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Franklin Pierce

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“The pretended Blacksmith . . . has an appointment this evening at the great log cabin on Penn. Avenue

just to admonish them that he has not lost his powers of speech or of song"


Franklin Pierce, 1804-1869.  14th President of the United States, 1853-1857.  Partial Autograph Letter, one page, 8" x 10", no place, no date [ca. 1841]. 

This unsigned letter, in Pierce's hand, contains fascinating sarcastic political diatribe.  Pierce, then a United States Senator from New Hampshire, lambasts an unnamed “pretended Blacksmith" for seeking political payola.  He writes, in full:  " . . . in the last days of February.  Will it not be a delightful task to receive & dispose of these hungry expectants.  /  The pretended Blacksmith, who made speeches with Mr. Webster and the high dignitaries and sang the hundred Harrison songs having been an unsuccessful candidate for door keeper to the House of Representatives in Ohio has come back here to shake hands with the great men with whom he dined & travelled [sic] & sang songs to claim the reward of his labors.  I perceive by the Intelligencer that he has an appointment this evening at the great log cabin on Penn. Avenue just to admonish them that he has not lost his powers of speech or of song.  Wonder if Mr. Webster, Mr. Briggs & the rest will seek his society earnestly as of yore.  Will they find him as agreeable and polatious of hard cider with him as exhuberantly [sic] as they did before the City Hall in July last.  Oh is not the recollection of the scenes enacted by the Federal Partythe old respectable Federal Party from one end of the union to the other most humiliating.  (This is all for your own eye alone if you can make anything from it for your own use do so, but burn this."

The references in this letter suggest that it likely dates from the narrow window between the inauguration of President William Henry Harrison on March 4, 1841, and Harrisons death just 31 days later, on April 4.  The letter mentions Harrison by name.  Democrats such as Pierce repeatedly referred to Harrison's Whig Party as the “Federal" Party in order to emphasize that the Whigs were descended from the discredited Hartford Convention Federalists.  The “great log cabin on Penn. Avenue,” by which Pierce meant the White House, undoubtedly refers to Harrison's use of the log cabin and hard cider as symbols for his 1840 presidential campaign in response to Democratic criticism that he was an out-of-touch old man who would rather “sit in his log cabin drinking hard cider" than attend to the country.  The letter also twice mentions Daniel Webster, a Whig whom Harrison appointed Secretary of State.  “Mr. Briggs" is probably George Nixon Briggs (1796-1861), a Whig congressman from Massachusetts.

Unfortunately, we have been unable to identify the “pretended Blacksmith" whom Pierce criticizes.  The letter is worthy of further research.

This letter has horizontal and vertical folds and is somewhat toned, although the toning is not as dark as the scan below suggests.  There is a notation “F. Pierce" on the back in another hand.  The piece is in fine condition. 




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