American Presidents

Zachary Taylor American Presidents Teacher Guide

Biography of Zachary Taylor: Military and Political Leaders
May 31, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level

Before Viewing American Presidents
Have students discuss the relationship between military leaders and political leaders in the United States by explaining the following questions:

  • What influence do politicians have over the military and its leaders?
  • What influence do military leaders have over politicians?
  • Is it common for military leaders to express political views? Why not?

    Have students list some ways current or historical leaders and issues in the military intersect or have intersected with politics and politicians. What are the primary ways government leaders and military leaders interact? What do they have in common? Where might they have differences?

    Review the letter written by presidential candidate Zachary Taylor located on the American Presidents web site. Print and duplicate the letter so that each student has a copy. Have students mark the letter and create an outline that lists the major topics addressed within the letter.

    In what way may his positions have been influenced by his career and experience in the military? What predictions can students make about how Zachary Taylorís positions on these issues influenced his administration?

    Have students list the four positions Zachary Taylor takes in the letter. Tell students they will view C-SPAN's American Presidents program in which they will track the sources of his positions and analyze whether he acted in a way that was consistent with his beliefs during his administration.

    While Viewing American Presidents
    Directions: Use information from the programming to trace the source and evolution of Zachary Taylorís views on the four topics (write the issues in #s 1-4) addressed in his letter, and one additional topic: the expansion of slavery (#5).

    Issues Significant to Presidential Candidate Zachary Taylor





    5. Expansion of slavery

    After Viewing American Presidents
    Review studentsí answers, and discuss any differences. What other presidents had significant military careers preceding their election to the presidency? (Have students consider George Washington, Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison) What personal qualities did Taylor have in common with previous presidents? Did they share any of the same views?

    Why was Zachary Taylor elected to the presidency? How did his personal experience and background affect his presidency? What general statements can be made about presidents who are not primarily political people? Was Taylor a different kind of president because of his career in military?

    Have students take sides on and debate the following issue, looking to other American Presidents programming, the web site and other sources for evidence: Politicians do not make the best presidents.

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