by Matt Donnelly


To Amy and doorman,
Still my favorite girls


“Doubtless Calvin Coolidge was a type all his own. At the core he was pure New England.” (NYT, Jan. 5, 1933, quoted in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 217)

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No book is ever written in a vacuum, and this one is a case in point. My wife, Amy, and daughter, Kylie, have once again been extraordinarily patient while I’ve given attention to the manuscript. Their love and support has been invaluable.

I would also like to thank ____[Calvin Coolidge Memorial Association]______

I would also like to thank Peter Goodwin, Manager of the Sagadahoc History & Geneaology Room in the Patten free Library in Bath, Maine, for directing me to newspapers from the time of Harding’s death.

Finally, a well-deserved thank you goes to the owners of Front Street Antiques & Books in Bath, Maine, as well as various sellers on the Internet auction site eBay, for supplying a number of important books that were used in the writing of this one. Wandering through stacks of old books -- in person and now virtually -- always seems to be an inspiration to me.

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Calvin Coolidge was dead. It was shocking, yet not surprising that he was gone so soon after leaving the White House. Like William McKinley before him, he was an enormously popular presdient while in office, admired for his honesty and thrift, yet quickly forgotten by general public. The former presdient, out of office barely four years, considered himself a forgotten man.

In 1933, the year he died, the United States witnessed a political revolution unlike anything seen since the end of the Civil War. That year the aristocratic former Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took office. He was elected by a weary population seeking answers to the economic debacle that was the Great Depression. Within 100 days of his inauguration in March, the federal government began to play a much larger role in American life, and the nation was given a New Deal. “Between 1933 and 1936, government spending increased more than 83 percent, while the federal debt balooned by 73 percent.”1 The goal was to spur the American economy, although 9 million (or over 17 percent of the population) remained unemployed in 1939, and the promised economic recovery only came about because of the industrial production required by America’s entry into World War II.2 By comparison, the laissez-faire policies of President Warren Harding, which included almost a 40 percent cut in government spending over 1916 levels, ended the severe post-war recession he inherited within only a year of taking his office in 1921.3

Coolidge lived to see Roosevelt’s victory in November 1932, although he died before Roosevelt took office. Always an astute observer of the political scene, he saw Roosevelt as the standardbearer of an activist philosophy of government that had once only been the dream of fringe elements. In December 1932 the ailing former President said to a friend that

I feel I no longer fit in with these times. Great changes can come in four years. [Roosevelt’s] socialistic notions of government are not of my day....When I read
of the new-fangled things that are now so popular, I realize that my time in public
affairs is past.4

Calvin Coolidge had lived a good life. A small, shy boy from the hills of central Vermont, he learned from his father the importance of becoming a servant of the people. He went on to become the Governor of Massachusetts, then Vice President of the United States, and finally the President.

Interestingly, some of the most fitting words about Calvin Coolidge were penned by the man himself about another American, Ulyssses S. Grant, but they apply equally to Coolidge:

[His] greatness did not spring into being in a generation. There lay behind it a
wide sweep of ancestry representing the blood of those who has set a standard
of civilization and borne its burdens for a thousand years. Into his boyhood there
came little which was uncommon. He had the ordinary experiences of the son
of an average home maintained by a moderately successful business....He did
not appear brilliant, but he had industry. He worked. He made progress. He had
that common sense which overcame obstacles....In the important decisions of his
life his fidelity and honesty are equally important....There was no artifice about him,
no pretense, and no sham. Through and through he was genuine.5

As presdient, Coolidge embodied a return to honest government that Americans sought in the wake of scandals that rocked the administration of his predecessor, President Harding. In 1924, when Coolidge ran for his own term as presdient, his Democratic opponent, John W. Davis, made much of the Harding scandals, but he was also clear about Coolidge: “I make no charges against the honesty and integrity of the present occupant of the White House. I think no man truthfully can.”6

Nonetheless, Calvin Coolidge did not impress many observers as a man who would one day become the president of the United States. At best, they thought, he would live on as a footnote in American history textbooks -- a tenuous sort of political immortality. But Coolidge continued to be full of surprises. One observer remarked that

people have been reassessing Calvin Coolidge at least since the 1890's, when his Amherst classmates discovered to their astonishment that the sphinx-like Vermonter could entertain the campus with his delivery of the annual Grove Oration. Later, lawmakers in Boston would have second thoughts about the quick-witted Senate president who, when a colleague was told to go to Hell by an angry senator, calmly replied that he had looked up the law and found he didn't have to. In the 1920's, the imperious Senator Henry Cabot Lodge would live to regret his contemptuous dismissal of Coolidge's presidential chances. According to Lodge, the self-proclaimed Scholar in Politics, no man who lived in a $28 a month Northampton duplex could expect to reside at the much grander address of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.7

Despite his reputation for honesty and integrity, Coolidge has generally recieved low marks from presidential historians. One poll of thirty-two "jurors" arranged by veteran historian Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., judged Coolidge’s presdiency to be a failure.8 These and other historians have generally charged Coolidge with creating an unsutainable level of economic prosperity that was based on rampant speculation on the stock market. They maintain that Coolidge’s policies led directly to the Great Depression of the 1930s. An influential American historian of a previous generation alleged that Coolidge “took it easy in the White House...and did nothing to discourage the whild speculation [in the stock market] that was going on.”9 For many Americans, if they consider Coolidge at all, this has been the final word on his presidency.

In recent years, however, a new generation of scholars has begun to reexamine Coolidge’s political legacy, and they are beginning to undermine this negative judgment. There has been a new awareness of the fact that presidents who shrunk the size of the federal government often have been judged more harshly by historians than those who advocated a larger federal government.10 This reversal of fortune in Coolidge’s case was predicted by none other than the writer of Coolidge’s New York Times obituary in 1933: “A popular tradition has been established which it will be difficult to set right iin some needed particulars....But it certainly will not seem right to as time passes to put too low an estimate upon the ability of Mr. Coolidge.” To support this view, the Times pointed to Coolidge’s “unusual parts and powers,” “his masterly strokes in office,” his “political sagacity,” and his “courageous positions”.11

In 2000, a poll of 78 scholars of history, politics, and law conducted by the Federalist Society and the Wall Street Journal ranked Coolidge’s presidency as “average.” Further, the report’s authors noted that only President Ronald Regan was more underrated. In a telling comment, they concluded that Coolidge is among those presidents who “are probably rated more on recieved wisdom than on assessment of their records.”12

The question remains: Just who was Calvin Coolidge? Was he a do-nothing president who brought the United States to the brink of an economic depression? Or was he a president who rekindled American pride and prosperity by action and example? As we tell his story, we will come to understand why Calvin Coolidge is a man who continues to defy hasty generalizations.


When Calvin Coolidge was born, Abraham Lincoln had been dead for seven years, but the ghosts of the Civil War remained. Slavery had been ended in the South, but Federal troops continued to occupy the region. The 700,000 new black voters who cast ballots in the 1868 presidential election gave victory to former Union General Ulysees S. Grant, a war hero who ran as a Republican. “When [President Andrew] Johnson sank in the public estimation,” Coolidge later said, “Grant rose, being unanimously nominated and handsomely elected President of the United States.”13 Grant’s popularity was so great that he was courted by both Democrats and Republicans to be their candidate.

During his first term, Grant was embroiled in a scandal involving bribes allegedly paid by the Union Pacific Railroad to members of his administration. Coolidge, who was a student of American history, later maintained that Grant “had little taste for political maneouvres....At a time when the political ideals of the country were very low, President Grant held to his own high standard of honorable public service.” That level of personal integrity explained why, according to Coolidge, that Grant was nominated on first ballot at the Republican National Convention in 1872 and then went on to be “triumphantly reelected” in November.14 Indeed Grant trounced newspaperman Horace Greeley, who had earlier helped found the Republican party, elect Abraham Lincoln president, and then encouraged him declare the emancipation of Southern slaves. Greeley had been nominated for presdient by both the renegade Liberal Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

Politics aside, the peaceful post-war years brought with them a great torrent of intellectual activity. Discoveries and inventions were being made at a frenetic pace. At the end of the nineteenth century, British writer James Bryce noted in America “the diffusion, far more than general than in any other country, of intellectual curiosity.”15 In 1825 the U.S. Patent Office issued only 304 patents, but it issued an astonishing 440,000 between 1860 and 1890.16 (Naturally, the patents for a metallic “nose improver” and a combination cane/spitoon were hardly worth mentioning.17)

The individuals who made these discoveries were self-made entreprenuers who worked largely free of government oversight. Thomas Edison, the “Wizard of Menlo Park,” epitomized the self-made American inventor in the postwar era. He left school after only a few months and nursed a love of science until he created an electric voting machine, his first patented invention. Although he was nearly penniless when he came to New York after the Civil War, he went on to invent an improved stock ticker, the mimeograph, the phonograph, the Kinetoscope (the first movie camera), and the electric light, among many others. Later Edison said, “I have constructed three thousand different theories in conjunction with the electric light....Yet in only rwo cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory.”18 The electric light soon transformed the nightlife of cities, which in turn attracted more people to the urban centers, leading to creation of electric trolleys, taxicabs, and subways in attempts to ease traffic congestion.

Not to be outdone as an inventor, Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, which was originally intended as a device to help the deaf, his own wife among them. On March 10, 1876, Bel’s assistant Watson came when Bell spoke famously into his telephone: “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!” Another victory for Bell came in 1893, when he made the first long-distance phone call between Boston and New York. By 1900, 1.5 million telephones were in American homes.19

Although the typewriter had been invented before the Civil War, it underwent many improvements in the years after the war. C. Latham Sholes developed the modern version in the 1870s, and Mark Twain used it to create the first typewritten manuscript to be sent for publication. Twain said, “it piled an awful stack of words on one page.” The book he typed was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which was destined to become an American classic. With Twain’s seal of approval, Sholes’ invention became a staple of the American office for the next century, until it was supplanted by personal computers.20 Not all literary figures supported the typewriter, however: James Russell Lowell wrote, “I could never say what I would if I had to pick out my letters like a learned pig.”21

America’s growing technological prowess was on gand display at the Centennial Exhibition, held in Philadelphia in 1876. The 450-acre exhibition’s most popular exhibit was the 1,500-horsepower Corliss steam engine, which provided enough electricity to power the enite Machinery Hall. There were also a wallpaper printing press and a half mile of sewing machines on display, and Bell was on hand to demonstrate his telephone. “All that Great Britain and Germany have sent is insignificant in amount when compared with our own contributions,” wrote William Dean Howells in the Atlantic Monthly,

the superior elegance, aptness, and ingenuity of our machinery is observable at a glance. Yes, it is still in these things of iron and steel that the national genius most freely speaks; by and by the inspired marbles, the breathing canvasses, the great literature; for the present America is voluble in the strong metals and their infinite uses.22

Railroads also began to crisscross the country during this time, and in 1869 the first transcontinental railroad was completed. The Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads, which met in Utah, relied heavily on government subsidies in the form of free land and loans paid for each mile of track laid down. Speed equalled profits. As a result, poor-quality iron rails were laid down in great haste, and corners were cut in construction wherever possible, resulting in the need to rebuilt large sections of the route a few years later. Meanwhile, a Minnesota-based entreprenuer named James A. Hill constructed a railroad line from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Seattle at the end of the nineteenth century without any federal subsidies, and he helped develop markets in Asia for agricultural goods produced in the American Northwest.23

Whether subsidized by government or not, over 200,000 miles of railroad track were laid down by 1900, up from a mere 30,000 miles at the beginning of the Civil War.24 Construction peaked in1916 at 254,000 miles, and then began to shrink as a result of increased competition from the automobile.25 Although the American population tripled from the Civil War to the 1920s, the miles of railroad track increased eightfold. “In 1860 there was one mile of [rail]road to every 1,087 people; in 180 one mile to every 571, and in 1920 one mile to every 417.”26 In 1883, the railroads spearheaded the adoption of four time zones across the United States, which replaced a haphazard system in which twleve noon was determined by the time the sun reached its highest point in each area.

The growth of the railroads helps explain the growth of American cities during this time. Although in the late 1860s a full three-quarters of the American people continued to live on farms or in small towns of less than 2,500 people,27 the trends favored the growth of urban centers. In 1860 there were only sixteen cities with a population over 50,000, but by 1900 there were seventy-eight.28 This trend was made possible in part by an astounding increase in average life expectancy, which went from 38.9 years in 1850 to 49.6 years in 1900.29

The railroads helped establish cities such as Detroit and Minneapolis, which saw their collective population rise from 93,000 to nearly 500,000 between 1870 and 1900.30 (North America, unlike Africa, has the advantage of many navigable rivers going into the interior of the continent, all of which allow large vessels to deliver goods far and wide and in turn foster economic growth.31). In the Midwest, from 1870 to 1888, cowboys led over 600,000 head of cattle north from Texas to the richer grazing land of the Midwest and thus gave birth to a prosperous meatpacking industry in places like Chicago and St. Louis.32 Between 1860 and 1915, tobacco production doubled, corn production tripled, and cotton production quadrupled. Wheat proiduction rose from 173 million bushels a year to over one billion.33 Between 1870 and 1900, agricultral exports nearly tripled, as did the number of farms.34

By the end of the Civil War, wrote one historian, America “was already engaged in the most astonishing economic expansion in human history, which was to last, with one or two brief interruptions -- and a world war-- until the end of the 1920s.”35 The United States, which had been a primarily agricultural economy throughout its history, was making the transition to an manufacturing economy. The shift was official by 1880, the first year in the nation’s history that less than half of the American work force was involved in farming.36 During the 1890s the United States surpassed Germany to become the world’s leading industrial power, a postion it has held to the present time.37

American businessmen were outdoing one another during this time to bring to the masses goods that were once considered luxuries. Business owners understood the iron law of a capitalist economy, namely that customers would only part with their money if they were offered lower and lower prices. Mail-order companies such as Sears, Roebuck pressured manufacturers to cut costs, which they in turn passed on to consumers. Prices on everything from bicycles to stoves to sweing machines plummeted, the result being that more and more Americans were able to enjoy luxuries that only the rich could have enjoyed several decades earlier. New labor-saving technologies for the home, such as dishwashing machines, also freed up more and more women to enter the workforce.

Immigrants poured into this land of plenty, and generally they shared in the prosperity. Ten million came between 1865 and 1890.38 “By 1890 New York had half as many Italians as Naples, as many Germans as Hamburg, twice as many Irish as Dublin, and two and a half times as many Jews as Warsaw.”39 Many of these immigrants arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs, but most were assimilated into the great American metling pot, learned English, and began to make unique and valuable contributions to American society as they rose to become solid members of the middle-class.

There was tremendous upward mobility: the average immigrant Jew to New York, for example, stayed in crowded tenaments for only an average of fifteen years before he moved to wealthier areas in New York -- and beyond.40 Despite pockets of poverty, and the fact that new technology made those in older industries seek different employment, the United States continued to be a place of hope and opportunity for even the poorest Americans. With hard work and presistence, virtually anyone could rise from poverty and make something of himself.

Unlike Europe, where one was born into an economic class and remained there, even newly arrived immigrants to the United States had the very real possibility of bettering themselves.41 As future President James A. Garfield said in a 1873 speech: “Our society resembles ... the waves of the ocean, whose every drop may move freely among its fellows, and may rise toward the light until it flashes on the crest of the highest wave.”42 James Bryce, a British observer, wrote of “a diffusion of wealth among an immense number of small proprietors all interested in the defence of property, an exemption from chronic pauperism and economical distress, work being generally abundant, many careers open...”43 One who typified this upward mobility was Scotsman Andrew Carnegie, who went on to become one of the wealthiest men in America. He immigrated to the United States as a boy and grew up in a Pittsburg slum, where he worked twelve-hour days in a factory for $1.50 a week.44 Other rags-to-riches stories included Joseph Pulitzer, who spoke barely a word of English when he arrived from Hungary at age 17, but rose to becoming a publishing magnate who owned the influential New York World newspaper.

Some immigrants came of their own accord, but many more were invited, even begged, to come. American coal mines, factories, and railroads desparately needed labor, which was in short supply after the devastation of the Civil War. Companies went to Europe offering cash bonuses to laborers who would come to work in America. The state of Wisconsin had an agent in Basel, Switzerland, who was charged with coaxing the friends of Germans who had already emigrated to join their fellow countrymen in America.45 The Germans were joined by groups like the Irish, who were escaping from a devastating potato famine, and Russian Jews, who were escpaing Tsarist anti-Semitism. Congress did its part to encourage immigration by passing the Homestead Act in 1862, which promised immigrants 160 free acres of land in the West if they would agree to settle there for several years. (Later the maximum acerage was raised to 320 and then 640 acres.) A total of 147 million acres were distributed.46 Such generosity was unprecdented in world history, for in many societies only a tiny fraction of the population has ever been able to own land.47


In 1872, several of the issues that would come to dominate American politics were in their embryonic stages. The first, women’s suffrage, was gaining ground, and in November Susan B. Anthony was arrested and fined $100 for voting in the presidential election. She said, “I will never pay a dollar,”48 she never did. Glimmers of imperialism were seen in February of that year as the Senate refused to ratify a treaty that would have made Somoa an American protectorate. The national push for the prohibition of alcohol continued to be in the news as the Temperance Party fielded a full slate of national candidates in the November elections. In March, the fledgling conservation movement gained steam asYellowstone Park, the second national park, was created. And the National Labor Refrom Party was formed to protest what it perceived to be abuses perpetrated against workers by business owners.

Other issues perhaps hit closer to home for most Americans. The new roller skating fad, spurred by the invention of mass-produced skates in 1866, was sweeping the nation, and even Cheyenne, Wyoming was in on the fun. Rifle shooting, horseracing, and sculling drew large crowds in an age before the advent of football and basketball. An earthquake struck California in February, and the man-made disaster known as Jesse James struck again in April by robbing the Deposit Bank of Columbia, Kentucky. In August in Chicago, Aaron Montgomery Ward sent out his first mail-order catalogue, capitalizing upon the new markets opened up by the railroads. Readers were buying copies of Roughing It, the latest Mark Twain novel, and a new magaine called Popular Science Monthly tapped into America’s love affair with technology. Much of that technology would be on display at the United States Centenntial, the planning for which got underway in earnest when Congress established the Centennial Commission in May.

Then as now, the pace of life varied across the country. While some areas were becoming more and more cosmpolitan, Calvin Coolidge’s childhood in the hills of central Vermont remained very much a throwback to the nation’s agricultural roots. There the rhythms of life had not changed in many decades. Farmers wore the same woolen grey smocks that their colonial ancestors did, and old women like his great-aunt still smoked clay pipes.49 In his Autobiography, Coolidge recounted those halcyon days with an unmistakeable fondness:

We had husking bees, apple-paring bees and singing schools in the winter. There were parties for the young folks and an occasional dramatic exhibition by local talent. Not far away there were some public dances, which I was never permitted to attend.
Some time during the summer we usually went to the circus, often rising by three o’clock to get there early. In the autumn we visited the county fair. The holidays were all celebrated in some fashion.
Of course the Fourth of July meant a great deal to me, because it was my birthday. The first one I can remember was when i was four years old. My father took me fishing in the meadow brook in the morning. I recall that I fell in the water, after which we had a heavy thundershower, so that we both came home very wet. Usually there was a picnic celebration on that day.
Thanksgiving was a feast day for family reunions at the home of the grandparents. Christmas was a sacrament observed with the exchange of gifts, when the stockings were hung, and the spruce tree was lighted in the symbol of Christian faith and love. While there was a lot of hard work, there was no lack of pleasurable diversion.50

This is not to say that Plymouth was necessarily isolated. The stagecoach brought Rutland and Boston newspapers to Plymouth, and some of the items for sale in the country store (such as oranges and medicines) were imported from out of state. Even the Sunday School curriculum that Calvin Coolidge’s grandmother used was purchased via mail order from Chicago. In reality, though, the residents of Plymouth most often chose not to exploit their ability to be in greater contact with the outside world.51

If we want to understand Calvin Coolidge, then, we must first understand that he was a shy boy from the hills of rural Vermont. Unlike Theodore Roosevelt, he was not born into a family of any great power or privilege.52 He was a child of the working class who appreciated the common sense of the commom man. More than that, however, he understood and respected the inherent dignity of every human being. “No man was ever meanly born,” Coolidge once said. “About his cradle is the wondrous miracle of life.”53


In September 1928, President Calvin Coolidge left Washington for Vermont to view the damage and reconstruction resulting from the flood of 1927. There he extolled the virtues of his native state:

Vermont is a state I love. I could not look upon the peaks of Ascutney, Killington, Mansfield, and Equinox, without being moved in a way that no other scene could move me. It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our everlasting hills. I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and her invigorating climate. But most of all because of her people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves in the service of others. If the spirit of Liberty should vanish from other parts of our Union and the support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of the brave little state of Vermont.54

The town of Plymouth, where Calvin Coolidge first opened his eyes, was formally organized in 1787, even as the United States Constitution was being written in Philadelphia. The town is about seven square miles and has the Black River flowing through its western region, sometimes forming beautiful lakes. The town’s larger neighbors, Ludlow and Woodstock, lie about twelve miles north and southwest, respectively. Rutland, which was on the railroad lines, was six miles to the east, on the other side of the Green Mountains.

As in the past, vistors to Plymouth today can walk along wooded trails lined with beech, maple, white pine, and many other varieties of trees. The mountains are green year-round because of the evergreen spruce trees. Plymouth is near the middle of the state, to the east of the Green Mountains made famous by Nathan Hale and the Green Mountain Boys during the Revolution. Saltash Mountain, over 3,000 feet high, is the mountain in Plymouth, and there are wonderful views to be had. New Hampshire’s White Mountains can be seen 80 miles away in New Hampshire.

Early settlers to Vermont came from Massachusetts, Rhose Island, and Connecticut. “They were English Puritan stock,” Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography, “and their choice of a habitation stamps them with a courageous pioneering spirit.”55 They named the towns they founded after the ones they left back home, as the English also did for the towns they founded in the New World.

The area in and around Plymouth was covered with old-growth forests, but they were soon cut down and burned to create farmland and to clear the way for log cabins. There were also little clusters of houses in Plymouth, hamlets, all with different names. The one in which the future presdient lived, up in hill country, was called Plymouth Notch. Even during his presidency, over fifty years later, a local resident reported that the Notch consisted of “five or six farm houses, a store, a church, a cheese factory, and a school house. One of these farms is owned by John C. Coolidge, father of the President, and has been in the family for several generations.”56 Vermont was a sparsely populated state -- the 12,000 people in Rutland made it the state’s second largest city -- but Plymouth was tiny even by Vermont standards.

Plymouth retained its rustic charm into the early twentieth century. During the presidnecy of Calvin Coolidge, it was still true that “Modern bathrooms and running hot water are mostly unknown.”57 Although Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone in 1876, the first telephone line in Plymouth was not installed until August 3, 1923, the day Coolidge had taken the oath of office in his father’s house. Calvin used the phone to send his first official message to Washington that day.58

In many respects, Plymouth and most of Vermont was in a period of decline when Calvin was born, and the situation wasn’t helped by a five-year economic depression that swept the country beginning in late 1873. Because of the harsh climate and thin, rocky soil, most farmers could only expect to break even from year to year. Many of their children were taking the railroads and moving to bigger cities in search of better jobs. Farmers grew old and died, and there was no one left to continue the family tradition. Many farm buildings and dirt roads fell into disrepair and nature reclaimed the fields. In Plymouth alone, the population fell from 1,285 in 1870 to 755 in 1890. This reflected a distrubing trend: a full four-fifths of Vermont towns lost population in the 1880s.59 It would be some time before the state began to develop full-fledged dairy and tourism industries.

While more and more people were leaving Plymouth, others stayed. There were various craftsmen in Plymouth, including a miller who ground the corn and a clock tinker, as well as various Yankee traders. As Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography, the local residents were a solid breed:

The neighborhood around [Plymouth] Notch was made up of people of expemplary habits. Their speech was clean and their lives were above reproach. They had no mortgages on their farms. If any debts were contracted they were promptly paid. Credit was good and their was money in the savings bank.
The break of day saw them stirring. Their industry continued until twilight. They kept up no church organization, and there was little regular preaching the outward manifestation of religion through public profession had little opportunity, but they were without exception a people of faith and charity and good works. They cherished the teachings of the Bible and sought to live in accordance with its precepts.
The conduct of the young people was modest and respectful.”60

This is not to say that Plymouth did not have its own local color, perhaps made more so by the local gossip mill, a staple of most small communities. One colorful example was an animal handler named Joe Jewell, who had a habit of shouting at his horses and oxen because he thought they were deaf. Another was Amos Butler, who trained a cow to draw a buggy like a horse. Once a young schoolteacher named Carrie Brown sat with him in his buggy to have their picture taken after no other women were willing. “If you women are afraid, I am not,” she said. She later became the second wife of John Coolidge, the father of the future president.61


Calvin Coolidge was of old Puritan stock, very much “concetrated New England”.62 He was descended from John Coolidge, an Englishman who came to the Massachusetts Bay Colony about the year 1630. John Coolidge became a freeman and later held political office. To each of his five suriviving sons he gave a farm. President Coolidge was a descendant of John Coolidge through John’s second son, Simon.

Calvin Coolidge’s relatives proliferated in Massachusetts, and later they were among the earliest settlers of Plymouth, Vermont. Captain John Coolidge, a Revolutionary War veteran and the great, great grandfather of the president, was a towering 6 foor, 6 inches tall. In 1781 he settled in the hamlet of Frog City in Plymouth. Captain Coolidge was taller than even George Washington, who at six feet, four and a half inches63 was a full head taller than the average Revolutiuonary War solider, who stood just five feet, eight inches tall.64

Captain Coolidge’s son, Calvin, came to live in Plymouth Notch, on the Coolidge farm, in 1801. His son, Calvin Galusha Coolidge, was born there in 1815. One Plymouth resident recalled the personality of the thin man locals knew as “Galoosh”65 :

He had a streak of humor, was fond of practical jokes, and had considerable ability. He held most of the important offices in town at different times. The appreciation of the humor that the President is not always credited with is to some extent an inheritance from his grandfather.66

On a serious note, Calvin Galusha was a kindhearted man. When his sister’s son and daughter were ophaned, he and his wife raised them to adults and then gave them the young man the then-princely sum of $800 to give him a start in the world. The future presdient loved his grandfather, who taught him to ride a horse and later left him a farm of forty acres in his will.67 Calvin galusha wanted his grandson to take after him and become a farmer. As Calvin explained, “In his mind, the only real, respectable way to get a living was from tilling the soil. He therefore did not exactly approve having his son go into a trade.”68

Calvin G. Coolidge’s wife, and the future president’s paternal grandmother, Sarah Brewer, was known as “Aunt Mede” to all who knew her. She has a skilled herbalist, midwife, spinner, and weaver. Her grandson remembered her fondly in his Autobiography:

For most of the time during my boyhood regular Sunday school classes were held in the church which my grandmother Coolidge superintended until in her advanced years she was usperseded by my father. She was a constant reader of the Bible and a devoted member of the church, who daily sought for divine guidance in prayer.
I stayed with her at the farm for much of the time and she had much to do with shaping the thought of my early years. She had a benign influence over all who came in contact with her. The Puritan severity of her convictions was tempered by the sweetness of a womanly charity. There were none whom she ever knew that had not in some way benefitted by her kindness.69

Calvin G. and Sarah Coolidge had two sons. Their first son, Julius caesar Cooligde, died at the age of 20. Their second son, John Calvin Coolidge, became the father of a president. John Coolidge was a Jack of all trades to the residents of Plymoyth. His official job was storekeeper, but he also served in suhc varied capacities as attorney, blacksmith’s assistant, farmer, and superintendant of schools. According to his son, John Coolidge earned the respect of everyone in town: “He trusted everybody, but lost a surprisingly small amount. Sometimes people he had not seen in years would return and pay him the whole amount.”70


Although he was not born in a log cabin, John Calvin Coolidge was undoubtedly born in humble circumstances on July 4, 1872. There is no record of the time of day he was born, nor how long the delivery took, although we know July was in the middle of haymaking season, the time when farmers spent long hours in the fields gathering the hay that would have to last their horses and cows through the winter.71 Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography that he was born in one room of his parents’ five room cottage, to whcih the town post office and his father’s general store were attached:

Our house was well shaded with maple trees and had a yard in front
enclosed with a picket fence, in which grew a mountain ash, a plum tree,
and the customarypurple lilac bushes. In the summertime my mother
planted her flower bed there.72

It is likely that Dr. Rodman, the Coolidge family physician, was on hand for the delivery, as was Calvin’s gradmother, who some experience as a midwife.73 Gramdmother Coolidge would keep her grandson supplied with stockings, mittens, and blankets.

The future president was named after his father, John, but it wasn’t long before the younger Coolidge began to be called by his middle name. The reason was plain: Calvin, or “Cal” as he was called, looked and acted more like those on his mother’s side of the family. Calvin Coolidge’s son, John, described the differences between his father and grandfather:

My father and his father resembled each other very little physically. Grandfather Coolidge was six feet tall, broad-shouldered, big-boned, and study; he has an almost swarthy complexion. Father on the other hand was, like his mother, of smaller and less-rugged build, with features more delicately molded and a fair complexion. The two men were also quite dissimilar in temperament, Grandfather being of an even disposition, not easily upset, while Father (despite the impassiveness he displayed in public) was high-strng and quick-tempered.”

Still, the father and son also had things in common: “Both were sparing of speech--although each could, on occasion, be quite loquacious. Both took life seriously. Both were thrifty, honest, industrious, and undemonstrative.”74

John Coolidge was the type of person who could only exist in a very small town, where there are not enough people to take on the roles and responsibilities needed to make a civilized society function. During his life, John served the people of Plymouth in many different capacities, ranging from justice of the peace to deputy sheriff to superintendant of schools. Someone once said to him, “You appear to have been everything in this town except the undertaker.” John thought for a moment, and then replied that he had once made coffins as a boy.75

Both John and Calvin Coolidge were political animals. In time, John’s local popularity brought him into state politics. He served three terms in the Vermont House of Represnenatives and one term in the Senate. In his Autobiography, Calvin Coolidge wrote of the impression that his father’s political activities made upon him:

Two days after I was two months old, my father was elected to the state legislature. By a curious coincidence, when my son was the same age I was elected to the same office in Massachusetts. He was reelected twice, the term being two years, and, while he was serving, my grandfather took my mother and me to visit him at Montpelier.
I think I was three years and four months old, but I always remembered the experience....That was the first of the great many jounreys which I have since made to legislative halls.”76

There was a mutual respect between father and son. John Coolidge was proud of his son, but, Calvin’s son recalled:

I am sure he breated no direct word of such gratification to Father, who for his part, once decalred: ‘I do not recall that any one in whose judgment I would place much reliance ever told me in my younger days that I should be presdient. If my mother had any such notion she kept it to herself, and the remarks of my father indicated he thought if I did not change my ways I would fall on the town’s hands.’77

Soon after his father’s death, Calvin wrote: “I could not recall that I ever knew of his doing a wrong thing. He would be classed as decidely a man of character...He did not fear the end of life, but looked forward to it as a reunion with all he had loved and lost.”78

Calvin’s mother, Victoria Josephine Coolidge, was the daughter of a successful farmer who lived acorss the street from the country store. Victoria and her family had moved to Plymouth when she was three years old, and she and her future husband grew up together. They were married in 1868. “She was of a very light and fair complexion with a rich growth of brown hair that had a glint of gold in it,” wrote Calvin in his Autobiography. “Her hands and features were regular and finely modeled. The older people always told me how beautiful she was in her youth.” The mixture of suffering and strength that was his mother made a deep impression on young Calvin, and he reserved some of his most beautiful prose for her:

She was practically an invalid ever after I could remember her, but used what strength she had in lavish care upon me and my sister, who was three years younger. There was a touch of mysticism and poetry in her nature which made her love to gaze at the pirple sunsets and watch the evening stars.
Whatever was grand and beautiful in form and color attracted her. It seemed as though the rich green tints of the foliage and the blossoms of the flowers came for her in the springtime, and in the autumn it was for her in the springtime, and in the autumn it was for her that the mountain sides were struck with crimson and with gold.79

His mother loved him, and she became his first teacher. In his Autobiography, he recalled those early days:

My education began with a set of blocks which had on them the Roman numerals and the letters of the alphabet. It is not yet finished. As I played with them and asked my mother what they were, I came to know them all when I was three years old.80

At this time in America, Mark Twain was becoming famous for novels such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which he published in 1876. Other bestselling books included some destined to become classics: Little Women, Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, and Ben-Hur.81 Victoria Coolidge read good books, and she was especially fond of the poetry of Tennyson and Scott, which she taught her son. He memorized extensive passages and could recite them at will. Sarah Coolidge, Calvin’s grandmother, gave him a solid foundation in the Bible, and she also gave him a set of Shakespeare’s complete works.82

On April 15, 1875, when Calvin was nearly three years old, Victoria Coolidge gave birth to a daughter named Abagail Gratia Coolidge. Everyone called her Abbie. She looked and acted like a true Coolidge. Despite their differences in appearance and personality, Calvin and Abbie quickly became playmates and friends.

At the time Abbie was born, John Coolidge ran the Notch’s only store. He had begun to operate the store after he and Virginia were married, thereby angering his father, who wanted John to take over the family farm. The store was a financial success. While he rented the building for $40 pyer year, John made profits of $100 per month. With this income, he felt comfortable enough to use $375 of savings to buy the house in which his son would take the presidential oath of office many years later.

In 1878, when his father died, John inherited property and sold the store to his brother-in-law, F.C. Moor.83 John Coolidge had greater aspirations for himself than remaining a storekeeper. When he was three, Calvin’s grandfather took him and his mother to Montpelier to see John, who was serving the second of what would later be three two-year terms in the Vermont state legislature. Although the intent of the trip was doubtless to let Calvin see his father at work and possibly to introduce him to the wonders of state politics, the boy’s attention was quickly diverted elsewhere:

I think I was three years and four months old, but I always remembered the
experience. Grandfather carried me to the State House and sat me in the
Governor’s chair, which did not impress me so much as a stuffed catamount
that was in the capital museum.84

Calvin Coolidge would again sit in a Governor’s chair. The next time, however, it would be for real.


Life in Plymouth was demanding, but it was not without its simple pleasures. The idyllic setting was the playground of young Calvin Coolidge:

About the Notch and Union are many of these attractive mountains and hills. President Calvin Coolidge as a boy often climbed to their summits, tramped through the woods, fished the streams, coasted in winter down the steep snow- covered hillsides, rode horseback on his “calico horse,” went to parties in the winter to the tune of the sleigh bells, in the summer went to the circus in Rutland or Ludlow and on excursions, and in the fall to county fairs at Windsor or Rutland. Frequently he went to Ludlow, Woodstock and Rutland with his father or relatives.85

One of the treats for the Coolidge family was an annual trip to see the circus six miles away in Ludlow. Calvin especially liked the equestrian acts because his grandfather had taught him how to ride horses standing up.86

Coolidge was not a malicious youth, but he had a droll sense of humor that few outside of New England seemed able to detect, let alone appreciate. Once as a young man he came into the hosue with a very dirty face and hands. When he was told to wash up, he replied, “I do not know about that, I have known people to get drowned in water.”87 His sense of humor was finely tuned, so much so that even noted humorist Will Rogers took notice of it many years later when Coolidge was the President:

Mr. Coolidge had more subtle humor than almost any public man I ever met. I have often said I would like to have been hidden in his desk somewere and just heard the sly little ‘digs’ he pulled on various poeple that never got ‘em at all.”88

Although he was normally quiet and was not given to bursts of laughter, observant friends later in life noted the “sly, amused look” in his sharp blue eyes as he listened to a conversation.89 Herbert Hoover, a Coolidge cabinet official who would later become President in his own right, added that Coolidge was better apart from the crowds: “Many times over the five years he sent for me to come to the White House after dinner just to talk an hour or two. He had a fund of New England stories and a fine, dry wit.”90

Not surprisingly, Calvin Coolidge did not fit in well with the other, more typical boys in Plymouth. If these boys thought about him at all, they considered him to be a loner. He spent more time than usual reading books, and when he did play, he prefered to play with younger children. He befriended his family’s cats and considered them his friends. “I don’t think Calvin really knew what play was,” said his father years later.91 Perhaps his social difficulties came partly becasue he was smaller than other boys his age, but Coolidge also suffered from an acute case of shyness that made him uncomfortable with strangers. In a revealing interview given while he was President, Coolidge provided some insight into the inner workings of his mind:

Do you know, I’ve never really grown up? It’s a hard thing for me to play this game. In politics, one must meet people, and that’s not easy for me....When I was a little fellow, as long ago as I can remember, I would go into a pnaic if I heard strange voices in the kitchen. I felt I just couldn’t meet people and shake hands with them. Most of the visitors would sit with Father and Mother in the kitchen, and the hardest thing in the world was to have to go through the kitchen door and give them a greeting. I was almost ten before I realized I couldn’t go on that way. And by fighting hard I used to manage to get through the door. I’m all right with old friends, but every time I meet a stranger, I’ve got to go through the old kitchen door, and it’s not easy.92

In addition, he confided, “I am as mcuh interested in human beings as one could possibly be, but it is desperately hard for me to show it.”93 His brand of humor, therefore, was ideally suited to a shy person who spent a considerable amount of time watching life from a distance.


Calvin began his formal education in December 1877, when he was five years old. The nation was still recovering from the turmoil brought about by a disputed election in which Repiblican Rutherford B. Hayes, a former major general in the Union army, had become presdient, defeating Democrat Samuel J. Tilden by one vote in the Electoral College. Florida, with its four Electoral College votes, had decalred for Hayes, apparently giving him a narrow victory. However, Democrats charged that Republicans had used threats and bribery to win the support of Southern states of Louisiana, South Carolina, both of which were still occupied by Federal troops. Some threatened violence to keep Hayes out of office.

In December 1876, Congress establihed a bipartisan Electoral Commission to investigate the charges of impropriety and then declare a winner. For months, the nation waited for the results. Finally, on March 2, only two days before Inauguration Day, the Commission voted 8 to 7 to certify Hayes as the victor. Many of Tilden’s supporters continued to believe that the process was faulty (Hayes became known as “Rutherfraud”), and some urged Tilden to protest the results. One Tilden supporter even fired a single gunshot into Hayes’ house while he was eating dinner.

Tilden, however, was not about to plunge the nation into chaos, especially so soon after the end of the Civil War. “I prefer four years of Hayes’ administration to four years of Civil War,” he said.94 In order to pacify angry Tilden supporters, though, a deal seems to have been made for Hayes to withdraw Federal troops from the South in exchange for Tilden and the Democrats not continuing to fight the election results. And true to his promise, Hayes withdrew the remaining Federal troops from the South soon after taking office, and the Democrats took hold of the region for the next century.

Another issue that came to the forefront in 1876 was the dispute over the nation’s currency. Until the time of Abraham Lincoln, all government paper money was supported by an equivalent amount of precious metal -- either gold or silver. However, during the Civil War Lincoln issued $450 million in paper currency with no gold or silver reserves to back them up. Speculators bought these greenbacks for less than face value and then after the war demanded that the federal government redeem the currency for gold. The Greenbacks, who fielded a presdiential candidate in 1876, believed that the tough economic times for farmers in the West were caused by a lack of currency in ciurculation. The farmers wanted higher prices for their products, which they believed would be brought about by printing more money and therefore inflating the currency. Businessmen, meanwhile, feared inflation because it would eventually rise until the currency was devalued and prices for goods and services spiraled out of control.

The Hayes Administration resumed payment of gold for greenbacks in 1879, but these years were notable more for the ban on obsecities, tobacco, and alcohol in the White House.95 Lucy Hayes, the First Lady, was nicknamed “Lemondade Lucy” because she barred all alcohol from the White House. Little did she know that White House servants continued to offer willing guests frozen rum punch concelaed inside oranges.96

In December 1877, after the firestorm of controversy in Washington had died down, Calvin began to take classes in the old schoolhouse a few yeards away from the Coolidge home. “The little stone school house which had unpainted benches and desks wide enough to seat two was attended by about twenty-five scholars,” he recalled.97 The building was in a state of disrepair, and it was finally torn down in 1886, the year after Calvin graduated, and was replaced with a wooden structure.98

The school was not divided by grade level, and Calvin was initially the youngest student. There were twenty families in the area, and twenty-three children, ages five through eighteen, attended the school. Classes were held from May to February so that in the springtime children could help their parents plow their fields and harvest the sap from the maple trees.99 On cold days at school, students would gather around a wood stove in the center of the room.

There was one schoolteacher at any given time, and they often came from away and boarded with a local family. The teachers were mostly young women, although there was an occassional male teacher. In a classroom with such a wide age disparity, it is not suprising that eachers “were chosen as much for their ability to maintain discipline as to impart knowledge.”100 As the years wore on, young Calvin learned reading, math, grammar, and United States history. He spent much of his time memorizing long passages of material, and then reciting them aloud. Despite his early exposure to literature and poetry, Calvin’s favorite topics quickly became history and biography.

School records incidcate that Calvin was a solid student, although not exceptional, rarely tardy, and rarely in trouble. A former Plymouth teacher could recall only one time when “one of his teachers...gave him a real shaking-up and in so doing disloged many buttons from his clothers. To get even with her he left the buttons on his desk for several days and came to school with his clothes minus the buttons.”101 School registers indicate that his behavior was good throughout his time at school, although he once earned a beating from a female classmate becasue he continued to throw snow down her neck.102

There was no indication early on that young Calvin would do anything exceptional. None of his classmates recalled that Coolidge stood out from the crowd. According to Albert A. Sargent, a classmate, “He wasn’t particularly brilliant or otherwise at school....He wasn’t a leader in anything.” Academically he most often finished in the top tier of students, but was never first.103


John Coolidge didn’t indulge his son’s timidity. As Calvin grew, he was given an increasing number of chores to do around the family’s farm. He helped fix fences and harvest portatoes and corn. There was 800 to 2,000 tons of maple syrup to harvest each season, and according to his father, “Cal could get more sap out of a maple tree than any boy I ever saw.”104 As he grew, Calvin learned to cut and store enough firewood to get the family through the long Vermont winters. His first income -- fifty cents -- was earned by cutting a cord of wood.105

After work hours, Calvin and the local men, some of whom were Civil War veterans, would “drop into the store to get the evening mail and exchange ciews on topics of interest...”106 There was not only the local news to discuss, but the national political scene was as interesting as ever. In 1878, the Democrats gained control of both houses of Congress for the first time since before the beginning of the Civil War, but were narrowly defeated in the 1880 presdiential election by long-time Ohio Congressman James A. Garfield, a former Union general who was also a talented debater and speaker.

President Garfield entered the White House with the intention of reforming the civil service, which had grown almost hopelessly corrupt and largely unaccountable to the American people. As a biographer wrote, Garfield experienced firsthand the grasping that took place by propspective office holders:

They invaded his private house in swarms. They stopped his carriage in the street; they called him out of bed; they bored him in the railroad carriages and stations; they wrote to his wife and sons; they courted, fawningly, all his old neighbors and relatives....More than six hundred applications were made for one office...He could give it to but one, and thus innocently made more than six hundred bitter enemies.107

One of those enemies was James Guiteau, a failed lawyer and author, who had written to Garfield to ask that he be appointed to a diplomatic post in Marseilles, France. He spoke briefly to Garfield before his inauguration, and Garfield promised to speak to him about the appointment at a later date. Guiteau took this as a promise from Garfield to award him the diplomatic post, and he shadowed Garfield for days, hoping to cement the deal, but Garfield finally refused him the post because of Guiteau’s apprent mental instability. Guiteau took his revenge six months into Garfield’s first term, shooting the president twice in a Baltimore train station. After an agonizing three months, Garfield succumbed to his injuries, and the nation had its second slain president in less than a generation. “Now we almost seem to have lost a personal friend,” wrote Alfred Tennyson.108

Another former Union general, Chester A. Arthur, Garfield’s vice president and a man who had never held political office, became the new Chief Executive. Arthur, once a corrupt clerk at the New York Customs House, had been put on the ticket by Republican leaders opposed to civil service reform. During his term, however, he signed the Pendleton Act, which institued a merit system for the civil service, an issue that recieved new attention in the wake of the Garfield tragedy. Arthur also began building steel Navy ships, and he signed a treaty with the Kingdom of Hawaii to grant the United States exclusive rights to a coaling station at Pearl Harbor. The White House also got a good cleaning, and twenty-four wagonloads of articles were collected and sold at auction. He failed to win support for relection, however, and retired in 1885 after serving out the remainder of Garfield’s term.


Calvin Coolidge never did become a farmer, despite the forty acres and the farm animals willed to him by his grandfather when he was still only a child. Another aspect of life in Plymouth, however, did get Calvin’s attention. From an early age, John Coolidge exposed Calvin to the breath and width of local politics, thereby teaching him lessons to last a lifetime:

In my youth [my father] was also engaged in the transaction of all kinds of town business, being constantly elected for that purpose....This work gave him such a broad knowledge of the practical side of the law that people of the neighborhood were constantly seeking his advice, to which I awlays listened with great interest. He always counseled them to resist injustice and avoid unfair dealing, but to keep their agreements, meet their obligations and observe strict obedience to the law. By reason of what I saw and heard in my early life, I came to have a good working knowledge of the practicial side of government.109

Following in his father’s footsteps, Calvin he tried to marry politics with an entreprenurial spirit. “I was accustomed to carry apples and popcorn calls to the town meetings to sell, maninly because my grandmother said my father had done so when he was a boy, and I was exceedingly anxious to grow up to be like him.”110 Another time his grandmother paid Calvin one dollar not to dance, and because Calvin had little desire to dance anyway, he gladly accepted her offer.111


The first personal personal loss in the life of Calvin Coolidge took place in 1878, when Calvin G. Coolidge, his grandfather, died. Calvin had always been close to his grandfather, and he was present while the rugged old Yankee lay upon his deathbed. In his final hours, Calvin G. Coolidge looked to his grandson, then only six years old, to open the Coolidge family Bible and uphold on a family tradition: “During his last illness he would have me read to him the first chapter of the Gospel of John, which he had read to his grandfather.”112 Later, after he was sworn in as President, Calvin Coolidge kissed the very same Coolidge family Bible on the exact Scripture passage he had read to his grandfather many years earlier.113

Although young Calvin was too young at the time to fully comprehend the importance of religious traditions, he had learned from his mother and grandmother that religion was something to be taken seriously. His personal faith was never of the evangelistic variety, but it was deeply rooted and heartfelt. According to an old schoolmaster who knew Calvin well, “there is plenty of evidence that Mr. Coolidge in his personal life and character is a thorough-going Christian.”114 As Presdient, Calvin discussed the importance of faith in God, especially for those in positions of responsibility:

I have always attended church regularly when I could, but there being no organized church in our town when I was a boy, I did not join a church. After I became President the First Congregational Church of Washington, without consulting me, voted to make me a member. I was pleased that they took such action and of course accepted the election to membership which they offered me....It would be difficult for me to conceive anyone being able to administer the dutiesof a great office like the Presidency without a belief in the guidance of a divine providence. Unless the President is sustained by an abiding faith in a divine power which is working for the good of humanity, I cannot understand how he would have the courage to attempt to meet the various problems that constantly pour in upon him from all parts of the earth.115


Calvin Coolidge needed every ounce of faith he could muster in order to face the death of other family members in the years to come. The next blow was the worst: when Calvin was twelve years old, his beloved mother died. Tragically, Victoria Coolidge never recovered from a long bout with tuberculosis, an illness that in the nineteenth century was often fatal. Many victims simply wasted away. In Vermont at the time, about one in six deaths was due to tuberculosis, which was higher than the national average.116 In his Autobiography, Calvin Coolidge recalled his mother’s death:

When she knew that her end was near she called us children to her bedside, where we knelt down to recieve her final parting blessing.
In an hour she was gone. It was her thirty-ninth birthday. I was twelve years old. We laid her away in the blustering snows of March. The greatest grief that can come to a boy came to me. Life was never to seem the same again.117

As Presdeint, he sat with his Secret Service agent at the White House, smoking large black cigars on the back porch on summer nights when Grace was away. It was in those almost carefree moments that the childhood memories of his mother came rushing back. “He seemed to rememebr every day he had spent with her [his mother],” Starling wrote. “He communed with her, talked with her, and took every problem to her. ‘I wish I could really speak to her,’ he said one night. ‘I wish that often.’ ”118 When Calvin Coolidge died in 1933, only two items were found in his clothing: a watch and a faded picture of his mother.119

Given the fact that Calvin’s mother had died from tuberculosis, and that his uncle was presently suffering from its symptoms, many residents of Plymouth, including Calvin Coolidge himself, believed it to be just a matter of time before the young man himself was struck down by the disease.120 We do know that he suffered from bronchitis as well as severe colds, and there were periods lasting as long as a week where he had no appetite.121 Despite the wagging tongues in Plymouth, though, Calvin defied the odds and escaped serious illness.

Nationally, the year of 1885 marked the passing of Union General Ulysses S. Grant, the former president, who died of cancer of the throat only four days after completing his memoirs. Grant was a smoker, but his son Buck Grant said he had “little doubt but that the primary cause of the cancer’s development in the throat was the eating of a peach. Part of the fuzz stuck in Father’s throat, causing an irritation from which the cancer was formed.”122 As his funeral procession made its way down Fifth Avenue in New York City, two former Union generals and two former Confederate generals marched side-by-side as his pallbearers in a profound display of national solidatity. Twenty years after the end of the Civil War, the nation seemed ready to put away the bloody shirts.


The death of Calvin’s mother changed the dynamics of his immediate family. His father, now a widower, continued to travel out of Plymouth on personal or town business. Calvin and Abbie spent much more time with Grandmother Coolidge while their father was away. At times, Calvin was allowed to stay alone in John’s house, as long as the chores were done, while Abbie remained with her grandmother.

Even as Calvin coped with his grief, he was beginning to look toward the future. He was nearing the point where continuing at the one-room schoolhouse would bring him diminishing retruns. Already he was as educated as almost any adult in Plymouth. In November 1885, at his father’s urging, Calvin took the state teacher’s exam and passed it. This made him able under Vermont law to teach at any public school in the state.123 It was not unusual for teenager to become teachers in Vermont. As Calvin recalled, “my sister Abbie passed [the exam] and taught a term of school in a neighboring town when she was twelve years old.”124

Calvin had no desire to become a teacher, however. Instead he wanted to continue his education, which would necessarily take him beyond the borders of Plymouth. The nearest high school was ten miles away and the nearest college, forty.125 Uncharacteristically, Calvin continued to press the issue with his father whenever he saw an opportunity, which showed that he had made up his mind.

John Coolidge was initially resistant to the idea of sending this shy boy away to school. For a thrifty individual such as Calvin’s father, there was also a consideration of the tuition and boarding costs. Would he gain a return on his investment? “So far as I know,” Calvin wrote in his Autobiography, “neither he nor any other members of my family ever entertained any ambitions in my behalf. He evidently wished me to stay on the land.” Calvin’s grandmother, too, was worried that her grandson didn’t have the temparament needed to succeed in a more urban environment.

Calvin persisted, and his father’s initial reluctance began to weaken. Perhaps John came to appreciate that he and his son were not quite so different after all. John had resisted his father’s wishes when he went into business and politics, just as Calvin was resisting John’s wishes by wanting to go away to school.

Sometime in early 1886, Calvin finally convinced his father that he should continue his education. The winter term at the Notch school was ending on Febuary 19, and there were schools to visit. Because there was no equivalent of a modern high school in Plymouth, father and son traveled twelve miles out of town to Woodstock in early February to visit one school. When that school proved to be unsatisfactory to John Coolidge, his attention turned toward Black River Academy in Ludlow.

John had attended B.R.A., as locals called it, and there were many young people from Plymouth who were current students. Henry Brown, who grew up with Calvin, was a student at B.R.A., and Calvin undoubtedly learned about the school from him. William Stickney, the son of one of John’s old friends, was an attorney in Ludlow, and he would be a valuable resource to the shy teenager.

On February 13, 1886, John Coolidge went to Ludlow to arrange for Calvin to attend B.R.A. Meanwhile, Calvin stayed home to do some hunting with a few friends. The next day John returned to Plymouth and announced that Calvin had been accepted as a student at B.R.A. John had also arranged for Calvin to stay with Alva Peck, a law clerk employed by Stickney.

There was little time to prepare. The winter term at the Notch school ended on Friday, Febrary 19, and classes would begin at B.R.A. the following Monday. There was a going-away party at John’s house on Thursday, where Calvin made molasses candy for the guests. His best clothes were then packed into two suitcases, and he was ready to leave.

Calvin was thirteen years old, and ready to make his mark in the world beyond Plymouth. “Going to the Academy,” Calvin wrote, “meant a complete creak with the past and entering a new and untried field, larger and more alluring than the past, among unknown scenes and unknown people.”126 Not only that, but Ludlow was in greater contact with the wider world. There is some truth in the statement of an early Coolidge biographer: “When he left Plymouth Notch for Ludlow to attend high school, he traversed fifty years in two hours’ journey to the railroad.”127


Once his father announced that his son had been accepted as a student at Black River Academy, Calvin could barely contain his enthusiasm, such as it was. “That was one of the greatest moments of my life,” he recalled. “The packing and preparation for it required more time and attention than collecting my belongings in preparation for leaving the White House. I counted the hours until it was time to go.”128

When it came time for the trip, Coolidge’s father recalled, it was 30 degrees below zero in central Vermont. Always practical, John Coolidge took the opportunity to bring along a calf, which he would ship by rail to market in Boston. As the horse pulled the sled through the snow, heading south to Ludlow, father and son were alone with their thoughts. For Calvin, a new day was dawning, while John struggled to make sense of the emotions that no doubt came upon him. Finally, as the sled pulled in to Ludlow, John used humor to break the silence: “Calvin, if you study hard and are a good boy maybe some time you will go to Boston too, but the calf will get there first.”129 As it turned out, both calf and Calvin would reach Boston, although under vastly different sets of circumstances.

B.R.A., established in 1835, was housed in a two-story red brick building that had once been a church. The Town of Ludlow owned the building, and they used the hall on the second floor for public meetings. B.R.A. consisted of three rooms located on the first floor -- an essembly room, where morning assembly was held every morning at none o’clock sharp, and two recitation rooms. It was a humble setting, to say the least, although it must have appeared positively cosmopolitan to a boy used to a one-room stone schoolhouse. The builidng was replaced by a larger building in 1889, after the previous building was damaged by fire. In the interim, classes were held at the bakery hall.

While it was not one of Vermont’s prestigious prep schools, B.R.A. served an important purpose for local farmers who wanted a solid education for their children. It was essentially Ludlow High School, and the children from Ludlow and the neighboring communities took classes there. Ludlow children went free of charge, while the children of other towns were charged fees. There were about 125 students at the school, and only half of them were from Ludlow.

Since there were no dormatories at B.R.A., students from away boarded with local residents. During his years in Ludlow, Calvin boarded with several individuals, including Herbert L. Moore, who was also a Plymouth boy, in Charles Parker’s home. Years later, Moore reflected on that time:

Cal was always a student. Unlike most of us who work hard on the farm and could not get away for any long periods, he always went to school. He didn’t play ball or skate, not did he hunt, swim, fish, or go in for any sports, except that he walked a great deal. When he was in the academy, he went to the public library every day, and I think he read every book in it.130

Since the Academy library had only 125 volumes,131 Moore may not have been exaggerating.

The basic English course, which Calvin and eighty percent of the other students took, cost 50 cents a week. It consisted of Literature, Math, Grammar, World and American History, American Government, and several business courses. This course was intended to prepare students for the business world, or at least to make them more effective at the business of farming. Those students bound for college paid 60 cents a week to take the Classical course, which included classical studies in Greek and Latin. Still others who wanted an education that fell somehwere in between took the Latin Scientific course.132 Later Calvin estimated that his father spent about $150 per year on his room and board.133

What separated B.R.A. for modern high schools is that attendance at B.R.A. was not mandatory. The school had three terms from September to May, with a long summer vacation in between, because the girls taught school in the summer and the boys worked on the farm. Despite the time off from school, the demands of rural life were such that many students attended the school’s fall, winter, and spring terms only sporadically. Many dropped out of school entirely. Less than forty percent of students graduated, despite the school’s addition of a commencement ceremony and the sales pitch it made to parents.134

There were three full-time and two part-time teachers at B.R.A. The Principal, twenty four year-old Harry Kendall, was a Ludlow native and a recent Harvard graduate. He oversaw the female teaching staff and taught the Greek and Latin courses. In addition to those duties, the young principal was also charged with keeping his students out of trouble -- a task that must have been extremely challenging when one considers that a considerable number of students were away from home for the first time. As Calvin recalled in his Autobiography:

Of course our school life was not free from pranks. The property of the townspeople was moved to strange places in the night. One morning as the janitor was starting the furnace he heard a loud bray from one of the class rooms. His investigation disclosed the presence of a domestic animal notes for his long ears and discordant voice. In some way during the night he had been stabled on the second floor. As far as I deem it prudent to discuss my own connection with these escapades is to record that I was never convicted of any of them and so must be presumed innocent.”135

There was a limit to the pranks, however:

Those who attended the school from out of town were all there with a real purpose of improving themselves, so that while there was no lack of fun and play they all worked as best they could, for their coming had meant too much to sacrifice at home not to be taken seriously. They has come seeking to better their condition in life through what they might learn and the self-discipline they might secure.136

Like most of his classmates, Calvin was a devoted student. He began school in the middle of the school year, and his first term was eventful. One reason was that it exposed him to the one subject that would change the course of his life:

For some reason I was attracted to civil government and took that. This was my first introduction to the Constitution of the United States. Although I was but thirteen years old the subject interested me exceedingly. The study of it which I then began has never ceased, and the more I study it the more I have come to admire it, realizing that no other document devised by the hand of man ever brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. The good it has wrought can never be measured.137

Meanwhile, another subject caused him neverending grief during his first term -- and beyond. Calvin dreaded Algebra, which was taught by Miss Prior, a stern women who wore her hair in a bun. Soon after his enrollment in the course he had fallen behind, and he sought help from classmates. Once he deadpanned to Henry Brown in the presence of Brown’s housekeeper, “I thought I would come down, Henry, and help you on your algebra.”138 (Brown later said that Calvin “said it so solemly that [the housekeeper] asked me afterwards if I was falling behind in my algebra.”139 ) Several years later he confessed that he “had no use for the subject,”140 although with hard work he managed to achiueve respectable marks.


“Going to the Academy meant a complete break with the past and entering a new and untried field, larger and more alluring than the past,” Calvin recalled in his Autobiography, “among unknown scences and unknown people.”141 Many of these hitherto unknown scenes were found in the town of Ludlow itself. The railorad going through town had exposed townspeople to the latest fashions trumpeted by magzines such as Harper’s Bazaar: men in Ludlow dressed in coats and top hats, while women wore long organge, pink, and lilac dresses and flowered hats. Unlike Plymouth Notch, which had one country store to serve the needs of local residents, Ludlow boasted a clothing store, a jeweler, a pool hall, and a music hall. Calvin was perhaps most interested in the two drugstores, both of which had soda fountains and candy to satisfy his notorious sweet tooth.142 On the whole, as a B.R.A. advertisment said, Ludlow was “exceptionally free from low places of amusement, so that the moral atmosphere is also very good.”143

Like many other B.R.A. students, especially those who were not from Ludlow, Calvin traveled off campus most weekends. Sometimes he walked the twelve miles home, but usually his widower father, who no doubt craved companionship, picked him up with his horse and buggy. Otherwise Calvin sayed with his Aunt Sarah Pollard, his mother’s older sister, who luived three miles away in Proctorsville. “She was wonderfully kind to me,” Calvin recalled, “and did all she could to take the place of my own mother in affection for me and good influence over me while I was at the Academy and ever after.”144 While he was in Proctorsville, he worked in his uncle’s general store with two of his counsins, Park and Dallas, and often stayed for Sunday dinner before returning to school Monday monring. (One of Calvin’s favorite foods were pickles, and there was therefore some truth to the sarcastic comment attributed to Alice Roosevelt Longworth that Vice Presdient Coolidge looked as if he had been weaned on a pickle.145 )

The year 1886 began, and it was remarkable for many reasons. In Atlanta, a pharmacist combined cocaine and the kola nut to create Coca-Cola, which he described as “the intellectual beverage and remperance drink”146 (caffeine replaced cocaine in 1906), and the newly-formed Johnson & Johnson Company introducted the first sterile bandage. Readers celebrated as Robert Louis Stevenson published Kidnapped and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Louisa May Alcott published the wildly successful Jo’s Boys, a sequel to Little Women and Little Men. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York Harbor, and Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet for the occassion that spoke of “huddled masses yearing to breate free”. On the political landscape, labor issues continued to make front-page news as riots against low-wage Chinese immigrants reverberated throughout the West. On May 5, a four-day national strike by 190,000 laborers demanding an eight-hour workday and taxes on incomes ended in terror as home-grown anarchist terorists sympathetic with the laborers exploded “a round, cast-iron, dynamtie-filled bomb with a long sputtering fuse”147 in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, killing a police officer and wounding many others.

Half a continent away, Calvin Coolidge was finishing the spring term at Black River Academy, a place that seemed largely unaffected by national undulations. When the school’s spring term ended, Calvin went back home to Plymouth to visit his father and sister and work on the family farm. He also took time to assess his progress in life while riding on the back of a horse:

We had a number of horses so that I was able to indulge my pleasure in riding. As no one else in the neighborhood cared for this diversion I had to ride alone. But a horse is much company, and riding over the fields and along the country roads by himself, where nothing interrupts his seeing and thinking, is a good occupation for a boy. The silences of Nature have a discipline all their own.148

Algebra aside, Calvin could not help but notice that he was developing into a solid student. By the time he returned to Black River Academy in September 1886, he had moved from the English course to the Latin Scientifc, and he began a study of Latin that would continue up through his sophomore year in college. At B.R.A, his Latin studies included the translation of part of Cicero’s orations, which he found easy. Cicero was a favorite in part because he and Coolidge had much in common. Both men were instincitve conservatives who wished to preserve the virtues of honesty, thrift, and hard work in a society undergoing dramatic changes.

The following year Coolidge joined the small percentage of students taking the Classical course, which included the study of Greek, a language he found to be more difficult than Latin. Still, there were rewards to be had. The Classical languages, Calvin wrote later, “bring into action all the faculties of observation, understanding, and reason. To become proficient in them is to become possessed of self-control and of intelligence, whihc are the foundations of all caharacter.”149 In addition to the classics, he also studied rhetoric, ancient history, and some American literature. He also studied plane geometry and French.

As he began his first full year of studies at Black River Academy, Calvin became quite homesick, which was probably due to the amount of time he had spent away from school that summer with his family. He wrote to his sister Abbie during the winter term that although she could not believe it, she was would have a better time in Plymouth “than you will ever have down here”.150

During the fall of 1886, Calvin worked Saturdays at the Ludlow Toy Manufacturing Company, where he did made objects such as baby carriages and trains out of wood in order to earn some extra money. “As I was employed at piece work,” Calvin recalled, “my wages depended on my own ability. It was a good training. I was beginning to find out what existence meant.”151 Regarding his earnings, he was under strict orders from father:

Any money I earned he had me put in the savings bank, because he wished me to be informed of the value of money at interest. he thought money invested in that way led to a self-respecting independence that was one of the foundations of good character.152

It also seems likely that John, who arranged for him to work at the toy company, was hoping to keep his young son’s mind occupied with work rather than thoughts of home. As Calvin’s workload at B.R.A. demanded more and more of his attention, and Calvin had less free time, he stopped working a part-time job.

All things considered, it is clear that Calvin underwent a bit of culture shock in his early days at B.R.A. More precisely, he was undergoing the shock of a country boy who has had some exposure to city life. He wanted to fit in, and he saw that he could do so by wearing a derby hat, carrying a cane, and taking the mild profanity out of his conversation. Calvin lost his temper only on rare occassions, but one of those times was when he ripped his pants on a fence. His father bought him one suit a year, which he typically wore every day until it was threadbare.153

Calvin was not the center of attention at Black River Academy, but he got on well enough with his roommates and classmates. He did not have any close friends, but his peers appreciated his dry sense of humor, and he was not averse to joining in their hijinks. In March 1887, he left an unfinished letter on his desk while he was at dinner, and some other boys added lines such as “I have the dearest little darling for the bext girl that you ever saw.” and “My roommate is the best in town.”154 Another time, while Calvin was giving his appreciative roomates a demonstration of the flying trapeze act he had recently seen at the circus in Rutland, he slipped and broke his arm.155

Despite his efforts, Calvin could only escape from his severe shyness for short periods of time. He was forced to settle for respect rather than love. In his letters home at this time, he reveals that he often stayed home and studied while other students went to events in town. When one considers that Coolidge has a tendency to daydream rather than study, it is likely that Calvin used studying as an excuse not to socialize with others. It seemed that when he did choose to socialize, he prefered the company of the lawyers in Ludlow and other adults to his peers at B.R.A.


Calvin’s first memory of presidential politics took place in 1888. The sitting president, former New York Governor Grover Cleveland, had been the first Democrat elected to the White House in a generation. Many Republicans called “Mugwumps” had bolted from their party in 1884 and voted for Cleveland, who was a minister’s son. Cleveland was elected as a reformer who believed that “public office is a public trust,”156 and he did institute some civil service reforms through the appointment of a Civil Service Commission: twenty thousand civil servants were removed from their posts because of incomptenace.157 Corruption was so acceptable in Washington that many individuals used ads in the newspapers to announce that they would pay anyone who could help them secure a government job. The Civil Service Commission institued reforms that attempted to restrict government jobs to those who were qualified to fill them.

Cleveland was not interested in selling power and influence in Washington to the highest bidder. He was an ordinary man, and it is said that he even answered the telephone at the White House himself.158 His fellow Democrats, who at first thought he was a closet Republican,159 nicknamed him “Grover the Good,” although he admitted he may have fathered an illegitimate child in the 1870s. One historian has called him “the best presdient between Lincoln and Roosevelt, a man of character and conviction and probity.”160 Years later, Presdient Franklin D. Roosevelt recalled that as a boy his father took him to meet Presdient Cleveland, and Cleveland said to him, “I’m making a strange wish for you, little man, a wish I suppose no one wlese would make. I wish for you that you may never be President of the United States.”161

For many Americans who didn’t follow politics, Cleveland was better known as the only president to get married while in the White House. Friends had believed that Cleveland was a confirmed bachelor whose sister, Rose Elizabeth Cleveland, would remain the First Lady for the remainder of his presidency. According to one reporter who covered the Cleveland Administration, however, this opinion was not held by everyone:

The gossip about the President marrying springs up with every new girl to whom he pays a compliment. I doubt not that there are a score of Washington beauties who have set their craps on him. Matchmaking widows do their best ogling when they are in the President’s company, and since he has been in the White House a full baker’s dozen of ladies have been reported as sure to marry him.162

In June 1886, President Cleveland married twenty-two year-old Frances Folsom, the daughter of his deceased law partner, in a ceremony at the White House. According to observers, she had “a beauty greater than that of any of the ladies of the White House still remembered by the old stagers of Washington.”163 When asked why he didn’t marry sooner, Cleveland would only say, “I’m waiting for my wife to grow up.”164 Mrs. Cleveland enjoyed great popularity as First Lady: “Today you will find her picture in nearly every home,” wrote one reporter.165 Observers noticed that Mrs. Cleveland was responsible for reforming the gruff and distant manner her husband had displayed at the beginning of his presidency.

The election of 1888 was the first truly post-war election. The leading generals on either side of the Civil War -- Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee -- were dead, and the issue of tariffs replaced wartime loyalties as the central line of demarcation between the two national aprties. Cleveland’s opponent was the grandson of William Henry Harrison, the ninth presdient, and the great-grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Republican Benjamin Harrison, a senator from Indiana dubbed “little Ben” because he stood only five feet six inches tall, campaigned in favor of retaining the high protective tariffs for American industry that had been in place since the Civil War.

