The 1852 Presidential Election

Well, folks, it’s time to go to the virtual polls again and cast your ballot for president in the 1852 presidential election. Judging from past returns, I might well put my money on John P. Hale, which would make a certain resident of Madison, Wisconsin very, very happy.

25 thoughts on “The 1852 Presidential Election

  1. wgdavis October 20, 2012 / 5:11 pm

    Hale! He faced off with Pierce in New Hampshire and essentially won early in his political career. Not in 1852 though. Pierce was too strong and the Democratic Party had not split yet.

  2. Louis October 20, 2012 / 5:11 pm

    Was going to vote for Old Fuss and Feathers but I googled Hale first. I only knew him as the father of JWB’s girlfriend but what I read made me a Hale man for ’52. Under no circumstances would I vote for Pierce, who I consider a coward. I don’t care if he did lose his son in such a horrible fashion just before the inauguration.

    • Noma October 20, 2012 / 7:49 pm

      Louis, sounds like you are trying to side with Pierce’s wife (the daughter of the president at his alma mater, Bowdoin College). She did not want Pierce to run for president, and she convinced the son to join her side of the argument. But he said, Now listen son, you don’t realize how great it will be for you if I win — plus, I even got Nathaniel Hawthorne to write my campaign biography. You guys, just go along with me for once.

      I think he wont the nomination on the 36th ballot, or something like that.

      But then that horrible tragedy that you mentioned happened. And how did Jane Appleton Pierce respond to this incident. How did she comfort her husband? “You, you — this is all your fault. The Lord is punishing you for running for president! Now didn’t I tell you something like this was going to happen!” Then went to her room for a year or two — became “the shadow of the White House.”

      But here’s the thing, Pierce may have had many faults. Okay, he *did* have many faults. But the greatest thing he did was to appoint a very gifted military man to be Secretary of War. The guy improved the training at West Point, and he was convinced that railroads were going to be vital to national security, so he ramped them up as well.

      So you see it wasn’t all bad, because it turned out that railroads were vital to national security, after all. Without them, we never could have defeated that former Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis.

      And, yes, in case you want to know, there is no dormitory or lecture hall at Bowdoin College named after Franklin Pierce. Probably has something to do with some correspondence Pierce had with Davis when Davis was in prison after the war, something to the effect, “Yes, and you were right about this all along.” Sorry, no dorm for you, Franklin.


      The Democrats’ slogan was “We Polked you in 1844; we shall Pierce you in 1852!”

      • Louis October 21, 2012 / 12:28 pm

        Actually, Noma, I was just trying to show a little common courtesy for Pierce’s loss of his son in such a horrific fashion just before he became president. I still believe he would have been a complete doughface even if that train wreck never happened. Jane Pierce sounds like a frail woman who had suffered greatly as the wife of an alcoholic politician with few convictions. Poor lady, she lost her children and was stuck with her husband. I’ll give you Jeff Davis but that’s at best a back-handed compliment to his boss.

        • Noma October 22, 2012 / 8:20 am

          Hmm… How did I miss that he was an alcoholic, to boot? I’ll have to check into that. Especially, given the 150 year smear campaign against Grant as a drunkard, I’ll want to see what the story is.

          One more thing. The oldest building on the Bowdoin campus is Massachusetts Hall. The college is in Maine, so why name it Massachusetts Hall? Well, actually, it was built in Massachusetts. It did not come to Maine until 1820 (so to speak) as part of the Missouri compromise.

          So, one of the first students — a freshman that year — to walk into the building, once it was located in Maine, was Franklin Pierce. I always found it interesting that he later basically ripped up the Missouri compromise.

          • John Foskett October 22, 2012 / 10:55 am

            There seems to be less controversy about Pierce’s problem than about Grant’s. Statistically, of course, the odds are pretty good that any one individual in that era abused alcohol.

          • Noma October 23, 2012 / 8:12 pm

            Oh, and I just found out that John P. Hale was a Bowdoin man, too. Maybe two classmates running against each other for President. I’ll have to check the years.

            But anyway, these weren’t the only leaders who got a degree from Bowdoin. I don’t want you to think they were all losers. There was also Secretary of Defense, William Cohen, and of course, Senator George Mitchell, and for the Civil War era, William Pitt Fessenden (and of course Joshua Chamberlain and his roommate Oliver Otis Howard).

            And for the honoraries — that earlier Secretary of Defense, Jefferson Davis, and Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course Ulysses S. Grant.

  3. Bill RobertsBill the Shoe October 20, 2012 / 6:44 pm

    My knowledge of Hale comes from his dealings with the Navy in the 1860s, and from that knowledge I would be at best reluctant to vote for him.

