PIERCE, FRANKLIN

Twelve-page ALS Mentioning His Close Friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jefferson Davis, The King of Spain, Anti-Slave Trade Patrols by British Cruisers near Cuba, and “Black Republicans”

$8,500

Item #20228


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PIERCE, FRANKLIN - Twelve-page ALS Mentioning His Close Friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jefferson Davis, The King of Spain, Anti-Slave Trade Patrols by British Cruisers near Cuba, and “Black Republicans”
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PIERCE, FRANKLIN - Twelve-page ALS Mentioning His Close Friend Nathaniel Hawthorne, Jefferson Davis, The King of Spain, Anti-Slave Trade Patrols by British Cruisers near Cuba, and “Black Republicans”

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PIERCE, FRANKLIN. (1804-1869). Fourteenth president of the United States.ALS. (“Franklin Pierce”). 12pp. 8vo. Lisbon, June 25, 1858. To SIDNEY WEBSTER (1829-1910), his personal secretary when president.

 

“My dear Webster, Your letter of May 9th was received a few days before we left Madeira and read as all your letters are with interest. We left Funchal in the Galgo a sailing packet on the 12th inst. and came to anchor in the Tagus [River] Sunday evening, having been eight days at sea. The voyage was on the whole favorable and altho’ Mrs. Pierce was very much prostrated by constant sea sickness she sprung up quickly as soon as we were established in our spacious and well ordered apartment at the Braganza Hotel. Last evening we came from the hotel to the residence of Mr. O’Sullivan which is beautifully situated about two miles from the business part of this city and the Tagas, which is a … river several miles in width. We go in a day or two to Cintra [Sintra], a place of summer resort about 18 miles from the city, but will return in season to take passage in the next English steamer which will leave for Cadiz and Gibraltar the 2nd prox[imate] here as at Madeira there is an evident desire to show me every desirable mark of consideration, but I have have [sic] steadily declined invitations to dinner etc. and shall continue to do so unless it may seem to be necessary to dine with the young king. When we left Madeira the governor with his suite met us at the pentinen [?] and conveyed us in the government barge to the Galgo while a salute was being fired from Loo Rock. Indeed we have every reason to cherish pleasant and grateful memories of our six months in Madeira. After leaving Gibraltar we shall proceed almost directly to Vevey and remain there perhaps till October. I believe that [Nathaniel] Hawthorne is to pass the summer at Pisa and hence we shall probably not meet until he returns to Rome next winter. I think there is little doubt that we shall meet Gov. Fish and family somewhere this summer. I received a letter from Genl. Davis three weeks since but it was dated in April & in the hand of his wife. It was a warm, interesting letter and altho’ written by another hand than his own could have been dictated by nobody else. Did Genl. Cushing receive a letter from me in the winter? Why has he not written. It is evident from your letter that our views with regard to matters at home are very much alike. I am not surprized [sic] at the excitement in & out of Congress provided by the conduct of the British cruisers in the waters of Cuba. If the instructions to the home squadron are like those with which Commodore MacCauley [sic Charles Stewart McCauley] proceeded to the Gulf during my administration, when one or two similar acts had been done by Spanish men of war, the searches will speedily cease. The British Govt. will disavow the acts and that will be the end of it. Is it not amusing to see how determined the opposition had been to out-brag the Democrats in this? You may be quite sure that I have regarded, since I left the states and I hope continue to regard with simple indifference what you think may be a source of annoyance “one of the black flies” I am to encounter during my travels in Europe. The continuance of the assaults under present circumstances only serve to illustrate the malignity which prompted them while I was at the head of the government. The refusal to re-appoint Colo. George and the withdrawal of the printing from the Patriot, will annoy the Democrats and gratify the Black Republicans exceedingly. Is this way to sustain a cause? Was Dr. Loring reappointed? Mr. O’Sullivan commands in the highest degree the respect of the government here and is universally popular. Speaking as he does French & Portuguese as well as English, his circle of acquaintances is large… Colo. Morgan is now daily expected. He was of the Gov. Medill wing of the party in Ohio which explains the principle of rotation as applied to him and to many others, who are denominated “original friends” etc. etc. There will be no mail for England before July 2nd and I will tear this open to add a word after I return from Cintra. Where is Genl. Peaslee now and where is his home to be established? The only notice I had seen of the death of Judge Gilchrist before the receipt of your letter was in connexion with the appointment of Judge Loring to the vacant place. I was quite shocked altho’ as you know I never thought that longevity could be anticipated for him. I hope to find another letter from you at Marseilles and in it an account of your visit to N.H.

