father, General Benjamin Pierce, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. Hawthorne finds many characteristics in the elder Pierce that would be passed on to the son, and he also finds the direct link Pierce has to the Revolutionary War to be significant:
The history, character, and circumstances of General Benjamin Pierce . . . are essential parts of the biography of his son, both as indicating some of the native traits which the latter has inherited, and as showing the influences amid which he grew up. At Franklin Pierce's birth, and for many years subsequent, his father was the most active and publicspirited man within his sphere; a most decided democrat, and supporter of Jefferson and Madison; a practical farmer, moreover, not rich, but independent, exercising a liberal hospitality, and noted for the kindness and generosity of his character; a man of the people, but whose natural qualities inevitably made him a leader among them.
This passage shows not only how Hawthorne connects the son to the f...