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Calvin Coolidge

(1872 - 1933)

Vice President under Warren G. Harding
March 4, 1921 until August 3, 1923


JOHN CALVIN COOLIDGE was born July 4, 1872 in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. He was the only son of John Calvin Coolidge, a jack-of-all-trades, teacher, storekeeper, farmer, politician, and even mechanic when necessary and Victoria Josephine Moor, a handsome woman who loved poetry and natural beauty, who died when Calvin was 12. The Coolidges lived in the rear of the combined general store and post office, and young Coolidge attended the local school. He was later enrolled in the Black River Academy in Ludlow, Vermont and in 1891, attended Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, being the first of the Vermont Coolidges to attend college.

Following his graduation cum laude from Amherst in 1895, Coolidge read law in the offices of John Hammond and Henry Field in Northampton, Mass. Two years later he was admitted to the bar. He decided to practice law in Northampton, and although he never prospered as an attorney, he was able to earn enough to become financially independent in a short time.

On October 4, 1905 Coolidge married Grace Anna Goodhue from Vermont, who taught at the Clarke Institute for the Deaf in Northampton. Vivacious, witty, and friendly, with a pleasant smile, she was the opposite of her quiet husband. They had two sons, John Coolidge (1906 - ) and Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (1908 – 1924).

His relationship with Hammond and Field led him into politics, which came easily to him because his father was a frequent officeholder in Vermont. In Northampton, Hammond and Field were political leaders and found Coolidge a willing political apprentice. In 1898 he was elected as a city councilman. From that day until his retirement from the presidency he was seldom out of public office. In 1905 he suffered his only election defeat, in a contest for school committeeman. In 1906 he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. During his two one-year terms in the state house, Coolidge made little impression. Coolidge was elected mayor of Northampton in 1909 and reelected in 1910. In 1911 he was sent to the state Senate, where he became a Republican leader. After his election to a third Senate term in 1913, Coolidge was elected to the powerful position as president of the state Senate. In 1915 he ran successfully for lieutenant governor. Coolidge used his three years as lieutenant governor to acquire more knowledge of government, and in 1918 he was elected governor of Massachusetts.

As governor, Coolidge became nationally known in 1919, when the Boston policemen went on strike. Coolidge, who had earlier refused to take action, brought in troops and asked for federal soldiers in case a general strike should occur. The policemen returned to work and when Coolidge was asked to let suspended policemen return to their jobs, Coolidge refused, saying, "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime." His statement was applauded throughout the nation. At the Republican National Convention in 1920, he won the nomination for vice president, joining Warren G. Harding on the ticket. Harding and Coolidge received an overwhelming victory of 7 million votes. The vote in the Electoral College was 404 to James M. Cox’s 127.

Little was expected of the vice president, and Coolidge was not very active. He presided over the Senate, attended Cabinet meetings, and ranked next to the president in ceremonial affairs. "Silent Cal," as he was called, started to convey himself more in longer speeches and in newspaper articles, but he had little enthusiasm for his job and had developed no power as a national political figure. When Harding died suddenly in San Francisco, California, on August 2, 1923, Coolidge was visiting his father in Vermont. He received the news of the president's death in the early hours of August 3 and took the presidential oath in the farmhouse parlor by the light of kerosene lamps. Coolidge’s father, who was a justice of the peace, administered the oath of office. However, because his father could only swear in people for Vermont offices, Coolidge had to repeat the oath in Washington, D.C., 18 days later.

Coolidge’s reputation for honesty served him well when the Harding scandals came to light. He moved swiftly to restore confidence in the White House, and otherwise followed his conviction that “the business of America is business.” The country was enjoying high productivity and low unemployment and he was the apostle of prosperity, economy, and respectability during the 1924 presidential campaign. His opponents exhausted themselves with charges about the government's deficiencies, while he received credit for his equanimity and the economic upturn. With his slogan, “Keep cool with Coolidge”, he won easily, but 1924 was a sad year for Coolidge, for in July his younger son, Calvin, Jr., died of blood poisoning.

Coolidge, the dour and frugal teetotaler from Vermont was utterly out of step with the Jazz Age of his second term. As bootlegging, corruption and stock market speculating became rampant, Coolidge, who preferred to lead by example, tended to administrative affairs and quietly trimmed $2 billion from the national debt. He did not seek reelection in 1928. He retired in 1929 to Northampton, where he busied himself writing newspaper and magazine articles. He seldom took an active role in politics. His health declined rapidly, and on January 5, 1933, he died of coronary thrombosis.

 

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John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929).

