“Millard Fillmore” by Paul Finkelman was published in 2011 and is part of The American Presidents series. Finkelman is a professor of law at Albany Law School, a legal historian and prolific author. He has written dozens of books and newspaper articles on topics ranging from Thomas Jefferson to civil rights to baseball.
This being my third experience with books from The American Presidents series, I thought I knew what to expect: a short, punchy and potent analysis of a former president. But before I even finished the first chapter I was simply astonished. Never before had I read a biography of anyone where the author was so clearly and forcefully antagonistic toward his or her subject.
From the book’s outset Finkelman makes clear his utter disdain for this former president. His prose drips incessantly with vitriol and contempt. And while Fillmore was undoubtedly on the wrong side of history on a number of issues (not unlike many people of his day) this book shows little effort to objectively evaluate his legacy. At best, it reads like a scolding op-ed essay; at worst, it is a tabloid-like impeachment of…
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