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The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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Pierce, Jane Appleton, First Lady
Autograph letter signed ("Jane"), 4 pages (6  5/8  x 4  in.; 168 x 102 mm) on mourning paper, [Washington, 28 March 1853], to her sister; vertical folds, few small nicks in black-lined edges.  Half blue morocco clamshell case, green morocco lettering pieces on spine.
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A melancholy letter written by Mrs. Franklin Pierce to one of her sisters during her first month as First Lady.  Two months before Pierce took office in Washington, the Pierces' eleven-year-old son Benjamin was killed in a train accident in New England.  Mrs. Pierce maintained that this was God's punishment for her husband's political ambitions.  After commiserating with her sister, whose son Alfred is ill, Jane Pierce moves on to sorrows close at hand: "Mrs. [Millard] Fil[l]more died very suddenly at last—she had been ill but about three weeks and was usually well, and large and robust in her appearance.  Fatality seems connected with the occupants of this Office and Mansion.  I read within a few days past—and with great feeling—the details of a terrible rail road accident not far from Columbus in Ohio ... It must resemble the dreadful one wh. came so near to you and me ...bringing woe and desolation to this Mother ... My husband has not yet seen the time to properly attend to having the little picture framed.  It does not give me as much satisfaction as I hoped it would and after all the picture in the memory is the only true one.  I design to have it put in the oval frame which contained my husband's and which I always intended should frame one of dear precious Benny, taken from life.

"My husband is occupied every moment ... and if I sometimes have my hopes raised of having him with me for ten, twenty, or thirty minutes, I am generally disappointed—and often much disheartened and saddened for want of communion in our sorrow, and thoughts and feelings connected with it." 

From this point on, Mrs. Pierce began to distance herself from her husband and his presidency.  She left the social duties of the White House to others and spent her days in the upstairs living quarters, writing letters to her dead son.  She died of tuberculosis in 1863. 

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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