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The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (American Presidency (Univ of Kansas Hardcover)) Hardcover – August 5, 1988


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The Presidencies of Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore (American Presidency (Univ of Kansas Hardcover)) + The Presidency of Franklin Pierce (American Presidency Series)
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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidency (Univ of Kansas Hardcover)
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas (August 5, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 070060362X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700603626
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,191,399 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Anyone interested in the immediate pre-Civil War period will find much to ponder in this well-written, tightly argued book." -- Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"Presents a concise, interpretive account that covers the most important questions of the Taylor and Fillmore administrations." -- American Historical Review

"This well-written book does justice to two presidents who have been little praised by historians." -- Journal of American History

About the Author

Elbert B. Smith is professor of history at the University of Maryland. His other books include The Presidency of James Buchanan, The Death of Slavery, and Magnificent Missourian: The Life of Thomas Hart Benton.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ashbacher HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Of all the presidents, Millard Fillmore may have the worst public perception. There is even a group spoofing him as the most forgettable president in history. I first learned of this group when Johnny Carson mentioned it during a monologue on an episode of the Tonight Show. It is of course absolutely false; Fillmore was a strong president with deeply held beliefs who acted in the best interests of the country. While he was a New Yorker and personally despised slavery, Fillmore upheld the great compromise of 1850 and continued the policies of Zachary Taylor.

Taylor was the owner of many slaves, but all indications are that he was a very benevolent owner. He was also a pragmatist, understanding all too well that economic conditions dictated that slavery was not viable in the newly acquired western territories. Above all else, he was a unionist, stating in no uncertain terms that he would use federal troops against anyone who tried to break the union. As a former general, he was very credible when he threatened to personally lead federal troops in the potential battle between New Mexico and Texas. All through the years of the presidencies of Taylor and Fillmore, there is the clear movement towards the war that broke out ten years later.

Both men have traditionally been ranked in the bottom level of presidents, largely due to the terrible events of the civil war. Smith is absolutely right in going beyond this simplistic view and explaining the tremendous successes that both men achieved as president. The circumstances were beginning to spiral out of control and three political giants; Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and John C. Calhoun all were passing from the scene. Even in retrospect, it is hard to see how they could have done more to preserve the union.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is another in the American Presidency series. Elbert Smith examines two of the lesser known and lower rated chief executives--Zachary Taylor ("Old Rough and Ready") and Millard Fillmore. By the end of the book, the author had convinced me that these two deserve higher ratings than most historians are willing to grant them.

The book begins by noting the ethos of the times when Taylor ascended to the presidency, with Millard Fillmore as his V-P. Smith says (page 1): "The United States in 1848 was a nation of many paradoxes. The prevailing mood of those who expressed themselves publicly was one of exuberant pride and optimism, but for many these feelings were tempered by bad conscience, hurt pride, and angry resentments." Taylor and Fillmore presided over a country badly divided by region and the issue of race, and there was talk of secession throughout much of their term. It was also a time of dramatic change, with the railroad beginning to change internal movement of people and goods, with newly invented farm tools making agriculture more productive, and with the telegraph presaging much more rapid communication.

The book begins by providing historical context: the changing technology of the era, as already noted; the political climate; the increasingly touchy Southern defensiveness regarding slavery.

Then, brief biographical sketches of both Taylor and Fillmore, giving the reader a sense of where they had come from and who they were when elected as President and Vice President.

Taylor only served a year and a half until his untimely death. In that time, he actually developed a decent record, with one of the highlights being his effort to prevent civil war from breaking out in 1850.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 11, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the fourth text I have read in the American Presidency Series, and I also rate this one a 5 star. This series provides a detailed overview of what is happening in the country socially and culturally, in addition to politically. I like that I learn not only about the two presidents ; but also, I was given details on many of the other major political figures of the time. An extensive use of primary sources is used, and the author makes an effort to discuss how previous biographers have presented each president, how the presidents have been viewed at different points in history, and how this account sees the presidents. This is a sympathetic biography of both, but the author's assessment is solidly supported with evidence. I am not a historian, just a person reading a bio of each of our past presidents. Interesting, story-telling. I did not find this work boring and dry. It also sets the stage for the Civil War and explores the issues that help build toward war.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Peter S. Blouke on March 16, 2009
Format: Hardcover
As a non academic, just someone generally interested in the history and biography of our presidents, I found Elbert Smith's biography of these two pretty much unknown presidents informative and quite readable. The book devotes considerably more time on the biography and military career of Zachary Taylor than with the life and events leading up to Millard Fillmore's assuming the vice presidency. However, the few brief references to Fillmore's background hint at an equally compelling and interesting early biography. A major attraction of the book for me was the extent to which the author describes the political and socio-cultural environment that determined the options available to these two presidents. Based on the evidence presented in this book, both Presidents Taylor and Fillmore served the country with honesty, courage and conviction during an extremely difficult and dangerous period in the nation's history. Although certainly well documented, the biographical side of the book may be somewhat short. For the non academic however, this shortcoming is more than offset by the author's description of the overwhelming political and social forces of the times. I would strongly recommend this book as a solid introduction to the lives of both presidents.
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