What do Pierce and Romney have in common?
- Both Romney and Pierce are New Hampshirites.
- Both believe in small government, especially when it comes to helping Americans in desperate need.
- Both have little or no foreign affairs experience. Both are war hawks.
- Both are easily influenced by powerful supporters.
Helping Those in Desperate Need
In 1853 Pierce vetoed a bill granting public land to the states for the purpose of caring for the indigent who were mentally ill.
His reason? He believed if Congress had the power to provide for the mentally ill who are very poor, then they would also have the power to assist the very poor who are not mentally ill. Eventually, Pierce thought, Congress might even use their power to provide hospital and medical care for the ill or assist people who experienced other human calamities.
Although Pierce was at first against overturning the Missouri Compromise, in the end he listened to Jefferson Davis, his Secretary of War and signed the Kansas Nebraska Act of 1854. Some people believe that Pierce took orders from Davis.
The act allowed the possibility of slavery to spread through all the new states based on the will of the citizens of each state. This led to bloody battles in Kansas most notably by John Brown and his sons who murdered five pro-slavery farmer. The Kansas–Nebraska Act divided the nation and pointed it toward civil war.
Lack of Foreign Affairs Experience
Unfortunately, Pierce’s lack of leadership and his tendency to give in to special interest groups hampered his effectiveness in foreign affairs. He vetoed bills to create a safety net to build the country's infrastructure and believed in a constitution that gave equality to white adult males.
In 1856, Pierce recognized a dictatorship in Nicaragua established by William Walker, an American who had conquered that nation and introduced slavery. Walker hoped to gain Nicaragua's entry into the Union as a slave state. Walker's control soon angered railroad titan Cornelius Vanderbilt, who pressured Pierce to use the U.S. Navy to force Walker to "surrender" the country.
After the Mexican War had ended, there were border disputes that had to be settled. Land that comprised lower Arizona and New Mexico was part of a proposed route for a transcontinental railroad. Pierce was convinced by Secretary of War Davis to negotiate the Gadsden Purchase with Mexico. Gadsden had a financial stake in the purchase; the railroad was never built.
When it comes to immigrant rights, women’s rights, health care, foreign affairs and new voting laws, Romney appears to be a modern version of Franklin Pierce.
How do historians rate Pierce? Only James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson and Warren Harding are rated worse than Pierce in a composite of surveys between 1948 and 2011.
President Romney? Think Pierce not Mt. Rushmore.