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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 the 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. Shlaes shows that the mid-'20s 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 30th 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, Amity Shlaes finally captures the remarkable story of Calvin Coolidge and the decade of extraordinary prosperity that grew from his leadership.
“History has paid little attention to the achievements of Coolidge because he seemed to be unduly passive. Yet Amity Shlaes, as his biographer, exposes the heroic nature of the man and brings to life one of the most vibrant periods in American economic history.”
Alan Greenspan, economist and former chairman of the Federal Reserve
“Amity Shlaes’ 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.”
Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve
“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 policy makers and citizens alike.”
Paul Ryan, US Representative
“A marvelous book that is in many respects as subtle and powerful as Coolidge himself. Shlaes’ masterly command of economics, policy, and personal portraiture illustrates the times, talents, character, and courage of the consummate New Englander.”
Mark Helprin, New York Times bestselling author
“To read Amity Shlaes’ well-crafted biography is to understand why Reagan so admired the famously reticent man whom Shlaes calls ‘our great refrainer.’”
George F. Will, New York Times bestselling author
“Amity Shlaes’ 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.”
Anne Applebaum, New York Times bestselling author
“Shlaes glowingly portrays Coolidge as an unappreciated economic hero.”
“A presidential life certain to win wide attention in this new era of fierce economic debates.”
Barnes & Noble, editorial review
“Like-minded readers will find Shlaes’ well-researched but highly opinionated biography deeply satisfying.”