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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:24 AM
Original message
Walt Whitman on Franklin Pierce
Edited on Sat Oct-28-06 06:29 AM by Old Crusoe
By 1856, Whitman had seen about enough of power politics and had become an eloquent and vocal advocate of the virtues of the common working person.

Whitman believed the federal government was an array of "robbers, pimps . . . malignants, conspirators, murderers . . . infidels, disunionists, terrorists, mail-riflers, slave-catchers . . . body-snatchers . . . monte-dealers, duelists, carriers of concealed weapons, blind men, deaf men, pimpled men, scarred inside with the vile disorder, gaudy outside with gold chains made from the people's money and the harlot's money twisted together . . . the lousy combings and born freedom sellers of the earth."

He was especially unimpressed with Franklin Pierce, who, Whitman claimed, "eats dirt and excrement for his daily meals."

He called for a U.S. president to come out of the brave West of the nation, a common working man, a man of the people, someone with a common man's heart and a working man's muscle.

He got his president, with those criteria, four years later with the election of Abraham Lincoln.
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HereSince1628 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:26 AM
Response to Original message
1. Typo on the date...
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:29 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Amended. Thank you.
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lcordero2 Donating Member (832 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:31 AM
Response to Original message
3. do you mean 1856?
BTW, Franklin Pierce is one of Bush's ancestors.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:34 AM
Response to Reply #3
4. Per HereSince1628's heads-up, I flipped the date back to its
proper century.

I'd heard either daddy or mommy Bush had a Pierce lineage, but didn't know which one.

Pierce was not our greatest president by any means, was he?
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lcordero2 Donating Member (832 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:44 AM
Response to Reply #4
5. !!!!!!!!!!!!
I'll take what Walt Whitman said at face value ;)
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 06:50 AM
Response to Reply #5
6. ! The passage is a quotation from a (then)-unpublished essay of
Whitman's. The book is THE BETTER ANGEL: WALT WHITMAN IN THE CIVIL WAR by Roy Morris, Jr.

It was a great read. One of those books my high school history teachers would never have steered me toward, but I was happy to finally catch up with it.
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hedda_foil Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 09:34 AM
Response to Reply #4
9. Barbara Pierce Bush n/t
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 04:46 PM
Response to Reply #9
11. Hi, hedda_foil. Thank you for that.
What an interesting political lineage in that family.

More than enough to keep me on my toes.
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cmkramer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 07:34 PM
Response to Reply #3
13. not a direct ancestor though
I think he's a great-uncle many times over or something. He had children but none of them lived to adulthood.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 01:10 AM
Response to Reply #13
14. Yes. The youngest -- Benjamin -- died in a kind of strange train
accident.

I don't think anybody else was badly injured, but Benjamin died. Mrs. Pierce, understandably mortified, believed that God was punishing their family for Franklin's decision to seek the presidency, and she virtually refused to live in the White House at all.
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cmkramer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:14 AM
Response to Reply #14
16. I believe
he was killed on the train that was taking them to Washington for the inauguration. And yes, he was the only casualty of that accident.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:16 AM
Response to Reply #16
17. His mother dedicated large parts of her days afterward to writing
letters to her dead children, especially to Benjamin.

Pierce's White House must have been the loneliest White House in American history.

Not surprisingly, he had a close relationship with the whisky bottle.
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Maine-ah Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 08:10 AM
Response to Reply #3
15. no, he's one of bab's. BTW, he's also one of my husband's.
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 07:03 AM
Response to Original message
7. Well, Whitman was a bit starry-eyed about "the brave West of the nation."
Felon, burglar, conspirator, red-baiter, and the slaughterer of about a million people in Southeast Asia: Richard Nixon

Liar, con-man, fascist tax code re-writer, red-baiter, HUAC rat, and the secret slaughterer and torturer of tens of thousands of people in Central and South America: Ronald Reagan.

Common working men, men of the people, people with a common man's heart and a working man's muscle? Out of the West, the slime of the nation.

Committers of genocide against Native Americans. Gun-toting ranchers, developers, corporate loggers, water thieves, destroyers of the red car trolley system in Los Angeles, oil giants, the Firestone rubber company, the environmental wrecking crew.

And today, the outright thieves of $9 billion of the taxpayers' money, running the state of California--assholes in charge, muscle men all right--but not "working man's muscle"--and little Bushite worms like Bruce McDiebold, secretary of state...

Whitman would be appalled.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 07:23 AM
Response to Reply #7
8. I'm no fan of Dick Nixon or Ronald Reagan.
I think Whitman's frustration with Pierce and Buchanan was deep and genuine and justified. Lincoln was yet to emerge on the national scene in any meaningful way, certainly not as presidential timber, so some biographers credit Whitman with a sort of accidental prophecy.

Whitman's admiration of Lincoln predates and transcends mine, although I respect Lincoln very much. Only saying I can't match Whitma's eloquence in my respect for Lincoln. We have lilacs where I live every spring, but I can't seem to fashion them in tribute the way Whitman did.

I think Whitman would like Tom Harkin. I think he'd like Birch Bayh. I think he'd be able to sit down with Brian Schweitzer and have a long, memorable dialogue.

