14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2010
This is very well written account of a period, if not neglected, not as often written about compared to other periods in American history - the 1920s. It would be fair to say that this is an admiring dual biography of Calvin Coolidge and John W. Davis, centered around their contest in the 1924 Presidential election. The author, justifiably, has great admiration for both men, whose hallmark was great integrity and an unwavering belief in the restrained role assigned to government by the Constitution and individual liberty. Those unfamiliar with these men will find much to discover - the calculated and amusing aspects of Coolidge's taciturnity and Davis' stature as a giant of the American legal profession - no one argued more cases before the Supreme Court. The title of the book reflects the reality that this was the last time both political parties nominated a conservative candidate, and from that point forward, the respective parties inexorably morphed into one clearly conservative and one clearly liberal. The Democrat Davis is the proxy for this - his opposition to much of the New Deal and, toward the end of his life, endorsement of the Republican, Eisenhower.
This is not academic history - the author is a successful businessman and apparently, quite an accomplished amateur historian. While well footnoted, most are of secondary sources (which is fine for the general reader). There is especially considerable reliance on the work of the conservative British historian, Paul Johnson. There are a few instances where some explanation might help the general reader. References are made to the Lodge Reservations to the League of Nations Treaty and the Teapot Dome scandal - in each instance a sentence or two explaining them would be useful to the reader not generally familiar with the subject matter.
Overall, a very worthy and enjoyable work - if one read this book and Frederick Lewis Allen's classic, Only Yesterday (also relied on by the author here), one would have an excellent overall picture of 1920s America.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2010
Tucker's book has given me a new American hero----President Cal Coolidge. It also introduced me to another great essentially unknown patriot---John Davis. The 1924 Election is the crux of the book, but what most impressed me most was how the author covered the political picture before and after this election. Not a book of political opinion, but one of reporting our country's look at the role of govenment and how our political parties became what they are today. Easy to read and thoroughly enjoyable, I would recommend this book without any hesitation to anyone interested in the future of America.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2011
Garland Tucker has brought new insight and information on the 1924 Election. Tucker has given us a book that not only informs, but also entertains the reader with interesting details of the candidates and their financial-political backers. Readers will learn new in an interesting and informative way, how both Democrats and Republicans chose conservative candidates, a watershed event, for the 1924 Election. Calvin Coolidge and John Davis were both conservatives, and the author tells their stories with an expertise that is frequently missing in most histories of the period.
The author has expertly pulled back the curtain revealing a decades-old slanted view of the twenties as dull, bourgeois, and ruthless, as purported by two generations of American historians. The author has rightly corrected that prevalent popular view of this era, as one in need of historical balance. He quotes Paul Rubin: "We now know that FDR's policies likely prolonged the Great Depression because the economy never fully recovered in the 1930s, and actually got worse in the latter half of the decade." And then, quotes Paul Johnson: "Coolidge Prosperity was huge, real, widespread and it showed that the concept of a property-owning democracy could be realized."
The book is well organized, even for one who is not familiar with the details of the twenties. The author sets the stage with an excellent overview of the 1920-1924 period, when the country moved from years of progressivism under Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, toward conservatism and fiscal responsibility, beginning with the Harding-Coolidge administration.
It is unfortunate that so many historians have been sympathetic to the Wilson/FDR progressivism and fail to understand Harding's governing philosophy, one who viewed the government's role as providing a stable, hospitable environment that encouraged capital investment and individual initiative.
The author has also put to rest those historians' Allan Nevins, Arthur Schlesionger, Jr., among others, who have wrongly painted Harding as an isolationist, which is pure rubbish.
Tucker next takes us on a fascinating journey through a short history of the Democrats and Republicans, which logically leads the reader to a description of the famous "103rd ballot" Democratic Convention, that split the party and nominated John Davis; and the more sedate and scripted Republican Party that nominated Coolidge.
Next, the author gives a detailed and fascinating short history of each candidate and the campaign. Readers will especially enjoy reading about these two conservatives and will learn so much that traditional historians have never researched and revealed about this historic watershed of conservatism.