Cleveland wanted a reduction in the tariff not only because the Treasury had a nearly $100 million surplus, but because he believed that the tariff only served to keep prices artifically high and therefore benefitted big business to the detriment of workers. There was much truth in this latter assertion, as it turned out. Trusts such as Standard Oil Company were becoming more commonplace. A congressional inquiry in 1873 had already alerted Americans that “the country is fast becoming filled with giant corporations wielding and controlling immense aggregations of money and thereby commanding great influence and power.”166 The trust was a corrupt form of corporation that was designed to lobby the federal government to use its power to protect the trust against foreign and domestic competitors. It was capitalism turned on its head.

In Ludlow and across America, political compaign flags made their appearance on lawns and buildings in the summer and fall of 1888. In the solidly Republican state of Vermont, it was all but a forgone conclusion that Harrison would win the state’s four Electoral votes. An unofficial poll of Black River Academy students shows that they supported Harrison 70 to 19.167Nonethless, there were some sparks as election day approached. The local barbershop, which occupied the first floor of the bakery hall, was directly below the temporary home of Black River Academy. The owner of the barbershop was a Democrat, and he hung a sizable Cleveland flag in front of his shop. Some B.R.A. students felt so strongly about Harrison that they consciously walked in the street to avoid walking under the flag on their way up the stairs. Not to be outdone, on election day the barber moved the flag so that it overhung a walkway that students woud need to traverse to get to the staircase. The male students had the last laugh by hauling the female students up the steps, thereby avoiding the walkway and the flag.168

The Republicans resorted to character assassination, bribery, and outright fraud to get votes for Harrison in key swing states. Meanwhile newspapers such as the Washingon Post, a pro-Cleveland newspaper, editorialized in favor of the incumbent.169 The contest was extremely close, and it was not decided until the night after the election. Harrison lost the popular vote to Cleveland by 95,713 votes, but he won 233 Electoral College votes by carrying virtually every state outside the South.

Mrs. Cleveland was said to have wept when her husband lost his bid for reelection. Soon, however, she was dancing the waltz with guests at her final White House parties.170 On the day the Clevelands left Washington, she asked the doorkeeper to watch the White House until they returned in four years.171

Although some Democrats refused to concede defeat until the following Monday, Wednesday night in Ludlow was devoted to a noisy three-hour celebration by some Republican boys. “When Harrison was elected,” Coolidge recalled, “two nights were spent parading the streets with drums and trumpets, celebrating the victory.172 In all likelihood sixteen year-old Calvin Coolidge, who had clsely collowed the presdiential race, was probably somewhere in the crowd of revelers. Just a few days before the election, he had awoken from a dream in which Harrison had been elected.173


The following year, as the nation celebrated the one hundreth anniversary of the inauguration of George Washington, the United States welcomed the new states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. In Washington, D.C., the new Congress spent the $97 million budget surplus by giving pensions to old Union soldiers, and within three years the government was running an annual defecit of $159 million. In 1890 Ohio Congressman William McKinley wrote a bill that raised the tariffs on steel, cotton, and many other goods. Congress also passed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, which required the Treasury to buy 4.5 million ounces of silver every month. Farmers hoped that the purchases would raise prices on agriculture and help them reduce their debts.

Relations between rich and poor also became a topic of conversation for many people. Photojournliast and Dutch immigrant Jacob Riis used the newly-invented flash powder to take indoor pictures of those living in the slums, sweatshops, and opium dens of New York City, and his work led to reforms in building codes and sanitation. In his classic work How The Other Half Lives, Riis wrote, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. I have aimed to tell the truth as I saw it. If this book shall have borne ever so feeble a hand in garnering a harvest of justice, it has served its purpose.”174 One of Riis’ disciples was New York Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt, whom Riis led on eye-opening tours of the city’s overcorwded and unhealthy tenament buildings.

In the West, farmers continued to fight against falling prices for their products, which were brought about by a boom in worldwide agricultural production. As Russia, England, and other nations increased their production of wheat, for example, prices plummeted. While wheat had been averaging two dollars a bushel in the immediate post-war years, 262 million bushels were added to the world supply between 1875 and 1878, pushing the price to 98 cents a bushel.175 Over one quarter of American farmers took out mortgages on their farms to keep afloat. Mary Lease of Kansas cited a statistic that 10,000 children were starving to death each year. The Populist Party was born out of this regional anguish, which moderated somewhat as a slump in worldwide production raised prices by 40 cents a bushel. In the 1890 elections, the Populists ended Republican control of Congress. When the dust had cleared, only 88 Republicans remained in the House, while the Democrats, many with Populist leanings, had 235 seats.176

Meanwhile, steel baron Andrew Carnegie wrote essay in 1889 called the “The Gospel of Wealth,” in which he argued that the wealthy must be philanthropists who use their money for the public good. Carnegie himself gave $350 million to charity during the last eighteen years of his lfie. Over $43 million of those funds were for the construction of 2,811 public library buildings. When he was a boy, a local merchant in Pittsburg opened his personal library to Carnegie and other poor boys in the neighborhood, and Carnegie resolved to do the same for other poor boys if given the chance.177 He said, “The man who dies rich dies disgraced.”178 Other philanthropists such as John D. Rockefeller gave over $446 million to medical research and other civic causes.179

Even as prices delined, real wages rose 100 percent for industrial workers and 70 percent for farmers between 1865 to 1890.180 Through the industry of its people, America has become the world’s richest nation. By 1890, the national wealth of the United States was over $65 billion, which was more than Great Britain and Germany combined.181 The following year, British observer James Bryce wrote, “Life in America is in most ways pleasanter, easier, simpler, than in Europe; it floats in a sense of happiness like that of a radiant summer morning.”182

In other news, Thomas Edison invented the kinetoscope, the first motion picture device, which he said should be used in every school as a learning device. “The child will be so interested, he’ll run to school,” boasted Edison.183 Edison’s prophecy did not come to pass, but by the turn of the century millions of Americans were watching films for five cents apiece at movie theaters known as Nickelodeons, and soon Hollywood stars were born. Because George Eastman developed the portable Kodak camera the previous year, Americans would be able to take their picture.


Back in Ludlow, Calvin’s homesickness improved once Abbie became a student at B.R.A. in September 1888. For over a year, Calvin had been lobbying his father and gradmother for her to join him in Ludlow. “Do you think Abby will come down here to school this spring?” he wrote to his grandmother in February 1887, “Aunt Sarah thinks it would be a good plan.” A few days later, he asked Abbie, “When are you coming down to see about coming to the school of course you will come down some time.” More insistently, he wrote to his father in January 1888:

What do you think about Abbie’s coming to school here this spring? I think she had better, if you want she should commence a course here next fall....If you decide to have her come I think you can get her boarded here. Mr.s Morgan too wants some boarders.184

Calvin’s father and grandmother (who was the children’s surrogate mother) acquiesced, and Abby became a student at Black River Academy in the fall of 1888. Thirteen years old, with red hair and a sharp mind, she flourished in her studies. Her future seemed bright, and her big brother was delighted.

Then, on March 6, 1890, two months before Calvin’s graduation from B.R.A., the unthinkable happened:

In March of my senior year my sister Abbie died. She was three years my junior but so proficient in her studies that she was but two classes below me in school. She was ill scarcely a week. Several doctors were in attendance but could not save her. Thirty years later one of them told me he was convinced she had appendicitis, which was a disease not well understood in 1890. I went home when her condition became ciritical and staid [sic] beside her until she passed to join our mother. The memory of the charm of her presence and her dignified devotion to the right will always abide with me.185

Abbie was fifteen years old. Her death followed those of other young people in Calvin’s circle: Meda Kavanaugh, aged fifteen; Orson “Plymouth Fat Boy” Butler, aged fourteen; and Lula Hall, age nineteen.186 This was little comfort to Calvin, who had already lost his mother. A month after Abbie’s death, her grief-stricken and melancholy big brother wrote, “It is lonesome here without Abbie.”187

The death of his sister did not derail Calvin’s course of study, and he graduated from B.R.A. on May 23, 1890, less than two months before his eighteenth birthday. He was one of a graduating class of nine -- five boys and four girls. ‘With so small a number,” Calvin recalled, “it was possible for all of us to take part in the final exercises with orations and essays. The subject that I undertook to discuss was ‘Oratory in History,’ in which I dealt briefly with the effect of the spoken word in determining human action.”188 He included examples from Greece, Rome, the Middle Ages, the Protestant Reformation, and the American Revolution to show how public speaking changed the course of history. For example:

In the history of our own country, the triumphs of oratory have been hardly less marked than those of the Old World. In the night of tyranny, the eloquence of the country first blazed up, like the lighted signal fires of a distracted border to startle and enlighten the community. Everywhere as the news of some fresh invasion of our liberties and rights was bourne on the wings of the wind, men ran together and called upon some earnest citizen to address them.189

The speech was a triumph for young Coolidge. A writer from theVermont Tribune concluded, “This oration was masterly in its conception and arrangement.”190

Perhaps the most important and influential book of the time between the Civil War and World War I was published in 1890, even as Coolidge was finishing his studies at Black River Academy. Captain Alfrted Thayer Mahan’s book, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History,1660-1783, agued that naval power was the secret to the success of any great nation. Captain Mahan reasoned that the United States should have naval bases in the Carribean and Hawaii, and that it should build a canal across a narrow strip of land in Central America so that naval ships could move easily between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

The book could not have come at a more opportune time: with the closing of America’s continental frontier, which historian Frederick Jackson Turner said “has closed the first period of American history,”191 the United States was looking to spread its power and influence aborad and to begin a new chapter in its history . Soon after Mahan’s book was published, politicians and military leaders began to move even more aggressively to assert the might of the American Navy around the world. A young Theodore Roosevelt, who himself had written a book on naval power during the War of 1812, was elected Assistant Secretary of the Navy in 1897, and soon he would begin to put many of Thayer’s ideas into pratice. “It is a disgrace to us as a nation,” he wrote, “that we should have no warships worthy of the name and that our rich seaboard cities should lie at the mercy of any piratical descent from a hostile power.”192 Within another generation, America and all the world would be at war.


Even before he had graduated from Black River Academy, Calvin and John Coolidge had made a decision that would change both of their lives. In 1888, John was elected to the Black River Academy Board of Trustees, and he was exposed to the school’s principal, George Sherman. Until Calvin was fifteen years old, John had been undecided about Calvin’s future. One idea was to have Calvin become a phramicist’s apprentice, but he abandoned the idea when he discovered that all the pharmacies in the area sold alcohol.193 Once John and Sherman began to discuss Calvin’’s future, however, Sherman convinced John that Calvin was college material.

Sherman encouraged Calvin to consider Amherest College, his alma mater, in Massachusetts. The school was respected in the Ludlow and Plymouth areas, and the tuition and fees were low enough. Calvin decided to take the Amherst entrance exams as soon as possible.

As he wrote later in his Autoibiography, Calvin had reached the threshold of life as a grown man, with all the responsibilities and uncertainties that entailed:

I was going where I mostly would be my own master. I was casting off what I thought was the drudgery of farm life, symbolized by the cowhide boots and every- day clothing which I was leaving behind, not realizing what a relief it would be to return to them in future years.
I did not know there were mental and moral atmospheres more monotonous and more contaminating than anything in the physical atmosphere of country life. No one would have made me believe that I should never be so innocent or so happy again.194

Calvin Coolidge desired to move beyond the parochialism of Vermont village life. In that he was quite successful. Later, however, he came to see that what he left behind in Vermont was in some respects more valuable than what he discovered as walked along the corridors of political power.


When Calvin Coolidge went off to Amherst College in September 1890, the final decade of the nineteenth century was beginning. The population of the United States, which had been 31 million in 1860, had more than doubled to 63 million by 1890. New York continued to be the most populaous state, but California and other Western states and territories were adding thousands of new residents each year. Wyoming, which was unsual in allowing women the right to vote, became the 44th state. In politics, William Jennings Bryan, a Democrat who would go on to run for presdient four times, won his first term to Congress. Bookstores introduced children to Black Beauty, while the newly printed poems of Emiliy Dickinson captured the imagination of their parents.

Calvin Coolidge, meanwhile, was forced to delay his college plans. On a miserable day -- Monday, September 15, 1890 -- he took the Central Vermont Railroad and then the New London& Northern train down through the Connecticut Valley to Amherst. The trip would last approximately four hours. At Amherst the entrance exams in Greek and Latin were to begin on September 16, followed by exams in French, Ancient History, and English on Wednesday.

The weather was not cooperating. It had been raining off and on for several days, and Calvin’s delicate immune system had been under attack before he even boarded the train. As the ride continued, Calvin began to develop a cold that became progressively worse as the locomotive chugged toward Massachusetts. The clouds of thick, black smoke from the coal engine only made matters worse.

“On the way [to Amherst] I contracted a heavy cold,” Calvin recalled, “which grew worse, interfering with my examinations, and finally sent me home where I was ill for a considerable time.”195 Calvin got off the train in Amherst as a deluge of rain cascaded down upon him; few locals had ever seen anything like it. It seems that Calvin took his first day of entrance examinations, although not without considerable physical difficulty, but was unable to take his examinations the following day. He telegraphed his father from Weaver’s house on Wednesday, and John Coolidge retrieved his son the following day and bring him back to Plymouth, where he was confined to bed.196

Many in Plymouth, perhaps including John Coolidge, believed that Calvin’s illness would be his last. The local gossip was that he was fated to become yet another member of the Coolidge family to die at a young age. Calvin did recover, albeit slowly, and within six weeks he was well enough to begin walking around. John Coolidge began the task of renovating` the general store, possibly with the intention of letting his son manage it once the current owner’s lease ran out. Although Calvin helped out somewhat with the renovation, he spent much of his leisure time that fall either at the Plymouth cheese factory or immersed in the romantic poetry of Sir Walter Scott. In the winter, Calvin was involved in a wedding, several parties, and even performances of the romantic play Under the Laurels, where he plated the role of the villain. Several performances of the play earned the theatre troup the grand sum of eight dollars, which they decided to spend on a party.197

By the spring of 1891, John was convinced that his son had fully recovered from his illness, and he encouraged his son to take the Amherest Cllege entrance examinations once again that fall. In March Calvin enrolled in courses in algebra and Greek prose at Black River Academy and reconnected with several old friends. His roomate, Rufus Hathaway, did a brisk business selling the newly-invented Columbia bicycles that spring, and Calvin even took one for a ride. Calvin was not just thinking about bicycles that spring: he also developed an interest in Ada Wilder, another studcent at B.R.A., even going so far as to send her his picture. In the end, his love was unrequited.

By April, while Calvin was halfway through his coursework at B.R.A., the principal of the school, Mr. Sherman, came to Calvin with an idea. He suggested to Calvin that if he enrolled at one of the state’s preparatory schools for the spring semester and graduated two months later with the senior class, he earn a certificate allowing him to enter Amherst College in the fall without having to take the entrance examinations. One of Mr. Sherman’s old schoolmates was a headmaster at St. Johnsbury, a well-regarded preparatory school, and Sherman would put in a good word for Calvin. After careful cinsideration, Calvin and John agreed with the plan.

By the middle of April Calvin had left Ludlow for a brief stopover in Plymouth before heading to Woodstock, where he could pick up the train that would take him the first leg of his journey fifty miles north to St. Johnsbury. St. Johnsbury, population seven thousand, boasted a number of fountains, new electric streetlights, brick sidewalks, and even an outdoor zoo with deer that visitors could feed. His boarding rooms, which were across from the school, featured hot and cold running water as well as the recently-invented flush toilet.

Coolidge did well at St. Johnsbury, and seven weeks into his studies Calvin was told by the headmaster that he would recieve the coveted certificate. This was his passport to Amherst in the fall. To add to the good news, Calvin was told that he would not have to take place in the graduation ceremonies. He was free to leave for home in Plymouth by the middle of June.

The summer of 1891 offered Calvin the chance to enjoy time in Plymouth. He worked in the fields gathering hay if needed. Othwerise, he rode horses through the woods, hunted and fished, and listened to impromptu concerts given by a friend’s cousins. The bicycle craze was at its peak, and there were lawn parties to attend and baseball games to watch. Meanwhile forty-seven year-old John Coolidge was constantly in the company of Carrie Brown, a thirty-four year-old schoolteacher and store clerk, whom he was to marry in September. Calvin remembered her in his Autobiography as

one of the finest women in our neighhborhood. I had known her all my life. After being without a mother for nearly seven years I was greatly pleased to find in her all the motherly devotion she could have given me if I had been her own son....For thirty years she watched over me and loved me, welcoming me when I went home, writing me often when I was away, and encouraging me in all my efforts.198

Another significant event happened during the summer. On August 19, 1891, John took Calvin to the dedication of the 300-foot tall Bennington Battle Momument, which was erected in honor of Vermont’s Civil War veternas. There white-bearded President Benjamin Harrison was among those delivering patriotic speeches before a crowd of fifteen to forty thousand people.199 Among his other accomplishments at that point in his term, Harrison had helped launch the national political career of Theodore Roosevelt by appointing him as a member of the United States Civil Service Commission in 1889.

Calvin remembered the previous winter in Ludlow, where he and others at B.R.A. celebrated Harrison’s election. In Harrison’s first speech that sunny August day, he praised the courage of Vermonters:

Vermont troops took to the fields of the South that high consecration to liberty which had characterized their fathers in the Revolutionary struggles. They did not forget on the hot savannahs of the South the green tops of these hills ever in their vision lifting up their hearts in faith that God would again bring the good cause of freedom to a just issue.200

In a later address, Harrison praised the faith and democratoc values of Vermonters. Young Calvin was awestruck. He remembered that day years later:

I heard President Harrison, who was the first President I had ever seen, make an address. As I looked on him and realized that he personally represented the glory and dignity of the United States I wondred how it felt to bear so much responsibility and little thought I should ever know.201

As the festivities at Bennington drew to a close with an impressive display of fireworks, Calvin and John walked to the train station to begin the ride home. In a month he would begin a new season of his lfie.


In the Fall of 1891, Calvin dove into his studies at Amherst. He was a member of a class of 1895, the seventy-first in the college’s history, one of 97 freshmen out of a school of 336 students.202 He noted in his Autobiography that most of the students were serious about their studies, and a low dropout rate was no doubt helped by the fact that Amherst “had a very laudable desire to get students, and having admitted them, it was equally alert in striving to keep them and help them get an education.”203

Always the aesthete, Calvin recalled years later the beauty that surrounded him during his college years:

Not least in the educational values of Amherst was its beautiful physical surroundings. While the college buildings of the early nineties were not impressive, the town with its spacious common and fine elm trees was very attractive. It was located on the arch of a slight ridge flanked on the north by Mount Warner and on the south by the Holyoke Range. The east rose over wooded slopes to the horizon, and the west looked out across the meadows of the Connecticut to the spires of Northampton and the Hampshire Hills beyond.204

Calvin Coolidge came to Amherst College during a time of transition. For decades Amherst had been a place to train teachers and preachers. As the century came to a close, however, many of its young men were gravitating more and more toward careers in business and law.

The influence of fraternities, or Greek letter societies, was becoming more pronounced with each passing year. These societies were the heart of social life on campus, and those who were not members of one or the other -- the “oudens” -- were left with the option to socialize only among themselves. When Calvin was a student, there were already nine societies, ranging from large houses such as Alpha Delta Phi to smaller houses such as Phi Delta Theta.

The socities competed vigorously against one another for prestige, and they pulled out all stops to recruit incoming freshmen. Due partly to social pressures, a large percentage of Calvin’s class joined societies before the end of their freshman year. Only a handful were not invited to join. Calvin was approached by seniors Charles M. Stebbins and Robert Clark about strating an Amherst chapter of Phi Gamma Delta, but his weak and equivocal reply of “I don’t know but I would” ensured that the matter was not pursued. Calvin had written his father from Black River Aacemdt in the spring of 1890 that “the societies are a great factor of Amherst and of course I want to join one if I can.”205 The fact that he did not join a society meant that he had yet to overcome his shyness.

Despite his distance from his classmates, Calvin was not immune to the typical shennanigans that took place on college campuses. At Amherest it was customary for the freshman and sophomores to engage in a “cane rush,” a short, staged brawl at the begiining of each year to determine which class could put more hands holding a broom handle after eight minutes. In Calvin’s freshman year, the sophomores won the contest, as they did most years, but Calvin remembered the event with fondness: “We lost the rush, but we found our class spirit.”206 Coolidge was on the perimeter, however, as the scrum was taking place. At five feet nine inches, and a rail-thin 120 pounds, he was not about to match strength with the larger freshmen and sophomores.

In most cases, Calvin didn’t especially mind keeping his distance from the more cosmpolitan and sometimes unruly undergraduate life that was developing at Amherst. Unlike many others at the all-male college, Coolidge showed little interest in visiting Smith College seven miles away in Northampton to seranade women or engage in the heavy drinking, smoking, and illicit behavior that was known to take place when the genders mingled. He preferred to take long walks and would likely have agreed with Thoreau, who wrote that he could not “stay in my chamber for a single day without acquiring some rust.”207 Most of Coolidge’s walks were undertaken without a specific location or agenda in mind, but many in the fall many walks were set aside solely for the time-honored tradition of leaf peeing.

On the whole, we can conclude that Coolidge mostly kept to himself and focused on his studies during his years at Amherst. He understood early in life that if he were to succeed in school, he would have to work somewhat harder than the truly gifted students. “I want to do careful work,” he wrote home in January 1893, “but many men in my class have strength, preparation, inclination and ability to do much more than myself.”208

All of this is not to say, of course, that Calvin lived an enirely isolated existence at Amherst. He did have times when he desired the company of others, although he was relieved to be able to slip quietly into a crowd and observe others. He attended the freshman class dinner, as well as every class meeting, although he did not particate. He had a season ticket to the college lecture series, and he went often to hear lectures on topics such as “Alexander Hamilton,” “America As Seen Through French Spectacles,” and “The Silver Crown; or Born a King.”209 There is also a record of his attendance at shows at the Town Hall, as well as the Academy of Music in neighboring Northampton.

During his fresman year, he roomed at Mr. Trott’s boarding house with Alfred Turner, a junior from Rutland who was a skilled hammer thrower. The two young men got on well enough, although they had little in common apart from their home state. Perhaps due to Turner’s influence, Calvin made it a practice to attend all school sporting events. During the college days of Calvin Coolidge, intercollegiate sports like baseball and football were taking the place of prominence once held by intermural sports such as the annual “Cider Meet” track and field competition. Bragging rights were at stake when two schools met on the field. “In intercollegiate athletics Aherst stood well,” Calvin later wrote. “It won its share of trophies on the diamond, the gridiron and the track....The games with Williams and Darmouth aroused the keenest interest, and honors were then about even. But these outside activities were not permitted to interfere with the real work of the college.”210

Calvin supported Ahmerst athletics, but again he was merely a spectator. He later wrote that was content “with getting regular exercise by faithful attendance at the class drills in the gymnasium. In these the entire class worked toegther with dumbells for most of the time.”211 The instructor for those drills was Dr. Edward “Doc” Hitchcock, an energetic sixty-three year-old and devout Christian who was also the school’s health teacher and de facto gudiance counselor. Doc oversaw an ambitious athletic program that was in some ways the eny of other area schools. Amherst was one of the first schools to recognize the importance of physical education in education. The Pratt Gymanisum, built in 1884, boasted an indoor track, modern locker rooms, punching bags, and parallel bars. Doc quickly earned Calvin’s respect and admiration, both for his piety and for his magnanimous spirit.


In his Autobiography, Calvin wrote, “My absence from home during my freshman year was more easy for me to bear beecuase I was no longer leaving my father alone.”212 This is not the entire picture. By October 15, a letter home to his father already hinted at a feeling of melancholy: “I am in a pleasant place and like [it] very much but suppose I shall like [it] better as I become more acquainted, I don[‘]t seem to be acquainted very fast however.”213 On November 22, he wrote, “In just one more month I will be home.”214

These feelings became acute after Calvin returned home to Plymouth for Christimas break. As the time was coming to an end, Calvin begged his father not to make him return to Amherst, but John stood firm. Calvin returned to Amherst on January 6, 1892, but that evening wrote his father to express his dissatisfaction: “I hate to think I must stay here 12 weeks before I can go home again. I think I must be very home-sick my hand trembles so I can’t write so any one can read it.”215 By the next day, he was rallying: “I am feeling better than I was last night, begin to feel at home now.”216 On January 8, the next day, he wrote: “I feel quite reconciled to being here to-night but felt awful mean yesterday and the day before, I don’t know why, I never was homesick any before.”217 By the end of the month, he took to ice skating on a nearby river.218

It was not his academic performance that caused such homesickness. His work was adequate, if not exceptional. In mid-January, when the fall term grade card arrived, Calvin had passed every course, earning the equivalent of a ‘C’ on most of them. In a strange twist, his best class of the quarter was the once-dreaded algebra, thanks in large part to the engaging teaching style of first-year math teacher George Olds. Olds was immensely popular with his students, and we was eventually chosen as an honorary member of the Class of 1895. He visited Coolidge in the White House, and in 1924 he became the college’s president.

Latin and Greek, which had sevred Calvin well at Black RiverAcademy, proved both difficult and dull in the hands of Amherst’s idosyncratic professors. Perhaps the only highlight of Greek was the bust of Socrates that sat on Professor Levi Elwell’s desk, which became a frequent target of student vandalism. The other class Coolidge took that first quarter, Oratory, was quite popular, not only because of an excellent professor, but because public speaking was widely seen by the young men of Amherst as an essential skill for anyone entering the business world.

When it came time to return to Amherst from Easter break in Plymouth, Calvin did not show any further signs of homesickness. The weather, of course, was improving, and Calvin was recovering from cabin fever. Soon it would be time to go home for the summer. By May, graduation for the Amherst seniors was only a month away, and the college baseball and track teams enjoyed success. On May 26, Calvin wrote his father: “I am very well this spring and shall do the haying when I get home if the snow gets off and you do not get over your lameness.”219 On June 19, Coolidge wrote again, promising to “help hoe the corn” after he arrived on June 24.220


Another reason for Calvin’s improving spirits was the presidential election. Politics was one of his few abiding interests, and he eagerly followed the Republican primary campaign of 1892, which pitted President Harrison against Maine’s James Blaine, who resigned as Harrison’s Secretary of State to run against him for the Republican nomination. On February 28, Calvin wrote to his father about politics at Amherst, where the Democractic Party was laregly overshadowed:

A great many of the boys have signs hung out on their houses 8 or 10 feet square bearing the name of their state and such devises as, “Womens Rights and Free Cider”, “Free Silver and Non Compulsory Church” and many other such.
The candidates are Blaine and Harrison and the boys go about the street at night in bands singing for their respective candidates, so we are having quite and interesting time just now.”221

On June 10, the Republicans met in Minneapolis for the presidential convention. The location was not chosen by accident; it was an attempt to show solidatity with working people, especially farmers, who were being courted by the Populist Party, which promised to end what it perceived to be the exploitation of the poor and working classes by wealthy industrialists. The Populist platform of 1892, which the New York Times called “socialism in disguise,”222 called for government ownership of railroads and telephones and a graduated income tax that targeted the wealthiest Americans. Populism’s call for more federal control of the economy was extremely important because it helped built a broad base of support for the massive increase in the size and power of the federal government over the next century.

At the rather lackluster Republican convention, Harrison had held off Blaine’s challenge and won the nomination on the first ballot. Former Ohio Congressman William McKinley, the author of the 1890 tariff bill, came in third, just one vote behind Blaine. On June 19, Calvin inserted a comment and a question about state and national politcis in a letter written at the end of his freshman year at Amherst: “I suppose you are pleased with the nomination of Harrison. Who will be governor?”223

Less than a week later, on June 25, the Democrats nominated former President Grover Cleveland, who had been working at a Wall Street law firm since he had been defeated by Harrison four years earlier. Most of his work had been done for multimillionaire J.P. Morgan’s bank, and therefore the Democratic campaign chest in 1892 was full of contributions from businessmen. As they did in 1884, the Mugwumps, an indepent bloc of Republicans, threw their support behind Cleveland.


Politics continued to be on Calvin’s mind during the summer 1892. When he returned home to Plymouth in mid-June, the townspeople asked this native son to deliver the annual Independence Day address. For the next two weeks, Calvin worked on his speech. When he needed a break, he persuaded some of the local young men of Plymouth Notch, who were now in their twenties, to go to Plymouth Union and steal back a cannon that already changed hands several times over the course of several years. For the first time anyone could remember, Calvin was the ringleader of the group. The men found out where the cannon was being hidden, retrieved it, and then brought it back to the Notch, where they took Calvin’s advice and dismantled it. Parts were hidden in various places, and the Union side never was able to recover it.

On July 4, his twentieth birthday, and as Harrison-Reid and American flags waved on either side, Calvin delivered the speech he had preapred. It was a stirring speech on the meaning of freedom. He used all of the rhetorical devices he had learned at Amherst, and concluded with a shout of confidence: “Roll on, America! Roll on, bearing rich blessings with o’erflowing hand through the endless ages of all eternity, until freedom’s golden course has traversed the earth, and tyranny and oppression are no more.”224 The speech was very well-received, and it must have provided a much-needed jolt of self-confidence to a constituionally shy young man.


Calvin’s sophomore year at Amherst was a time of renewed confidence. When he returned to Trott’s in September 1892, he continued to room off-campus with Turner, who was sporting new glasses. He signed up for another year of Greek, as well as German, rhetoric, and geometry. And something else was different: as he walked around campus, he no longer saw a mass of strangers, but individuals whom he recognized from freshman year. In late September, he wrote to John with an early assessment:

I cannot tell much about my work yet whether it will be hard of easy, but do not expect it to be such drudgery as last year’s work was. Not but that it will be just as hard and perhaps harder but not so exacting and more interesting, and we shall have closer relations with our instructors. Then we are not regarded with so much distrust and so have more freedom from the discipline the Freshman instructors feel it their duty to impose upon us.225

Sophistication did not come all at once, however. Calvin still dealt with mundane issues in his letters home when he retruned to Amherst for his sophomore year. In September and again in November of 1892, he wrote home about the family cat, Ned. On September 21, he wrote: “I am glad Ned is recovering so rapidly, I guess he only got into a squirrel trap.” In November he added: “The cat seems unlucky this fall, he has been twice in a trap.”226

More seriously, he also struggled to keep control of his finances. By October 9, he was out of money, and had to make a painful request in a letter home: “I am about out of money as you may guess. My books cost over $8 and I paid for the week I boarded here. I wish you would send me two checks[,] one for [$]20 and one for [$]15.”227 The checks were sent on the 12th.228

In January, 1893, after returning from Christmas Break, Calvn he moved into new and better quarters at Amherst. Mr. Trott was “on a strike” and “the old man...sat out on the piazza all day and did not do any thing,” and his boarding house was too expensive for Coolidge’s needs. He decided to room at a house that was operated by Beta Theta Pi’s janitor, where he and some other Amherst students ate meals. The students were loud and often critical of the food, which was hardly fine cuisine.

The new boarding house was important because it was the place in which Calvin made first friends at Amherst. Ernest “Fat” Hardy, a jovial soul from Northampton, was the heaviest member of the sophomore class. John Percy Deering, from Saco, Maine, was a talented orator. Like Calvin, both men were oudens (albeit for different reasons), and they shared his dry sense of humor. Interestingly, all three men were members of the Amherst College Republican Club, which had been founded in May 1892 and attracted one-third of the Amherst student body.229 A survey of those Amherst students eligible to vote showed overwhelming support for Harrison, but at least eighteen Amherst faculty members supported Cleveland.230

Once he returned from his summer vacation, Calvin became involved in the Republican Club. The Club sponsored three rallies in October. Of the final rally, held Halloween night, the Amherst Student reported:

The Republicans of Amherst turned out in large numbers, Monday evening, October 31st. Many of the residences along the line of march were decorated with bunting and Chinese lanterns, besides being illuminated. During the procession the Common presented an appearance much different from its usual quiet and dignity. Roman candles, rockets, and red fire illuminated the streets.231

On October 30, 1892, on the eve of the general election, Coolidge was upbeat. “Ev[e]rything looks favorable for Harrison’s re[e]lection so far as any one can see at present,” he wrote his father. “Republicans here are very confident.”232 The final vote on November 8 was extremely close. With over 11 million votes cast, Cleveland defeated Harrison by 381,000 votes. His margin of victory in the Electoral College was comfortable: 277 to 145. To add insult to injury, the surging Democrats took control of both the House and Senate.

Populists garnered over one million votes, playing the role of the spoiler by siphoning votes away from the Republican Party and thereby giving victory to Cleveland and the Democrats. Populism offered an appealing message: it was an attempt to dismiss decades of rapid industrialization in the United States and return the nation to a “lost agrarian Eden” in which there was alleged to be no rich and no poor.233 If anything, however, the trend toward industrialization was accelerating, with rising prosperity following in its wake, even if there continued to be mistreatment of some workers. In Presdient Harrison’s last annual message to Congress in December 1892, he reported figures showing that the national wealth had risen by 287 percent since 1860, and that the amount of money deposited in banks, mainly by working people, had risen 921 percent during the same period. He added that since 1880 the amount of capital invested in manufacturing had doubled, the number of employed had nearly doubled, per capita wages had risen nearly 42 percent, and international trade had risen in 1892 to over 27 percent higher than the ten-year average. Even though the prices of wheat and cotton had fallen in the post-war years, much to the consternation of over-mortgaged farmers, the total value of all farm products rose 230 percent from 1860 to 1892. “If [farmers] are discontented with their state here,” Harrison said, “if any believe that wages or prices, the returns for honest toil, are inadequate, they should not fail to remember that there is no country in the world where the conditions that seem to them hard would not be accepted as highly prosperous.”234

Calvin and many loyal Republicans at Amherst struggled to make sense of the election results, which once again put the Republicans out of the White House. On November 13, he wrote his father:

This has been a week of surprises to most of us at Amherst. The result of the election was as much a surprise to the Democrats here as to the Republicans, and nobody seems able to account satisfactorily yet....the reason seems to lie in the never satisfied mind of the American and in the ever [recurring] desire to shift in hope of something better and in the vague idea of the working and farming classes that somebody is getting all the money while they get all the work.235

A member of the Amherst Republican Club was less reflective: “Gen. Grant used to say that ‘Give the Democrats enough rope and they will surely hang themselves.’ There is no doubt but what they have a sufficiency of rope, and four years will tell is whether they will reduce suicide to a fine art.”236 Despite their puzzlement over the Democrat’s victory, there was a silver lining for the Republicans: They would not lose another presidential race for twenty years.

In March 1893, the Clevelands returned to Washington with the seventeen-month-old daughter, Ruth. The young child was deliged with gifts from admiring Americans, and they followed her every move in the papers. She died at age twelve, after her father had left the presdiency, but in 1920 the Baby Ruth candy bar, which was named in her honor, gave her a measure of immortality.


Calvin’s sophomore classes were less exciting because they were more predictable. He took Greek, Latin, German, and Rhetoric that year, with Rhetoric being his favorite. In Greek, converesly, he was told by the professor on at least one occassion to lift his head off the desk.

The most noteworthy events happended opitside the classroom. The President of Amherst, Merrill E. Gates, had been installed in June 1891, and soon found himself at the center of a controversy over mandatory chapel attendance. From the beginning, Amherst students had been required to attend chapel five times a week and twice on Sunday. Many students in Calvin’s day -- 76 percent in one unofficial poll -- failed to see the usefulness of mandatory attendance at chapel services.

Calvin, who was less militant than other opponents of mandatory chapel attendance, said, “I don’t like to be compelled to go to Church very well but there is no other way here.”237 These were the words of a young man who, like all young people, felt the urge to question auithoirty. In his Autobiography, which was written with the benefit of considerable hindsight, Coolidge had a different perspective:

Of course we did not like to go and talked learnedly about the right of freedom of worship, and the bad mental and moral reactions from whcih we were likely to suffer as a result of being forced to hear scriptural readings, psalm singings, prayers and sermons....If attendance on those services ever harmed any of the men of my time I have never been informed of it. The good it did was infinite. Not the least of it was the discipline that resulted from havong constantly to give some thought to things that young men would often prefer not to consider. If we did not have the privilege of doing what we wanted to do, we had the much greater benefit of doing what we ought to do. It broke down our selfishness, it conquered our resistance, it supplanted impulse, and finally it enthroned reason.238

After Calvin returned from Christmas vacation, he moved to a new rooming house in Amherst, where he lived on the fourth floor with friends Percy Deering, Emmons Bryant, and Carl Gates. Deering and Bryant were in Calvin’s class, while Gates, nephew of the college’s presdient, was a year behind. These young men had discovered Calvin’s dry wit, and soon they became friends. Like many college students past and present, Calvin and his roomates played pranks, such as shooting the president’s gardener with an air gun and harrassing Gates to try to get him to swear. Calvin and his roomates were also part of a failed attempt to stop the freshman class banquet from taking place.239

On June 24, 1893, the sophomore college dinner in Boston ended the school year. Calvin’s grades had improved, and he could reflect upon a year filled with fond memories. It was the irst time he had been to Boston, a city that was to play such a prominent role in his later political life. The city in 1893 was an odd mixture of modern office buildings, horse-drawn carriages, electric lighting, cobblestone streets, and historic monuments that predated the Revolutionary War. It was a festive occassion that called for the best clothes and the highest spirits. Many of the typical fraternity songs were sung, as were “Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay” and other popular songs of the day.


By Saturday, the fun was over, and Calvin was on a train back to Plymouth, where he would spend the summer. Unlike the summer of 1892, the summer of 1893 was laregly non-eventful. Calvin turned twenty-one. but there was little fanfare. There were the usual farm tasks to be done, and John’s barn, which had been struck by lightning the previous summer, had to be repaired. At Carrie Coolidge’s request, John was adding a bay window to the family home. In addition to chores, there were excursions with Dell Ward and a few other friends, plus time for summer reading. Slowly but surely, however, things were changing: Plymouth was becoming smaller and smaller, and Calvin was beginning to feel more at home in the college town of Amherst.

The true excitement during the summer of 1893 was the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, which President Cleveland opened in a grand ceremony on May 1. The exposition was billed as a celebration of Columbus’s discovery of America four hundred years earlier. Many Americans shared the sentiments of Pope Leo XIII, who wrote in 1892:

...the exploit [Columbus’ discovery of the New World] is in itself the highest and grandest which any age has ever seen accomplished by man; and he who achieved it, for the greatness of his mind and heart, can be compared to but few in the history of humanity. By his toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness, been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life....240

There were lifesize replicas of the Nina, Pinta, and the Santa Maria on display, but in truth Columbus was not as much the centerpiece of the exposition as was America itself, typified by the new metropolis of Chicago, built upon backfilled swampland along the coast of Lake Michigan. Chicago was an ideal candidate to host the Exposition becasue it lay at the epicenter of the nation’s railway system and typified America’s post-war industrail expansion. A city that began as a fur trading post in the early part of the century, with under 200 residents, had become a dominant city of 800,000 people by 1887.241

The center of the Exposition was the Great White City, nicknamed as such because it was illuminated by newly-invented electric lights. The City was a gleaming collection of over 200 builings surrounding an artificial lagoon. One visitor to the Exposition, L. Frank Baum, was so captivated by it that it became the inspiration for the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz. The California Building showcased the state’s agriculture, including prunes, which were used to create a full-size model of a knight on horseback. The Florida Building featured live rattlesnakes, alligators, and even a manatee. Placed in the midst of the factories, slums, and stockyards of Chicago, the Great White City represneted what the city -- and by extension America -- might become. Indeed it inspired an architectural revolution across the nation.

The size of the Great White City was almost unimaginably massive: the Illinois Building, a relaitvely average-sized structure at the exposition, was constructed of 650 tons of iron and 300 million board feet of lumber.242 No doubt echoing the sentiments of many fair-goers, one contemporay obsever lamented that the Great White City would be dismantled after the Expostion ended:

The Bigness of the World's Fair first strikes and bewilders -- one tries in vain to understand it -- and then it saddens. I observe that most people, like Xerxes, set down their tears to the evanescent nature of the show. "Three months more," they say, "and it will be gone like a dream. We weep. The pity of it!" Nay, dear friends, but the Vastness of it!243

By the time the exposition did end on October 30, 1893, a record 27,500,000 million visitors had passed through the Exposition’s front gate. Of those, more than 21 million paid an admission of 50 cents per person to ride the 250-foot Ferris wheel, sample the new snack sensation known as Cracker Jack, and stare in amazement at the scantily-clad Egyptian belly dancers, who danced what Americans would bgean to refer to as the hootchy-kootchy.244


Despite the glorious triumph of the World’s Columbian Exposition, the national mood was souring in the wake of a national financial panic that struck in 1893. In June, while the Exposition was taking place in Chicago, the New York Stock Exchange crashed as silver sollars reached new lows against the greenback. The silver dollar, which had a market value of only 60 to 61 cents, was required by the 1890 Sherman Silver Purchase Act to be redeemed upon request for its face value in gold. Many shrewd investors took advantage of the law by purchasing silver certificates at a discount and redeeming them (at a premium) for gold, and it became less and less clear that the greenbacks in circulation were backed by a sufficent amount of gold. By the end of 1893, 600 banks, 15,000 small businesses, and 75 railroads were bankrupt . An estimated 4 million Americans were unemployed, and many Americans became increasingly skeptical about the ability of President Cleveland to bring about a reversal of fortune. Cleveland was so careful not to cause further national panic that on July 1 he underwent successful surgery for mouth cancer while on a friend’s yacht, where he could keep the operation a secret.245

As if the economic crisis were not enough, President Cleveland was also faced with a foreign policy crisis. In January 1893, in the final months of the administration of Benajmin Harrison, American business interests in Hawaii, led by Judge Sanford B. Dole, staged a successful coup against Hawaiian Queen Liliuokalani. Soon American troops occupied the island. The new provisional government, headed by Dole, signed a treaty with the American government, annexing the nation to the United States. The treaty went to the Senate for ratification, but after President Cleveland was inaugurated in March 1893, he withdrew the treaty and ordered the withdrawl of American troops and the restoration of the monarchy. The provisional government defied Cleveland’s wishes and instituted a new constitution in 1894, making Dole president. By 1898, Hawaii became a teritory of the United States, and Dole was chosen as its first governor.


The real turning point in Calvin’s college career came in the fall of 1893, as he returned to Amherst for his junior year. He recalled that time in his Autobiography:

During my first two years at Amherst I studied hard but my marks were only fair. It needed some encouragement from my father for me to continue. In junior year, however, my powers began to increase and my work began to improve. My studies became more interesting.246

Calvin’s class had the privilege of wearing top hats and carrying canes on special occasions, but were also unfortunate enough to have to sit in the front row in chapel, directly in front of President Gates.

Changing his accomodations once again, Calvin and Percy Deering shared the second floor of “well lighted and pleasant” apartment belonging to a certain Mrs. Avery.247 Like Calvin, Deering was an ouden, although his short, stocky build earned him a place as the starting fullback on the Amherst football team. Calvin went to all the home games that year in a silent show of friendship. Indeed the two men got on so well that the normally timid Coolidge willingly solicited votes from his classmates when Deering ran for an executive position with the student yearbook. Deering reciprocated by refusing an invitation to join the Beta Theta Pi fraternity when its members would not also choose Coolidge.

A taste of Calvin’s experiences during his junior year can be gleaned from a breathless sentence included in letter he wrote to his father on November 2:

In view of the fact that yesterday I put up a debate said to be the best heard on the floor of the chapel this term, in view of the fact that my name was read as one of the first ten in french [sic], and in view of the fact that I passed in natural Philosophy with a fair mark whereas many failed, and lastly in view of the fact that the purchase clause of the Sherman Bill has been repealed thus relieving the cause of financial panic can you send me $25 the forepart of next week?248

The letter reveals those three topics that were foremost in Calvin’s mind -- politics, his courseowrk, and the ever-present need to make ends meet. Calvin’s finances were especially pinched because he and the other six last-place finishers in the traditional junior class Plug Hat Race, a full-out sprint across Pratt Athletic Field, were expected to buy dinner for the entire class. Classmate Russell E. Prentiss recalled he “got laughing so at the rest that I stopped in the middle of the field, and could only walk in, a bad last place.”249 For Coolidge, the silver lining to the whole affair turned out to be the speech he delivered at the dinner in front of his classmates.

Politics, too, was never far from Calvin’s mind. Although 1893 was not a presidential election year, there were several city and state races across the country in November. The results favored the Republicans, who rode a wave of popular discontent with the economic policies of President Cleveland and the Democarts. On November 8, Calvin wrote John, “Republicans are wearing a smile this morning the like of which has not been seen since ‘88[.] [E]ven Brooklyn went [R]epublican the first time for over forty years and New York and Iowa have [R]epublican Governors.”250 (Coolidge, however, was mistaken about some of the deatils: Brooklyn had had a Republican mayor within the past ten years, and New York had not had a mayoral election.) <<ADD MORE HERE FROM BOOK I GOT ON eBAY>>

His coursework was becoming more intersting as well, which may explain why his grades began to improve. No longer did he have to stumble though required coursework; math, Latin, and Greek were all behind him. Now he was able to take those elective courses that were best suited to his interests. He enrolled in Logic and French, not to mention the two courses that would change his life -- Public Speaking and History.

All the History courses at Amherst were taught by Professor Anson D. Morse, a native Verminter who also owned an apple orchard in town that supplied free apples in the fall to unscruplulous students. The two-year course that Coolidge began his junior year was, he wrote later, “very absorning.”251 Professor Morse took the young men from ancient history through medieval and Reniassance history, all the way to modern times. What impressed Collidge most about Morse was his treatment of American history: “The whole course was a thesis on good citizenship and good government. Those who took it came to a clearer comprehension not only of their rights and liberties but of their dutires and responsibilities.”252

The Public Speaking course, taught by Professor Henry A. Frink, gave Coolidge the opportunity to show his fellow students that he was most certainly not the human equivalent of Vermont granite. One feature of the class was the debates, where two students would debate a topic chosen by the instructor. When it came time for Coolidge to take his first turn, some of his classmates doubted that Coolidge would speak, but he did speak, and he spoke very well. Although his style was simple and economical, he handily defeated a much more polished classmate, Jay Stocking. This pattern repeated itself many more times, and soon Coolidge was regarded as a formidable opponent. Later Stocking, who became a minister, recalled, “It was in his junior year that we discovered Coolidge. In that year we began debating, and in the debates we found that he could talk. It was as if a new and gifted man had joined the class.”253

Coolidge displayed his talent for public speaking during the Plug hat Dinner, which was held just before Thanksgiving Day in 1893. At the dinner Coolidge and other six losers in the running race were expected to deliver humorous speeches. He delivered a speech called “Why I Got Stuck,” which was marked by Coolidge’s characteristic dry wit and self-depricating humor. By all accounts, it both stunned and delighted the crowd, and for it Coolidge recieved a standing ovation. By March of 1894, after winning every one of his classroom debates, he won an contest in oratory that awarded him fifty dollars in books.

The attention he earned through his debating prowess was matched by the appreciation his classmates had developed for his finely-tuned wit. A myth about Calvin Coolidge is that he was dry and humorless, but his college expeirence indicates that his peers came to value his deadpan humor, a subtle variety in which, Will Rogers later said, “you got it, or you dident, and it dident make any difference to him.”254 The stories about him at Amherst became legendary. One account was that he refused to eat hot dogs at a boarding house until all the owner’s dogs were accounted for.

If debate was Calvin’s opportunity to share his talent for public speaking, Professor Charles E. Garman’s psychology and philosophy course became the intellectual tipping point in his college career. “It always seemed to me that all our other studes were in the nature of a preparation for the course in philosophy,” Calvin wrote. “To Garman was given a power which took his class up into a high mountain of spiritual life and left them alone with God”255
Garmman used the Socratic method to draw out from his students their thoughts on the most profound issues of existence -- the existence of God, the place of human ebings within the natural world, and so on -- and he trained the young men of Amherst to become criticial thinkers. For all these efforts, Garman earned the undying respect and admiration of his students. “I don’t believe you can appreciate what a strong hold you have on Amherst today,” said Dwight Morrow, a classmate of Coolidge.256 Garman was voted the most popular professor at Amherst by the Class of 1895, and the psychology class he taught was noted the best course.

The hold Garman held over his students was envied by President Gates, who was suspicious of Garman’s orthdoxy and jealous of his popularity. In truth, Garman was a committed Christian whose popularity could not be shaken. Gates did all he could to force Garman to resign his position, but a surge of popular support from alumni and students not only persuaded Garman to stay, but forced Gates to give Garman a raise and end his harassment of the professor. In the end, it was Gates, and not Garman, who stepped down several years later.


Calvin’s senior year at Amherst continued the progress he had made the previous year. The attention Calvin received for the speech at the Plug Hat Dinner drew the attention of the new Phi Gamma Delta ftarernity, who extended Calvin an invitation that he accepted. Almost overnight, he had become known around campus as an intellectual heavyweight whose words were as meaningful as they were uncommon. He and Deering moved into a new rooming house belonging to Dr. Henry E. Paige, a veterinarian who often took Cooligde with him on his rounds.

Regardless, it was not possible even for Coolidge to make a drastic change in his personality. He remained the same shy, aloof, and socially awkward person he was when he entered Amherst as a freshman. The difference in his later college career was that his classmates had discovered the person of substance, depth, and wit who lay below the surface. As one classmate recalled, “It needed a good deal of seeing Coolidge to begin to appreciate him.”257

The social high point of Calvin’s senior year was when he and Percy Deering were invited to join the Phi Delta Gamma fraternity, something that would have been almost unthinkable two years earlier. Cooligde and Deering accepted, although they remained roomates and did not move into the fraternity house. After the young men returned from Christmas vacation, they took their “secret vows” and became full-fledged members. With membership came added costs for suits, membership fees, and even a Greek letter pin. Coolidge did not follow his fraternity brothers by dancing, smoking, or playing cards, but he did have a role to play, as fellow fraternity brother James B. Caruthers recalled:

He took a deep interest in the chapterm was nost faithful in attending “goat” and committee meetings, and while he di not live at the house, he passed considerable time there. We soon began to rely upon his counsel and judgment, and he was a distinct help to us in many serious problems we had to meet at the time.258

By the time graduation day approcahed, Calvin was chosen as one of the Hyde Fifteen, a prestigious group of the top public speakers in the Class of 1895. His classwork in French and Italian was better than he could have expected. Through sheer force of will, Calvin had become a new man at Amherst. “I am from the country and am glad of it,” he wrote to his father in Januray 1895, “but I do not always want to remain a rustic in my ideas and my appearance.”259

Calvin looked forward to graduation, and he saw that a man with a college education was at an advantage. More to the point, he saw that he could play a leadership role -- as yet undefined -- in steering the great American colossos of which he was a part. On November 2, 1894, he wrote his father about the future as he saw it:

The nineteenth century is slipping away. We are now to live in the scientific age of the 20th century and must prepare for it now. There are millions who can only be hands and only a few who can be heads. I believe it is an age where culture and education are going to be more in demand than ever[.] I believe it will be the age of the college man[.] I look to America for the future as I look t[o] Europe for the past.260

Coolidge’s indicated that he shared the traditional American viewpoint that leadership is to be weilded for the common good. Later, as vice president, Coolidge said, “Great men are the ambassadors of Providence sent to reveal to their fellow men their unknown selves. To them is granted the power to call forth the best there is in those who come under their influence.”261

One way in which Calvin showed his skills was by delivering the Grove Oration. At the beginning of his senior year, he was given that honor by an overwhelming vote of his fellow seniors. As the end of the year approached, Coolidge spent weeks working on the speech, which he intended to be something more weighty than the lighter and more rhetorical speeches he had delivered in speech class. He was undoubtedly nervous: “There is nothing in the world [that] gives me so much pleasure as to feel that I have made a good speech and nothing gives me more pain than to think I have made a poor one.”262


Calvin’s final college days were dedicated to preparing for graduation, with all that entailed. His coursework was finished, and he did not make the finals of public speaking contests in which some of his classmates was involved. Apart from laboring over his Grove Oration, his other main task was posing for the class picture, which he did by standing in the back of the photo, holding a book and displaying the hair he had grown longer than unusual. Just as in the freshman photo, the senior photo shows Calvin looking away from the camera, seemingly lost in thought.

Finally on Tuesday, June 25, 1895, the day for the Grove Oration had arrived. The speech was to be delivered outside in the College Grove, a shady area boasting ancient trees. Calvin began speaking, and soon his classmates, who were sprawled out on the grass, began to burst out in laughter and yelled for him to repeat some lines. The speech as a whole was a string of insults and teasing. Classmates, teachers, and staff were victims of Calvin’s dry wit. Still, Calvin managed to impress Amherst alumnus and future Supreme Court Justice Harlan Stone, on hand for the speech, with “the humor, the quiet dignity and the penetrating philosophy of his oration.”263 Coolidge ended his speech with these words:

Wherever we go, whatever we are, scientific or classical, conditioned or unconditioned, degreed or disagreed, we are going to be Amherst men. And whoever sees a purple and white button marked with '95 shall see the emblem of a class spirit that will say, "Old Amherst, doubtless always right, but right or wrong, Old Amherst"264

As one early biographer noted, “That Coolidge’s cheif fame among his mates should have come from the Plug Hall Speech and the Grove Oration, both deliberately humorous, will not seem strange to those who knew him well.”265

The commencement was held on Wednesday, June 26, 1895. John and Carrie Coolidge came down from Vermont to witness their son’s college graduation. The Class of 1895, a group consisting of seventy-five young men, sat in College Hall and listened to eight speakers from the gradating class before they recieved their displomas. Calvin graduated cum laude. The graduation ceremonies ended with an Alumni Luncheon and an evening sendoff at the home of President Gates.

Calvin loved Amherst. On June 18, 1919, Coolidge, then Governor of Massachusetts, delivered the college’s commencement address:

But I should fail in my duty and negelct my deep conviction of I did not declare that in my day there was no better place to educate a young man. Most of them came with a relaization that their coming meant a sacrifice at home. They may have lacked a proficiency in the arts of the drawing room which something brought a smile; but no competitor met the Amherst men of that day on the athletic field or in the postgraduate school with a smile that did not soon come off. They had their pranks and sprees, but they had the ideas of a true manhood. They were moved with a serious purpose. He would has less lacked place among them. They are come and gone from the campus, those man of the early nineties, and with them went the power to command.266

He was elected as a life trustee in 1921 during his vice presdiency, and was considered for presdient of the college in 1929, once he had left the White House. Looking back on his time at Amherst, Coolidge recalled the lessons he learned there:

In the development of every boy who is going to amount to anything there comes a time when he emerges from his immature ways and by the greater precision of his thought and action realizes that he has begun to find himself. Such a transition finally came to me. it was not accidental but the result of hard work. If I had permitted my failures, or what seemed to me at the time a lack of success, to discourage me I cannot see any way in which I would ever have made progress. If we keep our faith in ourselves, and what is even more important, keep our faith in regular and persistent application to hard work, we need not worry about the outcome.”267

Before and during his work on the Grove Oration, Calvin quite naturaly began to contemplate life after Amherst. Few of Calvin’s classmates expected that life to be anything more than ordinary. One later wrote, “I think it would be stretching the facts a little to say that, other than having a high regard for him personally and recognizing his ability for quiet humor, we expected much from him, for we did not.”268

When it came to a specific career, Coolidge’s mind was unsettled. In his junior year, Calvin thought he might retrun to Plymouth and take over operations at the country store, but he admitted that it was “because I may owe some debt to the place some duty that claims my first consideration.”269 At one time he also thought he might want to operate his grandmother’s farm. As time went on, he gravitated more toward law school, although in the spring of 1895 he could honestly write to his father, “I have not decided to study law.”270

There is a story, perhaps somewhat embellished, of Calvin and friend Dwight Morrow taking time out after the graduation ceremony to lay on the grass and discuss their futures. According to Morrow, he told Coolidge that he was planning to go to Pittsburgh. When Morrow asked Coolidge about his own plans, Calvin answered, “Northampton is the nearest cout house.”271

Regardless of whether the story is true, there is little doubt that by graduation time, Calvin had finally decided upon his future, although the exact details remained hazy. As he rode the train back home to Plymouth with his father and stepmother, his college days now finished, he began to ponder the new life stretched out before him.


Calvin’s Grove Address opened up possibilities for him that might otherwise have been closed. Northampton attorney John C. Hammond, Amherst Class of 1865, heard the speech and was quite taken with the witty young Coolidge. When Calvin epxressed his desire to enter the legal profession, Hammond offered him a clerk’s psot at his firm of Hammond and Field, then the most prominent in Northampton. Hammond “was a lawyer of great learning and wide business experience,” realled Coolidge.272

It alsmost didn’t happen. Calvin had originally desired to study law in his home state of Vermont. On August 30, 1895, he wrote to the former governor of Vermont and then practicing attorney William P. Dillingham to enlist his help:

If I could get into a good office I am thinking of reading there for some time, or perhaps finishing my perparation for the bar, rather than going to law school. Is there a vacancy with your firm?
If there is any hope of your considering the proposition favorably I should be pleased to go up to the city to talk with you or you can advise me by mail as to the terms you would make if you ever bother with students.
I am just out of college and am somehwta undecided between the school and the office. Can you give me any suggestion? Could you take me after I had spent some time, sat a year or two, in a school?273

Dillingham wrote back to offer Calvin a post with his law firm in Montpelier, but his letter arrived too late. By then he had already accepted an invitation from Hammond and Field to be a clerk in their office. “I had already reverted to Massachusetts,” Calvin wrote in his Autobiography, “where my family had lived for one hundred and fifty years before thier advent into Vermont.”274

Before he could meet with Field and Hammond, he had some unfinished business to take care of at the local barbershop: “That I was now engaged in the serious enterprise of life I so fully realized that I went to the barber shop and divested myself of the college fashion of long hair.”275 In early September, Coolidge went to Northampton after classmate Ernest W. Hardy, a clerk at a nearby law office, offered to make introductions to Hammond and his partner, Henry P. Field, a member of Amherst’s class of 1880. Years later, Field recalled that Hardy did most of the talking once Coolidge had said “Good morning.”276 Field did not promise Coolidge very much suerpvision, but he did say that he was free to read the firm’s legal materials and absorb all he could. Years later, Coolidge dscribed Field as “an able lawyer and a man of engaging personality and polish.”277

Northmapton, where Hammond and Field located their law practice, was settled in 1654. By Calvin’s time, the town had enjoyed a long and storied history. It played an important, albeit indrect, role in the American Revolution because it was the epicenter of the Great Awakening, a massive revival of the Christian religion brought about by the preaching of Jonatahn Edwards in 1734. The revivial spread throughout the Thirteen Colonies, and it eventually helped the colonists understand that what united them, New Hampshire to Georgia, was more powerful that what united them to England. After the Revolution, native sons served as Governors and United States Senators.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Northampton had reinvented itself as a college town. Calvin knew about Smith College, a women’s school, which was founded in 1875, but there were others: Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts Agricultural College, the Clarke Institute for the Deaf, to mention a few. As with other college towns, Northampton boasted a rich cultural life that was in some ways disproporiobate to its population of 15,000.

Northampton was a relatively small town, largely Yankee, and soon the townspeople were aware that a young Amherst graduate was the newest clerk at Hammond and Field. As he did at B.R.A. and Amherst, Calvin developed a reputation as a shy young man of few words. He minded his own business, which was something that earned him respect in New England, and his personal life was refreshingly free of scandal. In reality he had little time to get himself into trouble:

Office hours were from eight to about six o’clock, during which I spent my time in reading Kent’s Commentaries and in helping prepare writs, deeds, wills, and other documents. My evenings I gave to some of the masters of English composition....Some of the orations of Cicero I translated...I read much in Milton and Shakespeare and found delight in the shorter powems of Kipling, Field, and Riley.278

He set before him the simple but complex task of learning the law. Indeed, “All my waking hours were so fully employed that I found little time for play.” But Coolidge was not harmed: “I was full of the joy of doing something in the world.”279 Then there was the matter of money, and Collidge’s frugality here asserted itself. His father had given him thirty dollars per month, and he “was determined to livewithin it, which I did.”280

His first Christmas out of school he was awarded the gold medal for best senior class composition from the Sons of the American Revolution for the best essay on “The Principles Fought for in the American Revolution.” The prize was $150. The prize not only made Calvin a little richer, but it appeared to put to rest any lingering doubts his father had rconcerning the worth of the education he had recieved at Amherst. “He had questioned some whether I was really making anything of my education, in pretense I now think, not because he doubted it but because he wished to impress me with the desirability of demonstrating it.”281


In 1896, Coolidge got another taste of national politics. During the free silver campaign, he wrote a rebuttal to a Bryan defender, and took part in a debate in which he supported the gold standard. “Of course,” Coolidge wrote, “Northampton went handsomely for McKinley.”282

McKinley to a Christian group in San Francisco: “He who serves the Master best serves man best, and he who serves truth serves civilization. There is nothing that lasts so long or wears so well and is of such inestimable advantage to the pssessor as high character and an upright life, and that is what you teach by example and by instruction.”283

Coolidge kept up this schedule at the law firm from September 1895 until June 1897. Then he took the bar exam and passed. “I was pronounhced qualified...and just before July 4, 1897, I was duly admitted to practice before the Courts of Massachusetts.”284

On July 9, 1897, he wrote to his father from Northampton: “Apparently there is no course for me but to open a law office in Northampton at a cost of about $700 and the probability of not making a living for a long time.”285

Coolidge, ever cautious, delayed notifiying his father. ‘Only after I was finally in possession of my certificate did I notify my father. he had expected that my studies would take another year, and I wanted to surprise him if I succeded and not disappoint him if I failed. I did not fail. I was just twenty-five years old and very happy.”286

Coolidge reflected on the last decade from Academy (1886) to Bar (1897) and also looked ahead:
“They had been years full of experience for me, in which I had advanced from a child to a man...My formal period of education was passed, though my studies are still pursued. I was devoted to the law...I fully expected to become the kind of country lawyer I saw all about me, spending my life in the profession, with perhaps a final place on the Bench. But it was decreed to be otherwise. Some Power that I little suspected in my student days took me in charge and carried me on from the obscure neighborhood at Plymouth Notch to the occupancy of the White House.”287

Calvin was now a lawyer. “It is one thing to know how to get admitted to the Bar but quite another thing to know how to practice law.”288 Why did he choose law? “When I decided to enter the law it was only natural, therefore, that I should consider it the highest of the professions. If I had not held that opinion it would have been a measure of intellectual dishonesty for me to take it for a life work.”289

He stayed in the offices of Hammond and Field for five seven months after passing the Bar. Then he set up offices in the newly-constructed Masonic Building on lowe Main Street in Northampton. “I had two rooms, where I was to continue to practice law for twenty-one years, until I became Governor of Massachusetts in 1919.”290

While his law practice was earning Calvin a decent living, it had come at a cost. “I was alone,” Coolideg recalled. “While I had many acquaintances that I might call friends I had no influential supporters who were desirous to see me advanced and were sending business to me. I was dependent on the general public; what I had, came from them.”291


The political itch was also something that Calvin continued to scrath in Northampton. He joined the Republican City Committee and in 1898 was elected to the City Council from Ward Two. The position was important for Coolidge. “The office was without salary and not important, but the contacts were helpful.”292 Business, naturally, began to expand, coming in from around the county.

November 19, 2003
Iraq Isn't Vietnam - Let's Hope It's Like The Philippines

By Mort Kondracke

While President Bush's critics persistently liken Iraq to Vietnam, it's possible that Iraq could resemble the Philippines, where the United States waged a successful anti-guerrilla war from 1899 to 1902.

Parallels between Iraq and the Philippines are drawn by American Enterprise Institute military expert Thomas Donnelly, who argues that counter-insurgency struggles "most assuredly can be won."

Like the latest war in Iraq, the Spanish-American War was waged by a first-term Republican president, William McKinley, allegedly using doctored intelligence and at the instigation of jingoistic ideologues.

It was won swiftly, too, with minimal casualties (379 U.S. troops lost in the Philippines) and with the president declaring that the United States was the "liberator" of the Philippine people.

Unfortunately, as Donnelly wrote in an article on AEI's Web site, U.S. occupying forces soon were attacked by nationalist guerrillas who killed 4,200 Americans before the United States won in 1902.

Donnelly asserts that in Iraq, the United States has the advantage of fighting not against nationalists who could legitimately argue that they were fighting against imperialists, but against Baathists who offer Iraq only a return to tyranny.

However, to win in Iraq, Donnelly argues, the Bush administration needs to follow the example set by McKinley: provide enough troops and allow local commanders enough autonomy to tailor their tactics to local circumstances.

Another Washington foreign policy scholar, Geoffrey Kemp of the Nixon Center, agrees that the United States can win in Iraq, but he draws parallels to the costly British victory in the Boer War in South Africa that occurred simultaneously with the Philippine insurgency.

"Britain was at the height of its imperial power and contemptuous of everyone else," Kemp told me. "The whole world cheered every time the Boers [Dutch-speaking colonialists] won a victory and humiliated the British. At the end of it, Britain won, but it had to abandon its splendid isolation."

The difference is, of course, that the United States is not fighting to control Iraq or even to stay there. Moreover, while much of the world may resent U.S. power, it has to quake at the prospect of a victory by followers of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden.

So, the question is, how to win? In an interview, Donnelly said the United States needs more troops in Iraq than it presently has there - "but they have to be the right kind of troops. They need to be dismounted, out of their tanks, walking around and getting to know the locals."

In the article he wrote with AEI researcher Vance Serchuk, Donnelly argued that "the first lesson of counterinsurgency ... is to encourage innovative, adaptive military leadership at the local level, rather than trying to micromanage the conflict from afar."

In the Philippines, the insurgency was concentrated in southwest Luzon, much as it is concentrated in the Sunni heartland of Iraq around Baghdad.

"Pacifying" an area, he told me, involves "bringing in overwhelming force so that the price of striking by the enemy is very high, then bringing in the Iraqis to help police the area and quickly slamming in civilian and economic reconstruction to make things better for the population.

"Once you've thrown a wet blanket onto the fire in one place, you go on to the next," he said. In the Philippines, the U.S. cause was aided by the emergence of a nationwide political movement, the Federalist Party, that favored modernization along American lines.

In Iraq, no pro-U.S. party has emerged. The Bush administration hopes to build support by giving more power to the Iraqi Governing Council.

Former Clinton administration diplomat Marc Ginsberg, just back from Iraq, says a key to winning political support is simply "buying it" with more money. Local military commanders until recently were spending funds from the $800 million in cash that Hussein had hoarded, but that money is gone and has not yet been replaced by flows from the $87 billion appropriation just passed by Congress.

According to Donnelly, "the real strategic center of gravity," both in the Philippines and Iraq, was and is "U.S. public opinion."

Even though 4,200 Americans were killed in the Philippines and insurgents stepped up their attacks in 1900 in hopes of affecting the outcome of the U.S. elections, "the American public rallied around the flag and returned McKinley to the White House with the largest electoral majority in nearly thirty years."

Citing other experts, Donnelly contends that Americans are fundamentally more "defeat-phobic" than "casualty-phobic" - more worried about losing a war than losing soldiers to win a war.

"It is critical for the Bush administration to continue to articulate the importance of the U.S. mission in Iraq and explain the nature of the progress we are making there," he wrote.

In the process, the administration needs to educate the public that Vietnam is not the only guerrilla war America has ever fought and that we can win this one because we've done it before.

Mort Kondracke is the Executive Editor of Roll Call.


