a tragic inauguration -- 12/28/16

Delanceyplace.com End of Year: A few encores on Presidential Inaugurations.

Today's encore selection -- from Franklin Pierce by Michael F. Holt. For Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire, our fourteenth president, triumph turned to tragedy in the days leading to his inauguration:

"In late December 1852, Jane's beloved uncle Amos Lawrence, who was especially fond of the Pierces' eleven-year-old son Benjamin, died of a stroke. The family went down to Boston for the funeral and planned to return to Concord via Andover, where they stayed with relatives for a few days. On January 6, 1853, they boarded a train consisting of a single passenger car for the short run to Concord, but about a mile out of the Andover station, the car derailed and tumbled down a twenty-foot culvert, landing on its roof. Pierce, who had been sitting next to Jane, was badly bruised, but alive, as was Jane. But Benny, who had been sitting alone on the seat behind them, had the back of his head sheared off and died instantly. Father and mother had to view this ghastly sight, and both were badly shaken. Jane was so undone, indeed, that she remained in Andover rather than come to Concord for the funeral. Nor would she travel to the capital for Pierce's inauguration.

"Jane, accompanied by her cousin Abby Means, eventually arrived in Washington, eighteen days after the inauguration. She spent most of her time in seclusion while her cousin served as hostess at the many dinner parties Pierce held for congressmen and the diplomatic corps. It would not be until the end of 1854 that Jane herself appeared at the dinners.

"Grief-ridden and hobbled by injuries, Pierce did not return his thoughts to cabinet making until early February."


Michael F. Holt


Franklin Pierce: The American Presidents Series: The 14th President, 1853-1857


Times Books, Henry Holt and Company


Copyright 2010 by Michael F. Holt


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