Calvin Coolidge

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 
 
Calvin Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge
 

In office
August 2, 1923 – March 4, 1929
Vice President None (1923–1925)
Charles G. Dawes, (1925–1929)
Preceded by Warren G. Harding
Succeeded by Herbert Hoover

In office
March 4, 1921 – August 2, 1923
President Warren G. Harding
Preceded by Thomas R. Marshall
Succeeded by Charles G. Dawes

In office
January 2, 1919 – January 6, 1921
Lieutenant Channing H. Cox
Preceded by Samuel W. McCall
Succeeded by Channing H. Cox

In office
January 6, 1916 – January 2, 1919
Governor Samuel W. McCall
Preceded by Grafton D. Cushing
Succeeded by Channing H. Cox

In office
1914 – 1915
Preceded by Levi H. Greenwood
Succeeded by Henry G. Wells

Born July 4, 1872(1872-07-04)
Plymouth, Vermont
Died January 5, 1933 (aged 60)
Northampton, Massachusetts
Birth name John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse Grace Goodhue Coolidge
Children John Coolidge
Calvin Coolidge, Jr.
Alma mater Amherst College
Occupation lawyer
Religion Congregationalist
Signature Calvin Coolidge's signature

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (July 4, 1872 – January 5, 1933) was the 30th President of the United States (1923–1929). A Republican lawyer from Vermont, Coolidge worked his way up the ladder of Massachusetts state politics, eventually becoming governor of that state. His actions during the Boston Police Strike of 1919 thrust him into the national spotlight. Soon after, he was elected as the 29th Vice President in 1920 and succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of Warren G. Harding. Elected in his own right in 1924, he gained a reputation as a small-government conservative.

Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor's administration, and left office with considerable popularity.[1] As his biographer later put it, "he embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength."[2] Many later criticized Coolidge as part of a general criticism of laissez-faire government.[3] His reputation underwent a renaissance during the Ronald Reagan Administration,[4] but the ultimate assessment of his presidency is still divided between those who approve of his reduction of the size of government and those who believe the federal government should be more involved in regulating the economy.[5]

 

Family and early life

 

Birth and family history

John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. was born in Plymouth, Windsor County, Vermont, on July 4, 1872, the only U.S. President to be born on the fourth of July. He was the elder of two children of John Calvin Coolidge (1845 – 1926) and Victoria Josephine Moor (1846 – 1885). He had a sister, Abigail Grace Coolidge (1875 – 1890). The Coolidge family had deep roots in New England. His earliest American ancestor, John Coolidge, emigrated from Cambridge, England, around 1630 and settled in Watertown, Massachusetts.[6] Coolidge's great-great-grandfather, also named John Coolidge, was an American army officer in the American Revolution and was one of the first selectmen of the town of Plymouth Notch.[7] Most of Coolidge's ancestors were farmers. The more well-known Coolidges, such as architect Charles Allerton Coolidge and diplomat Archibald Cary Coolidge, were descended from other branches of the family that had stayed in Massachusetts.[6] Coolidge's grandmother Sarah Almeda Brewer had two famous first cousins: Arthur Brown, a United States Senator, and Olympia Brown, a women's suffragist.

Coolidge as an Amherst undergraduate

Coolidge's grandfather Calvin Coolidge held some local government offices in Plymouth and was best remembered as a man with "a fondness for practical jokes".[8] Sarah Brewer was also of New England. It is through this ancestor that Coolidge claimed to be descended in part from American Indians.[9]

Coolidge's father was a farmer, but spent some time as a schoolteacher and justice of the peace.[10] His mother Victoria (Moor) Coolidge was the daughter of another Plymouth Notch farmer.[11] Coolidge's mother was chronically ill, possibly suffering from tuberculosis, and died young in 1885, but Coolidge's father lived to see him become President.[12]

 

Early career and marriage

 

Western Massachusetts lawyer

Coolidge attended Amherst College where he was a member of the fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta (FIJI). After graduating from Amherst College, at his father's urging Coolidge moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to take up the practice of law. Avoiding the costly alternative of attending a law school, Coolidge followed the more common practice at the time of apprenticing with a local firm, Hammond & Field and reading law with them. John C. Hammond and Henry P. Field, both Amherst graduates, introduced Coolidge to the law practice in the county seat of Hampshire County. In 1897, Coolidge was admitted to the bar. With his savings and a small inheritance from his grandfather, Coolidge was able to open his own law office in Northampton in 1898. He practiced transactional law, believing that he served his clients best by staying out of court. As his reputation as a hard-working and diligent attorney grew, local banks and other businesses began to retain his services.[13]

 

Marriage and family

In 1905 Coolidge met and married a fellow Vermonter, Grace Anna Goodhue, a local schoolteacher working at the Clarke School for the Deaf. While Grace was watering flowers outside the school one day in 1903, she happened to look up at the open window of Robert N. Weir's boardinghouse and caught a glimpse of Calvin Coolidge shaving in front of a mirror with nothing on but long underwear and a hat.[14] After a more formal introduction sometime later, the two were quickly attracted to each other.[14]

