Great and near great

THERE has been a sort of rhubarb going on in the New Hampshire state house over where to hang the portrait of Franklin Pierce. For many years now, some people think he has been hanging too far from George Washington who is more or less front and center, sharing the limelight with that other well-known President, Abraham Lincoln. Some readers today might not recognize the name Franklin Pierce and thus not know he was President of the United States back in 1853. Of course, a lot of people back in 1853 didn't know he was President either, since he was never very conspicuous.

Apparently Mr. Pierce has been hanging almost in a corner as a ho-hum item for a long time. This is normal for an obscure president. But since Mr. Pierce was the only President New Hampshire can boast of and since he was not such a bad-looking fellow, there is some logical reason to feel he should not be sloughed aside -- giving place to someone like Daniel Webster who was neither a president nor handsome.

Whatever stature Franklin Pierce has attained, many think it was the result of being compared with Millard Fillmore, or James Buchanan, who were the Presidents who came before and after. In fact, Pierce might have been a sort of high point in a series of low points like John Tyler, James Polk, and Zachary Taylor, none of whom were likely to move George Washington from stage center.

The crowning prize for obscurity was offered by the Democratic Party in 1857 when they didn't think he was worth renominating. This could be considered a real put-down since Democrats have been renominating losers in significant numbers.

Franklin Pierce managed to fight in the Mexican war without becoming a hero. He did, however, work his way up to being a brigadier general, but it hasn't seemed to impress anyone in New Hampshire.

His cause has recently been taken up by a few prominent New Hampshirites, who believe he is one of the greatly underrated presidents and that he should be right up there along with President Jimmy Carter. The gains have not been spectacular.

As far as we know, Franklin Pierce is still in the corner.

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