Franklin Pierce (1804 - 1869) was born at Hillsborough, New Hampshire. The son of a famous Revolutionary War hero and governor of New Hampshire, Pierce served in the State Legislature and was a successful Concord lawyer until The War with Mexico (1847 - 1848). Pierce enlisted in the war as a volunteer, and he returned to Concord as a war hero and as a brigadier general of volunteers. He won the 1852 Democratic Party presidential nomination as a compromise between pro-slavery and anti-slavery wings of his party, and he was elected president in November 1852 (served 1853 - 1857). Pierce is the only New Hampshire resident to become President of the United States. More about his career may be found on the Publications of the Division of Historical Resources page.
Portraits of State and National Legislators at the State House Second Floor
Likenesses of New Hampshire War Heroes & Personages.
New Hampshire Republicans controlled state politics for most of the post - Civil War period, and they were able to stymie any efforts to have a statue to Pierce placed on the State House lawn during the 1880s and 1890s. But in addition to Republican hostility to honoring a Democrat, Pierce was unpopular with New Hampshire voters in the years after the Civil War. Pierce had been a Democrat chosen by compromise to be president, and his inability to unify his party either for or against slavery had helped make the national slide toward Civil War a certainty. The citizens of Concord had even voted not to give Pierce a welcoming parade when he returned home in 1857 after his one term presidency. There was no great groundswell of popular support for a statue to Pierce, or for support of the Democrats, among New Hampshire voters in the post - Civil War era.
The Democrats had elected both a governor and a legislature in 1874; that did not happen again until 1912, when the national Republican Party split between William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt resulted in a Democratic landslide at both the national and the state levels. In New Hampshire, Democrat Samuel Felker became governor (served 1913 - 1915), and with a Democratic legislature he worked quickly to get a statue of Franklin Pierce on the State House lawn. Governor Felker recognized that his election had been a fluke, and that he would probably not be reelected, so he saw to it that the legislature acted quickly on the matter of a Pierce statue. May 13, 1913 the legislature resolved that Governor and Council erect a statue to Franklin Pierce on the State House lawn. Governor and Council acted quickly to appoint an advisory committee, and the committee reviewed bids and models on October 13, 1913. Sculptor Augustus Lakeman was invited to come from New York to Concord, and on November 7, 1913 Lakeman and the committee met and discussed the statue and its placement. December 31, 1913 the committee formally accepted Lakeman's model and plan. Work was to be completed by October 15, 1914 - before the next gubernatorial election. The statue, cast in bronze by the Jonathan Williams foundry of New York City, was ready by the due date.
Much discussion had taken place between the seething Republicans and the new Democratic governor and legislature. The Republicans at last consented to placement of the Pierce statue at the very edge of the State House lawn. The statue was dedicated November 25, 1914 - after the election but before Democratic governor Felker gave way to Republican governor Rolland Spaulding.