Calvin Coolidge lived during a time of constitutional transformation – the Progressive Era and World War I – before serving as President of the United States from 1923-1929. Thomas J. Tacoma argues that Coolidge contended with this changing regime and world through as a Burkean conservative and an Americanist politician. In The Political Thought of Calvin Coolidge: Burkean Americanist, Tacoma contextualizes Coolidge’s thought in the Progressive milieu of the age and Coolidge’s own educational background in New England and then presents the core of Coolidge’s political thought: civilization. Tacoma maintains that Coolidge believed in civilization and that the traditional American political and economic order represented the highest achievements in western civilization. Coolidge’s speeches ranged across American history to defend the virtues of the American regime, and in his political career, he undertook to defend the constitutional regime he had inherited. Coolidge, famous for his emphasis on thrift, likewise situated his views on economy within his larger vision of civilization, and he mixed realism and idealism in his developed views on international relations. Through extensive research, Tacoma examines the way Coolidge responded to the challenge of upholding American civilization in the face of a changing world.
Thomas J. Tacoma is assistant professor of history and political science at Blue Mountain College.
Introduction: Coolidge, Progressivism, and American Civilization
Chapter One: Coolidge’s Era: A Progressive America
Chapter Two: Origins of Coolidge’s Political Philosophy
Chapter Three: The Political Philosophy of Calvin Coolidge: Coolidge on the Meaning of Civilization and Progress
Chapter Four: Coolidge’s Interpretation of American History
Chapter Five: Coolidge, the American Regime, and Progressivism
Chapter Six: Coolidge and the Political Economy of Progressive Civilization
Chapter Seven: Calvin Coolidge’s Foreign Policy Thought
Conclusion: Coolidge, Conservatism, and the Meaning of American Civilization
This book provides a new perspective on Coolidge as a "Burkean Americanist" who sought to defend traditional values and greatness against the Progressive Era reforms. Tacoma traces the intellectual influences on Coolidge back to his professors at Amherst college, where he developed a political philosophy bearing similarities to that of Edmund Burke, especially in his reverence for the wisdom of tradition and history. Tacoma’s Coolidge is no mere apologist for capitalism, but one who saw the establishment of the US Constitution as an important historical moment for personal freedom and progress, which he felt early 20th-century reforms were destroying. The book draws heavily on Coolidge’s own writings and Tacoma's original research, locating his subject within the conservative tradition. This volume will be a good choice for collections on US presidents, politics, and political thought. Recommended.
Thomas Tacoma’s outstanding new work on Coolidge shows us the importance of the turn of the twentieth century to the legacy of American politics and political thought today, as Coolidge wrestled with the influence of progressivism on America’s original constitutional principles. The book’s conclusions are original and provocative, backed by the kind of exhaustive research of the original record from all phases of Coolidge’s life that I have not seen elsewhere. Moreover, the entire work is written with an elegance and clarity that will make it a pleasure to read for scholar and citizen alike. Without question this work will be the standard on Coolidge’s political thought.
At last we have a careful study of Calvin Coolidge’s thought that takes seriously the man and his ideas. Thomas Tacoma gives us Coolidge as he understood himself, showing how he related to the inheritance of Western civilization and how he upheld the principles of American constitutionalism amid the onslaught of Progressivism. This book deserves to become the standard reference for understanding Coolidge’s political thought and its place in the history of American conservatism.
Thomas Tacoma’s study of Coolidge promises to change the way we look at this woefully neglected yet important president. He challenges both conservative and progressive interpretations of Coolidge’s ideas. This is the most carefully researched intellectual biography of Coolidge to date and will be a benchmark for all future scholarship on Coolidge.
This is an exceptionally able work of history and political theory. Tacoma has added many significant insights into the political career of Calvin Coolidge. He has given scholars much to ponder, and his admirable prose will attract all general readers.
1/27/22, Choice: This title was included in Choice’s “The Top 75 Community College Titles: January 2022” roundup.