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Book cover of Zachary Taylor (American Presidents Series)

Zachary Taylor (American Presidents Series)

by John S. D. Eisenhower, Sean Wilentz (Editor), Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Pages: 192
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780805082371






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Overview of Zachary Taylor (American Presidents Series)

The rough-hewn general who rose to the nation’s highest office, and whose presidency witnessed the first political skirmishes that would lead to the Civil War

Zachary Taylor was a soldier’s soldier, a man who lived up to his nickname, “Old Rough and Ready.” Having risen through the ranks of the U.S. Army, he achieved his greatest success in the Mexican War, propelling him to the nation’s highest office in the election of 1848. He was the first man to have been elected president without having held a lower political office.

John S. D. Eisenhower, the son of another soldier-president, shows how Taylor rose to the presidency, where he confronted the most contentious political issue of his age: slavery. The political storm reached a crescendo in 1849, when California, newly populated after the Gold Rush, applied for statehood with an anti- slavery constitution, an event that upset the delicate balance of slave and free states and pushed both sides to the brink. As the acrimonious debate intensified, Taylor stood his ground in favor of California’s admission—despite being a slaveholder himself—but in July 1850 he unexpectedly took ill, and within a week he was dead. His truncated presidency had exposed the fateful rift that would soon tear the country apart.

Synopsis of Zachary Taylor (American Presidents Series)

The rough-hewn general who rose to the nation’s highest office, and whose presidency witnessed the first political skirmishes that would lead to the Civil War

Zachary Taylor was a soldier’s soldier, a man who lived up to his nickname, “Old Rough and Ready.” Having risen through the ranks of the U.S. Army, he achieved his greatest success in the Mexican War, propelling him to the nation’s highest office in the election of 1848. He was the first man to have been elected president without having held a lower political office.

John S. D. Eisenhower, the son of another soldier-president, shows how Taylor rose to the presidency, where he confronted the most contentious political issue of his age: slavery. The political storm reached a crescendo in 1849, when California, newly populated after the Gold Rush, applied for statehood with an anti- slavery constitution, an event that upset the delicate balance of slave and free states and pushed both sides to the brink. As the acrimonious debate intensified, Taylor stood his ground in favor of California’s admission—despite being a slaveholder himself—but in July 1850 he unexpectedly took ill, and within a week he was dead. His truncated presidency had exposed the fateful rift that would soon tear the country apart.

Publishers Weekly

Eisenhower (So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico), a military historian and retired army general, has a secure mastery of his subject and his era in this addition to the American Presidents series of nutshell biographies. Taylor's career, in Eisenhower's retelling, had two principal foci. First, he was a general in the American incursion into Mexico in 1846, and his campaign, crisply recounted here, was perceived as a success by the American populace, catapulting Taylor (1784-1850) to national prominence. Second, Eisenhower spotlights Taylor's equivocal relationship to slavery. A lifelong slave owner himself, he opposed abolishing slavery where it existed to preserve the Union. Yet Taylor claimed to oppose slavery on principle as well as its spread to California, New Mexico and other new states. Taylor lived only 16 uneventful months after his inauguration in March 1849, so Eisenhower's treatment of his presidency necessarily deals more with congressional debates on slavery than with Taylor himself. Eisenhower takes a nuanced view of the 12th president, finding Taylor gentle in civilian life, something of a disappointment as a soldier, but most fundamentally a man who aimed to preserve the Union. 1 map. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author, John S. D. Eisenhower

John S. D. Eisenhower is a retired brigadier general, a former U.S. ambassador to Belgium, and the author of numerous works of military history and biography, including General Ike: A Personal Reminiscence; They Fought at Anzio; Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I; and So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico, 1846–1848. He lives in Maryland.

Reviews of Zachary Taylor (American Presidents Series)

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Editorials

Publishers Weekly

Eisenhower (So Far from God: The U.S. War with Mexico), a military historian and retired army general, has a secure mastery of his subject and his era in this addition to the American Presidents series of nutshell biographies. Taylor's career, in Eisenhower's retelling, had two principal foci. First, he was a general in the American incursion into Mexico in 1846, and his campaign, crisply recounted here, was perceived as a success by the American populace, catapulting Taylor (1784-1850) to national prominence. Second, Eisenhower spotlights Taylor's equivocal relationship to slavery. A lifelong slave owner himself, he opposed abolishing slavery where it existed to preserve the Union. Yet Taylor claimed to oppose slavery on principle as well as its spread to California, New Mexico and other new states. Taylor lived only 16 uneventful months after his inauguration in March 1849, so Eisenhower's treatment of his presidency necessarily deals more with congressional debates on slavery than with Taylor himself. Eisenhower takes a nuanced view of the 12th president, finding Taylor gentle in civilian life, something of a disappointment as a soldier, but most fundamentally a man who aimed to preserve the Union. 1 map. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal

The latest installment in this "American Presidents" series is a pithy and readable history, providing a good introduction to the life of a forgotten president. Retired brigadier general Eisenhower (So Far from God) provides a balanced yet lively view of "Old Rough & Ready," from Taylor's early life to his untimely death in office. While Eisenhower's book does not break any new ground-it draws heavily on Holman Hamilton's seminal two-volume biography-it does put Taylor in a more favorable and sympathetic light than K. Jack Bauer's Zachary Taylor: Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest. Generally considered a man of limited intellectual abilities and a stubborn, petulant, and naive politician, Taylor is here shown to be a thoughtful and more complex figure. For instance, although he was a slaveholder, he opposed the expansion of slavery. While Taylor will likely remain a mysterious and misunderstood figure, as limited scholarly work has been devoted to him and very few of his personal papers survived the Civil War, Eisenhower's account is a very good starting place for students and general readers. Recommended for public and academic libraries.
—Lisa A. Ennis

Kirkus Reviews

Old Rough and Ready gets proficient, if somewhat lackluster treatment in this latest volume of the American Presidents series. Though he was a slave-owning Kentucky planter, Taylor (1784-1850) was "first and foremost a soldier," writes Eisenhower (They Fought at Anzio, 2007, etc.). He worked his way through the ranks without a formal education, earning a reputation for being responsible and reliable in skirmishes during the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War and the Second Seminole War. The war with Mexico in 1846 brought him into the national spotlight as commander of the American forces aggressively driving back the enemy, most memorably at Palo Alto, Monterrey and Buena Vista. Returning a hero, Taylor was chosen over fellow general Winfield Scott as Whig candidate for president in 1848, running with Millard Fillmore. He became the 12th president at age 64. Outgoing President Polk's assessment was that Taylor was "a well-meaning old man [but] uneducated, exceedingly ignorant of public affairs, and I should judge of very ordinary capacity." He wasn't polished, but the new president wasn't a fool either. As debate raged about whether the new territories of California and New Mexico should be slave or free states, Taylor, opposed to the institution in principle, stood by the sovereignty of the states' citizens to decide. In foreign affairs, he will be remembered for signing the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty, which disallowed exclusive British or American dominion over Central America. He was also the first to call the president's wife "First Lady," in a eulogy for Dolly Madison, who died shortly after he was inaugurated in 1849. Taylor served only 16 months before dying of an untimely illness. Had helived, Eisenhower notes, the Compromise of 1850 would probably not have become law, and Taylor would certainly have vetoed the Fugitive Slave Act: "What would have happened then must remain as one of those imponderable might-have-beens of history."Adequate sketch of Taylor's accomplishments without a great deal of flesh or heart.

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