Robert H. Ferrell

Where and when

SUMMARY: The deciding factor in many political careers, large and small, is fortune—good fortune—and in this regard, the career of Calvin Coolidge, president of the United States in 1923-29, was no exception. Many observers have testified that Coolidge was an automaton in politics, intent on success, and captured it through sheer preoccupation. In fact he was not this sort, a very human person who sought to do his best, whereupon he believed he could do no more, and considered that his lot in life was to accept the result. But where would he have been, had he not become involved in the Boston police strike, been nominated at the Chicago convention of the Republicans for the office of vice president nearly by accident, and run on a ticket with an Ohio newspaper editor whose systolic blood pressure in March, 1921, was 180? Failure of any one of these three events or happenstances not merely would have kept Coolidge out of the presidency but sent him to the obscurity that has awaited almost all governors of the State of Massachusetts.

Robert H. Ferrell taught for many years at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he was Distinguished Professor of History. He is the author or editor of many books in American foreign relations, presidential history, and military history, including Dear Bess: The Letters from Harry to Bess Truman, 1910-1959 (1983), Harry S. Truman: A Life (1995), The Presidency of Calvin Coolidge (1998), and most recently Collapse at Meuse-Argonne: The Failure of the Missouri-Kansas Division (2004). His Five Days in October: The Lost Battalion of World War I, will be published this spring.