  4. michael confoy October 20, 2012 / 8:39 pm

    Another no good choice, but at least Scott would have been a true Whig and probably only a one termer and surely not old enough yet to be a complete failure.

  5. Al Mackey October 20, 2012 / 9:51 pm

    I’ll go with Hale, who appears to be a dedicated public servant and reliably antislavery.

  6. SF Walker October 20, 2012 / 10:28 pm

    No really attractive choices in this election, but I went with Winfield Scott. He was anti-slavery and during the Nullification Crisis showed that he was diplomatic and cool-headed as well. The main problem with Scott is that his anti-slavery stance would have put him at odds with the rest of his party at the time. I see Hale as too unreliable and too focused on a single issue to have been a very successful President.

    Franklin Pierce…a doughface. No need to elaborate; we all know what happened under him.

  7. Margaret D. Blough October 21, 2012 / 5:59 am

    I agree with SF Walker

  8. Brad October 21, 2012 / 6:03 am

    The actual results show that, percentagewise, Hale had half as many votes as Van Buren four years earlier. I assume this because one, the subject wasn’t as fresh in voters’ minds as in 1848 but, second, more importantly, because many assumed that the slavery issue had been dealt with two years earlier.

    I’m sure that had Kansas-Nebraska reared its head in 1852 we might have seen a higher result for Hale.

  9. Mark October 21, 2012 / 6:25 am

    I’m with Scott but what a reminder of how dismal a decade this was.

  10. John Foskett October 21, 2012 / 7:55 am

    Another “look out the window and see if it’s too crappy to vote today” choice. But given the options I had no hesitation punching the Scott ballot. What Walker said, plus Scott did his best to follow his military oath and still execise moral judgment when he was given the maloderous task of implementing the Cherokee Removal. He did so by imposing strict rules of conduct and treatment of the Cherokees by the troops under his command. Hale was pretty much another one-issue candidate. Pierce was another Yankee apologist for the Slavers. I’ll admit that by voting against Pierce I did have some remorse for the lost business of D.C. tavern keepers and whiskey purveyors.

    • SF Walker October 21, 2012 / 3:59 pm

      Scott’s performance during the Cherokee Removal–I was looking at that, too, John. I was particularly struck by the fact that Gen. Scott didn’t want to use the Georgia militia for this because they had a personal interest in the matter–it might have provoked needless violence; he wanted to use US Regulars. As you said, this shows restraint and good judgement on Scott’s part. As President from 1853-57, those would have been desirable qualities.

      • John Foskett October 22, 2012 / 10:46 am

        I definitely agree. He was put in a very difficult position and made good cecisions about how to implement something he appears to have disagreed with, recognizing his duty as a soldier to follow orders.

  11. rcocean October 21, 2012 / 9:46 am

    What does the 1839 Cherokee removal have to do with the election of 1852? Are you a Cherokee? Judas Priest.

    I’ll vote for Scott, a Virginian and a Unionist.

    • John Foskett October 21, 2012 / 10:40 am

      How much do you actually know about it? Because if you know anything about it you know that it was (1) illegal – ask the reigning Chief Justice; (2) a blatantly racist, immoral act, and (3) done to facilitate a land grab by the local whites who thought that Georgia housed the Mother Lode. Vote your way on your criteria, pal, and i’ll vote mine on mine.

      • rcocean October 21, 2012 / 5:57 pm

        Isn’t this a Civil war blog? Weird that you keep referencing some historical event that’s irrelevant to either slavery or the Civil war.

        • rcocean October 21, 2012 / 5:58 pm

          But you convinced me. Boy, I’ll never support another Cherokee removal act – it was really, really, really, racist.


        • John Foskett October 22, 2012 / 6:50 am

          Under your “analysis”, why are we talking about elections in 1844 and 1848?

  12. Lyle Smith October 21, 2012 / 12:09 pm

    I would vote for Pierce. He is not a sectionalist, but he is an expansionist. He’s kind of like Polk.

  13. fra paolo October 25, 2012 / 11:30 am

    I held my nose and voted for Scott. The Whig Party served incumbent Millard Fillmore badly.

  14. Noma November 2, 2012 / 11:44 am

    A little late. But I did not want to omit any commentary by my friend John Cross — on how the two Bowdoin boys campaigned against each other in the 1852 presidential campaign. As we know, Franklin Pierce won.

    But Cross notes the inscription John Hale wanted on his tombstone:

    In the conclusion to a fiery speech, Hale expressed the desire that his epitaph read, “He who lies beneath surrendered office, place, and power, rather than bow down and worship slavery.”

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