Considering the course his life took, one might wonder how Zachary Taylor ever came to be elected the twelfth president of the United States. According to K. Jack Bauer, Taylor “was and remains an enigma.” He was a southerner who espoused many antisouthern causes, an aristocrat with a strong feeling for the common man, an energetic yet cautious and conservative soldier. Not an intellectual, Taylor showed little curiosity about the world around him. In this biography―the most comprehensive since Holman Hamilton’s two-volume work published forty years ago―Bauer offers a fresh appraisal of Taylor’s life and suggests that Taylor may have been neither so simple nor so nonpolitical as many historians have believed.
Taylor’s sixteen months as president were marked by disputes over California statehood and the Texas–New Mexico boundary. Taylor vehemently opposed slavery extension and threatened to hang those southern hotheads who favored violence and secession as a means to protect their interests. He died just as he had begun a reorganization of his administration and a recasting of the Whig party.
Balanced and judicious, forthright and unreverential, and based on thoroughgoing research, this book will be for many years the standard biography of Zachary Taylor.