December 2, 2014

Pierce Manse

I am lucky in that not only do I get to work in Campus Ministry but I also still teach two classes - AP US History and AP Government and Politics.  This morning I took my AP US History class on a field trip to the Pierce Manse, the home of President Franklin Pierce.  Pierce and his family only lived in the house for about 5 years and it was the only home he ever owned.

Our class was divided into two groups and we were taken on tours of the house.  Our guide's focus was heavy on the furniture and some stories where I guess the other tour guide was more into the politics of the age and the history of Pierce's life (I wish I was on that tour!).  But, it was interesting to learn about a president I admittedly know little about.  The house was almost torn down in the late 1960's but a group of volunteers helped preserve the house and move it its present location.

After our tour we watched a brief movie on Pierce and after, one of the guides pointedly asked, "So, was Franklin Pierce a racist?"  

Yikes!  I think they are very defensive of Pierce because of his role in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Bleeding Kansas, popular sovereignty, etc.  He is often considered one of the worse presidents in American history because he didn't do much about slavery, he actually allowed it to expand a bit and vigorously enforced the Fugitive Slave Act.  As such, his portrait in the New Hampshire State House was previously in a obscure location and there was an uproar when they put a statue of his in front of the State House.

After the tour of the house we visited his grave.  Each year on his birthday, the White House sends a wreath to lay at his tomb (which I think they do for all presidents).  His birthday was a week or so ago so the wreath was still there.  Pierce is buried with his wife and three sons, all of whom died before the age of 11. 

It was a nice trip and I am actually curious to learn more about Franklin Pierce now.  I like learning about the obscure presidents and I going to check out the definitive biographies of Pierce that were published in the last few years.  

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