Presidency of Calvin Coolidge

Robert H. Ferrell, Author
Robert H. Ferrell, Author University Press of Kansas $29.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-7006-0892-8
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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 presidency--the 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)
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