U.S. Counterinsurgency in Iraq
Lessons from the Philippine War
By Thomas Donnelly, Vance Serchuk
Posted: Monday, November 3, 2003
AEI Online  (Washington)
Publication Date: November 1, 2003
 The strategy of guerrilla war is to pit one man against ten, but the tactic is to pit ten men against one.--Mao Tse-Tung

Since sweeping Saddam Hussein's regime from power this spring, U.S. forces in Iraq have been confronted by an amorphous guerrilla resistance, concentrated around the so-called Sunni Triangle. While growing numbers of Iraqis are working with coalition soldiers, provisional authorities, and international aid workers to lay the foundations for a democratic society, insurgents are waging a determined campaign of terror against them. To prevail, the U.S. military must develop an effective counterinsurgency strategy. History offers several precedents on how to do so.
In conceptualizing the complex set of tactical and strategic challenges posed by postwar Iraq, "counterinsurgency" has always been a popular buzzword. In fact, it was only a few days after coalition tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti border in March that a British fusilier on the road to Basra warned the Washington Post that the conflict "has taken on more of a counterinsurgency feel."[1]
With American soldiers repeatedly ambushed in the areas around Baghdad this summer, the Pentagon also began to reorient its postwar operations toward counterinsurgency. In June and July, it launched a series of large-scale raids--Operation Peninsula Strike, Operation Desert Scorpion, and Operation Soda Mountain--designed to seize weapons caches, demolish guerrilla infrastructure, and prevent Baathists from regrouping. Implicit in the sweeps was a recognition that the U.S. military had underestimated the tenacity of the Iraqi irregulars--having initially assumed the violence to be nothing more than the last gasps of a dying regime--and that American soldiers were now facing a "classic, low-level insurgency."
But what does this mean? For many journalists and defense analysts, unfortunately, counterinsurgency operations continue to be viewed through an ideological prism stuck in the 1960s. In place of measured analysis, the term provokes a rush of damning stereotypes: shadow wars in the jungles of Southeast Asia, waged in the absence of oversight and rife with human rights abuses; wrenching, disorienting conflicts in which allies become indistinguishable from enemies, and strengths indistinguishable from weaknesses. Counterinsurgency, in short, becomes code for a kind of war that cannot be won-a fatalistic conviction neatly captured in a dispatch from the Knight Ridder News Service this July:

The pattern of attack and counterattack looks like classic guerrilla warfare, in which a weaker foe attacks in the place of his choosing, then melts into the population. The harder an occupying force pounds back, the more it alienates the populace, creating communities that accept, if not actively support, armed resistance.
The Americans learned it the hard way in Vietnam, the Russians in Afghanistan, the British in Northern Ireland, and now, it seems, the same scenario may be unfolding in Iraq.[2]

Like most stereotypes, however, this depiction of counterinsurgency is simplistic and misleading. While these campaigns may lack the clarity of two opposing armies clashing on a barren plain, they most assuredly can be won. In fact, the United States has repeatedly triumphed in what Max Boot has called "the savage wars of peace."[3]
The Bush administration is making significant strides in Iraq, and its courageous decision to recommit resources there has set the stage for further progress. At the same time, as the Pentagon struggles to secure victory against the guerrillas and, indeed, determine what "victory" in this context even means, it is useful to examine the "small wars" of our past. Rather than imagine Iraq as postwar Germany or Japan, military planners and policymakers would do well to study the lessons of the Philippine War (1899-1902), perhaps the most successful counterinsurgency campaign waged by a Western army in the past 200 years.
Free Man's Burden

A first-term Republican president takes the country to war, justifying the invasion and occupation of foreign territory with a joint appeal to strategic imperative and human rights. Democrats cry imperialism, egged on by a "who's who" of celebrities and intellectuals. They claim the White House has committed an act of aggression on the basis of doctored intelligence and at the instigation of a group of irresponsible, hawkish ideologues. And while major combat operations are swiftly and decisively concluded in America's favor, with only a handful of casualties and an attendant swell of patriotic pride, U.S. forces are subsequently dragged into a violent counterinsurgency campaign against an elusive band of insurrectionists. Predictably, the war soon becomes the central issue of the president's reelection campaign.[4]
Sound familiar? Present-day Iraq, of course, or the Philippines a century ago.
The history of the latter conflict properly begins with the Spanish-American War of 1898, which was to be, in Secretary of State John Hay's memorable phrase, a "splendid little war." Its prime purpose was to secure Cuba's liberation from Spain, which was weak and reviled by Americans for its brutal, repressive policies on the island.
Yet the war on Spanish imperialism did not commence in the Caribbean. Instead, thanks to the machinations of Undersecretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, it began on the other side of the world with Commodore George Dewey's devastating attack against the Spanish armada in Manila Bay. As a result, when the Treaty of Paris was concluded in December of that year, President William McKinley was stuck with the question not only of what to do with Cuba, but also with the Philippines, a fractious archipelago that many Americans couldn't even find on a map.[5]
To be sure, the United States had a compelling strategic rationale to annex the islands. The Philippines were prime real estate for coaling stations, necessary to project naval power in the Pacific and coveted by the Germans, French, British, and Japanese, all of whom dispatched warships to shadow Dewey's fleet. With a rogue's gallery of imperialists waiting to devour the archipelago, Americans were understandably reluctant to sail away.
But neither superpower rivalry nor narrow self-interest can fully account for the energetic U.S. commitment to transform internal Filipino politics, as codified in President McKinley's decision to pursue a policy of "benevolent assimilation." In February 1899, a week before the Senate voted to annex the islands, McKinley delivered a speech in Boston explaining why the country should shoulder this considerable political, economic, and military burden. Standing beneath portraits of Washington, Lincoln, and himself (as well as a banner that read, "Liberators," lest anyone miss the theme), the president argued his case:

I cannot bound my vision by the blood-stained trenches around Manila-where every red drop, whether from the veins of an American soldier or a misguided Filipino, is anguish to my heart-but by the broad range of future years, when . . . [Filipinos] shall for ages hence bless the American republic because it emancipated and redeemed their fatherland, and set them in the pathway of the world's best civilization.[6]

While McKinley's decision to sacrifice American lives for the betterment of the Philippines may have pleased Teddy Roosevelt and other progressive expansionists of the day, it was also politically risky. The president's stated goal was, by the standards of the time, not much less ambitious than George W. Bush's commitment to establish a beachhead of freedom in the heart of a hostile Middle East.[7]
Indeed, even as McKinley spun his dream of Filipino-American amity, U.S. soldiers were falling into a war against the nationalist forces of Emilio Aguinaldo, who had proclaimed himself dictator of the islands. Although the U.S. Army quickly established its superiority over Aguinaldo's more numerous troops in conventional combat, overrunning entrenchments that were "beautifully made and wretchedly defended,"[8] it proved a pyrrhic victory. The number of U.S. "boots on the ground"--while adequate to win the war--was insufficient to secure the peace:

[With a force] numbering only some 26,000 troops, of which less than half could be spared for active operations in Luzon, [Commander of U.S. forces Major General Elwell S.] Otis could not occupy the territory his forces moved through so easily. Time and time again, his soldiers trudged through the rice paddies and hills, fought a few skirmishes with Aguinaldo's forces, occupied a provincial capital or key city, and then withdrew to Manila. The arrival of the monsoon in late May found the Army exhausted.[9]

This dearth of manpower was exacerbated by General Otis's decision to postpone a request for additional troops, out of a mistaken belief that the war was essentially over. By the time reinforcements finally arrived in November 1899, the insurrectos had taken full advantage of the operational pause to lay the groundwork for protracted guerrilla warfare. Just as the enlarged U.S. force wiped away the last remnants of the rebel Republican Army, the insurgents dissolved into the villages and countryside, where they cut telegraph wires, ambushed U.S. Army convoys, and murdered Filipinos willing to work with the American civil government. Gangs of thieves also proliferated, exploiting the lack of civil order to establish their own criminal fiefdoms.
In the face of these formidable obstacles and less than a year from a presidential election, the U.S. military--undermanned, in a hostile environment, thousands of miles from home--developed a bold counterinsurgency strategy that effectively pacified the Philippines. How did they do it?
Keep It Local

War, Clausewitz famously wrote, is the continuation of politics by other means, and counterinsurgency is the most overtly political kind of war.
Like an effective political campaign, counterinsurgency should be animated by an overarching and clearly-defined vision that endows the endeavor with a distinct purpose. At the same time, however, counterinsurgency is waged, won, and lost at a grassroots level. This is because guerrillas, in the face of a competent conventional force, are usually unable to establish a system of countrywide command-and-control; by necessity, tactical decisions devolve to the regions, cities, and towns, where there is greater pressure to adapt to local realities.
This localization can be witnessed both in the Philippines a century ago and Iraq today, where American soldiers encounter radically different strategic challenges as they move from region to region, town to town. L. Paul Bremer, head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, has rightly stressed that 90 percent of the attacks in Iraq occur in 5 percent of the country; in the Philippines, too, there was no fighting in most of the archipelago. Instead, the insurrection was confined almost entirely to the island of Luzon and, even there, conditions varied drastically among different military districts.
In the provinces of southwestern Luzon, for example, resistance to the American occupation was fierce. The region was predominantly Tagalog, the ethnic group associated with the insurrection, and it was here, in early 1900, that the rebel leadership of the Republican Army ordered its soldiers to disperse into the villages. Military historian Brian McAllister Linn explains:

The guerrillas [in the southwest] were well led and able to establish a strong infrastructure in the Army-occupied towns. The Tagalog composition of the population and the support of the native elite gave the guerrillas much more popular support than elsewhere in Luzon. Early [U.S.] attempts at civil government, native police, or social reforms were countered by guerrilla infrastructures and terrorism.[10]

As in the outlying towns of the Sunni triangle like Falluja and Ramadi--the very last part of Iraq to which coalition soldiers were deployed--the creation of a robust guerrilla infrastructure in southwest Luzon was also enabled by the late arrival of the U.S. Army in the area. This gave rebel leaders almost a year to prepare for their guerra de emboscadas ("war of ambushes").
Even as the U.S. Army struggled against insurgents in southwestern Luzon, conditions in the island's northern provinces were entirely different. There, the resistance failed to attract widespread support from the ethnically mixed population, which provided the Americans with a reliable corps of supporters and informers. As in much of northern and southern Iraq today, local elites felt threatened by the insurrectionist project and actively opposed the guerrillas' attempts to establish support networks inside their towns. Confined to the countryside, rebel operations were limited to harassing tactics that, while a nuisance, failed to mount a serious challenge to the U.S. occupation.
Wisely, the U.S. military did not attempt to impose a uniform solution over this checkerboard strategic landscape but instead modified its tactics to fit local circumstances. Admittedly, this was less the conscious decision of U.S. Army Headquarters in Manila than an inevitable consequence of American force posture on the islands, in which troops were dispersed across some 400 garrisons. As Max Boot argues: "While the men complained about life in the boondocks . . . their very isolation forced them to become well acquainted with their area and the people who lived there. This in turn gave them good intelligence, the prerequisite for effective counterinsurgency operations."[11]
The first lesson of counterinsurgency, then, is to encourage innovative, adaptive military leadership at the local level, rather than trying to micromanage the conflict from afar. Although the Defense Department has been roundly condemned for failing to develop a comprehensive, integrated plan for postwar Iraq, it bears noting that the Philippine counterinsurgency was successful precisely because it did not unfold as a unified campaign, run from Washington or Manila, but rather, as a handful of semi-autonomous, regional counterinsurgencies waged in cooperation.
In Iraq, too, it is vital that U.S. policymakers resist the temptation to treat the insurgency as monolithic. Pacification tactics that prove effective in Mosul may be radically inappropriate in Basra. But cultivating a network of informers and gauging the public mood cannot be accomplished at a distance or on the fly. Instead, it requires U.S. troops--like cops on the beat or politicians on the campaign trail--to engage in sustained, personalized interaction with local inhabitants. As one U.S. soldier recently told the New York Times: "You've got to be on the ground to get the truth."[12]
Going Native

The Philippine War also illustrates the extent to which the success of a counterinsurgency is ultimately defined by the degree and intensity of indigenous support it is able to secure, whether by carrots or sticks. Progress is best measured neither by the number of engagements with the enemy nor in casualties inflicted or sustained. Rather, the path to victory is marked by gradual transfers of power from the occupying force to responsible and sustainable institutions of self-governance. 
Here, the localization of an insurgency becomes both its tactical strength and its strategic weakness. In the short term, it is obviously easier to win hearts and minds in some places (e.g. Kurdistan) than in others (e.g. the Sunni Triangle). In the face of a hostile or apathetic population, counterinsurgency is almost certain to be--in Secretary Rumsfeld's words--a long, hard slog. But localization also means that U.S. troops, once they have pacified a friendly town or region, can leverage the political institutions and elites established there against more recalcitrant areas. At the same time, conventional forces can be funneled away from self-governing regions into hot spots, gradually ratcheting up the pressure against the insurgents.
In the Philippines, for instance, the Army was able to recruit cadres of local supporters in northern Luzon--drawing on ethnic groups hostile to the Tagalogs--but faltered in its attempts to replicate these successes in the southwestern provinces. Long after the rest of the island had been pacified, bonds of family, community, and ethnicity continued to frustrate American efforts against insurrectos there: "Officered by the local elite and recruited from a small area . . . the scattered [rebel] forces could quickly assemble, strike, and disperse, secure in the knowledge that local inhabitants, many of whom were relatives of friends, would deny all information to the American pursuers."[13] Consequently, Army operations were limited to constant patrols and "roundups":

Operating at night, a patrol would make a quick march, surround a barrio, and then conduct an intensive house-to-house search for weapons, supplies, suspects, and correspondence. . . . The inhabitants were interrogated, often by a paid interpreter or former guerrilla, and suspects were marched away to jail.[14]

If this description sounds strikingly similar to U.S. operations in the Sunni Triangle, it is because--for all the technological innovations of the past century--the fundamentals of counterinsurgency have remained remarkably constant. Then, as now, it is a manpower-intensive operation highly dependent on effective intelligence gathering and human interaction.
For precisely this reason, U.S.-led patrols--while effective in disrupting large-scale guerrilla infrastructure and stalemating the insurrectos--were insufficient to decisively crush the insurgency in southwestern Luzon. Desultory attacks against U.S. forces continued, along with terrorism that specifically targeted Filipinos working with American authorities; attempts to hold municipal elections stumbled, as "the edge of a bolo and the hand of an assassin are the price [any native] would pay for . . . holding office under American rule."[15]
Rather than scale back the American presence or hand over the unruly provinces to Filipinos ill-prepared to pacify them, the U.S. Army, under General Arthur MacArthur, exploited the relative calm in other regions to redirect troops into the southwest. MacArthur also issued General Order 100--the U.S. Army code of warfare promulgated during the Civil War--as part of a new campaign "based upon the central idea of detaching the towns from the immediate support of the guerrillas in the field."[16]
MacArthur's tactics placed particular pressure on recalcitrant local leaders, threatening their economic and social power while simultaneously dangling incentives for cooperation. In the latter respect, the counterinsurgency campaign was aided by the emergence of the Federalist Party, a nationwide political movement that championed the progressive modernization of the Philippines along American lines. The Federalistas offered incontrovertible evidence of the political and economic advantages of working with the Americans, and because many were former revolutionaries themselves, they proved highly adept at arranging defections. By June 1901, the U.S. Army had also deployed Tagalog units in the southwest that had been recruited in other provinces, effectively undermining the ethnic dimension of the insurgency. Thus, when one of the last rebel leaders finally surrendered, he attributed his decision not only to the dogged pursuit of U.S. troops, but also "the persecution of the insurgent soldiers by the people [and] the search for myself by the people."[17]
Yet even after the elimination of top rebel commanders, guerrilla infrastructure in southwestern Luzon proved sufficiently localized, personalized, and informal for small bands of the most ideologically driven partisans to persevere. For such dead-enders, it was America's "civilizing mission that inspired much of the viciousness of the war: the Army's mission of making the Filipinos passively accept United States authority ran directly counter to the revolutionaries' determination that the people should actively support independence."[18]
In Iraq, too, the development of new elites and institutions will certainly serve to constrain and weaken the insurgency, hopefully to the tipping point. At the same time, progress in fostering a democratic, representative, and tolerant society is unlikely to diminish the fervor with which the most loyal corps of Iraqi Baathists and international Islamists battle its emergence. Even as we push for an independent political and military authority in Baghdad, we should not be so na•ve as to think that its creation will make every last insurgent lay down his arms or permit every last U.S. soldier to return home; to the contrary, our success will only intensify the hatred and desperation at the ideological heart of this movement-along with our responsibility to combat it.
The Real Strategic Center of Gravity

This, in turn, leads to the last lesson of the Philippine war: that counterinsurgency is a test of American political leadership as much as of its military might. In such campaigns, the "real" strategic center of gravity is U.S. public opinion.
The classic guerrilla strategy is not to win, but to hold out and prevent the other side from winning. In the Philippines, insurrectos hoped "to protract the war until either the U.S. Army broke down . . . or the American public demanded a withdrawal."19 In the words of Brigadier General Samuel Sumner, theirs was a policy of "negative opposition."[20]
In Iraq, too, it is surely the feverish hope of insurgents that a steady stream of American casualties will fray American resolve, whether in the West Wing over the coming months or at the ballot box next year. Today, as in the Philippines a century ago, counterinsurgency is proving to be a bloodier affair than conventional combat. While 379 U.S. soldiers were killed in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War in 1898, more than 4,200 Americans died in the fight against the insurrectos. Yet these casualties--which dwarf American losses in Iraq--did not translate into political defeat for the McKinley administration. In fact, although guerrillas escalated their attacks on U.S. troops in the fall of 1900 in the hope of influencing the presidential election, the stratagem backfired on both sides of the Pacific. Not only did the rebel offensive provoke the U.S. Army to redouble its counterinsurgency efforts, but the American public rallied around the flag and returned McKinley to the White House with the largest electoral margin in nearly thirty years.
As President Bush ponders the political ramifications of his Iraq policy for next year's election, he would do well to procure an advance copy of Christopher Gelpi and Peter Feaver's compelling new book, Choosing Your Battles: American Civil-Military Relations and the Use of Force. In it, Gelpi and Feaver argue persuasively that the American public is more "defeat-phobic" than "casualty-phobic."  In other words, they are more worried about losing a war than losing soldiers in order to win a war.[21] The consequences of this are vitally important in formulating a successful counterinsurgency against insurgents in Iraq.
Because victory in such campaigns is rarely accompanied by imagery as satisfying or explicit as the American flag fluttering over an enemy capital or U.S. troops toppling statues of hated despots, it is critical for the Bush administration to continue to articulate the importance of the U.S. mission in Iraq and explain the nature of the progress we are making there. In particular, it should strive to put an Iraqi face on this project--not just in Iraq, but at home.
At the same time, the Bush administration should not attempt to obscure or downplay the challenges that remain before us, either in its public pronouncements or internal calculations. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, hit precisely the right note during a press conference in early October when he stated, bluntly but honestly: "As long as we are here, the coalition needs to be prepared to take casualties."[22]
The Bush administration's references to "a generational commitment" in Iraq are likewise welcome, insofar as counterinsurgencies seldom end quickly. In the case of the Philippines, President Roosevelt declared victory on July 4, 1902, by which time resistance on Luzon had been largely crushed. But even as political and military authority shifted from the United States to Filipinos themselves, the continuing presence of U.S. troops was essential to maintaining peace and order there. More than a century after "winning" the Philippine War, American soldiers are working with their Filipino counterparts to coordinate a counterinsurgency campaign against Abu Sayyaf, an Islamist terrorist group based in the southern Philippines with ties to Al Qaeda.
It is neither cynical nor defeatist to acknowledge that the U.S. military commitment to help Iraqis secure their country against the enemies of democracy may prove to be similarly enduring.

There is one respect in which the Iraqi insurgency differs considerably from that which unfolded in the Philippines. The insurrectos of the latter conflict had a clearly defined political agenda that they aggressively marketed to their fellow citizens. Rebel commanders distributed public letters arguing their case, appealing to sentiments of patriotism, nationalism, and self-sovereignty. Their message, quite simply, was that the Philippines should be ruled by Filipinos, without interference from an unelected colonial government.
Today, by contrast, it is the United States that is attempting to create an Iraq that is ruled by Iraqis, while it is insurgents who wish to reassert the tyranny of an unelected minority over the rest of their country. Perhaps this is why there is no political wing to the Iraqi insurgency; no Baathist equivalent to Emilio Aguinaldo or Ho Chi Minh; no videotaped messages left behind by the suicide bombers for broadcast on Al Jazeera. Their cause hides in the shadows; its only public manifestation is violence. Indeed, the most unusual feature of this insurgency is its steadfast refusal to articulate any set of principles before the world. Thus, in the face of such nihilistic terrorism, the United States has an ideological advantage absent in many "small wars" of our past. In the Iraqi counterinsurgency, a great deal of history remains to be written.

1.  Captain Jim Bowen of the British Signal Corps explained: "The buzzword here is 'asymmetrical battle'. . . . Instead of going in like last time with a clenched fist, we're kind of poking. Unfortunately, we've got many years of experience in Belfast [with this sort of operation],"  Keith B. Richburg, "British Forces Confronted by Guerilla Tactics," Washington Post, March 25, 2003.
2.  Tom Lasseter, "Grim Signs of Guerrilla War," Philadelphia Inquirer, July 2, 2003.
3.  The phrase is taken from third stanza of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "The White Man's Burden," first published in McClure's magazine in February 1899.
4.  Warren Zimmermann, First Great Triumph (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), p. 386.
5.  As a humorist of the time put it, it was difficult for President McKinley to annex the Philippines because he didn't know where they were. Zimmermann, p. 354.
6.  Zimmermann, p. 327.
7.  The architects of the Bush Doctrine can credibly claim to be the intellectual heirs of Roosevelt and Lodge insofar as they--like the Republican progressives of a century ago, and unlike the political realists that dominated the Nixon and first Bush administrations--have articulated a vision of foreign policy in which America's strategic interest and its moral duty as a superpower are bound together.
8.  Brian McAllister Linn, The U.S. Army and Counterinsurgency in the Philippine War, 1899-1902 (University of North Carolina Press, 1989), p. 12.
9.  Linn, p. 12.
10.  Linn, p. 165.
11.  Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace, (Basic Books, 2002), p. 127.
12.  Raymond Bonner, "For G.I.'s in Isolated Town, Unknown Enemy Is Elusive," New York Times, October 21, 2003.
13.  Linn, p. 133.
14.  Linn, p. 139.
15.  Linn, p. 125.
16.  Linn, p. 24.
17.  Linn, p. 159.
18.  Linn, p. 20.
19.  Linn, p. 16.
20.  Linn, p. 151.
21.  Princeton University Press, 2004.
22.  Alex Berenson, "U.S. Soldiers Are Ambushed by Guerillas in Iraqi Town," New York Times, October 3, 2003.

Thomas Donnelly is a resident fellow at AEI. Vance Serchuk is a research assistant at AEI.
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In September of 1898, veterans came home from Santaigo (S-A War). On Sept. 9, 1898, he wrote to his father: “Most of them look rather brown and all lost flesh but one. They have nothing to complain of. I am sorry I did not go.”293

By March 1899, Coolidge was doing well enough to send to his dad (Letter, 3/29/99): “To you I send a little borthday present. I hope you will not lay it away to keep and I hope you will take it and spend it foolishly as soon as you can.”294 In october 1899 he asked his father’s advice for investing several hundred dollars.

1900: U.S. population was nearly 76 million and would rise to nearly 92 million by 1910 - 70 percent in 1910 still live east of the Mississippi - the move to the suburbs was beginning - by 1910, there were 25 major metropilitan areas with outlying suburbs, and they contained more nearly a quarter of the U.S. population - Americans getting healthier (death rate 19.7|1,000 in 1900 to 15.5|1,000 in 1914 - eliminated small pox and malaria) - per capita income from $480 in 1900 to $565 in 1914

Instead of seeking relection to the City Council, he ran for and was elected to the post of City Solicitor, which had an annual salary of $600. “I wanted to be City Solicitor because I believed it would make me a better lawyer.”295 He served in this capacity until March 1902. He did this job as well as his private practice, which had expanded into estate cases (real estate), as well as municipal law.

Coolidge’s efforts at law meant that his past was neglected. “For three years I did not take the time to visit my old home in Vermont, but when I did go I was City Solicitor. My father began to see his hopes realized and felt that his efforts to give me an education were beginning to be rewarded.”296

There was one final temptation that Coolidge needed to overcome. It came in 1903, when William H. Clapp, Clerk of the Courts for Hampshire County, died, and Coolidge was appointed to fill the position. The salary was a robust $2,300 a year, and came with great respect. Coolidge, however, decided to reamain a lawyer. He added with wry humor in his Autobiography, “Had I decided otherwise I could have had much more peace of mind in the last twenty-five years.”297

1904 was not easy. There was the Presidential election and the mayoral election (running for 4th term, and narrowly defeated by 80 votes). Coolidge was chosen to be the Cahirman of the Republican City Committee. Coolidge blamed himself for the mayor’s loss, yet learned a valuable lesson in the process: “We made the mistake of talking too much about the deficiencies of our opponents and not enough about the merits of our own candidates. I have never again fallen into that error.”298

But there were some bright spots in Coolidge’s personal life. After years dedicated to advancing his career, he began to want something more. As his business and professional life became established, Coolidge had “a little more give to the amentities of life.” Be began to eat at Rahar’s Inn and lodge on Round Hill, owned by the steward of the Clarke School of the Deaf. It was in these circumstances that he met a women who would change his life forever.

Amazing Grace


“A complete contrast between two people, both in appearance and manner, would be hard to imagine. The Presdient’s very fait complexion, with the red showing very plainly through (he abundantly freckles in summer); his blue-gray eyes; his thin, straight, and sandy hair; his prominent nose, and slightly rounded shoulders, are in direct contrast to the corresponding features of Mrs. Coolidge. Her complexion is olive; her eyes large and dark brown; her hair abundant, wavy, black just lightly powdered with gray, her nose has an almost jaunty tilt, and her carriage is easy and erect.”299

STARLING: “Mrs. Coolidge was the personification of charm. She more than made up for her husband’s taciturnity. Everyone liked her, and she carried off the difficult role of First Lady beautifully. Without her the little fellow [Coolidge] would have had a difficult time at the dinners, receptions, and balls which custom forced him to attend.”300

Straling: He personally went through stacks of mail to find a letter from Grace if it was expected. “He loved his wife deeply. He was, of course, a very sentimental man, and a very shy one. He loved a few people a great deal, and he was embarrassed about showing it. Gradually, as time went by, I found him to be so human and thoughtful that I came to the conclusion his outward reticence and aloofness were part of a protective shell.”301

<<<add trusts information from Paul Johnson, pp. 560 ff.

Between 1885 and 1905 there were 328 combinations. By 1904, estimated 2/5 of manufacturing capital controlled by them (over $7 billion)302

“What men own to the love and help of good women can never be told.”303 For Coolidge, his debt to Grace Goodhue cannot be calculated. He met her, she had been training to teach the deaf at the Clarke School.

He didn’t always feel so sanguine about women.
On Jan. 28, 1901, he wrote to his father: “If I ever get a woman some one will have to support her, but I see no need of a wife so long as I have my health.”304

thought I should briefly discuss the object of Coolidge's affection, Grace Anna Goodhue, and how they met. Who was she? Turning to her autobiography, one can read that she was born in Burlington, Vermont to Andrew Goodhue and Lemira Barrett. Her parents were originally from New Hampshire and her father's family came over from England in 1635 and one was a member of the first Congress and became a U.S. senator in 1797. With her father's training as a mechanical engineer, he was offered a job at Gates Cotton Mill in Burlington and Grace was born in company housing in 1879. She was an only child and was offered music lessons, speaking lessons, and all the care and affection a young girl might have at that time. After studying at the University of Vermont (class of 1902), she entered the Teacher Training Class at Clarke School for the Deaf in Northampton, MA. Her neighbors, the Yales in Burlington, had deaf children as guests and Grace had been drawn into finding her role in society through this difficult type of teaching.

“A romantic? "That is always the last thing I do when I close up--lookout and see if you have a light. I suppose something might happen to you if I didn't keep watch--or to me." (February 8, 1905) "The star you showed me--shall we see it together again soon?" (Oct., 1904) Calvin also showed a sense of humor: "I just bought 100 stamps so look out."

What about the other side of the relationship? Grace must have written replies to all these letters. Calvin implies that he constantly received her letters which did encourage him to write back. She saved these letters. She must have treasured them. In Ishbel Ross's biography, Grace is quoted as looking back at her life with Calvin and saying, "Well, I thought I could get him to enjoy life and have fun, but he was not very easy to instruct in that way."305

Coolidge squired her around town, including to the 250th anniversary celebrations for the town of Northampton in 1904:
“One evening was devoted to a reception for the Governor and his Council, given by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Miss Goodhue accompanied me to the City Hall where the reception was held, and after strolling around for a time we sat down in two comfortable vacant chairs. Soon a charming lady approached us and said those chairs were resevred for the Governor and Mrs. Bates and that we should have to relinquish them, which we did. Fourteen years later when we had recieved sufficient of the election returns to show that I had been chosen Governor of Massachusetts I turned to her and said, ‘The Daughters of the American Revolution cannot put us out of the Governor’s chair now.’”306

In July 1905 Calvin and Grace visited his father and stepmother in Plymouth. On August 4, upon returning to Northampton, C. wrote to his father, “I had a very nice time at home and I hope you are approving of my choice.”307

“From our beginning together we seemed naturally to come to care for each other. We became engaged in the early summer of 1905 and were married at her home in Burlington, Vermont, on October fourth of that year. I have seen so much fiction written on this subject that I may be pardoned for relating the plain facts. We thought we were made for each other. For almost a quarter of a century she has borne with my infirmities, and I have rejoiced in her graces.”308

After honeymooning in Montreal, the Coolidges returned to Northampton. But the rent of “a very comfortable house that needed but one maid to help Mrs. Coolidge do her work” required additional expenditures. This caused some uncomfortable moments, as Coolidge later confessed in his Autobiography, “I know very well what it means to awake in the night and realize that the rent is coming due, wondering where the on money is coming from with which to pay it.”309

As the Social Secretary of the White House, Mary Randolph: “I never knew any man more interest in his wife’s clothes than Mr. Coolidge, and the handsomer and more elaborate Mrs. Coolidge’s dresses were, the better he liked them....Usually careful of expenditures--unbelieveably economical in many ways--he not only spared no expense, he gave way to wild extravagance when it came to the question of Mrs. Coolidge’s clothes.Believe it or not, he never wanted her to wear the same dress twice to a State Reception!”310


His only defeat for elected office was for City Solicitor in 1902. He was not reelected. His election in 1901 had been narrow victory.

The only election Coolidge ever lost took place in 1905:
“When the city election was approaching in Decmber [1905] I was asekd to be a candidate for School Committee. It was a purely honarary office, which had no attraction for me, but I consented and was nominated. To my surprise another Republican took out nomination papers, which split the party and elected a Democrat. The open compliment was that I had no children in the schools, but the real reason was that I was a politician...I was also better off attending to my law practice and my new home.”311

In the fall of 1906 the Coolidges moved into their home on Massasiot Street in Northampton. “I attended the furnishing of it myself, and when it was ready Mrs. Coolidge and I walked over to it.312 It was a modest home. And as an added bonus, it let Coolidge rely on on his law salary, not the salary from any public office. “This left me free to make my own decisions in accordance with that I thought was the public good.”313

Two weeks after they moved on, on September 7, 1906, their first child was born. “The fragrance of the clematis which covered the bay window filled the room like a benediction, where the mother lay with her baby. We called him John in honor of my father. It was all very wonderful to us.”314


He also ran for the House of Representatives, and thanks to votes from Democratic voters, won the race by about 260 votes. He supported a bill that prevented a company from selling the same product at a lower price in different areas. “I also supported a resolution favoring the direct election of United States Senators and another providing for woman suffrage. These measures did not have the approbation of the conservative element of my party, but I had all the assurance of youth and ignorance in supporting them, and later I saw them all become the law.”315

He was relected to the House next year and became involved in labor issues. As he wrote in his Autobiography, “O became much interested in modifying the law so that an injunction could not be issued in a labor dispute to prevent one person seeking by argument to induce another to leave his employer. This bill failed.” Coolidge later realized that “what was of real importance was not how they might conduct a quarrel with their employers, but how the business of the country might be so organized as to insure steady employment at a fair rate of pay. If that were done there would be no occasion for a quarrel, and if it were not sone a quarrel would do no one any good.”316

During his second year in the House, a second son, Calvin, Jr., was born. Coolidge served out his second term and did not run again for the House. “My law office took all my attention,” he recalled.317

On April 21, 1908, Calvin wrote his father from Boston: “John and Grace and the baby are in fine shape. John would like some apples so he claims he says apple, apple, apple.”318 On May 13, 1908, Coolidge wrote his father about John: “He is very fond of the baby and keeps saying baby, baby. He pats him on the head and kisses him. He gets his dolly for him and wants to give him some cookie. We have not named him yet.”319

In the fall of 1909, the Democratic mayor of Northampton was set to retire, and the Republicans urged Coolidge to run. He thought “the honor would be one that would please my father, advance me in my profession, and enable me to be of some public service. It was a local office, not requiring enough time to interefere seriously with my own work.”320 In a close race, Coolidge was again helped by Democratic voters, and won by 165 votes.

On Dec. 10, 1909, after being elected on Dec. 7, Coolidge wrote to his father. The Northampton Herald had suggested that Coolidge enjoyed drinking. “I did not have to reply to the Herald attack for every body knew it was not true. Folks know I do not go into saloons and I never bought a drink during the campaign.”321

Dec 25, 1909, to father: “John & calvin are having a terrible fine time with their tree. They have so many things they just run from one to another and gather them in heaps on the floor. Toys are not good for anything now and last about two days. Grace likes to buy them, and the children enjoy them. They do not cost much.”322

As mayor, he cut the debt, lowered taxes, and raised teacher salaries. He won relection the next year, against the same opponent, by an even greater margin.
In 1911, however, he decided not to run for relection. On Jan. 2, 1911, even as he was being inaugurated for a second term as Mayor, he wrote to his father: “I was inaugurated again this morning. I shall not run again. While it helps me in a way it costs a great deal to do the things a Mayor has to do and takes much time. I wanted to gratify you.”323

Instead in the fall of 1911 Coolidge ran for state Senate, and was elected. He didn’t particularly enjoy his time in the State House, “and to crown my disconent a Democratic Governor sent in a veto, which the Senate sustained, to a bill authorizing the New Haven Railroad to construct a trolley system in Western Massachusetts.”324

In 1912, he won relection to the Senate in a three-person contest. “It was in my second term in the Senate that I began to be a force in the Massachusetts Legislature.”325 WHY? <<<<<<<<DETAILS>>>>>>> “The Boston Democrats came to be my friends and were a great help to me in later times.”326

There was also national politics in Nov. 1912: “I was sorry Taft could not win but am glad T.R. made so poor a showing. I doubt if Wilson will be a man the Democrats like. A large number of Democrats voted for Taft here. It was Republicans voting for Wilson to kill T.R. that brought about the result.”327

Coolidge had intended to retire after two terms in the state Senate, he ran again because he wanted to replace the current President of the Sentate, Mr. Greenwood, but at the last minute he decided to stay. But he lsot the election and Coolidge secured enough votes to become the new President of the Senate, a very powerful position. he took over a divided Republican party, which had come in last in the 1912 general elections. But Coolidge understood that his new position was the result of hard work. He wrote, “I had not been transported on a bed of roses.”328

On Dec. 5, 1913, Coolidge writes to his father from Boston that Calvin had been sick with pneumonia. Calvin was hopeful for his recovery. “He has a strong constitution and fights disease and his heart action is good.”329 How little Calvin knew about his son’s future health problems!

In 1914, Coolidge began to detect “a spirit of radicalism...which unless checked was likely to prove destructive. It had been encouraged by the oppositoon and by a large faction of my own party.
It consisted of the claim in general that in some wat the government was to be blamed because everybody was not prosperous, because it was necessary to work for a living, and because our written constitutions, the legislatures, and the courts protected the rights of private property owners especially in relation to large aggregations of property.”330

Upon taking his seat as President of the Senate, “I argued that the government could not relieve us from toil, that large concerns are necessary for the progress in which capital and labor all have a common interest, and I defended representative government and the integrity of the courts.”331 {SEE COOLIDGE, HAVE FAITH IN MASS.]

The powers of the President of the Sentae - AUto., p. 108

He worked with the governor is getting helpful legislation passed. - When WWI hit Europe and helped bring people back to funadmental values. The people “at once began to abandon their wanderings and seek their old landmarks for guidance.”332

In 1915, elections for Governor and other state officials -Republicans - Coolidge was in charge - candidate for governor lost, but picked up many seats in the Senate- pick up 12 seats, to get majority of 33 - Coolidge wins his seat and was unanimously reelected President of the Senate. In his fourth term, he worked on reducing legislation. “The Blue Book of Acts and Resolves for 1913 was 1,763 pages, for 1914, it had 1,423, and for 1915 only 1,230, which was a very wholesome reduction of more than thirty per cent. people were coming to see that they must depend on themselves rather than on legislation for success.”333

Harding left for Alaska on March 20, 1923, to assess the state of the timber, mineral, and fishing rights in Alaska. Still, the trip was primarily a vacation. He told his bodyguard, Colonel Emward Starling, “I want to do as little work as possible on this trip.”334


At the end of the term in 1915, that spring, Coolidge again had a desire to leave politics and return to private life. Reluctantly, and supported by business interests, he declared himself a candidate for Lieutenant Governor. At this time he met Frank W. Stearns. Coolidge in the summer of 1915 was nominated for LG by 75,000 to 50,000 votes. Spent within the allowed $1,500, which was private money. He toured the state making speeches, and earned support by out-of-state speakers such as Warren G. harding and Nicholas Longworth (son-in-law of Theodore Roosevelt). He wrote his father on June 25, 1915: “You arelikely to see all kinds of comment about me--some of it extravigatnly good and some extravigantly bad....Whatever you may read good or ill I am just the same as when I was a boy at home and am at my best when I am most like you.”335

His campiagn platform was simple: “Much emphasis was placed by me on the urgent necessity of preventing further increases in state and national expense and of a drastic reduction wherever possible. The state was ready for that kind of message.”336

On Sept. 18, 1915, he wrote to his father: “The campaign is coming to a close and while it is impossible to tell what is going to happen the outlook seems to be good. I think I have been making very large gans in the past two weeks. Every newspaper in the State is supporting me. The business interests also appear to be on my side.”337

He won by 52,204 votes, while the candidate for Governor (Mr. McCall) only won by 6,313 votes. Coolidge bragged to his father on November 5, 1915: “I have no dount that my being on the ticket elected Mr. McCall.”338 The Daily Hampshire Gazette of November 3 agreed in an editorial: “Calvin Coolidge is the great vote-getter, and will be governor in time.”339

The Republicans won back the Governorship {HOW DID THEY DO NATIONALLY?}


While he has Lt. Gov., he took Ralph W. Hemenway to become his associate and run the law office.

Later, hemenway recalled Coolidge: “In an association extending over eighteen years I was always ‘Mr. Hemenway’ to him -- never ‘Ralph’ or even ‘Hemenway.’ ... Our business relationship was entirely impersonal in that strangely contradictory way which assumes an unspoken bond of considerable intimacy.”340

Coolidge was asked by the governor to make lots of speeches (MANY in “Have Faith in Massachusetts”). He made the friendship of Frank W. Stearns, a businessman in Boston. In August 1916, Stearns wrote to Robert W. Maynard of Coolidge summing uo the character of Coolidge: “First, humanly speaking, I believe he is splendidly honest....if there were a yellow streak in him it would almost certainly come out....He certainly would never do anything foolish....He has, of course, none of the graces of oratory....As a writer he has few equals....I cannot recollect an occasion in the primary campaign when he ever made any reference whatever to the other candidate or offered any criticism of him....he seems to me to be the one man whose thought and work is all constructive.”341

In 1916 elections he quietly supported Charles Evans Hughes. He was also relected Lt. Gov by 84,930 votes (Gov was 46,240).

In April 1917, as war seemed on the way, and he wrote to his father on April 27 to “find time to plant a good many beans. John & Calvin will come up to help hoe them.”342 On February 6, 1917, he wrote, “I think that if I was in your place I would plant a considerable amount of potatoes next spring.”343 It was wise advice because food prices skyrocketed.

In 1917, they are reelected (Gov by 90,479 votes and LTCoolidge by 101,731 votes). Coolidge almost carried Boston as well, including many Irish. On November 13, 1917, he wrote to his father, “This is not to be repeated. No one knows what will happen in a year but it looks as tho[u]gh I would be nominated for Governor.”344

During WWI: “The whole nation seemed to be endowed with a new spirit, unified and solidified and willing to make any sacrifice for the cause of liberty. I was constantly before public gatherings explaining the needs of the time for men, money and supplies. Sometimes I was urging subscriptions for war loans, sometimes contributions to the great charities, or again speaking to the workmen engaged in construction or the manufacture of munitions. The response which the people made and the organizing power of the country were all manifestations that it was wonderful to contemplate. The entire nation awoke to a new life.”345


On June 23, 1918, he wrote to his father from Boston: “...I am to run for Governor. Mr McCall will not run. I do not think I shall have [GOP] opposition....I feel certain of election but in politics anythi[n]g may happen, so you better wait until November before you prepare for the inauguration.”346

“It was no secret that I desired to be Governor,” Coolidge wrote, yet he was cool. “It is much better not to press a candidacy too much, but to let it develop on its own merits without artificial stimulation. If the people want a man they will nominate him, if they do not want him he had at best let the nomination go to another.”347 The current Governor wanted to be a US Senator, but later withdrew. Coolidge was unanimously picked by the Republicans to be Governor.

In 1918, he ran against Richard H. Long, a shoe manufacturer. He sent political pamphlets from the campaign home to Vermont and even suggested that they be put up in the General Store.

“The campaign was difficult...A violent epidemic of influenza prevented us from having a State Convention, or holding the usual meetings, and the party organization was not very effective. In spite of my protest and the fact that we were engaged in a tremendous war, criticism was too often made of President Wilson and his administration. My efforts were spent in urging that the people and government of Massachusetts should all join in their support of the national government in prosecuting the war.”348

Coolidge was elected Governor by only 16,773 votes, but Senator John W. Weeks, his LG running-mate was defeated (work seen in DC not MASS)

After being elected Governor in Nov. 1918, Coolidge wrote, “Again I supposed I had reached the summit of any possible preferment and was quite content to finish my public career as Governor of Massachusetts -- an office that has always been held in the highest honor by the people of the Commonwealth.”349

A few days later, as Coolidge took a few days of rest in maine, he leanred that an armistance ending World War I had been signed. There was relief and jubilation throughout the land. “I returned to Boston the next day to take part in the celebration. What the end of the four years of carnage meant to those who remember it will never forget and those those who do not can never be told. The universal joy, the enormous grief, found expression from all the people in a spontaneous outburst of thanksgiving.
When the war was done, its problems were to confront the state and nation for many years. I was to meet them as Governor and Presdient. They will remain with us for two generations. Such is the curse of war.”

Inaugral address:
“In my inaugural addres I dwelt on the need of promoting the public health, education, and the opportunity for employment at fair wages in accordance with the right of the people to be well born, well reared, well educated, well employed and well paid. I also stressed the necessity of keeping government expenses as low as possible, assisting iin every possible way the reestablishing of the returning veterans, and reorganizing the numerous departments in accordance with a recent change of the constitution which limited their number to twenty.”350

Coolidge as Governor stayed at the Adams House in Boston and Grace came when she could, but mostly stayed behind in Northampton with the boys. “She never had taken any part in my political life, but had given her attention to our home. It was not until we went to Washington that she came into public prominence and favor.”351

Wilson came to speak in Boston in february after retunring from France, and Coolidge saw to to that $20 million was paid to returning soldiers of Massachusetts.


His administration had to face a number of difficulties in terms of labor relations and strikes. Railways workers went on strike, as did the Police Department. “The trouble arose over the proposal of the policemen, who had long been permitted to maintain a local organization of their own, to form a union and affiliate with the American Federation of Labor. That was contrary to a long-established rule of the Department, which was agreed to by each member when he went on the force and had the effect of law.”352

The mayor urged Coolidge to accept arbitration. But, as Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography, “I did not see how it was possible to arbitrate the question of the authority of the law, or of the necessity of obedience to the rules of the Department and the orders of the Commissioner. These principles were the heart of the whole controversy and the only important questions at issue. It can readily be seen how important they were and what the effect might have been if they had not been maintained, I decided to support them whatever the consequences might be. I fully expected it would result in my defeat in the coming campaign for reelection as Governor.”353

On Tuesday, September 9, 3/4 of the police force went on strike after union leaders were removed from office. “The number was much larger than had been expected.”354

There was some rioting on Tuesday night. The next day, after conferring with the Mayor, Coolidge called out the National Guard on Wednesday, and on Thursday he restored Mr. Curits as Police Commissioner. Coolidge had troops at the ready at the city of Boston’s main electrical plant. President Wilson condemned the police stike, and volunteer police were used. When Samuel Gompers, a leading union leader, asked for the removal of Curits and the reinstatement of the union policemen, Coolide said famously, “’There is no right to strike against the public safety by any body, any time, any where.’ This phrase caught the attention of the nation. It was beginning to be clear that if voluntary associations were to be permitted to substitute their will for the authoirty of public officials the end of our fovernment was at hand. The issue was nothing less that whether the law which the people had made through their duly authorized agencies should be supreme.” 355

“I was ready to meet the emergy,” Coolidge said of the police strike. “Just what lay behind the event I was never able to learn. Sometimes I have mistrusted that it was a design to injure me politically; if so it was only to recoil upon the perpetrators, for it increased my political power many fold.”356

On September 26, 1919, he wrote to his father about uncertainty of relection as a result of the police strike: “I rather think I can do what is right let the pressure be what it may. people applaud me a great deal but I am not sure they will vote for me.”357 Later on October 10, after the GOOp Convention, he wrote: “This is a very uncertain election, more so that last year it may go strongly for me or against me.”358

The issue played a prominent role in Coolidge’s relection bid for Governor, and he won by 125,101 votes. “The pople decided in favor of the integrity of their own government. President Wilson sent me a telegram of congratulations.”359

He was so busy after the election, he said, with the reform of the state bureaucracy, that he didn;t have time to think about politics. “But I soon learned that many people in the country were thinking of me.”360

“The two years that I served as Governor were a time of transition from war to peace. New problems constantly arose, great confusion prevailed, nothing was settled and it was possible only to feel my way from day to day.”361

* 48-hr work week for women and children
* kept state’s finances in order
* reorganized state government - reduced depts. of state from 118 to 20 and appointed 70 new state officials. “In this reorganization the Coolidge ax knew no friend; and he has said that it took more courage than the settling of the police strike....after conferring day and night as to whom the seventy should be, he locked himself in his office alone for about ten days in order to think the matter out.”362

* relief for street railways
* Prohibition: “In my second year a bill was passed allowing the sale of beer with a 2.75 per cent alcoholic content, which I vetoed because I thought it was in violation of the Constitution which I had sworn to defend. The veto was sustained.”363
* “A constant struggle was going on to keep the costs of living down and the rate of wages up.”364

Coolidge also saw the nation in a rebuilding phase after WWI. “They were clearing away the refuse from the great conflagration preparatory to rebuilding on a grander and more pretentious scale...But when I finished my two terms in january, 1921, the demobilization of the country was practically complete, people had found themselves again, and were ready to undertake the great work of reconstruction in which they have since been so successfully engaged. In that work we have seen the people of America create a new heaven and a new earth. The old things have passed away, giving place to a glory never before experienced by any people of our world.”365


The best thing that ever happened to warren harding’s political career was the death of Theodore Roosevelt. According to Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, in 1917 when Harding was a U.S. Senator, he conceded that Roosevelt “was the only man in sight for the Republicans to nominate in 1920.”366 After Roosevelt’s death in january 1919, the contest was suddenly wide open.

“No doubt it was the police strike of Boston that brought me into national prominence.That furnished the occasion and I took advantage of the opportunity.”367

“Following my decisive victory in November [in the Mass Gov race] there very soon came to be mentuon of me as a Presidential candidate.” Senator HC Lodge offered to nominate him at the GOP Convention, and others worked to secure delegates for him. Eventually, however Coolidge decided against running in 1920. “I was Governor of Massachusetts, and mu first duty was to that office. It would not be possible for me, with the legislature in session, to be going about the country actively participating in an effort to secure delegates, and I was totally unwilling to have a large sum of money raised and spent in my behalf...Moreover, I did not wish to use the office of Governor in an attempt to prosecute a campaign for nomunation for some other office. I therefore made a public state,enmt that I was unwilling to appear as a candidate and would not enter my name in any content at the primaries. This left me in a position where I ran no risk of embarrassing the great office of Govenor of Massachusetts. That was my answer to the situation.”368

Nevertheless, some supporters went forward. They even had a collection of Coolidge’s speeches, titled Have Faith in Massachusetts, published. Instead, Warren G. Harding was nominated by the US Senators in charge. Coolidge was nomiated as Vice Presindet. As Coolidge wrote, “I did not wish to be Vice-President.” However, “When this honor came to me I was pleased to accept, and it was especially agreeable to be associated with Senator harding, whom I knew well and liked.”369

He explained why Harding, and not himself, got the nomination. To his father he wrote on June 13, 1920: “Men who were there say the convention wanted me for President. That was prevented by some of the Federal office holders who were bent on having one of their own and controlled enough votes to accomplish it. I am sure Senator Harding is a good man, and an old friend of mine. I hope you will not mind.”370

The Republicans left the Chicago Convention split over the league of Nations. The 1919 GOP Paltform in Mass. came out in favor of ratifying the LON treaty. In retrosepct, Coolidge wrote, “The more and more I have seen of the conduct of our foreign relations the more I am convinced that we are better off out of the League.”371 The handlers of Leonard Wood and Frank O. Lowden decalred war on each other and Harding went through the breach.

Coolidge was in Vermont, not at the Convention, prpearing his acceptance speech. he made the address in Allen Field in Northampton. “A great throng representing many different states was in attendance to hear my address.”372 He emphasized the need for close ties between the US and Europe to continue.

He let Harding set the agenda for the election campaign. Coolidge hit the campaign trail shortly before the election. Went to Philadelphia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina. “We had a most encouraging reception on this trip, speaking out-of-doors, mostly from the rear platform during the day, with an indoor meeting at night. During the campaign I spoke in about a dozen states.”373 From Boston on September 16, 1920 he wrote to his father about the speeches in Maine and NH before he went south in mid-October: “...the trend is toward the Republican ticket. My speeches have been exceedingly well received.”374

The Democratic ticket was headed up by James Middleton Cox, an Ohio newspaper millionaire who had worked his way up from a janitor who earned 35-cents a week. Although he didn’t actively campaign for the nominiation, once he got it, he went all out. One journalist noted that he was “coldly and asbolutely condifent that he will be elected president. He is as concretelya analytical as an engineer, but he never thinks of failure, never prepares for it, never believes in it.”375 He was in the middle of his third term as Governor of Ohio. His philosophy of government was more activist: “I sympathize with Jefferson’s view that that is the best government that governs least--but in this age I consider that also the best government is the one that concerns itself more with the betterment of its people. Government must be a great living organism devoted to pushing the masses up the grade.”376 He was nominated in San Francisco out of a field of at least sixteen possible choices. But it took forty-four rounds of balloting before Cox secured the two-third majority needed for nomination. According to some, one of the reasons the Dems did not matter so much who was nominated because he would be routed by harding. President Wilson, also a Dmeocrat, stod behind thier man. FDR picked as VP.

Cox was glad that Warren harding, also an Ohio boy, was nominated by the GOP. Harding had the one main issue against Cox: his courting of the German-American vote in his reelection campaign in 1916.

Cox campaigned as a progressive, believing that many Americans were moving in that direction. He believed that gov’t should adress the 17 percent illiteracy rate, hunger, and unemployment. He added, “I say today that no government is worth its salt that is not supremely concerned with the betterment of its people.”377 He also supported League of Nations, the dream of Woodrow Wilson.

The campaign was relatively benign, apart from speculation about Harding’s Negro blood. Harding’s affair with Nan Britton, although an open secret, was not used by the Democrats to their advantage. The Republicans didn’t speak of Cox’s divorce, despite the temptation to appeal to thge Catholic vote. The campaign was very civil. Harding, as McKinley of Ohio did before him in 1896 and 1900, campiagned from his front porch in Marion, Ohio.

16 million people, including women (who were voting for first time in 1920 - 20th Amendment) went for Harding; 9 million for Cox

Some critics of Harding: “If the country had set out on a treasure hunt to find the worst possible candidate for the office of the presidency, it is hardly conceivable that they could have some better than Warren G. Harding.”378

Mrs. Harding 8 yrs husband’s senior

According to Harding’s secretary: “He loves to play golf, and if he can get into the low nineties he’s tickled to death.” He’d bet his golf partners (“played as if his life depended on every shot”379 ), drank highballs, chewed tobacco, and played cards until late into the night, yet he literally would not kill an ant, even though he enjoyed non-violent sports380

Rumors swirled about Harding’s infidelity. According to Starling, Harding didn’t fit the stereotype of the ladies’ man. “But with his twin inabilities--to say no and to hurt any living things--the parapets of his virtue were probably not insurmountable. After all, he was human.”381 Yet Starling insisted that the Nan Britton affair was over before he entered the White House. Since he was under Starling’s watch, “He never did anything more reprehensible than cuss mildly at a golf ball and play poker with his friends.”382

According to Starling, “Everyone spoke of the democratic manner of the new President, and they freely predicted that he would be in the White House at least eight years.”383

ON 18TH Amendment: “There was a mass demonstration of disrespect for the Eighteenth Amendment, and the White House joined in thie rebellion--plenty of liquor was served there, although the President...was a one drink man.”384

According to Starling, “Harding was ruined by his friends, just as WIlson was ruined by his enemies. But the main point is that he should never have been President of the United States. He did not want to be President. He was happy as editor and publisher of the Mario [Ohio] Star.”385

Ohio had elected more presdients than any state except for Virginia.

The campiagn was hard because the economy was hard. “The country was already feeling acutely the results of deflation. Business was depressed. For months following the Armistace we had persisted in a course of much extravagance and reckless buying. Wages had been paid that were no earned. The whole country, from the national government down, had been living on borrowed money. Pay day had come, and it was found our capital hs been much impaired.”386

Coolidge said he and Harding benefitted from European refugees who opposed the League of Nations. [how many immigrants? find out] “Such a combination gave us an overwhelming victory.”387

On November 1, 1920, as he arrived back in Northampton after the campaign, he wrote to his father: “Your dog is growing well. She has bitten the ice man, the milkman, and the grocerman. It is good to have some way to get even with them for the high prices they charge for everything.”388

Interestingly, Coolidge’s hometown, Plymouth, went 158 for Harding/Coolidge and 15 for Cox/Roosevelt.389 EC vote was 404 for Harding and 127 for Cox. 16.1 million to 9.1 million in popular vote. Coolidge was swept into the White House. He went to Marion, Ohio, to meet wiht President-elect Harding and his wife. They discussed tax relief and tariff revision, and Coolidge was again invited to site with the Cabinet. “He was sincerely devoted to the public welfare and desirous of improving the condition of the people.”390

Jan. 2, 1921 Coolidge was winding down his time as Governor. “It will be a great relief to get out of the office.”391 Ended at noon on Jan 6, 1921. He was just “Mr. Coolidge,” a private citizen, for 2 months until the inaugural in DC. On January 10, the Boston Daily Advertiser informed its readers of Coolidge’s activities as a private citizen: “But don’t for one minute imagine that he is loafing or sitting around the house reading light fiction. He doesn’t get off so easy as that.”392 He was to deliver three important speeches, greet scores of visitors, and answer piles of mail.

“The time soon came for us to go to Washington. A large crowd of out friends was at the station to bid us goodbye although the hour was very early. We went a few days before March 4 in order to have a little time to get settled.”393 Wilson told Coolidge he was too sick to attend the inaugural. “I never saw him again except at a distance, but he sent me a most sympathetic letter when I became President. Such was the passing of a great world figure.”394

“I was sworn in before the Senate and made a viery brief address dwelling on the great value of a deliberative body as a safeguard of our liberties.” [VP inaugural address]395

“It was a clear but crisp spring day out-of-doors where the oath was administered to the President by Chief Justice White. The imaugural address was able and well recieved. President Harding had an impressive delivery, which never failed to interest and hold his audience. I was to hear him many times in the next two years, but whether on formal occasions or in the freedom of Gridiron dinners, his charm and effectiveness never failed.”396

Coolidge recalled that the radicalism of the WWI period had passed. “The country had little interest in mere destructive criticism. It wanted the progress that alone comes from constructive policies.”397

The Coolidges were unable to find a place to live in DC that suited them. They eventually settled for “two bedroom,s with a dining room, and large reception toom at the New Willard where we had every convenience.”398

Dinners as VP:
“Very much is said and written concenring the amount of dining out that the Vice-President does. ...But like everything else that is sent out of Washington for public consumption the reports are exaggerated. Probably the average of these dinners during the season does not exceed three a week...
When we first went to Washington Mrs. Coolidge and I quite enjoyed the social dinners. As we were always the ranking guests we had the privilege of arriving last and leaving first, so that we were usually home by ten o’clock. ...We found it a most enjoyable opportunity for getting acquainted and could scarcely comprehend how anyone who had the privilege of sitting at a table surrounded by representatives of the Cabinet, the Congress, the Diplomatic Corps and the Army and Navy would not find it interesting.”399

Also presided over the Senate. “I was entertained by the debates. However it may appear in the country, no one can become familiar with the inside workings of the Senate without gaining a great respect for it. The country is safe in its hands.”400

As VP he did sit in on Cabinet meetings. Coolide wrote, “he should be in the Cabinet because he might become President and ought to be informed on the policies of the administration. He will not learn all of them. Much went on in the departmentts under President Harding, as it did under me, of which I had no knowledge. But he will hear much and learn how to find out more if it ever becomes necessary. My experience in the Cabinet was of supreme value to me when I became President.”401

Tried to avoid speaking as VP, but he spoke and traveled around the country...”It enabled me to be ready in August, 1923.”402

Coolidge notieced that some had unrealistic expectations that the economy would recovery faster than was possible after the depression of 1920-1921. In the mid-term elections of 1922, Coolidge wrote, “While my party still held both the House and the Senate it lost many seats in the election, which made the closing session of Congress full of complaints tinged with bitterness against an administration under which many of them had been defeated.”403


HARDING’S DEATH: “In the winter of 1923 President Harding was far from well...Later it was disclosed that he had discovered that some whom he had trsuted had betrayed him and he had been forced to call them to account. It is known that this discovery was a very heavy grief to him, perhaps more than he could bear. I never saw him again. In June [1923] he started for Alaska and -- eternity.”404

Harding left for Alaska to assess the state of the timber, mineral, and fishing rights in Alaska. Still, the trip was primarily a vacation. He told Starling: “I want to do as little work as possible on this trip...”405 As Harding prepared to leave, Starling noted that the fallout from the scandals had taken its toll: “He looked more weary than I had ever seen him.”406 Mrs. Coolidge asked Starling to ensure that Harding’s doctors, General Sawyer and Captain Boone, close by the president.

Later the scandals (hearings held in early 1924) never hit Harding: “None of these money scandals reached Harding. He wa sincorruptibly honest, and it was so proved.”407

Left DC on June 20 and arrived in Tacoma on July 5. Then they boarded the USS Henderson and arrived eight days later in Seward, Alaska. In early August, Harding developed bronchial pneumonia. When Starling visited him in his bedroom on the afternoon of August 2, Harding appeared weak. He lamented his lack of fishing success in Alaska and spoke of going deep-sea fishing in the near future. At 7:30 that night, as Starling was finishing his meal, he got the news: Harding had died ten minites earlier of a cerebral hemmorrhage, suffered as Mrs. Harding was reading to him from an article written about him. “That’s good. Go on, read some more,” he said408 . Then he passed on into eternity.

The next evening the presidential funeral train left from San Francisco for the 3000 mile journey back home [get exact mileage]. “I shall never forget that journey. The nation was grief-stricken. every town and city through which we passed was in mourning. People stood by the side of the tracks singing hymns while we went slowly through.”409 Arrives on the morning of Tueaday, August 7 in DC. That day and night he laid in state at the White House. The next day, August 8, the casket moved to the Capital for a brief cermenony then sent to Marion. On August 10, funeral was held.

Coolidge desired to uphold the law. Starling: “Any law which inspires disrespect for other laws--the good laws--is a bad law.”410

In the summer of 1928, while outside the WHite House, Cal told the press he wouldn’t run and then developed a taste for shooting clay piegons in yellowstone National park. He asked Mrs. Coolidge to come and watch him. In December they went quail and pheasant hunting in Georgia.


He had long doubted his fitness to be presdient, “But when the events of August, 1923, bestowed upon me the Presidential office, I felt at once that power had been given me to administer it. This was not any feeling of exclusiveness. While I felt qualified to serve, I was also well aware that there were many others who were better qualified. It would be my rpovince to get the benefit of their opinions and advice. It is a great advantage to a President, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know that he is not a great man. When a man beginst o feel that he is the only one who can lead in this republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions.”411

The old-line politicians were not pleased. “No particular secret has ever been made of the fact that the politicians intended to place him neatly on the greased skids...and slide him rapidly and quietly out of the picture at the Republican NAtional Convention in 1924.”412

In July 1923 the Coolidges went to Vermont. The session has gotten out in March 1923.

“On the night of August 2, 1923, I was awakened by my father coming up the stairs calling my name. I noticed that his voice trembled. As the only times I had ever observed that before were when death had visited the family, I knew that somethinbg of the gravest nature had occurred.
His emtoion was partly due to the knowledge that a man whom he had met and liked was gone, partly to the feeling that must possess all of our citizens when the life of their President is taken from them.
But he must have been moved also by the thought of the many sacrifices he had made to place me where I was, the twenty-five-mile drives in storms and in zero weather over our mountain roads to carry me to the academy and all the tenderness and care he had lavished upon me in the thirty-eight years since the death of my mother in the hope that I migth sometimes rise to a position of importance, which he now saw realized.
He had been the first to address me as President of the United States. It was the culmination of the lifelong desire of a father for the success of his son.
He placed in my hands an official report and told me that President Harding had just passed away. My wife and I at once dressed.
Before leaving the room I knelt down and, with the same prayer with which I have since approached the altar of the church, asked God to bless the American people and give me the power to serve them.”413

He immediately sent a telegram fo sympathy to Mrs. Harding and a short statement saying there would be no radical changes in administration.

Then he found a copy of the oath of office, which :was administered by my father in his capacity as a notary public, an office he had held for a great many years.
The oath was taken in what we always called the sitting room by the light of a kerosene lamp, which was the most modern form of lighting that has then reached the neighborhood. ...Besides my father and myself, there were present my wife, Senator Dale, who ahppened to be stopping a few miles away, my stenographer, and my chauffer.”414

Later, Coolidge reflected on the incident: “It seemed a simple and natural thing to do at the time, but I can now realize something of the dramatic force of the event. This room was one which was laready filled with sacred memories for me. In it my istser and my stepmother passed their last hours. It was associated with my own boyhood recollections of my own mother, who sat abd reclined there during her long invalid years, though she passed away in an adjoining room where my father was to follow her within three years frm this eventful night.”415

As he left for Washington to assume his duties as President: “When I started for Washington that morning I turned aside from the main road to make a short devotional visit to the grave of my mother. It had been a comfort to me during my boyhood when I was troubled to be near her last resting place, even in the dead of night. Some way, that morning, she seemed very near me.”416

He arranged for funeral services for Harding. “The nation was grief-stricken. Especially noticeable was the deep sympathy every one felt for Mrs. Harding. Through all this distressing period her bearing won universal commendation. Her attitude of sympathy and affection towards Mrs. Coolidge and myself was an especial consolation to us.”417

He took Communion in Washington’s First Congregational Church, took Communion, and was therefore voted in as a member.

Coolidge assessed the situation as he became President: “In spite of the remarkable record which had already been made, much remained to be done.”418

Coolide’s POV on gov’t: “Wealth comes from industry and from the hard experience of human toil. To dissipate it in waste and extravagance is disloyalty to humaniuty. This is by no means a doctrine of parsimony. Both men and nations should live in accordance with their means and devote their substance not only to productive industry, but to the creation of the various forms of beauty and the pursuit of culture which give adornments to the art of life.”419

When an old friend viisted Coolidge at the White House, he had a conversation with the President that involved “conjuring up old jokes, recalling people that I remembered only vaguely though the mists of twenty years....I carried away an impression of boyishness and light-heartedness which I had not associated with Mr. Coolidge in is more youthful days. The years had dealt kindly with him, his face was fuller. His personality had taken on a glow, a touvh or eagerness. He had mellowed with the years...”420

In 1925, a Plymouth local wrote, “The Plymouth people are even a bit dazed at this fame so suddenly thrust upon them. No one cared so much for their pesky rock farms before. Now they could almost sell the stones as souvenirs. Neither do they understand why the world is making such a fuss about Calvin Coolidge. He is their own town boy, brought up like the rest of the youth about here.”421

PRANKS: “In the afternoon we sometimes left for our walk from the Executive Offices. If the mood suited him he would press the buzzer which notified everyone that he was on his way to the White House. Then, while ushers, policemen, doormen, and elevator operators were rushing about getting things ready and snapping to attention, we would stroll out West Executive Avenue and leave them.”422

When Mrs. Coolidge wasn’t there, he and Straling had breakfast together: fruit, oatmeal, toast, coffeee, marmalade

When I became President it was perfectly apparent that the key by which the way could be opened to national progress was constructive economy. Only by use of that policy could the high rates of taxation, which were retarding our development and prosperity, be diminished, and the enormous burden of our public debt be reduced.
Without imparing the efficient operation of all the functions of government, I have steadily and without ceasing pressed on in that direction. This policy has encouraged enterprise, made possible the highest rate of wages which was ever existed, returned large profits, brought to the homes of the people the greatest economic benefits they ever enjoyed, and given to the country as a whole an enexampled era of prosperity. This well-being of my country has given me the chief satisfaction of my administration.”423

Had good relations with the press (Autobio, pp. 183-184). Says wryly, “I have often said that there was no cause for feeling distrubed at being misrepresented in the press. It would be only when they began to say things detrimental to me which were true that I should feel alarm.”424

The new president welcomed a swath of leaders to the White House -- labor leaders, businessmen, educators, publishers, all epxressing their support and hope for goog things from the administration. Coolidge felt that some of his political enimies may have wanted to have him secure the nomination in 1924, “thinking that it would be easy to accomplish my defeat.”425

Coolidge was not interested in political mudslinging. “There is only once form of political strategy in which I have any confidence, and that is to try to do the right thing and sometimes be able to succeed.”426

He declared his intention to be a candidate, and was nominated almost unanimously by the GOP at their convention in June 1924. His father was listenign on the radio in on Cleveland’s GOP convention. According to The Vermont Standard of June 19, “As the cheers which greeted the Presdient’s name came to him through the air, the aged man’s eyes watered, but his nerves were steady and he calmly took out his watch and timed each loud round of aplause.”427

But that summer of ‘24, tragedy struck. On July 4, 1924, Calvin wrote to his father: “Calvin is very sick so this is not a very happy day for me. He blistered his toe and got and infection got into his blood. The toe looks all right but the poison spread all over his system. We have five doctors, one from Phila[delphia], and 2 nurses....Of course he has all that medical science can give but he may have a long sickness with ulcers, then again he may be better in a few days.”428

Starling recalled: “The President was a stricken man, going about as if in a dream. One day he went out and caught one of the many rabbits that live on the White House grounds. I watched him take the little animal in his arms and carry it inside to show to Calvin. He would have carried him the whole of the White House grounds, a handful at a time, if it would have done any good.”429

on July 7 when his son, Calvin Jr., died at 10:30 PM.
“He was a boy of much promise, proficient in his studies, with a scholarly mind, who had just turned sixteen.
He had a remarkable insight into things.
The day I became president he had just started to work in a tobacco field. When one of his fellow laborers said to him, ‘If my Father was President I would not work in a
tobacco field,” calvin replied, ‘If my father were your father, you would.’
... We do not know what might have happened to him under other circumstances, but if I had not been President he would not have raised a blister on his toe, which resulted in blood poisoning, playing lawn tennis in the South Grounds.
In his suffering he was asking me to make him well. I could not.
When he went the power and glory of the Presidency went with him.
The ways of Providence are often beyond our understanding. It seemed to me that the world had need of the work that it was probable he could do.
I do not know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House.”430

Reporter and friend John T. Lambert reported that the DNC was going on in MAdison Square Garden at the time of Calvin, jr.’s dead. He wrote, “I feel now the shudder than passed over the Democratic National Convention when the late Senator Thomas J. Walsh made his sympathetic announcement of it.”431 At the conventon, the Dems chose John W. Davis of West Virgina, a Wall Street lawyer and solicitor general under Wilson, who was the rare politician who earned the respect and admiration of the opposing party. On the left were the Progressives under Robert M. La Follette, the first considerable third party challnege since TR in 1912. La Follette took many votes away from Davis and gave Coolidge the election. He was born moments before his mother was reading aloud from the last chapter of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Davis was pushed into putting his name into the ring for the Democratic nomination in 1924. But as he wrote in his book, Party Government in the United States (1929): “The great prize of American politics is the presidency, the ultimate goal of all partisan effort the White House. Within proper limits it is a perfectly legitimate, indeed, a laudable ambition for every American.”432

The 1924 Dem convention was first to be broadcast over radio and the Am people heard the delegates refuse to condemn KKK or support League of Nations. He was nominated for President in 1924 on the 103d ballot, when, after a two-week deadlock at the Democratic convention, the forces of Alfred E. Smith and William Gibbs McAdoo agreed to compromise on a third candidate. His nomination earned the respect of the press as a symbol of peace and unity within Dem Party. His VP was Gov. Charles W. Bryan of Nebraska, for western vote and more liberal, but many didn’t vote got Davis because thought it was William jennings bryan! (he was WJB’s brother)

Republicans ignored the Dems and focused on the Progressives. They believed the Progressives would usher in a period of violent revolution. In 1917 there was the Boslehvik revolution, once that Churchill alone among Western leaders and intllectuals seemed to detect was a problem.433 The Dems on the other hand warned that a vote for La Follette was essentaiily a vote for Coolidge. Davis attacked the scandals that rocked the Harding administration, but not his successor: “I make no charges against the honesty and integrity of the present occupant of the White House. I think no man truthfully can.”434

Coolidge’s plan was to spend most of the summer of the Presdiential yachy, Mayflower.

