Is Franklin Pierce the worst President in US History? Many believe this to be true, or once believed it to be true. Things change.
Is Franklin Pierce due for a promotion? Pierce, the only
man elected to the White House, is a perennial nominee for Worst President Ever. But as that office's current occupant finds his own reputation under attack from many historians and the public, Pierce could move up a notch from the bottom of the presidential rankings - a boost Pierce partisans say is long past due. New Hampshire
"When I speak to groups, somebody always asks, 'How does it feel to know your man is no longer the worst?' " said Peter Wallner, author of a recent two-volume biography of Pierce. "I take a little bit of pleasure in the fact that (President George) Bush is viewed by them as worse than Pierce."
Such rankings, of course, are meaningless when set against the long sweep of history, and historians warn against premature judgments. Still, Bush's slide may bring some measure of justice for Pierce advocates who feel their man has been wrongly maligned by history.
"This whole rating presidents is very, very subjective, but I've always thought it was unfair to put Pierce at the bottom," said Jayme Simoes, chairman of the committee that commemorated Pierce's 200th birthday in 2004.
Pierce, who served as president from 1853 to 1857, has been the object of scorn from the moment he left the White House. Critics dismiss him as an ill-prepared political lightweight. He's been blamed with pushing the nation toward civil war by allowing slavery to expand to the West. Even his official White House biography notes that Pierce, "far from preserving calm, hastened the disruption of the
Union." Some people say he was a drunk, too.
Things are looking up Franklin Pierce.