Saturday, February 28, 2009

Book Review: "John Tyler" by Gary May

John Tyler was the 10th President, the 1st to become President after the death of another president (William H. Harrison), and the 23rd president whose book in the American Presidents Series I have read [Times Books].

I have found it amusing that, in general, the best-written books in this series are the ones about the most obscure presidents. This one is an easy-to-read, concise, and insightful look at a president nearly no one knows.

Given the current political climate, with its massive government spending and interference in the private sector, reading President Tyler's thoughts (and those of his father and his contemporaries of all parties) is delightful. Although a democrat with a southerner's tendency toward states' rights—he became a member of the Confederate Congress shortly before his death in 1862—Tyler's thoughts on the limits of government and on the Constitution are often refreshing and timeless.

Surely, every single president of the pre-Civil War era of our history would be appalled—nay, horrified and shocked—at what our national government looks like today. In Tyler's case, this is easy to understand.

Like the other books in the American President Series, it is about 150 pages and written at a level that any amateur U.S. historian (or historian wannabe) should easily digest. Gary May's work is, overall, one of the better volumes I have read so far.

No comments: