Our friend over at Best Presidential Biographies has finally arrived at Calvin Coolidge and he offers his first review, having read Amity Shlaes’ Coolidge published just short of three years ago. The reviewer offers some helpful points about the author and her approach to Cal, noting the strengths of her investigative talents which disappointingly fall short of a three-dimensional biography. The research leaves one with the impression of a policy paper not a comprehensive or full assessment of Coolidge as the title might suggest. Even in that, renaming public offices, like “City Solicitor General” (among other factual oversights) leave the reader with the impression that the author may not be quite as acquainted with her subject as should be expected (pp.75-76).
Nevertheless, the book has been pivotal in the most recent renewal of interest in what Coolidge did – or more properly termed – refrained from doing that is important now and deserves new appraisal and appreciation. This is especially so as our national debt soars and spending accelerates with no serious attempt at slowing not to mention halting altogether. Coolidge’s tenacious concentration on the payment of debt, the discipline to keep expenditures down, the meticulous effort to hold budgets in surplus, and the conscientious conviction that since all people, to remain free, deserve to keep the maximum reward of their own effort, working less for government and more for themselves and their families. This is to be done without compromising the essential functions of our American system and institutions. Coolidge as the Budgetary General, the Commander of fiscal discipline, is the driving persona in Shlaes’ narrative.
Of course, it functions as a prequel to Amity Shlaes’ The Forgotten Man, her book on the Great Depression. Please go over and read the review while also taking some time to delve into the wealth of historiography to be found there on all the Presidents.