Zachary Taylor : Soldier, Planter, Statesman of the Old Southwest by K. Jack Bauer
Read: Jan 17 - Jan 27
Format: Hardback, 327 pages
Source: Public Library Interlibrary Loan
Subject:Presidential Biography, Mexican War
Setting: Texas, Mexico, Washington
Category: Who/What/When/Where/How/Why? - Bios/history
Challenges: 101020, 75 Book, SYLL, USPC
Have you ever heard of Zachary Taylor? Do you recognize the name? Other than having been the President of the United States sometime before Lincoln, would you know anything about him? Would you think that people would elect a man who had never served in an elected office? As I read this book, I was filled with questions about a man who served as the 12th President of the US and no other executive or legislative office.
What makes politicians think that they are qualified to give orders for a military action and what makes military men think that they are qualified to govern? Throughout this book Zachary Taylor faced issues dealing with the orders of the government officials sending orders to him for the military actions whether it was the War of 1812 or the Mexican American War. It is a shame that during a time when communications between the battlefield and Washington took weeks, politicians would make policy changes and send orders which resulted in difficulties for the military leaders to obey without increased dangers and loss of life to the army troops. The biggest question is, did he learn from that situation?
The man was an enigma, that's what the book said. I agree. He appears to be non-partisan in the short time that he served as President. During the election time, he did not campaign, but stated when asked about running for the office " My opinion has always been against elevating a military chief to that position." but that if he was elected he would serve "so as to be President of a nation and not of a party." When the members of the Whig party were drawing him into the election he tried not to step on the toes of any of the major political players and wouldn't answer as to his stance on the issues. He merely said that he would support the decisions of the Congress as long as they did not violate the Constitution.
President Taylor appears to have seen issues in only black or white and only had the ability to use his military training to handle those issues. If he didn't understand or feel qualified to handle a problem, he apparently passed it on to a subordinate. He had no clear plan of what needed to be done when he took office, and he didn't give the impression that he wanted anyone else's ideas either. He ultimately flew by the seat of pants through several issues before his unexpected death.
I was actually looking forward to reading this book about the life of the 12th President of the United States. I knew absolutely nothing about Zachary Taylor and was anxious to find out about the man. The details that were disclosed about his life and activities were many, yet I don't think that I'm really sure of his standings on the issues of the time even after reading this book, the man is still an enigma. I good general yes, president, not sure.
One note - I don't understand the title because yes, he was a soldier, but I wouldn't say that he was a statesman and I never really saw him as a planter, either.