Franklin Pierce ( 1804-69), like James K. Polk, was a dark horse candidate. Not until the thirty-fifth ballot did he appear on the lists in the Democratic convention of 1852; nor did he win the nomination until the forty-ninth ballot. His wife, whose health was poor and who hated Washington, collapsed when she heard the news; and his little boy Bennie told his mother: "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either."1 Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pierce's classmate at Bowdoin College, wrote a campaign biography for his friend and expressed the opinion that Pierce"has in him many of the chief elements of a great ruler" and "is deep, deep, deep."2 But in Pierce's New Hampshire hometown, the choice of the Baltimore convention was greeted by one man with the exclamation: "Wall, wall, dew tell! Frank Pierce for President! Neow Frank's a good fellow, I admit, and I wish him well; he made a good State's attorney, thar's no doubt about that, and he made a far Jedge, thar's no denying that, and nobody kaint complain of him as a Congressman, but when it comes to the hull Yewnited States I dew say that in my jedgment Frank Pierce is a-goin to spread durned thin."3
The 1852 campaign was itself pretty darned thin. Pierce and his Whig opponent, General Winfield Scott, both accepted the Compromise of 1850 on slavery, and their supporters avoided raising serious issues during the campaign and concentrated instead on personalities.