Following up on my previous post, UNH Franklin Pierce Law School May Drop Name Of 14th U.S. President (1853-57) Because He Did Not End Slavery: Concord Monitor op-ed: The Most Important Legacy of Franklin Pierce, ‘An Attorney of the First Order’, by Garry Boulard (author, The Expatriation of Franklin Pierce—The Story of a President and the Civil War (2006)):
[W]hat can only be described as a cleansing campaign has reached Concord with the move to remove the name of Franklin Pierce from the University of New Hampshire’s School of Law.
On the surface this effort seems entirely justified. Pierce, who served one term in the White House from 1853 to 1857, and endured the humiliation of not even being re-nominated by his own party, was an apologist for the Old South.
While he was privately opposed to slavery, Pierce opposed abolitionism as a movement that he thought was destined to destroy the United States, a country that during Pierce’s presidency was still just over 75 years old.
Keep the country together, Pierce argued, and worry about slavery later.
Although this stand had many adherents in the 1850s, including perhaps even a majority of Northerners, it is one that clearly now that puts Pierce on the wrong side of history.
That students of all colors should, in turn, want to see Pierce’s name removed from the School of Law makes perfect sense and is entirely justifiable.
But yet precisely because the discussion centers on a law school, and these are law students, should another aspect of Pierce’s career be considered: During the Civil War, Pierce emerged as a critic of the way in which that war was being conducted.
Even more, he especially objected to the Lincoln administration’s suspension of the writ of habeas corpus for those who dared to speak out against the war. . .
Ultimately, Pierce’s response to slavery places him in the category of an entire procession of presidents from Washington to James Buchanan, men who simply failed to appreciate the immorality of slavery, or decided that there was little they could do one way or the other to end it.
But his defense of civil liberties, particularly his stand that every American should possess the right of dissent especially during a time of war, ranks him as an attorney of the first order, and one whose name on a law school mast is worthy of careful consideration.