La Follette wanted to get enoguh Ec votes so that neither Dem or Rep would get a majority and this throw the election into the House and possibly even the Senate.

Hampered by his legal affiliation with large corporations, Davis, even though he carried the South, won only 136 electoral votes and 8,386,500 popular votes. La Follette got 4,822,856 million votes.

He won in 1924. He added on October 25, 1924, to his father, “The outlook appears to be very promising, but as I have often told you elections are very uncertain. I hope this is the last time that I shall ever have to be a candidate for office.”435

On August 2, 1925 he wrote his father from Lynn, MA: “It is two years tonight since you woke me to bring the message that I was President. It seems a very short time. I trust it has been a great satisfaction to you. I think only two or three fathers have seen their sons chosen to be President of the United States. I am sure I came to it very laregely by your bringing up and your example. If that was what you wanted you have much to be thankful for that you have lived to so great an age to see it.”436

After relection in 1924, Coolidge was his own man. He liked to travel by tarin and ordered steak.


Added a phone so they could talk

“At his advanced age he had overtaxed his stgrength receiving the thousands of visitors who went to my old home in Plymouth. It was all a great satisfaction to him and he would not have had it otherwise...I knew for some weeks that he was passing his last days. I sent to bring him to Washington, but he clung to his old home. It was a sore trial not to be able to be with him, but I had to leave him where he most wished to be. When his doctors advised me that he could survice only a short time I started to visit him, but he sank to rest while I was on my way.”437

AS PRESIDENT. Coolideg struggled to put into words his experience as presidnet. “Like the glory of a morning sunrise, it can only be experienced--it can not be told.”438

AS PRESIDENT: DEGALTE: “In the discharge of the duties of the office there is one rule of action more important than all others. It consists of never doing anything that some one else can do for you. Like many other good rules, it is proven by its exceptions. But it indicates a course that should be very strictly followed in order to prevent being so entirely devoted to trifling details that there will be little opportunity to give the necessary consideration to policies of larger importance....About a dozen able, courageous, reliabel and experiecned men in the House and the Senate can reduce the problem of legisaltion almost to a vanishing point.”439 Still, Coolidge says, the buck stps with the Chief Executive.

“It was my custom be be out of bed about six-thirty, except in the darkest mornings of winter. ...It was my intention to take a short walk before breakfast, which Mrs. Coolidge and I ate together in our rooms. For me there was fruit and about one-half cup of coffee, with a home-made cereal made from boiling together two parts of unground wheat with one part of rye. To this was added a roll and a strip of bacon, which went mostly to our dogs.
Soon after eight found me dictating in the White House library in preparation for some public utterance. This would go on for about an hour, after which I began to receive callers at the office. Most of these came by appointment, but in addition to the average of six or eight who were listed there would be as many more from my Cabinet and the Congress, to whom I was always accessible.....About twelve-fifteen those began to be brought in who were to be somehwta formally presented. At twelve-thirty the doors were opened, and a long line passed by who wished merely to shake hands with the President. On once occassion I shook hands with nineteen hundred in thirty-four minutes, which is probably a new record....Lunch came at one o’clock, at which we usually had guests....About an hour was devoted to rest before returning to the office, was the afternoon was reserved for attention to the immense number of documents which pass over the desk of the President....Before dinner another walk was in order, followed by exercises on some of the vibrating machines kept in my room. We gathered at the dinner table at seven o’clock and within three-quarters of an hour work would be resumed with my stenographer to continue until about ten o’clock.”440

After Coolidge’s morning walk, he’d go to the WH mailroom and check his mail. He’d ask Ira R.T. Smith, the Chief of Mails at the White House, “Good morning. Are there any mails for me?” He was especially intertested in mail from his father and telling a good joke, always checking to see if Smith got it.441

CABINET MEETINGS: 10:30, Tuesday and Friday - no major problems

“These social functions were almost as much a part of the life of official Washington as a session of the Congress or a term of the Supreme Court.”442

“I have often been complimented on the choice which I made nearly twenty-five years ago. These functions were so much in the hands of Mrs. Coolidge that oftentimes I did not know what guests were to be present until I met them in the Blue Room just before going in to dinner.”443

“Everything the President does potentially at least is of such great importance that he must be constantly on guard. This applies not only to himself, but to everybody about him.”444

“It was my desire to maintain about the White House as far as possible an attitude of simplicity and not engage in anything that had an air of pretentious display. That was my conception of the great office.”445

“A great many presnets come to the White House, which are all cherished, not so much for their intrinsic value as because they are token of esteem and affection. Almost everything that can be eaten comes. We always know what to do with that. But some of the pets that are offered us are more of a problem. I have a beautiful black-haired bear that was brought all the way from Mexico in a truck, and a pair of live lion cubs now grown up, and a small species of hippopotamus which came from South Africa. These and other animals have been placed in the zoological quarters in Rock Creek Park. We always had more dogs than we could take care of. My favorites were the white collies, which became so associated with me that they are enshrined in my bookplate, where they will live as long as our country endures. One of them, Prudence Prim, was especially attached to Mrs. Coolidge. We lost her in the Black Hills. She lies out there in the shadow of Bear Butte where the Indians told me the Great Spirit came to commune with his children.”446

John, the teenage heartthrob in the WH, would get fan mail from teenage girls. Once Cal found out, he asked that John’s letters go to him instead. Once, Johnwas expecting aletter from a special girl and asked Smith: “Well, it doesn’t matter except for one thing. You see, there’s one that’s different. I don’t mind Dad getting the others, but this one--you know the one I mean?”447 They worked out a system whereby Smith would leave the letter on his desk and leave the room, whereupon John would come in and take the eltters. They were from Florence Trumbull, daughter of Connecticut’s Govenror, and later was John’s wife.

”The Congress has sometimes been a sore trial to Presidents. I did not find it so in my case.”448

Coolidge wasn’t an indiscriminate tax cutter. The 1928 tax bill passed bu the House needed modification in the Senate, Coolidge wrote, because “the reductions were so large that the revenue necessary to meet the public expenses would not have been furnished.”449

“Even after passing through the Presidential office, it still remains a great mystery. Why one person is selected for it and many others are rejected can not be told. Why pople respond as they do to its influecne seems to be beyond inquiry. Any man who was been placed in the White House can not feel that it is the result of his own exertions or his own merit. Some power outside and beyond him becomes manifest through him. As he contemplates the workings of his office, he comes to realize with an increasing sense of humility that he is but an instrument in the hands of God.”450

“The reasons I can give may not appear very convincing, but I am confident my decision was correct.”451 (1) wouldn’t be successful; (2) health of Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge would suffer; (3) would appear that he was “grasping for office”452 ; (4) opposition would increase and therefore decrease his effectiveness; (5) “I wanted to serve the country again as a private citizen.”453 Coolidge did say, “My election seemed assured. Nevertheless, I felt it was not best for the country that I should succeed myself. A new impulse is more likely to be beneficial.”454

This was a momentous decision, Coolidge recalled. “Without in any way being conscious of what I was doing I then became committed to a course that was to make me the President of the Senate of Massachusetts and of the Senate of the United States, the second officer of the Commonwealth and the country, and the chief executive of a city, a state and a nation.”455

The relationship of Calvin and Grace is helpful in providing insight into the future president. As Frank Stearns (Coolidge's promoter) wrote to Grace when Calvin was nominated for the Vice Presidency, "You and I have one thing in common, at any rate. You picked out Calvin Coolidge some years ago and gave him your endorsement; more recently I picked him out and gave him the most emphatic endorsement I knew how to. Of course many others can claim to have picked him out, but amongst them all I think we can shake hands over the proposition that yours was the most important endorsement and mine comes next."”456

As VP’s wife and then P’s wife: “ We children actually had more contact with Mrs. Coolidge than did the grownups on our block, for she loved walking, and we met her as she walked her dog or hurried up to the mailbox at the corner of Massasoit and Elm Streets. The graceful, swinging stride of Grace Coolidge was unforgettable. She walked joyously and vigorously; at times she seemed about to skip. At the approach of our rattling tricycles she stepped aside for us as lightly as a young girl. She encouraged us in our reckless roller-skating and peered politely at the grubby occupants of our doll carriages. Scarcely recognizing who she was, we went out of our way to attract her notice. She was one of those adults whose attentions delight rather than vaguely repel children.”457

“There was another reason for his aloofness, and it says much about Coolidge's strength of character, as well as the timidity that represented his greatest failing as president. All his life, Coolidge did battle with paralyzing shyness. As a boy in Plymouth, the sound of strangers being entertained in the kitchen by his parents had terrified him. For the adult Coolidge, an introvert in an extrovert's profession, greeting their counterparts on the campaign trail required an act of will. In time he conquered his crippling reserve, "but every time I meet a stranger," Coolidge acknowledged, "I've got to go through the old kitchen door back home, and it's not easy."458


“To his friend and admirer, the Boston businessman Frank Stearns, who had been urging him to broaden his acquaintance and meet more people, Coolidge once told a story so revealing of his true feelings that almost every biographer has felt compelled to include it in one version or another. "When I was a boy," Coolidge told Stearns, "there were perhaps fifty inhabitants of Plymouth. I knew them all, of course. But if I was aware that one of them happened to be in my mother's kitchen, it was a little short of torture for me to go in. At the age of twelve, I made up my mind that I must overcome this feeling. Gradually I did, but some of it still stays with me."3

A private letter to Stearns on another occasion during his Vice Presidency, was a cry of anguish: "You have no conception of what people do to me. Even small things bother Me."”459

His father was away from home during part of his earliest years through election to public office. His mother was quite sickly, probably suffering from tuberculosis, and died when he was only twelve. Calvin perhaps blamed himself for her death (McCoy, 1967, p. 5), possibly because his birth and childhood exacerbated her frailty

A few years after his mother's untimely death, Calvin's sister Abigail (Abbie), who was three years his junior and with whom he was very close, died of apparent appendicitis at the age of fourteen.

“It was my father in later years who wished me to eneter the law, but when I finally left home for that purpose the parting was very hard for him to bear.”460


PRIVACY: His great-grandson says, “Let me share with you some of the quirks and similarities that have somehow carried on through the generations, The first of which is that Coolidge's tend to like their privacy. Often in Plymouth the family comes in contact with people who do not realize they are speaking with a Coolidge. Such as when my grandfather was mowing the lawn in front of the Homestead, or when Lydia was working at the Wilder House, a historic house now turned into a restaurant, or when I assisted the tourist guide at the Homestead.

All of us occasionally get asked questions by tourists about the Coolidges and rarely let on to the fact that they are actually speaking to one. My favorite story about this happened years ago, when my grandfather and I were trimming the grass at the cemetery before a July 4th celebration of President Coolidge's birth. Every year a wreath is sent from The White House in commemoration of his birthday, and there is a
brief ceremony at the grave site. A person arrived and looked over the headstones and then started to ask a few questions. Once he was finished, he commented that it must be quite an honor to be the caretakers of a Presidential grave site, to which both my grandfather and I just nodded our heads. At the time I was not sure if my grandfather would let the cat out of the bag. He did not.”

FINANCES: “Coolidges tend to be conservative when it comes to finances. Like my forefathers, I much prefer to save, rather than spend money.”

My fundamental idea of both private and public business came first from my father. He had the strong New England trait of great
repugnance at seeing anything wasted. He was a generous and charitable man, but he regarded waste as a moral wrong, Wealth comes from
industry, and from the hard experience of human toil. To dissipate it in waste and extravagance is disloyalty to humanity. This is by no means a
doctrine of parsimony. Both men and nations should live in accordance with their means and devote their substance not only to productive
industry, but to the creation of the various forms of beauty and the pursuit of culture which give adornments to the art of life.
Here are few more similarities between myself and my forefathers. Calvin Coolidge lost his mother when he was 12. 1 lost my mother when I
was 22. Calvin Jr. died from blood poisoning at the age of 16. When I was 15, 1 also became ill from blood poisoning. Fortunately for me,
penicillin had been discovered. I like Calvin Jr., spent a summer working in the tobacco fields. My parents said it would build character. Let me
quote Calvin Jr. on working in the tobacco field after it was announced that his father had become President. When one of his fellow workers
stated, "If my father was President I would not work in a tobacco field," young Calvin replied, "If your father were my father, you would." 461



1894 speech: “The great land of America had a part to play in the history of the world that could best be performed by making it an independent nation. England's great work was to plant colonies; America could not aid in that work. It was her place to found a great nation on this side of the Atlantic and bring out the conception of free government. ”462

speech at graduation from college: humor: “Probably nearly every one would maintain that the only proper thing to do when one comes to a description of sophomore year is to let the voice fall, count four, and begin some other subject. 463


“It would be hardly too much to say, that since the dawn of civilization, the triumphs of the tongue have rivaled, if not surpassed, those of the sword.
Although some of the most fiery themes of eloquence may have passed away with the occasions of tyranny, outrage, and oppression that created them, though the age of Philippics has happily gone; yet so long as wickedness and misery, injustice and wretchedness prevail on the earth, so long as the millennium is still distant and Utopia a dream, the voice of the orator will still be needed to warn, to denounce, to terrify, and to overwhelm.”464 and more: “It is not positive proof that a diploma is a wolf because it comes to you in sheep's clothing.”

HIS OPTIMISM: “Washington and Jefferson, Franklin and Mason, Hamilton and Madison, Adams and Marshall, suggest a type of citizenship and leadership, of scholarship and statesmanship, of wisdom and character, of ability and patriotism, unsurpassed by any group of men ever brought together to direct the political destinies of a nation. They did what they could in their time for the advancement of the public welfare, and they were not discontented because they could not immediately secure perfection. They had a vision and they worked toward it. They knew that in their day it was not to be fully realized. They did not lack the courage to have faith in the future. ”465

ALSO--> “It is hard to see how a great man can be an atheist. Without the sustaining influence of faith in a divine power we could have little faith in ourselves. We need to feel that behind us is intelligence and love. Doubters do not achieve; skeptics do not contribute; cynics do not create. Faith is the great motive power, and no man realizes his full possibilities unless he has the deep conviction that life is eternally important, and that his work, well done, is a part of an unending plan. ”466

ALSO--> “The principle of equality is recognized. It follows inevitably from belief in the
brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God. When once the right of the individual to liberty and equality is admitted, there is no escape from the conclusion that he alone is entitled to the rewards of his own industry. Any other conclusion would necessarily imply either privilege or servitude. Here again the right of individual property is for the protection of society.”467

“...while Coolidge was sometimes very funny, he was never ridiculous. Throughout his career, from the lowest office he held to the highest, his attitude to his public duties was one of the uttermost gravity.”468

that Calvin Coolidge's sole election defeat came at the hands of John Kennedy--John J. Kennedy, a Northampton insurance man who nosed out his Republican opponent in a 1905 race for that city's school committee.

“Another Irish-American who supported Coolidge was Richard Rahar, at whose inn Coolidge roomed and boarded. That was enough to identify Coolidge as a "wet" during the 1910 race against Henry Bicknell who advocated Prohibition. Coolidge's identification came not so much from his own drinking habits, always temperate, but from the fact that he was general counsel for Springfield Breweries Co.”469

“...Calvin Coolidge was no dummy politically. In fact, what emerges in his early political years is a growing and increasingly impressive ability to make the right political moves at the right time.”470

“He believed in the party system and party loyalty. He was a delegate to Republican state conventions, beginning in 1898, and he played an increasingly important role in those conventions. But he also reached out to independents and Democrats. He knocked on a lot of doors in the Irish precincts of Northampton. He sought out
the leaders of organized labor and won their support He carried that support into the legislature where he developed remarkably close relationships with his Irish Democratic colleagues.”471

“When Coolidge began to run for statewide office, he never forgot the lessons he had learned in winning local office at the grassroots. While not a gifted speaker, he campaigned hard and often and was known to deliver as many as fifteen speeches a day in his first run for lieutenant-governor. He abhorred negative campaigning, and it nearly beat him in his first race for the governorship when Long went after him with a tough and slashing campaign. But he never responded and rarely if ever mentioned his opponent's name.”472

Broke up policeman’s strike. he stated his philsophy in a 1924 speech: “When each citizen submits himself to the authority of law he does not thereby decrease his independence or freedom, but rather increases it. By recognizing that he is a part of a larger body which is banded together for a common purpose, he becomes more than an individual, he rises to a new dignity of citizenship. Instead of finding himself restricted and confined by rendering obedience to public law, he finds himself protected and defended and in the exercise of increased and increasing rights.”473

“...helped get an anti-monopoly bill passed and supported popular election of senators, the direct primary, women's suffrage, the six day work week, reduced hours for women and children, discounted railroad fares for working men, pensions for fireman's widows, half-fares for children on street railways, equipping factories with surgical equipment, the construction of municipal playgrounds, a state income tax, legalized picketing and state aid to help widowed mothers care for their children. The quiet Yankee, he points out, "was uncomfortably progressive for some of his constituents in Northampton." He got along well with the Irish, who were generally Democrats, "they always respected him and often voted for him. ... [he] loves his fellow men because he lives with them and understands them, ...a man who walks to work every morning nodding to his fellow townsmen...... He was a dependable Republican who never alienated local Democrats and for decades held his Democratic friends.”


“When he suddenly, on the night of August 2-3, 1923, became president, no one knew anything about him. Read the diary of the most prominent reporter in Washington at the time, Mark Sullivan, who in his diary for August 2 when Harding was dying in San Francisco related a fanciful account of a Harding mistress, and next day was looking for information, any information, about the new president. In the following week or so Sullivan was picking up stories about Coolidge and hardly knew what to write. At that juncture Coolidge himself began to oblige, with what might well have been a clever move on his part but I am not so sure. The first of the newspaper stories drew him as a parsimonious Vermonter, and evidently the new president, seeking what later would be described as a niche, decided he might as well oblige. From the moment he became president, and I suspect from some time well before that, for Coolidge was not stupid and knew that Harding's health was poor and getting worse, he must have been eyeing the presidency and, if affairs came to such a pass, how he would be elected in his own right in 1924. For that grand purpose he needed to impress the American people in some way, and I believe he decided he would be known as Silent Cal. Of course, that was entirely untrue. To his biweekly press conferences he talked a blue streak, on and on. But he let the initial caricatures of parsimoniousness and silence continue unabated, and occasionally enlarged upon them. Matters have come to such a pass that an historian, that is, myself, has collected 263 Coolidge stories. (And I cannot get them published, four presses have turned them down, including the University Press of New England, whose accessions editor refuses to look at them.) Coolidge, and I return to the subject, allowed a drawing of himself as a cracker-barrel philosopher, and while it elected him in 1924 it did little for his reputation later.”474


“Before setting out for Washington the morning of August 3, he visited the hillside cemetery where five generations of his family lay buried. He paused before the grave of his mother, whose life had ended prematurely when Calvin was a boy of twelve, close by the spot where just a few hours earlier he had been inaugurated as America's 30th president. Hers would be the first picture he placed on his White House desk. a likeness he would carry with him until the day of his own death.”476

“Among his first acts as president, this repressed but deeply emotional Vermonter wrote a letter to Jim Lucey, a Northampton shoemaker with whom he had forged a friendship which, multiplied by several million, begins to explain the curious appeal of Harding's successor. "Dear Mr. Luce," he began, "Not often do I see or write you, but I want you to know that, if it were not for you, I should not be here, and I want to tell you
how much I love you. Do not work too much now and try to enjoy yourself in your well-earned leisure of years." Thus Coolidge's first days in office set the pattern for what would follow.”477

“On December 6, 1923, President Coolidge delivered in person his first Annual Message to Congress. This was rather unusual because presidential addresses to Congress at that time were rarely delivered by the president personally. This was also the first Presidential Address in history to be broadcast on radio and "Silent Cal," which was the nickname given him because of the economy of speech he showed with visitors and even with persons whom he met in lighter social situations (Kallenback, 1966, p. 278), proved to be an effective radio performer (Cornwell, 1957, p. 268; Barber, 1980, p. 231; Goodfellow, 1969, p. 65). In that address he presented Congress with a litany of legislative requests and set forth his own position on a wide variety of subjects in unmistakable terms. Coolidge urged the establishment of a Permanent Court of International justice, the abolition of certain kinds of taxes, the expansion of the civil service system, the abolition of the right to issue tax-exempt securities, the resumption of the opening of intercoastal waterways and the enactment of oil slick laws. He also urged that Congress appropriate funds for medical courses at Howard University, set up reformatories for women and for young men serving their first prison sentence, provide for the recodification of navigation laws, expand health care for veterans and establish a separate Cabinet-level Department of Education and Welfare (Israel, 1967, pp. 2642, 2645, 2646, 2648, 2649, 2651). In all, Coolidge made almost thirty identifiable requests to Congress in his first annual message.

Additionally, it is interesting to note the forceful, direct and unequivocal language used by Coolidge as he made his first requests to the legislature. As examples, he told Congress that: "I favor the establishment of [a Permanent Court of International justice] and I commend [this proposal] to the favorable consideration of the Senate, with the proposed reservations clearly indicating our refusal to adhere to the League of Nations," "I do not favor the cancellation of the foreign debt;" "I recommend that Congress appoint a small joint committee to consider offers, conduct negotiations, and report definite recommendations [on Muscle Schoals];" "I recommend that the field force for prohibition enforcement be brought within the classified service."

Both the language and substance of Coolidge's first Message to Congress portended a President who was comfortable in his role as President and who did not shirk his responsibilities as legislative leader.”478


“One of the most natural of reactions during the war was intolerance. But the inevitable disregard for the opinions and feelings of minorities is none the less a disturbing product of war psychology. The slow and difficult advances which tolerance and liberalism have made through long periods of development are dissipated almost in a night when the necessary war-time habits of thought hold the minds of the people. The necessity for a common purpose and a united intellectual front becomes paramount to every thing else. But when the need for such a solidarity is past there should be a quick and generous readiness to revert to the old and normal habits of thought. There should be an intellectual demobilization as well as a military demobilization. Progress depends very largely on the encouragement of variety. Whatever tends to standardize the community, to establish fixed and rigid modes of thought, tends to fossilize society. If we all believed the same thing and thought the same thoughts and applied the same valuations to all the occurrences about us, we should reach a state of equilibrium closely akin to an intellectual and spiritual paralysis. It is the ferment of ideas, the clash of disagreeing judgments, the privilege of the individual to develop his own thoughts and shape his own character, that makes progress possible. It is not possible to learn much from those who uniformly agree with us. But many useful things are learned from those who disagree with us; and even when we can gain nothing our differences are likely to do us no harm.
In this period of after war rigidity, suspicion, and intolerance our own country has not been exempt from unfortunate experiences. Thanks to our comparative isolation, we have known less of the international frictions and rivalries than some other countries less fortunately situated. But among some of the varying racial, religious, and social groups of our people there have been manifestations of an intolerance of opinion, a narrowness to outlook, a fixity of judgment, against which we may well be warned. It is not easy to conceive of anything that would be more unfortunate in a community based upon the ideals of which Americans boast than any considerable development of intolerance as regards religion. To a great extent this country owes its beginnings to the determination of our hardy ancestors to maintain complete freedom in religion. In stead of a state church we have decreed that every
citizen shall be free to follow the dictates of his own conscience as to his religious beliefs and affiliations. Under that guaranty we have erected a system which certainly is justified by its fruits. Under no other could we have dared to invite the peoples of all countries and creeds to come here and unite with us in creating the State of which we are all citizens.
But having invited them here, having accepted their great and varied contributions to the building of the Nation, it is for us to maintain in all good faith
those liberal institutions and traditions which have been so productive of good.
The bringing together of all these different national, racial, religious, and cultural elements has made our country a kind of composite of the rest of the world, and we can render no greater service than by demonstrating the possibility of harmonious cooperation among so many various groups. Every one of them has something characteristic and significant of great value to cast into the common fund of our material, intellectual, and spiritual resources. The war brought a great test of our experiment in amalgamating these varied factors into a real Nation, with the ideals and aspirations of a united people.
None was excepted from the obligation to serve when the hour of danger struck. The event proved that our theory had been sound. On a solid foundation of a national unity there had been erected a superstructure which in its varied parts had offered full opportunity to develop all the range of talents and genius that had gone into its making. Well-nigh all the races, religions, and nationalities of the world were represented in the armed forces of this Nation, as they were in the body of our population. No man's patriotism was impugned or service questioned because of his racial origin, his political opinion, or his religious convictions. Immigrants and sons of immigrants from the central European countries fought side by side with those who descended from the countries which were our allies; with the sons of equatorial Africa; and with the Red men of our own aboriginal population, all of them equally proud of the name Americans.
We must not, in times of peace, permit ourselves to lose any part from this structure of patriotic unity. I make no plea for leniency toward those who are criminal or vicious, are open enemies of society and are not prepared to accept the true standards of our citizenship. By tolerance I do not mean indifference to evil. I mean respect for different kinds of good. Whether one traces his Americanisms back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat. You men constituted the crew of our "Ship of State" during her passage through the roughest waters. You made up the watch and held the danger posts when the storm was fiercest. You brought her safely and triumphantly into port. Out of that experience you have learned the lessons of discipline, tolerance, respect for authority, and regard for the basic manhood of your neighbor. You bore aloft a standard of patriotic conduct and civic integrity, to which all could repair. Such a standard, with a like common appeal, must be upheld just as firmly and unitedly now in time of peace. Among citizens honestly devoted to the maintenance of that standard, there need be small concern about differences of individual opinion in other regards. Granting first the essentials of loyalty to our country and to our fundamental institutions, we may not only overlook, but we may encourage differences of opinion as to other things. For differences of this kind will certainly be elements of strength rather than of weakness. They will give variety to our tastes and interests. They will broaden our vision, strengthen our understanding, encourage the true humanities, and enrich our whole mode and conception of life. I recognize the full and complete necessity of 100 per cent Americanism, but 100 per cent Americanism may be made up of many various elements.
If we are to have that harmony and tranquillity, that union of spirit which is the foundation of real national genius and national progress, we must all realize that there are true Americans who did not happen to be born in our section of the country, who do not attend our place of religious worship, who are not of our racial stock, or who are not proficient in our language. If we are to create on this continent a free Republic and an enlightened civilization that will be capable of reflecting the true greatness and glory of mankind, it will be necessary to regard these differences as accidental and unessential. We shall have to look beyond the outward manifestations of race and creed. Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character.
The same principle that it is necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among our own people it is also necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among the different nations. During the war we were required not only to put a strong emphasis on everything that appealed to our own national pride but an equally strong emphasis on that which tended to disparage other peoples. There was an intensive cultivation of animosities and hatreds and enmities,
together with a blind appeal to force, that took possession of substantially all the peoples of the earth. Of course, these ministered to the war spirit. They supplied the incentive for destruction, the motive for conquest. But in time of peace these sentiments are not helps but hindrances; they are no constructive. The generally expressed desire of "America first" can not be criticized. It is a perfectly correct aspiration for our people to cherish. But the problem which we have to solve is how to make America first. It can not be done by the cultivation of national bigotry, arrogance, or selfishness.
Hatreds, jealousies, and suspicions will not be productive of any benefits in this direction. Here again we must apply the rule of toleration. Because there are other peoples whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, we are not warranted in drawing the conclusion that they are adding nothing to the sum of civilization. We can make little contribution to the welfare of humanity on the theory that we are a superior people and all others are an inferior people. We do not need to be too loud in the assertion of our own righteousness. It is true that we live under most favorable circumstances. But before we come to the final and irrevocable decision that we are better than everybody else we need to consider what we might do if we had their provocations and their difficulties. We are not likely to improve our own condition or help humanity very much until we come to the sympathetic understanding that human nature is about the same everywhere, that it is rather evenly distributed over the surface of the earth, and that we
are all united in a common brotherhood. We can only make America first in the true sense which that means by cultivating a spirit of friendship and good will, by the exercise of the virtues of, patience and forbearance, by being "plenteous in mercy", and through progress at home and helpfulness abroad standing as an example of real service to humanity.
It is for these reasons that it seems clear that the results of the war will be lost and we shall only be entering a period of preparation for another conflict unless we can demobilize the racial antagonisms, fears, hatreds, and suspicions, and create an attitude of toleration in the public mind of the peoples of the earth. If our country is to have any position of leadership, I trust it may be in that direction, and I believe that the place where it should begin is at home. Let us cast off our hatreds. Let us candidly accept our treaties and our natural obligations of peace. We know and everyone knows that these old systems, antagonisms, and reliance on force have failed. If the world has made any progress, it has been the result of the development of other ideals. If we are to maintain and perfect our own civilization, if we are to be of any benefit to the rest of mankind, we must turn aside from the thoughts of destruction and cultivate the thoughts of construction. We can not place our main reliance upon material forces. We must reaffirm and reinforce our ancient faith in truth and justice, in charitableness and tolerance. We must make our supreme commitment to the everlasting spiritual forces of life. We must mobilize the conscience of mankind.”479

February 3, 1924: WWilson dies. Coolidge: “He gave utterance to the aspiration of humanity with an eloquence which held the attention of all the earth and made America a new and enlarged influence in the destiny of mankind.”480

International Court of Justice. Coolidge is an internationalist: “Our Nation has associated itself with other great powers for the purpose of promoting peace in the regions of the Pacific Ocean. It has steadily refused to accept the covenant of the League of Nations, but long before that was thought of, before the opening of the present century, we were foremost in promoting the calling of a conference at The Hague to provide for a tribunal of arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. We have made many treaties on that basis with other nations.

But we have an opportunity before us to reassert our desire and to lend the force of our example for the peaceful adjudication of differences between nations. Such action would be in entire harmony with the policy which we have long advocated. I do not look upon it as a certain guaranty against war, but it would be a method of disposing of troublesome questions, an accumulation of which leads to irritating conditions and results in mutually hostile sentiments. More than a year ago President Harding proposed that the Senate should authorize our adherence to the protocol of the Permanent Court of International Justice, with certain conditions. His suggestion has already had my approval. On that I stand. I should not oppose other reservations, but
any material changes which would not probably receive the consent of the many other nations would be impracticable. We can not take a step in advance of this kind without assuming certain obligations. Here again if we receive anything we must surrender something. We may as well face the question candidly, and if we are willing to assume these new duties in exchange for the benefits which would accrue to us, let us say so. If we are not willing, let us say that. We can accomplish nothing by taking a doubtful or ambiguous position. We are not going to be able to avoid meeting the world and bearing our part of the burdens of the world. We must meet those burdens and overcome them or they will meet us and overcome us. For my part I desire my country to meet them without evasion and without fear in an upright, downright, square, American way.

While there are those who think we would be exposed to peril by adhering to this court, I am unable to attach great weight to their arguments. Whatever differences, whatever perils exist for us in the world, will come anyway, whether we oppose or support the court. I am one of those who believe we would be safer and that we would be meeting our duties better by supporting it and making every possible use of it. I feel confident that such action would make a greater America, that it would be productive of a higher and finer national spirit, and of a more complete national life.”481

To Howard University: “The accomplishments of the colored people in the United States, in the brief historic period since they were brought here from the restrictions of their native continent, can not but make us realize that there is something essential in our civilization which gives it a special power. I think we shall be able to agree that this particular element is the Christian religion, whose influence always and everywhere has been a force for the illumination and advancement of the peoples who have come under its sway. ”482


“ Very few contemporaries have much to say about a Vice-President after he has made an initial impression on Washington, D.C. Coolidge was no exception to this tradition. His laconic style, steady work habits, and attendance at many social functions drew some interest during his first few months in the office. When asked about his role as official diner-out for the administration, he reportedly quipped, "Got to eat somewhere." A classic Coolidge story originated at one of these dinners. A woman sat down next to Coolidge, and told him "You must talk to me. I made a bet today that I could get more than two words out of you." Coolidge's succinct reply was "You lose."

“ Those of us who were children of the twenties on Massasoit Street remember the Coolidges primarily as visitors home from the nation's capital during his years as Vice-President and then President. Their arrival was heralded by the temporary closing-off of the street, followed by several large black limousines pulling up to the house. A small crowd, many of them children whom Mrs. Coolidge always acknowledged, usually collected to stand about for a while. A few photographers did their work, and soon all was back to normal. If Secret Service men were there, they weren't in evidence.”484

“What my brother and I best recall of him were the shoe soles of the presidential feet. Coolidge was an inveterate foot-propper-upper, always had been apparently, and there he sat in the late afternoon or after supper, smoking his cigar, reading his newspaper, a straw hat tilted against the glare, feet on the porch railing much in the manner of our own fathers up and down the street.”485

“During his first year as Vice-President, Coolidge authored several articles published in periodicals. A few of these made references to improving economic conditions. However, most of them dealt with the same themes as his speeches. A few are of importance to a study of Coolidge's character, since they seem to echo themes which now cast a negative light upon Coolidge.
One article, appearing in the February, 1921 issue of Good Housekeeping was titled "Whose Country Is This?' It extols the White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant traditions of America as opposed to those of recent immigrants, and favors restrictive quotas on further immigration. This is surprising, in light of Coolidge's courting of, and popularity with Irish and French-Canadian voters in Massachusetts. However, the Republican-dominated Congress would pass a temporary immigration restriction bill that year, which was signed into law by President Harding.

These restrictions were tightened up even more by an act passed in 1924, setting up quotas that favored Northern Europeans. While he expressed regret for this act's anti-Japanese bias, Coolidge did not want to buck what he perceived as a popular trend of the times, or his party's will, so he signed it into law.
A three-part series of articles published in the Delineator magazine during the summer of 1921 was entitled "Enemies of the Republic." Some contemporaries speculated that Coolidge wrote little, if any of the contents of these articles, but allowed his name to appear on what was probably someone else's sloppy research. "Enemies of the Republic" attempted to prove that many professors at U.S. women's colleges were disseminators of Communist propaganda. As some of the critics of the series were quick to point out, many of the incidents cited were distorted, or magnified to imply a degree of danger that did not exist. A few of the actions by students and professors, mentioned by Coolidge, were merely examples of expressions of free speech.
Coolidge had carefully avoided "Red-baiting" when he was governor, even when he could have exploited the Boston Police strike of 1919 in that fashion. With these articles, he may have felt he was in line with the "Red-baiting" spirit of the post World War I era. However, that phase had already passed its peak when these articles appeared. Even President Harding was beginning to pardon many of the "leftist" political prisoners jailed during and after World War I. Coolidge continued to extol American ideals of democracy over imported political systems, but he seems to have quickly dropped this "red-baiting?' theme even before he became president.
While there had been little comment on his earlier articles, Coolidge may have been burned by the negative reaction to the "Enemies of the Republic" series. Almost all of Coolidge's subsequent periodical appearances during his vice-presidency were excerpts from his speeches. He would continue this policy as president, resuming his writing career only after leaving office, by which time it had become very lucrative.”486

CHAPTER ___________?

The day the news came, Calvin Coolidge, his wife Grace, and their two sons were enjoying a peaceful time in Calvin’s hometown of Plymouth, Vermont, a town of 400 people nestled in the heart of the state. The day was Thursday, August 2, 1923, and Calvin, then vice president of the United States, was glad to be out of the glare of Washington, D.C., politics. Congress was in recess, and vacation seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. In old Vermont fashion, Calvin “relaxed” by repairing an old maple tree on his father’s land, and Grace busied herself raking leaves and clearing away dead branches. Their teenage sons, John and Calvin, Jr., had left for Massachusetts that afternoon -- John for military service at Camp Devens, and Calvin to work on a tobacco farm.

Despite his firm intention to put the affiars of state out of his mind, Coolidge undoubtedly thought some about his political future. The election of 1924 was looming, and it looked almost certain that President Warren G. Harding would once again secure the nomination of the Republican Party. Despite scandals swirling around his close associates, Harding was sure enough of his reelection -- or at least the income he could earn from writing editorials and delivering speeches -- that he sold his beloved Marion, Ohio Star newspaper in June 1923.

Still, storm clouds were brewing for President Harding as 1923 began. In the latest Congressional elections in November 1922, the Democrats picked up 75 seats in the House of Representatives, reducing Harding’s Republican majority from 168 seats to an uncomfortably slim 18 seats. In 1924 the Democrats were bound and determined to win back the biggest prize of all: the White House. A groundswell of popular support gathered behind Democrat Henry Ford early in 1923, and a Collier’s magazine poll taken in the spring showed that if Ford chose to run, he would defeat Harding by nearly two-to-one.487

Given these circumstances, Harding had some decisions to make. First of all, would he keep Coolidge on the ticket in 1924? As one correspondent noted at the time, Cooludge was in many ways an atypical politician and therefore could be perceived as something of a liability to Harding:

Calvin Coolidge is that peculiar and practically unknown paradox, a very
good politician who is a very bad politican. He refuses to do, politically,
what the politicians think that he ought to do, and he seems wholly lacking
in the ability or the ambition to trade handshakes for votes. He seems to be
interested only in the right or wrong of big issues; and he never feels the
necessity of making a decision because of the political effect that it will have
on some political division of the counrty, which is extremely distressing to the
old-line politicians.488

Indeed, one of Harding’s biographers has suggested that Harding was ready to replace Coolidge with the Charles Dawes, a charismatic and well-respected diplomat from Chicago who was the Wilson Administration’s point man in post-war Europe. In a bit of irony, Dawes shared Coolidge’s dedication to principle, and the former crossed party lines to defend the Democratic administration of Woodrow Wilson against Republican allegations that it had spent too lavishly supplying American troops during World War One. Dawes became famous for one outburst in particular: “Hell and Maria, we weren’t trying to keep a set of books, we were trying to win the war!”489

The pipe-smoking Dawes was a fighter -- unlike the taciturn Coolidge -- and he therefore had an intrinsic appeal to Harding as the president surveyed the political scene for 1924. “We are not worried about that little fellow in Massachusetts,” Harding told a friend. “Charlie Dawes is the man!”490 As it turned out, Dawes did become the vice president, but under circumstances very different from those anyone could have expected.

Meanwhile, Calvin Coolidge was in a holding pattern. He was not immune to these shifting sands of politics. At the beginning of the 1923, Coolidge’s close friend, the Boston businessman Frank Stearns, surveyed the vice president’s political options:

Just what Mr. Coolidge will decide to do, whether he will run for the Senate against Walsh, or whether he will retire, or whether he will be renominated for Vice-President, I have no notion whatsoever. If he is not nominated for Vice-President, Harding is sure to be defeated as things stand today...491

Later that spring, when asked about running for Senate, Coolidge indicated that he had made up his mind: “No, if I don’t run for vice presdient again, I won’t run for anything.”492 Harding could do what he wished with Dawes. For his part, Coolidge seemed ready to retire to the hills of Vermont and live out his days in relative obscurity. He was, first and foremost, a man of the people, and to the people he would return.

By the summer of 1923, the presdential primaries were less than a year away, and the Harding scandals were beginning to talke an emotional and political toll on the president. In an attempt to recover political lost ground, and having settled the Coolidge question in his mind, Harding left on June 20, 1923 for a transcontinental speaking tour. He called it a ‘Voyage of Understanding,’ one in which he sought to reconnect with ordinary Americans.

Harding delivered eighteen scheduled speeches on topics rnaging from Phohibition to the World Court, plus many more speeches at various stops along the train route. He emphasized the need for the United States to continue to remain engaged in international affairs, even after the wrenching experience of World War One, and not retreat into isolationism. In the process, he crisscrossed the Pacific Northwest, which was virgin territory for a sitting president. Harding was a man on a mission to show Americans that he was above the scandals that engulfed his closest colleagues: an eye of honesty in the midst of a hurricane of shady business dealings.

Harding’s schedule was quite arduous for a man in poor health, and in the end the strain proved to be too much for the 57 year-old president. He died on August 2 from a massive heart attack after he and his entourage had arrived in San Francisco. According to witnesses, his death was quick and painless. Sadly, only death brought Harding the relief that he had sought in vain in the last years of his life.

Perhaps Harding himself knew that the end was near. The day before he left on his Voyage, he asked Attoney General Daugherty to help him draft a new will. All of his property, and most of his money -- nearly $1 million -- would go the Florence, nicknamed “the Duchess,” who was his faithful wife and the woman who had stood by him through good times and bad.


Warren Gamaliel Harding has often been seen as the most corrupt of the American presidents, but recent evidence has shown that he was not complicit in the scandals threatened to bring down his presidency. After he returned from his West Coast trip, Harding had planned to kick of his relection campaign by making the case to the American people that he and his administration had been betrayed. He told a friend that “the people will believe me when they hear that story.”493

How did the administration become so riddled with scandal? It seems that President Harding had one significant political failing that in the end proved fatal. “Harding was careless in his choice of friends and colleagues,” wrote one historian. “Or, to put it another way, he was generous and unsuspicious.” His Secretary of the Interior, former Senator Albert Fall of New Mexico, recieved $400,000 for granting favorable lease terms on government oil fields in California and Wyoming. This was scandal enough, but then it emerged that associates of Harding friend and Attorney General Harry Daugherty had been involved with others in selling government favors to the highest bidder. Although Harding was not involved in these corrupt activities, he was deeply hurt by the betrayal and opportunism of some of his closest friends.494

Even as Harding prepared to leave for his West Coast working vacation, the fallout from these political scandals had begun to take its toll on Harding’s health. In addition, Harding’s wife, Florence, who had only one kidney, was suffering from health problems. Writing in his Autobiography, Coolidge recalled that Harding’s health had been failing for some time prior to departing fro Alaska:

In the winter of 1923 President Harding was far from well...Later it was disclosed that he had discovered that some whom he had trsuted had betrayed him and he had been forced to call them to account. It is known that this discovery was a very heavy grief to him, perhaps more than he could bear.495

Edmund Starling, the Secret Service agent who had served as Harding’s bodyguard for over two years, accompanied Harding to the West Coast. “He looked more weary than I had ever seen him,” Starling recalled.496 Florence Harding, who had also noticed her husband’s condition, asked Colonel Starling to ensure that Harding’s doctors, General Sawyer and Captain Boone, were close by the president during his West Coast trip.

Trying to leave the scandals behind, Harding’s train left Washington, D.C., on June 20 and arrived in Tacoma, Washington, on July 4, where he was greeted with gray skies and a light drizzle. Alaska was still four days and 1,000 miles away, and the distance was covered by the U.S.S. Henderson, an Army transport ship which had brought some of the first American troops to Europe in 1917. Harding was the first sitting president ever to visit Alaska. Throughout July, he toured major the state’s cities, as well as remote outposts dominated by glaciers and flocks of reindeer.

The Henderson arrived back in port in Seattle in late July. Under a blistering summer sun, Harding made a speech in Seattle Stadium before 60,000 onlookers. Halfway through the speech, after he had already slurred several words, he grabbed the lectern with both hands, and only continued after catching his breath. That evening, after Harding nearly collapsed while delivering a speech at the Seattle Press Club, his scheduled speech in Portland, Oregon, was cancelled and his train was given orders to continue directly through to San Francisco. His doctors put out a statement attributing Harding’s ill health to an attack of ptomaine posioning from eating bad Alaskan crabmeat, and they insisted that his condition would improve in a few days.497

Harding’s train arrived in San Francisco on Sunday, July 29. The president, Mrs. Harding, and their team were met by two noted heart specialists and then checked into their rooms at the Palace Hotel. Harding insisted that he would be well enough to deliver his World Court speech, as planned, on Wednesday. However, on Monday he developed bronchial pneumonia, and his remaining California intinerary was scrapped. By Tuesday his health seemed to be improving, and he was sitting up in bed on Wednesday morning. On Thursday, one of Harding’s doctors said that he had “had a most spelndid afternoon.”498 Indeed, one of Harding’s personal physicians had felt comfortable enough about Harding’s health that he left the hotel late in the afternoon and dined casually at a local French restaurant.499


Bath (Maine) daily Times:

AP - 1 August 1923 - Brig. gen. Charles E. Sawyer, chief of staff of presdient’s physicians - “I do nopt want to be too emphatic about it, because we always face complications. But I feel the crisis is over and that the President is well on the road to recovery.” temp 99 (p. 1)

Meanwhile Coolidge said, “I am rejoiced that my opinion and my confience that the President would have sufficient strength to make a speedy recovery has been confirmed. I have never had any doubt of his ultimate recovery.”

Aug. 2 - excessive heat --over 100- damaging crops in Oklahoma -

Ads for 1924Buick and Studebaker models -

The Mayor of Bath, Maine, Mayor Oliver Moses, said, “Presdient Harding was a good and able statesman and the country is fortunate in having a suitable successor in Vice Presdient Coolidge” (3 Aug 1923, p. 2) And a man dropped dead in Times Square subsway station after reading that harding had died. Sports scores: Red Sox 5, Chicago 9 last place in American league (favorite team of Grace Coolidge) - Yankees 4, Cleveland 2 - news of death broadcast by radio - expressions of grief for Mrs. Harding overtax the WH switchboard - Dawes cries as he delivers funeral tribute fromn Chicago -

Harding’s borther in law - Elbert B. Remsberg, said Harding had premonition of his death once he was takent o his hospital and commented that other members of his family had died about the same age (4 Aug, p. 3)

Aug. 6 - Iowa Rep. Sen. Albert B. Cummins, advocates one term for presdient by const. amendment

Funeral Aug 10 - front page list of presdients who died in office:

WH HArrison - 1841
Zachory tayloe - 1850

Same day - Willa S. cather wins $1,000 Pulitzer Prize for ‘One of Ours’

When Colonel Starling visited him in Room 8064 of the Palace Hotel on the afternoon of Thursday, August 2, Harding was visibly weak, but in good spirits, and he anticipated going home that Sunday. He lamented his lack of fishing success in Alaska and spoke of going deep-sea fishing in the near future.

He would never go. At 7:30 that evening, as Starling was finishing his meal in a separate room, he got the news: Harding had died ten minutes earlier of a cerebral hemmorrhage, suffered as Mrs. Harding was reading to him. His last words were: “That’s good. Go on, read some more.”500 Then he passed on into eternity.

The next evening the presidential train became a funeral train as it left from San Francisco for the 3000-plus mile journey back home. “I shall never forget that journey,” Starling recalled. “The nation was grief-stricken. Every town and city through which we passed was in mourning. People stood by the side of the tracks singing hymns while we went slowly through.”501 The train arrived in Washington, D.C., on the morning of Tuesday, August 7. That day and night Harding’s body was laid in state at the White House. The next day, August 8, the casket moved to the Capital for a brief cermenony, and was then sent to Harding’s hometown of Marion, Ohio. On August 10, his funeral was held.


Back in Plymouth on that fateful Thursday evening, Calvin Coolidge had gone to bed early. By quarter past ten he was sound asleep. It was quarter past seven in San Francisco, and there was no way for Coolidge to know that Harding was breathing his last breaths. Like Harding’s doctors, the Coolidges also believed that Harding’s health had stabilized, and they told reporters they planned to visit Frank Stearns, an old friend, in Swampscott, Massachusetts, over the coming weekend. Along the way, on Friday evening, they planned to catch up with an old friend of Calvin’s, Guy Currier, who owned a sprawling estate in Peterboro, New Hampshire.

These best-laid plans were soon set aside. Only minutes after the Coolidges retired to bed an entire continent away, George B. Christian, Harding’s secretary, sent a Western Union telegram from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to inform the political world that Harding was dead. After several hours of delay, the telegram was received, read, and then passed along to Bridgewater, Vermont, a town eight miles from Plymouth. Since Plymouth had no telegraph office, the telegrapher in Bridgewater was forced to call the one phone in Plymouth, which was located at the general store/post office, across the street from the home of John Coolidge. The phone rang and rang, without an answer from Miss Florence Cilley, and the telegrapher had no choice but to wake up Coolidge’s chauffer, Joseph McInerney; Erwin Geisser, Coolidge’s stenographer; and William Crawford, a newspaperman, all of whom were boarding in Bridgewater. Together they raced to Plymouth with the stunning news.

It was then past two o’clock in the morning on Friday, August 3, 1923. Crawford, Geisser, and McInerney arrived in Plymouth first and knocked on the front door of John Coolidge’s house, which was where Calvin and Grace were staying. John Coolidge woke up, lit his kerosene lamp, and went to the door. He was angry.

John Coolidge barked at his visitors. “What’s wanted!”

Geisser came quickly to the point. “President Harding is dead and I have a telegram for the Vice President.”

After hearing the startling news that Harding was dead and that his son was now the president of the United States, John Coolidge rushed to the staircase and called up to his son and daughter-in-law, who were sleeping in a bedroom on the second floor. His voice was trembling.

Meanwhile, the news of Harding’s death was spreading. Others, including reporters, were arriving at John Coolidge’s doorstep.

Upon hearing his father’s voice, Calvin came to the top of the stairs. He then heard the news, absorbed it for a second or two, and said the first thing that came to mind. “I believe I can swing it,” he said.502 For a reserved man, it was a revealing statement of self-confidence. Grace, who had also heard the news, wept quietly.

Immediately thereafter, Calvin and Grace went back to their bedroom, where he dressed in a black suit and tie and she chose a black and white dress, both reflective of their state of mourning.503 Then he and Grace prayed. Years later, Calvin recalled that he “asked God to bless the American people and give me the power to serve them.“504 Once their prayers were finished, he and Grace went downstairs to dictate a message of condolence to Mrs. Harding and greet the throng of reporters who were already gathered in the house. The message was characteristically brief: “We offer you our deepest sympathy. May God bless and keep you. Calvin Coolidge. Grace Coolidge.”505

The next order of business was for Coolidge to take the oath of office. According to the Constitution, before Calvin Coolidge could become President, he needed to be sworn in. This oath was normally administered by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, but given the circumstances, there seemed to be only one viable option.

Calvin and Grace walked down the stairs into the sitting room. “Father, are you still a notary?” Calvin asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Then I want you to administer the oath,” Calvin said.506

John Coolidge had reservations about the legality of a notary public swearing in a presdient, so he went into the kitchen to shave while Calvin went next door to Miss Cilley’s general store to call Washington for a legal opinion. He telephoned Attorney General Harry Daugherty, but was only able to leave a message. While he waited for Daugherty to return his call, he called Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, who would soon become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. It was 2:30 in the morning.

Calvin floated his idea. Hugher agreed that being sworn in by a notary public would be constitutional, but also that time was of the essence. Coolidge walked quickly back to his father’s house. The weight of the moment was beginning to settle on his shoulders. There would be no more confident statements about being able to “swing it.” Humility was in order.

Back at the house, John Coolidge and the assemblage of reporters, politicians, and staff members were waiting for Calvin to return. But when Calvin did return, he strode briskly past the throng and went directly to his room to dictate a message to Mr. Geisser, his stenographer. Grace sat in a rocking chair in the parlor, deeply saddened by events, speaking to no one in particular of the need for Mrs. Harding to have courage at such a trying time. Minutes later, Calvin appeared in the doorway of the parlor with a hastily composed message to be given to reporters:

Reports have reached me, which I fear are correct, that President Harding is gone. The world has lost a great and good man. I mourn his loss. He was my Chief and friend.
It will be my purpose to carry out his policies which he has begun for the service of the American people and for meeting their responsibilities wherever they may arise.
For this purpose I shall seek the cooperation of all those who have been associated with the President during his term of office. Those who have given their efforts to assist him I wish to remain in office that they may assist me. I have faith that God will direct the destinies of our nation.507

After most of the reporters in the house rushed to send Collidge’s messages back to their editors, the historic moment had arrived. It was then that the father administered the oath of office to his son. When the last phrase was spoken, Calvin placed his hand on the Coolidge family Bible and exclaimed, “So help me God!” According to witnesses, Calvin then put his arm around Grace, who was crying tears of joy, and briefly held his father’s hand.

The setting could hardly have been more humble. The room was fourteen by seventeen feet, covered with faded wallpaper. There was a worn rug on the floor, a wood stove, two straight-back chairs, the rocking chair on whcih Grace Coolidge sat, and a desk on which John Coolidge normally transacted his business. “The oath was taken in what we always called the sitting room by the light of a kerosene lamp,” Calvin recalled, “which was the most modern form of lighting that had then reached the neighborhood.”508

At 2:47 a.m. on Friday, August 3, 1923, Calvin Coolidge, the man from the hills of Vermont, became the thirtieth presdient of the United States. There had been a total of eight witnesses at the humble and impromptu inauguration, including his his chauffer, a commander of the Springfield American Legion, Joseph Fountain of the Associated Press, and Congressman Porter Dale. Dale was especially concerned that Coolidge take the oath immediately so that the country would not be without a president.

One person who was not present for the sitting room inauguration was Aurora Pierce, the housekeeper of John Cooledge, who was a windower. She was asleep in her room through all the commotion elsewhere in the house. “Let her sleep,” John Coolidge said that eveing. “She will need to be up early to get us our breakfast. She will have a busy day tomorrow.”

By three o’clock, just minutes after taking the oath of office, Calvin and Grace went to bed for three more hours of sleep. They left with a simple “Good night” and walked up the stairs to their room. There was much work to be done in the morning.

Meanwhile, as the Coolidges slept, the buzz of pre-dawn activity continued, and by sunrise the streets of Plymouth were clogged with the cars of newspapermen, public officials, and ordinary townspeople from Plymouth and the surrounding communities. The word had spread that one of their own now held the most powerful office in the United States, if not the world.

Those who learned of the news Friday morning included the Coolidge boys. John learned of the news at Camp Devens, while Calvin, Jr., was informed as he began his work processing tobacco leaves on a Massachusetts farm. Calvin’s employer told him the news and added, “Well, think of it, you are the son of the President of the United States.” Calvin replied, “Yes, sir. Which barn do you want this tobacco in?”509 The boys remained where they were until their parents were settled in the White House.

The next few days were a whirlwind of activity for Calvin and Grace. When the Coolidges woke at six o’clock on Friday morning, Calvin greeted a few friends, but gave no speeches. Instead, after Aurora (who by then had heard the news) served him his typical breakfast of warm wheat and rye cereal, he and Grace were driven to the family cemetary and stood silently before the marble headstone of Calvin’s mother. Undoubtedly, she would have been proud of her son. He recalled the occassion in his Autobiography: “Some way, that morning, she seemed very near to me.”510

Within an hour, the Grace and Calvin had left John Coolidge’s home for Rutland, where they would take a train to New York City. The Coolidges were driven by Joe McInerney, Calvin’s faithful chauffer, and he was under strict orders from the new presdient to “drive carefully.” Halfway to Rutland, their car picked up a Secret Service escort. After changing trains in New York, the Coolidges traveled to Washington, arriving there after nine o’clock in the evening.

Upon their arrival in Washington, President Coolidge made a statement to the American people that there would be no substantive changes to the running of the nation’s business. Harding’s economic policies, which had already created millions of new jobs and swelled the ranks of the middle class, would continue unaltered. In a time of national tragedy, Coolidge believed, it was not the time to make drastic changes to the status quo.

The Coolidges themselves had little time to rest, however. After arriving in Washington, they went almost immediately to Marion, Ohio, on the train bearing Harding’s body, to attend his funeral. Many famous Americans, including Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, were among the mourners.

When the Coolidges returned to Washington, they stayed in the New Willard, the vice president’s residence, so that Florence Harding could have time to pack and move her belongings from the White House. They insisted that she take all they time she needed.
Calvin was also quietly sworn in as president by Washington, D.C., District Court Justice A.A. Hoehling, after Attoney General Daughterty expressed his opinion that Calvin’s father, though a notary public, was only a state official and therefore could not swear in federal officers.


Coolidge recognized that in politics, we agree on the end and disagree on the means. The issue is this: how do we achieve the goal? At Arlington national cemetary in 1924, he said, “It is equally clear that a government must govern, must prescribe and enforce laws within its sphere or cease to be a government. Moreover, the individual must be independent and free within his own sphere or cease to be an individual. The fundamental question was then, is now, and always will be through what adjustments, by what actions, these principles may be applied.”511

How he slept in WHouse: “In Washington I went to sleep quickly, but if I had a hard problem on my mind, I would wake up in the middle of the night. And the tougher the problem, the earlier I waked up. Sometimes it was hard to go to sleep again. Of course, everything a President does is subjected to criticism. But I used to remind myself that that criticism probably wouldn’t bulk very large in the pages of history. And then I would reflect that the country seemed to be in pretty sound condition. So I would roll over and go to sleep.”512

““As was the case during his gubernatorial years, Coolidge now showed himself to he a hard working executive. The Boston Travele reported that during his first year as President, “he was almost constantly at his desk..." (Boston Traveler, July 30, 1924, p. 120). A perusal of his calendar on a typical day bears out this report. He arose at 6:30 a.m., reviewed the morning papers at 6:40 and met with staff members before breakfast at 7. After eating breakfast at 7 with Mrs. Coolidge, his day from 9 am. until after I p.m. was punctuated with some sixteen appointments (with 24 individuals) and time for correspondence. Returning from lunch at 2, Coolidge had additional appointments and official obligations which carried him through to 6 p.m. After dinner he had a 30 minute meeting with Senator Lodge, bringing to an end a rather long
official day (Boston Herald, August 7, 1923, p. 114).”513

This is not the schedule of a lackadaisical President. Instead, Coolidge's long hours of work during his early months in the White House reveal not only the demands of the Presidency but also the fact that he enjoyed the office greatly. A secret service agent reported that "the President would almost tiptoe around, touching things and half smiling to himself." He acted "as if he were a small boy whose daydreams of being king had suddenly been made real by the stroke of a magic wand." (Starling, 1946, p. 207).””

“Far from the tool of big business often portrayed, Coolidge refused to recognize the Soviet Union despite pleas from entrepreneurs who envisioned fortunes to be made in the Russian market. He was confident that the Marxist experiment was doomed. ‘Communism will fail,’ he predicted, ‘because what it attempts is against human nature. No man will provide me with food and other necessities of life unless he is a gainer by it.’”514

“ On the personal side, Coolidge's life as vice-president was relatively routine. However, he became bored with the position after completing the first year. This is revealed in correspondence between him and his friend Frank Stearns in March, 1922. Stearns was "quite... disturbed" by Coolidge's statement about "getting suspicious of everybody." Stearns felt "a little sick at heart" that Coolidge did "not get more comfort out of (his) success." He urged Coolidge to "... be glad to see folks, let them know that you are glad to see them and try ... to take it for granted that just plain common folks ... feel it an honor to meet the Vice-President." Coolidge's reply to Stearns reveals his pessimism at this time: "I do not think you have any comprehension of what people do to me. Even small things bother me."

Another thing that must have irritated Coolidge in late 1922, and early 1923, was that he was often mentioned as a possible candidate to unseat his state's Democratic Senator David Walsh in the 1924 election. While this was partly the hope of Massachusetts Republicans, it was seen by some national party figures as a way to get a "stronger" running mate for Warren Harding's re-election campaign. A few months before his death, Harding indicated his support for retaining Coolidge. Had Harding lived longer, and been beset by scandals, the party might have chosen someone instead of Coolidge.

In spite of some periods of gloom, Coolidge's vice-presidency did not lack amusing incidents. He had an overcoat stolen while on a train trip as Vice-President Elect. Just before he was to deliver a Massachusetts speech during the summer of 1921, the platform collapsed, reportedly leaving him "unperturbed." At an appearance at the Minnesota State Fair in 1922, the eminence of his office did not prevent him from being roundly booed when he spoke.

There are several interesting incidents involving Coolidge's residence at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C. He once broke a toe when he kicked a table in his suite there. Another time, when the hotel caught on fire, he attempted to return to his rooms after it was put out. When the fireman asked him who he was, he replied, "The Vice-President." As he let Coolidge proceed, the fireman asked Coolidge what he was vice-president of and Coolidge replied that he was vice-president of the United States. The fireman told him to go back, saying that he thought Coolidge was vice president of the hotel.

One very revealing incident that did not become known until long after Coolidge's death involved a college student breaking into his room seeking money. Coolidge caught the fellow there, and learned of his circumstances upon questioning him. Coolidge swore the student to secrecy, then loaned him enough money to get home.

In 1922, a Senator's widow offered to turn over her mansion to the government for use as a vice presidential residence. While some sources suggest that First Lady Florence Harding had this proposal killed out of contempt for the Coolidges, the vice-president himself was opposed to the idea. He knew that he could not afford to staff and maintain such a residence on his salary, and that Congress seemed reluctant to appropriate the funds needed to cover such costs. In the end, the offer was rejected, and it was several decades before an official residence for the vice-president was provided.

In conclusion, how can the success of Calvin Coolidge's vice-presidency be measured? By his own lights, he seems to have been a useful part of the Harding administration. Coolidge did not embarrass himself when he was in the public eye and he served ably as a stand-in for the President as a speaker and at social functions. His errors, involving a couple of misconceived magazine articles, and one negative incident while presiding over the Senate were relatively minor.

The position of vice-president in that era did not give the occupant much scope for notable achievements, Coolidge at least took advantage of his position to learn many things about Washington which he found useful when he became President. As he stated in his, Autobiography, "While I little realized it at the time, it was for me a period of most important preparation."

Calvin Coolidge would be little remembered if he had not succeeded to the presidency, but he served his country ably as vice-president.”515

ROLE FOR EDUCATION: “It is necessary also that education should be the handmaid of citizenship...Every one ought to realize that the sole source of national wealth is thrift and industry, and that the sole supply of the public treasury is the toil of the people. Of course, patriotism is always to be taught. National defense is a necessity and a virtue, but peace with honor is the normal, natural condition of mankind, and must be made the chief end to be sought in human relationship.
Another element must be secured in the training of citizenship, or all else will be in vain. All of our learning and science, our culture and our arts, will be of little avail, unless they are supported by high character, unless there be honor, truth, and justice. Unless our material resources are supported by moral and spiritual resources, there is no foundation for progress. A trained intelligence can do much, but there is no substitute for moralityt character, and religious convictions. Unless these abide, American citizen ship will be found unequal to its task.”516

According to historian Bruce Catton, few people really understand the decade of the 1920s. “Most of the tag lines that have been attached to it,” he writes, “are wrong.”517 He reminds us that, then as now, most Americans were not rebels. They did not make alcohol in their bathtubs, did not dance the Charleston, and did not speculate in stocks and bonds. Still, though, the myth of a rebellious decade persists.

Calvin Coolidge, the son of Vermont, was vice president and then president during this important period in modern American history. It was the time of Babe Ruth and the the New York Yankees, the Model A Ford and the first traffic jams, women and short hair, Rudolph Valentino and “talkies”. The people of the United States entered the decade with their “Douhboys” home from a devestating war in Europe and minds made up to get on with life, and they ended the decade with a feeling of uncertainty about the future that was made m.

In order to understand these times that tried the soul of the American people, we must understand Calvin Coolidge, who was vice president or president for almost the entire decade of the 1920s. He rose to national prominence when, as governor of Massachusetts, he intervened to end a crippling strike by the Boston Police Department. In 1920 the Republican National Convention chose him as the vice presidential running mate of Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio. Their decisive victory in the general election brought about a decade that was marked both by a rise in national prosperity and considerable challenges to traditional social and religious values.

