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

4.2 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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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

From the Back Cover

This revisionist look at the twelfth and thirteenth presidents challenges much of previous scholarship. Elbert B. Smith disagrees sharply with traditional interpretation of Taylor and Fillmore.
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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: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #839,669 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 21, 2008
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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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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
On lists of Presidents in order of their effectiveness, Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore often wind up on bottom of the list. Searching for good biographies on either of them was difficult - very few recent ones out there, and very few with good reviews. This book, part of the "American Presidency" series, covered the two administrations in great detail.

The period was a difficult time for the United States. There were foreign relations issues with France and England, Hungary tried to win its independence, but Taylor picked the wrong side to support. The two primary political parties were undergoing rapid changes. While slavery was clearly an issue, it was beneath the surface as sections of the country focused on admitting California and New Mexico territories to the Union. Threats of secession abounded.

Taylor was a General and a war hero in the Mexican-American War. Like many Presidents before him, this was all he needed to be elected. He had neither political aspirations nor experience before his election. A southerner and a slave owner, Taylor had a remarkable view of conciliation, trying to keep the south in line and accept concessions to keep the Union intact. Many southerners also knew that Taylor supported states' rights and was opposed to protective tariffs and government spending for internal improvements. Taylor saw himself as an independent (although his party affiliation was actually Whig).

Early in his term, the primary crisis facing the Union was the new state of Texas claiming part of New Mexico for itself. In part, this had to do with the slave trade and the south's determination to expand slavery to new states. Taylor held firm, defending New Mexico. Another issue during his administration was the South wanting to annex Cuba.
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The author is apologist for Fillmore. (Smith did the same for Buchanan in another book he wrote for this University of Kansas series.). Why these Northerners (doughfaces) espoused the Southern cause is not made clear. Smith pronounced Fillmore as a strict upolder of the Constitution, an inheritor of Taylor's policies, a victim of perfidious friends in the Senate and House, a defender of Unionism, and an unsuccessful negotiator of Whig unity. His inability or unwillingness to take on forceful members of Congress is given short shrift.

gvlad46
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