Part of the American Presidency Series published by University Press of Kansas; Larry Gara’s work focuses on fourteenth President who has been the only New Hampshire resident to have held the office.
A strength of this book includes a sweeping perspective of the domestic and foreign settings of 1852, the year Pierce was elected, that provides the reader with both a reminder of what was taking place in the US and the world, and as a backdrop to Pierce’s administration. Another positive feature of the book was the personal description of Pierce’s cabinet that provides again a backdrop to the controversies and successes of the administration during its four years.
A significant amount of print is given to the Kansas situation as well as to the changing shape and power of the American political party system. This flux caused the creation of the Republican Party in 1854 and the demise of the Whig Party (who, as Gara points out, had both of their Presidential office holders die in office) as well as the eventually north-south polarization that pitted Republicans against Democrats.
Published in 1991, Gara’s work is a balanced and honest assessment of Pierce’s administration. Gara concludes that Pierce, who held to a strong union view that included keeping the south in the union, eventually under estimated the growing sectional divide between the north and the south.
(Note: I obtained this book from my local public library via Inter Library Loan for my own personal reading enrichment. This review reflects my own opinion to the book.)