“Far from a cultural ignoramus, Coolidge wrote poetry and once translated Dante's Inferno. Silent Cal was the first president to use the radio effectively. He was the last president to write all of his own speeches, and he inaugurated the regular presidential press conference, which since has atrophied as an established institution. Succeeding the libertine Harding and Harding's corrupt associates, Coolidge was one president never touched by scandal -- personal or official.”518

“Exploding the myth of a do-nothing president who slept away his term, the recently opened papers of White House physician Joel Boone reveal just how great a toll the presidency claimed from Calvin Coolidge, who never recovered from the 1924 death of his namesake son. As Coolidge put it in his spare yet revealing autobiography, when young Calvin died, he took the glory and the power of the presidency with him.
"The ways of Providence are often beyond our understanding," he added, in a Job-like cry of despair. "I do not know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House." That he blamed himself for the loss of his son is more than sufficient explanation for the emotional depression that shadowed Coolidge's presidency, and that foreshadowed the economic depression engulfing Americans after he left office.”519

“His reticence was matched by his canniness. Denied the usual political gifts, Coolidge created a public persona that held the world at bay while allowing him to indulge a humor sharp as Vermont cheddar. For politicians, laughter has multiple uses. h can express a genuine whimsy, with which Coolidge was generously endowed. h can also deflect those who come too near or probe too deeply. No less an authority than Will Rogers said of Coolidge that "he wasted more humor on folks than almost anybody." Over the years, he developed his silent act into a running joke, a fierce, funny individuality cackling at pretense. Take the celebrated incident in which the president was approached by a gushing dowager who announced, "I'm from Boston." "Yes." said Coolidge. "And you'll never get over it."
Many Coolidge stories have the tang of self-parody. Urged to increase spending on military aviation Coolidge asked his Cabinet, "Why can't we just buy one airplane and have all the pilots take turns?" To a senator who had just returned from Minnesota, Coolidge directed the prerequisite inquiries about the Midwestern weather. Asked for the local climate in return., the president said with his best deadpan expression. "Well. it's been hot here. I was sitting here the other night with a lady who fainted. Don't know whether it was the weather or the conversation."
Having nurtured a reputation for thrift, in words and dollars, Coolidge made it work for him Voters took an instant liking to this prim, dignified Yankee who hated wasted lives even more than wasted dollars, They rubbed their eyes over a public servant whose response to his election as governor of Massachusetts was to exchange his $1 a day hotel room for two rooms costing twice as much. There was no dignity, Coolidge liked to say, quite so great as living within your means. Unbought and unbossed. when presented a copy of the Intimate Papers of Colonel House the president pointedly told his would-be sponsor Frank Steams, a Boston merchant popularly known as Lord Lingerie, that "an unofficial advisor to a President of the United States is not a good thing." "Did I ever try to advise you'!' said Steams. "No," replied Coolidge, "but I thought I had better tell you."
To most Americans in the 1920's, Coolidge was more than a character. He was character. Admirers savored his comment after being sworn in as Vice President: "I don't feel half as important as I did on the day I graduated from Black River Academy." They chuckled approvingly over his exchange with a senator who pointed at the White House one day and asked its current occupant who lived there. "Nobody," said Coolidge, "They just come and go." They quoted approvingly the story of young Calvin, who went to work in a Connecticut Valley tobacco field the morning his father succeeded Harding. Told by a youthful co-worker, "if my father was President, I wouldn't be working in a tobacco field," the presidential namesake shot back, "You would if your father were my father."
The new president's way of putting down political panhandlers was as distinctive as the broad "A" of his New England speech. When Congresswoman Ruth Hanna McCormick laid siege to the White House hoping to secure a federal judgeship for a prominent Chicagoan of Polish descent, she arranged for a group of Polish Americans to lobby the president in person. Ushered into the executive office, the group shuffled its feet uncomfortably as a stony-faced Coolidge stared at the floor. After what seemed like an eternity, the president at last broke his silence. "Mighty fine carpet there." Relieved and expectant, the delegation smilingly nodded its concurrence. "New one," said Coolidge. "Cost a lot of money." At this the Poles smiled even more appreciatively. "She wore out the old one trying to get you a judge." End of interview.
Thus did Coolidge, a master practical joker, enjoy a laugh on his less whimsical contemporaries. Historians, not noted for their whimsy, have by and large missed the joke. Then and since, few in the academy have taken Coolidge seriously as a political thinker or leader. To presidential scholars enamored of the bully pulpit-and of the occasional bully in the pulpit-the notion of Coolidge as a political moralist may be absurd. Think again. In his first message to Congress, in December, 1923, Coolidge proposed federal anti-lynching legislation, endorsed a minimum wage for female workers, and urged a constitutional amendment to prohibit child labor. Belying the later stereotype of a man who measured life with dollar signs, on the 150th anniversary of their independence, Coolidge told Americans that theirs was "an age of science and abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp."
Coolidge came by his values as the product of rural New England, where democracy and self-reliance were synonymous, and both were raised to the level of a civic religion. Of his neighbors in Plymouth Notch, said Coolidge, "They drew no class distinctions except toward those who assumed superior airs. Those they held in contempt." Where the people themselves are the government, he maintained, no doubt influenced by the town meetings of his youth, it should be obvious that what the people cannot do for themselves their government cannot do for them.”520

An early political associate said: “He seldom laughed out loud, but a thousand times I have seen him laugh with his eyes. The wrinkled came when he was amused.”521

“He is a throwback to the libertarianism of John Stuart Mill, who warned that "a State which dwarfs its men ... even for beneficial purposes, will find that with small men no really great thing can be accomplished." With his bedrock beliefs in local authority, personal responsibility and the separation of powers, he is a throwback to the Jeffersonian school of thought which holds the greatness of America derives, not from the power of its government, but from the freedom of its people.
Contrast Coolidge's simple, unwavering faith in the common man with the postwar doubts expressed by such opinion leaders as Walter Lippmann. In his 1925 book The Phantom Public, Lippmann made it clear that democracy was in need of protection from the masses. Blaming the average man for his averageness, the former Socialist turned Bull Mooser turned Wilsonian idealist turned Meritocrat, argued that one must not expect too much from ordinary voters. "The problems that vex democracy seem to be unmanageable by democratic methods," he declared. "The public must be put in its place so that it may exercise its powers, but no less and perhaps even more, so that each of us may live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd."”522

“Yet, even Sobel's otherwise excellent biography regrettably makes a serious mistake. Sobel writes: "Coolidge was not a 'supply-sider' as Arthur Laffer and his disciples were to be in the 1980s. He meant for the tax cuts to be paid for mainly by reductions in government-spending." But this suggests an acceptance of the liberal dogma that supply-siders believe, contrary to all reason, that lower and lower taxes will permit
higher and higher spending. Actually, the supply-side wedge model, fully explained by Jude Wanniski in The Way the World Works in 1978, has government revenue minimized by too much or too little taxation-the Laffer Curve. This simple concept that has been so difficult for politicians and journalists to understand is rooted in antiquity. Augustus Caesar put it into practice, and Ibn Khaldun explained it. Certainly, it was the heart of Calvin Coolidge's economic policy and the reason for his popularity among the Reaganites of the '80s.”523

“Upon the death of Harding, Andrew Mellon visited the new president to resign as Secretary of the Treasury. "Forget it," said Coolidge. Mellon, arguably the greatest of American finance ministers, became the cabinet member closest to Coolidge. He refined Coolidge's own economic philosophy which he had developed as governor of Massachusetts. The result was a strategy and philosophy that made Coolidge the hero of the Reaganites nearly 60 years later. The Coolidge-Mellon team took dead aim at a steeply graduated federal income tax. The tax had been implemented in 1913 by the Woodrow Wilson reformers, imposed only on the rich and intended solely to redistribute income. But with U.S. entrance into World War I and its unprecedented demand for revenue, the income tax became a revenue-producer with a steeply graduated tax structure rising to a near-confiscatory top marginal rate of 77%. In the first two Harding budgets shaped by Mellon, that top rate went down to 56% and then 46%.
But the massive economic growth of the '20s was still to come in the Coolidge presidency. Six months after assuming the presidency, Coolidge laid out his plans in an address to the National Republican Club in New York City that Wanniski has called "The most lucid articulation of the [supply-side] wedge model by a politician in modem times." In that speech, Coolidge noted that the super-high marginal tax rates had reduced millionaire-incomes from 206 in 1916 gradually to 21 in 1921. These high rates, said Coolidge, mean "we are rapidly approaching the point of getting nothing at all. It is necessary to look for a more practical method, which can be done only by a reduction of the high surtaxes ... to about 25%." In the same speech, Coolidge went on to say: "an expanding prosperity requires that the largest possible amount of surplus income should be invested in productive enterprise" If the government is taking half of what Coolidge called surplus income, investors "will refuse to take the risk incidental to embarking in business."
That began an annual effort by Coolidge as president to lower taxes. The Republican-controlled congress was hardly submissive. Republican regulars did not care much for Coolidge, and the Republican Progressives joined Democrats in advocating higher marginal tax rates. In his December, 1924 address to Congress, Coolidge said, "I am convinced that the larger incomes of the country would actually yield more revenue to the government if the basis of taxation were scientifically revised downward." In his inaugural address the next March, he said "I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves." The resulting tax cuts so increased income for the rich that 70% of income taxes in 1927 came from incomes over $50,000-- a very high salary then. Americans with incomes below $3,000, the great majority of the country, paid only 1% of all taxes.
Coolidge has been misrepresented as a radical budget-cutter. In fact, the level of government spending when he left office was above the pre-war level under Wilson. What he vigorously opposed was governmental intrusion into the private sector as promised by the McNary-Haugen farm bill which he was able to block while he was in office. His opposition to spending, indeed, had a supply-side flavor. On March 5,1926, Coolidge told a press conference, "If Congress goes ahead and appropriates more money than there is in the treasury, and makes it necessary to put in a bill increasing taxes, it won't encourage the business of the country." The point made by Coolidge: the danger of higher spending is that it may encourage higher taxes, which in turn discourages business.”524


The cost of living at the end of Coolidge’s second term was down a nearly 22 percent from the high of July 1920. Housing, clothing, and fuel were all more affordable at the end of Coolidge’s presidency than they were when he first took office.525 Rents in Los Angeles fell by 32 percent from 1923 to 1929, those in Chicago fell 14 percent, and those in Dallas fell by almost 19 percent.526

“Unemployment was pared from its high in 1921 of 20% to an average of 3.3% for the remainder of the decade. The misery index which is a combination of
unemployment and inflation had its sharpest decline in U.S. history under President Harding. The Gross National Product averaged 7% from 1924 to 1929. Wages, profits, and productivity all made substantial gains during the 1920's. Harding slashed federal spending by two billion from Wilson's last year and Coolidge maintained that spending level of 3.3 billion per year for the rest of the decade. The Harding-Coolidge tax cuts produced increased revenue that went to cut the national debt left by Wilson by one-third.
The 1920's saw the tax burden of middle Americans decrease while most lower income Americans were relieved of their tax burden altogether. By 1930,
their was a sharp increase in the number of Americans who could afford what were then middle class luxuries such as ranges, ice boxes, radios, vacuum cleaners and other household appliances. There was even an increase in the amount of time Americans found for recreation and entertainment. The 1920's saw the tax burden of middle Americans decrease while most lower income Americans were relieved of their tax burden altogether. By 1930,
their was a sharp increase in the number of Americans who could afford what were then middle class luxuries such as ranges, ice boxes, radios, vacuum
cleaners and other household appliances. There was even an increase in the amount of time Americans found for recreation and entertainment.
Many of our historical elite like to characterize the 1920's as the decade of greed and Harding and Coolidge as symbols of greed. This is simply not the
truth. During the 1920's, neighbor still helped neighbor and charitable organizations still cared for the poorest of our lot. Few events more characterized the generosity of the American people than the joint private- government relief effort in 1921-1923 to help the victims of famine in Soviet Russia (a nation to which we did not have diplomatic relations). Nearly 30 million citizens of Soviet Russia faced starvation and it was the American people who answered the plea for help and saved countless lives.
Many scholars and historians blame the Harding-Coolidge economic program for the stock market crash of 1929 as well as the great depression. The stock
market crash of 1929 was not the calamity Americans have been made to believe. There were no major business or bank failures resulting from the crash.
The crash of 1929 occurred in October and by December of that year the economy was once again calm and remained so for the next six months. The depression did not occur because of the stock market crash. There were several errors on the part of policy makers that plunged our economy into a deep
depression. The inaction on behalf of President Hoover, New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Federal Reserve Board to curb over-speculation proved very unwise. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 which President Hoover supported and signed into law helped to paralyze global commerce. The huge tax increases signed into law by Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt retarded economic growth, ballooned the national debt, and sunk the nation deeper into the great depression. If Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt had moved to curb over-speculation and otherwise continued the economic policies of Harding and Coolidge, the nation may have been able to have avoided the great depression. Most certainly,
the depression would not have been as deep and prolonged as it was.
Despite what our historical elite have professed to us, the economic policies promoted by Harding and Coolidge during the 1920's created a level of prosperity our nation would not see again until the 1980's. It is long overdue for Harding and Coolidge to receive the acclaim they deserve for rescuing America from economic depression and returning it back to normalcy.”527

He said in 1924: “There is a most urgent necessity for those who are charged with the responsibility of government administration to realize that the people of our country can not maintain their own high standards, they can not compete against the lower standards of the rest of the world, unless we are free from excessive taxes.”528

“Everyone knows that our economic problems are very far from being solved. But we are making constant progress, both in the field of production and distribution. When certain abuses arose, we adopted a policy of government regulation and control. I have no doubt that some action of that kind was necessary, and of course such a policy would be continued. But it has not been, nor can it be hoped that it will be, always wisely administered. While it provides some defense against wrongdoing, its restrictions often hamper development and progress, retard enterprise, and when they fail to produce the perfection promised tend to bring the Government into discredit. The real fact is that in a republic like ours the people are the government, and if they cannot secure perfection in their own economic life it is altogether improbable that the Government can secure it for them. The same human nature which presides over private enterprise must be employed for public action.
It is very difficult to reconcile the American ideal of a sovereign people capable of owning and managing their own government with an inability to own and manage their own business. No doubt there are certain municipalities where some public utilities have been managed through public ownership with a creditable success. But this is very different from a proposal that the National Government should take over railroads and other public utilities. What a strain this would be to our economic system will be realized when it is remembered that public commissions set the value of such utilities at about $35,000,000,000, and that they have about 2,750,000 employees. Such an under taking would mean about $1,750,000,000 annually in bond interest,
and an operating budget estimated at about $9,000,000,000. These utilities are no longer in the hands of a few, directly or indirectly. They are owned by scores of millions of our inhabitants. It would mean a loss in public revenue estimated at $600,000,000 a year, and while in industrial states it might not increase the tax on the farmer more than 3% or 4%, in many agricultural counties it would run as high as 40%. When we recall the appalling loss and the difficulty in the management of $3,500,000,000 worth of ships, we should undoubtedly hesitate about taking on ten times that value in public utilities. But this is no occasion to discuss the details of public ownership. ”529

Coolidge on the benefits of lower taxes:
“For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1921, the last pre Budget year, our expenditures were $5,538,000,000 and our receipts $5,624,000,000. For the succeeding three years, which include the year which ends today, our expenditures were $3,795,000,000, $3,697,000,000 and $3,497,000,000 respectively. Here we show a progressive and consistent reduction in expenditures. On the other side of the ledger our receipts for 1922 were $4,109,000,000; 1923, $4,007, 000,000; and 1924, $3,995,000,000. An analysis of these figures shows that in the face of a progressive reduction in receipts we have still achieved a substantial surplus at the end of each of the fiscal years: $314,000,000 for 1922, $310,000,000 for 1923, and in excess of $500,000,000 for 1924. The amounts which I have stated as being the expenditures, receipts and surplus for the fiscal year 1924, which ends today, are only approximate. We will not have the actual figures until the books are finally balanced. The surplus accumulated at the end of each of the last three fiscal years has been applied to the reduction of the public debt in addition to the reductions required by law under the sinking fund and other acts. Without the aid of this recurring surplus the public debt would be $1,100,000,000 more than it now stands, and the interest charges would be some $45,000,000 greater next year than we shall now have to pay.
Along with this reduction in expenditures has gone a progressive reduction of the public debt with its attendant relief from the burden of interest. On June 30, 1921, the public debt was $23,976,000,000. In 1922 it had been reduced more than $1,000,000,000 to $22,964,000,000. In 1923 it had been reduced more than $600,000,000 to $22, 349,000,000. In 1924 it has been reduced again by more than $1,000,000,000, and stands at an estimated amount of $21,254,000,000, which is a reduction in three years of $2, 722,000,000, and means a saving of interest of more than $120,000,000 each year. ”530

“In the 1920s, under former presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, consecutive tax cuts brought the top income tax rate down to 25% from 73%. The American economy grew by 6% a year and revenues increased by 61% between 1921 and 1929.”531

“Coolidge more than lived up to his image. The president replaced his predecessor's boozy card parties with sober six o'clock suppers. Warren Harding had promised normalcy; Coolidge delivered it, profitably defined as spectacular economic growth and tax cuts to match. Between 1925 and 1929, the New York Stock Exchange rose 250 percent. Before the decade was over, the federal government had retired nearly half its $26 billion war debt. Americans built 800,000 new homes annually
during the postwar decade, bought 20 million automobiles, and made heroes out of radio stars and barnstorming pilots. The cult of celebrity, the modern women's
movement, the decline of rural America's traditional dominance - all had their genesis in the Age of Coolidge, when his countrymen moved forward even while gazing back with longing at a more innocent society, Plymouth Notch writ large. ”532

On economic might of blacks:

“It has been calculated that in the first year following the acceptance of their status as a free people, there were approximately 4,000,000 members of the race in this country, and that among these only 12,000 were the owners of their homes; only 20,000 among them conducted their own farms, and the aggregate wealth of these 4,000,000 people hardly exceeded $20,000,000. In a little over a half century since, the number of business enterprises operated by colored people had grown to near 50,000, while the wealth of the Negro community has grown to more than $1,100,000,000. And these figures convey a most inadequate suggestion of the material progress. The 2,000 business enterprises which were in the hands of colored people immediately following emancipation were almost without exception small and rudimentary. Among the 50,000 business operations now in the hands of colored people may be found every type of present day affairs. There are more than 70 banks conducted by thoroughly competent colored business men. More than 80 per cent of all American Negroes are now able to read and write. When they achieved their freedom not
10 per cent were literate. There are nearly 2,000,000 Negro pupils in the public schools; well nigh 40,000 Negro teachers are listed, more than 3,000 following their profession in normal schools and colleges. The list of educational institutions devoting themselves to the race includes 50 colleges, 13 colleges for women, 26 theological schools, a standard school of law, and 2 high-grade institutions of medicine. Through the work of these institutions the Negro race is equipping men and women from its own ranks to provide its leadership in business, the professions, in all relations of life. ”533
RACE (letter to a bigot): “During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others. The suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it

might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race. A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen.”534

VALUE OF SPORTS: “There is a place both present and future in America for true, clean sport. We do not rank it above business, the occupations of our lives, and we do not look with approval upon those who, not being concerned in its performance, spend all their thought, energy and time upon its observance. We recognize, however, that there is something more in life than the grinding routine of daily toil, that we can develop a better manhood and womanhood, a more attractive youth, and a wiser maturity, by rounding out our existence with a wholesome interest in sport. ”535

VALUE OF ART: Coolidge, when interviewed by a British reporter, he was asked about the young of England after WWI, who were still fearful of future wars. The reporter believed that Americans “never will understand” the pain of the young European intellectuals. Coolidge replied that he had recently visited a exhibition of modern European art and could see both recovery and sickness in the paintings. The British reporter left feeling that Coolidge “was far more alive than one had realized to the problems which were agitating me and my contemporaries.”536


“Most of all what has made Calvin Coolidge is the fact that he is an average man appealing to average men. The average man has the votes, and if you win him the votes will come to you.”537 Also working for him was his optimism, his faith in the American people, like Reagan or Jay Gatsby of Fitzgerald: “he had an extraordinary gift for hope.”

In June 1927 the presdient took the train to South Dakota for a vacation and stayed there for vacation. He had never gone trout fishing, and the state fish-and-game warden, along with several deputies surreptitiously stocked a private creek for the Presdient, complete with old and very passive fish that had been raised in a nearby hatchery. “Those two miles of creek became the best trouth fishing in all the world. Those trout would fight and battle one another to see which could grab the President’s hook first. He bacme the world’s foremost trout fisherman.”538

He would speak to his big collie dog about the political state of affairs, and not speak so much to the people actually at dinner with him
”75th Anniversary of Calvin Coolidge's Inauguration: March 4, 1925 by Jerry L. Wallace ©1998

Jerry L. Wallace served as historian/archivist of three Presidential inaugural committees in 1973, 1981, and 1985. He is retired from the National Archives in Washington, DC, and is now archivist at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas.

On March 4th, 1925, 75 years ago, Calvin Coolidge was inaugurated President of the United States in his own right.
Coolidge had actually come into the Presidency 19 months earlier, upon the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in August 1923. In a dramatic early morning ceremony at the Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, Colonel John C. Coolidge had administered the Presidential oath to his son, the one and only time that this has occurred in our history. The event immediately captured the imagination of the nation.
The previous November, Coolidge had won election with the slogan "Keep Cool With Coolidge," soundly defeating two major challengers, Democrat, John W. Davis, and Progressive, Robert M. La Follette. He thereby became the first President elected from New England since Franklin Pierce of New Hampshire in 1852.
The Constitution provided that Coolidge take his oath of office on Wednesday, March 4th, 1925. (It was not until the ratification of the 20th Amendment that inauguration day was move up to January 20th; the first inaugural to fall on the new date was Franklin Roosevelt's in 1937.) The weather, which had frequently treated his predecessors unkindly with snow or rain or both, treated Coolidge well. His inauguration day dawned bright and clear, and for Washington, the temperature was unusually mild. This would help to make for a large crowd that day.
Coolidge kept to his regular routine as much as possible. He arose, as was his custom, before 7 o'clock. He then went for a walk around the White House grounds, breakfasted with his wife, and answered mail and reviewed his inaugural speech. Vice President-elect Charles Gates Dawes and Congressional leaders arrived a little before eleven. The official party then set off for the Capitol, escorted by a military unit from Vermont.
At the Capitol, the first order of business was the inauguration of General Dawes as Vice President, which took place in the Senate Chamber, over which he would preside. Dawes used his inaugural address to attack the senators' right of filibuster, upsetting senators and creating something of a sensation. The President was not amused.
The Presidential oath-taking followed on the east portico of the Capitol Building. On this occasion, not his father, but the Chief Justice of the United States, William Howard Taft, administered the prescribed oath to Coolidge. The Bible used was that given him as a boy by his mother. On the platform nearby were his First Lady, Grace Goodhue; his 19-year-old son, John, who had come down from Amherst for the day; his father, Col. Coolidge, who had almost been snowbound in Plymouth; and his mother-in-law, Mrs. Andrew I. Goodhue, who, some said, had not always appreciated him. top
Missing was his younger son, Calvin, Jr., who had died tragically the previous July. For the President and his family, who were still in mourning, young Calvin's loss greatly diminished the pleasure and happiness normally associated with such a grand occasion. About the President, there was an air of melancholy.
His mourning, along with a desire to avoid excessive display or expenditures of the people's money, led the President to request that the inaugural ceremonies be kept simple. Chief Justice Taft observed, "The effort seems to be to have as much show as they can if it can be called republican and simple." This emphasis on restraint and avoiding unnecessary show turned out well, producing a ceremony of Jeffersonian simplicity. The rites were, in the words of one knowledgeable commentator on inaugurations, "strikingly impressive in their unostentatious dignity."
By the time Coolidge had come to Washington, inaugurations had lost their novelty for him. In his Autobiography, writing of the Harding-Coolidge inauguration of March 4, 1921, he said: "As I had already taken a leading part in seven inaugurations and witnessed four others in Massachusetts, the experience was not new to me." Moreover, based on his inaugural experiences in Massachusetts, Coolidge was not at all impressed by the ceremonies in Washington, which were overseen by the Congress. In describing the role of the President of the Massachusetts Senate in swearing-in the Governor and his Council, he noted that the ceremony followed "a formal ritual that has come from colonial days, and is much more ceremonious than the swearing-in of a President in Washington." In fact, Coolidge was critical of the event at the Capitol: "I was struck by the lack of order and formality that prevailed." He particular disliked having the Vice Presidential and Presidential oath-takings take place in separate locations, the Senate Chamber and on the east portico of the Capitol, respectively, which he saw as destroying "all semblance of unity and continuity." Eventually, this practice was ended by Franklin Roosevelt in 1937, when he moved Vice Presidential swearing-in to the east portico and also, by the way, put an end to the Vice President's inaugural address (no more embarrassing Dawes-like addresses).
After the oath, which took place around one o'clock, the President delivered his inaugural address, containing 4,059 words and lasting 47 minutes--longer by far than the addresses of most of his predecessors and successors. Wilson's addresses, for example, ran 1,802 words in 1913 and 1,526 in 1917, a total of 3,328 for both. In his biography of Coolidge, Claude M. Fuess declared it to be "one of his ablest utterances." In it, Coolidge pressed his program of stability and steady advance and of efficiency and economy in government. There was no occasion to call for major reforms or changes in existing policy. Its tone reflected his confidence and faith in the nation's future. Problems there were to be sure at home and abroad--but good, steady progress was being made in resolving them. Many of the ideas expressed in it had been previously stated in his State of the Union message of December 3, 1924. Perhaps Coolidge chief theme was this:
I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people, we are bound to suffer a very distinct curtailment of our liberty. top
While lacking the high drama of the Homestead Inaugural, Coolidge's formal inauguration at the Capitol had its own special significance: For the first time, a President was sworn-in by a former President, that is, Chief Justice Taft, who had served as the 27th President, 1909-1913. Most importantly, however, for the first time, the inaugural ceremonies were carried by radio to all sections of the nation, making the Presidential inauguration into a national event in which all citizens could participate. In the past, only the crowd gathered in the plaza in front of the Capitol could hear the President take the oath, and even then, prior to introduction of the amplifier in 1921 for Harding's inaugural, only those up close could hear it and the Presidential address clearly. Now, a farmer sitting in his parlor in Kansas, could hear the ceremony as clearly as if he were on the platform itself. It was estimated that 25 million American heard the ceremony. The Presidential inauguration was being transformed from a local event in an old Southern town into a truly national happening. In 1949, the arrival of television would later complete the process.
Following the ceremony at the Capitol, Coolidge returned to the White House for a luncheon and then reviewed the inaugural parade, the last official event of the day, from a glass-enclosed stand. This took less than an hour.
In keeping with the President's wishes, there was no official inaugural ball that evening (in fact, none had been held since Taft's day). There was, however, an unofficial charity ball attended by Vice President Dawes, and, in far off Plymouth Notch, there was dancing in the meeting room above Florence Cilley's general store. Others visited the Congressional Library, which was especially illuminated for the occasion, or attended the theater.
The President did permit himself some entertainment, however. On the eve of his inauguration, the Coolidges had attended a performance of Aïda at the new Auditorium Theatre accompanied by family members and Massachusetts friends, who had come down to Washington on a special train. That evening, however, after busy days of events, the President dined with his guests at the White House and later attended a banquet at the Cairo Hotel, given in his honor by member of the Massachusetts Legislature. The newly inaugurated President was at home in bed by 10 o'clock, as were most of his fellow citizens. And sleep well they could, for they knew the Republic was in good hands with Calvin Coolidge. That's the way it was 75 years ago. ”

Indeed, in his political career, which spanned local offices in his adopted home of Northampton, the Massachusetts Legislature and governor's office,
and the White House, Coolidge lost only one election - for a seat on the Northampton School Committee. He won reelection to the presidency in
1924 with over 54 percent of the popular vote, beating not one but two opponents. In 1992, by contrast, Bill Clinton beat George H. Bush and Ross
Perot in a three-way race for the White House but earned just 43 percent of the vote.

“Although more than sufficient to win him a second term, the president's political skills alone hardly account for his phenomenal success with the electorate. Nor can he be explained away as Justice Holmes did when he wrote privately that "While I don't expect anything astonishing from (Coolidge) I don't want anything astonishing," To be sure, voters welcomed Coolidge Prosperity. They admired the President who restored public confidence in the White House, slashed the war time debt by one-third, and dramatically reduced the tax burden, on no one more than low income workers. By the time he left office, Coolidge saw to it that 98% of his countrymen paid no income taxes at all. And 93% of the tax burden was home by the wealthiest Americans-in sharp contrast to the rates prevailing under Wilson.
"I want the people of America to be able to work less for the government and more for themselves," Coolidge declared in his 1925 inaugural address. "I want them to have the rewards of their own industry. That is the chief meaning of freedom." No doubt others would disagree. Though widely dispersed, Coolidge Prosperity was by no means universal. Agriculture, in particular, was depressed long before 1929. Had Coolidge exercised more foresight; had he employed his political clout to forge a more unified Republican front on Capitol Hill; had he worried less about White House provisions and more about Wall Street's speculation and installment plan consumerism ... had the young Federal Reserve more skillfully managed interest rates and the money supply; had a wave of new autos, radios, and other marvels not glutted the market; had banks been more honest and Congress more cooperative, might Coolidge have interpreted his mandate more creatively?”539

“of pivotal importance to the ultimate triumph of the Coolidge stereotype, is White's version of Coolidge's January, 1925 speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Coolidge discussed the potential conflict between the private ownership of newspapers and the obligation to report the news fairly and objectively. In that context he asserted in passing, "After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world." But, Coolidge then declared that the pursuit of material wealth is legitimate only because it results in:

the multiplication of schools, the increase of knowledge, the dissemination of intelligence, the encouragement of science, the broadening of outlook, the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture. Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it. ... It is only those who do not understand our people, who believe that our national life is entirely absorbed by material motives. We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction.

White cites Coolidge's final sentences and concludes, "In these two statements that 'the business of America is business' and that 'the ideal of the American people is idealism' are found the keys that unlock the chambers of the Coolidge mind; a mystic faith in the righteousness of a swap." The first "statement" in White's version of Coolidge's speech is, of course, misquoted. White invents a false dichotomy in Coolidge's argument, and even fails to mention the president's explicit rejection of wealth for its own sake later in the same speech.”540

BUDGETS: “...the budget idea, I may admit, is a sort of obsession with me. I believe in budgets. I want other people to believe in them. I have had a small one to run my own home; and besides that, I am the head of the organization that makes the greatest of
all budgets, that of the United States Government. Do you wonder, then, that at times I dream of balance sheets and sinking funds, and deficits, and tax rates, and all the rest?”541

CITIZENSHIP: “The people of our country are sovereign. They have no right to say they do not care. They must care!
The institutions of our country rest upon faith in the people. No decision that the people have made in any great crisis has ever shown that faith in them has been misplaced.”542

NEED FOR GOD: “The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of law for the virtue
of man. Of course we can help to restrain the vicious and furnish a fair degree of security and protection by legislation and police control, but the real reforms which society in these days is seeking will come as a result of our religious convictions, or they will not come at all. Peace, justice, humanity, charity; these cannot be legislated into being. They are the result of a Divine Grace.”543

Also in a 4 July 1924 speech to the National Education Association, Coolidge reiterated, “Our country has not ceased to glory in its strength, but it has come to a realization that it must have something more than numbers and wealth, something more than a fleet and an army, to satisfy the longing of the soul. It knows that to power must be added wisdom, and to greatness must be added morality. It is no longer so solicitous to catalogue the powers which it possesses, as to direct those great forces for the spiritual advancement of the American people at home and the discharge of the obligations to humanity abroad. America is turning from the things that are seen to the things that are unseen. ”544


In 1891, British writer James Bryce wrote, “the question of admitting women to activie political rights cannot be called one of the foremost issues of to-day in the United States... “545

“Lately we have added to our voting population the womanhood of the nation. I do not suppose that George Washington could be counted as one who would have favored placing upon the women of his time the duty and responsibility of taking part in elections. Nevertheless he had seen a deep realization of the importance of their influence upon public affairs at the time when we were adopting our Federal Constitution, that he wrote to one of them as follows:
"A spirit of accommodation was happily infused into the leading characters of the continent and the minds of men were gradually prepared, by disappointment, for the reception of a good government. Nor could I rob the fairer sex of their share in the glory of a revolution so honorable to human nature, for indeed, I think our ladies are in the number of the best patriots America can boast."


FRENCH POV from Andre Siegfried:
“In America the greatest possibility of becoming rich does not lie in the subdivision of existing wealth, for it is easier to create new wealth altogether.”546

Upon his election, Siegfried said: “...his popularity suddenly sprang up when the premature death of President Harding automatically made him chief executive. Both the House and the Senate were against him then and heaped abuse on him. But public opinion judged him differently, and quickly wove about him a legend of defects and qualities which are not usually valued by the people--first his obstinate silence, in such contrast to the loquacity of ordinary people.”547


The praise of Washington was none too high. Without doubt the intuition of the women of his day was quick to reveal what a high promise the patriotic efforts of Washington and his associates held out for the homes and for the children of our new and unfolding republic. What was then done by indirect influence is now possible through direct action. The continuing welfare of the home, the continuing hope of the children, are no longer represented by an expectation. Experience has made them the great reality of America. If the women of that day were willing to support what was only a vision, a promise, surely in this day they will be willing to go to the ballot box to support what has become an actual and permanent realization of their desires.”548

IDEALISM: “The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction.”549

In 1928, he writes “I do not choose to run...” - Starling: “To a Vermont yankee nothing is more emphatic than, ‘I do not choose.’ It means, “I ain’t gonna do it and I don’t give a dern what you think.’ Nothing is more sacred to a New England Yankee than his privilege as an individual to make up to his own mind--his freedom of chocie. That fall, when some Republican leaders came to the White House to persuade him to run, they found this out. This sensation caused by his announcement tickled the President. He liked to do things which caused little and foolish men to scamper about and make a fuss.”550

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Calvin Coolidge and Race: His Record in Dealing with the Racial Tensions of the 1920s By Alvin S. Felzenberg

Alvin Felzenberg earned a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University. He is staff director of the Empowerment Subcommittee of the Small Business Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives and co-author of Evolution of the Modem Presidency: A Bibliographical Survey.

Which were the first presidents to propose a commission to engage in a national conversation on race? Not Bill Clinton. Nor Lyndon Johnson, who named the Kerner Commission to investigate the Newark and Detroit riots of 1967.
Presidents Harding and Coolidge proposed a commission to bridge the divide between the races more than a generation before Mr. Clinton was born. Harding told Congress in 1921 that such a body could formulate "if not a policy, at least a national attitude" that could bring the races closer together. Coolidge in 1923--and again in 1925 echoed this theme. He urged the creation of a "Negro Industrial Commission" to promote a better policy of mutual understanding."
Both men were reacting to increased lynching in southern towns and violence against blacks in northern cities. Almost one half million African Americans moved from farm and factory and from south to north from 1915 to 1925. Historians call this demographic shift the "Great Migration".
Neither president was able to get Congress to approve a commission. The House did pass a bill that would have made lynching a federal crime during Harding's first year. It succumbed to a filibuster in the Senate. Coolidge continued to press for increased toleration and racial reconciliation. His efforts are a much understudied part of his career.
This morning, I will discuss Coolidge's relations with African Americans, how he calmed racial tensions, what he did about complaints about discrimination, his hiring and patronage practices, his role in the efforts to outlaw lynching, how he handled the Ku Klux Klan, and his actions regarding restrictive immigration.
In assessing Coolidge's performance one must be careful to view him within the context of his times. 1925 was not 1998. There was more to the "jazz age" than prohibition, bathtub gin, and Lindbergh's flight. The second Ku Klux Klan was at its height--boasting 3 million members. It all but shut down the Democratic convention of 1924 and led a march 40,000 strong past the White House in 1925.
One must also consider the distinctive, if not peculiar, style through which Coolidge acted. It was in this latter area that Coolidge did himself the greatest disservice. Coolidge's Yankee demeanor gave visitors distorted impressions of him. Historians have cited his contemporaries' recollections as evidence that Coolidge was insensitive, disinterested, curt, or just plain stupid. He was none of these.
In his study of presidents and racial politics from Washington to Clinton, Kenneth O'Reilly recounts A. Philip Randolph's recollection of a meeting black spokesmen had with Coolidge:
We went in and it was an interesting conference. Monroe Trotter (editor of the Boston Guardian) was known; he knew Coolidge and Coolidge knew him from Boston. And so, President Coolidge told Trotter, 'All right, Mr. Trotter, you present your matter.' He did and made a fiery talk, you know. And when he finished, President Coolidge said, 'Have you finished, Mr. Trotter?' So Trotter says, 'Yes'. He says, 'All right, thank you very much.' and he sat down and Trotter turns right around with his group and we walked out.
James Weldon Johnson, the first black to head the NAACP, related a similar story. He described a meeting he had at the White House after Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., who was known to be sympathetic to black concerns, made a telephone call on his behalf to the President's Secretary.
When I got over, Mr. Slemp was prepared to meet me and gave me a hearty welcome. We talked over the matter in hand; then he said to me, 'I'd like to have you meet the President.' This looked as though the procedure of official form was being turned around. I don't know how many American citizens have had an official say to them, 'I'd like to have you meet the President.' Mr. Slemp took me in and gave me a rather flattering introduction to President Coolidge and withdrew. The President was, I think, more embarrassed than I.
He, it appeared, did not want to say anything or did not know just what to say. I was expecting that he would make, at least, an inquiry or two about the state of mind and condition of the twelve million Negro citizens of the United States. I judged that curiosity, if not interest, would make for that much conversation. The pause was painful (for me at least) and I led off with some informational remarks; but it was clear that Mr. Coolidge knew absolutely nothing about colored people. I gathered that the only living Negro he had heard anything about was Major Moton (Booker T. Washington's successor at Tuskegee). I was relieved when the brief audience was over, and I suppose Mr. Coolidge was, too.
Mr. Johnson, unlike Randolph, did not know of Coolidge's ties to Trotter or of his associations with other African Americans. Neither civil rights leader knew that Coolidge behaved similarly when he met with whites.
Coolidge's major benefactor, Boston department store magnate Frank Stearns did not like Coolidge when he first met him. Coolidge was then serving as President of the Massachusetts Senate. Stearns sought his help with a special bill. "Sorry, it's too late," Coolidge told him. To Stearns's surprise, Coolidge quietly had the project inserted in the state budget three years later without even telling Stearns. Coolidge acted in an identical manner when the subject at hand was race.
When it came to act, Coolidge's manner resembled those of a president of more modern times, Dwight D. Eisenhower. If Ike's observers detected an "invisible hand" at work in his White House. those watching Coolidge's behavior thought he operated with no hands at all. The evidence suggests otherwise.
Coolidge's record on race, whatever its shortcomings, was an improvement over that of his five predecessors. William McKinley was the last president to have fought in the Civil War. He liked to hold reunions with veterans who had served in both armies in that conflict. He ignored the former slaves.
McKinley stood by as North Carolina amended its constitution to deny blacks the franchise, in violation of the Fifteenth Amendment, and when Louisiana imposed "grandfather clauses" in a feigned attempt to comply with it. He limited his interest in blacks to one area--their ability to assist his nomination at Republican conventions. His handler Mark Hanna stacked Southern delegations with blacks who could seldom vote in the fall elections. McKinley and Hanna rewarded African Americans who had been helpful to them. Thirty-three of their number were holding presidential appointments the day McKinley was assassinated.
Theodore Roosevelt believed in white supremacy, the need to pick up the "white man's burden" to "civilize" and "colonize" non-white populations. Yet he enjoyed friendships with black Americans and had them to his home and at his table. One overnight guest at his Oyster bay home was black attorney William H. Lewis. Lewis was a friend of Coolidge's too. As he named African Americans to federal posts, Roosevelt consulted Booker T. Washington, founding president of Tuskegee.
Although Washington enjoyed great popularity among both blacks and whites, he had his African American critics. William Monroe Trotter and W.E.B. Dubois thought Washington placed too much emphasis on black self-help and economic advancement and too little on social activism. They resented Roosevelt's reliance upon the "boss of Tuskegee" in dispensing patronage to blacks. Southern segregationists disapproved of this presidential friendship also. After Roosevelt had Washington to the White House for dinner, the press (not all of it southern) castigated both men, The political cartoons were vicious.
TR did some bold things on behalf of African Americans. When a mob pressured a black postmistress he appointed into vacating her post and fleeing the state of Mississippi, Roosevelt refused to replace her. Her neighbors had to pick up their mail miles away. When Senator "Pitchfork" Ben Tillman of South Carolina put a hold on the black physician TR wanted to name customs inspector in Charleston, Roosevelt appointed the man on an interim basis--several times. Roosevelt had the Justice Department investigate peonage in the former Confederacy and had it file "friend of the court" briefs against it before the Supreme Court.
Yet he would not wield his "big stick" when it came to enforcing the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments or curbing lynching. His silence was part of a strategy he thought could make the GOP competitive in the South. Rather than increase its strength there by enfranchising southern blacks, Roosevelt tried to win over southern whites.
One blot on Roosevelt's record is the so called "Brownsville affair." After a few soldiers assigned to three all black companies apparently went on a shooting spree in Texas, Roosevelt dismissed all 167 black soldiers in the unit that included five Congressional medal of honor recipients. Booker T. Washington protested in private; Trotter, in public.
If Roosevelt's actions on race were inconsistent and contradictory, his successor's were not. William Howard Taft put aside his literal, "strict constructionist" interpretation of the constitution when it came to the Fifteenth Amendment. He proclaimed restrictions southern states had placed on voting constitutional and suggested that the Fifteenth Amendment had been a mistake. Taft did not name blacks to posts in places where there was local white opposition.
Neither Taft not Roosevelt were able to crack the Democrats' southern stronghold--in spite of their willingness to disenfranchise their local black supporters, who composed the majority of the population in some states. The solid South had its own candidate, a southern born and southern thinking governor from a northern state.
Although Woodrow Wilson received only 5% to 7% of the black vote (in the states where they could vote) Trotter and W.E.B. Dubois had backed him, believing anything would be an improvement over the two previous Republican presidents. They were wrong, The new Democratic Congress immediately enacted laws barring racial intermarriage in Washington, DC. Wilson went along. Signs bearing the words "whites only" and "blacks only" began appearing above toilets and drinking fountains throughout the city. Jim Crow practices crept into federal agencies. The number of black presidential appointees dropped sharply-from 33 to 9. Blacks only divisions were created, beginning with the Departments of Treasury, Post Office, Navy, and later the Interior, all headed by Southerners.
Most who have studied government imposed segregation during the Wilson administration have focused on the District of Columbia and government agencies there. James Weldon Johnson described how this shift in federal policy effected African Americans who were already living under "Jim Crow" laws elsewhere:
... Going back to the days of Reconstruction, the Negro in the South had always felt, no matter what his local status might be, that he was a citizen of the United States. This feeling was manifest especially when such a Negro entered a federal building. There he felt that he was on some portion, at least, of the ground of common citizenship; that he left most of the galling limitations on the outside. This, in reality, was little more than a feeling; but, at least it was worth something. The only place in the South where a Negro could pretend to share in the common rights of citizenship was under the roof of a federal building ... Efforts were made to take even that away from him ... newly appointed postmasters cut "Jim Crow" windows at the side, through which Negroes were to get their mail, without coming into the post office. There they had to stand in sun or rain until the last white person on the inside had been served. (Page 301).
Wilson was no passive bystander in all of this. He had grown up in Georgia during the Reconstruction and took the conventional southern view of the era in his academic writings.
When black leaders voiced concern, Wilson told them segregation was necessary because of the friction between clerks of both races. When Trotter reminded the president that for fifty years, clerks had worked together harmoniously--even during the previous Democratic administrations of Grover Cleveland--Wilson, by his own admission, lost both his temper and his judgment.
Let it be said that Wilson was not alone in finding Trotter difficult. James Weldon Johnson of the NAACP thought his compatriot "an able man, but zealous to the point of fanaticism" who worked best, not in concert with other like minded individuals, but alone. Of Wilson, Johnson said, "My distrust and dislike... came nearer to constituting keen hatred for an individual than anything I have ever felt." As Senator Lodge later discovered, Wilson had an uncanny ability to unite his enemies.
Although Johnson later softened his view of Wilson, at bottom, he always felt there was "something hypocritical about the man" who wanted to make the world safe for democracy. Coolidge's detractors called him many things. None thought him a hypocrite.
The contrast between the meetings Wilson and Coolidge had with Trotter a decade apart gives further proof to the adage often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, that it is "better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." A year later, Wilson was at it again.
The occasion was the opening of D.W. Griffith's film, "The Birth of a Nation". The movie had been based on a novel, The Klansman, by Thomas Dixon, a friend of Wilson's. The President said the production was "like writing history with lightning. My only regret is that it's true." Others called it "history upside down, complete inversion of historical truth."
Wilson's Secretary, Joseph Tumulty--a good Catholic boy from Jersey City covered for his boss. He reassured Massachusetts Congressman Thomas C. Thacher that "The President was entirely unaware of the character of the play before it was presented..." There may have been some truth in this. "I didn't dare allow the President to know the real big purpose back of my film which was to revolutionize Northern sentiments by a presentation of history that would transform every man in my audience to a good Democrat," he confided to an anxious Tumulty.
Tumulty could not have picked a better city in which to extinguish a fire than Boston. Eruptions broke out in the Tremont Theatre, where it opened Saturday evening April 10, 1915. Fights broke out on the streets. Trotter attacked Mayor Curley at a gathering at Faneuil Hall for not shutting down the film which he called an "incentive to great racial hatred". Others denounced Wilson. A representative of the Irish American League proclaimed the production a "disgusting, brutal, libel on the colored people of the country."
African American J.C. Manning, a former member of the Alabama Reconstruction Legislature tried to correct the record of his former service. Rolfe Cobleigh, Associate Editor of the Congregationalist, proclaimed that "Dixon and Griffith plead for free speech for themselves, but forget that there is a point where the weak become victims of the strong, where liberty becomes anarchy." Harvard's President Emeritus Charles Eliot denounced the movie as "false history."
Trotter, Lewis--TR's house guest from years back--and others led a march of between 1500 and 2000 up Beacon Hill to the State House the next day. Governor David I. Walsh met with a delegation inside. A Democrat and Massachusetts's first Catholic governor, Walsh promised either to ban the production under existing laws against lewdness or to seek special legislation.
"I don't suppose there ever was a day before like this... in the State House....... Walsh remarked, "Men and women coming here with tears in their eyes asking the Governor to protect them from race hatred. I hope to God it will never happen again." True to his word, Walsh pursued the legislation. Its backers favored a censorship board of three that could close down a film by majority vote deemed offensive, lewd, or intended to incite. The lower chamber amended it to require unanimity. After the Senate changed it back to its original form opponents sought to block the measure by moving to recommit it (or send it back to committee). Senate President Calvin Coolidge intervened. He did not normally vote on legislation as presiding officer. This time he did, producing a tie that stopped efforts to recommit the bill.
Coolidge's action did not go unnoticed. "Censors Bill Near Bad Snag", said a headline in the Boston Globe. "Coolidge's Vote Stops Reconsideration by Senate." It went on to say: "The Boston triple censor bill advocated by opponents of the 'Birth of a Nation' came within an ace of striking a bad snag in the Senate yesterday. Only the action of President Coolidge in ordering his name called during a roll call prevented a reconsideration of the vote on Monday..." The Boston Post's headline was more dramatic. "Opponents of 'Birth of Nation' Win."
Coolidge had acted in the fashion Frank Stearns had found to be the Senate President's way. He gave no speeches or interviews. What had prompted Coolidge to act as he had? We can only surmise. Coolidge's Yankee decency and sense of fair play may have convinced him of the justness of Trotter's cause. In the years between 1885 and 1894, when he was coming of age, an estimated 1700 lynchings of Negroes had taken place in the United States.
Ever the politician, Coolidge was sensitive to the increasing importance of the African American vote to his party in Massachusetts. As a result of the "Great Migration," black voters held the balance of power between the parties in many states. Then, there was Coolidge's connection to William Henry Lewis. Lewis had served as Assistant U.S. Attorney General under Taft. Lewis had held several posts in Theodore Roosevelt's administration. He had served on the Cambridge City Council and had been elected to the Legislature four years before Coolidge. Lewis had also preceded Coolidge someplace else. The son of former slaves, he had been graduated from Amherst College three classes ahead of Coolidge. Lewis had been captain of its football team and delivered the class oration in 1892. In a letter to his father, Coolidge made note of Lewis's athletic achievements in a reference to Harvard's improved football team, "Our best man of last year plays center rush on the Harvard eleven this year. He is a Negro named Lewis." In those days, graduate and law students could participate in collegiate sports.
A networker of the first order, Lewis could certainly have made his way to the Amherst graduate who occupied the Senate President's chair. When Coolidge was President, Lewis wrote to him on matters pertaining to politics and patronage. He cited Amherst Professor Morse's assertion that the duty of a political party was to attempt to stay in power to support his argument that it was in Coolidge's interest to name more blacks to prominent posts.
Historians sympathetic to Warren G. Harding cite the speech he delivered in Birmingham, Alabama in 1921 as evidence of an enlightened racial attitude. There, he condemned lynching, asked for tolerance, and suggested that the South's preoccupation with racial divisions had prevented the region from contributing to the health of the nation.
Yet Harding's comment about letting the "black man vote when he is fit to vote" echoed what his fellow Ohioan Howard Taft had said a dozen years earlier. Who would decide which blacks were "fit" to vote or what constituted their fitness? Local segregationists. African American newspapers noted the President's admonition to blacks not to aspire to equality.
In denouncing lynching and proposing a commission to improve race relations, Harding and Coolidge were responding to increases in racial violence that erupted after the Great War--especially during the economic downturn of 1919 and 1920. Not all of it took place in the South. Race riots broke out in the North, where whites were resentful that some companies were hiring black workers at lower wages and using them to replace striking whites. President Wilson inflamed the situation when he accused the GOP of colonizing black voters in East St. Louis, Illinois. Riots broke out twice in the city in 1917. Over the next two years, others ensued in Waco, Memphis, in Chester and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Omaha, Chicago, Washington, DC, and Elaine, Arkansas.
The riots in East St. Louis had a deep effect on Rep. Leonidis Dyer, who spearheaded efforts to make lynching a federal crime. Dyer represented St. Louis, Missouri, just across the river from East St. Louis, Illinois. St. Louis' black population had increased by 33% from 1910 to 1920. Most of the newcomers settled in Dyer's district. Dyer told a Congressional Committee what he had learned from a U.S. Army Reserve Corps Lieutenant about the riots in East St. Louis:
... he saw them burning railway cars in yards, which were waiting for transport, filled with interstate commerce. He saw members of the militia of Illinois shoot Negroes. He saw policemen ... shoot Negroes. He saw this mob go to the homes of these Negroes and nail boards up over the doors and windows and then set fire and burn them up. He saw them take little children out of the arms of their mothers and throw them into the fires and burn them up. He saw the most dastardly and most criminal outrages ever perpetrated in this country...
His colleague, Rep. William A. Rodenberg from East St. Louis, confirmed these accounts.
Dyer first introduced his bill in 1918, the year the GOP regained control of Congress--thanks in part to Woodrow Wilson's attack on Republicans who had been "pro-war, but anti-administration." Wilson might have had an easier time of it if he had practiced Coolidge's penchant for silence. With Harding safely in office, Dyer reintroduced his bill to make lynching a federal crime, punishable by five years in prison and a fine of $5000. It passed the House 230 to 119. The bill stalled in the Senate, where Democrats threatened to stop all other business from coming before the Congress unless the matter was dropped.
Johnson was not dismayed. He attributed the drop in lynchings that occurred in the next decade (down by one third) to the publicity the debate over the Dyer bill generated. Robert Ferrell cites improved economic conditions between 1925 and 1929 as the cause. Some of us call that the "Coolidge prosperity." While designed to achieve other purposes, the Coolidge tax cuts and the economic growth they fostered did help relieve racial tensions.
Harding, his rhetoric notwithstanding, had been a reluctant warrior in the fight against lynching. His priorities were elsewhere: the merchant marine, the veterans' bonus bill, shipbuilding subsidies, and appropriations. Had he tried, Harding might have gotten the measure through. A former Senator, Harding was a natural as a politician. He remained on good terms with the Senate's inner sanctum which had facilitated his nomination. Harding knew how to horse trade. He had also come in with much goodwill and large coattails. He might have brought the matter up at one of his poker sessions, with all that illegal liquor flowing.
Coolidge had none of these advantages. He enjoyed few close friendships with Senators, and never found a mentor to guide him in Washington as he had in Massachusetts. His party retained only nominal control of the Senate during his presidency, with western Progressives often voting with southern agrarians. Neither group was particularly interested in the welfare of African Americans.
Nor did Coolidge feel it his "duty to attempt to coerce" legislators... "or take reprisals". The House never passed the Dyer bill again. Nor would it consider the Negro Industrial Board of three blacks and two whites which Coolidge said he wanted.
After a particular egregious lynching occurred in Aiken, South Carolina, Coolidge said the government had an "obligation" to protect its citizens from such acts. Dyer tried to move his bill again to no avail. Coolidge told Trotter, Johnson, and others that he could do nothing to move it in face of continued opposition.
Evidence suggests he had contemplated acting on his own. Before he met with Trotter, Coolidge talked with Ruth Whitehead Whaley, a New York attorney. She suggested Coolidge have the Attorney General declare martial law where lynchings had occurred. In the margins on the letter she sent him afterwards, Coolidge wrote of her idea "intricate question. It is being considered, but so far, legislation seems only remedy." Whaley wrote the President: "Your attitude in this matter has heartened the Negroes in America and led them to hope that the flag they have always loyally followed in time of national peril may as loyally protect them in this very real and peculiar peril."
In his autobiography, Coolidge remembered spending much time on appointments. Racial overtones were evident in many he made. C. Bascom Slemp had been a Republican Congressman from Virginia when Coolidge tapped him to be his secretary. Slemp had opposed the Dyer bill and had been involved in attempts to reduce the number of black delegates at GOP conventions. His appointment drew protests from many of the President's supporters.
As he did his boss's bidding, Slemp proved his critics' fears unfounded. We have already seen the grace with which he received James Weldon Johnson at the White House. Early in Coolidge's presidency, Lewis wrote Slemp urging the appointment of blacks to prominent positions. He brought up the Dyer bill. Slemp assured Lewis that the administration had addressed his concerns. He said he looked forward to explaining his Congressional votes the next time Lewis dropped by.
When African American National Committeeman and political appointee at Justice, Perry Howard suggested a certain black journalist be admitted to White House briefings, Slemp issued the reporter a pass in two days. He was less helpful to a clergyman named Woolever, who expressed envy at other courtesies the President extended to African Americans.
Slemp stayed in contact with Giles B. Jackson, the Richmond black attorney who had first suggested a Negro Industrial Commission and involved Jackson and his supporters in other administration projects. Slemp brought to the president's attention efforts citizens were undertaking to improve race relations in their communities. Coolidge wrote congratulatory letters to some of them.
Coolidge and Slemp resolved an ugly situation at a veterans' hospital in Tuskegee, Alabama. One paradox of their era was that the nation had fought a war to make the world safe for democracy with segregated armed forces. Blacks served under white commands, a practice carried over into veterans' hospitals. Weeks into his presidency, Coolidge received complaints about Tuskegee. "We have reason to believe", wrote NAACP Assistant Secretary Walter H. White, "that the present head of the Hospital is a Southerner of the Negro-hating type, who has openly encouraged the Ku Klux Klan. Our women are insulted and our sick neglected."
This was one time when the NAACP sought a segregated solution to a racial problem. With integration not an immediate prospect, they regarded an all black staff as the lesser evil and pushed for one. Less than three months later, Slemp was informing Lewis of what the administration was doing to straighten things out. He enclosed the names of 248 black and 12 white personnel and said it was the administration's policy to replace the latter 12 with African American officials as soon as it could be possibly done.
President Coolidge knew a lot about this hospital. He had dedicated it when he was Vice President months earlier. He had commended the contributions black soldiers, officers, and civilian had made to the war effort. Coolidge challenged those who heard him to use lessons learned in the war to establish interracial harmony at home. It was one of the most eloquent speeches he ever gave. I cite a key passage:
We have come out of the war with a desire and a determination to live at peace with all the world. Out of a common suffering and a common sacrifice there came a new meaning to our common citizenship. Our greatest need is to live in harmony, in friendship, and in good-will, not seeking an advantage over each other, but all trying to serve each other.
Coolidge's papers contain ample examples of his administration investigating complaints and rectifying racial injustices. On October 7, 1924, Slemp wrote to the Secretary of the Interior the following note: "My attention has been called to the fact that a Jim Crow car station is being maintained on government land opposite Key Bridge. Will you please let me know what conditions are over there."
Three years later, Trotter wired the vacationing President that "four colored examiners" in the pension bureau at Interior had been "segregated" in violation of pledges Coolidge had made against the practice. That same day, Sanders (Slemp's successor and another ex-Congressman) wired the Commissioner of Pensions: "Being advised that your Bureau has recently segregated four colored Examiners, the President directs you to revoke such segregation at once."
Letters asserting continued segregation in government and discriminatory demotions, layoffs, and firings of blacks poured in throughout Coolidge's presidency. Although sincere in intentions, the Coolidge, administration found it hard to eradicate the vestiges of Wilsonian segregation. Political appointees who had come to town with Woodrow Wilson proved apt at burrowing their way into classified positions. Many wound up supervising blacks, who had either been hired by Republican administrations or through competitive examinations.
Veterans preference further limited the administration's ability to maneuver. While blacks could make use of it as well as whites, the 400,000 of them who had served in uniform had been part of an armed force of nearly five million.
Cuts Coolidge was making in the federal budget had some unintended consequences. As any bureaucrat knows, most cuts take place at the bottom, as civil servants are "bumped" down through various categories of protection. This led to a disproportionate dismissals of blacks.
The administration tracked how many blacks were in government service and at which agencies and discouraged segregation. Cabinet officers took steps to present their departments in the best light. Often, this produced changes in policies and personnel practices.
When a group of Negro Republican women wrote Coolidge requesting vigorous enforcement of the 15th Amendment and the appointment of qualified Negro females in the Labor Department, Child Welfare, Education, and Woman's Bureau of the U.S. Employees Compensation Commission, and Negroes of both sexes to agricultural experimental stations across the country, Coolidge asked his cabinet's thoughts. Labor Secretary Davis replied, that much as he opposed hiring based on race, he believed that in "cases where department heads have been confronted with special problems growing out of interracial relationships, a solution could be expedited by the employment of Negro experts of broad vision, understanding, and training." He noted that in the Department of Agriculture, "Negro farm and home economics demonstrators are successfully carrying ... programs into territories heretofore difficult to approach." Davis retained on his own staff a "Negro commissioner of conciliation" to advise him on "interracial issues and industrial problems that had arisen through (racial) misunderstandings." He recommended his colleagues do likewise.
In language that could have been written yesterday, Davis told the President that although it was "un-American" to create or recognize classes, "it is recognized that there is a race distinction and that, sometimes, it is very convenient to have the assistance of a representative of a race in dealing with the members of that race." He thought it sensible to have a "colored woman ... assigned to special investigations" where race had become an issue in collective bargaining or in employer/employee unrest.
With regard to patronage, Coolidge named blacks to judgeships and other prominent posts. His record here was better than Wilson's and probably better than Taft's. He resisted William Lewis's suggestion that he name blacks to posts that had customarily been held by members of their race. Coolidge did not like the idea of "Negro," "Jewish," or other "seats" on boards, courts, and agencies.
Any discussion of presidential actions on racial matters in Coolidge's day must include the Ku Klux Klan. It is hard to describe the power that organization wielded back then. One difference between the Klan of then and of now is how people regarded it. We think of it as a part of a fringe, operating at the margins of society. In the 1920's much of the population and even many in the media thought it part of the mainstream.
Whereas the Klan that Dixon and Griffith romanticized in the "Birth of a Nation" persecuted blacks, its successor in the teens and the '20s also made Catholics, Jews, and immigrants its targets. Robert Ferrell calls this change "the great bigotry merger." Contrary to popular belief the Klan was not exclusively a southern phenomenon. It was a dominant political force in Oregon, California, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana, and parts of Maine. It conducted rallies and cross burnings in Massachusetts. In the South, its members were Democrats. They were primarily Republican everywhere else. Professor Ferrell records that at least 75 members of the House owed their seats to the Klan.
Nancy Maclean in Behind the Mask of Chivalry: The Making of the Second Ku Klux Klan, tells how the KKK functioned as fraternal lodge, credit union, enforcer of standards. charitable organization, and terrorist organization all at once. The Klan took a particular interest in public education. It wanted to expand state and federal spending on it as a means of teaching native Americanism and making it economically prohibitive for immigrants to patronize parochial schools.
The Klan nearly shut down the Democratic convention in 1924. Delegates settled on John W. Davis on the 103d ballot, breaking a deadlock between Klan backed William McAdoo (Wilson's son in law) and New York's Catholic Governor Al Smith. There were enough Klan delegates and sympathizers in the hall to block a platform plank condemning the organization.
The Klan forced itself onto Coolidge's attention in the fall of 1923 when it instigated violence in Omaha and Pittsburgh. The Nebraska governor declared martial law, complaining that "unmentionable mutilations have been conducted upon numerous citizens ... scores of others have been taken from their homes at night and beaten and flogged in a most unmerciful way. The majority of the lower house are Klansmen."
A group of pro-KKK state legislators forced Coolidge's hand when they tried to hold a session in a federal building to impeach the Governor. Calling the Governor a Bolshevik, some Republican activists urged Coolidge to stay out of the matter. After Slemp denied the Klansmen permission to use the site, one newspaper ran a picture of the President beneath the words "He Intervenes."
The Klan issue began to dominate much of Coolidge's mail. A man from Brooklyn wrote Coolidge: "We Catholics believe you are a man of character with backbone enough to put these people in their place." He hoped the government would not encourage them by granting parade permits. "...No slurs were cast when Catholics comprised nearly 50% of our army while the make of men like the KKK were probably hiding in the woods."
The Indianapolis State Order of Hibernians urged Coolidge to follow President Grant's example and "suppress with the arm of the federal government the invisible empire of the KKK--an organization of masked conspirators." Sure of the Southern vote and sensing an opportunity to drive a wedge among Republicans elsewhere, Davis challenged the president to join him in denouncing the Klan. With Robert LaFollette mounting a healthy third party candidacy, Davis hoped that he might slip past Coolidge in the electoral college if he could drive enough Midwestern Republicans away from the president.
A wire story with a dateline "Plymouth Notch, Vt." by William Lost suggested that the President's advisers took this threat seriously: "Davis's challenge dropped into the quiet village here with something akin to a bombshell last night. Secretary Slemp together with newsmen motored from Woodstock to Calvin Coolidge's home and caught the President just as he was retiring...Because the Klan issue wrecked the Democratic convention in New York, Republican leaders had not thought Davis would revive it and they, in turn, were not anxious to raise the issue within their own ranks."
While he never did take Davis's bait, Coolidge made public displays of giving comfort to the Klan's would be victims. He sought out and accepted speaking appearances at Howard University and the Holy Name Society during the year of the election and the Washington Jewish Community Center afterwards. These groups were not considered "respectable" in some quarters. His theme was the same when he spoke to the Norwegian Centennial Celebration and the newly formed American Legion--that tolerance was more deeply rooted in the American tradition than bigotry. At Howard, he praised "the progress of the colored people on this continent" as "one of the marvels of modem history." "Racial hostility, ancient tradition, and social prejudice are not to be eliminated immediately or easily, " he said, "But they will be lessened..."
He began his remarks before the Holy Name Society gathering in Washington with a strong and optimistic opening:
Something in all human beings makes them want to do the right thing. Not that this desire always prevails; oftentimes it is overcome and they turn towards evil. But some power is always calling them back. Ever there comes a resistance to wrongdoing. When bad conditions begin to accumulate, when forces of darkness become prevalent, always they are ultimately doomed to fail as the better angels of our nature are roused to resistance.
Were his references to "ordered liberty under law" before the Holy Name and his declaration of the "right of every mother to rest in the assurance that her children will find here a land of devotion, prosperity, and peace." aimed at the Klan? Emmet Scott, Secretary-Treasurer at Howard University thought so.
This address brought great encouragement to thoughtful representatives of the twelve million colored people of the United States. The principles above stated by you include most or all of what they hold near and dear in connection with their citizenship. The one thing for which they have struggled since the Republican Party conferred upon them ... freedom and enfranchisement has been this American ideal of "ordered liberty."
The colored people suffer many disabilities among them persecution by a hooded order which seeks to exclude them from the privileges of American citizenship. They also suffer from discrimination in the Federal service and from segregation in many Departments of our government. This discrimination is a legacy which has come to your administration.
They know Calvin Coolidge. They know his traditional friendship and they know of his distinguished services in behalf of their race.
Scott's letter praising Coolidge and the President's release of it were part of a strategy Coolidge and his advisers devised to portray the President as an enemy of racial and religious bigotry. When a constituent wrote complaining about a black man seeking the GOP nomination to Congress, Coolidge made the following reply public. "I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war, 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. ... A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy ... as is any other citizen."
Before the American Legion, Coolidge took on the Klan's creed head on. He asked his listeners to cast away the stereotyping of foreign peoples that resulted from war propaganda and called for greater toleration of differences at home. "No man's patriotism was impugned or service questioned because of his racial origin, his political opinion, or his religious convictions." Coolidge had been reading his mail. The president for whom this library is named uttered similar remarks before an assembly of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960.
Coolidge noted that "immigrants and sons of immigrants from central European countries fought side by side with those who descended from the countries which were our allies; with the sons of equatorial Africa; and with the Red men of our own aboriginal population, all of them equally proud of the name Americans. ... Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character..."
He told Washington's Jewish community that they and their ancestors were a part of the American fabric. Quoting a favored historian, Coolidge said "Hebraic mortar cemented the foundations of American democracy." "From earliest colonial times, America has been a new land of promise to this long persecuted race," he proclaimed:
Factional, sectional, social and political lines of conflict yet persist. Despite all experience, society continues to engender the hatreds and jealousies whereof are born domestic strife and international conflicts. But education and enlightenment are breaking their force. Reason is emerging.
In an exchange Coolidge had with a secret service agent, the president, showing his lighter side, revealed his private opinion of this band of hooded knights. Agent Starling recalled his discussion with the President about what was playing at various Washington theaters.
What's at the National?, Coolidge asked... I don't think the National would interest you, I said. I took Mr. Sargent (the Atty General) there last night. It's just an ordinary leg show. I'd better not take my wife there, he said, and you'd better not let the folks in Vermont know John Sargent is going to leg shows... What about the Belasco? It is rented this week to the Ku Klux Klan Well, we won't go there. That' s worse than a leg show.
John M. Barry, author of Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America, cites a Coolidge quotation "Biological laws shows us that Nordics deteriorate when mixed with other races." He certainly did not take this racist tone when he addressed the Norwegian Centennial Celebration in Minnesota in 1925: "if one were seeking proof of a basic brotherhood among all races of men ... no better testimony could be taken than the experience of this country." Or at the dedication of a statue to Swedish immigrant John Ericsson, designer of the Monitor, before a gathering that included the Crown Prince of Sweden: "As we do not recognize any inferior races, so we do not recognize any superior races. We all stand on an equality of rights and of opportunity, each deriving just honor from his own worth and accomplishments."
During the immigration restriction debate, Coolidge voiced concern about Japanese exclusion and how this might harm American relations with Japan. He worked to increase the number admitted, but threatened no veto. He said nothing whatsoever when Congress set severe restrictions on future immigration from Eastern and Southern Europe. Much as he praised the work earlier generations had done to build a strong and united America, he was prepared to accept fewer newcomers of non-Anglo-Saxon origins.
However, had he resisted these changes, he would have found few allies. So called "Progressives"--LaFollette, Norris, Borah, Wheeler, Walsh, Johnson--all favored greater restrictions. One of the few who did not was New York Congressman Fiorello LaGuardia. LaGuardia doubted that restrictions would produce a better America. He reminded those who disagreed that his dog came from a "distinguished family tree, but was still a son of a bitch."
I will end with two revealing anecdotes about Calvin Coolidge. In a conversation with the president, secret service agent Edmund Starling referred to White House butler Arthur Brooks as a fine, colored gentleman." Coolidge replied sharply, "Brooks is not a colored gentleman. He is a gentleman."
In the Coolidge papers is a gem of a letter written August 14, 1924 to presidential aide Edward T. Clark by E.V. Nelson of Washington, DC.
Recently while down to the Monument grounds viewing a baseball game between two colored teams, I saw the president and Mrs. Coolidge drive up and watch the game. While there they had their picture taken with the members of both teams. I am writing this letter to ask you if it is possible for me to get any of those pictures? I am a member of the Phipps Colored Republican Club of Pueblo Colorado, and I wanted to send the Club one of those pictures if there is any way for me to get one. If you will be so kind as to inform me if I could get one or buy one, I will certainly appreciate it.
Given Mrs. Coolidge's love of baseball and her husband's propensity to see beyond race, neither probably thought their stopping to watch the game was anything but a normal occurrence.
Finally there was the way Coolidge and Slemp removed Colonel C.O. Sherrill, who Coolidge had re-appointed Director of Public Buildings, Grounds, and Parks. African Americans in the city had objected to Sherrill's appointment. They alleged that this Wilson holdover had tried to segregate Washington, DC parks. He had caused a stir during the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial when he steered black dignitaries, including Howard University's Emmet Scott, GOP official Perry Howard, and Tuskegee President Robert Moton, one of the speakers, to a segregated section.
A year into Coolidge's presidency, Slemp wrote Sherrill, "Sometime when you are in, I wish you would let me know just what your policy is in regard to recreation grounds for colored people." Six months later he wrote him again asking how he might answer complaints that were still being raised.
Matters came to a head when Sherrill tried to construct an all black beach near the Tidal Basin. Congress had authorized a bathing facility in 1917 for whites and had just gotten around to providing one for blacks. Black leaders beseeched the president either to veto the appropriation or at least not put his signature on a measure that could set a precedent for segregated street cars and public accommodations.
The White House, already annoyed at Sherrill for failing to appear at a ceremony for prominent aviators, had begun documenting his missteps. That November, the press reported that Sherrill had complained before the Garden Club in Philadelphia about the Budget Bureau's stinginess in funding his operations. Sanders wrote him the following letter: "The President directs me to send you the enclosed clipping ... and to ask if you will let him know if you are accurately quoted therein. He would be glad to have you send him a copy of the manuscript of your address if you have it..." The White House forwarded Sherrill's reply to his commanding officer,
Two weeks later, Sherrill resigned. Coolidge named Major U.S. Grant III Sherrill's successor. The grandson of the last President to enforce the Fifteenth Amendment and who was responsible for its passage, Grant proved a popular choice. Under his administration the blacks only beach was never built and the whites only facility was removed.”551

Herbert Hoover, a friend who won the election of 1928, was goven some advice by Coolidge: “Yoy have to stand every day three or four hours of visitors. Nine-tenths of them want something they ought not to have. If you keep dead-still they will run down in three or four minutes. If you even cough or smile they will start up all over again.”552

MArch 3, 1929 inaugural - cold, gusty


“On a cold, slushy March day in 1929, his presidential term over, the Coolidge family returned to their old neighbors--the high school principal, a grocer. an optometrist, two elderly maiden ladies, the Methodist minister, the local postmaster, a street railway official and ourselves.
Before long a steady stream of motorized gawkers began cruising past the two-family house. By May, Dr. Plummer, who lived on the other side of the Coolidge house, estimated that a car cruised past every six seconds. Finally, the Coolidges gave up and, about a year later, sought the privacy of a larger house with fenced-in grounds in another part of town. Massasoit Street was quieter--and duller.
The former President didn't live long after his return to Northampton. While he did, it was a quiet routine existence. Each day he went to his old law office in the Masonic Building at the foot of Main Street. Occasionally we would see him sitting erect, pale and sober, in the rear seat of the blue Lincoln he had used in his last year in Washington and purchased for his personal use, being driven slowly through town. Until fairly recent years, his name in gold lettering could still be made out on the window of his second-floor office. Now it is gone.
On a January morning in 1933, Calvin Coolidge left his office in midmorning and was driven home. There he fetched a glass of water from the kitchen, exchanged a few words with a hired man at work in the cellar, and then went upstairs to die in much the same manner as he had lived through his long political career--quietly, tidily, privately.
Some of us children were taken up into the belfry of the First Baptist Church to peer down at the stream of dignitaries hastening through the bone-chilling rain into the nearby Edwards Congregational Church for the Coolidge funeral. Excitedly we spotted such familiar figures as Chief Justice Hughes and President Hoover. Someone pointed out to us the tall figure of Eleanor Roosevelt, representing her husband, himself about to be inaugurated as a President of the United States. We youngsters did not know it that day, but we were marking the end of an era, the end of our own childhood as well as an end to the peace and plenty we had known as children on Massasoit Street in the golden '20s.”553

Wrote a daily newspaper editorials called “Calvin Coolidge Says”. Of Soviets he said: “Communism will fail becasue what it attempts is against human nature. No man will provide me wih food and other nececcities of life unless he is a gainer by it in some way.”554

In the summer of 1932, even as his health was failing, he assessed the chance of Hoover winning a second term. According to Everett Sanders, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, “He was...rather optimistic at that time of Republican success. A great many small factories were resuming work, and he thought there was beginning to be a demand for manufactured products. This demand might increase in sufficient volume to start the other large factories. If that should occue, he felt we had a good chance to win.”555 He wrote an article in the Saturday Evening Post supporting Hoover, which was made into a radio address from Madison Square Garden in NYC that went well.

