Pierce Defends the Democratic Party as Non-Sectional, Wonders About the Outcome of the 1860 Election

April 18, 1860

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Pierce Defends the Democratic Party as Non-Sectional, Wonders About the Outcome of the 1860 Election
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 1809

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      Background

      With the nation splitting apart, Franklin Pierce was, literally, lolling about an island paradise, decrying sectionalism. Urging compromise, then, from the Bahamas, as four sectional presidential candidates were about to take the field  on the brink of war, Pierce defends the Democratic party – which would split in two for the 1860 election, North and South – as being essentially the same as that from the Great Compromise of 1850, to the present hour.
       
      The Democratic party has been consistent when you think they have been otherwise – that the principles maintained by that party pending the Kansas and Nebraska bill were coincident with those enunciated by Mr. Webster and Mr. Clay in the discussion of the compromise measures of 1850, and that the party instead of being in any sense sectional, is directly and  distinctly, opposed to it, in idea and action. If I am mistaken in this I ought not to belong to the party.  
       
      The great question, Pierce declares, was whether “we emerge from the approaching presidential conflict, with the bonds of the Union strengthened by the trial through which they are to pass or are they to meet the last, rude shock which is to leave the confederation in fragments?”  In less than a year, he would have the answer. With Democrats Douglas and Breckinridge, and the Southern Whig Bell all defeated by the Republican Lincoln, seven states would secede before Lincoln even took office.


      Autograph Letter Signed, 4 pages, recto and verso, octavo, Nassau N.P., April 18, 1860. To his brother-in-law John Aiken in Massachusetts.
       
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      Nassau N P.
      Apl 18, 1860
       
      My dear Brother
       
      Jeanie’s letter which went by the Karnak last week that there seems to be little occasion to add anything now.  I have however just learned that the Brigantine Mansanilla is to leave this port today for New York and as I am in your debt on the score of letters as well as in many other respects, I will avail myself of the opportunity to report, all well, if no more.
       

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      The last steamer bore away toward their own homes the bulk of American visitors and the increasing heat suggests that the next trip will be quite late enough for us.  Altho’, the thermometer shows no marked change in temperature, still the South wind, which always comes with a prostrating influence prevails more steadily and we shall be quite willing to be fanned by more bracing breezes.  It is probable that we shall remain in New York only a few days just long enough for Jeanie to recover from the effects of the voyage and then proceed to New Haven where we may pass a week with our friends, the Ingersolls.
       

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      I thank you for your long pleasant letter received several weeks since.  It seems to me, that in the absence of foregone conclusions, inseparable perhaps from the influence of education and party associations, it would be easy to shake some of your positions -- to show for instance that the Democratic party has been consistent when you think they have been otherwise – that the principles maintained by that party pending the Kansas and Nebraska bill were coincident with those enunciated by Mr Webster & Mr Clay in the discussion of the Compromise Measures of 1850.  And that the party instead of being in any sense sectional, is directly and  

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      distinctly, opposed to it, in idea and action -- If I am mistaken in this I ought not to belong to the party.  If I am right it would seem to be equally clear, that you should give it, the aid of your support.  Shall we emerge from the approaching presidential conflict, with the bonds of the Union strengthened by the trial through, [sic] which they are to pass, or are they to meet the last, rude shock which is to leave the confederation in fragments?  If you meet Mr Wm Appleton will you assure him of our affectionate remembrance & sincere sympathy in his great affliction--  With love to all

      Yr affectionate Brother, --

      FRANKLIN PIERCE
       
      Hon. John Aiken
      Andover, Mass