Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Asker andmodern Asks:
Do you know where we can find the text of the speech President Pierce gave from his porch during the Civil War?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Apparently, the April 19, 1865 edition of the New Hampshire Patriot, but I haven’t been able to track it down.

The most complete account of Pierce’s speech that I’ve been able to piece together over the years, mostly thanks to Dr. Wallner’s Franklin Pierce: Martyr for the Union and Roy Franklin Nichols’ Young Hickory of the Granite Hills is that several hundred residents of Concord, New Hampshire showed up on Pierce’s doorstep at about 9:00 PM the night following Lincoln’s death.  When Pierce asked “What is your desire?”, the crowd told him, “We wish to hear some words from you on this sad occasion.”

Pierce:  “I wish I could address to you words of solace.  But that can hardly be done.  The magnitude of the calamity, in all its aspects, is overwhelming.  If your hearts are oppressed by events more calculated to awaken profound sorrow and regret than any which have hitherto occurred in our history, mine mingles its deepest regrets and sorrows with yours.”

Someone in the crowd accusingly asked “Where is your flag?” because Pierce’s home apparently had no American flag on display, and Pierce was visibly irritated by the demand.

Pierce:  “It is not necessary for me to show my devotion for the Stars and Stripes by any special exhibition, or upon the demand of any man or body of men.  My ancestors followed it through the Revolution…My brothers followed it in the War of 1812; and I left my family, in the Spring of 1847, among you, to follow its fortunes and maintain it upon a foreign soil [in the Mexican War].  But this you all know.  If the period during which I have served our State and country in various situations, commencing more than thirty-five years ago, have left the question of my devotion to the flag, the Constitution, and the Union in doubt, it is too late now to remove it, by any such exhibition as the inquiry suggests.  Besides to remove such doubts from minds where they may have been cultivated by a spirit of domination and partisan rancor, if such a thing were possible, would be of no consequence to you, and is certainly of none to me.  The malicious questionings would return to reassert their supremacy and pursue the work of injustice…I have never found or felt that violence or passion was ultimately productive of beneficent results.”

With that, the crowd supposedly gave the former President three cheers and Pierce went back to bed.  When I finally find the full transcript of Pierce’s speech from that night, I will be sure to share it.

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