The 1932 election did not go well for the GOP. Coolidge told a reporter, “The election went against us much mofre heavilty than I had anticipated. I suppose that, since it has to be, it is just as well that the Democrats have it lock, stock, and barrel; but somehow I feel it is a mistake to break down the Hoover administration just as it is making progress toward national recovery.”556

Coolidge did not support the policies of FDR: “These socialistic notions of government are not of my day. When I was in office, tax reduction, debt reduction, tariff stability, and economy were the things to which I gave attention. We succeeded on those lines. It has always seemed to me that common sense is the real solvent for the nation’s problems at all times--common sense and hard work. When I read of the new-fangled things that are now so popular, I realize that my time in public affairs is past....That is why I am through with public life forever. I shall never again hold public office.”557

There was talk of nominating him in 1936 for president!!

Four days before his death, he said to an olf Amherst friend, “I am very comfortable because I am not doing anything of any account; but a real effort to accomplish something goes hard with me. I am too old for my years. I suppose the carrying of responsibilities as I have done takes its toll. I’m afraid I’m all burned out. But I’m very comfortable.” He also said, “In other periods of depression it has always been possible to see some things which were solid and upon which you could base hope, but as I look about, I see nothing to give ground for hope--nothing of man. But there is still religion, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That continues as a solid basis for hope and courage.”558

On the morning of Jan. 5, Coolidge got up at 7am, had breakfast, and went into the office. He was feeling ill. At 10 o’clock he and secretray Ross went home. His wife was out; she walked downtown to do some shopping; went with sec. to his library; went to kitchen to get a glass of water; hears gardener in the celler and says hello; last person he spoke with; next he went upstairs to the bedroom; took of coat to shave, but falls dead to the floor

When he died the New York Times said, “Of him the country had come to think as a possession to be enjoyed for years to come. He seemed like a permanent feature of the American scene. His removal from it is as if a deep-rooted oak at which we had become accustomed to look at which we had become accustomed to look had suddenly been felled...”559

After his death, 1928 Dem pres candidate Alfred E. Smith wrote, “The Green Mountain boy has gone home.”560

In retirement he had to have pills with him whenever he traveled, and asthma attacks, naps (1-2x a day)

He also wanted to travel, and was even offered trips abroad, but he contented himself with day-trips to new York, Buffalo, Boston, etc. Once while traveling in New York, he took his first trip on the subway, sandwiched “between two stout Italian women” who recognized him. “But Mr. Coolidge made no comment upon the ride...”561 And when he traveled to Florida, even after asking the postmaster to arrange a room and not to tell anyone, he spilled the beans and 5000 were waiting for Mr and Mrs. Coolidge. “Before they reached the hotel they were almost torn to pieces”562

“He was called Silent Cal, and the nation laughed at his taciturnity, his frugality, and his dry wit. But the Great Stone Face hid a sweet smile and a terrible anguish.
January 5, 1933 was a crisp mid-winter Thursday in Northampton, Massachusetts. In the redbrick Masonic Block, the city's most famous resident put in a short morning at the second-floor law office marked Coolidge and Hemenway. It was part of the comfortable routine Calvin Coolidge had adopted since leaving the White
House nearly four years earlier. The 30th president of the United States made no pretense of being a practicing lawyer. Coolidge and Hemenway was a place to kick off one's shoes, lean back with a freshly clipped cigar, and pour over the morning's papers and ever-present mail.
The latter presented challenges of its own, reflecting the severe hardship that had fastened its grip upon the American economy like winter descending upon the
Connecticut River valley. One day a package containing a diamond bracelet arrived at Masonic Block, sent by an admirer convinced that only the parsimonious Coolidge could safeguard her valuables in these uncertain times. "He treated that diamond bracelet as if it were a scorpion," recalled Coolidge's secretary, Herman Beatty. The unsolicited package was hastily returned, but only after the former president filed a post office receipt in front of several reliable witnesses.
Coolidge had always been careful with his money, his ideas, and his health. Now he remarked to no one in particular that he was getting to be an old man. Perhaps he would confine his future labors to the Beeches, the handsome 12-room estate into which he and his wife, Grace, had moved in the spring of 1930, seeking a privacy irretrievably sacrificed to the harsh glare of the presidency. Finishing his office work by 10 o'clock, Coolidge headed home in the Pierce-Arrow driven by the chauffeur he impishly called Johnny-Jump-Up. Inside the Beeches he teased a jigsaw puzzle of George Washington for a few minutes and chatted briefly with the hired man. The he went upstairs to shave before lunch. When Grace returned from a shopping trip shortly after noon, she found her husband's lifeless form sprawled on the floor of his dressing room. Calvin Coolidge had died alone, the victim of a massive heart attack.
That night the dead man lay upon his bed, his sharp Yankee features outlined by a single lightbulb. Eulogies took shape. The London Times used the occasion to bid farewell to rugged individualism. "The old American belief so cherished by New Englanders like Mr. Coolidge, that the honest man should depend on himself and earn the bread he eats, is now challenged by millions of decent citizens who by charity because there is no work for them."
More than a life had ended in Northampton, the Times seemed to be saying. A way of life would be buried with "this lonely, inarticulate, simple, shrewd man." Coolidge was "not of today," it concluded with British understatement. ”563

Neighbors recalled the ex-presdient in 1930: “Mr. Coolidge is an inveterate front-porch sitter. he always was, and now that he is back home from Washington he sits out and smokes his cigar on the porch on an evening or a Sunday afternoon, and all the tourists in America shall not keep him from it.....He was tired after the Presidency and wanted to settle down to the enjoyment of home life...”564

Nighbors in Northampton recorded life of the ex-Presdient. “Hundreds of automobiles from every state pass the house every day....Cars average one every six seconds. Many drivers pause long enough to take a few pictures....Often Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge are asked to pose. I do not believe any such requests are ever refused. However, posing for a picture is quite a different matter from engaging in conversation....Our lawn has been worn out by the feet of Coolidge admirers.”565

In fall of 1930 Coolidges move from $40-mo. rental into $40,000 house with nine acres and sixteen rooms -- “The Beeches”.

“At his death in January, 1933, no tribute meant more than that of H. L. Mencken. With the perspective of time Mencken had come to reconsider his scathing criticism of the Coolidge presidency. Contrasting Coolidge with Wilson "the World Saver" and Hoover "the Wonder Boy," Mencken anticipated the revisionist scholarship of post-Reagan America. "Should the day ever dawn," said the Sage of Baltimore, "when Jefferson's warnings are heeded at last, and we reduce government to its simplest terms, it may very well happen that Calvin's bones now resting inconspicuously in the Vermont granite will come to be revered as those of a man who really did the nation some service." Not a bad epitaph for one whose first thought on being roused from bed in the middle of the night and thrust into the presidency was, "I believe I can swing it."”566

in 1981, the newly elected president, Ronald Reagan took down Harry Truman's picture in the cabinet room and replaced it with Calvin Coolidge's. The spate of Calvin Coolidge birthday parties among Reaganites reflected a desire to reject the liberal establishment's standards. After a half-century of workaholic presidents who nearly wrecked the country, a napping president looked pretty good.


Coolidge and the Zen of Politics: How An Aloof, Reticent and Austere Man Achieved Success in Politics, By Hendrik Booraem V

Pop psychology from reporters and members of the White House staff is, I realize, not conclusive; there is more evidence from Coolidge himself, which I will bring forward in a moment. First, however, I want to draw a distinction. A popular theory about politics, which some of you may have heard, associated especially with the name of Harold Lasswell, holds that many politicians have low self-esteem, are basically unsure of themselves. and went into politics precisely because contact with the voters satisfied their need for affection and reaffirmed their sense of self-worth. 16 Even if I believed this theory, which I don't, I would have to point out that it has nothing in common with Coolidge's case. Charming the voters and winning reassurance based on personal contact was precisely what he was not good at. His feelings of inadequacy were not to be assuaged by the crowd's approval. Throughout his career, I will suggest,. Coolidge was performing for an audience of one: his father, John Coolidge.
John Coolidge was far and away the most important person in his son's life from an early age. Coolidge lost his mother when he was twelve; his only sibling, a sister, died when he was seventeen. Calvin and his father were left with each other. Coolidge found his father an impressive, even awesome, audience, and he was not shy about proclaiming his inferiority to him. "My father had qualities greater than any I possess," he said late in life. "It always seemed possible for him to form an unerring judgment of men and things. I cannot recall that I ever knew of his doing a wrong thing." 17
Trying to live up to the standards of such a superhuman being was a difficult, frustrating task, and it was easy to entertain feelings of inadequacy. Witness a letter Coolidge, aged twenty-five, wrote his father in 1897. They were debating how to launch his law practice: "I have tried to do the best I could by my feeble efforts to carry out other plans which did not appeal to me very strongly and if I have sometimes faltered, if I have failed to meet with the success you desired, forgive me--I think I tried my best." 18
Coolidge, not surprisingly, was hypersensitive to criticism from his father and often nursed his hurt feelings for years. Several years after graduating from Amherst, he kidded his father in a letter: "You made a good deal of fun of me when I was in college for putting two o's in lose-- it is with some satisfaction that I note you have now adopted the same way." That criticism had stuck with him for five years. 19 Similarly, in his senior year at college, Coolidge wrote an essay on the principles of the American Revolution which, he informed his father, was awarded a silver medal as the best essay submitted at Amherst. John Coolidge's comment was disparaging, the medal, he wrote, would buy no bread and butter. The essay went on to a nationwide contest, where it won the first prize, a gold medal. Coolidge's reaction reveals how much his father's comments had stung; he tucked the medal in a drawer and said nothing to John about it, letting him learn of the award indirectly, through the newspapers. 20
In later years, Coolidge put the best construction possible on his father's criticism of the medal. "He had questioned some whether I was really making anything of my education, in pretense I now think," Coolidge wrote in the Autobiography, "not because he doubted it but because he wished to impress me with the desirability of demonstrating it." But there is no question that at the time it hurt. 21
This same kind of cosmetic reconstruction after the fact applies to the principal point of contention between father and son, the choice of a career for Coolidge. Young Calvin, it is clear, did not want to go to college at all. The first time he was sent to Amherst, he developed an illness, which seems to have been largely psychosomatic, at the entrance examinations and had to drop out, delaying his entrance by an entire year. The second time he enrolled, he came home at midwinter and begged not to have to continue; but as he wrote John in 1897, ,you sent me back to college five years ago." When he graduated, he wanted either to go on to law school or to return to his home village of Plymouth; John also vetoed both ideas and insisted that he enroll as a clerk in a law office. Over a period of seven or eight years, in other words, young Coolidge saw his desires and his plans repeatedly rejected and overridden by his father. 22
This library, as it happens, is a rather appropriate venue for talking about an American president whose early life was dominated by his father's purposes. But John Coolidge's motivation is a little harder to figure out than Joe Kennedy's. Kennedy wanted power and recognition for his sons. John Coolidge worried a lot about money; it may have been his judgment that his shy, bookish son was unlikely to succeed in business, that he needed the armor of a college education and a professional certificate simply to support himself in adult life.
Calvin Coolidge, looking back in maturity on the experience of his father's dominance, convinced himself he had found the key to his motivation. He mentions it in the account of his midnight inaugural in August 1923; his father's voice trembled on that occasion, he observed, with "the thought of the many sacrifices he had made to place me where I was ... and all the tenderness and care he had lavished upon me ... in the hope that I might sometime rise to a position of importance." All along, in other words, John Coolidge's purpose had been to put his son into the presidency or a comparable position. 23
There is really no evidence to back up this statement. Not all of John Coolidge's letters to Calvin have survived, but in those that have there is no trace of a suggestion that Calvin should go into politics, no offer of political aid. Coolidge's belief seems to be an interpretation that he put on the facts long afterwards. One can see it taking form in a letter he wrote to his father in 1925, two years after his swearing in. Speaking of the presidency, he said: "I am sure I came to it largely by your bringing up and your example. If that was what you have wanted you have much to be thankful for that you have lived to so great an age to see it." 24
The way it actually worked, I think, was this. A shy young man, dominated and frequently criticized by a parent whom he saw as superior, Coolidge desperately wanted to please his father. Although the two men had very different personalities and interests in some ways, there were a few areas they both regarded as interesting and important. One was firm management; they discussed the details of maple sugaring and the care of livestock at length in their letters, and John seems to have considered Calvin his equal perhaps his superior, in making and judging maple sugar. 25 Another was politics.
From childhood Coolidge attended the Plymouth town meetings with his father. As a boy he carried apples and popcorn balls to sell, because, as he relates in the Autobiography, "my grandmother said my father had done so when he was a boy, and I was exceedingly anxious to grow up to be like him." 26 He watched as John was elected to a string of town offices: tax collector, town agent, state representative, superintendent of education. He enjoyed watching John canvass for support from his neighbors and keep a mental tally of who was for him and against him. His memories of town meetings were wholly of practical politics, counting heads and putting together majorities. 27
This kind of politics was a pleasurable experience for Coolidge and remained so most of his life. He evidently thought about it a lot, or at least one might draw that conclusion from a dream he had as a teenager. It was during the presidential campaign of 1888, Harrison versus Cleveland, nine days before Election Day. Coolidge woke up and scribbled on a back page of his diary: "dreamed Cleveland carried Indiana by some 4000 votes and New York by 30." Evidently he wrote his dream down because he wanted to see if it would come true. It was a professional politician's dream: Indiana and New York were critical states in the election, and the margins he dreamed of were not unreasonable. (His numbers, however, turned out to be wrong; he was a politician, not a prophet.) 28
In college, at the end of sophomore year, Coolidge's roommate decided to run for the editorial board of the yearbook, and Coolidge got involved in his campaign, buttonholing classmates to ask for their support. He did not find this difficult to do, apparently. Psychologists have found that reticent people are comfortable with interpersonal transactions that are structured, that have a clear beginning and end; open-ended social interaction is what terrifies them. Coolidge's behavior fits that pattern; emulating his father, he got out and spoke to classmates who hardly knew him before. 29 He did the same thing in senior year, when he ran for and won the position of Grove Orator, the student who delivered the comic valedictory address. "I put more work into it than Alfred did into Freemen's Meeting," he wrote John, comparing himself to a Plymouth man who had recently been active in local politics, "and was elected on the first ballot 53 to 18 against a man from Brooklyn." 30
When Coolidge wrote his father about politics, he often supplied the numbers in detail; this was the kind of information that they both enjoyed. An example is his letter after being elected mayor of Northampton in 1909: "1 and 5 are strong democrat wards. 1 is about 100 and last year 5 went 175. You see I cut I1to 20 and 5 to 75 and got big majority in 2, 3, and 4. Ward 6 is about even but there is a row on out there so no republican can get only one faction of the republican strength in that ward. Ward 7 is democrat by about 40." He went on to analyze the vote by ethnic groups, in terms a little more familiar to present-day political workers: "I got all the Italians, Jews, Polish, most of the French and hundreds of Irish. 31
What I am saying, then, is that the part of politics Coolidge found most congenial was local political activity: getting out and canvassing for votes, calculating the margins needed for victory. He liked it in itself, and found it doubly congenial because it was an activity his father shared and approved of. He was good at it; he worked hard and almost always won his elections, and these triumphs boosted his sense of accomplishment still further. The first reason he cited for running for mayor, for instance, was that "the honor would be one that would please my father." 32 He and his father enjoyed comparing their political careers, often in the dry language of statistics, like baseball fans. One comparison both of them found meaningful--they cited it on separate occasions--was this: Calvin Coolidge was precisely two months and two days old when his father was first elected to the Vermont legislature. In turn, he was elected to the Massachusetts legislature when his firstborn son John was two months and two days old. Political trivia? Precisely; that was the level on which politics engrossed both men. 33
Coolidge's election as mayor in 1909 began fifteen years of uninterrupted political success, rising from one office to another, aided by four or five truly remarkable strokes of luck that he could not have anticipated or planned for, and culminating in the presidency. As he says in the Autobiography, simply, almost numbly, "I did not plan for it but it came." 34 What he did plan for and shared with his father were the political maneuvering that got him from one office to the next, and finally to the vice presidency in 1920. In 1923, of course, it was his father who swore him in as president and gave him his symbolic blessing. (One should point out that there was some doubt as to John Coolidge's authority, on the basis of his Vermont notary's commission, to administer the presidential oath, and that Coolidge took it again in Washington to be on the safe side.) 35
On March 18, 1926, about three years later, John Coolidge died in Plymouth. The President, tied up with public business, was unable to be at his father's side. Historians have commented on a general lethargy or weakness that overtook the Coolidge administration during the full term that began in 1925. This afternoon we will hear Robert Gilbert talk about that phenomenon and connect it with the psychological trauma Coolidge suffered when his son died in 1924. But it might make sense to consider the implications of the father's death as well. With it, Coolidge lost the benign, powerful force that, as he saw it, had steered him into high office, with whom he had shared his victories and strategies, for whom he had done the best he could to prove his worth. Now there was no one to satisfy, and he was left in an unfriendly milieu saddled with irksome duties. A loss like this could easily have been responsible for draining the meaning and commitment from his presidency.
During most of his years in politics, however, Coolidge's approach to politics was distinctive, because his motivation was so unusual. He had none of the common political goals--money, power, policy aims--but only an internal need to satisfy. Other American leaders have been accused of being in politics on an ego trip; for Coolidge, one could fairly call it an ego salvage expedition. Trying to prove himself to his father by doing the best job possible, he approached political performance in the spirit of a Zen master, detached from results, doing the thing for its own sake. The practical problems of compromise that beset politicians consolidating power, forming alliances, controlling money, meeting the needs of influential groups--bothered him very little. He concentrated on the task itself--studied problems and made recommendations, expressed his views in eloquent but somewhat impersonal speeches, and made executive decisions, sometimes difficult ones, as in the Boston police strike. But he was relatively unconcerned with outcomes. immediately after the police strike, he came up for election to a second term as governor. "This is a very uncertain election," he wrote his father; "more than last year it may go strongly for me or against me. At any rate I shall not have anything to regret. It is necessary to make sacrifices for the welfare of the state. I am willing to make mine. 36
The voters of Massachusetts and the United States, I believe, in Coolidge's rhetoric and in his executive actions, sensed his indifference to consequences. They interpreted it as fearlessness, a quality voters admire in politicians, and repeatedly gave him substantial majorities. They freed him to an unusual degree, to govern entirely in accordance with his principles.
Those principles, which were his father's as well as his own, were simple, and Zen-like in their simplicity and stress on self-discipline. They sprang from assumptions based on an upbringing in the bleak New England hill country. Resources were limited; therefore, the main task of public service was to govern efficiently and not waste the people's money, to do what needed doing and to refrain from doing more. Corruption and extravagance were the two main dangers.
One particular temptation to be avoided was the urge to long-range planning. Coolidge and his father shared a preference for letting things evolve and responding only to immediate needs. "Do the day's work," Coolidge's favorite maxim, was not only an injunction to work hard, but also an admonition that leaders needed to concentrate on what was in front of them--to do the day's work, not the year's, not the decade's, not the century's--not tie up the people's money in grandiose and probably futile efforts to change society. His attitude comes out clearly in the well-known comment about his Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover, one of the great planners of twentieth-century America: "That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad." 37
Coolidge's legacy, then, is a presidency founded on principle--indeed, an entire political career based on the principles of frugality and restraint, and on the belief that society is capable of transforming itself rather than an inert mass waiting for the healing power of government to transform it. In this regard, he made a revealing comment in the Autobiography, talking about his governorship, which was a very active one. It had to be, he explained, because Massachusetts was in transition from a heavily regulated wartime economy to more normal peacetime conditions. "Nothing was natural, everything was artificial," as he put it. But by the end of his two terms, in his words, "people had found themselves again, and were ready to undertake the great work of reconstruction in which they have since been so successfully engaged." 38 In other words, it was now time for government to back off.
"Genius is the ability to harmonize with circumstances," Coolidge had written his father during his sophomore year at Amherst, doubtless unaware that he was echoing the teaching of the Tao Te Ching: "if you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself." 39 At the end of a century scarred with disasters brought about by governments' attempts to remodel society, this point of view, which Coolidge held in essentials all his career, offers a refreshing contrast.
H.L. Mencken wrote a piece on Coolidge just after his death in 1933 that showed, if not an appreciation of Coolidge's style, at least an understanding of the dangers it avoided. "We suffer most," he wrote, "not when the White House is a peaceful dormitory, but when it is a jitney Mars Hill, with a tin-pot Paul bawling from the roof. Discounting Harding as a cipher, Coolidge was preceded by one world Saver and followed by two more. What enlightened American, having to choose between any of them and another Coolidge, would hesitate for an instant?" 40 What enlightened American, indeed. Sixty-five years later, with the benefit of ample experience from our own country and abroad, Mencken's point--and Coolidge's--looks more and more persuasive.

15. Arnold H. Buss, "A Conception of Shyness," in Daly and McCroskey, 44.
16. Harold D. Lasswell, Power and Personality (New York: Viking Books, Compass edition, 1962), 39.
18. To John Coolidge, 12 July 1897, in Edward C. Lathem ed., Your Son, Calvin Coolidge (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), 81.
19. To John Coolidge, 23 September 1898, in Lathem. 95.
20. To John Coolidge, 10 January [1 896], in Lathem, 78.
21. Autobiography, 74.
22. Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1994), 223-224, footnote 18.
23. Autobiography, 173-174.
24. To John Coolidge, 2 August 1925, in Lathem, 211.
25 Booraem, 76.
26. Autobiography, 23.
27. Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925),127-128; Autobiography, 25.
28. Booraem, 87-88.
29 Booraem, 167.
30. To John Coolidge, 21 September 1894, in Lathem, 71-72, footnote 4.
31. To John Coolidge, 25 December 1909, in Lathem, 113.
32. Autobiography, 99.
33. Autobiography, 15; "My Son, Calvin Coolidge," as told by John C. Coolidge to Joe Toye, Boston Traveler, 14 August 1923.
34 Autobiography, 99.
35. Fuess, 315.
36. To John Coolidge, 10 October 1919, in Latham, 152.
37. Quoted in Paul Johnson, Modern Times (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), 229. On "Do the day's work," see Booraem, 189.
38. Autobiography, 136-137.
39. To John Coolidge, 13 November 1892, in Lathem, 42; Tao Te Ching, ed. Stephen Mitchell (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 57.
40. Alistair Cooke, ed., The Vintage Mencken (New York: Vintage Press, 1956), 223.

AFTERWORD: Grace Coolidge

During World War II, gasoline for private use was rationed, so instead of driving to Plymouth, Vermont for vacations, my family went to Maine by train where my mother's parents had a camp. When the war ended in 1945, we returned to Plymouth for vacations and holidays, often accompanied by Grandmother Coolidge. She continued to go with us until 1951. We stayed in the Coolidge Homestead where my grandfather had taken the Oath of Office. Aurora Pierce was the housekeeper at the Homestead. She had been hired by my great-grandfather and had her own way of doing things. My grandmother was sometimes called upon to "referee" disagreements between Aurora and my mother about how something should be done.
Grandmother was my best customer when, for about three years, I set up "the Coolidge Post Office" in a corner of the living room. I used a carton with dividers for the mail boxes and assigned each family member a box. I would collect the mail from the Plymouth Post Office and divide it into the proper boxes, then announce to the family that the mail had arrived. I also sold stamps and mailed out-going letters. Grandmother used all my services.
Grandmother loved to walk and did so daily in Vermont. At times she walked 6-8 miles at a good clip and it was difficult to keep up with her.
Because my grandmother and mother both wanted relief from cooking while on vacation, we would drive to an inn for dinner each evening. One summer, I fell and sustained a concussion. My head was bandaged and I was unable to go with my family to dinner. Grandmother would decorate my bandage with a flower or pin on a bird's feather which she would find for me.
Other Vermont memories include grocery shopping trips when she loved to buy S.S. Pierce products. She liked to attend auctions and occasionally, we would return home with "a real find"!
When my sister and I stayed with her in Northampton, it was at Road Forks, which was to me a fascinating house with many cupboards and closets to explore. In her house, her hobbies were evident: lush African violets which she lovingly tended, bird feeders with a variety of birds flocking to her delight, and a collection of keepsakes in the shape of human hands. She thought hands were the most expressive part of the body. Usually, when we arrived, she would be listening to a Boston Red Sox ball game on the radio (later she had a TV, but she preferred the radio because she could use her imagination to picture the game more vividly than seeing it on TV). Sometimes, she would be knitting or doing needlepoint for six dining room chair seats which we are still using today. My sister and I often stayed with Grandmother while my parents were on a business trip. My mother would always tell my grandmother not to take us clothes shopping and not to spoil us, but she would do both as we were her only grandchildren, and it gave her pleasure to do so. Of course, it gave us pleasure, too!
Because Northampton is a college town, there were wonderful shops and restaurants. We usually had lunch at Beckman's and I always ordered a BLT sandwich followed by a "Dusty Miller," chocolate or coffee ice cream topped with marshmallow sauce and malted milk.
It was amazing to be with her in Northampton when she met people on the street or in the stores. She not only remembered their names, but also the names of their spouses and children. She was always interested in other people and considered people her "books". Very rarely did she offer her own opinion about something, but she was always interested in the opinions of other people when the subject interested her.
Community activities kept her busy in Northampton. She was on the Board of Trustees, then Chairman of the Board at Clarke School for the Deaf from 1933-1952. She had taught at Clarke School before marrying my grandfather. She attended many functions at Smith College, Amherst College, and Edwards Congregational Church. During World War II, she moved out of her house and let the WAVES use it until the war ended. She would frequently go at 7:00 am to the Northampton train station with gifts and food for the young men leaving to go to war.
She would join us in Connecticut for Christmas and special occasions. My mother's parents would be with us too, and Grandmother Coolidge enjoyed being in their company.
For several years, in early spring, she would spend a couple of months in Tryon, North Carolina at the home owned by her close friend and neighbor, Florence Adams. They would read books, play card games, take long walks, and enjoy picnics.
She had a close circle of friends whose company she enjoyed and they protected her privacy. She corresponded with them as faithfully as she wrote to us. She participated in Round Robin letters which were sent around to her Pi Beta Phi sorority sisters. She wrote poetry. Her most famous poem was "The Open Door," written in memory of her son, Calvin Jr. Another poem, titled "The Quest" is delightful:
Crossing the uplands of time Skirting the borders of night Scaling the face of the peak of dreams, We enter regions of light And hastening on, with eager intent Arrive at the rainbows end, And there, uncover the pot of gold Buried deep in the heart of a friend.
Her love for her son John (my father) is apparent in the letter she wrote to him just before he married my mother:
John. you are a son for a mother to be proud of and I want you to always feel that I am standing by, ready to do anything for you and Florence. You two together should make something beautiful of your lives. Just don't let little things be-cloud your vision and, when the rough places need to be gotten over, hold your chin up, throw your shoulders back and go forward--for it's the rough places which steady the feet and strengthen the muscles. Life is so beautiful--never do anything which will mar the sweetness of it. My, how I love you and how I want you to find in life all that is just and true and right and live it gloriously!
And her love for her family is apparent in this letter which she wrote to my father just after her first grandchild (my sister) was born:
I am so glad that all is safely over. I wish I might have been present when you first saw the baby. Isn't it wonderful? Wee, little mite of humanity, so tiny and so precious. There is an old bit of verse which begins-.
"Where did you come from, Baby dear? Out of the everywhere into here..." Today I am taken back to those days which seem not so long ago, when you came from that same everywhere and I seem to be quickened in spirit because of this blessed experience which has come to you... I can hardly wait to see my grandchild and I want to see Florence, too... With dearest love to you and Florence and the wee child, Mother.
Her last public appearance was in September 1956 at the dedication service for the Calvin Coolidge Memorial Room at Forbes Library in Northampton.
In June of 1957, I attended a youth conference in Northfield, Massachusetts and when the conference was over, I went to Northampton to visit with Grandmother. By that time, she was bed-ridden and seemed so small and frail, but her spirit still shone through.
The next month my parents, my sister and I went to Plymouth for the Fourth of July. On our way home, we stopped in Northampton. A nurse informed us that the end was near. We drove on to Connecticut, and Dad immediately turned around and headed back to Northampton, but she passed away before he arrived. The date was July 8, 1957. That was 41 years ago, and I still miss her today.
In closing, I'd like to say she was an amazing person. She was the first graduate of a public university and the first professionally trained woman to be First Lady. Nevertheless, in her own words, she describes herself as "a simple, home-loving woman. I love best of all to gather my little family under my own roof and to stay there. We are just a plain New England family and we like, above all else, to live and do the things that simple New England families do."567

“In 1931, he foresaw not only the rise of television, but the invention of videocassette recorders--VCRs. He said, "A new social force is being developed by radio waves...Report comes simultaneously of a successful experiment in television by which people in Leipzig were able to recognize the image of a man in Schenectady. The time may not be far away when it will be possible to have a receiving set in the home that will produce a sound motion picture...It is difficult to comprehend what an enormous power this would be."”568


xAmerica’s Great Depression <online at>

Forecasting Crashes and Recessions

What Macroeconomists Don't Know

by Hernán Cortés Douglas

History does not repeat itself...but it rhymes —Mark Twain

"This expansion will run forever." Not two years, or three, or ten. Forever. That was how an MIT Professor of
Economics summarized his vision of the U.S. economic expansion in the July 30th, 1998 issue of the Wall
Street Journal.

Nowadays his assertion appears extreme. It did not then. This exuberance was rationalized by the obvious fact
this was a New Economy with no room for recessions. Dornbusch himself said the American economy would
"not see a recession for years to come"? Mmmm, why? Because, Dornbusch again, "We don't want one, we
don't need one, and, as we have the tools to keep the current expansion going, we won't have one." "We",
apparently, are the macroeconomists.

More Dornbusch: "Only natural causes, and not the Fed, can bring the economy to a standstill. Fortunately, we
have the monetary and fiscal resources to keep that from happening, as well as a policy team that won't
hesitate to use them for continued expansion."

In the latter part of the 1990s, euphoria was rampant and not only in the States. "It is hard to imagine any article
with worse timing than, say, 'Asia's Bright Future,' by Harvard Professors Steven Radelet & Jeffrey Sachs,
writing in the November/December 1997 issue of Foreign Affairs". So J. Orlin Grabbe told us. Their article was
published at the precise moment East Asian financial markets and economies were deepening their
collapses. As Grabbe put it: "Of course Asia probably does have a bright future, much as Europe could have
been said to have had a bright future during the Black Death years of the 14th Century."[1]

It is one thing to say crises are undesirable, but another to say macroeconomists are, firstly, so skilled at
forecasting they can predict trend breaks to the downside; and secondly, they have the tools and the policy
teams to avoid economic and financial crises. If this were so, why do they utterly fail over and over again at
forecasting economic downturns? Why do they have to adjust their projections over and over in times of trend
change? Why has Japan stagnated for 11 years and had three recessions during that time?

The dismal record of forecasting crashes and recessions we economists have is not new. The crash of 1929
and the Great Depression came as an unexpected avalanche to economists, particularly those in the hall of

Fourteen days before Wall Street crashed on Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, Irving Fisher, America's most
famous economist, Professor of Economics at Yale University, said: "In a few months I expect to see the stock
market much higher than today".

Days after the crash, the Harvard Economic Society informed its subscribers: "A severe depression such as
1920-21 is outside the range of probability. We are not facing a protracted liquidation." After continuously
issuing erroneously optimistic forecasts, the Society closed its doors in 1932. The two most renowned
economic forecasting institutes in America at the time failed to understand that a crash and depression were
forthcoming, and continued their optimism even as the Great Depression swept over America.

Irving Fisher lost 140 million U.S. dollars[2] in the stock market crash. Fisher was a man of many talents, a
great economist, excellent theoretician, one of the founders of econometrics and pioneer in index number
analysis. He was also the inventor of the c-kardex file system which he sold to Remington Rand for millions,
which he subsequently lost in the crash.

John Maynard Keynes, the most famous British economist and the father of macroeconomics, who made
fortunes in the financial markets for himself and Cambridge University, lost one million English pounds[3] in
the crash.

With two exceptions, no academic economists forecasted the crash of 1929 and the following depression.

Seven decades have gone by. Surely we must know more today? In 1988, sixty years after the crash and the
depression, Kathryn Domínguez, Ray Fair and Matthew Shapiro concluded in the American Economic
Review, the leading journal of the American Economic Association, that employing sophisticated econometric
techniques of the late nineteen-eighties and even using data unavailable in 1929, the Great Depression could
not have been forecasted.

In October 2000, sixty economists gathered at the Minneapolis Fed to present papers and discuss the Great
Depression of the 1930s. The cream of the macroeconomic profession was present: Nobel prize-winner
Robert Lucas, Ed Prescott, Tom Sargent, Ben Bernanke, Finn Kydland, Nancy Stokey, Kevin Murphy and many
others. The gist of the conclusions may be found in the headline that the Minneapolis Fed's review The
Region used for the conference's article: "Something Unanticipated Happened". "In his summary remarks at
the close of the conference, Robert Lucas made a pitch for the continuing investigation of macro fundamentals.
. . . 'We should continue to seek common factors,' he said, and offered monetary instability as one area for
further exploration. Big deflations are related to depressions, he said, and everywhere in the 1930s there was

The concluding paragraph of the article states: "In the end, if the Great Depression is, indeed, a story, it has all
the trappings of a mystery that is loaded with suspects and difficult to solve, even when we know the ending;
the kind we read again and again, and each time come up with another explanation. At least for now."[5]

Economists, especially since 1936, and as Bob Lucas' quote reveals, look at macroeconomic fundamentals.
Yet history teaches us no financial collapse has ever happened when things look bad. On the contrary,
macroeconomic flows look good before crashes. Before every collapse, economists find the economy in
excellent shape. In a major boom, the economy is a "New Economy". As President Hoover tells us in his
Memoirs about the period preceding the Great Depression: "With increasing optimism, they gave birth to a silly
idea called the New Economic Era. This notion spread all over the country. We were assured we were in a new
era where the old laws of economics no longer applied."[6] Too familiar, perhaps.

In these new eras, everything looks rosy, stock markets go up and up, and macroeconomic flows (output,
employment, etc.) appear to be improving. Macroeconomic fundamentals, however, tell us about the past, and
the good times are invariably extrapolated linearly into the future.

Friedrich von Hayek, 1974 Nobel Laureate, was the only academic economist who wrote prior to the Great
Depression that a crisis and downturn in America were imminent. Interest rates in the world would not fall, he
wrote, until the American boom collapsed. And "the boom will collapse within the next few months". This
prediction, printed in the Austrian Institute of Economic Research Report, February, 1929, generated interest
in Austrian economics and Hayek was offered a Professorship at the London School of Economics in the early

Ludwig von Mises, also an Austrian, anticipated a worldwide depression in the 1930s, as reported by Fritz
Machlup, Mises' assistant at the time. Mises' wife Margit wrote, in her husband's biography, that in the summer
of 1929 he had rejected a high position in Kredit Anstalt, one of the largest banks in Europe at the time. His
explanation was "a great crash is coming and I do not want my name in any way connected with it". Less than
two years later, Kredit Anstalt was bankrupt.

Did rational economists adopt the economics of Hayek and Mises? Alas no, they adopted the economics of

But Hayek and Mises were exceptions. Not only did economists fail to forecast the Great Depression of the
1930s, but they have also failed to forecast economic contractions in general. The present contraction (in 2001)
is only the latest example. "Economists have a dismal record in predicting recession" is the subtitle of an
article in the November 29th, 2001, issue of The Economist.

Why is this so? What is it that economists do not know? Or what truths did they once know—ones since
forgotten or neglected?

First, the facts.

Three centuries of financial crises and economic contractions yield four sets of empirical observations.

1. Money and Debt, Financial Markets and Business Cycles.

This first set is consistent with postulates of Business Cycles Theories well-known to economists but
neglected nowadays. Sizable and sustained increases in money and private sector debt accompany financial
and economic booms. Important contractions in money and private sector debt accompany financial and
economic contractions. This observation is consistent with Monetary (Milton Friedman) and Austrian (Ludwig
von Mises and Friedrich von Hayek) theories of the business cycle. Bob Lucas' remarks indicate a renewed
interest in these theories may be forthcoming.

Debt accumulation speeds up during booms. Changes in the level of private debt correlate with changes in
stock markets indices and economic activity, especially at higher degrees.[8] Debt increases heavily and
rapidly in times of financial and economic booms, and it decreases importantly in times of major financial and
economic contractions. This observation on debt accumulation and deflation was highlighted by Irving Fisher in
his 1933 Econometrica article, "Debt-Deflation Theory of Depressions", but it has received little attention since.
In a lifetime of work neglected by mainstream economics, Hyman Minsky emphasized the financial instability
created by mounting indebtedness building up through time.

In the high degree bull market which has just ended with the 20th Century, debt accumulation in the private
sector proceeded at a very fast pace and reached very high levels, especially in the latter years of the boom.
However, little if any attention was paid by most economists to this phenomena.

The next two sets of observations, not considered by economists, are of course the key to understanding
economic contractions of all degrees. Their not considering them is the explanation for economists' dismal
forecasting failures.

2. Stock markets indices are patterned.

Stock markets trend and reverse in recognizable patterns.[9] Structures are clear and definite in form [not in
time or amplitude]. Patterns of smaller degree link together to form similar patterns at a larger degree. These
insights date to the careful inductive analysis published in the 1930s by Ralph N. Elliott[10], and to the
important and breathtaking work Robert R. Prechter, Jr. has pursued over the last three decades, applying and
extending these principles to a wide variety of phenomena.[11]

Markets, in other words, are hierarchical. These insights have been rediscovered by physicists studying
financial markets. Markets' movements, like earthquakes, have different degrees.[12][13] More importantly,
markets are fractals (robust fractals or quasi-fractals).[14] Markets proceed relentlessly according to form.
Elliott and Prechter are in good company: Pythagoras stood for inquiry into pattern rather than inquiry into

"The mysterious changes in market psychology"[16] proceed according to pattern. Stock markets are not
random walks, as is still taught in many top graduate business schools. Rather, their changes exhibit fractal
behavior.[17] Stock markets as complex systems show discrete levels or scales in a global hierarchy.

Viewing markets as dynamic, complex systems, Sornette and Johnson conclude markets proceed unabatedly
toward a crash, "the market anticipating the crash in a subtle self-organized and cooperative fashion, releasing
precursory fingertips observable in stock market prices."[18]

There is, therefore, an element of predictability in markets not despite, but because of, their complexity.[19]

3. Financial market changes precede changes in economic variables.

High degree bull markets in stock indices precede economic booms of high degree. Bull markets of lower
degree precede economic expansions of lower degree.

High degree bear markets in stocks precede economic contractions of high degree. Bear markets of lower
degree precede economic contractions of lower degree.

Changes in stock market indices thus precede, not follow, changes in economic fundamentals or news about
them. Changes in stock market indices are a leading indicator of changes in economic activity. This was, of
course, recognized by Wesley Mitchell and the National Bureau of Economic Research eight decades ago. But
failure in identifying markets' different degrees has made Mitchell's insight less useful. Witness Nobel
Prizewinner Paul Samuelson' s famous (and wrong) quip[20], a result of completely missing the hierarchical
nature of stock markets.


4. Booms are followed by Contractions.

High degree bull markets in stocks are followed by high degree bear markets in stocks. Correspondingly, high
degree booms in economic activity are followed by high degree contractions in economic activity.

Milton Friedman's "Plucking Model", where contractions are related to succeeding expansions and unrelated to
previous expansions, is not consistent with this observation. The Austrian Theory of the Business Cycle (Mises
and Hayek), where the excesses of the prior booms are the sources of the following bust, is consistent with
this observation.

After the facts, a story.

"Economic reasoning will be of no value in cases of uncertainty". These are Robert Lucas' words.[21] Mises,
Knight and Hayek have taught us, however, uncertainty is normal and pervasive in society.[22] Markets deal with
uncertainty, coordinating information and knowledge. In a world of uncertainty expectations are a critical
variable in most decisions, particularly for investment decisions, financing (increasing debt levels) and other
financial and economic decisions.

Nobel Laureate Robert Solow has recently said, "it is acutely uncomfortable to have so much in
macroeconomics depend on how one deals with a concept like expectations, for which there is (inevitably?) so
little empirical understanding and so much room for invention".[23] To have a better grasp of a relevant concept
of expectations and confidence is therefore crucial. As Bob Prechter says, however, although expectations may
imply rationality they are usually the product of rationalization.[24]

An alternative assumption to the macroeconomists' "representative agent" with rational expectations can be
fruitfully substituted to obtain a more coherent explanation of observed patterns. In a world of uncertainty,
changes in expectations (in confidence, rather, in moods) are reflected more rapidly in changes in stock market
prices. The latter can thus be used as a proxy for changes in confidence. Changes in the trend of stock market
prices become useful as a barometer of optimism and pessimism. As changes in optimistic or pessimistic
expectations lead most changes in financial and economic decisions, it is no surprise that changes in stock
market prices are useful as leading indicators of changes in the state of the economy.

Changes in stock market indices do not respond to, nor are they caused by, exogenous changes in economic
fundamentals or news about them; they are not random walks. Changes in stock market prices reflect changes
in confidence, moves from optimism to pessimism and from pessimism to optimism. They precede (rather
than follow) changes in economic fundamentals.

The preceding sentences provide an explanation for why negative changes in stock market indices — of a very
high degree — anticipate economic depressions. Negative changes of lesser degree, in turn, anticipate
economic recessions and milder downturns. Stock markets are thus led by waves of optimism and

Optimism during the boom leads to higher indebtedness. Increasing private sector debt is an important
manifestation of optimism and euphoria in the latter part of the boom. Excessive debt leads to financial fragility
in banks, business enterprises, and individual households. As the boom ends and pessimism replaces
optimism, lenders recall loans, banks contract credit, bankruptcies are stepped up and a major economic
contraction ensues. Fragility turns into insolvency.[26]

The final leg of a stock market boom — as seen in the NASDAQ in the years prior to 2000, or in the Dow prior to
late 1929 — is correlated with a high degree of indebtedness, and is correlated in turn with the severity of the
subsequent economic contraction.

If this is correct, an ex-post explanation of a major economic contraction, for example, would start with a
dramatic and sustained fall in stock price indices, a proxy for a major breakdown in confidence, a change from
extreme optimism to pessimism. The high levels of debt, accumulated during the boom at a very fast pace in
the later years, would be responsible for generalized financial fragility all over the economy. This is what we
have now.

The change to pessimism, announced by the trend change in the stock markets, will trigger loan recalling,
bankruptcies, unemployment and generalized economic contraction. This is what is beginning now. Only when
debt reaches very low levels, as a consequence of bankruptcies or of inflation, is the economy ready for
recovery. This will be some years into the future.

Economic Science?

Now, is this economics?

I use here the two tests posed by Nobel Laureate James Buchanan in his "Economics and its Scientific
Neighbors" to answer that question[27]:

1. Does this theory provide the economist with an additional set of tools? By understanding the nature and the
hierarchy of stock market changes, patterns of stock market price changes can be predicted in form and
sometimes in time. Also, the elucidation of the degree of change in stock market prices allows a prediction to
be made on the degree of the subsequent economic contraction. Thus, not only can economic contractions be
anticipated, but also their degree. More clearly, a trend break in stock markets can be predicted in form, and
that in turn precedes a trend break in economic activity. Timing on the other hand can only sometimes be
pinned down with precision.

The linear extrapolation so commonly used by macroeconomists ("the crudest form of technical analysis")[28]
is substituted by a non-linear framework — the Wave Principle — which allows prediction of trend breaks of
different degrees.

I believe it provides the economist with an additional set of tools.

2. Does this extend the application of the central principles of the discipline?

There is clearly no contradiction with the statement: "More of any good will be chosen, the lower its price relative
to other goods", a central tenet of economics.

Under uncertainty, however, dealing with future prices involves not actual but expected prices, and expected
prices are highly dependent on whether confidence is high or low. As stock markets are patterned, their
changes are — to a first degree — exogenous to economic variables.[29] We can state this as an assumption:
To a first degree, changes in optimism and pessimism, measured by changes in stock market
indices, are exogenous — independent of changes in economic variables (or "macro
fundamentals", as Bob Lucas called them).

As stock markets are patterned, so are the true causal forces.[30] They are not random. Stock market patterns
are predictable in form and sometimes predictable in time. The economy goes into an economic contraction
not because of random shocks, as stated by real-business-cycle theory, but because extreme optimism,
euphoria, is replaced by growing pessimism.

Is this extending the application of the central principles of economics? I am not sure.

Does this theory have predictive implications? Most certainly. This indicates it may become a science. But,
again, is it economic science?

Most likely not.


[1] J. Orlin Grabbe, "And Now, the Financial Apocalypse",

[2] Calculated by the author on the basis of nominal figures provided by Irving Fisher´s biographer son, Irving
Norton Fisher.

[3] Figures provided by Keynes´ biographer Professor Skidelski.

[4] "Something Unanticipated Happened", The Region, Minneapolis Fed, December 2000.

[5] Ibid.

[6] As I have lost the English text, and translated back into English from Spanish, some words may be different
in the original.

[7] They did not however pay attention to key insights contained in Chapter 12 of Keynes' The General Theory.

[8] Financial booms and contractions involve a hierarchy with different degrees of change in financial markets,
as earthquakes do.

[9] As well as financial markets in general.

[10] Ralph N. Elliott, The Wave Principle, 1938. Reprinted in Robert R. Prechter, Jr., editor, R. N. Elliott's
Masterworks, Elliott Wave International. Also, Robert R. Prechter, Jr., editor, R. N. Elliott's Market Letters, Elliott
Wave International.

[11] Robert R. Prechter, Jr., Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, 1999; At the Crest of the Tidal Wave,
1995; Popular Culture and the Stock Market, 1992; Prechter's Perspective; and with R. Frost, Elliott Wave
Principle, 1979.

[12] A. Arneodo et al, "Fibonacci Sequences in Difussion-Limited Aggregation", in J.M. García-Ruiz et al, editors,
Growth Patterns in Physical Sciences and Biology, Plenum Press, 1993.

[13] Discrete scale invariance, as developed by D. Sornette, "Generic Mechanisms for Hierarchies",
InterJournal Complex Systems 127, October 15, 1997; "Discrete Scale Invariance and Complex Dimensions",
Physics Reports 297, 1999.

[14] Arneodo et al., put it this way: "[T]here is room for "quasi-fractals" between the well- ordered fractal
hierarchy of snowflakes and the disordered structure of chaotic or random aggregates". Prechter uses the term
robust fractal. They differ from fractals as defined by Mandelbrot, in that there is no self-similarity.

[15] G. Bateson , "Form, Substance and Difference" in Steps Toward an Ecology of Mind, Chandler, 1972, p.
449. Also R. G. Collingwood, The Idea of Nature, Oxford, 1945.

[16] A theme running through accounts of the 1920s, according to R. Schiller, Irrational Exuberance, Princeton
University Press, 2000, p. 115.

[17] Non self-similar fractal behavior, i.e., not simple but complex fractal behavior.

[18] D. Sornette and A. Johansen, "Large Financial Crashes", Physics A, 245, 3-4, 1997.

[19] Robert R. Prechter, Jr., Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, 1999.

[20] "The market has anticipated 12 of the last 9 recessions"

[21] Robert Lucas , "Understanding Business Cycles", in K. Brunner and A. H. Meltzer, Eds., Stabilization of the
Domestic and International Economy, North Holland, 1977, p.15.

[22] Frank Knight, a leading Professor of Economics at the University of Chicago, teacher of several Nobel

[23] R. Solow, "Toward a Macroeconomics of the Medium Run", J. Economic Perspectives, Winter 2000.

[24] Robert R. Prechter, Jr., private communication with the author.

[25] Early in the century, some economists were well aware of the importance of these waves of optimism and
pessimism. A.C. Pigou, Industrial Fluctuations, London, Cass, 1927; The Economics of Welfare, London,
Cass, 1920. And J.M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, London: Macmillan,
1936, chapter 12.

[26] An expanded treatment of this process appears in H. Cortés Douglas, "Forewarnings", processed,
Catholic University of Chile, January, 2001.

[27] James Buchanan, What Should Economists Do?, Liberty Press, 1979. Buchanan is clear that so-called
macroeconomics does not pass the test. It is neither economics nor science. I agree.

[28] Robert R. Prechter, Jr., Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, 1999

[29] "To a first degree" allows for subsequent feedback.

[30] There may be several alternative explanations of why stock market patterns are exogenous. Most likely the
explanation may have to do with interactions among individuals in a context of uncertainty. Bob Prechter has a
powerful hypothesis, as presented in his Wave Principle of Human Social Behavior, 1999. Among
economists, Robert J. Shiller, Professor of Economics at Yale, is the leading representative of the view that
"solid psychological research does show that there are patterns of human behavior that suggest anchors for
the market that would not be expected if markets worked entirely rationally", Irrational Exuberance, Princeton
University Press, 2000

Hernán Cortés Douglas is Professor of Economics at the Catholic University of Chile. He thanks Bob Prechter
for valuable comments on an earlier version. His email address is

Chile, 24 January 2002
( <20 February 2003)


Four Myths About America's
Great Depression

Ronald H. Nash

America's Great Depression is often cited as the primary example of the failure of free market economics. According to the
official liberal interpretation of the Depression, both the economic collapse that began in 1929 and the nation's eventual
recovery prove that the American government must never again allow its economy to operate in a free market mode. The
common view is that the 1920s in America was a period of unbridled free enterprise. In order to restore stability to the
nation's economy and bring the nation out of the depths of the Depression, the government had to step in and do what
businessmen could not or would not do to correct the weaknesses of the free market system. The decade of the 1930s
proves the importance of governmental control over the economy and justifies continuing interventionist or statist measures.

It would be difficult to imagine an explanation that is more in conflict with the evidence. This essay will examine four myths
that ground this mistaken explanation of the Depression. Once the myths are recognized for what they are-an intentional
distortion of the truth-one of the major ploys used by academicians and politicians to deceive the American people into
supporting bigger government will be exposed.

Myth Number One: The Case of Business Cycles

The first myth can be summarized as follows: A free market is notoriously unstable and leads inevitably to economic cycles
in which periods of prosperity are followed by recessions and depressions. These irregularities in a nation's economy can
be either eliminated or made less severe by proper government intervention.

The recurrence of business cycles is one of the most frequently cited reasons for the need of governmental intervention with
the economy. The often unstated and always unproven assumption behind this claim is that business cycles and, more
specifically, economic depressions are caused by free market economics. This assumption is clearly false.

Business cycles in general and depressions in particular are caused not by free markets, but by governmental intervention
with a nation's economy, specifically with its money supply. As nations expand credit and the money supply, a pattern
becomes apparent. First, there is a governmentally induced period of economic expansion as easy credit and a larger money
supply mislead businessmen into making bad investments. Markets unhampered by governmental intervention keep sending
signals to astute investors and entrepreneurs. The rise or decline in prices along with the cost of borrowing money (interest
rates) can tell a wise investor whether a particular opportunity is a good risk at that particular time. But governmental
intervention in the form of monetary and credit expansion affects the reliability of normal market signals. Interest rates may
be artificially (and temporarily) reduced while inflation causes many prices to rise. The rise in prices eventually affects the
prices of capital goods required for business expansion. This increase in business costs finally affects the profitability of
many businesses, leading them to find ways to cut costs. In the later stages of the boom, interest rates begin to rise, which
also increases the cost of doing business and often affects loans incurred when money was much cheaper.

Because governmental intervention with the economy sends the wrong signals to businessmen and investors, their
subsequent investment in the wrong things at the wrong time makes a day of reckoning inevitable. While that day can be
postponed by even more expansion of credit, it cannot be postponed forever. When the quantity and degree of bad
investments in any economy passes a certain point, the economy can no longer absorb them. Ventures must be terminated;
businesses must be closed; bills must be left unpaid; workers must be laid off; unemployment will increase; savings will be

A recession or depression therefore is a necessary step in an economy's return to normal after the misinformation and
distortions caused by monetary inflation during the boom have produced a large amount of malinvestment. The recession or
depression that follows periods of governmentally induced booms is a necessary time of readjustment. Prices must be
readjusted to new consumer preferences. Interest rates must be readjusted to reflect the new demand for savings along with
the actual supply of savings. Bad investments must be reduced through such means as greater managerial efficiency or
lower labor costs. These lower costs may be reached through greater productivity; often they result from a business
employing fewer workers. There must be a general cutting back across the board until businesses can once more be
profitable, until investments can earn a proper return, and until the economy once more functions efficiently. What people
call a recession or depression, therefore, is actually an adjustment of the economy to the wasteful and mistaken errors made
during the boom. The process of adjustment is a return to a more sane set of economic arrangements which means, among
other things, that many of the bad investments are liquidated.

There is a common thread that runs through every period of economic decline in American history, namely, governmental
manipulation of the money supply. The obvious culprit in these economic downturns was not the free market but the
government-indeed, the very government responsible for the downturns in the first place. What then should one think of
economists and politicians who appeal to such periods of economic decline as justification for increased amounts of the very
types of economic interventionism that produced the depressions?

But what about the Great Depression? As everyone thinks they know, the decade prior to the economic collapse of 1929
was a period of unbridled economic freedom. It was, so the official doctrine goes, the extent of America's experiment with
free enterprise in the 1920s that led to the greatest depression in our history. But this belief is also a myth that must now be

Myth Number Two: The Unbridled Capitalism of the Twenties

According to the official liberal dogma, the seriousness of the Great Depression was in direct proportion to America's
reliance upon a noninterventionist economy during the decade of the twenties. The unparalleled economic freedom of the
twenties did more than make the Great Depression inevitable; it also made it the worst depression in the nation's history.

Even a brief survey of the evidence, however, will reveal how mistaken the com-mon wisdom about the twenties is. The
decade that preceded the Crash of 1929 was anything but a period of unbridled capital-ism. It was actually a time of
continued governmental intervention with the money supply. The foundations for the Depression can indeed be found
throughout the preced-ing decade. But the causes of the Depression were a string of governmental actions that resulted in an
expansion of credit and the money supply that was similar to the inter-ventionism that led to earlier economic downturns.

lishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1914. The Federal Reserve was given the power to increase the nation's money
sup-ply in response to what it regarded as justifiable circumstances. For most of the sixteen years following the creation of
the Fed, the nation's money supply was sub-jected to an almost steady increase. Be-tween 1914 and 1917, this took the
form of massive amounts of credit extended to na-tions like England and France for their purchase of war materiel.
Following Amer-ica's own entry into World War I, the money supply was expanded even more as a way of paying for our
own war effort. When the war was finally over, the now greatly expanded money supply produced the inevitable in-flation.

The higher postwar prices led in turn to an increase in cheaper imports. But this hurt American businesses, which led
business-men, farmers, and labor unions to pressure Congress to do something about foreign competition. This pressure
led to two un-fortunate tariff acts (tariffs are clearly anti-thetical to capitalism). The Emergency Tar-iff Act of 1921 increased
duties on such commodities as wool, sugar, and wheat.

Another tariff act passed in 1922 imposed the highest duties to that time in the history of the nation. It also gave the
President the power to change tariffs as he thought nec-essary. These high tariffs produced a serious instability in
agriculture, other export indus-tries, and the rest of the American economy.

All of this intervention with the economy had the effect of reducing foreign trade. Prospective foreign customers could not
buy American products until they accumu-lated credits; but such credits could be accumulated only after they first sold their
products to us, something the increased tariffs made much more difficult. In an effort to offset some of this harm, the
government adopted cheap money policies. To make it easier for foreign buyers to purchase Amer-ican goods (while still
making it difficult for them to sell their goods in the United States), bankers floated enormous loans and bond issues in this
country. Between the end of World War I and 1929, American lenders provided more than $9 billion in foreign loans, done
largely to shore up America's sagging export markets which had been hurt as a result of earlier interventionist mea-sures
(the tariffs) to reduce imports. While the cheap money policy of the twenties produced temporary increases in exports, it
was accompanied by a huge burden of internal and international debt.

The Federal Reserve System continued to follow an easy money policy during the second half of the twenties. Between
July 1924 and 1929, the money supply increased more than 20 percent. Farm and urban mortgages increased more than
$10 billion between 1921 and 1929. Because much of the new money created by the system was channeled into speculation
in real estate and the stock market, rapid price rises occurred in the stock market and in real estate. (Other significant forms
of statist intervention with America's economy that helped lay the foundation for the Depression must be dis-cussed
elsewhere, due to a lack of space.)

Often overlooked as a major contributing cause of the Depression was what became known as the Smoot-Hawley Tariff
Acts. Even though Smoot-Hawley was not passed until June of 1930, it makes sense to view the measure as a significant
cause of the Crash. The bill had been widely discussed and debated in Congress throughout much of 1929. By the autumn
of 1929, Wall Street had begun to realize that passage of the tariff bill was inevitable. It also realized that President Hoover
would not veto the damaging measure. Hence, it seems clear, the damage from Smoot-Hawley was not confined to the
period of time following its passage, as bad as that was. It also had a major effect on events prior to its passage, including
the October Crash of the Stock Market.

As important as the Stock Market Crash of October 1929 was, it did not mark the beginning of the Depression. The
economy actually began to recede during the summer of 1929. Economic troubles had been brewing long before the Crash.
What the collapse of the stock market did was make those troubles visible and mark the end of an incredible period of
speculation that had to end sometime.

The October Crash is often exaggerated with regard to its supposed effects on the Great Depression. While the Crash was
clearly very bad for the many unwise investors and speculators who had been wiped out, America was still far from
anything resembling what we now think of as the Great Depression. That was still to come; and like previous depressions,
it would result from further governmental mismanagement. The collapse of the stock market provided clear evidence that
badly mistaken policies had been followed. The time for necessary readjustments had finally come.

Even with the crash of the stock market, the economy was strong enough so that the nation should have entered a normal
period of readjustment. 1Even during 1930, unemployment averaged less than 8 percent of the work force. Barring
mistakes on the part of the government, 1931 should have been the start of a recovery. Obviously it was not, and the reason
can be found in the mistaken, often foolish policies of the federal government.

The economic decline that began at the end of 1929 could and should have been of short duration, if only Hoover and the
Congress had acted in an economically responsible way. Unfortunately, they did not. Hoover and his administration were
in no mood to admit their mistakes. Had they taken their medicine, paid their dues, and suffered through the severe but
limited depression that would have followed, the economy soon would have made the proper adjustments. Instead, the
Hoover administration piled error on top of error. Its mistakes plus the blunders of Congress plus the economic
malfeasance of the Roosevelt Administration turned what would have been an economic downturn like every other one in
the previous history of the country into an economic nightmare that lasted eleven years.

Myth Number Three: Hoover's Commitment to Free Market Economics Deepened the

As we have seen, liberals want to lay all of the blame for the Depression at the feet of the free market. With such a
convenient scapegoat available, they can then use the Depression to justify statist measures they wish to impose upon the
economy in the future. Their rewriting of history requires, however, that they turn Herbert Hoover into a flaming advocate
of free market economics whose stubborn refusal to adopt interventionist measures made the Depression worse until
Franklin Roosevelt's courageous adoption of wise statist policies finally turned things around. Nothing could be farther
from the truth.

In late 1929, the nation's economy was in need of a number of major readjustments. But these necessary readjustments all
took the form of decreasing or terminating various interventionist measures of the twenties that had produced the
Depression. What Hoover and his administration did however was reject the adjustments that should have been made and
opt instead for a course of more governmental control over the economy.

Herbert Hoover was not a champion of a free market economics whose conservative principles helped first to produce the
Depression and then caused it to worsen. In truth, Hoover was a proven interventionist whose interventionist policies
helped bring about the start of the Depression and whose succeeding interventionist actions helped to make it worse.

Following the 1929 Crash, the Hoover Administration and Congress committed three major blunders that were to deepen
and prolong the Depression. Each blunder was a typically interventionist measure.

(1) Hoover did everything he could to keep wages and prices high during 1930. For one thing, his administration took
action designed to keep the prices of wheat, cotton, and other agricultural products up. The unfortunate result of these farm
policies was to encourage larger crops and greater farm surpluses for which no markets could be found. This had the effect
of depressing farm prices even more.

Also in 1930, Hoover attempted to persuade business leaders to keep wages and prices high. In place of cutting wages and
prices-the normal practice in a time of recession-Hoover urged businessmen to increase their spending on wages and capital
outlay in the belief that this would preserve the purchasing power of consumers. The Hoover Administration pursued a
policy of deficit spending and public works projects. Local and state governments were asked to borrow money to support
their own public works projects.

(2) The Hoover Administration instituted large tariff increases that had a disastrous effect on international exchange. With
tariffs already higher than they should have been and a huge burden of international debt hanging over the world's
economy, Hoover went along with Congress's passage of a huge tariff increase. Already high tariffs made it almost
impossible for foreign goods to reach our markets. Hoover's acceptance of a new round of even higher tariffs was the
major blunder that turned the recession of 1930 into the Great Depression. The Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of June 1930 was
the most protection is law in the history of the nation. America's borders were effectively closed to foreign goods. The
government's intentions with regard to the new tariff act no doubt seemed good at the time. It wanted to raise farmers' low
incomes that resulted from the low prices they were getting for their products. But in economics, good intentions often
produce disastrous results.

Other nations responded to the increase in our tariffs by raising their own. This had the effect of cutting off international
markets and narrowing lines of trade. The new protectionist policies created enormous problems for countries that owed
money and needed to pay off their debts with goods. Since so much of this mountain of debt was unsound to begin with,
creditors could not collect. In the two years that followed passage of Smoot-Hawley, American exports declined by almost
two-thirds. The politicians had ignored a fundamental principle of international exchange; exports pay for imports. If people
in other nations cannot sell their goods to us, they cannot earn the money they need to buy our products. Closing the door
to imports will result eventually in closing the door to exports.

While farm prices dropped precipitously throughout 1930, the sharpest decline followed passage of the Smoot-Hawley Act
in June. While American exports had totaled $5.5 billion in 1929, they had by 1932 fallen to just $1.7 billion. All of this led
to a collapse of American farming. Hundreds of thousands of American farmers lost their farms. America's recession was
being turned into a world depression.

(3) The government proceeded to raise taxes, an incredible move under the circumstances. In fairness to Hoover, it should
be noted that much of the blame for the tax increase belonged to the Congress. After the midterm elections of 1930, there
was a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

The tax increase of 1932 was the largest increase in federal taxes in the history of the nation to that point. The income tax
was doubled. Estate taxes were raised, corporation tax rates were increased, exemptions were lowered, and postal rates
were raised. There was also a 2 cent tax on checks, a 3 percent automobile tax, a tax on telephones and telegraph messages,
and a 1 cent a gallon gasoline tax. Faced by declining revenues, state and local governments followed Washington's lead
and imposed new taxes of their own. The total tax burden of the nation almost doubled in the period after 1932. If the
politicians had been seeking a way to bring the nation's economy to its knees, they could not have found a better strategy.
The huge tax increases guaranteed that the Depression would not end soon. Real Gross National Product fell by 14.8
percent in 1932, the year the tax increase went into effect. An unemployment rate that had averaged 3.2 percent in 1929 and
7.8 percent in 1930 jumped to almost 25 percent in 1932.

By the end of Hoover's term, unemployment had reached 25 percent of the work force or more than twelve million
workers. The Depression had spread beyond the borders of the United States and had become a worldwide depression.
Nations like Germany and Austria stopped making foreign payments and froze American credits. England ended gold
payments in September 1931. Foreign bond values fell drastically, which led to a collapse of the bond market in America.
This proved to be an additional blow at American banks, in this case, a blow at their own investments.

The collapse of so many American farmers put their major creditors-the rural banks-in jeopardy. Many of them were forced
to close. Between August 1931 and February 1932, approximately 2,000 banks closed, still owing depositors more than
$1.5 billion. Banks that did not close were often forced to take extreme measures. New loans were often refused, and old
loans were pressured to make payment. This banking panic led to even greater pressures on the market as many banks
dumped many of their own stock holdings.