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1932 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 10:03 AM
Response to Original message
10. Between 1856 and 1932, Pierce and FDR were only Democrats to win with
Edited on Sat Oct-28-06 10:05 AM by 1932
a majority of the popular vote. So, the damage Pierce did to the party took decades to repair?
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Oct-28-06 04:50 PM
Response to Reply #10
12. In a manner of speaking, I guess so. His own party denied Pierce
re-nomination in 1856, opting instead for Buchanan. And as seemingly impossible as it was to be a worse president than Pierce, Buchanan managed it.

Pierce always seemed to meto be a great failure politically but quite compelling and even successful as a human being. Nathanial Hawthorne's son Julian believed Franklin Pierce to be the most inspiring person he'd ever met.

So whatever disconnect there must have been in the political arena, Pierce seemed to overcome and triumph in the personal one.
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depakid Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:31 AM
Response to Original message
18. Outstanding piece!
:)
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:43 AM
Response to Reply #18
19. Thanks, depakid, and good mornin' to ya.
Hope all's well your way.

9 more days and we do some serious House cleaning!
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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:48 AM
Response to Original message
20. A visual post . . .



Franklin Pierce
Photo: Library of Congress
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:54 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. Hi, Jack Rabbit. Ah -- there's handsome Frank in that photo.
I believe Pierce memorized his Inaugural address.

Imagine Dubya trying that feat.

Both men were alcoholics, but Pierce was a skilled orator, a reader, an intellect. I definitely can't make the same claim for Dubya.
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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 10:59 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. Pierce and Hawthorne were good friends
Hawthorne is one of my favorite American writers. But that kind of thing is for pointy-headed intellectuals.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 11:05 AM
Response to Reply #22
23. Some of my best friends are pointy-headed intellectuals.
Edited on Sun Oct-29-06 11:14 AM by Old Crusoe
In fact, most of them are.

Yes. Hawthorne's biography of Pierce reads like sort of a propaganda brochure, which is ok, I guess. Not ok for a serious biographical study but more or less ok for a project by a close pal trying to promote one's profile.

Hawthorne's son, Julian, gives me a glimpse of Pierce the person (as opposed to Pierce to politician):

____

There was a winning, irresistible magnetism in the presence of this man. Except my father, there was no man in whose company I liked to be so much as in his. I had little to say to him, and demanded nothing more than a silent recognition from him, but his voice, his looks, his gestures, his gait, the spiritual sphere of him, were delightful to me; and I suspect that his rise to the highest office in our nation was due quite as much to this power or quality in him as to any intellectual or even executive ability that he may have possessed. He was a good, conscientious, patriotic, strong, man and gentle and tender as a woman. He had the old-fashioned ways, the courtesy, and the personal dignity which are not often seen nowadays. His physical frame was immensely powerful and athletic, but life used him hard and he was far from considerate of himself, and he died at 65, when he might under more favorable conditions have rounded out his century.

--Julian Hawthorne, son of Nathanial Hawthorne, writing as a boy in his teens,
on Franklin Pierce, quoted in FRANKLIN PIERCE, by Roy Franklin Nichols

____

Julian was I think 15 years old when he wrote that. Not many modern-day U.S. teenagers could match his command of language, I don't think.
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Jack Rabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 12:01 PM
Response to Reply #23
24. I have no doubt Pierce had his good qualities
As a statesman, he was a failure.

All of the presidents during the decade or so preceding the Civil War were trying to hold the country together by skirting the issue of slavery. Pierce was no exception.

Slavery was an issue on which we could not compromise. Southern politicians, led by Senator Calhoun, argued for states' rights out of one side the mouth insisted that the federal government protect it where it existed and expand it to places it did not out of the other. Even Senator Douglas' idea of popular sovereignty didn't satisfy them. In the north, the new Republican Party wanted the west developed with free labor, which meant containing slavery to the South at a minimum and abolishing it at a maximum.

When Lincoln became president, he met with a delegation of Confederate lawmakers (including former President John Tyler) and offered a compromise in which slavery would be protected in the South but contained. This was to be accomplished, if I recall my reading of the matter correctly, by a series of constitutional amendments. The Confederates rejected the offer.

Pierce thought the Civil War a tragedy that could have been averted if his policies had been followed. His tenure in the White House and his thoughts on the Civil War are but a blip in history.

A century and a half after Pierce left office, his descendant argues for a middle course in an imperial war because the political price of either withdrawal or victory are too high for him to contemplate.
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saltpoint Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Oct-29-06 03:17 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. Agree that there was an infuriating cluelessness about Pierce that
had nothing to do with his native intelligence. But there just the same, and in sufficient supply to all but ensure war between the states. His Cabinet was rich in Southerners -- Jefferson Davis was his Secretary of War -- and although the Cabinet remained in place for the duration of Pierce's term, it's fair for us to ask if that was a plus or not.

I'm inclined to say it probably wasn't. If Pierce was not decisive, they were smarmy in support of their business interests. The farther South the Cabinet official, the more vehemently they wanted a transcontinental railroad through their neck of the woods. There was some Halliburtoning going on in that era also.

Under Pierce there was a concerted effort to harvest bird shit. This is completely passed over in high school text books, but in an odd way it might make him a bit more human for 16- and 17-year olds to consider. Most of them don't consider bird shit harvesting their entire lives, never mind as a pressing economic issue two presidents before Lincoln.

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