Without giving away too much, suffice to say, John Davis returned to a law practice, after losing the 1924 Election, and, as a true conservative, broke with FDR, who led the Democrat Party away from conservatism, to the extreme left. Calvin Coolidge returned to private life after the White House. The Coolidge legacy is important; but few historians have acknowledged it. It would not be until the 1970s, that the Coolidge economic prosperity was re-examined. The prosperity was not built on stock speculation but on his tax cuts. Ronald Regan would discover the clue to the boom during the Coolidge years, and duplicate his economic policies.
The 1924 Election with Davis, Coolidge, and Robert LaFollette (running as a third party Progressive candidate), focused on issues that would resurface over and over in American politics, especially during the presidency of Ronald Regan; and then most recently in the current Obama era.
The reader will find this a wonderful book, complete with new pictures not previously seen, and statistical tables that complement the story. An outstanding book, which I highly recommend.
15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on August 20, 2010
The Roaring 20s were America's Arcadia. Babe Ruth, the rollicking Jazz Age, flappers, speakeasies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the explosion of middle class prosperity.
Considering today's endemic morass of federal overreach, The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge and the 1924 Election by Garland S. Tucker III is a liberty bell ringing in the distance. Tucker revives Jeffersonian ideals of maximum individual freedom and minimal government interference. The parallels between Calvin Coolidge, the incumbent Republican candidate, and John Davis, the Democratic candidate, are astonishing.
Both grew up in rural America. Coolidge was born in 1872 and grew up in Notch, Vermont. Davis was born in 1873 in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Both grew up on farms. Both had strict parents stressing the importance of education. Both attended small renowned liberal arts schools: Coolidge, Amherst; Davis, W&L. Both became successful lawyers; Davis tried 140 cases before the US Supreme Court, a record at that time. Both possessed unimpeachable integrity. Both became gentlemen's gentlemen; both became lawyer's lawyers. Both were Jeffersonian conservatives: like our Founding Fathers, less was more when it came to government.
Why does this new title seem such a clarion call in our day? Is it because of the impeccable timing with progressive overreach? Is it because both John Davis and Calvin Coolidge are in a short historic line of statesmen contrasted to a long gray line of American politicians? Or, is it because of the acclaimed humility of both these true gentlemen contrasted with our present era of the newly entitled corporate chieftains and politicians in America? All mankind adores humble hounds and despises haughty roaring lions.
Let it be concluded that Tucker has trumped the acclaimed biography Alexander Hamilton, by Ron Chernow. The High Tide of American Conservatism is appropriately written in Cal Coolidge's laconic style, with balanced insight into our Founders' belief in the wisdom of nose-out, hands-off government. Tucker's historical message in these pages will change the mind-set of many progressives and perhaps even a smattering of liberals.
The genius of Tucker's book is his straightforward, balanced style blended with his insights through which the reader will see new depth of meaning in the words of gentlemen, statesmen, and conservatives where the governing class concedes that the world is too complicated to be managed from the center, a rarity in America even in the best of times.
J Phillips L Johnston, J.D.
Chairman and CEO
The Center for Board Excellence
Author of three business books. One, "Success in Small Business Is a Laughing Matter", Esquire magazine declared, "...the best book ever written about small business."
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2011
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys political history. While I believe it is more like an intro book to the 1924 election instead of an in-depth analysis, it is a good read. Gives a good amount of information on conventions but not the general election. Coolidge and Davis seemed like two great gentlemen, but I felt like the author at times put the two figures on a mantel as what politicians should be, as men above politics, but all politicians are never about politics. This book is more about Davis, but I would prefer to read a biography on Davis that provides more detail about his overall life that goes into greater detail than this book could. I feel like the book doesn't get preachy about conservatism until the last few chapters but the author provides a very balanced viewpoint throughout a majority of the book. Complaints: I don't know how many times the author mentioned the Boston police strike in this book, it was at least mentioned once in ever chapter, and also the letter Davis wrote about his ties with wall street which was published in some newspaper was mentioned a good amount of times, some of the stuff in the book was repetitive. The other thing that bugged me was the mention of legislation, it would provide names of bills but didn't include details about the bill's purpose.