 

Sunday -- June 27th -- I find that the mail for England will be closed tomorrow and I must therefore send this to the officer before leaving on our little trip for Cintra. It is doubtful whether the arrangements of the different lines of steamers will enable us to make the delay which we proposed of ten days at Cadiz and Seville. The probability now is that we shall go in the French line stopping a single day at Cadiz another at Gibraltar and thence direct to Marseilles. I shall write you again when we are established in Switzerland probably not before. We attended service this morning at the English chapel where we heard the service indifferently read and listened to…. I beg you to repress your sectarian zeal and to remember that the highest dignitary of [the] highest church can be dull. The weather here is extremely hot and we begin to long for a more northern latitude. Direct your next letter to me “care of the American consul Marseilles France.” I do not know who is to succeed Colo. Morgan, but I shall make arrangements when there to have my letters forwarded. Give my kindest regards to Genl. Cushing and other friends. Yours truly, Franklin Pierce”

 

The son of New Hampshire’s governor, Pierce studied law before enjoying a varied career in state and national politics. In 1832, he was elected to Congress, and four years later, Pierce won a Senate seat that he held until 1837. In 1846, President Polk offered Pierce the office of Attorney General, but Pierce declined, observing that when he had resigned from the Senate, he had done so with the express purpose never to be separated from his family again except to serve his country during war, which, in fact, he did the following year when he was commissioned as a colonel during the Mexican‑American War. Despite his promise to his wife, Jane, he accepted the Democratic nomination for president, and served from 1853-1857.

 

Pierce’s efforts to lead the nation were hindered by divisions within his party. Nonetheless, he reformed the Civil Service, the Departments of the Interior and Treasury; and oversaw the territorial expansion of the United States, most notably in completing the Gadsden Purchase, through which the U.S. obtained modern-day Arizona and southern New Mexico from Mexico, and which was strongly advocated by his Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (1808-1889). However, it was also territorial expansion and its relation to the issue of slavery that undermined Pierce’s presidency, specifically the Kansas-Nebraska Act whose passage on May 30, 1854, contributed to the rise of the Republican Party.The legislation, drafted by Pierce and Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas, opened Kansans to settlement while allowing popular sovereignty to determine whether Kansas would allow slavery. This led both pro- and anti-slavery advocates to settle in Kansas for the sole purpose of casting their ballots on the matter. The resulting violence, such as that famously perpetrated by John Brown, was dubbed “Bleeding Kansas” and helped further divide both the Democratic Party and the entire nation, propelling it toward civil war.

 

Because of the political discord that marked Pierce’s presidency, the Democratic Party failed to nominate him for reelection. After leaving Washington, he briefly returned to his native New Hampshire before setting off on a three-year tour of Europe and the Bahamas. From afar he managed to stay abreast of American affairs and maintained an extensive correspondence with Webster, a New Hampshire native who, after graduating from Yale University and Harvard Law School, became President Pierce’s private secretary. The pair formed a close relationship that would persist long after Pierce left Washington. In 1860, Webster married Sarah Morris Fish, the eldest daughter of Senator Hamilton Fish (1808-1893) of New York, future secretary of state under Ulysses S. Grant. In 1892, Webster published Franklin Pierce and His Administration.

