Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Presidents: Part 1: From Washington To Taft

The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Presidents:  Part 1:  From Washington To Taft, by Larry Schweikart

I have to admit that I found a great deal more to enjoy about this book than I thought would be the case.  In general, as I have read through a great many of the books in this series, I have in general found them to be excellent, but often I find that people who write about the presidents tend to have agendas that I do not necessarily share.  In this case, though, I happened to like the author’s perspective about the presidents and their administrations a great deal [1].  In general, the author looked at presidents from a point of view that was complicated enough to include their devotion to the standards of the Constitution as well as their labor on behalf of the well-being of the Union as a whole.  Refreshingly as well, this guide also graded presidents based on their views towards racial justice, which is not only politically incorrect but also brave based on the prejudices that one might assume from the readers of the series.  In sum, this was a book that I could wholeheartedly enjoy as a reader.

This particular book of about 300 pages covers the presidents who served under the constitution from George Washington to Taft.  The author shows a great deal of wit in describing their personal background as well as how they came to be president and what they did in office, and often what happened after they left office as well.  The author considers the way that presidents did or did not serve in the consultative Whig sense with Congress as being of great importance and had a view of the presidents that was remarkable and fair.  Unlike a great many writers who have looked at the presidents of the United States, this author shows a great deal of insight into the way that presidents did or did not serve the well-being of the United States during their time in office.  Neither does he judge presidents by the sort of libertarian standards that would make Grover Cleveland a hero while damning Abraham Lincoln–both of those presidents end up getting high marks and both have reasonable criticisms made of some of their decisions.  In addition to his own writing, moreover, the author provides a great deal of encouragement to read books about the presidents, many of which I have already read and reviewed, that have a lot to say about Lincoln as well.

Overall, the most striking aspect of this book is the way that the author ends his writing about the American presidents in 1912, when Taft’s attempts at re-election are foiled by the efforts of Teddy Roosevelt to win a third term that divided the Republicans and handed the Oval Office to the racist Progressive Woodrow Wilson, and it is intriguing to note how 1912 serves as a worthwhile point at determining how the presidency got off the rails and became a problem rather than a solution to the concerns of a strong executive as well as the upholding of republican virtue.  Overall, it appears as if the presidents of the first century or so of the American Republic had a few problems that they had to deal with over and over again, namely the problem of how slavery was to be eradicated given its mocking of American ideals of liberty and justice, and how it was that the problem of creeping government expansion was to be rolled back, neither of which were handled in the best way.  Even though this story ends on a bit of a melancholy note, there is much to appreciate here, especially in the author’s fair-minded views.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/04/book-review-abraham-lincoln-great-american-historians-on-our-sixteenth-president/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/09/14/book-review-slavemaster-president/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/01/18/dont-leave-home-a-discussion-of-presidential-farewell-addresses/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/07/book-review-almost-president/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2016/01/08/book-review-the-routledge-historical-atlas-of-presidential-elections/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Book Reviews, History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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