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    Franklin Pierce Mildly Depressing Family Autograph Letter Signed: The future President tells his wife's sister that his older son's health is not getting worse, his other son has a fever, and his wife is better. His older son was to die of typhus at age 4 and his other son was later killed in a train crash at age 11. His firstborn had died three days after birth.

    Signed: "Frank..Pierce", one page, 7.75" x 9.75". Concord, Friday Noon, no date, but c. 1841-1843. To his wife's sister, Mary M. Aiken (Mrs. John Aiken). In full: "My dear Sister, Franky continues much as when you left. The Dr says nothing more unfavorable appears since that time, and I am more hopeful. Jane had a good nights rest and is better today than most of the time while you were with us. Little Ben was strongly threatened with a fever last night, but I hope by prompt and decided treatment it may be thrown off. Miss Bunker is an admirable nurse and I think a great comfort to Frank as well as Mrs. Pierce. I shall continue to write daily until there shall be some decided change & hope you will not be over anxious - Love to all - Yr aff Brother."

    Mary M. Appleton (?-1883), Jane Pierce's youngest sister, married John Aiken (1797-1867), an attorney from Lowell, Massachusetts, in 1832.

    Jane M. Appleton (1806-1863), Reverend and Mrs. Jesse Appleton's eldest daughter, married then-Congressman Franklin Pierce in 1834.

    Jane and Franklin Pierce had three sons. Their eldest, Franklin, was born in Hillsborough, N.H., on February 2, 1836, and died three days later. Their second son, Frank, was born in Concord, N.H., on August 27, 1839. Their third son, Benjamin, was born in Concord on April 13, 1841. Democrat Franklin Pierce served in the House of Representatives from 1833-1837 and had served in the U.S. Senate since March 4, 1837. Ten months after Benjamin was born, Jane, who disliked Washington and the social duties of a Senator's wife, convinced her husband to resign and return to Concord. Franklin Pierce resigned on February 28, 1842, and returned to Concord to practice law. This undated letter may have been penned in 1841, the year "Little Ben" was born, while Pierce was still a U.S. Senator. Congress was not in session from September 14th through December 5th and Pierce may have returned home to Concord. Most likely it was written after Pierce returned to Concord in March, 1842.

    Jane Pierce was a sickly child and throughout her life had recurrent attacks of tuberculosis. In this letter, Pierce tells her youngest sister that "Jane had a good nights rest and is better today than most of the time while you were with us." He writes that Franky's health remains the same; the doctor "says nothing more unfavorable appears since" she left Concord. Franky was four when he died of typhus on November 14, 1843. When U.S. Senator Levi Woodbury (D-N.H.) was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1845, the N.H. legislature wanted Pierce to fill the vacancy, but he declined. He also declined the post of Attorney General when it was offered by President Polk in 1846. He had promised his wife he would "never again...be voluntarily separated from my family for any considerable time except at the call of my country in time of war." After serving in the Mexican War as a Colonel and Brigadier General (1847-1848), he returned to Concord.

    There was no leading candidate for President at the 1852 Democratic National Convention. Lewis Cass, led on the first ballot, James Buchanan led on the 25th ballot, Stephen A. Douglas led on the 30th ballot, and William L. Marcy took the lead on the 45th ballot. On the 35th ballot, Virginia cast its 15 votes for Franklin Pierce as a compromise candidate. By the 48th ballot, Pierce was third behind Marcy and Cass. After an impassioned plea by the North Carolina delegation on the 49th ballot, Pierce was nominated with 279 of the 288 votes cast and became the Democratic candidate for President. When Jane heard the news, she fainted. When Pierce took Jane on a short vacation, 11-year-old Bennie wrote to her: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." Pierce defeated the Whig candidate, General Winfield Scott, in a landslide, 254 electoral votes (27 states) to 42 votes (4 states). He convinced Jane that his being President would be an asset for Bennie's success in life.

    In this letter, in addition to Franky's health, Pierce writes that "Little Ben was strongly threatened with a fever last night." Little Ben was two-and-a-half when his four-year-old brother Franky died not long after this letter was written and he never knew his oldest brother who had died three days after birth, five years before he was born. Sadly, on January 6, 1853, he and his parents were on a train when it jumped the tracks near Andover, Massachusetts. Eleven-year-old Bennie was thrown and killed before his parents' eyes. He was the only fatality. Grief-stricken, Jane didn't attend Bennie's funeral or her husband's inauguration. There was no inaugural ball.

    Jane Pierce believed that Bennie's death was God's way of punishing them for leaving home and going to Washington. She also felt that God did not want her husband to have his son in the White House to distract him from his official duties. While First Lady, she always dressed in black and spent most of her time in her bedroom writing letters to Bennie. She was known as the "Shadow in the White House."

    A personal family letter of a President mentioning his wife and children is extremely desirable. It usually finds its way into presidential collections in colleges and libraries. In fact, the Library of Congress has a collection of 575 papers of Pierce-Aiken family correspondence including six letters written by Franklin Pierce to Mary M. Aiken. But not this one! This letter is in extra fine condition and would make a significant addition to a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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