 

In 1807, England and the United States banned the Atlantic slave trade. Thereafter, importation of slaves from Africa or elsewhere was illegal and considered piracy. Nonetheless, newly enslaved Africans continued to be smuggled to ports across the American South. From 1807-1860, the Royal Navy’s West African Squadron attempted to enforce a blockade, capturing 1,600 ships and 150,000 slaves (who were settled in the British colony of Sierra Leone). The 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty enlisted the cooperation of the United States Navy in enforcing the blockade.  However, “no treaty authorizing right of search existed between Britain and the United States,” (Odious Commerce: Britain, Spain and the Abolition of the Cuban Slave Trade, Murray). Our letter concerns the tensions arising from such British activity in the waters surrounding the Spanish colony of Cuba, at a time when the Cuban slave trade was dominated by American vessels. In May 1858, the British steamer Forward captured the American vessel Cortez off the coast of Cuba for its involvement in the slave trade. “Indeed there had been increasing numbers of American-flagged vessels stopped by British cruisers off Cuba,” (Africa Squadron: The U.S. Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842-1861, Canney). Despite the fact that the importation of new slaves was outlawed, “Prominent Southern pro-slavery extremists openly hired [the slave ship] Wanderer in an effort to re-open the slave trade. The fast former yacht outdistanced sloop-of-war Vincennes and eluded federal authorities in Georgia, landing the last cargo of Africans on the American coast in late 1858. The public and press outcry was such that within three months [President] Buchanan issued directives to enlarge the squadron, assign steamers to it, and, shortly thereafter, move the depot from the Cape Verde Islands to the African Coast,” (ibid.). 

 

“From 1854, when the Republican Party was founded, Democrats labeled it adherents ‘black’ Republicans to identify them as proponents of black equality. During the 1860 elections southern Democrats used the term derisively to press their belief that Abraham Lincoln’s victory would incite slave rebellions in the South and lead to widespread miscegenation,” (Historical Times Encyclopedia of the Civil War).

 

Our letter mentions American naval officer Charles Stewart McCauley (1793-1869) whom Pierce had ordered to protect American interests in Cuba during his administration. At the outbreak of the Civil War McCauley destroyed ships and supplies at theGosport Shipyard (modern Norfolk Naval Shipyard) to prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

 

American fiction writer Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) is best known as the author of The Scarlet Letterand The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne lived in Concord, Massachusetts until July 1853, when Pierce, a college friend, appointed him to a diplomatic post abroad. He lived in Europe for seven years. He and Pierce were extremely close friends and they were traveling together when Hawthorne died.

 

Jefferson Davis served as Pierce’s secretary of war from 1853 until 1857 when he took office, again, as U.S. senator from Mississippi. When Mississippi withdrew from the Union in January 1861, Davis resigned his seat and became the provisional (and later elected) president of the Confederate States of America. Davis’ wife Varina Davis (1826-1906) often acted as his secretary, penning and even signing his correspondence.

 

Prior to his career in politics, Pierce practiced law with Colonel John Hatch George (1824-1888) in Concord, New Hampshire. George, at various times, was partner in law firms with New Hampshire Congressman Charles Hazen Peaslee (1804-1866), adjutant general of the State militia. 

 

Harvard-educated doctor and volunteer militia surgeon George Bailey Loring (1817-1891) was postmaster of Salem, Massachusetts beginning in 1853, but was not reappointed, prompting Pierce’s surprise as our letter suggests. Loring went on to become a delegate to the Republican National Convention and was elected to Congress in 1877.

 

William Medill (1802-1865) served as Democratic governor of Ohio from 1853-1856 and was first comptroller of the United States Treasury from 1857 to 1861.

 

John James Gilchrist (1809-1858) was a Harvard-educated attorney who served in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Pierce nominated him to the Court of Claims, where he served from 1855 until his death, three years later.

 

Our letter was written at the beginning of Pierce’s stay in Madeira in the company of John Louis O’Sullivan (1813-1895), a Democrat and American newspaper columnist best remembered for coining the term “manifest destiny.” He served as American minister to Portugal under Pierce, and although he opposed civil war, after the outbreak of hostilities, he supported the Confederacy, penning pamphlets that supported its cause.  He remained abroad until the 1870s.

 

This remarkably long, unpublished letter remained in the Fish family until just recently. Written on three folded sheets of the monogrammed stationery of O’Sullivan’s wife Susan. Folded and fine. Accompanied by the original free-franked envelope with red wax seal.

 

Item #20228

 


 

 

 

 

 

$8,500


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