Calvin Coolidge, who served as president from 1923 to 1929, never rated highly in polls. The shy Vermonter, nicknamed "Silent Cal," has long been dismissed as quiet and passive. History has remembered the decade in which he served as a frivolous, extravagant period predating the Great Depression. Now Amity Shlaes, the author known for her riveting, unexpected portrait of the 1930s, provides a similarly fresh look at the 1920s and its elusive president. Shlaesshows that the mid-1920s was, in fact, a triumphant period that established our modern way of life: the nation electrified, Americans drove their first cars, and the federal deficit was replaced with a surplus. Coolidge is an eye-opening biography of the little-known president behind that era of remarkable growth and national optimism.
Although Coolidge was sometimes considered old-fashioned, he was the most modern of presidents, advancing not only the automobile trade but also aviation, through his spirited support of Charles Lindbergh. Coolidge's discipline and composure, Shlaes reveals, represented not weakness but strength. First as governor of Massachusetts then as president, Coolidge proved unafraid to take on the divisive issues of this crucial period: reining in public-sector unions, unrelentingly curtailing spending, and rejecting funding for new interest groups.
Perhaps more than any other president, Coolidge understood that doing less could yield more. He reduced the federal budget during his time in office even as the economy grew, wages rose, tax rates fell, and unemployment dropped. As a husband, father, and citizen, the thirtieth president made an equally firm commitment to moderation, shunning lavish parties and special presidential treatment; to him the presidency was not a bully pulpit but a place for humble service. Overcoming private tragedy while in office, including the death of a son, Coolidge showed the nation how to persevere by persevering himself. For a nation looking for a steady hand, he was a welcome pilot.
In this illuminating, magisterial biography, AmityShlaes finally captures the remarkable story of Calvin Coolidge and the decade of extraordinary prosperity that grew from his leadership.
About the Author
Amity Shlaes is the director of the George W. Bush Institute’s economic growth project and the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Forgotten Man, which won the Hayek Prize, and The Greedy Hand. She writes a syndicated column for Bloomberg and has served on the editorial board of The Wall Street Journal. She is a winner of the Bastiat Prize for economic journalism. A trustee of the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Praise for Coolidge…
“Amity Shlaes’s new biography carries a different and highly relevant message. . . . Read Coolidge, and better understand the forces bearing on the President and Congress almost a century later.”
“To read Amity Shlaes’s well-crafted biography is to understand why Reagan so admired the famously reticent man whom Shlaes calls ‘our great refrainer.’”
-George F. Will
“Amity Shlaes’s extraordinary biography describes how a single politician can change an entire political culture -- a story with plenty of echoes today. Alice Roosevelt Longworth, doyenne of the Washington salons, first disdained Coolidge, then admired him. After reading Coolidge, every reader will, too.”
“A marvelous book that is in many respects as subtle and powerful as Coolidge himself. Shlaes’s masterly command of economics, policy, and personal portraiture illustrates the times, talents, character, and courage of the consummate New Englander.”
“Coolidge is a welcome new biography of a great American president. Amity Shlaes shines fresh light on a leader of humble persistence who unexpectedly found himself in the presidency and whose faith in the American people helped restore prosperity during a period of great turmoil. Amidst today’s economic hardships and an uncertain future, Shlaes illuminates a path forward -- making Coolidge a must-read for policymakers and citizens alike.”