Overall: Enjoyable book would recommend reading. However if you want more detailed information about candidates or the overall election this may not be the book your looking for.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The tone of this book is informative and friendly, written by a nonprofessional historian who seems to be genuinely intrigued by one of the United States' lesser-known and certainly lesser analyzed presidential elections. Quick - who were the opponents in the 1924 election? If you have never heard of John W Davis, you might be forgiven as Davis, a lawyer by profession, had the somewhat unenviable task of carrying the Democratic standard in a year when the Republican Party in the White House presided over an ebullient economy that pleased most of the American voting public, at any rate.
Heaping obscurity upon obscurity, the little remembered Davis suffered his crushing defeat at the hands of one of this country's most enigmatic presidents, Calvin Coolidge. Author Garland S. Tucker III is intrigued with Coolidge, who for many years has been remembered as something of a do-nothing president who indirectly contributed to the Great Depression by his laissez-faire executive style and his famous "the business of America is business" dictum.
Tucker, as his title suggests, identifies the 1924 election as something of a high water mark for Conservatism. It is hard to argue with his contention that this election was the last to pit two men who essentially agreed upon a limited role for the executive branch of government, though Tucker's definition of "conservatism" needs refining. [The 1928 election, by contrast, featured two activist contenders, Al Smith and Herbert Hoover]. Tucker maintains that all presidential elections since 1924 have been essentially contests of the left and the right or at least the center and the center.
Tucker has an eye for a good story, and to his credit he focuses this work on what was indeed the most intriguing part of the election, the nomination process. Coolidge, it must be remembered, was filling out the term of Warren G Harding, who died in 1923. Coolidge's addition to the ticket as vice-presidential candidate in 1920 had been something of a finger in the eyes of party bosses by convention delegates, upset with the backroom dealings that produce Harding's elevation. Coolidge, very much a local Massachusetts creature, was a genuine "accidental president;" while Harding was alive, there had been speculation that Coolidge would be replaced on the ticket in 1924.
Tucker's easy style does not do full justice to how quickly Coolidge consolidated his position in his party within a year and arrived at the 1924 Convention unopposed. A more intensive professional historian would have fleshed this out. But Tucker does offer some analysis: the scandals of Harding's associates appear in retrospect to have been less troubling to the American public than commonly believed; Harding's death was genuinely and nationally grieved and the stolid Coolidge captured the national mood after the passing of the effusive and remarkably effective Harding. The unexpected death of Coolidge's own son in 1924 certainly muted whatever criticisms his colleagues might otherwise have exploited before the party faithful. Tucker also contends that America had been through a great deal in the past decade, coming to grips with war, recession, subsequent economic growth and cultural change. Coolidge's Yankee tradition of simple life and hard work had a certain soothing effect in public life. 
By contrast, the Democratic Party Convention finally established its candidate on the 103rd ballot. The party was still identified with World War I and the League of Nations. One of its main contenders for the nomination was William McAdoo, Woodrow Wilson's son-in-law. Davis's nomination may have been the fruit of exhaustion, but there can be little doubt that Coolidge's taciturn and righteous public style called for an opponent as pure as Caesar's wife.
Davis, the Wall Street lawyer, was all of that, widely respected for his competence and probity. Tucker describes him as a "true Jeffersonian Democrat"  and finds it remarkable that not only two Conservatives but also two gentlemen would face off in what would be one of the most genteel contests in memory. It is probably fortunate that 1924 enjoyed such luck. For despite the strong economy, the electorate was divided on several key issues, including tariffs, isolationism, prohibition, and the particularly onerous nativism and resurgence of the KKK in the face of the Bolshevik scare and rising immigration.
