A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

BY WAY OF PREFACE

ONE book about a man should be enough for a writer. Yet this is my second book about Calvin Coolidge. The first was comparatively a short story, a biographical sketch written during the first year of his occupancy of the White House. That book, in the nature of things, could not interpret his life nor relate him to his times.

He lived in the White House during the six most prosperous years and most portentous that the country had seen since the Civil War. They were the years of the great boom. After those years came the deluge. And Calvin Coolidge represented a phase of those times, probably their dominant ideals. This study of the period from 1923 to 1929, with some account of the relation of President Coolidge to his times, is justification for a new story.

The narrative of Calvin Coolidge's preparation for the White House is a necessary preliminary. His whole life from the time he left college until he came down the mountain from Plymouth to take the train for Washington as successor to President Harding, was one continuous political preparation for the task ahead of him. No other President in our day and time has had such close, such continuous and such successful relations with the electorate as Calvin Coolidge had. He knew the people--their tricks and their manners, their strength and their weaknesses. He knew how demagogues could fool them and how honest men could win or lose them: two most important things for a man to know in politics if he retains his faith. Mr. Coolidge retained his faith to the end. Perhaps his faith was futile. It was not based upon a deep knowledge of various environing realities of his country and of Christendom. He may have lived in a dream world. But at least he lived as nobly as any man could live, equipped as Calvin Coolidge was for his task.

When a man starts to write a story, whether his story is buttressed by historical research or by fictional imaginings, he has a hypothesis to prove, a moral to point. My hypothesis is this: That in the strange, turbulent years that brought an era to a dose a man lived in the White House and led the American people who was a perfect throwback to the more primitive days of the Republic, a survival of a spiritual race that has almost passed

-v-

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