Friday, July 12, 2019

Coolidge: An America Enigma by Robert Sobel

My book for June was Coolidge: An America Enigma by Robert Sobel. It is part of my long term project to read books about all of the presidents. The book is on a list of the best Presidential biographies put together by the Washington Post.

Born in 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, Calvin Coolidge's family had deep roots in New England. His earliest American ancestor emigrated from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, England, around 1630.

After graduating from Amherst, Coolidge moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to become a lawyer. With his savings and a small inheritance from his grandfather, Coolidge opened his own law office in Northampton in 1898. He started getting involved in local politics. In 1906, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. From there, he worked his way to a state senator and eventually president of the state senate.

In 1915, Coolidge was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. He became Governor in 1918. Coolidge gained national attention during the 1919 Boston Police Strike.

In a era before the primaries determined the candidates, the bosses eventually chose Warren G. Harding as the Republican candidate in 1920. A delegate from Oregon proposed Coolidge for vice president. The suggestion quickly caught on with the delegates starving for an act of independence from the absent bosses. Coolidge was unexpectedly nominated.

Coolidge became President when Harding passed away in San Francisco in August 1923. He was elected on his own merit in 1924. As President, his administration stressed tax reductions, tariffs and opposition to farm subsidies.

Coolidge was President during the roaring 20's. Wall Street crashed about six months after he left office in 1929 kicking off the great depression of the 30's. The book provides an interesting view of the 1929 market crash; it emphasizes the explosion of the amount of stocks bought on margin and the lack of any financial reporting requirements for companies...

Throughout his political career, Coolidge was known as a man of few words. He was nicknamed Silent Cal.

This is a fairly pedestrian book. It is not great, but it is not bad. I don't think I have ever read a book that included so much material from other sources. It includes a lot of material from Coolidge's biography and speeches, newspapers, other people's speeches and books and other sources.

As a footnote, one of the mantras for my life has been a quote by Coolidge about pperseverance and persistence. You can find it here.

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