For Coolidge, presiding over a strong economy, the election was his to lose. His campaign strategy was the quintessential "don't fumble on the goal line." A faux pas from "Silent Cal" was unlikely; he said nothing about his opponent and when pressed, a rare occurrence in a low visibility campaign, spoke only in generalities. He defended Prohibition "because it is the law." Davis, for multiple reasons, was unable to put a dent in the Coolidge enterprise. His gentility rendered him somewhat uninspiring on the stump in terms of drawing blood, he did not have Coolidge's facility with radio, a new election factor, and it was hard for Davis to find his stride in terms of ideological differences, since there were in fact few. Davis was also hamstrung by Democratic defections on the left to third party progressive Robert LaFollette.
Tucker's work suffers from an overdependence upon several major sources, including Paul Johnson's "Modern Times," Robert Sobel's "Coolidge: An American Enigma" and works of Allen Nevins and Henry Steele Commager, among others. In truth, the indebtedness to Johnson in particular is excessive. But the author's dependence upon these sources is selective: Johnson's critical questions about Coolidge and the subsequent Depression are not addressed here; Johnson, in "Modern Times," wondered why Coolidge did not run again in 1928, suggesting that the president began to privately question the soundness of the boom. Nevins is cited by Sokol as representative of a generation of historians who regarded the Coolidge years as a time of inertia between Wilson and FDR.
However, the author's shortcomings are those of inexperience and enthusiasm, not vitriol. While this work does not appear to break new ground, it is an intriguing narrative for a general audience and a worthy read.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 8, 2012
Did you ever wonder how we got into the mess we are in now? In many ways this book is an antecedent to Amity Shlaes' equally excellent "The Forgotten Man." It describes the origins of the ideologies of the Republican and Democrat parties in the 20th century, and gives insightful descriptions of the important men who shaped them: (Teddy) Roosevelt, Wilson, LaFollette, Hoover, and most importantly Calvin Coolidge and John Davis. It gives great insight into the difference between a Classical (Jeffersonian) Liberal and a Progressive. Good footnotes and extensive index. I highlighted many passages and will keep it on my Kindle as a reference.
on May 6, 2014
The presidential election of 1924 is notable for the fact that it was the last time that both major parties nominated conservatives for president. In the middle of the 1920s, America generally had a conservative feeling and both parties felt this.
On the Republican side was incumbent president Calvin Coolidge who was originally elected vice president 1920 but was thrust into the presidency upon the sudden death of Warren Harding in 1923. Coolidge was a career politician who held numerous political offices in his life starting as a city councilor and ending up as Governor of Massachusetts. He was known for his conservatism and had the reputation of "Silent Cal," a man of few words.
The Democrats had a tough time finding a candidate. During the convention, the Democrats went through 103 ballots before compromising on John W. Davis, a dark horse. Davis was a former Solicitor General and ambassador and had a career as a Wall Street lawyer. Like Coolidge, Davis had a reputation for consistent conservative principles.
Disappointed by the nominees of both major parties, the fiery senator from Wisconsin, Robert La Follette, launched his own bid for presidency under the reconstituted Progressive Party.
In the general campaign, Coolidge did not really have to campaign much. The economy was prosperous and America was at peace. Coolidge was easily elected to a full term in office.
What I liked most about this book was the exploration of the personalities involved. Today, John W. Davis has become a very obscure figure in American history and there was plenty of good information about him in this book.
However, despite ostensibly being about the election itself, the book tended to go into a lot of detail about other subjects. I was disappointed that there were not that many details about the campaign itself. The book could have been better organized so as to avoid repeating the same facts multiple times.
Despite the flaws, there is some interesting information in this book about the 1924 presidential election. I would recommend this to those interested in American history.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2011
This is a very detailed and high quality history of the election of 1924. President Coolidge is not credited enough with being the first true conservative President. I highly recommend.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2012
Highly recommended for all that are interested in American political history, especially for a largely overlooked and forgotten election. I greatly enjoyed reading it.