Bank runs and other banking difficulties did not occur to any great degree until the fall of 1930. But once a number of
Midwest and Southern banks failed, confidence in banks was undermined and many people rushed to withdraw their funds.
In mid-1929, America had almost 25,000 commercial banks. By the time of Roosevelt's inauguration in 1933, this number
had fallen to about 18,000. Another 3,000 were eliminated by the end of 1933.

There is no way to exaggerate the tragic desperation of the nation at the end of Hoover's Presidency. But Hoover and his
administration refused to admit that the disaster was a result of their interventionist policies; they continued to blame
businessmen and speculators. But the truth is that Hoover's economic interventionism had only made things far worse.

Myth Number Four: Roosevelt's Interventionism Ended the Depression

If anyone was an interventionist, Franklin Roosevelt was. The mythical component in our fourth claim concerns the
mistaken belief that the ultimate end of the Depression resulted from any of Roosevelt's economic policies. The evidence
makes it clear that late into the 1930s, Roosevelt's interventionist measures were only making things worse!

During his first one hundred days in office, Roosevelt and his administration refused to remove the barriers to prosperity
raised during the Hoover years. Instead, he erected dozens of new ones. Roosevelt's first significant action with regard to
the economy was to undercut the quality of the dollar by seizing people's private gold holdings. In 1933 and early 1934,
private holders of gold were forced to turn over their gold to the government at a price well below the market price, but
equal to the official price of gold. By this act of confiscation, the federal government gained legal and physical control of the
nation's gold, which it replaced with certificates. The government's action was legalized theft. Later, in 1934, the
government raised the official price of gold to $35 an ounce, which was above the market price. This devaluation produced
a de facto profit for the government of $2.8 billion. A dollar thus became worth whatever the government said it was worth.

Then Roosevelt's advisers proposed the National Industrial Recovery Act (NRA), instituted in 1933 as a way of increasing
the purchasing power of American workers. The Act established minimum wages, prices, and rates for specific industries.
Its purpose was to raise prices at the same time that it increased purchasing power. The government did this by forcing
employers to increase their payrolls by means of shorter work weeks and a minimum wage. It also banned jobs for youth.
This government mandated increase in business costs acted as a further brake on economic recovery. Unemployment
increased still more, to almost thirteen million. The minimum wage provisions of the law caused enormous suffering in the
South, where approximately a half million blacks were forced out of work. In 1935, the Supreme Court declared that the
NRA was unconstitutional. But the policies of the Act had given the economy another severe jolt which had the effect of
postponing any recovery.

Roosevelt's results with American agriculture were just as bad. Congress passed the Farm Relief and Inflation Act, also
known as the Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA). It was supposed to increase the income of farmers by reducing the
number of acres under cultivation and by destroying crops already in the field. Farmers were paid not to plant. The program
spread rapidly from its original coverage of cotton to all basic cereals and meat and then to all cash crops. This expensive
program was supposed to be paid for by a so-called "processing tax." The new tax that the AAA placed on the agricultural
industry provided money that was used to destroy crops and livestock. Healthy animals were slaughtered, and fields of
cotton, wheat, and corn were plowed under. Farmers were paid not to plant crops. Like all interventionist acts, the
government thought it was aiding one group of people in the market. But of course this "aid" would have to come at the
expense of the many others who were forced to pay for it. Even if the program had helped the farmers - which it did not - it
would have done so at enormous cost to the millions who had to pay higher prices or had less to eat.

When the Roosevelt interventionists saw that things were not going as they had planned, they proclaimed that the ensuing
disaster was not the result of their efforts. It was a result rather of their measures not going far enough. What the nation
needed was more priming of the economy by the federal government. Roosevelt's budget message in January 1934
promised a $7 billion deficit in a total budget of $ 10 billion. This attempt to prime the economic pump failed to revive the
economy. A slight recovery in the first half of 1934 was followed by a decline to an even lower economic level by
September of 1934.

Roosevelt's Administration raised taxes in 1933, in 1934, and again in 1935. Federal estate taxes became the highest in the
world. By now, it was clear that the increased taxation was aimed not at the production of more revenue but at the
redistribution of wealth.

When the Supreme Court judged that both the NRA (in 1935) and the AAA (in 1936) were unconstitutional, two awesome
burdens were removed from the American economy. The end of NRA helped to increase productivity and reduce labor
costs. The end of AAA lowered taxes on agriculture and ended the destruction of crops and livestock. Unemployment
began to come down in the mid-1930s. But the planners in the Roosevelt Administration had not yet learned anything from
their past mistakes. Anxious to earn the support of organized labor for Roosevelt's re-election bid in 1936, Roosevelt and
the Democratic majority in Congress gave them the Wagner Act of 1936, a price that Big Labor never forgot.

The Wagner Act or the National Labor Relations Act was a response to the Supreme Court's decisions with regard to NRA
and AAA. The Act totally revolutionized labor relations in the country. No longer could labor disputes be settled in the
courts; they were now under the jurisdiction of the National Labor Relations Board, a new federal agency which served as
judge, jury, and prosecutor. Following Roosevelt's re-election in 1936, the big unions began to consolidate the massive
new powers granted them under the Wagner Act. Millions of workers were forced to join unions. While wages were forced
up, worker productivity declined. Strikes idled many plants. The ensuing jump in labor costs produced another decline in
economic activity. Unemployment once again passed the ten million mark. At the end of 1937, the American economy
collapsed once more. The Roosevelt Administration had accomplished something never before achieved in history. It
actually managed to produce a depression within a depression.

While it is true that Roosevelt inherited an unemployment problem, he certainly did not fix it. Unemployment in 1933 (25
percent) was higher than the year before. During three years of Roosevelt's Presidency, unemployment topped ten million.
In only two of the seven years between 1933 and 1939 did unemployment drop below eight million. In 1938,
unemployment jumped more than it did during the first year of the Depression, reaching 18.8 percent of the labor force or
more than ten million workers. Viewed as an economic experiment to put people back to work, the New Deal was a fraud
and a farce. The massive unemployment that still characterized the nation's economy after years of New Deal intervention
with the economy was ended only by the nation's need to draft more than ten million men into the military.

The Depression did not result from some defect inherent within capitalism. It did not result from this nation's love affair
with unbridled free enterprise during the twenties. The first two myths about the Depression that we examined are clearly
untrue. As Lawrence Reed explains, "The genesis of the Great Depression lay in the inflationary monetary policies of
government in the 1920s. It was prolonged and exacerbated by a litany of political follies: tariffs, taxes, controls on
production and competition, destruction of crops and cattle, and coercive union legislation, to recall just a few. It was not
the free market which produced twelve years of agony; rather, it was political bungling on a scale as grand as there ever
was." 2

According to Benjamin Anderson, the nation's failure "to get out of the depression in the years 1933 to 1939 [was] due to
the great multiplicity of New Deal 'remedies,' all tending to impair the freedom and efficiency of the markets, to frighten
venture capital, and to create frictions and uncertainties, and impediments to individual and corporate initiative." 3 Murray
Rothbard ends his long study of the Depression by stating: "The guilt for the Great Depression must, at long last, be lifted
from the shoulders of the free market economy, and placed where it properly belongs: at the doors of politicians,
bureaucrats, and the mass of 'enlightened' economists." 4

Our study of economic events during the 1930s has revealed more than the mythical character of Hoover's alleged
commitment to free market economics and the supposed success of Roosevelt's interventionism. It has unmasked the extent
to which the enormous suffering of the thirties was a conse quence of bad economics - to be more specific, interventionist
policies that were proposed and enacted with good intentions and horrific results.

Dr. Nash, Professor of Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary-Orlando, and a Contributing Editor to The Freeman.
He has published more than 25 books including Poverty and Wealth (Probe Books), Social Justice and the Christian Church
and Freedom, Justice and The State (both published by University Press of America).

1. See Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare (Indianapolis, Ind.: Liberty Press, 1979 [19491), p.

2. Lawrence W. Reed, Unraveling the Great Depression (Caldwell, Idaho: The Center for the Study of Market Alternatives,
1985), p. 13.

3. Anderson, p. 483.

4. Murray N. Rothbard, America's Great Depression, 3rd ed. (Kansas City: Sheed and Ward, 1975), p. 295.

Reprinted with permission from The Freeman, a publication of The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., November
1994, Vol. 44, No. 11.
( (20 Feb 2003)


The Great Depression

Hans F. Sennholz

Although the Great Depression engulfed the world economy more than 50 years ago, it lives on as a nightmare for
individuals old enough to remember and as a frightening specter in the textbooks of our youth. Some 13 million Americans
were unem-ployed, "not wanted" in the production pro-cess. One worker out of every four was walking the streets in want
and despair. Thou-sands of banks, hundreds of thousands of busi-nesses, and millions of farmers fell into bank-ruptcy or
ceased operations entirely. Nearly ev-eryone suffered painful losses of wealth and income.

Many Americans are convinced that the Great Depression reflected the breakdown of an old economic order built on
unhampered markets, unbridled competition, speculation, property rights, and the profit motive. Ac-cording to them, the
Great Depression proved the inevitability of a new order built on govern-ment intervention, political and bureaucratic
control, human rights, and government wel-fare. Such persons, under the influence of Keynes, blame businessmen for
precipitating depressions by their selfish refusal to spend enough money to maintain or improve the people's purchasing
power. This is why they advocate vast governmental expenditures and deficit spending -resulting in an age of money
inflation and credit expansion.

Classical economists learned a different lesson. In their view, the Great Depression consisted of four consecutive
depressions rolled into one. The causes of each phase differed, but the consequences were all the same: business stagnation
and unemployment.

The Business Cycle

The first phase was a period of boom and bust, like the business cycles that had plagued the American economy in
1819-20, 1839-43, 1857-60, 1873-78, 1893-97, and 1920-21. In each case, government had generated a boom through
easy money and credit, which was soon followed by the inevitable bust.

The spectacular crash of 1929 followed five years of reckless credit expansion by the Fed-eral Reserve System under the
Coolidge Ad-ministration. In 1924, after a sharp decline in business, the Reserve banks suddenly created some $500
million in new credit, which led to a bank credit expansion of over $4 billion in less than one year. While the immediate
effects of this new powerful expansion of the nation's money and credit were seemingly beneficial, initiating a new
economic boom and effacing the 1924 decline, the ultimate outcome was most disastrous. It was the beginning of a
mon-etary policy that led to the stock market crash in 1929 and the following depression. In fact, the expansion of Federal
Reserve credit in 1924 constituted what Benjamin Anderson in his great treatise on recent economic history (Eco-nomics
and the Public Welfare D. Van Nostrand, 1949) called "the beginning of the New Deal. "

The Federal Reserve credit expansion in 1924 also was designed to assist the Bank of England in its professed desire to
maintain prewar exchange rates. The strong U.S. dollar and the weak British pound were to be readjusted to prewar
conditions through a policy of inflation in the U.S. and deflation in Great Britain.

The Federal Reserve System launched a further burst of inflation in 1927, the result being that total currency outside banks
plus demand and time deposits in the United States increased from $44.51 billion at the end of June, 1924, to $55.17
billion in 1929. The volume of farm and urban mortgages expanded from $16.8 billion in 1921 to $27.1 billion in 1929.
Similar increases occurred in industrial, financial, and state and local government indebtedness. This expansion of money
and credit was accompanied by rapidly rising real estate and stock prices. Prices for industrial securities, according to
Standard & Poor's common stock index, rose from 59.4 in June of 1922 to 195.2 in September of 1929. Railroad stock
climbed from 189.2 to 446.0, while public utilities rose from 82.0 to 375. 1.

A Series of False Signals

The vast money and credit expansion by the Coolidge Administration made 1929 inevitable. Inflation and credit expansion
always precipitate business mal-adjustments and malinvestments that must later be liquidated. The expansion artificially
reduces and thus falsifies interest rates, and thereby misguides businessmen in their investment decisions. In the belief that
declining rates indicate growing supplies of capital savings, they embark upon new production projects. The creation of
money gives rise to an economic boom. It causes prices to rise, especially prices of capital goods used for business
expansion. But these prices constitute business costs. They soar until business is no longer profitable, at which time the
decline begins. In order to prolong the boom, the monetary authorities may continue to inject new money until finally
frightened by the prospects of a runaway inflation. The boom that was built on the quicksand of inflation then comes to a
sudden end.

The ensuing recession is a period of repair and readjustment. Prices and costs adjust anew to consumer choices and
preferences. And above all, interest rates readjust to reflect once more the actual supply of and demand for genuine savings.
Poor business investments are abandoned or written down. Business costs, especially labor costs, are reduced through
greater labor productivity and managerial efficiency, until business can once more be profitably conducted, capital
investments earn interest, and the market economy function smoothly again.

After an abortive attempt at stabilization in the first half of 1928, the Federal Reserve System finally abandoned its easy
money policy at the beginning of 1929. It sold government securities and thereby hatted the bank credit expansion. It raised
its discount rate to 6 per cent in August, 1929. Time-money rates rose to 8 per cent, commercial paper rates to 6 per cent,
and call rates to the panic figures of 15 per cent and 20 per cent. The American economy was beginning to readjust. In
June, 1929, business activity began to recede. Commodity prices began their retreat in July.

The security market reached its high on September 19 and then, under the pressure of early selling, slowly began to decline.
For five more weeks the public nevertheless bought heavily on the way down. More than 100 million shares were traded at
the New York Stock Exchange in September. Finally it dawned upon more and more stockholders that the trend had
changed. Beginning with October 24, 1929, thousands stampeded to sell their holdings immediately and at any price.
Avalanches of selling by the public swamped the ticker tape. Prices broke spectacularly.

Liquidation and Adjustment

The stock market break signaled the beginning of a readjustment long overdue. It should have been an orderly liquidation
and adjustment followed by a normal revival. After all, the financial structure of business was very strong. Fixed costs
were low as business had refunded a good many bond issues and had reduced debts to banks with the proceeds of the sale
of stock. In the following months, most business earnings made a reasonable showing. Unemployment in 1930 averaged
under 4 million, or 7.8 per cent of the labor force.

In modern terminology, the American economy of 1930 had fallen into a mild recession. In the absence of any new causes
for depression, the following year should have brought recovery as in previous depressions. In 1921-22 the American
economy recovered fully in less than a year. What, then, precipitated the abysmal collapse after 1929? What prevented the
price and cost adjustments and thus led to the second phase of the Great Depression?

Disintegration of the World Economy

The Hoover Administration opposed any readjustment. Under the influence of "the new economics" of government
planning, the President urged businessmen not to cut prices and reduce wages, but rather to increase capital outlay, wages,
and other spending in order to maintain purchasing power. He embarked upon deficit spending and called upon
municipalities to increase their borrowing for more public works. Through the Farm Board which Hoover had organized in
the autumn of 1929, the federal government tried strenuously to uphold the prices of wheat, cotton, and other farm
products. The GOP tradition was further invoked to curtail foreign imports.

The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act of June, 1930, raised American tariffs to unprecedented levels, which practically closed our
borders to foreign goods. According to most economic historians, this was the crowning folly of the whole period from
1920 to 1933 and the beginning of the real depression. "Once we raised our tariffs," wrote Benjamin Anderson, "an
irresistible movement all over the world to raise tariffs and to erect other trade barriers, including quotas, began.
Protectionism ran wild over the world. Markets were cut off. Trade lines were narrowed. Unemployment in the export
industries all over the world grew with great rapidity. Farm prices in the United States dropped sharply through the whole
of 1930, but the most rapid rate of decline came following the passage of the tariff bill." When President Hoover announced
he would sign the bill into law, industrial stocks broke 20 points in one day. The stock market correctly anticipated the

The protectionists have never learned that curtailment of imports inevitably hampers exports. Even if foreign countries do
not immediately retaliate for trade restrictions injuring them, their foreign purchases are circumscribed by their ability to sell
abroad. This is why the Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act which closed our borders to foreign products also closed foreign markets
to our products. American exports fell from $5.5 billion in 1929 to $1.7 billion in 1932. American agriculture customarily
had exported over 20 per cent of its wheat, 55 per cent of its cotton, 40 per cent of its tobacco and lard, and many other
products. When international trade and commerce were disrupted, American farming collapsed. In fact, the rapidly growing
trade restrictions, including tariffs, quotas, foreign exchange controls, and other devices were generating a world-wide

Agricultural commodity prices, which had been well above the 1926 base of 100 before the crisis, dropped to a low of 47 in
the summer of 1932. Such prices as $2.50 a hundredweight for hogs, $3.28 for beef cattle, and 320 a bushel for wheat
plunged hundreds of thousands of farmers into bankruptcy. Farm mortgages were foreclosed until various states passed
moratoria laws, thus shifting the bankruptcy to countless creditors.

Rural Banks in Trouble

The main creditors of American farmers were, of course, the rural banks. When agriculture collapsed, the banks closed
their doors. Some 2,000 banks with deposit liabilities of over $1.5 billion, suspended operations between August, 1931,
and February, 1932. Those banks that remained open were forced to curtail their operations sharply. They liquidated
customers' loans on securities, contracted real estate loans, pressed for the payment of old loans, and refused to make new
ones. Finally, they dumped their most marketable bond holdings on an already depressed market. The panic that had
engulfed American agriculture also gripped the banking system and its millions of customers.

The American banking crisis was aggravated by a series of events involving Europe. When the world economy began to
disintegrate and economic nationalism ran rampant, European debtor countries were cast in precarious payment situations.
Austria and Germany ceased to make foreign payments and froze large English and American credits; when England finally
suspended gold payments in September, 1931, the crisis spread to the U.S. The fall in foreign bond values set off a
collapse of the general bond market, which hit American banks at their weakest point - their investment portfolios.

Nineteen thirty-one was a tragic year. The whole nation, in fact, the whole world, fell into the cataclysm of despair and
depression. American unemployment jumped to more than 8 million and continued to rise. The Hoover Administration,
summarily rejecting the thought that it had caused the disaster, labored diligently to place the blame on American
businessmen and speculators. President Hoover called together the nation's industrial leaders and pledged them to adopt his
program to maintain wage rates and expand construction. He sent a telegram to all the governors, urging cooperative
expansion of all public works programs. He expanded Federal public works and granted subsidies to ship construction.
And for the benefit of the suffering farmers, a host of Federal agencies embarked upon price stabilization policies that
generated ever larger crops and surpluses which in turn depressed product prices even further. Economic conditions went
from bad to worse and unemployment in 1932 averaged 12.4 million.

In this dark hour of human want and suffering, the federal government struck a final blow. The Revenue Act of 1932
doubled the income tax, the sharpest increase in the Federal tax burden in American history. Exemptions were lowered and
"earned income credit" was eliminated. Normal tax rates were raised from a range of 11/2 to 5 per cent to a range of 4 to 8
per cent, surtax rates from 20 per cent to a maximum of 55 per cent. Corporation tax rates were boosted from 12 per cent to
133/4 and 141/2 per cent. Estate taxes were raised. Gift taxes were imposed with rates from 1/4 to 331/2 per cent. A 10
gasoline tax was imposed, a 3 per cent automobile tax, a telegraph and telephone tax, a 20 check tax, and many other excise
taxes. And finally, postal rates were increased substantially.

When state and local governments faced shrinking revenues, they, too, joined the federal government in imposing new
levies. The rate schedules of existing taxes on income and business were increased and new taxes imposed on business
income, property, sales, tobacco, liquor, and other products.

Murray Rothbard, in his authoritative work on America's Great Depression (Van Nostrand, 1963), estimates that the fiscal
burden of Federal, state, and local governments nearly doubled during the period, rising from 16 per cent of net private
product to 29 per cent. This blow, alone, would bring any economy to its knees, and shatters the silly contention that the
Great Depression was a consequence of economic freedom.

The NRA and the AAA

One of the great attributes of the private-property market system is its inherent ability to overcome almost any obstacle.
Through price and cost readjustment, managerial efficiency and labor productivity, new savings and investments, the
market economy tends to regain its equilibrium and resume its service to consumers. It doubtless would have recovered in
short order from the Hoover interventions had there been no further tampering.

However, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt assumed the Presidency, he, too, fought the economy all the way. In
his first 100 days, he swung hard at the profit order. Instead of clearing away the prosperity barriers erected by his
predecessor, he built new ones of his own. He struck in every known way at the integrity of the U.S. dollar through
quantitative increases and qualitative deterioration. He seized the people's gold holdings and subsequently devalued the
dollar by 40 per cent.

With some third of industrial workers unemployed, President Roosevelt embarked upon sweeping industrial reorganization.
He persuaded Congress to pass the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which set up the National Recovery
Administration (NRA). Its purpose was to get business to regulate itself, ignoring the antitrust laws and developing fair
codes of prices, wages, hours, and working conditions. The President's Re-employment Agreement called for a minimum
wage of 400 an hour ($12 to $15 a week in smaller communities), a 35-hour work week for industrial workers and 40
hours for white-collar workers, and a ban on all youth labor.

This was a naïve attempt at "increasing purchasing power" by increasing payrolls. But, the immense increase in business
costs through shorter hours and higher wage rates worked naturally as an anti-revival measure. After passage of the Act,
unemployment rose to nearly 13 million. The South, especially, suffered severely from the minimum wage provisions. The
Act forced 500,000 Negroes out of work.

Nor did President Roosevelt ignore the disaster that had befallen American agriculture. He attacked the problem by passage
of the Farm Relief and Inflation Act, popularly known as the First Agricultural Adjustment Act. The objective was to raise
farm income by cutting the acre-ages planted or destroying the crops in the field, paying the farmers not to plant anything,
and organizing marketing agreements to improve distribution. The program soon covered not only cotton, but also all basic
cereal and meat production as well as principal cash crops. The expenses of the program were to be covered by a new
"processing tax" levied on an already depressed industry.

NRA codes and AAA processing taxes came in July and August of 1933. Again, economic production, which had flurried
briefly before the deadlines, sharply turned downward. The Federal Reserve business index dropped from 100 in July to 72
in November of 1933.

Pump-Priming Measures

When the economic planners saw their plans go wrong, they simply prescribed additional doses of Federal pump priming.
In his January 1934 Budget Message, Mr. Roosevelt promised expenditures of $10 billion while revenues were at $3
billion. Yet, the economy failed to revive; the business index rose to 86 in May of 1934, and then turned down again to 71
by September. Furthermore, the spending program caused a panic in the bond market which cast new doubts on American
money and banking.

Revenue legislation in 1933 sharply raised income tax rates in the higher brackets and imposed a 5 per cent withholding tax
on corporate dividends. Tax rates were raised again in 1934. Federal estate taxes were brought to the highest levels in the
world. In 1935, Federal estate and income taxes were raised once more, although the additional revenue yield was
insignificant. The rates seemed clearly aimed at the redistribution of wealth.

According to Benjamin Anderson, "the impact of all these multitudinous measures-industrial, agricultural, financial,
monetary and other-upon a bewildered industrial and financial community was extraordinarily heavy. We must add the
effect of continuing disquieting utterances by the President. He had castigated the bankers in his inaugural speech. He had
made a slurring comparison of British and American bankers in a speech in the summer of 1934. . . . That private enterprise
could survive and rally in the midst of so great a disorder is an amazing demonstration of the vitality of private enterprise."

Then came relief from unexpected quarters. The "nine old men" of the Supreme Court, by unanimous decision, outlawed
NRA in 1935 and AAA in 1936. The Court maintained that the Federal legislative power had been unconstitutionally
delegated and states' rights violated.

These two decisions removed some fearful handicaps under which the economy was laboring. NRA, in particular, was a
nightmare with continuously changing rules and regulations by a host of government bureaus. Above all, voiding of the act
immediately reduced labor costs and raised productivity as it permitted labor markets to adjust. The death of AAA reduced
the tax burden of agriculture and halted the shocking destruction of crops. Unemployment began to decline. In 1935 it
dropped to 9.5 million, or 18.4 per cent of the labor force, and in 1936 to only 7.6 million, or 14.5 per cent.

A New Deal for Labor

The third phase of the Great Depression was thus drawing to a close. But there was little time to rejoice, for the scene was
being set for another collapse in 1937 and a lingering depression that lasted until the day of Pearl Harbor. More than 10
million Americans were unemployed in 1938, and more than 9 million in 1939.

The relief granted by the Supreme Court was merely temporary. The Washington planners could not leave the economy
alone; they had to win the support of organized labor, which was vital for re-election.

The Wagner Act of July 5, 1935, earned the lasting gratitude of labor. This law revolutionized American labor relations. It
took labor disputes out of the courts of law and brought them under a newly created Federal agency, the National Labor
Relations Board, which became prosecutor, judge, and jury, all in one. Labor union sympathizers on the Board further
perverted the law that already afforded legal immunities and privileges to labor unions. The U.S. thereby abandoned a great
achievement of Western civilization, equality under the law.

The Wagner Act, or National Labor Relations Act, was passed in reaction to the Supreme Court's voiding of NRA and its
labor codes. It aimed at crushing all employer resistance to labor unions. Anything an employer might do in self-defense
became an "unfair labor practice" punishable by the Board. The law not only obliged employers to deal and bargain with the
unions designated as the employees' representatives, later Board decisions also made it unlawful to resist the demands of
labor union leaders.

Following the election of 1936, the labor unions began to make ample use of their new powers. Through threats, boycotts,
strikes, seizures of plants, and outright violence committed in legal sanctity, they forced millions of workers into
membership. Consequently, labor productivity declined and wages were forced upward. Labor strife and disturbance ran
wild. Ugly sit-down strikes idled hundreds of plants. In the ensuing months economic activity began to decline and
unemployment again rose above the ten million mark.

But the Wagner Act was not the only source of crisis in 1937. President Roosevelt's shocking attempt at packing the
Supreme Court, had it been successful, would have subordinated the Judiciary to the Executive. In the U.S. Congress the
President's power was unchallenged. Heavy Democratic majorities in both houses, perplexed and frightened by the Great
Depression, blindly followed their leader. But when the President strove to assume control over the Judiciary, the American
nation rallied against him, and he lost his first political fight in the halls of Congress.

There was also his attempt at controlling the stock market through an ever-increasing number of regulations and
investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission. "Insider" trading was barred, high and inflexible margin
requirements imposed and short selling restricted, mainly to prevent repetition of the 1929 stock market crash. Nevertheless
the market fell nearly 50 per cent from August of 1937 to March of 1938. The American economy again underwent dreadful

Other Taxes and Controls

Yet other factors contributed to this new and fastest slump in U.S. history. The Undistributed Profits Tax of 1936 struck a
heavy blow at profits retained for use in business. Not content with destroying the wealth of the rich through confiscatory
income and estate taxation, the administration meant to force the distribution of corporate savings as dividends subject to the
high income tax rates. Though the top rate finally imposed on undistributed profits was "only" 27 per cent, the new tax
succeeded in diverting corporate savings from employment and production to dividend income.

Amidst the new stagnation and unemployment, the President and Congress adopted yet another dangerous piece of New
Deal legislation: the Wages and Hours Act or Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law raised minimum wages and
reduced the work week in stages to 44, 42, and 40 hours. It provided for time-and-a-half pay for all work over 40 hours
per week and regulated other labor conditions. Again, the federal government thus reduced labor productivity and increased
labor costs - ample ground for further depression and unemployment.

Throughout this period, the federal government, through its monetary arm, the Federal Reserve System, endeavored to
re-inflate the economy. Monetary expansion from 1934 to 1941 reached astonishing proportions. The monetary gold of
Europe sought refuge from the gathering clouds of political upheaval, boosting American bank reserves to unaccustomed
levels. Reserve balances rose from $2.9 billion in January, 1934, to $14.4 billion in January of 1941. And with this growth
of member bank reserves, interest rates declined to fantastically low levels. Commercial paper often yielded less than I per
cent, bankers' acceptances from 1/8 per cent to 1/4 per cent. Treasury bill rates fell to 1/10 of I percent and Treasury bonds
to some 2 per cent. Call loans were pegged at I per cent and prime customers' loans at 11/2 per cent. The money market
was flooded and interest rates could hardly go lower.

Deep-Rooted Causes

The American economy simply could not recover from these successive onslaughts by first the Republican and then the
Democratic administrations. Individual enterprise, the main spring of unprecedented income and wealth, didn't have a

The calamity of the Great Depression finally gave way to the holocaust of World War II. When more than 10 million
able-bodied men had been drafted into the armed services, unemployment ceased to be an economic problem. And when the
purchasing power of the dollar had been cut in half through vast budget deficits and currency inflation, American business
managed to adjust to the oppressive costs of the Hoover-Roosevelt Deals. The radical inflation in fact reduced the real costs
of labor and thus generated new employment in the postwar period.

Nothing would be more foolish than to single out the men who led us in those baleful years and condemn them for all the
evil that befell us. The ultimate roots of the Great Depression were growing in the hearts and minds of the American people.
It is true, they abhorred the painful symptoms of the great dilemma. But the large majority favored and voted for the very
policies that made the disaster inevitable: inflation and credit expansion, protective tariffs, labor laws that raised wages and
farm laws that raised prices, ever higher taxes on the rich and distribution of their wealth. The seeds for the Great
Depression were sown by scholars and teachers during the 1920s and earlier when social and economic ideologies that were
hostile toward our traditional order of private property and individual enterprise conquered our colleges and universities.
The professors of earlier years were as guilty as the political leaders of the 1930s.

Social and economic decline is facilitated by moral decay. Surely, the Great Depression would be inconceivable without the
growth of covetousness and envy of great personal wealth and income, the mounting desire for public assistance and
favors. It would be inconceivable without an ominous decline of individual independence and self--reliance, and above all,
the burning desire to be free from man's bondage and to be responsible to God alone.

Can it happen again? Inexorable economic law ascertains that it must happen again whenever we repeat the dreadful errors
that generated the Great Depression.

At the time of the original publication, Dr. Sennholz headed the Department of Economics at Grove City College in
Pennsylvania. He was a noted writer and lecturer on monetary affairs.

This article originally appeared in the April 1975 issue of The Freeman.

Reprinted with permission from The Freeman, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., March 1988,
Vol. 38, No. 3.


The Mysteries of The Great
Depression Finally Solved

Mark Skousen

"The depression ... was endemic to the system: the economy was not self-regulating and needed to be controlled."

David Colander and Harry Landreth1

The Great Depression of the 1930s may be a dim memory now, but its impact is still being felt in policy and theory. The
prolonged depression created an environment critical of laissez-faire policies and favorable toward ubiquitous state
interventionism throughout the Western world. The depression led to the Welfare State and boundless faith in Big
Government. It caused most of the Anglo-American economics profession to question classical free-market economics and
to search for radical anti-capitalist alternatives, eventually converting to the "new economics" of Keynesianism and
"demand-side" economics.

Prior to the Great Depression, most Western economists accepted the classical virtues of thrift, limited government,
balanced budgets, the gold standard, and Say's Law. While most economists continued to defend free enterprise and free
trade on a microeconomic scale, they rejected traditional views on a macroeconomic level in the postwar period, advocating
consumption over saving, fiat money over the gold standard, deficit spending over a balanced budget, and active state
interventionism over limited government. They bought the Keynesian argument that a free market was inherently unstable
and could result in high levels of unemployed labor and resources for indefinite periods. They blamed the Great Depression
on laissez-faire capitalism and contended that only massive government spending during World War II saved the capitalist
system from defeat. In short, the depression opened the door to widespread collectivism in the United States and around the

Fortunately, free-market economists have gradually punctured holes in these arguments and the pendulum has slowly
shifted toward a re-establishment of classical free-market economics. Three questions needed to be addressed: What caused
the Great Depression? Why did it last so long? Did World War II restore prosperity? Economic historian Robert Higgs had
dubbed these three arenas of debate the Great Contraction, the Great Duration, and the Great Escape.

The Cause of the Great Contraction

Many free-market economists had attempted to answer the first question, including Benjamin M. Anderson and Murray N.
Rothbard,2 but none had the impact equal to Milton Friedman's empirical studies on money in the early 1960s. His was the
first effective effort to destroy the argument that the Great Depression was the handiwork of an inherently unstable
capitalistic system. Friedman (and his co-author, Anna J. Schwartz) demonstrated forcefully that it was not free enterprise,
but rather government - specifically the Federal Reserve System - that caused the Great Depression. In a single sentence
underlined by all who read it, Friedman and Schwartz indicted the Fed: "From the cyclical peak in August 1929 to a cyclical
trough in March 1933, the stock of money fell by over a third." 3(This statement was all the more shocking because until
Friedman's work, the Fed didn't publish money supply figures, such as Ml and M2!)

Friedman and Schwartz also proved that the gold standard did not cause the depression, as some Keynesian economists
have alleged. During the early 1930s, the U.S. gold stock rose even as the Fed perversely raised the discount rate and
allowed the money supply to shrink and banks to collapse. 4

The Prolonged Slump

Economic activity and employment stagnated throughout the 1930s, causing a paradigm shift from classical economics to
Keynesianism. Friedrich Hayek, the Austrian economist who challenged Keynes in the thirties, was so disheartened about
the state of the free-world economy that he abandoned the study of economics in favor of political philosophy.

Why did the depression last so long? Many free-market economists have picked up where Murray Rothbard's America's
Great Depression left off, at the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933. Gene Smiley (Marquette University)
attempted an "Austrian" perspective on the perverse role of fiscal policy in the 1930s. I summarized the causes of stagnation
and persistent unemployment, such as the Smoot--Hawley Tariff, tax increases, government regulation and controls, and
pro-labor legislation.5

More recently, Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute has made an in-depth study of the 1930s' malaise and focused on
the lack of private investment during this period. According to Higgs, private investment was greatly hampered by New
Deal initiatives that destroyed investor and business confidence, the key to recovery. 6 In short, the New Deal prolonged the

What Got Us Out?

In another brilliant study, Higgs attacked the commonly held view that World War II saved us from the depression and
restored the economy to full employment. The war gave only the appearance of recovery, when in reality private
consumption and investment declined while Americans fought and died for their country. A return to genuine prosperity -
the true Great Escape - -did not occur until after the war ended, when most of the wartime controls were abolished and most
of the resources used in the military were returned to civilian production.7 Only after the war did private investment,
business confidence, and consumer spending return to form.

In sum, it has been a long and hard - fought war to restore the case for free-market cap-italism. Finally, through the
path-breaking work of Friedman, Rothbard, Smiley, Higgs, and other scholars, we can now say the battle has been won.

At the time of the original publication, Dr. Skousen was an economist at Rollins College, Department of Economics,
Winter Park Florida 32789, and editor of Forecasts & Strategies, one of the largest investment newsletters in the country.

1. David C. Colander and Harry Landreth, eds., The Coming of Keynesianism to America (Edward Elgar, 1996), p. 16.

2. Benjamin M. Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979 [1949]) and Murray N.
Rothbard, America's Great Depression (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1963).

3. Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1963), p. 229.

4. Friedman and Schwartz, Monetary History, pp. 360-361. See also my May 1995 Freeman column, "Did the Gold
Standard Cause the Great Depression?"

5 Gene Smiley, "Some Austrian Perspectives on Keynesian Fiscal Policy and the Recovery of the Thirties, " Review of
Austrian Economics (1987), 1:146-79, and Mark Skousen, "The Great Depression," in Peter Boettke, ed., The Elgar
Companion to Austrian Economics (Edward Elgar, 1994), pp. 431-439.

6. Robert Higgs, "Regime Uncertainty: Why the Great Depression Lasted So Long and Why Prosperity Resumed After the
War," The Independent Review (Spring 1997), 1:4, pp. 561-590.

7. Robert Higgs, "Wartime Prosperity? A Reassessment of the U.S. Economy in the 1940s," Journal of Economic History
52 (March 1992), pp. 41-60.

Wartime Prosperity?
A Reassessment of the U.S. Economy in the 1940s

By Robert Higgs*

ABSTRACT: Relying on standard measures of macroeconomic performance, historians and economists believe that “war prosperity” prevailed in the
United States during World War II. This belief is ill-founded, because it does not recognize that the United States had a command economy during the
war. From 1942 to 1946 some macroeconomic performance measures are statistically inaccurate; others are conceptually inappropriate. A better
grounded interpretation is that during the war the economy was a huge arsenal in which the well-being of consumers deteriorated. After the war
genuine prosperity returned for the first time since 1929.

“War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”
—Ludwig von Mises1

For nearly half a century historians and economists, almost without exception, have misinterpreted the performance of the U.S. economy in the 1940s. The reigning view has two aspects: one
pertaining to the conceptualization and measurement of the economy’s performance; the other pertaining to the explanation of that performance in macroeconomic theory. The two are encapsulated in
the title of a chapter in a leading textbook: “War Prosperity: The Keynesian Message Illustrated.”2

I shall challenge the consensus view. The accepted profile of the economy’s performance during the 1940s—peak prosperity from 1943 to 1945, followed by much worse performance from 1946 to
1949—is indefensible as a description of economic well-being. Further, the most widely accepted explanation of the events of the war years cannot withstand critical scrutiny. The prevailing
misinterpretations of economic performance during the 1940s have arisen because historians and economists have failed to appreciate that the wartime economy, a command economy, cannot be
readily compared with either the prewar or the postwar economy.

The Consensus

According to the orthodox account, the war got the economy out of the Depression. Evidence for the claim usually includes the great decline in the standard measure of the unemployment rate, the
large increase in the standard measure of real GNP, and the slight increase in the standard measure of real personal consumption. The entire episode of apparent business-cycle expansion during the
war years is understood by most writers as an obvious validation of the simple Keynesian model: enormous government spending, with huge budget deficits, spurred the military economy and
produced multiplier effects on the civilian economy, the upshot being increased employment, real output, and consumption and decreased unemployment. Some analysts, recognizing the rapid
increase of the money stock during the war, have blended Keynesian and monetarist explanations, treating them as complements. This consensus account, occasionally with minor qualifications or
caveats, appears in the works of historians, economists, and other writers.3

Employment and Unemployment

The standard measure of the unemployment rate (persons officially unemployed as a percent of civilian labor force) fell between 1940 and 1944 from 14.6 percent to 1.2 percent.4 Michael Darby’s
measure, which does not count those in “emergency government employment” as unemployed, fell from 9.5 percent to 1.2 percent.5 Either measure signals a virtual disappearance of unemployment
during the war, but in the circumstances neither measure means what it is commonly taken to mean.

The buildup of the armed forces to more than 12 million persons by 1945 made an enormous decline of the unemployment rate inevitable. But the welfare significance of the decline is hardly the usual
one. Of the 16 million persons who served in the armed forces at some time during the war, 10 million were conscripted, and many of those who volunteered did so only to avoid the draft and the
consequent likelihood of assignment to the infantry.6 The civilian labor force between 1940 and 1945 ranged from 54 to 56 million.7 Therefore, the 12 million serving in the armed forces during the
last year of the war, most of them under duress, constituted about 18 percent of the total (civilian plus military) labor force, itself much enlarged during the war.

What actually happened is no mystery. In 1940, before the military mobilization, the unemployment rate (Darby concept) was 9.5 percent. During the war the government pulled the equivalent of 22
percent of the prewar labor force into the armed forces. Voilà, the unemployment rate dropped to a very low level. No one needs a macroeconomic model to understand this event. Given the facts of
the draft, no plausible view of the economy is incompatible with the observed decline of the unemployment rate. Whether the government ran deficits or not, whether the money stock increased or
not, massive military conscription was sure to decrease dramatically the rate of unemployment.8

Between 1940 and 1944 unemployment fell by either 7.45 million (official measure) or by 4.62 million (Darby measure), while the armed forces increased by 10.87 million. Even if one views
eliminating civilian unemployment as tantamount to producing prosperity, one must recognize that placing either 146 or 235 persons (depending on the unemployment concept used) in the armed
forces to gain a reduction of 100 persons in civilian unemployment was a grotesque way to achieve prosperity, even if a job were a job.

But military “jobs” differed categorically. Often they entailed substantial risks of death, dismemberment, and other physical and psychological injuries. Military service yielded little pay under harsh
conditions and, like it or not, lasted for the duration of the war. Sustained involvement in combat drove many men insane.9 Physical casualties included 405,399 dead and 670,846 wounded.10 To
treat military jobs as commensurable with civilian jobs, as economists do in computing the tradeoffs between them, betrays a monumental obtuseness to their realities.

(as percent of total [civilian plus military] labor force)
(BLS concept)
Labor Force

Notes: Defense employment includes military personnel, civilian employees of the military, and employees of defense-related industries. The labor force residuum is 100 minus nondefense
employment. Source: Computed from data in U.S. Dept. of Defense, National Defense Budget Estimates, p. 126.

To see more clearly what happened to the labor force, one can examine the percentage of the total (civilian plus military) labor force occupied in what I call the labor force “residuum.” This includes
unemployed civilians, members of the armed forces, civilian employees of the armed forces, and employees in the military supply industries. (See Table 1.) This measure rose from 17.6 percent,
almost all of it being unemployment, in fiscal year 1940 to more than 40 percent, almost all of it being war-related employment, during the fiscal years from 1943 to 1945, then dropped abruptly to
about 10 percent during the fiscal years from 1946 to 1949. The extraordinarily high level of the labor force residuum during the war indicates that the “prosperous” condition of the labor force was
spurious: official unemployment was virtually nonexistent, but four-tenths of the total labor force was not being used to produce consumer goods or capital capable of yielding consumer goods in the
future. The sharp drop of the labor force residuum between fiscal years 1945 and 1946 marks the return of genuine prosperity.

Real Output

To find out what happened to real output during World War II, historians usually reach for Historical Statistics, economists for the most recent issue of the Council of Economic Advisers’ Annual
Report. As Table 2 shows, which source one chooses makes a big difference. Although the two series show roughly the same profile of real GNP during the 1940s, the latest Commerce Department
version indicates, in index number form (1939 equals 100), a peak value of 192.7 in 1944, versus a peak value of 172.5 in 1944 in the series taken from Historical Statistics. Both series show a
large drop in real GNP from 1945 to 1946: 12 percent in the older series, 19 percent in the newer. Another series, constructed by John Kendrick, moves similarly with the first two in the table but
displays some discrepancies. Notably, from 1945 to 1946 Kendrick’s estimate drops by just 9 percent. Analysts who employ these standard series, besides ignoring the discrepancies, seem generally
unaware that the figures may be conceptually problematic.

(index numbers, 1939 = 100)
Estimate of
Estimate of
Variant III

Sources: Column 1 was computed from data in U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, p. 224 (series F-3); column 2 from data in U. S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual
Report, p. 296; column 3 from data in Kendrick, Productivity Trends, pp. 291-92 (national security variant); column 4 from data in Kuznets, National Product in Wartime, p. 89 (Variant
a); column 5 from data in Kuznets, “Long-Term Changes,” p. 40; and column 6 from data in Kuznets, Capital, p. 487. GNP* is equal to Kuznets’s variant III minus gross war construction
and durable munitions and was computed form data in Kendrick, Productivity Trends, pp. 291-92.

By contrast, Simon Kuznets, a pioneer in national income accounting, expressed many concerns. In National Product in Wartime Kuznets noted that national income accountants must make definite
assumptions about “the purpose, value, and scope of economic activity.” He observed that “a major war magnifies these conceptual difficulties, raising questions concerning the ends economic
activity is made to pursue; and “the distinction between intermediate and final products.” Moreover, “war and peace type products . . . cannot be added into a national product total until the differences
in the valuation due to differences in the institutional mechanisms that determine their respective market prices are corrected for.” During the war Kuznets constructed several alternative series, one of
which appears in Table 2, column 4. Its values for 1942 and 1943 are substantially lower than those in columns 1, 2, and 3, in part because Kuznets used preliminary nominal data as well as different
deflators for expenditure on munitions.11

After the war Kuznets refined his estimates, producing a series (Table 2, column 5) that differs substantially from the standard series “partly because of the allowance for overpricing of certain types
of war production, partly because of the exclusion of nondurable war output (essentially pay and subsistence of armed forces).” Contrasting his estimate and that of the Commerce Department, he
found the latter “difficult to accept” because it made too little correction for actual inflation during the war years and did not deal satisfactorily with the decline in the relative prices of munitions during
the war.12 Kuznets’s refined estimates follow a completely different profile for the 1940s. Most notable is that whereas the Commerce Department’s latest estimate of real GNP drops precipitously in
1946 and remains at that low level for the rest of the decade, Kuznets’s estimate increases in 1946 by about 8 percent, then rises slightly higher during the next three years.

Kuznets might have made an even greater adjustment, deleting all war outlays. Although computing GNP in this way now seems highly unorthodox, a strong argument can be offered for it, and
Kuznets considered it seriously.13 The crucial question: does war spending purchase a final good and hence belong in GNP, or an intermediate good and hence not belong?

In his studies of long-term economic growth, Kuznets always insisted on a “peacetime concept” of GNP. In this, government spending counts only if it pays for a flow of goods to consumers or a
flow to capital formation. Military spending enters only to the extent that it finances additions to the military capital stock, the justification being that even though military durables and construction are
used for military purposes, they represent capital that could be employed for nonmilitary purposes—a justification that seems far-fetched with regard to many forms of military capital.

Application of this approach in estimating real GNP during the 1940s yields the series that Kuznets designated Variant III (Table 2, column 6).14 This estimate reached a peak in 1941, stalled
throughout the war period, then surged with the demobilization and reconversion. It jumped by nearly 17 percent between 1945 and 1946 and remained at the higher level for the rest of the decade.
No wartime prosperity here.

Kuznets himself did not accept the Variant III concept as applicable to the war years.15 Beginning with National Product in Wartime and continuing through elaborations in his contributions of the
early 1950s, he maintained that although ordinarily one ought to count as part of national product only goods that either contribute immediately to consumer satisfaction or add to the stock of capital
from which future flows of consumer goods can be derived, the situation changes during the “life and death struggle” of a great war. Then, one must temporarily recognize "success in war and
preservation of a country’s social framework as a purpose at least equal in importance to welfare of individuals.” Kuznets insisted that this approach was justified only “during these extraordinary and
necessarily brief intervals in the life of a body social. One must particularly beware of extending this viewpoint, justified by the necessarily temporary crises in the life of a nation, to the common run
of public activities.”16 But when the Cold War developed and persisted, most economists took the position that military expenditures always perform the function that Kuznets viewed them as
performing only during a war for national survival.17

Not everyone accepted the dominant view. Among the dissenters were William Nordhaus and James Tobin, who made numerous adjustments to the standard GNP concept to transform it into what
they called a measure of economic welfare. They aimed to eliminate from GNP all “activities that are evidently not direct sources of utility themselves but are regrettably necessary inputs to activities
that may yield utility”—in other words, “only instrumental.” Accordingly they deleted, among other things, all national defense spending. They did not consider military spending wasteful; they
merely insisted that it purchases an intermediate good. It is a “necessary regrettable” expense.18

Earlier Kuznets had come close to adopting this position. He regarded warfare as “the central difficulty in distinguishing between final and intermediate output of government.” He found it “difficult to
understand why the net product of the economy should include not only the flow of goods to the ultimate comsumers, but also the increased cost of government activities necessary to maintain the
social fabric within which the flow is realized.” Still, Kuznets did not disavow his insistence on recognizing “two end purposes” in estimating real output during World War II.19

Kuznets’s own logic, however, required that he go all the way: maintenance expense remains maintenance expense, even though much more maintenance is required when the weather is stormy than
when it is placid. As Kuznets himself said, “there is little sense in talking of protection of life and limb [against external enemies] as an economic service to individuals—it is a pre-condition of such
service, not a service in itself.”20

When one adopts this position on the treatment of military outlays, that is, when one deducts all of them from GNP on the grounds that they purchase (at best) intermediate rather than final goods, one
arrives at a starkly different understanding of economic performance in the 1940s. Constructing an index purged of all military spending, one obtains the measure designated here as GNP* (Table 2,
column 7). Like Variant III, GNP* shows a peak in 1941 followed by a U-shaped profile during the war years with a trough in 1943. However, the U is much deeper in GNP*, with real output in
1943 more than 14 percent below its value in 1941. Moreover, while Variant III exceeded its 1941 value by 1945, GNP* did not. Between 1945 and 1946 GNP* surged upward by almost 27
percent, versus less than 17 percent for Variant III. From 1946 to 1949, with military spending at a much lower level, the two indexes were virtually identical.21

Finally, one can make an even more unorthodox—which is not to say incorrect—argument for rejecting the conventional wisdom. One can simply argue that outside a more or less competitive
equilibrium framework, the use of prices as weights in an aggregation of physical quantities loses its essential theoretical justification. All presumption that price equals marginal cost vanishes, and
therefore no meaningful estimate of real national product is possible.22

In fact, price was “never a factor” in the allocation of resources for war purposes. The authorities did not permit “the price-cost relationship . . . to determine either the level of output or the
distribution of the final product to individual uses.”23 Clearly, all presumption of equalities between prevailing prices, consumers’ marginal rates of substitution, and producers’ marginal rates of
technical substitution vanished. Absent those equalities, at least as approximations, national income accounting loses its moorings; it necessarily becomes more or less arbitrary.

Some economists appreciated the perils at the time. Noting that the government had displaced the price system, Wesley Mitchell observed that comparisons of the war and prewar economies, even
comparisons between successive years, had become “highly dubious.” Index number problems lurked around every corner. Much output during the war, especially the weapons, consisted of goods
that did not exist before the war. Even for physically comparable goods, price structures and output mixes changed radically. Production of many important consumer goods was outlawed.
Surrounding everything were the “obvious uncertainties concerning [price] quotations in a land of price controls and evasions.”24 Kuznets declared that the “bases of valuation for the war and nonwar
sectors of the economy are inherently noncomparable . . . . It is impossible to construct directly a price index of war products that would span both prewar and war years.” Kuznets’s own efforts to
overcome these problems never escaped from arbitrariness, as he himself admitted.25

It will not do to maintain, as some economists have, that although the standard indexes of real GNP are deficient from a welfare standpoint, they can serve as indexes of production or resource
consumption. Economics is not a science of hammers and nails, or of production or consumption in the raw; it is a science of choice, and therefore of values. Valuation is inherent in all national
income accounting. In a command economy the fundamental accounting difficulty is that the authorities suppress and replace the only genuinely meaningful manifestation of people’s valuations,
namely, free market prices.26

Real Consumption

Most writers insist that real personal consumption increased during the war. In Seymour Melman’s flamboyant but otherwise representative portrayal, “the economy [was] producing more guns and
more butter . . . Americans had never had it so good.”27

This belief rests on a weak foundation. It fails to take sufficiently into account the understatement of actual wartime inflation by the official price indexes, the deterioration of quality and disappearance
from the market of many consumer goods, the full effect of the nonprice rationing of many widely consumed items, and the additional transactions costs borne and other sacrifices made by consumers
to get the goods that were available. When one corrects the data to provide a more defensible measure of what happened to real consumer well-being during the war, one finds that it declined.

(index numbers, 1939 = 100)

Sources: Column 1 was computed from data in U.S. Bureau of Census, Historical Statistics, p. 229 (series F-48); column 2 form data in U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual
Report, p. 296; column 3 from data in Kendrick, Productivity Trends, p. 295; and column 4 from data in Kuznets, Capital, p. 487.

Table 3 shows the standard series on real personal consumption expenditure during the 1940s. They do not differ much. The similarity is hardly surprising, as all rest on nearly the same conceptual
and statistical bases. These figures have led historians and economist to conclude that the well-being of consumers improved, though not by much, during the war.

Even if one stays within the confines of the standard series, the conclusion is shaky. Notice, for example, that the data indicate that consumption in 1943 hardly differed from consumption in 1941.
The change between 1941 and 1944 varies from 3.7 percent to 5 percent, depending on the series considered. But the population was growing at a rate of more than 1 percent per year, so the official
data imply that real personal consumption per capita remained essentially unchanged between 1941 and 1944. Merely to maintain the level of 1941, a year in which the economy had yet to recover
fully from the Depression, hardly signified “wartime prosperity.”28

The more serious problem, however, is that the standard real consumption series are quotients fatally flawed by their deflators. Everyone who has looked closely at the official price indexes
recognizes that they underestimate the actual inflation during the war and—an important point usually overlooked—overstate the actual inflation during the immediate postwar period. But investigators
have not agreed on exactly how the actual price level moved or the proper technique for finding out.

During the war a committee headed by Wesley Mitchell investigated how far the official consumer price index had fallen short of the true price level, but the committee neither attempted to adjust nor
succeeded in correcting for all the factors creating the discrepancy. In 1978 Hugh Rockoff made additional adjustments, concluding that the official consumer price index understated the true price
level by 4.8 to 7.3 percent in June 1946, just before the price controls lapsed.29 Rockoff's adjustments remained incomplete, as he recognized. He commented that “if anything, the errors were larger
than” the estimates indicated. Moreover, “evasion and black markets were probably more severe outside the group of commodities that were covered by the consumer price index.”30

More recently, Rockoff and Geofrey Mills, using a different (macroeconomic) approach, have estimated an alternative deflator for NNP during the war. This shows that the official deflator
understated the price level by 2.3 percent in 1943 (the first year that the price controls had a significant effect), 4.9 percent in 1944, 4.8 percent in 1945, and 1.6 percent in 1946.31 These
discrepancies seem too small to be credible. By comparison, Kuznets's alternative (GNP) deflator, published in 1952, differed from the official deflator for the corresponding years by 11.1 percent,
13.4 percent, 11.4 percent, and 2.2 percent, respectively.32

Perhaps the most credible alternative deflator has been produced by Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz. They found the official deflator for NNP to be understated by 3.7 percent in 1943, 7.7
percent in 1944, 8.9 percent in 1945, and 3.3 percent in 1946.33 Their deflator is for NNP, not for just the consumption component of NNP. In using it as a deflator for consumption alone, one is
taking a risk. It definitely moves in the right direction, however, as it implies larger adjustments than Rockoff’s admittedly incomplete adjustments of the official consumer price index. Moreover, it is
well established that munitions prices rose much less than the prices of civilian goods; hence, a deflator for official NNP, which includes munitions, most likely still understates the extent to which the
prices of consumer goods rose during the war.

If one uses the Friedman-Schwartz price index to deflate personal consumption spending per capita, the results are shown in table 4, column 3. The pattern shown there diverges markedly from that
shown by the standard data. According to the alternative estimate, real consumption per capita reached a prewar peak in 1941, nearly 9 percent above the 1939 level; it declined by more than 6 percent
during 1941-1943 and rose during 1943-1945; still, even in 1945 it had not recovered to the level of 1941. In 1946, however, the index jumped by 18 percent, and it remained at about the same level
for the rest of the decade.

(index numbers 1939 = 100)
Personal Consumption
Per Capita
(current dollars)
Friedman and Schwartz's
Real Personal Consumption
Per Capita

Sources: Column 1 was computed from data in U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 325; and column 2 from data in Friedman and Schwartz, Monetary Trends, p. 125.
Column 3 is column 1 divided by column 2 and multiplied by 100.

In fact, conditions were much worse than the data suggest for consumers during the war. Even if the price index corrections considered above are sufficient, which is doubtful, one must recognize
that consumers had to contend with other extraordinary welfare-diminishing changes during the war. To get the available goods, millions of people had to move, many of them long distances, to
centers of war production. (Of course, costly movements to areas of greater opportunity always occur; but the rate of migration during the war was exceptional because of the abrupt changes in the
location of employment opportunities.)34 After bearing substantial costs of relocation, the migrants often found themselves crowded into poorer housing. Because of the disincentives created by rent
controls, the housing got worse each ear, as landlords reduced or eliminated maintenance and repairs. Transportation, even commuting to work, became difficult for many workers. No new cars were
being produced; used cars were hard to come by because of rationing and were sold on the black market at elevated prices; gasoline and tires were rationed; public transportation was crowded and
inconvenient for many, as well as frequently pre-empted by the military authorities. Shoppers bore substantial costs of searching for sellers willing to sell goods, including rationed goods, at
controlled prices; they spent much valuable time arranging (illegal) trades of ration coupons or standing in queues. The government exhorted the public to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do
without.” In thousands of ways, consumers lost their freedom of choice.35

People were also working harder, longer, more inconveniently, and at greater physical risk in order to get the available goods. The ratio of civilian employment to population (aged 14 and over)
increased from 47.6 percent in 1940 to 57.9 percent in 1944, as many teenagers left school, women left their homes, and older people left retirement to work.36 The average work week in
manufacturing, where most of the new jobs were, increased from 38.1 hours in 1940 to 45.2 hours in 1944; and the average work week increased in most other industries, too — in bituminous coal
mining, it increased by more than 50 percent.37 Night shifts occupied a much larger proportion of the work force.38 The rate of disabling injuries per hour worked in manufacturing rose by more than
30 percent between 1940 and its wartime peak in 1943.39

It is difficult to understand how working harder, longer, more inconveniently and dangerously in return for a diminished flow of consumer goods comports with the description that “economically
speaking, Americans had never had it so good.”

Irrelevant Macro Models

None of the standard macroeconomic theories employed to account for the wartime experience provides an acceptable explanation. The models cannot do the job because they do not pertain to a
command economy, and the United States between 1942 and 1945 had a command economy. Regardless of the peculiarities of their assumptions, all standard macro models presume the existence of
functioning markets for commodities, factor services, and bonds.

The assumption fails even to approximate the conditions that prevailed during the war. Commodity markets were pervasively subject to controls: price controls, rationing, and in some cases outright
prohibition in the consumer goods markets; and price controls, prohibitions, priorities, conservation and limitation orders, quotas, set-asides, scheduling, allocations, and other restrictions in the
market for raw materials, components, and capital equipment.40 While taxes were raised enormously, many forms of production received subsidies so the price controls would not drive suppliers
from the market.41 Factor markets were no freer, and in some respects (such as conscription) were much less free.42 Credit markets came under total control, as the Federal Reserve undertook to
reduce and allocate consumer credit and pegged the nominal interest rate on government bonds at a barely positive level.43 Two-thirds of the investment in manufacturing plants and equipment from
July 1940 through June 1945 was financed by the government, and most of the remainder came forth in response to tax concessions and other de facto subsidies authorized in 1940 to stimulate the

In sum, the economy during the war was the exact opposite of a free market system. Every part of it was either directly controlled by the authorities or subject to drastic distortion by virtue of its
relations with suppliers and customers who were tightly controlled.45 To suppose that the economy allocated resources in response to prices set by the unhampered interplay of demands and supplies
in the markets for commodities, factor services, and loanable funds is to suppose a complete fiction. Clearly, the assumptions that undergird standard macro models do not correspond with the
empirical reality of the wartime economy.

So What Did Happen?

As the 1940s began, the economy, although substantially affected by various government intrusions, remained one in which resource allocation for the most part reflected the operation of the price
system. It was far from classic capitalism but also far from a command economy. Beginning in the fall of 1940, proceeding slowly until the attack on Pearl Harbor and then very rapidly, the
government imposed such pervasive and sufficiently effective controls that, by the beginning of 1943, the economy became a thoroughgoing command system. This regime persisted until the fall of
1945, when the controls began to come off rapidly. Although some persisted, the overwhelming mass of them had been removed by 1947. In the late 1940s the economy was once again broadly
market-oriented, albeit far from pure capitalism. So, within a single decade the economy had moved from being mainly market-directed to being nearly under the complete control of central planners to
being mainly market-directed again. When one views any economic measure spanning the decade, one must keep this full revolution of the institutional framework in mind, because the meaning of
such measures as the unemployment rate, GNP, and the consumer price index depends on the institutional setting to which they relate.

In 1940 and 1941 the economy was recovering smartly from the Depression, but in the latter year the recovery was becoming ambiguous, as substantial resources were diverted to war production.
From 1942 to 1944 war production increased rapidly. Although there is no defensible way to place a value on the outpouring of munitions, its physical dimensions are awesome. From mid-1940 to
mid-1945 munitions makers produced 86,338 tanks; 297,000 airplanes; 17,400,000 rifles, carbines, and sidearms; 315,000 pieces of field artillery and mortars; 4,200,000 tons of artillery shells;
41,400,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition; 64,500 landing vessels; 6,500 other navy ships; 5,400 cargo ships and transports; and vast amounts of other munitions.46 Despite countless
administrative mistakes, frustrations, and turf battles, the command economy worked.47 But, as always, a command economy can be said to work only in the sense that it turns out what the
authorities demand. The U.S. economy did so in quantities sufficient to overwhelm enemy forces.

Meanwhile, as shown above, real personal consumption declined. So did real private investment. From 1941 to 1943 real gross private domestic investment plunged by 64 percent; during the four
years of the war it never rose above 55 percent of its 1941 level; only in 1946 did it reach a new high.48 Notwithstanding the initial availability of much unemployed labor and capital, the mobilization
became a classic case of guns displacing both butter and churns. So why, apart from historians and economists misled by inappropriate and inaccurate statistical constructs, did people—evidently
almost everyone—think that prosperity had returned during the war?

The question has several answers. First, everybody with a desire to work was working. After more than 10 years of persistently high unemployment and the associated insecurities (even for those
who were working), full employment relieved a lot of anxieties. Although economic well-being deteriorated after 1941, civilians were probably better off on the average during the war than they had
been during the 1930s. Second, the national solidarity of the war effort, though decaying after the initial upsurge of December 7, 1941, helped to sustain the spirits of many who otherwise would
have been angry about the shortages and other inconveniences. For some people the wartime experience was exhilarating even though, like many adventures, it entailed hardships. Third, some
individuals (for instance, many of the black migrants form the rural South who found employment in northern and western industry) were better off, although the average person was not. Wartime
reduction of the variance in personal income—and hence in personal consumption—along with rationing and price controls, meant that many people at the bottom of the consumption distribution
could improve their absolute position despite a reduction of the mean.49 Fourth, even if people could not buy many of the things they wanted at the time, they were earning unprecedented amounts of
money. Perhaps money illusion, fostered by price controls, made the earnings look bigger than they really were. In any event, people were building up bank accounts and bond holdings; while
actually living worse than before, they were feeling wealthier.

Which brings us to what may be the most important factor of all: the performance of the war economy, despite its command-and-control character, broke the back of the pessimistic expectations
almost everybody had come to hold during the seemingly endless Depression. In the long decade of the 1930s, especially its latter half, many people had come to believe that the economic machine
was irreparably broken. The frenetic activity of war production—never mind that it was just a lot of guns and ammunition—dispelled the hopelessness. People began to think: if we can produce all
these planes, ships, and bombs, we can also turn out prodigious quantities of cars and refrigerators.50

Standard & Poor’s
Index of Common
Stock Prices
(1941-1943 = 10)
Market Value of Stocks
on Registered
Exchanges (billions of
current dollars)
Corporate Profitsa
(billions of
current dollars)

a After tax, with inventory valuation and capital consumption adjustments.
Sources: Columns 1 and 2 are from U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, pp. 1004, 1007; and column 3 is from U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 395.

When the controls began to come off and the war ended more quickly than anticipated in 1945, consumers and producers launched eagerly into carrying out plans based on rosy forecasts and, by so
doing, made their expectations a reality. Of course, the ability to draw on the accumulations of financial assets built up by “forced saving” during the war was important, especially in conjunction with
the Federal Reserve's continued support of bond prices. But the liquidation of those assets alone could not have turned the trick—if such tricks were possible, a government could produce prosperity
simply by cranking the money presses.51

Probably the most solid evidence of expectations comes from the stock markets, where thousands of transactors risk their own wealth on the basis of their beliefs about future economic conditions.
(See Table 5.) Evidently investors took a dim view of the prospect of a war economy. After 1939, stock values dropped steadily and substantially; U.S. entry into the war in December 1941 did not
arrest the decline. By 1942 the Standard & Poor’s index had fallen by 28 percent, and the market value of all stocks on registered exchanges had plunged by 62 percent in nominal terms.
(Adjustments for price level changes would make the declines even greater.) The declines occurred even though current corporate profits were rising steadily and substantially. In 1943, as the tide of
war turned in favor of the Allies, the stock market rallied and small additional advances took place in 1944. Still, in 1944, with the war economy operating at its peak, the stock market’s real value had
yet to recover to its 1939 level.

By early 1945, almost everyone expected the war to end soon. The prospect of a peacetime economy electrified investors. Stock prices surged in 1945 and again in 1946. In just two years the
Standard & Poor’s index increased by 37 percent and the value of all shares on registered exchanges by 92 percent, despite a decline of current-dollar after-tax corporate profits from their peak in
1944. Did people expect the end of “wartime prosperity” to be economically deleterious? Obviously not.

To sum up, World War II got the economy out of the Great Depression, but not in the manner described by the orthodox story. The war itself did not get the economy out of the Depression. The
economy produced neither a “carnival of consumption” nor an investment boom, however successfully it overwhelmed the nation’s enemies with bombs, shells, and bullets.52 But certain events of
the war years—the buildup of financial wealth and especially the transformation of expectations—justify an interpretation that views the war as an event that recreated the possibility of genuine
economic recovery. As the war ended, real prosperity returned.


For comments on previous drafts, I am grateful to Moses Abramovitz, Lee Alston, Alexander Field, Price Fishback, J. R. T. Hughes, Daniel Klein, Stanley Lebergott, Gary Libecap, Robert
McGuire, Hugh Rockoff, Murray Rothbard, Randal Rucker, Andrew Rutten, Anna Schwartz, Julian Simon, Gordon Tullock, Harold Vatter, and Richard Vedder. I also thank the participants in
seminars at the University of Arizona, the University of Washington, and Seattle University, and in presentations at the Liberty Magazine Editors’ Conference (Richard Stroup, discussant) and the
meetings of the Cliometric Society (John Wallis, discussant).

1. Mises, Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154.

2. Hughes, American Economic History, p. 493.

3. Ibid., pp. 493, 495, 504 (but compare the statement in Hughes, “Stagnation without ‘Flation’,” pp. 154-55); Puth, American Economic History, pp. 521, 531-32; Stanley Lebergott, The
Americans, pp. 472, 477; Niemi, U.S. Economic History, p. 390; Walton and Rockoff, History of the American Economy, pp. 520, 523-24, 535; Polenberg, War and Society, p. 36; Blum, V
Was For Victory, pp. 90-91; Winkler, Home Front, pp. 19-23; Vatter, The U.S. Economy, pp. 14, 20; Melman, The Permanent War Economy, pp. 15, 16, 19; Stein, Presidential Economics,
pp. 65-66; Offer, “War Economy,” pp. 876-77; and Cowen, “Why Keynesianism Triumphed,” pp. 525-26.

4. U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 330.

5. Darby, “Three-and-a-Half Million,” p. 8.

6. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, p. 1140; and Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, p. 202.

7. U. S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 330.

8. For those who insist on a macroeconomic framework, the employment question can be considered with reference to the model estimated by Evans, “The Effects of General Price Controls.” Evans
concluded on pp. 960-61 that in an explanation of changes in civilian employment during the war years “emphasis … on conscription makes sense.”

9. Fussell, Wartime; and Manchester, Goodbye Darkness.

10. U. S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, p. 1140.

11. Kuznets, National Product in Wartime, pp. viii-ix. See also Mitchell, “Wartime ‘Prosperity’,” p. 13.

12. Kuznets, “Long-Term Changes,” pp. 39-40. The Commerce Department later admitted the validity of Kuznets’s criticism but failed to make the implied corrections. See U.S. Department of
Commerce, National Income, p. 157. For detailed documentation of the falling relative prices of munitions during the war, see Miller, Pricing, pp. 203-11, 283-86; and U.S. War Production Board,
American Industry in War, pp. 11, 21-22, 38-39.

13. Kuznets, “Government Product,” pp. 184-200, and National Product in Wartime, pp. 3-31.

14. Differences between Kuznets’s 1952 figures and the Variant III estimates reflect the incorporation of new data showing lower proportions of durables in military purchases during the war as well
as a switch (justified by the need for continuity in a longer series) back to Commerce Department deflators. See Kuznets, Capital, pp. 470-71.

