Essays on the Presidents: Principles, Policies, and Peccadillos

Essays on the Presidents: Principles, Policies, and Peccadillos

Essays on the Presidents: Principles, Policies, and Peccadillos

Essays on the Presidents: Principles, Policies, and Peccadillos


Since he first began writing in the 1950s, Dr. Paul F. Boller Jr. has had a passion for sharing the humorous, intriguing, and little-known or widely misunderstood aspects of the American presidency. Boller has authored many beloved books on American presidents, the first ladies, presidential anecdotes, quotes, campaign strategies, and common myths.

This wide variety of topics has been collected for the first time in Essays on the Presidents, along with new essays and forewords. Boller's prose, distinct and inviting, causes the reader to see what is often overlooked in the history of American presidents: their humanity. Boller has searched for those patriotic narratives we have all heard at some point in our lives--whether from our schoolteachers, coworkers, or various trivia books--and corrects the misconceptions many Americans deem as truth in a lighthearted and truly characteristic voice. From Washington's relationship with the Jews to the electioneering and stump-speaking associated with American presidential campaigns, readers will not only see the significant changes in the presidential office since its conception, but also Boller's lifetime of research and his expertise in the field of American history. Personality--of the most interesting presidents and of Boller himself--is an important theme throughout this collection.

The in-depth retelling of treasured American stories will captivate readers and keep them exploring for more nuggets of truth. Boller tracks the relationship between Americans and the presidents, uncovering the intricate nature of presidential responsibilities and the remarkable men whose leadership shaped the office into what it is today. Celebrating the commanders-in-chief and the career of the nationally-recognized American historian and TCU Emeritus Professor of political science, Essays on the Presidents serves as a unique perspective on American history that fans of both Boller and the presidents will enjoy.


During my academic career as a specialist in American Studies, I have given lectures and written essays and reviews, as well as books, and I’m presenting twenty-six of them together here, with forewords to each putting them in context. Many of them no doubt reflect the times in which they were written as well as my thinking about various features of American life and thought. I trust, though, that they also reveal some growth on my part through the years, both in knowledge and in my way of looking at various developments in American culture and civilization. To save space, I’m omitting the footnotes that accompanied many of the essays presented here, but the original editions, located in the Boller Papers in the Archives of the Mary Couts Burnett Library at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, are readily available.

Ah, history! Several years ago a woman I met in Boston wanted to know what I did for a living, and when I told her I taught American history, her eyes lit up and she exclaimed: “Gadsden’s Purchase! 1853!” of course I congratulated her on her good memory, but I was amused by her notion of history as being simply a collection of facts and dates and names that one memorized. I call it the college-bowl conception of history.

For myself, I prefer to think of history as a quest. the word history comes from an ancient Greek word, historia, which means inquiry, and there are good grounds for thinking of history as essentially a set of questions that we ask about the past. Some of the questions historians ask are obvious and easy; others are tremendously difficult; and still others, in the nature of things, can never be satisfactorily answered.

The first question historians ask is the most basic, but also the simplest: what exactly happened and precisely when did it happen? This is the area of historical specificity, the area my Boston friend concentrated on. What, for example, was the Yalta agreement and when was it made? What was the Emancipation Proclamation? Exactly when was it issued and by whom? History, after all, is to some extent a collection of facts and dates. Historians keep records of treaties, elections, legislative enactments, conferences, battles, us Supreme Court decisions, and a host of other significant happenings for lawyers, judges, public officials, journalists, biographers, historians, and other interested parties. Some . . .

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