Calvin Coolidge: A Documentary Biography (Book Review)

This book is as the title says, a documentary and a biography.  It is written by David Pietrusza, a respected historian and published by Church & Reid Books, Copyright 2013.  It is 487 pages in length, and includes documents of speeches, letters, and official documents by Coolidge that were written as early as his senior year in school to his retiring years after White House service.  The total documents, if I counted correctly, is 101.

The layout of the book is organized in a very proficient way for clarity for readers.Coolidge was born in 1878 and died in 1933 shortly after leaving the Presidency.  In the reading of this book I went from mere curiosity to immense respect.  Reading a book about such a calm man, while I am sometimes staggering with the tumult of our 2016 election year, seemed to give me some balance.  Coolidge never pushed himself into the political scene, but grew into it by gradual steps from local office, to state office, and finally nominated as Vice President to the Harding ticket.  Harding didn’t choose him as a running mate but rather the National Republican Convention nominated him.  Coolidge was not even in attendance at the convention himself.  Harding did not welcome him to the position but Coolidge was the first sitting Vice President to sit in on Cabinet meetings.  It was welcome knowledge to him since he unexpectedly took the oath of office upon Harding’s heart attack after only two years of Presidency.  Since Coolidge was aware of scandals in the Cabinet, he saw to it that the scandalous activity was brought to justice and he appointed replacements of his own choosing.

Coolidge held 520 press conferences but it still dubbed as “silent Cal.”  When he ran for reelection and won, he also had the privilege of working with both a majority in the House and Senate.  Yet, he stood up against his own party by vetoing fifty bills sent to the Oval Office and only four of those were overridden.  He proved to me that respected leadership and calm and reasonable spirit can do much to lead a Congress in a correct direction.

His successor, Herbert Hoover, had served as the Secretary of Commerce but Coolidge was very quiet about supporting him as President.  While Hoover is blamed for the Great Depression, and sometimes Coolidge, I believe it was more the greed of banks and population during a time of seeming prosperity.  That prosperity was under the leadership of a President who managed the government in such a way as to cut the federal budget by half, and managed to consolidate 118 government programs to 18! Hoover did not have the quiet leadership that Coolidge possessed.

For lovers of history, I recommend this book.  For casual followers of history, 487 pages might be a big bite.  It would be possible to read the biographical parts and not read the entire speeches and still feel as if much was accomplished in the reading. The author’s prospective is level.  He shows the reader that a love for political history is a good thing in our modern times.


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