15. Although one might infer from his later discussion in ibid, pp. 465-84, that he ultimately did.

16. Kuznets, “Government Product,” pp. 184-85.

17. Kendrick, Productivity Trends, p. 236; and Abramovitz’s comment in National Bureau of Economic Research, Economic Growth, p. 86.

18. Nordhaus and Tobin, “Is Growth Obsolete?” pp. 7-8, 26-28.

19. Kuznets, “Government Product,” pp. 193-94. Again, his discussion in Capital, pp. 465-84, may be read as an implicit disavowal. There he no longer defended or even mentioned the “two end
purposes” argument. Referring to a comparison of his approach and the Commerce Department’s approach to treating military spending for a period that includes World War II, he said (p. 471) that
“one errs less” by using his approach, that is, the “peacetime concept” of national product.

20. Kuznets, “Government Product,” pp. 193-94.

21. Even if one accepts GNP* conceptually, one might object that my estimate of it makes too large a deduction. Some of the military durable equipment and construction purchased during the war
was used after the war for the production of civilian as well as military outputs. To delete all military spending gives rise to the error exposed by Gordon, “$45 Billion.” If one could make a correction
completely consistent with the spirit of the argument, one would arrive at an estimate somewhere between Variant III and GNP*, the exact location being determined by the distinction between
military capital potentially capable of augmenting civilian output and military capital lacking this capability. Data on war durables purchases are insufficient to allow the separation to be made with

22. Abramovitz, “The Welfare Interpretation”; and Vedder and Gallaway, “The Great Depression of 1946,” pp. 10-11.

23. Novick et al., Wartime Production Controls, pp. 16-18. This is not to say that prices played no role; much of the planning had to do with the manipulation of prices. But market-determined prices
and costs were never permitted to play a fundamental role. See Miller, Pricing, pp. 97-110.

24. Mitchell, “Wartime ‘Prosperity,’” pp. 7, 13. For documentation of the extent of evasions of the price controls, see Clinard, The Black Market, pp. 28-50.

25. Kuznets, National Product in Wartime, pp. 38-41. Sixteen years later, having changed his approach in several respects, Kuznets was still apologetic: “These changes in the treatment of durable
military output may seem arbitrary, and there is no denying a large element of personal judgment in the procedures” (Capital, p. 471).

26. Buchanan, “General Implications of Subjectivism,” p. 86.

27. Melman, The Permanent War Economy, p. 15.

28. In a personal communication Professor Vatter has noted that the civilian population actually fell between 1941 and 1944 by nearly five million, and hence consumption per civilian rose more
rapidly than the per capita data indicate. The point is well taken but somewhat unsettling. It suggests a civilian population enhancing its well-being by forcing millions of men into military service,
where civilian goods became wholly irrelevant to them while their more fortunate fellows enjoyed those goods exclusively. The more fundamental problem, however, is that the numerator (total real
consumption) is overstated.

29. Rockoff, “Indirect Price Increases,” p. 417. For a recent analysis of the wartime consumer price controls, see Rockoff, Drastic Measures, pp. 85-176. The official history is summarized in
Mansfield and Associates, A Short History of OPA. See also Friedman and Schwartz, A Monetary History, pp. 557-58; and Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare, pp. 545-46.

30. Rockoff, Drastic Measures, pp. 169, 171.

31. Mills and Rockoff, “Compliance with Price Controls,” p. 203.

32. Calculated from data in Kuznets, “Long-Term Changes,” p. 40. Barro, in “Unanticipated Money,” p. 572, has obtained econometric results suggesting that all the genuine inflation occurred
during the war years, none of it during the immediate postwar years, and 1946 actually witnessed deflation.

33. Friedman and Schwartz, Monetary Trends, p. 107. Using a different macroeconomic procedure, Vedder and Gallaway, in “The Great Depression of 1946,” pp. 6-7, 33, estimated a GNP
deflator whose overall changes for the periods 1941-1945 and 1945-1948 are similar to the corresponding changes of the Friedman-Schwartz NNP deflator.

34. Vatter, The U.S. Economy, pp. 114-15; Polenberg, War and Society, pp. 138-45; and U.S. War Production Board, American Industry in War, pp. 14, 16-17.

35. On wartime living conditions, see Rockoff, Drastic Measures, pp. 85-176; Novick et al., Wartime Production Controls, pp. 18, 302; Fussell, Wartime, pp. 195-98; Polenberg, War and
Society, pp. 5-37, 131-53; Blum, V Was For Victory, pp. 92-105; Winkler, Home Front, pp. 24-47; Schweitzer, “World War II,” pp. 91-93; and Brinkley, Washington Goes To War.

36. U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 330; and Schweitzer, “World War II,” pp. 89-95.

37. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, pp. 169-73; and Anderson, Economics and the Public Welfare, p. 515.

38. U. S. War Production Board, American Industry in War, pp. 7, 32.

39. U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, p. 182.

40. On the wartime controls, see the recent analyses of Vatter, The U.S. Economy; Rockoff, Drastic Measures, pp. 85-176; and Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan, pp. 196-236. Contemporary official
and firsthand accounts include Novick et al., Wartime Production Controls; Harris, Price and Related Controls; Catton, The War Lords of Washington; Janeway, The Struggle for Survival;
Nelson, Arsenal of Democracy; Smith, The Army and Economic Mobilization; U.S. Bureau of the Budget, The United States at War; U. S. Civilian Production Administration, Industrial
Mobilization for War; and U.S. War Production Board, American Industry in War.

41. Mansfield and Associates, A Short History of OPA, pp. 63-65; and Harris, Price and Related Controls, pp. 223-46.

42. Krug, Production, p. 5; and sources cited in fn. 40 above.

43. Friedman and Schwartz, A Monetary History, pp. 553, 555, 561-74.

44. Higgs, “Private Profit, Public Risk”; and Gordon, “$45 Billion.”

45. Novick et al., Wartime Production Controls, p. 7.

46. Krug, Production, p. 11. See pp. 29-32 for a detailed statement of the physical quantities of various munitions produced during the war. For even greater detail, see Smith, The Army and
Economic Mobilization, pp. 3-31.

47. It was hardly a well-oiled machine. Novick and his colleagues made free use of such terms as “administrative chaos,” “administrative anarchy,” “chasm between plan and operation,” and
“trial-and-error fumbling.” See Wartime Production Controls, pp. 110, 140, 219, 291, 394, 395, 400, 403. These well-informed insiders concluded (p. 9) that the successes of the wartime planned
economy were “less a testimony to the effectiveness with which we mobilized our resources than they are to the tremendous economic wealth which this nation possessed.”

48. U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, p. 296.

49. Vatter, The U.S. Economy, pp. 142-44; and U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics, pp. 301-2.

50. Winkler, Home Front, pp. 2, 23-24, 96.

51. Compare the explanation of the economy’s performance just after the war in Vedder and Gallaway, “The Great Depression of 1946,” pp. 19-27. Their argument calls attention to, among other
things, the huge swing in the federal government’s fiscal position, from massive deficit to substantial surplus, between 1945 and 1946-1947 (calendar years), hence “reverse crowding out.” See also
some new ideas on how wartime events affected the operation of the postwar labor market, in Jensen, “The Causes and Cures,” pp. 581-82.

52. The phrase “carnival of consumption” comes from Blum, V Was For Victory, p. 90.


Abramovitz, Moses, “The Welfare Interpretation of Secular Trends in National Income and Product,” in Moses Abramovitz et al., The Allocation of Economic Resources (Stanford, 1959), pp. 1-22.

Anderson, Benjamin M., Economics and the Public Welfare: A Financial and Economic History of the United States, 1914-46 (Indianapolis, 1979).

Barro, Robert J., “Unanticipated Money, Output, and the Price Level in the United States,” Journal of Political Economy, 86 (Aug. 1978), pp. 549-80.

Blum, John Morton, V Was For Victory: Politics and American Culture During World War II (New York, 1976).

Brinkley, David, Washington Goes To War (New York, 1988).

Buchanan, James M., “General Implications of Subjectivism in Economics,” in James M. Buchanan, What Should Economists Do? (Indianapolis, 1979), pp. 81-91.

Catton, Bruce, The War Lords of Washington (New York, 1948).

Clinard, Marshall B., The Black Market: A Study of White Collar Crime (Montclair, NJ, 1969).

Cowen, Tyler, “Why Keynesianism Triumphed or, Could So Many Keynesians Have Been Wrong?” Critical Review, 3 (Summer/Fall 1989), pp. 518-30.

Darby, Michael R., “Three-and-a-Half Million U.S. Employees Have Been Mislaid: Or, an Explanation of Unemployment, 1934-1941,” Journal of Political Economy, 84 (Feb. 1976), pp. 1-16.

Evans, Paul, “The Effects of General Price Controls in the United States during World War II,” Journal of Political Economy, 90 (Oct. 1982), pp. 944-66.

Friedman, Milton, and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (Princeton, 1963).

Friedman, Milton, and Anna Jacobson Schwartz, Monetary Trends in the United States and the United Kingdom (Chicago, 1982).

Fussell, Paul, Wartime: Understanding and Behavior in the Second World War (New York, 1989).

Gordon, Robert J., “$45 Billion of U.S. Private Investment Has Been Mislaid,” American Economic Review, 59 (June 1969), pp. 221-38.

Harris, Seymour E., Price and Related Controls in the United States (New York, 1945).

Higgs, Robert, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government (New York, 1987).

Higgs, Robert, “Private Profit, Public Risk: Institutional Antecedents of the Modern Military Procurement System in the Rearmament Program of 1940-1941,” in Geofrey T. Mills and Hugh
Rockoff, eds., The Sinews of War: Essays on the Economic History of World War II (Ames, forthcoming).

Hughes, J. R. T., “Stagnation without ‘Flation’: The 1930s Again,” in Barry N. Siegel, ed., Money in Crisis: The Federal Reserve, the Economy, and Monetary Reform (Cambridge, MA, 1984),
pp. 137-56.

Hughes, J. R. T., American Economic History (3rd edn., Glenview, IL, 1990).

Janeway, Eliot, The Struggle for Survival: A Chronicle of Economic Mobilization in World War II (New Haven, 1951).

Jensen, Richard J., “The Causes and Cures of Unemployment in the Great Depression,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 19 (Spring 1989), pp. 553-83.

Kendrick, John W., Productivity Trends in the United States (Princeton, 1961).

Krug, J. A., Production: Wartime Achievements and the Reconversion Outlook (Washington, DC, 1945), Special report prepared for the U.S. War Production Board.

Kuznets, Simon, National Product in Wartime (New York, 1945).

Kuznets, Simon, “Government Product and National Income,” in Erick Lundberg, ed., Income and Wealth (Cambridge, 1951), pp. 178-244.

Kuznets, Simon, “Long-Term Changes in the National Income of the United States of America since 1870,” in Simon Kuznets, ed., Income & Wealth of the United States: Trends and Structure
(Cambridge, 1952), pp. 29-241.

Kuznets, Simon, Capital in the American Economy: Its Formation and Financing (Princeton, 1961).

Lebergott, Stanley, The Americans: An Economic Record (New York, 1984).

Manchester, William, Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War (New York, 1980).

Mansfield, Harvey C., and Associates, A Short History of OPA (Wshington, DC, 1947).

Melman, Seymour, The Permanent War Economy: American Capitalism in Decline (rev. edn., New York, 1985).

Miller, John Perry, Pricing of Military Procurements (New Haven, 1949).

Mills Geofrey, and Hugh Rockoff, “Compliance with Price Controls in the United States and the United Kingdom During World War II,” Journal of Economic History, 17 (Mar. 1987), pp.

Mises, Ludwig von, Nation, State, and Economy: Contributions to the Politics and History of Our Time, translated by Leland B. Yeager (1st edn., 1919; trans. edn., New York, 1983).

Mitchell, Wesley C., “Wartime ‘Prosperity’ and the Future,” National Bureau of Economic Research Occasional Paper 9 (New York, 1943).

National Bureau of Economic Research, Economic Growth, NBER General Series 96 (New York, 1972).

Nelson, Donald M., Arsenal of Democracy: The Story of American War Production (New York, 1946).

Niemi, Albert W., Jr., U.S. Economic History: A Survey of the Major Issues (2nd edn., Chicago, 1980).

Nordhaus, William, and James Tobin, “Is Growth Obsolete?” in National Bureau of Economic Research, Economic Growth, NBER General Series 96 (New York, 1972), pp. 1-80.

Novick, David, Melvin Anshen, and W. C. Truppner, Wartime Production Controls (New York, 1949).

Offer, Avner, “War Economy,” in John Eatwell, Murray Milgate, and Peter Newman, eds., The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics (London, 1987), vol. 4, pp. 875-77.

Polenberg, Richard, War and Society: The United States, 1941-45 (New York, 1972).

Puth, Robert C., American Economic History (2nd edn., Chicago, 1988).

Rockoff, Hugh “Indirect Price Increases and Real Wages during World War II,” Explorations in Economic History, 15 (Oct. 1978), pp. 407-20.

Rockoff, Hugh, Drastic Measures: A History of Wage and Price Controls in the United States (Cambridge, 1984).

Schweitzer, Mary M., “World War II and Female Labor Force Participation Rates,”Journal of Economic History, 40 (Mar. 1980), pp. 89-95.

Smith, R. Elberton, The Army and Economic Mobilization (Washington, DC, 1959).

Stein, Herbert, Presidential Economics: The Making of Economic Policy from Roosevelt to Reagan and Beyond (New York, 1984).

U.S. Bureau of the Budget [War Records Section], The United States at War: Development and Administration of the War Program by the Federal Government (Washington, DC, 1946).

U.S. Bureau of the Census, Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970 (Washington, DC, 1975).

U.S. Civilian Production Administration [formerly War Production Board], Industrial Mobilization for War: History of the War Production Board and Predecessor Agencies, 1940-1945
(Washington, DC, 1947).

U.S. Council of Economic Advisers, Annual Report, 1990 (Washington, DC, 1990).

U.S. Department of Commerce, National Income, 1954 edition: A Supplement to the Survey of Current Business (Washington, DC, 1954).

U.S. Department of Defense, National Defense Budget Estimates for FY 1988/1989, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), (Washington, DC, 1987).

U.S. War Production Board, American Industry in War and Transition, 1940-1950. Part II: The Effect of the War on the Industrial Economy (Washington, DC, 1945).

Vatter, Harold G., The U.S. Economy in World War II (New York, 1985).

Vedder, Richard, and Lowell Gallaway, “The Great Depression of 1946” (Unpublished manuscript, Ohio University, 1990).

Walton, Gary M., and Hugh Rockoff, History of the American Economy (6th edn., San Diego, 1990).

Winkler, Allan M., Home Front U.S.A.: America during World War II (Arlington Heights, IL, 1986).

*Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute and editor of The Independent Review. Among Dr. Higgs’s books are Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in
the Growth of American Government and Arms, Politics and the Economy: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives.

This article is reprintedwith permission from the March 1992 (Vol. 52, No. 1) issue of The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press. © Copyright 1992, The Economic History

Reprinted with permission from The Freeman, a publication of the Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., July 1997, Vol.
47, No. 7.


[Close this window to return to the CCMF Chronology]

Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation Web Site: Calvin Coolidge Chronology


July 4 John Calvin Coolidge, is born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont.


April 15 Calvin's sister, Abbie is born.


September Calvin starts school.


March 14 Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge, Calvin's mother, dies at age 39.


March 6 Abigail G. Coolidge, Calvin's sister, dies at age 14.
May 23 Graduates from Black River Academy, Ludlow, Vermont. Secretary of Class. Gives speech entitled "Oratory in History."


August 19 Attends centennial celebration of Vermont's statehood featuring dedication of the Bennington Battle Monument; hears President Benjamin Harrison
deliver an address.
September 9 Col. John Coolidge marries Carrie Brown Coolidge. Prepares at St. Johnsbury Prep School.
September 17 Calvin begins Amherst College,Amherst, Massachusetts


June 26 Graduates cum laude from Amherst College. Classmates vote for Calvin to give the "Grove Oration," a humorous address. Calvin Coolidge drops
'John' from his name (although he continues to sign letters to his father 'J. Calvin Coolidge' as late as January 10, 1896) His senior thesis from Amherst
College Wins first prize from The Sons of the American Revolution.
September 23 Begins to read law with the firm of Hammond and Field in Northampton, Massachusetts.
December 13 Coolidge wins gold medal from Sons of the American Revolution in a National Essay Competition for "The Principles Fought For in the
American Revolution."


Studies Law in Northampton, Massachusetts.


July 2 Gains entrance to the bar in Northampton, and later is appointed Republican City Committee from Ward 2.


Opens his law office.
December 6 Appointed City Councilman from Ward 2.


January 18 Elected (by City Council) City Solicitor.
October 14 The father of Calvin, John C. Coolidge, is commissioned Aide-de-camp on the staff of Vermont Governor William W. Stickney with the rank of Col.


January 17 Reelected City Solicitor.


January 16 Defeated for City Solicitor by Theobald M. Connor.


June 4 Appointed Clerk of Courts of Hampshire County.


Chairman, Republican City Committee, Northampton. Meets Grace Anna Goodhue.


October 4 Marries Grace Anne Goodhue at Burlington, Vermont.
December 5 Defeated for School Committeeman by John J. Kennedy.


August Rents half of the double house at 21 Massasoit Street, Northampton, MA.
September 7 Birth of John Coolidge, first child.
November 6 Elected Representative to the Massachusetts General Court.


November 5 Reelected Representative.


April 13 Birth of Calvin Coolidge, Jr., second child


December 7 Elected mayor of Northampton, beginning a continuous course of public service to March 4, 1929.


December 6 Reelected Mayor.


November 7 Elected State Senator.


November 5 Reelected State Senator.


November 4 Reelected State Senator, and subsequently elected President of the Senate by the Senators.


January 7 Delivers "Have Faith in Massachusetts" Address to the Massachusetts Senate.
November 3 Reelected State Senator and President of the Senate.


May 12 Sixty-five Amherst alumni meet at the Algonquin Club in Boston, Massachusetts for a dinner organized by Frank Waterman Stearns honoring fellow
alumnus, Senator Calvin Coolidge.
November 2 Elected Lieutenant-Governor of Massachusetts.


November 7 Reelected Lieutenant-Governor.


November 6 Reelected Lieutenant-Governor.


November 5 Elected Governor of Massachusetts at the age of 47.


January 2 First Inaugural Speech as Governor of Massachusetts: reflections on W.W.I.
September 9-11 Boston Police Strike. Governor Coolidge comes to national attention because of his stand for law and order.  In a telegram to Samuel
Gompers, President of the American Federation of Labor, he declares: "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime."
November 4 Reelected Governor.


January 8 Address to the General Court beginning the 2nd year as Governor of Massachusetts.
June 12 Nominated for Vice-president by the Republican National Convention meeting in Chicago.Warren G. Harding, US Senator from Ohio, is the
Republican candidate for the Presidency.
November 2 Elected Vice-president of the United States.


March 4 Warren G. Harding inaugurated as President, Calvin Coolidge as Vice-president, of the United States.
May 28 Elected life trustee of Amherst College Tuskeegee dedication.


August 3 Upon news of President Harding's death in San Francisco at 7:30p.m. on August 2 Calvin Coolidge is sworn in as President by his father, a notary
public, in the homestead at Plymouth, Vermont at 2:47 a.m.
December 6 Legislation proposals in address to Congress.


Coolidge appoints special legal council to investigate scandals such as the "Teapot Dome."
June 2 Coolidge signs bill making Indians citizens of the United States.
June 12 Nominated for President by Marion L. Burton, former President of Smith College at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.  Charles G.
Dawes, of Illinois, nominated for Vice-president
July 7 Calvin Coolidge, Jr.,second son, dies at Walter Reed Hospital from blood poisoning.
November 4 Elected President of the United States in his own right.


March 4 Inauguration as President.


March 18 Colonel John Coolidge dies.
December 7 Fourth annual message to Congress


June 11 Meets with Lindbergh and awards Distinguished Flying Cross.
August 2 From summer White House at Rapid City, South Dakota, issues statement, "I do not choose to run for President in nineteen twenty-eight."
August 10 Dedicates work on Mt. Rushmore.


January 16 Gives address at Sixth Annual International Conference of American States in Havana, Cuba. (This, and 1905 October honeymoon in Montreal are
the only times Calvin Coolidge leaves the United States.)
August 27 Signs the Pact of Paris, the Kellogg-Briand Pact, considered at the time a significant forward step in international relations. Under it 62 nations
renounce war as a means of international policy.  The pact a is ratified by the US Senate and signed by President Coolidge January 17, 1929.


March 4 After attending the Inauguration of Herbert Hoover as President, Mr. and Mrs. Coolidge return to live at 21 Massasoit Street, Northampton, MA.
May The Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge is published.


March 4 Ex-President Coolidge dedicates Coolidge Dam, near Globe, Arizona.
May 17 The Coolidges move to The Beeches on Hampton Terrace, Northampton, MA.


January 5 Calvin Coolidge dies at age 60 in Northampton home from a coronary thrombosis.


April 17 The Northampton City Council appropriates funds to purchase exhibit and book cases, establishing at Forbes Library the first memorial to Calvin


October 12 Calvin Coolidge Memorial Bridge, linking Northampton, MA and Hadley, MA is dedicated. US Senator David I. Walsh gives the principal address
and Governor Leverett Saltonstall is the ranking Commonwealth official.


June 16 Mr. and Mrs. John Coolidge gives Coolidge Homestead in Plymouth, Vermont, to State of Vermont as a state shrine. It opens to the public in July


July 8 Mrs. Calvin Coolidge dies in Northampton, MA at age 78.  Born, Burlington, Vermont, January 3, 1879


The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation is established.


August Coolidge birthplace, general store and post office at Plymouth, Vermont, is acquired by State of Vermont to be restored.


August Ground broken for Coolidge Memorial Reception Center and Museum, Plymouth, Vermont.


July 4 Centennial of Coolidge's birth celebrated in Plymouth, Vermont.


John Coolidge turns 90, makes his part time residence in Plymouth, Vermont his full time residence.


July 30-31 Two-day conference "Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence" at the John Fitzgerald Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston, Massachusetts.
August 2-3 75th Homestead Inaugural reenactment and celebration at Plymouth Notch, Vermont.


May 31 John Coolidge, son of Calvin and Grace Coolidge, dies at age 93.

One of Calvin’s dearest friends in Plymouth was Levi Lynds, who lived with his brother, John, who married and lived with his famility in a corn barn he built. Levi and John were Civil War veterans. About Levi and Calvin, a local resident wrote:

Probably it was his active mind that attracted Calvin Coolidge to him when the latter was a young man. And when Calvin went away from home he kept up a correspondence with Levi....It will not do to tell [Levi[ that Presdient Coolidge is lacking in human sympathy or interest in ordinary people. He says that calvin seldom ever wrote him without asking about the various people around there, or sending them some messages.569

When Coolidge later reflected upon his childhood, he was was full of warm memories:

It was all a fine atmosphere in which to raise a boy. As i look back on it I constantly think how clean it was. There was little about it that was artificial. It was all close to nature and in accordance with the ways of nature. The streams ran clear. The roads, the woods, the fields, the people -- all were clean. Even when I try to divest it of the halo which I know always surrounds the past, I am unable to create any other impressions than that it was fresh and clean.570


Did the Gold Standard Cause
the Great Depression?

Mark Skousen

"Far from being synonymous with stability, the gold standard itself was the principal threat to financial stability and economic prosperity between the wars."

-Barry Eichengreen, Golden Fetters (1992), p. 4

Berkeley Professor Barry Eichengreen has fueled the flames of anti-gold in his recent historical work, Golden Fetters: The Gold Standard and the Great Depression, 1919-1939 (Oxford University Press, 1992). Essentially, the author argues that (1) the international gold standard caused the Great Depression and (2) only after abandoning gold did the world economy recover. The book has been praised by colleagues, further dampening enthusiasm for the precious metal as an ideal monetary system.

It should be noted at the outset that Eichengreen, a Keynesian, is extremely biased against gold. In 1985, while teaching at Harvard, he edited a collection of essays entitled The Gold Standard in Theory and History (New York: Methuen, 1985), which pretends to offer a "complete picture" of how an international gold standard would operate, with pro's and con's. Yet he failed to include a single article by a gold supporter! His last chapter, "Further reading," makes no reference to Mises, Hayek, Ropke, Rothbard, Sennholz, Laffer, and other noted defenders of gold. So much for objectivity and what MIT professor Peter Temin calls "the best collection of readings on the gold standard available today."

Despite his extensive research and history, Eichengreen cannot crucify mankind upon a cross of gold. In reality, the blame for the Great Depression must be laid at the feet of Western leaders who blundered repeatedly in re-establishing an international monetary system following the First World War. Their mistake was establishing a fatally flawed mixture of gold, fiat money, and central banking, known as the "gold exchange standard," instead of returning to the "classical gold standard" that existed prior to the Great War.

Eichengreen rightly points out that the mischief began during the First World War, when the European nations went off the gold standard and resorted to massive inflation to pay for the war. Following the Armistice, European nations desired to return to gold-convertible currencies, but they created a weak monetary system known as the "gold exchange standard," where currencies were pegged primarily to the British pound and the American dollar rather than to gold itself. The gold exchange standard created a pyramid of paper claims upon other paper claims, with gold playing a far lesser role.

Austrian economists, such as Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek, and the American sound-money school, led by Benjamin Anderson and H. Parker Willis, recognized that the fractional-reserve, fixed-exchange gold standard was a recipe for disaster. They predicted an eventual economic crisis under the gold exchange standard.

Monetary troubles worsened when, in 1925, Britain made the fateful error of pegging the pound at the exchange rate that prevailed before World War I at $4.86, clearly an artificially high rate. As a result, Britain suffered a deflationary depression for the rest of the 1920s, Moreover, to help Britain return to gold at the prewar exchange level, the Federal Reserve pushed down interest rates in 1924 and 1927, igniting a fateful inflationary boom in the U.S.

Eichengreen blames the gold standard, but the real fault lies in Britain's nationalistic zeal to return to gold at an artificially high rate. A more sensible solution would have been for all European nations, including Britain, to return to gold at a redefined rate that recognized the increased supply of money and price levels following the war. In Britain's case, this would have meant a new exchange rate of approximately $3.50.

Eichengreen also blames the gold standard for the monetary crises of the 1920s and 1930s, but it was really a gradual movement away from a genuine gold standard that caused the economic debacle of the 1930s.

Eichengreen even admits that the prewar classical gold standard worked well. He writes, "For more than a quarter of a century before World War I ... the gold standard had been a remarkably efficient mechanism for organizing financial affairs. " (p. 3) Eichengreen attributes exchange-rate stability and prosperity to international cooperation, but the underlying reason was that industrial nations largely avoided inflation and strictly linked their monetary policy to gold flows during this period.

The classical gold standard required issuers of money to hold sufficient gold reserves to handle the demands of anyone who wished to redeem their currencies into lawful money. National banknotes and bank reserves were redeemable in gold coins or bullion at any time. For example, each gold certificate issued by the U.S. Treasury contained the following declaration: "This certifies that there has been deposited in the Treasury of the United States of America TWENTY DOLLARS IN GOLD COIN payable to the bearer on demand." Although the U.S. Treasury did not maintain 100 percent specie reserves for all its legal obligations under the classical gold standard, it did hold more than 100 percent reserves to cover its gold certificates.

Auburn University economist Leland Yeager explains the virtues of a fully-backed commodity standard: "Under a 100 percent hard-money international gold standard ... the government and its agencies would not have to worry about any drain on their reserves.... There would be no danger of gold deserting some countries and piling up excessively in others . . ."
l Because of monetary stability under the prewar gold standard, Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz conclude, "The blind, un-designed, and quasi-automatic working of the gold standard turned out to produce a greater measure of predictability and regularity - perhaps because its discipline was impersonal and inescapable -than did deliberate and conscious control exercised within institutional arrangements intended to promote monetary stability.2

Was the Depression Inevitable Under Gold?

Eichengreen and other gold critics have pointed out that in a crucial time period, 1931-33, the Federal Reserve raised the discount rate for fear of a run on its gold deposits. If only the U.S. had not been on a gold standard, the critics say, the Fed could have avoided this reckless credit squeeze that pushed the country into depression and a banking crisis. However, Friedman and Schwartz demur, pointing out that the U.S. gold stock rose during the first two years of the contraction. But the Fed reacted ineptly. "We did not permit the inflow of gold to expand the U.S. money stock. We not only sterilized it, we went much further. Our money stock moved perversely, going down as the gold stock went Up"

In short, even under the defective gold exchange standard, there may have been room to avoid a devastating worldwide depression and monetary crisis.

How should we solve our continuing monetary problems? After recounting the chaotic events between the world wars, Eichen-green opposes the strict discipline of gold. Amazingly, he calls for more international cooperation between central banks, which even he admits is "weak soup for dinner at the end of a bitter cold day. " (p. 398) A much better solution would be to return the classical gold standard.


At the time of the original publication, Dr. Skousen was an economist at Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida 32789, and editor of Forecasts & Strategies, one of the largest investment newsletters in the country

1. Leland Yeager, "An Evaluation of Freely Fluctuating Exchange Rates," quoted in Mark Skousen, Economics of a Pure Gold Standard, 2nd ed. (Mises Institute, 1988), pp. 81-82. 2. Milton Friedman and Anna J. Schwartz, A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960 (Princeton University Press, 1963), p. 10.

3. A Monetary History, pp. 360-61.

1 Lawrence W. Reed, “Great Myths of the Great Depression,” Freeman, August 1998, Vol. 48, No. 8.

2 John Chamerlain, The Enterprising Americans: A Business History of the United States (New York: Harper & Row, 1963), p. 230. See also Jim Powell, FDR’s Folly: How Roosevelt and His New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression (New York: Crown Forum, 2003).

3 Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties ot the Eighties (New York: Harper Colophon, 1983), p. 216. See also Frederick Lewis Allen, Only Yesterday (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1931), p. 159: “The hopeless depression of 1921 had given way to the hopeful improvement of 1922 and the rushing revival of 1923.”

4 Henry Stoddard, “I no longer fit in,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp. 213-214.

5 Calvin Coolidge, “Ulysses S. Grant,” in The Price of Freedom, pp. 151, 152, 158.

6 Time, 8 Sept. 1924, qwuoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran, p. 334.

7 Smith, “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye.”

8 in the New York Times for December 5, 1996

9 Samuel Eliot Morison, The Oxford History of the American People (New York: Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 934.

10 Like Coolidge, President Ronald Reagan seems to be maligned by many historians who advocate a more activist role for the federal government. See Dinesh D’Souza, Ronald Reagan: How an ordinary Man Became an Extraordinary Presdient (New York:The Free Press, 1997), p. 24.

11 New York Times, 5 January 1933, in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp. 217-219.

12 Wall Street Journal and Federalist Society, “Rating the Presidents of the United States: 1789-2000: A Survey of Scholars in History, Political Science, and Law” (October 2000) <> (9 February 2003)

13 Calvin Coolidge, “Ulysses S. Grant,” in The Price of Freedom, p. 154.

14 Calvin Coolidge, “Ulysses S. Grant,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 155.

15 James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2:646.

16 Ralph K. Andrist, ed., The American Heritage History of the Confident Years (New York: American heritage Publishing Co., 1973), p. 134.

17 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington, pp. 191-195

18 Quoted in George Parsons Lathrop, “Talks with Edison,” in Profile of America, p. 208

19 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 53.

20 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 54.

21 James Russell Lowell to Mrs. W. K. Clifford, Junw 18, 1889, quoted in Annals of America, vol. 11, p. 233.

22 Quoted in Lally Weymouth, ed., America in 1876 (New York: Vintage Books, 1976), p. 28.

23 See Burton W. Folsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons: A New Look at the Rise of Big Business in America, 3rd ed. (Hernon, VA: Young America’s Foundation, 1996), ch. 2.

24 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 182.

25 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 535.

26 Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924), p. 453.

27 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 14.

28 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 107.

29 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 513.

30 Robert H. Walker, Everyday Life in the Age of Enterpise, 1865-1900 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 126.

31 See Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures: An International History (New York: Basic Books, 1998), pp. 101-109.

32 James Blaine Walker, The Epic of American Industry (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), p. 185.

33 Ross W. Robertson, History of the American Economy, pp. 221-222.

34 James Blaine Walker, The Epic of American Industry (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), p. 185; Ross M. Robertson, History of the American Economy, p. 229.

35 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 507.

36 Cited in Discovering America’s Past, p. 183.

37 Robertson, History of the American Economy, p. 289

38 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 513.

39 Marshall B. Davidson, Life on America, Vol. II (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1951), p. 407.

40 Cited in Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 579.

41 See the sources cited by Burton W. Folsom, Jr., The Myth of the Robber Barons, 3rd ed. (Herndon, VA: Young America’s Foundation, 1996), pp. 128-131.

42 Quoted in Emily Davie, ed., Profile of America: An Autobiography of the U.S.A. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1954), p. 74.

43 James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2:718.

44 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 551

45 J.C. Furnas, The Americans: A Social History of the United States, 1587-1914 (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969), p. 695

46 Ross M. Robertson, History of the American Economy (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955), p. 217.

47 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 516.

48 Quoted in Roger Butterfield, The American Past (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1966), p. 216.

49 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (new York: macmillan, 1938), pp. 9, 12.

50 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 27-28

51 Booraem, p. 53.

52 See Matt Donnelly, Theodore Roosevelt: Larger Than Life (New Haven, CT: Linnet Books, 2003), pp. 7-15.

53 Calvin Coolidge, “Theodore Roosevelt,” address before the Women’s Roosevelt Memorial Association, new York City, 23 january 1921, in Calvin Coolidge, The Price of Freedom: Sppeches and Addresses (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1927), p. 16.

54 Calvin Coolidge, “Vermont is a State I Love,” Speech delivered September 21, 1928 <>

55 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 5.

56 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 41

57 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 41

58 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 42-43

59 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 49.

60 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 17

61 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 55-58

62 Quoted in Jerry L. Wallace, “Thoughts On Calvin Coolidge: Living On in the Public Memory,”, May 14 2001 <> (13 October 2003).

63 See Willard Sterne Randall, George Washington: A Life (New York: Henry Holt, 1997), p. 3. Other historians place General Wahington anywhere from six feet to six feet three inches tall.

64 J. Lawrence Angel, "Colonial to Modern Skeletal Change in the U. S. A.," American Journal of Physical Anthropology 45, no.3 (November, 1976): 725.

65 Claude Fuess, Calvin Cooligde: The Man from Vermont, p. 14.

66 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 61-62

67 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Macmillian, 1938), pp. 12-13.

68 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 15.

69 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 17-18.

70 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 9.

71 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 25-27.

72 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 7.

73 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 20.

74 John Coolidge, “Introduction,” in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. v.

75 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 15.

76 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 15-16

77 John Coolidge, “Introduction,” in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. v.

78 Quoted in John Coolidge, “Introduction,” in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. vii.

79 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 12-13

80 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 30-31

81 Frank Luther Mott, Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States (New York: macmillan, 1947), pp. 309-310.

82 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 29.

83 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), pp.15-16.

84 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 16

85 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 39.

86 Booraem, p. 47.

87 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 115-116

88 Will Rogers, “A Subtle Humorist,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 145

89 Bernard Baruch, ‘So Different,” cited in Meet Calvin Coolidge, 131

90 Herbert Hoover, “The Thirtieth President,” cited in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 59.

91 Washington Post, 6 August 1923, quoted in Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 198 n.5.

92 Quoted in Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), pp. 24-25

93 Quoted in Booraem, p. 42.

94 Quoted in Stefan Lorant, The Presidency (New York: Macmillan, 1951), p. 336.

95 See Paul F. Boller, Jr., Presidential Ancedotes (Harmondsworth, England: penguin Books, 1982), p. 165.

96 See Butterfield, The American Past, p. 221.

97 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 31

98 Booraem, p. 55.

99 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden. CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 27.

100 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden. CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 28.

101 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 116

102 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont (1940; Hamden. CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 29.

103 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont (1940; Hamden. CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 29.

104 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 83

105 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The man from Vermont (1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 23.

106 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 28-29

107 Russell H. Conwell, The Life, Speeches, and Public Services of James A. Garfield (Portland, ME: George Stinson & Company, 1881), p. 336.

108 Quoted in Russell H. Conwell, The Life, Speeches, and Public Services of James A. Garfield (Portland, ME: george Stinson & Company, 1881), p. 381.

109 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 24

110 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 23

111 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 100-101

112 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 16.

113 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Macmillan, 1938), p. 315

114 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 138

115 Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man From Vermont (1940; Hamden. CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 27.

116 See Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 36.

117 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 13.

118 Starling of the White Houae, pp. 211-212

119 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Macmillan, 1938), p. 12.

120 See Booraem, The Provincial, pp. 37, 199n.10.

121 See Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 199n.10, 38.

122 Quoted in Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington, p. 220.

123 Booraem, p. 57.

124 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 31

125 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 106-107

126 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 38

127 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Macmillan, 1938), p. 22.

128 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 31-32

129 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), p. 111

130 Quoted in Fuess, p. 32.

131 Cited in Fuess, 35

132 See Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 67.

133 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 43

134 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 67.

135 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 42-43

136 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 44-45

137 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 40

138 Quoted in Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 69

139 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, p. 33

140 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, p. 42.

141 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 38

142 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 71

143 Quoted in Fuess, p. 31

144 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 44

145 See Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, pp.300-301.

146 Quoted in Chronicle of America, o. 472

147 Butterfield, The American Past, p. 243

148 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 42

149 Calvin Coolidge, “Thought, the Master of Things,” in The Price of Freedom (1927), p. 63.

150 Quoted in Fuess, p. 33.

151 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 41

152 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 43

153 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 78-81.

154 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, p. 35.

155 cited in Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 81

156 See Butterfield, American past, p. 244

157 John Spencer Bassett, A Short History of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1913), pp. 709-710.

158 See Butterfield, American past, p. 243.

159 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960), p. 38.

160 Paul Johnson, A History of the American People, p. 598

161 Quoted in Paul F. Booler, Jr., Presidential Anecdotes (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1982), p. 263.

162 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960), p. 45

163 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1960), p. 47

164 Quoted in Reader’s Digest, Discovering America’s Past, p. 18.

165 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington, p. 47

166 Quoted in Chronicle of America,. p. 476

167 cited in Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 87

168 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), p. 87

169 Frank G. Carpenter, carp’s Washington, p. 271

170 Frank G. Carpenter, Carp’s Washington, p. 295

171 Christine Sadler, Children in the White House (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1967), p. 207.

172 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 45

173 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 87-88

174 Jacob Riis, How The Other Half Lives (1890), ch. XXV. <> (4 December 2003).

175 John Spencer Bassett, A Short History of the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1913), p. 700.

176 Cited in Butterfield, The American past, p. 259.

177 Cited in Profile of America, p. 259

178 Quoted in The Annals of America, Vol. 11: 1884-1894 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1976), p. 125.

179 Cited in Profile of America, p. 261

180 See Harold Underwood Faulkner, American Economic History (New York: Harper & brothers, 1924), pp. 605-606.

181 Cited by Butterfield, The American Past, p. 257

182 James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 2:692.

183 Quoted in Chronicle of America, p. 483.

184 Fuess, Coolidge, 35

185 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 47

186 Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 96-97

187 Fuess, 36

188 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 48

189 Calvin Coolidge, “Oratory in History,” speech delivered at the Black River Academy Commencement, 1890 <> (27 November 2003)

190 Fuess, Coolidge, 37

191 Quoted in Chronicle of America, 501.

192 Theodore Roosevelt, “The Issues in the Coming Election,” in Annals ofAmerica, vol 11., p. 171.

193 See Fuess, Coolidge, p. 39 n. 5

194 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 32

195 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 48

196 Precise details about Calvin’s first trip to Amherst are lacking. This reconstruction follows Hendrik Booraem V, The Provincial: Calvin Coolidge and His World, 1885-1895 (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1994), pp. 105-110.

197 Booraem, pp. 111-114

198 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 52

199 White, Puritan (p. 30), gives the number as 15,000, while Booraem cites a crowd of “thirty to forty thousand” (p. 119)

200 Quoted in Allen, A Puritan in Babylon, p. 31

201 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 49

202 Booraem, 125

203 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 50

204 Coolidge, Autobiography, pp. 62-63

205 Quoted in Fuess, 47

206 Quoted in Booraem, 122

207 Henry David Thoreau, “Walking,” in Perry Miller et al., eds., Major Writers of America (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1966), p. 328.

208 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 28.

209 Quoted in Fuess, 48

210 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 55-56

211 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 56-57

212 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 51

213 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 25.

214 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), pp. 26-27.

215 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 27.

216 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 28.

217 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 29

218 Booraem, 144

219 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 34

220 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 35

221 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 31.

222 Quoted in Chronicle of America, p. 495. Perhaps is was no coincidence that the Socialist Party of the United States, founded in 1877, ran its first presdiential candidate in 1892.

223 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 35

224 Quoted in Booraem, 147

225 Quoted in Fuess, calvin Coolidge, 49

226 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 37, n. 10

227 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 38.

228 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 40 n. 7

229 See Booarem, 153

230 See Booraem, 153

231 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), pp. 42-43, n. 1

232 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 42, n. 1

233 See Richard Hofstader, The Age of Reform (New York: Vintage, 1960), pp. 60-93.

234 See Benjamin Harrison, “Fourth Annual Message,” 6 December 1892, in A Compilation of the Messages and papers of the Presdients, Vol. XII (New York: Bureau of National Literature,1897), pp. 5741-5767.

235 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), pp. 40-41

236 Quoted in Booraem, 154

237 Quoted in Booraem, 157

238 Coolidge, Autobiography, pp. 54-55.

239 Booraem, pp. 159-165

240 Pope Leo XIII, “QUARTO ABEUNTE SAECULO (On the Columbus Quadri-centennial) 16 July 1892” ( (25 November 2003).

241 Cited in Paul Johnson, A History of the Ameircan People, 570.

242 Cited in J.C. Furnas, The Americans, p. 765.

243 Walter Besant, “A First Impression,” Cosmopolitan (Sept. 1893), in Jim Zwick, ed., World’s Fairs & Expositions, <> (22 November 2003).

244 Cited in “World’s Fair Statistics,” Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 25, Issue 12 (Dec. 1893), p. 286. <> (23 Novembr 2003).

245 See Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., ed., The Almanac of American History (New York: Perigree Books, 1983), p. 376.

246 Coolidge, Autobiography, 60

247 Quoted in Booraem, 166

248 our Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 50

249 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, p. 52 n. 5

250 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 49

251 Coolidge, Autobiography,60

252 Coolidge, Autobiography, 62

253 Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, 61

254 Will Rogers, “A Subtle Humorist,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 145

255 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 60, 68-69

256 Quoted in Booraem, 179

257 Quoted in Booraem, 173

258 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, pp. 53-54.

259 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 64

260 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), pp. 61-62

261 Calvin Coolidge, “Theodore Roosevelt,” in The Price of Freedom, p. 17.

262 Quoted in Booraem, 177

263 Quoted in White, Puritan in Babylon, p. 41

264 Calvin Coolidge, “Grove Oration (1895),” Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation <> (4 December 2003).

265 Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, 66

266 Calvin Coolidge, “Amherest College Commencment Address,” June 18, 1919, in Have Faith in Massachusetts, pp. 180-181

267 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 59-60

268 Quoted in Fuess, Calvin Coolidge, 64

269 Quoted in Booraem, 183

270 Quoted in Booraem, 182

271 Quoted in white, A Puritan in babylon, pp. 43-44.

272 Cooligde, Autobiography, 72

273 Quoted in Fuess, 73-74

274 Coolidge, Autobiography, 71

275 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 73

276 Quoted in Fuess, 74

277 Coolidge, Autobiography, 72

278 Coolidge, Autobiography, 73

279 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 76

280 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 76

281 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 74

282 For more on the 1896 election, see Matt Donnelly, Theodore Roosevelt: Larger Than Life (North Haven, CT: Linnet, 2003), pp. 85-86.

283 Ferdinand Iglehart, The Speaking Oath, pp. 161-162.

284 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 78

285 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 79

286 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 78

287 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 79

288 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 83

289 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 84

290 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 85

291 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 86

292 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 86

293 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 94

294 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 97

295 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 87

296 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 89

297 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 90

298 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 91

299 French Strother, “A Day in the White House,” in Meet Calvin Cooliddge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), p. 91

300 Starling of the White House, p. 219

301 Starling of the White House, p. 211

302 Ross M. Robertson, History of the American Economy, p. 312

303 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 44

304 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 99

305 Cynthia D. Bittinger, “Calvin Coolidge's Courting Letters, 1904-1905,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

306 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 92-93

307 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 104 n. 2

308 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 93

309 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 94

310 Mary Randolph, “A Clothes and the President,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 96

311 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 94-95

312 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 95

313 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 96

314 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 95

315 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 97

316 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 97-98

317 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 98

318 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 106

319 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 107

320 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 99

321 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 111

322 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 113

323 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 118 n. 2

324 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 102

325 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 103

326 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 103

327 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 121

328 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 106

329 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 124

330 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 106-107

331 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 107-108

332 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 109

333 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 111

334 Starling of the White House , p. 195

335 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 132

336 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 116

337 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 132-133

338 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 135

339 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 135 n. 3

340 Ralph W. Hemenway, “His Law Partner Looks Back,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 170

341 Frank W. Stearns, “An Early Evaluation,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), pp. 26-30

342 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 137

343 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 137 n. 1

344 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 138.

345 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 121

346 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 139

347 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 121-122

348 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 123. The Spanish flue struck one-quarter of the United States.

349 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 124

350 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 125

351 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 125

352 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 127

353 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 128

354 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 129

355 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 134

356 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 141

357 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 150

358 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 152

359 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 135

360 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 136

361 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 136

362Kenneth Roberts, “Calvin Coolidge, Politician,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), p. 35.

363 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 137

364 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 137

365 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 137-138

366 Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Crowded Hours (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1933), p. 261

367 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 141

368 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 144

369 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 148

370 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 166

371 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 150

372 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 151

373 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 153

374 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 168

375 Outlook, Vol. 126 (1920), quoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1944), p. 20.

376 Forum, Vol. 64, p. 151, quoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1944), p. 27

377 Forum, Vol. 64, p. 151, quoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1944), p. 30

378 Irving Stone, They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1944), p. 33

379 Edward Starling, as told to Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 168

380 Edward Starling, as told to Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 166.

381 Edward Starling, as told to Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 171

382 Edward Starling, as told to Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 171

383 Starling of the White House , p. 182

384 Starling of the White House , pp. 182-183

385 Edward Starling, as told to Thomas Sugrue, Starling of the White House (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1946), p. 167

386 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 153

387 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 154

388 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 171

389 Rutland Daily Herald, 4 Nov. 1920, p. 9. Cited in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 172 n. 2

390 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 155

391 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 175

392 Boston Daily Advertiser, 10 jan. 1920, p. 2. Cited in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 177 n. 1

393 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 156

394 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 157

395 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 157

396 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 158

397 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 158

398 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 159

399 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 160-161

400 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 161

401 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 164

402 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 165

403 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 166

404 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 168

405 Starling of the White House , p. 195

406 Starling of the White House , p. 195

407 Starling of the White House , p. 218

408 Starling of the White House , p. 201

409 Starling of the White House , p. 201

410 Starling of the White House, p. 262

411 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 173

412 Kenneth Roberts, “Calvin Coolidge, Politician,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Green Press, 1960), p. 32

413 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 173-174

414 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 175-176

415 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 177

416 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 177

417 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 178

418 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 181

419 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 182

420 Alfred Pearce Dennis, “The Man Who Became President,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), p 22

421 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 31-32

422 Starling of the White House, p. 208

423 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 183

424 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 184

425 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 187

426 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 188

427 The Vermont Standard, June 19, 1924, p. 7. Quoted in Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 189-190 n. 1

428 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 191

429 Starling of the White House, p. 221

430 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 190

431 John T. Lambert, “When the President Wept,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 140

432 John W. Davis, Party Government in the United States (1929), quoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran: The Story of the Men Who Were Defeated for the Presidency (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Doran and Company, 1944), p. 30

433 See Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World From the Twenties to the Eighties (New York: Harper & Row, 1983), pp. 73-74

434 Time, 8 Sept. 1924, qwuoted in Irving Stone, They Also Ran, p. 334.

435 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 195

436 Your Son, Calvin Coolidge: A Selection of Letters from Calvin Coolidge to His Father, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Montpelier, VT: Vermont Historical Society, 1968), p. 211

437 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 191

438 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 195

439 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 196

440 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 201-203

441 Ira R.T. Smith, “The President and His Mail,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem

442 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 206

443 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 206

444 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 215

445 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 216

446 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 221

447 Ira R.T. Smith, “The President and His Mail,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), pp. 84-85

448 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 222

449 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 224

450 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 235

451 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 239

452 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 241

453 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 243

454 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 247

455 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 99

456 Cynthia D. Bittinger, “Calvin Coolidge's Courting Letters, 1904-1905,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

457 Allison Lockwood, “The Coolidges of Northampton: Memories of The President and His Two-Family House,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

458 Smith, “Calvin, We hardly Knew Ye.”

459 Calvin Coolidge to Frank W. Stearns, 16 March 1922. Stearns Papers, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA. Cited in Hendrik Booraem V, “Coolidge and the Zen of Politics: How An Aloof, Reticent and Austere Man Achieved Success in Politics,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

460 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), pp. 16-17

461 Christopher Coolidge Jeter, “Growing Up a Coolidge,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

462 Calvin Coolidge, “The Principles Fought for in the American Revolution,” speech delivered at Amherst College, 1894 <>

463 Calvin Coolidge, ““Grove Oration (An Oration at his Graduation from Amherst College)”, speech delivered at Amherst Coolege, June 1895 <> (16 february 2003).

464 Calvin Coolidge, “Oratory in History,” speech delivered at the Black River Academy Commencement, 1890 <> (16 February 2003)

465 Calvin Coolidge, “At the Convention of the National Education Association,” Washington, DC, July 4, 1924 <> (16 february 2003)

466 Calvin Coolidge, “Address to a group of Boy Scouts,” White House, July 25, 1924 <>

467 Calvin Coolidge, “Address Delivered to the Holy Name Society,” Washington, DC, September 21, 1924 <>

468 John Derbyshire, “A Novelist Takes on Calvin Coolidge,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

469 Cynthia D. Bittinger, “Calvin Coolidge's Courting Letters, 1904-1905,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

470 Michael S. Dukakis, “From the Legislature to the Corner Office: An Assessment of Coolidge's Performance as a Massachusetts Political Leader,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

471 Dukakis, “From the Legislature to the Corner Office”

472 Dukais, “From the Legislature to the Corner Office”

473 Calvin Coolidge, “Speech at Arlington National Cemetary,” May 30,1924 <> (16 february 2003)

474 Robert H.Ferrell, “Calvin Coolidge: The Man and the Myth,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

475 Robert Washburn, My Pen and its Varied Styles (Cambridge, MA: University Press, 1939), 65, 66. Cited in Hendrik Booraem V, “Coolidge and the Zen of Politics: How An Aloof, Reticent and Austere Man Achieved Success in Politics,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

476 Smith, “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye”

477 Smith, “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye”

478 Robert E. Gilbert, “The Trauma of Death: President Coolidge and the Loss of His Son,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

479 Calvin Coolidge, “Speech before the American Legion Convention,” Omaha, Nebraska, October 6, 1925 <> (16 February 2003)

480 Calvin Coolidge, “Upon The Death of Woodrow Wilson: Eulogy and Proclamation,” February 3, 1924 <> (16 february 2003)

481 Calvin Coolidge, “Speech at Arlington National Cemetary,” 30 May 1924 <> (16 February 2003)

482 Calvin Coolidge, “Speech at Howard University,” June 6, 1924 <>

483 J. R. Greene, “Calvin Coolidge and the Vice-Presidency: His Introduction to Washington Politics,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

484 Lockwood, “The Coolidges of Northampton”

485 Lockwood, “Coolidges of Northampton.”

486 J. R. Greene, “Calvin Coolidge and the Vice-Presidency: His Introduction to Washington Politics,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

487 See Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), p. 564.

488 Kenneth Roberts, “Calvin Coolidge, Politician,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 31.

489 Quoted in Mark Sulliav, Our Times, The United States: 1900-1925. Vol VI, The Twenties (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1935), pp. 204-205.

490 See Francis Russell, The Shadow of Blooming Grove: Warren G. Harding in His Times (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1958), p. 571.

491 Frank W. Stearns to Foster Stearns, February 24, 1923, quoted in Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1939, 1940; reprint, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1965), p. 306.

492 Quoted in Robert Sobel, Coolidge: An American Enigma (Washington, D.C., Regnery, 1998), p. 227

493 Quoted in Russell, Shadow, p. 573.

494 For the evidence, see Paul Johnson, A History of the American People (New York: HarperCollins, 1997), pp. 708-712.

495 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 168

496 Starling of the White House , p. 195

497 Some biographers dispute the claim that Harding had eaten crabmeat while in Alaska (White, Purtian, p. 239), while others endorse it (Russell, Shadow, pp. 587-589).

498 Quoted in Russell, Shadow, p. 590.

499 William Allen White, A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge (New York: Macmillan, 1938), p. 240.

500 Starling of the White House , p. 201

501 Starling of the White House , p. 201

502 Ibid., p. 241.

503 Ishbel Ross, Grace Coolidge and Her Era (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1962), p. 77.

504 Calvin Coolidge, Autobiography (New York: Cosmopolitan Book Service, 1929), p. 175

505 Ishbel Ross, Grace Coolidge and Her Era (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1962), p. 78.

506 Ishbel Ross, Grace Coolidge and Her Era (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1962), p. 78.

507 Ishbel Ross, Grace Coolidge and Her Era (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1962), p. 81.

508 Coolidge, Autobiography , p. 176.

509 Ross, Grace Coolidge, p. 83.

510 Coolidge, Autobiography , p. 177.

511 Calvin Coolidge, “Speech at Arlington National Cenetary,” May 30,1924 <> (16 february 2003)

512 Bruce Barton, “I’m a private citizen now,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp. 190-191

513 Robert E. Gilbert, “The Trauma of Death: President Coolidge and the Loss of His Son,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

514 Smith, “Calvin, We Ahrdly Knew Ye”

515 J. R. Greene, “Calvin Coolidge and the Vice-Presidency: His Introduction to Washington Politics,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

516 Calvin Coolidge, “At the Convention of the National Education Association,” Washington, DC, July 4, 1924” <>

517 Bruce Catton, “The Restless Decade” American Heritage 16:5 (August 1965), p. 2.

518 Robert Novak, “Coolidge’s Legacy,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (8 February 2003)

519 Smith, “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye”

520 Smith, “Calvin, We hardly Knew Ye”

521 Alfred Pearce Dennis, “The Man Who Became President,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), p 16

522 Smith, “Calvin, We hardly knew ye”

523 Novak, “Coolidge’s Legacy”

524 Novak, “Coolidge’s Legacy”

525 National Industrial Conference Board, The Cost of Living in the United States, 1914-1929 (New York: National Insustrial Conference Board, 1930), pp. 64-65.

526 National Industrial Conference Board, The Cost of Living in the United States, 1914-1929 (New York: National Insustrial Conference Board, 1930), pp. 84-89.

527 Glen Abel, “The Harding/Coolidge Prosperity of the 1920's” Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation <> (16 February 2003)

528 Calvin Coolidge, “Meeting of the Business Organization of the Government,” Memorial Continental Hall, June 30, 1924 <> (16 february 2003)

529 Calvin Coolidge, “On the Anniversary of the First Continental Congress,” Philadelphia, September 25, 1924 <>

530 Calvin Coolidge, “Meeting of the Business Organization of the Government,” Memorial Continental Hall, June 30, 1924 <> (16 february 2003)

531 Cited in Fazil Mihlar, “Cut taxes, boost tax revenue,” National Post (Canada), 17 February 2003 <> (17 February 2003)

532 “Richard Norton Smith, “The Price of the Presidency” Yankee (january 1996) <> (16 February 2003).

533 Calvin Coolidge, “Sppech at Howard University,” 6 June 1924 <> (16 february 2003)

534 Calvin Coolidge to Mr. Charles F. Gardner, August 9, 1924 <>

535 Calvin Coolidge, “Welcoming home the winning Baseball Team,” Zero Milestone, Washington, D. C., October 1,1924 <>

536 Beverley Nichols, “An Englishman’s Visit,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp. 115-116

537 Gamaliel Bradford, “The Genius of the Average,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Brattleboro, VT: The Stephen Greene Press, 1960), p. 44

538 William J. Burlow, “In the Black Hill,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp.119-122.

539 Smith, “Calvin, We Hardly Knew Ye”

540 Sheldon M. Stern, “William Allen White and the Origins of the Coolidge Stereotype,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003

541 Calvin Coolidge, “Discriminating Benevolence,” Address to the Federation of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City, October 26, 1924 <>

542 Calcin Coolidge, “The Duties of Citizenship,” Radio Address from the White House, November 3, 1924 <>

543 Calvin Coolidge, “At the Unveiling of the Equestrian Statue of Bishop Francis Asbury,” Washington, DC, October 15, 1924 <>

544 Calvin Coolidge, “At the Convention of the National Education Association,” Washington, DC, July 4, 1924 <>

545 James Bryce, The American Commnwealth (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 2:437.

546 Andre Siegfried, America Comes of Age, trans. H.H. Hemming and Doris Hemming (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1927), p. 275

547 Andre Siegfried, America Comes of Age, trans. H.H. Hemming and Doris Hemming (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1927), p. 282

548 Calcin Coolidge, “The Duties of Citizenship,” Radio Address from the White House, November 3, 1924 <>

549 Calcin Coolidge, “The Press Under a Free Government,” Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Washington, D.C., January 17, 1925 <>

550 Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 259

551 Alvin S. Felzenberg, “Calvin Coolidge and Race: His Record in Dealing with the Racial Tensions of the 1920s,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003

552 Herbert Hoover, “The Thirtieth President,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, ed. Edward Connery Lathem (Barrtleboro, VT: The Stepehen Greene Press, 1960), p. 59

553 Lockwood, “Coolidges of Northampton”

554 Herman Beaty, “A Secretary’s View,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 178

555 Everett Sanders, “A Final Effort,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 200

556 Henry L. Stoddard, “I no longer fit in,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 213

557 Henry L. Stoddard, “I no longer fit in,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 214

558 Charles A. Andrews, “I’m all burned out,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 216

559 NYT, Jan. 5, 1933, quoted in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 217

560 Alfred E. Smith, “A Shining Public Example,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 219

561 Herman Beaty, “A Secretary’s View,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 184

562 Bruce Barton, “I’m a private citizen now,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 189

563 Richard Norton Smith, “The Price of the Presidency” Yankee (january 1996) <> (16 February 2003).

564 F.W. Plummer, “Our Neighbors the Coolidges,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, p. 164

565 F.W. Plummer, “Our Neighbors the Coolidges,” in Meet Calvin Coolidge, pp. 164-165

566 Smith, “Calvin, We hardly Knew Ye”

567 Lydia Coolidge Sayles, “Grace Coolidge, My Grandmother,” paper presented at “Calvin Coolidge: Examining the Evidence,” John F. Kennedy Library, Boston, July 30-31, 1998 <> (16 February 2003)

568 Peter Hannaford, “A New Look at Calvin Coolidge,” speech delivered at the annual meeting of The Calvin Coolidge Memorial Foundation, August 5, 2001, Plymouth Notch, Vermont <>

On March 4, 1865, Presdient Abraham Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address under stubbornly cloudy skies. According to journalist Noah Brooks, an eyewitness, there was "profound silence" from an audience caked with dried mud from the morning’s soaking rains. As the Civil War was drawing to a close, they had come to hear words of hope and healing, and Lincoln did not disappoint.

It was the most theological speech of his career, what invited guest and abolitionist Fredierck Douglass called a “sacred effort.” Brooks described a mass of people with “moist eyes and even tearful faces," eagerly listening to Lincoln’s words. But the most notable figure was the President himself, “a tall, pathetic, melancholy figure of the man who, then inducted into office in the midst of the glad acclaim of thousands of people, and illumined by the deceptive brilliance of a March sunburst, was already standing in the shadow of death."

Lincoln had been narrowly re-elected as President the previous November, the first president to do so since Andrew Jackson in 1832. Lincoln’s opponent in the recent election, thirty-eight year-old General George McClellan, had been commander of all Union troops during the early years of the war, but after failing to take Richmond and being vanquished at Antietam, he relinquished his command on November 9, 1862, under pressure from the War Department. McClellan accused Lincoln of removing him out of fear that he, McClellan, was becoming too much of a rival.

The North had not received the quick victory that had been expected, and the November elections in 1862 were a disaster for the Republicans. They lost control of state legislatures in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. This was in addition to the 17 seats they lost in the U.S. House of Representatives, which reduced their majority to an uncomfortably small margin.

In March 1863, as the war entered a third year and continued to produce high numbers of casualties, Congress passed the Enrollment Act, which created a military draft. The draft in turn provoked violent protests in the cities of the North. In New York City, mobs of Irish and other newly-arrived immigrants demolished draft offices and sacked parts of the city. Undaunted, Lincoln proceeded with the draft. In [MONTH??] 1864, in an effort to end the war, he called for 500,000 more troops, which was in addition to the 300,000 he had drafted the previous October.

In early June 1864, an unenthused National Union National Convention in Baltimore nominated Republican Abraham Lincoln for President and Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee for Vice-President. Lincoln’s vice-presidential running mate in 1860, Hannibal Hamlin of Maine, was a former Democrat who was ardently anti-slavery. In 1864, the Republicans dropped Hamlin from the ticket to make way for Andrew Johnson of Tennessee, who was the only southern senator who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War.

Meanwhile, General McClellan was looking for an opportunity to prove, once and for all, that he was the most popular national figure in the United States. After more than a year had passed since his dismissal, McClellan looked as if he would soon demonstrate the truth of his words. The Democratic national convention meeting in Chicago on August 29, 1864. __________, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee began with an indictment of the Republican administration: “Four years of misrule, by a sectional, fanatical and corrupt party, have brought our country to the very verge of riun.” The only hope for the nation was
One of Calvin’s dearest friends in Plymouth was Levi Lynds, who lived with his brother, John, who married and lived with his famility in a corn barn he built. Levi and John were Civil War veterans. About Levi and Calvin, a local resident wrote:

Probably it was his active mind that attracted Calvin Coolidge to him when the latter was a young man. And when Calvin went away from home he kept up a correspondence with Levi....It will not do to tell [Levi[ that Presdient Coolidge is lacking in human sympathy or interest in ordinary people. He says that calvin seldom ever wrote him without asking about the various people around there, or sending them some messages.

When Coolidge later reflected upon his childhood, he was was full of warm memories:

It was all a fine atmosphere in which to raise a boy. As i look back on it I constantly think how clean it was. There was little about it that was artificial. It was all close to nature and in accordance with the ways of nature. The streams ran clear. The roads, the woods, the fields, the people -- all were clean. Even when I try to divest it of the halo which I know always surrounds the past, I am unable to create any other impressions than that it was fresh and clean.


to elect “a tried patriot, who has proved his devotion to the Union and the constitution.”

This was the moment for which McClellan had been waiting. His name was submitted, and the convention nominated him for President on the first ballot. McClellan, who did not attend the conevntion, was personally informed of his nomination in Orange, New Jersey, by a few days later. McClellan wrote a letter accepting the nomination, pledging to uphold the Constitution and bring about a just resolution to the war. The implication was that Lincoln was a warmongerer bent on punishing the South and prolonging a bloody conflict. Still, McClellan was a solider at heart, and he would not endorse the plank of the Democratic Party platform that called for a “repudication of the war.”

McClellan’s candidacy initially heartned the American people. The public, it seemed, was weary of war, and they believed less and less in the ability of Lincoln to bring an end to the shedding of blood. Lincoln seemed on his way to becoming a one-term President. Licoln himself lamented, “I do not see how we can defeat McClellan in the election.”

In a manner befitting a time of violence, the general election campaign was ugly. Republicans accussed McClellan of being a traitor and a terrible solider. Democrats accused Lincoln of undermining the Constitution and being indecisive in a time of war. The two presidential candidates stood apart from the mudslinging, and all the while McClellan’s campaign gathered strength.

If the presidential election had been held immediately after McClellan was nominated by the Democrats, there is little doubt that he would have been elected president. But events in the fall, leading up to the November elections, conspired against him. In April 1864, Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant took command of Union forces, and in the two months before the election the Union forces won a series of important victories -- especially the capture of Atlanta on September 2 -- that boosted Northern support for the war and turned the tide for Lincoln. Lincoln won 55 percent of the popular vote, and carried all but three states out of the twenty-five that remained in the Union, thereby trouncing McClellan in the Electoral College.


As Lincoln delivered his Second Inaugural Address, it was clear that the Civil War, now into its fourth year, weighed heavily upon him. Union victories were coming more regularly, but the Union had underestimated Confederate resolve all too often in the past. Few expected that the war would last so long.

Lincoln, who was perhaps as surprised by his reelection as anyone except McClellan, stood in front of the newly-completed Capitol Building and delivered the most important speech of his political career. Although only fifty-six years old, a friend said Lincoln “looked badly and felt badly--apparently more depressed than I have ever seen him since he became President.” With the war entering its final phase, Lincoln spoke in conciliatory tones about the work of rebuilding the fractured Union and pledged that it would proceeed “with malice toward none; with charity for do all which may achieve a just, and a lasting peace, along ourselves, and with all nations.” Some historians believe that Lincoln’s Second Inaugural was his greatest speech.

Almost exactly one month later, on April 3, Union troops entered Richmond, Virginia, and they left it a smoldering ruin within forty-eight hours. The capital of the Confederacy had finally fallen, and a resolution to the war, which had proven elusive for four years, was now within reach. General Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederate forces, made one last attempt tp reach Lynchburg, Virginia, and use its railroad to connect up with the troops led by General Johnston in North Carolina. With his path blocked by thousands of Union troops, he and his 27,000 starving troops now faced the inevitable. Victory now no longer an option, he surrended the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse on April 9, thereby ending the Civil War.

With the war over, the thoughts of many Americans were turning toward ways to heal the wounds that remained. About 360,000 Union troops and 258,000 Confederate troops lay dead, but the South bore the brunt of the devestation. Large tracts of its land were laid waste, and two-thirds of its livestock had been killed. Freed slaves, recently considered property, had now been freed at a cost to Southerners of $2 billion. These problems were very real, and they demanded answers. The question loomed: How could the South be made whole again?

On the evening of April 14, 1865, Good Friday, Lincoln tried to put such questions out of his mind, at least for a few hours. He had granted his wife’s wish to see Our American Cousin at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., a performance for which he had requested tickets earlier that morning. Although the day had been marked by discussions about the end of the war, Lincoln still found the time to dine with his wife and take her on a carriage ride. He spoke to her about his desire to your Europe, especially Jerusalem, at the end of his second term, then to return to his hometown of Springfield, Illinois, to practice law. According to his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, “The last day he lived was the happiest of his life.”

Shortly after 8 o’clock, the Lincolns picked up their guests and traveled with them by carriage to the theater. It was a misty and foggy early spring evening, so unlike the sunny day that had just ended. The Lincolns’ party arrived late to the play, which had already begun, but the first act stopped when the Lincolns took their seats. Then the other one thousand theatergoers greeted them with a standing ovation before the play resumed. During intermission, John Parker, who was Lincoln’s bodyguard, left his post to get a drink at the saloon next door. As the play resumed, and with Parker still not at his post, John Wilkes Booth appraoched the president from behind and shot him in the head from point-blank range. The time was 10:15 PM. Lincoln died at 7:22 the next morning, and a grief- stricken nation mourned his loss.

569 Ernest C. Carpenter, The Boyhood Days of President Calvin Coolidge (Rutland, VT: The Tuttle Company, 1925), pp. 60-61

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