Before he was President: Franklin Pierce

Franklin Pierce, 1853-1857 speaker of the house
While at Bowdoin College in Maine Pierce had honed his public speaking, which made him a natural for the legal profession. IT was also at Bowdoin that Pierce served as the captain of the student military company (perhaps an early version of the Army ROTC). Right after graduating from college Pierce received a job as postmaster in his childhood hometown of Hillsborough, New Hampshire. Most likely because of his excellent speaking skills, he was also elected "moderator of town meetings" in New Hampshire.

In 1829, he was elected to the state legislature, two years after his father won election to the governorship. Attractive and well-connected, the popular Pierce was chosen Speaker of the House in 1831 at the age of 26. Life in Washington took its toll on Pierce. The city in the 1830s was an unpleasant place with ill-smelling swamps and political intrigue. Politicians serving there lived mostly in shabby boardinghouses. Bored and homesick, many found comfort in alcohol. Drinking quickly became a problem for Pierce. Before long, stories of his partying and drunken escapades were a staple of the capital's grapevine. Two months before his inauguration, the Pierce family was involved in a train wreck and their 11-year-old son, Benjamin, was thrown from the car and crushed to death before their eyes. President Pierce did not use a bible to take the oath of office. He felt God had passed his judgment with the death of Pierce's son. Source1 Source2

James Buchanan, 1857-1861 lawyer, U.S. congressman, U.S. senator, U.S. secretary of state, writer
At age sixteen, he entered Dickinson College in Carlisle, seventy miles from home. A spirited presence on campus, James managed to avoid two near expulsions from the school over disciplinary matters. After two years, he graduated with honors and then promptly began law studies. In 1813, he was admitted to the Pennsylvania bar and began practicing in Lancaster. Buchanan's legal skills were so great that before he became thirty, he was worth over $250,000—a sizable fortune in 1819.

Much like Abraham Lincoln's story connecting him to Ann Rutledge, James Buchanan's luck with his first fiancée was troubled. In 1819 his fiancée and him broke up after a fight, and she died almost immediately afterwards. That trauma made Buchanan vow he would never marry again. Source

More stories: Duncan Hines   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Henry Ford

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