- Hardcover: 626 pages
- Publisher: American Political Biography Press; 1st edition (June 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0945707274
- ISBN-13: 978-0945707271
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 12 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,214,663 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration (Signature Series) 1st Edition
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About the Author
Robert K. Murray is Professor Emeritus and former chairman of the department of history at Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of another University of Minnesota Press book, Red Scare: A Study in National Hysteria, 1919-1920.
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First, with the exception of Abraham Lincoln, no President had taken office with as pressing a burden of unsolved questions as faced Harding. (page 71) Even before Wilson's disabling illness, Wilson was so preoccupied with the League of Nations that the government drifted aimlessly (page 75) and when Harding took office, the nation was in a severe economic depression, coupled with labor and agricultural strife. Further, relations between the Executive branch and Congress were at a low point and America had rejected the WWI Peace Treaty that President Wilson had negotiated. There was much urgent work to be done.
Harding promoted conciliation and harmony, while avoiding obstruction and strife. (page 11) He had the best relationship with the press of any president in history (page 114) and was generally popular with the public.
According to State Department historian Graham H. Stuart, "The Harding-Hughes regime made a far better record in diplomatic appointments than the Wilson-Bryan administration." (page 135) and the Harding administration efforts toward Central and South America represented a new and welcome diplomatic approach. (344) Harding also worked well with the Civil Service Commission and its members respected him as one who attempted to retain and expand the merit system. Harding's record on Civil Service was infinitely superior to that of Woodrow Wilson. (page 302)
During Harding's tenure in office, a remarkable economic recovery took place. The Coolidge boom that followed was one of Harding's most important legacies to his successor. (383) Harding established the popular political platform which Coolidge generally adopted.
The Harding Administration had many achievements - peace treaties, the establishment of the Budget Bureau, the Washington Arms Control Conference, agricultural legislation, economy in government, debt reduction, and the economic recovery - but, according to Murray, the total was more important than any of the parts. The Harding administration acted as a cushion against the friction and the acrimony of the Wilson days and eased the transition of the nation to a prosperous peacetime existence. The period of 1921-23 was one of crisis and readjustment; they were years of tremendous economic and social change. Harding was able to secure a general consensus during this period that facilitated national progress rather than blocked by it. (533)
As for his shortcomings, Murray states that Harding's biggest failing was his lack of punitive action against the men who brought scandal to his administration. By his inaction he forfeited whatever chance he had to maintain the integrity of his position and salvage a favorable image of himself and his administration. (page 536)
Harding was not a great president, but, according to Murray, in concrete accomplishments, the Harding administration was superior to a sizable portion of those in the nation's history. (pages 536-537)
It is truly too bad that his successes have been so overshadowed by the scandals that arose after his death. Harding detractors always rush to point out this aspect of his administration. If the allegations of African-American blood in his lineage (an issue that was truly anathema during that era) does not succeed in pushing back his successes, detractors immediately turn to the rumors of his extra marital activities.
Considered the "Mother of Presidents", Ohio proved to be the birthplace of presidents who died or were assassinated in office including William Henry Harrison, James Garfield, William McKinley, and now Warren Harding. Had Harding lived to run for a second term, one wonders if the landscape of the nation would be different than it is today as a result of his policies.
Well done biography that is worth the read!
I got the feeling, as I did with Chester A Arthur's bio that a lot of information was left to the mystery of history.
That whole era, the deaths, the triumphs and tragedies, what a time.
I would recommend this book as a perfect reference if you are doing what I am, reading all the presidents.
I didn't care for the structure of the book. It makes more since to me for a biography to be somewhat chronological. This book covers the Harding years by the issues of this time; a chapter on farming, one on labor, foreign policy, domestic policy, etc. I found that to be a bit annoying, jumping back and forth over the same time period. In the last chapter of the book Murray does what I and others are doing here, criticizing authors, but on a much grander scale. Murray, in this chapter, denigrates almost everything else written about Harding, as if to say "I'm the only one who did the proper research to write about Warren Harding". In my opinion, he doesn't do himself in favors as an author by patting himself on the back, and criticizing other authors.
In a side note, Murray's book `The Harding Era' is published by American Political Biography Press (APBP). I, like others, am reading biographies of the Presidents in order. Several of the books I've read are from APBP, and many of them are also less than full biographies, leaving out important areas of a President's life.