The Presidents of the USA


 
 
 

Biography

 
30
Calvin Coolidge
R R R R R
 
1923-1929
 
Noted for his cautious reserve, public taciturnity, and frugality, he was also a competent administrator and a shrewd politician.Very popular in a period of rapid growth and prosperity but perhaps too complacent and inactive despite warning signs of Depression.


Born July 4, 1872, Plymouth, Vt.
Political partyRepublican
EducationAmherst College, B.A., 1895
Military service none
Previous public office ♦ Northampton, Mass., City Council, 1898-1900
♦ Massachusetts State Assembly1907-9;
♦ mayor of Northampton, 1910-11
♦ Massachusetts Senate, 1911-15;
♦ president, Massachusetts Senate, 1913-15;
♦ lieut. Governor of Massachusetts,   1916-19
♦ Governor of Massachusetts,1919-21;
♦ Vice President, 1921-23
Died Jan 5, 1933, Northampton, Mass.
picture of Calvin Coolidge



Early Life and Career

Coolidge was born in a small town in Vermont, where he worked in his father's general store and on his own farm. He graduated from Amherst College and two years later became a lawyer. He then became active in Republican politics, moving from local office to become president of the Massachusetts Senate, then lieutenant governor, and finally governor.

Calvin Coolidge gained national attention while governor for his handling of the Boston police strike of September 1919. The police force demanded union recognition, and when it went out on strike, looting and rioting occurred in the down-town stores. Coolidge ordered the state militia into the city to restore order, and on September 11 he took control of the police department. He backed the Boston mayor's refusal to reinstate the striking police officers. In a message to the American Federation of Labor, he argued, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” That sentence brought him immediate acclaim and a large reelection margin.

Coolidge went on to campaign for the Republican Presidential nomination in 1920. The convention denied him the nomination, but he was selected as Warren Harding's running mate. Coolidge had no part in the scandals that occurred during Harding's administration. He presided over the Senate and was the first Vice President to attend cabinet sessions (without saying much).



Presidency

After learning of President Harding's death on August 3, 1923, Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father, the justice of the peace in Plymouth, Vermont. He was the first President from New England since Franklin Pierce.

Coolidge became a very popular President because of his unusual public diffidence—it was hard for anybody, anywhere, at any time, to get a word out of Silent Cal.

Calvin Coolidge succeeded to the Presidency in the midst of the Teapot Dome scandal, which involved corruption in the sale of leases on naval oil reserves to private investors. His firm resolve to investigate corruption, and his firing of Attorney General Harry Daugherty for refusing to respond to investigations of corruption, did much to restore public confidence in the Republican party. Coolidge did little, but he was immensely popular.

That summer Coolidge won the Republican nomination on the first ballot, at the first convention to be broadcast on the radio. With his smashing election victory over Democrat John W. Davis and Progressive Robert La Follette, he became the second President, after Theodore Roosevelt, to win a term in his own right after completing the term of his deceased predecessor.

The business of America is business,” Coolidge had observed as Vice President, and once in the White House his priorities were to reduce government expenditures, lessen government regulation of corporations, promote subsidies for industries and protect them with high tariffs (taxes on imported products), and cut taxes. He vetoed 50 liberal spending bills passed by a coalition of progressive Republicans and Democrats. He used surpluses to reduce the national debt. He refused to take action in the coal strike of 1927. He got Congress to cut the income tax and inheritance tax.

These policies fueled a boom in the stock market…

In foreign policy Coolidge continued the Republican opposition to American participation in the League of Nations.

Coolidge's best-known international initiative was the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, named for Coolidge's Secretary of State, Frank B. Kellogg, and French foreign minister Aristide Briand. The treaty, ratified in 1929, committed countries including the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan to "renounce war, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another. The treaty did not achieve its intended result - the outlawry of war - , but it did provide the founding principle for international law after World War II.

Coolidge continued the previous administration's policy not to recognize the Soviet Union. He also continued the United States' support for the elected government of Mexico against the rebels there, lifting the arms embargo on that country.

Coolidge represented the U.S. at the Pan American Conference in Havana, Cuba, making him the only sitting U.S. President to visit the country. The United States' occupation of Nicaragua and Haiti continued under his administration, but Coolidge withdrew American troops from the Dominican Republic in 1924. He sent marines into Nicaragua to preserve order at the request of its government, repulsing rebels led by Augusto Sandino.

During his full term, economic prosperity continued. Various economic experts warned him though that the prosperity was based on unsure foundations. Though worried by what he was told, he made no significant moves to address the problem, relying instead on public pronouncements to bolster confidence. When the crash came, Coolidge had left the White House.



Retirement

In 1927 Coolidge issued an announcement: “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.” After leaving office in 1929, he wrote an autobiography and with the proceeds lived in comfortable retirement.

He died on Jan. 5, 1933, of a coronary thrombosis.



Legacy

Coolidge was a shy, quiet individual, who never enjoyed the best of health and was once described by the daughter of President Teddy Roosevelt as looking "as if he had been weaned on a pickle". He slept long hours and was renowned for his taciturnity.

He pre-dated Franklin Roosevelt in the use of the radio for political broadcasts but was less at ease in facing human beings. When he did speak, he had a nasal twang that was sometimes likened to a quack.

He nonetheless achieved great political success. He was at the right place at the right time: a Vice-President when the President died, a non-interventionist President at a time of economic boom. Well-meaning and, according to some analyses, shrewd in judgment, "Silent Cal" was a popular and probably underrated President.

Perhaps the most significant contribution that Coolidge made to the office was to restore its integrity. He stood in sharp contrast to Harding. Whereas Harding was a drinker and gambler, who brought some dubious characters into government, Coolidge was the epitome of New England reticence and rectitude. He was religious and dutiful, there to serve others.

Throughout his tenure, Coolidge remained a remarkably popular president. But the Great Depression brought his policies into disrepute, and most historians now regard him as having been overly complacent and inactive, lacking in vision, and ill equipped to deal with the period's emerging problems.

In the conservative 1980s he became a hero in some quarters, but scholarly revisionism has been limited largely to more positive assessments of his rhetorical, political, and public relations skills.

Coolidge was not a leader of foresight and vision. But whatever his shortcomings as seen in retrospect, he fitted the popular yearning of his day for stability and normalcy.




 
 
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