Pierce was the only President who recited his inaugural address from memory. Pierce's Vice-President, William Rufus King, did not attend the inaugural ceremonies. King was very ill and and had gone to Cuba to try to recover at the time of the Inauguration, and was sworn into office there on March 24, 1853. King died on April 18, 1853, one day after returning to his home in Alabama.
Pierce, who was in mourning over the recent death of his son Bennie, cancelled the inaugural ball. Two months before, on January 6, 1853 (160 years ago today), Pierce's family had been trapped in a train travelling from Boston. To celebrate both Christmas and Franklin's election, the family of three set out for a vacation to Boston before Pierce's inauguration. After the vacation, just after their train departed Andover, Massachusetts, an axle broke and the train jumped the track and went over a fifteen-foot embankment. Franklin and Jane received only minor bruises and scrapes, but they witnessed their only son, Benny, being crushed beneath the railroad car. He was the only passenger killed in the accident. First Lady Jane Pierce viewed the train accident as a divine punishment for her husband's vanity in pursuing and accepting the nation's high office.
Pierce was inaugurated on March 4, 1853 at the East Portico of the Capitol Building. The weather is recorded as being light snow and wind with heavier snow during the Inaugural address. The estimated temperature at noon was 35°F. Chief Justice Roger Taney presided over the inauguration.
In his inaugural addres, Pierce called for an era of peace and prosperity at home and urged a vigorous assertion of US interests in its foreign relations. He said:
"The policy of my Administration will not be deterred by any timid forebodings of evil from expansion. Indeed, it is not to be disguised that our attitude as a nation and our position on the globe render the acquisition of certain possessions not within our jurisdiction eminently important for our protection".
Prior to Pierce's election, Jane Pierce had gone to Newport, New Hampshire, for a respite. While there, Benny wrote to her, expressing the wish that his father lost the election. Benny wrote "I hope he won't be elected for I should not like to be at Washington and I know you would not either." But Pierce convinced his wife that his office would be an asset for Benny's success in life.