Friday, July 4, 2008

Book Review: "Calvin Coolidge" by David Greenberg

Calvin Coolidge is one of those presidents who, to most, is deemed to have been a trivial president. The slightly more astute will realize that he is the only president to have the birthdate of July 4, 136 years ago today.

But he was neither a trivial president nor as "silent" as many believe. He was indeed a reserved man, but his contributions were important in their day. He may not have led the country through war or other great trial, but he did lead, and was an immensely popular leader.

Greenberg's book is a well-written look at the life of this man. For those who want a scholarly but not cumbersome look at him, this is the book to get. The book gives a well-balanced view of his life, neither overly favorable nor critical; and focusing neither on the 1920's alone nor exclusively on our day.

Coolidge was a Republican, and what we today would call a conservative. Ronald Reagan hung his portrait in the White House (note: Reagan was a teenager while Coolidge was president). Toward the end of this book comes this interesting quotation:

"In his fourth annual address to Congress, on December 7, 1926, he issued a call 'for reducing, rather than expanding, government bureaus which seek to regulate and control the business activities of the people.' To the objection that workers, consumers, and other citizens needed safeguards, the president replied, 'Unfortunately, human nature cannot be changed by an act of the legislature....It is too much assumed that because an abuse exists it is the business of the national government to remedy it.'" (p. 131)
Some things never change.

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