The presidency of Calvin Coolidge /
Robert H. Ferrell.
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c1998.
xi, 244 p., [11] p. of plates : ill., ports. ; 24 cm.
0700608923 (alk. paper)
More Details
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, c1998.
0700608923 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references (p. 209-233) and index.
A Look Inside
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 1998-11:
The stereotypes and caricatures that shape popular impressions of the 30th president of the US are all present in Ferrell's book. Readers will recognize the familiar portrait of the shy young Amherst College graduate, born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, "Silent Cal," the impecunious "small, hatchet-face[d], colorless man," who presided over the nation's uneven economic growth and international isolation during the 1920s. Ferrell supplements these historical relics with a nuanced perspective placing the Coolidge presidency within the context of sweeping societal change and an increasingly complex international arena. The book's strongest chapters reflect Ferrell's penetrating analysis of the shrewdness and occasional innocence of American foreign policy, and the Coolidge administration's surprising ignorance of the dangers of underconsumption, installment buying, and utility pyramid schemes, which led to the economic devastation of the Great Depression. Ferrell possesses a keen eye for detail and a biographer's capacity for compassion and objectivity. His portrait of the Coolidge years pares away the simplicity of myth and reveals a nation struggling with the forces of modernity and the consequences of a war that did not make the world safe for democracy. Upper-division undergraduates and above. E. M. Tobin; Hamilton College
Appeared in Library Journal on 1998-05-15:
For decades, Calvin Coolidge has been rated by historians as one of the worst presidents of all time. Considered a passive, introspective, and uninterested person and administrator, Coolidge did nothing to control the economic forces that would lead to the Great Depression. But in this new biography, Ferrell (The Dying President, LJ 3/1/98) paints a more sympathetic portrait of our 30th president. Coolidge emerges as a somewhat more complex figure who actually sought out and enjoyed public service, though he didn't find campaigning appealing. But as much as readers will learn about Coolidge, they will also learn a great deal about the times and the major issues faced by his administration. From Coolidge's role in the development of U.S. military air power to his failure to engage actively in developing a coherent foreign policy, Ferrell's research is solid and his writing graceful, making this a very informative and accessible volume.ÄThomas J. Baldino, Wilkes Univ., Wilkes-Barre, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Appeared in Publishers Weekly on 1998-05-18:
Thrust into office with the death of Warren Harding in August of 1923, Calvin Coolidge presided over a nation at play. With the taciturn New Englander in the White House, the country embarked upon the orgiastic decade of over-spending and speculation now known as the Roaring '20s. Indiana University's Robert Ferrell (American Diplomacy: A History and Harry S. Truman: A Life) sums all this up in his brief but useful study of Coolidge's lethargic presidencyÄthe first to be published in more than 30 years. As Ferrell shows, Coolidge ignored an overheating economy and thus set the stage for the Depression. At the same time, he dealt methodically, if not energetically, with the Teapot Dome scandal and crises in Mexico, China and Nicaragua. A deep believer in laissez-faire economics, Coolidge was committed to small government. He reduced the national debt (most of it stemming from the expenses of World War I) by a third, but failed to cope with a highly leveraged stock market run-up that invited disaster. "The statistics of what was happening were at hand," writes Ferrell. "The market speculation was clearly under way, but just as clearly Coolidge did not understand it." As Ferrell demonstrates, this failure is the single most important shortcoming of the Coolidge presidency, and the least explicable. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
This item was reviewed in:
Library Journal, May 1998
Publishers Weekly, May 1998
Kirkus Reviews, June 1998
Choice, November 1998
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Main Description
Perhaps no American president has seemed less suited to his office or his times than Calvin Coolidge. The taciturn New Englander became a vice presidential candidate by chance, then with the death of Warren G. Harding was thrust into the White House to preside dourly over the Roaring Twenties. Robert Ferrell, one of Americas most distinguished historians, offers the first book-length account of the Coolidge presidency in thirty years, drawing on the recently opened papers of White House physician Joel T. Boone to provide a more personal appraisal of the thirtieth president than has previously been possible. Ferrell shows Coolidge to have been a hard-working, sensitive individual who was a canny politician and a clever judge of people. He reveals how after being dubbed the "odd little man from Vermont" by the press, Coolidge cultivated that image in order to win the 1924 election. Alas, Coolidges long-suffering wife often had to serve as a safety valve for his temper. Ferrells analysis of the Coolidge years shows how the President represented the essence of 1920s Republicanism. A believer in laissez-faire economics and the separation of powers, he was committed to small government, and he and his predecessors reduced the national debt by a third. More a manager than a leader, he coped successfully with the Teapot Dome scandal and crises in Mexico, Nicaragua, and China, but ignored an overheating economy. Ferrell makes a persuasive case for not blaming Coolidge for the failures of his partys foreign policy; he does maintain that the President should have warned Wall Street about the dangers of overspeculating but lacked sufficient knowledge of economics to do so. Drawing on the most recent literature on the Coolidge era, Ferrell has constructed a meticulous and highly readable account of the Presidents domestic and foreign policy. His book illuminates this pre-Depression administration for historians and reveals to general readers a President who was stern in temperament and dedicated to public service.

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