Here are some details on what should be my next book:
It will probably be entitled Presidential Character: Washington through Quincy Adams, and it will cover the first six presidents’ views on faith, leadership, and race.
The book started as a thesis for a Master’s degree in Applied Theology at Carson-Newman University. I looked at the religious views of ten early southern presidents. I took part of that manuscript and decided I would add the three early northern presidents, cut off some of the guys at the end (for a volume two, perhaps), and do a book on the faith of the first eleven presidents–George Washington through James K. Polk.
I didn’t want to go past Polk because I didn’t want to cover so many presidents that I had to keep it shallow. And I liked the idea of going all the way through Polk because he is a Tennessee president, so I thought there might be some local interest, and there is some interesting stuff about his faith.
But things got complicated. As I did the research, I was very interested in how these men dealt with slavery, and the issue in general when it comes to faith. Some people justified slavery by using the Bible, but many people who attacked it also cited the Bible. I was interested in how slavery impacted the consciences of these liberty-loving presidents. Also, I am very interested in philosophies of leadership, and you almost can’t read about a president extensively without getting some sense of how they led.
As I had to dig down deeper with each of these presidents, it made sense to make my list shorter. A benefit of doing this is that the time period I am covering is more self-contained. These first six presidents all knew each other.
My goal with Presidential Character is to have a book with solid enough scholarship that it will appeal to academics and to also make it interesting enough that general readers will find it, um, generally readable.
I am very excited about Presidential Character. I hope to have it out by the end of June.