Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed bestselling author of The Conquerors
, Michael Beschloss has brought us a brilliantly readable and inspiring saga about crucial times in America's history when a courageous President dramatically changed the future of the United States.
With surprising new sources and a dazzling command of history and human character, Beschloss brings to life these flawed, complex men and their wives, families, friends and foes. Never have we had a more intimate, behind-the-scenes view of Presidents coping with the supreme dilemmas of their lives.
You will be in the room with the private George Washington, braving threats of impeachment and assassination to make peace with England. John Adams, incurring his party's "unrelenting hatred" by refusing to fight France and warning his enemies, "Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war." Andrew Jackson, in a death struggle against the corrupt Bank of the United States. Abraham Lincoln, risking his Presidency to insist that slaves be freed.
Beschloss also shows us Theodore Roosevelt, taunting J. P. Morgan and the Wall Street leaders who dominated his party. Franklin Roosevelt, defying the isolationists and maybe the law to stop Adolf Hitler. Harry Truman, risking a walkout by top officials to recognize a Jewish state. John Kennedy, the belated champion of civil rights, complaining that he has cost himself a second term. And finally, two hundred years after Washington, Ronald Reagan, irking some of his oldest backers to seek an end to the Cold War.
As Beschloss shows in this gripping and important book, none of these Presidents was eager to incur ridicule, vilification or threats of political destruction and even assassination. But in the end, bolstered by friends and family, hidden private beliefs and, sometimes, religious faith, each ultimately proved himself to be, in Andrew Jackson's words, "born for the storm."
"Don't be afraid!' was George Washington's near-to-last utterance, to the worried doctor at his bedside. The essential founding father's counsel is understood by well-known historian Beschloss (The Conquerors: Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Hitler's Germany) to set an example for future presidents. Beschloss outlines how several occupants of the Oval Office including Jackson, Lincoln, Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Kennedy and Reagan combined courage with wisdom to change the future of the country, notwithstanding the slings and arrows they earned. Despite its unpopularity at the time, for instance, Reagan's 'strong beliefs combined with his optimism' led him to pursue the policy to abolish nuclear weapons, which helped bring down the Soviet empire peacefully. None of the author's heroes were saints, but rather flawed men sustained by friends, families, conviction and religious faith. With contenders for 2008 already lining up, this well-timed book might, the author hopes, persuade some to take the kinds of 'wise political risks that Presidents once did.'Perhaps. But knowledgeable readers should look elsewhere for genuine historical insight. The author's broad brushstrokes necessarily restrict him to painting nuanced individuals and complex times in only basic primary colors, and there is little that has not been said before in some cases, many times." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"History written with subtlety, verve and an almost novelistic appreciation for the complexities of human nature and presidential politics." Kirkus Reviews
"[T]his well-written, carefully researched work deserves a wide audience." Library Journal
"One could quarrel with [Beschloss'] choice of presidents and critical issues, but his point is well taken." Kansas City Star
"History buffs will find a lot here to love....Beschloss has sprinkled his accounts with delightful trivia and newly discovered source material that enliven the peeks we get into the struggles inside the Oval Office even before there was an Oval Office." Dallas-Ft. Worth Star Telegram
"Presidential Courage alternates neatly between seedy stories of mudslinging and bloated campaign budgets to almost mythical tales of personal sacrifices. This impressive range remains the book's real strength." Rocky Mountain News
"[An] engaging reminder that unpopular presidential acts are not necessarily wrong-headed ones." Boston Globe
"Beschloss' claims for presidential courage are not credible....Courage is a morally loaded term. We tend to forget that when it's exercised in behalf of causes we don't like, we call it stubbornness." Baltimore Sun
"In some cases, Beschloss' choices are obvious and familiar, but he does an admirable job of portraying them dramatically." Providence Journal
From the author Newsweek called "the nation's leading presidential historian" comes an inspiring narrative chronicling the crucial moments when a courageous president has dramatically changed the future of the United States.
About the Author
Michael Beschloss has been called "the nation's leading Presidential historian" by Newsweek. He has written eight books on American Presidents and is NBC News Presidential Historian, as well as contributor to PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two sons.
Table of Contents
a speedy death to general washington!
kick this treaty to hell!
the damnedest liar
he may retire with undiminish'd glory
rivalries irritated to madness
oh, that i was a soldier!
rocks and quicksands on all sides
the most splendid diamond in my crown
i will kill it!
not a man to be forced
i was born for the storm
who would have had the courage?
i am going to be beaten
too angelic for this devilish rebellion
a well-meaning baboon
the country will be saved
i see dynamite
a rough-and-tumble man
i upset them all
we must protect the chief!
salute your caesar?
we have avoided a putsch
no people except the hebrews
the right place at the right time
how could this have happened?
i am cyrus!
they never show their passion
go get him, johnny boy!
it's going to be a civil war
a man has to take a stand
we win and they lose!
it left me greatly depressed
don't worry that i've lost my bearings
a miracle has taken place