Tags: Scholar | Hoover | Crusade | Years

Scholar Reviews Hoover's 'Crusade Years'

By    |   Thursday, 27 March 2014 07:04 PM

Historian George Nash, who has written extensively about President Herbert Hoover (1874-1964), appeared on C-SPAN’s After Words program to discuss his latest book on Hoover, The Crusade Years 1933-1955: Herbert Hoover’s Lost Memoir of the New Deal Era and Its Aftermath.”

Nash was interviewed by the conservative writer Amity Schlaes, a biographer of President Calvin Coolidge, whom Hoover served as Commerce Secretary, and she brought her unique energy and enthusiasm to the discussion.

The study of Hoover will hold surprises for some readers, because Hoover is commonly thought of as a loser because he was president when the Great Depression struck, and his ignominious defeat in 1932 at the hands of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932 allowed FDR to present himself as the president who would fix the mess by trying a raft of social experiments and arrogating to the federal government an array of unprecedented powers. Nash noted that one poll ranks Hoover 37th among 43 presidents, and he is often blamed for the Depression.

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The discussion was divided into three parts: 1) background on Hoover, 2) how the book was produced, and 3) why it matters. Hoover, who along with Richard M. Nixon was one of two Quaker presidents in the 20th century, was orphaned at ten years old and had only a middle school education but nevertheless was able to gain admission as the very first student in the very first class at Stanford University.

He chose geology as a major and met his wife Lou, who was also a geology student, at Stanford. Geology was a fortuitous choice, because Hoover was able to parlay this background into a career as a mining engineer as a boom in the discovery of precious metals and valuable minerals was getting under way.

Far from a loser, Hoover became the most highly compensated private consultant in the world. He then put his expertise to work as the leader of humanitarian relief, first in Belgium and later in other countries torn by The Great War. As his reputation grew, Hoover found himself in a position to launch a political career.

The interview did not mention this, but this writer has learned elsewhere that Hoover was in the mix as the 1920 presidential race was taking shape, possibly as a Democratic candidate.

He settled for the commerce post under President Warren G. Harding and remained in the job when Calvin Coolidge succeeded Harding. The authors referred to the relationship between Harding and Coolidge as a touchy one, but when Coolidge famously said, “I do not choose to run,” Hoover was in line for the job. (The story of Coolidge’s vice president, banker Charles G. Dawes, is fascinating in its own right, but Dawes hated being vice president and was unable to benefit politically from holding the job.)

Nash explained that Hoover produced a flurry of books and memoirs during the last five years of his life, but his heirs delayed making the memoir available for publication. Nash found it among Hoover’s papers that the family released in 1966, and he edited it to produce this book. This writer would observe that Hoover, and Dawes, for that matter, were what we would today call RINOs.

What makes this book significant is that during his lengthy retirement, Hoover became a crusader against the excesses, the “creeping” collectivization and socialism represented by the New Deal.

(Archived video can be found here.)

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George Nash presents what's referred to as "the missing link" in the Hoover memoirs.
Thursday, 27 March 2014 07:04 PM
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