They were opposites in personality: she was talkative and fun-loving, while Coolidge was quiet and serious.[15] Not long after their marriage, Coolidge handed her a bag with fifty-two pairs of socks in it, all of them full of holes. Grace's reply was "Did you marry me to darn your socks?" Without cracking a smile and with his usual seriousness, Calvin answered, "No, but I find it mighty handy."[16] They had two sons; John Coolidge, born in 1906, and Calvin Coolidge, Jr., born in 1908.[17] The marriage was, by most accounts, a happy one.[18] As Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography, "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."[19]

 

Local political office

 

City offices

The Republican Party was dominant in New England in Coolidge's time, and he followed Hammond's and Field's example by becoming active in local politics.[20] Coolidge campaigned locally for Republican presidential candidate William McKinley in 1896, and the next year he was selected to be a member of the Republican City Committee.[21] In 1898, he won election to the City Council of Northampton, placing second in a ward where the top three candidates were elected.[21] The position offered no salary, but gave Coolidge experience in the political world.[22] In 1899, he declined renomination, running instead for City Solicitor, a position elected by the City Council. He was elected for a one-year term in 1900, and reelected in 1901.[23] This position gave Coolidge more experience as a lawyer, and paid a salary of $600.[23] In 1902, the city council selected a Democrat for city solicitor, and Coolidge returned to an exclusively private practice.[24] Soon thereafter, however, the clerk of courts for the county died, and Coolidge was chosen to replace him. The position paid well, but barred him from practicing law, so he only remained at the job for one year.[24] The next year, 1904, Coolidge met with his only defeat before the voters, losing an election to the Northampton school board. When told that some of his neighbors voted against him because he had no children in the schools he would govern, Coolidge replied "Might give me time!"[24]

 

State legislator and mayor

Calvin and Grace Coolidge, about 1918.

In 1906 the local Republican committee nominated Coolidge for election to the state House of Representatives. He won a close victory over the incumbent Democrat, and reported to Boston for the 1907 session of the Massachusetts General Court.[25] In his freshman term, Coolidge served on minor committees and, although he usually voted with the party, was known as a Progressive Republican, voting in favor of such measures as women's suffrage and the direct election of Senators.[26] Throughout his time in Boston, Coolidge found himself allied primarily with the western Winthrop Murray Crane faction of the state Republican Party, as against the Henry Cabot Lodge-dominated eastern faction.[27] In 1907, he was elected to a second term. In the 1908 session, Coolidge was more outspoken, but was still not one of the leaders in the legislature.[28]

Instead of vying for another term in the state house, Coolidge returned home to his growing family and ran for mayor of Northampton when the incumbent Democrat retired. He was well-liked in the town, and defeated his challenger by a vote of 1,597 to 1,409.[29] During his first term (1910 to 1911), he increased teachers' salaries and retired some of the city's debt while still managing to effect a slight tax decrease.[30] He was renominated in 1911, and defeated the same opponent by a slightly larger margin.[31]

Calvin Coolidge as a young legislator

In 1911, the State Senator for the Hampshire County area retired and encouraged Coolidge to run for his seat for the 1912 session. He defeated his Democratic opponent by a large margin.[32] At the start of that term, Coolidge was selected to be chairman of a committee to arbitrate the "Bread and Roses" strike by the workers of the American Woolen Company in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[33] After two tense months, the company agreed to the workers' demands in a settlement the committee proposed.[34] The other major issue for Republicans that year was the party split between the progressive wing, which favored Theodore Roosevelt, and the conservative wing, which favored William Howard Taft. Although he favored some progressive measures, Coolidge refused to bolt the party.[35] When the new Progressive Party declined to run a candidate in his state senate district, Coolidge won reelection against his Democratic opponent by an increased margin.[35]

The 1913 session was less eventful, and Coolidge's time was mostly spent on the railroad committee, of which he was the chairman.[36] Coolidge intended to retire after the 1913 session, as two terms were the norm, but when the President of the State Senate, Levi H. Greenwood, considered running for Lieutenant Governor, Coolidge decided to run again for the Senate in the hopes of being elected as its presiding officer.[37] Although Greenwood later decided to run for reelection to the Senate, he was defeated and Coolidge was elected, with Crane's help, as the President of a closely divided Senate.[38] After his election in January 1914, Coolidge delivered a speech entitled Have Faith in Massachusetts, which was later republished as a book.[39] His speech, later much-quoted, summarized Coolidge's philosophy of government.

"Do the day's work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it is to help a powerful corporation, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but do not be a stand-patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but do not be a demagogue. Do not hesitate to be called as revolutionary as science. Do not hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table. Do not expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong. Do not hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation."
Have Faith in Massachusetts as delivered by Calvin Coolidge to the Massachusetts State Senate, 1914.[40]

Coolidge's speech was well-received and he attracted some admirers on its account.[41] Towards the end of the term, many of them were proposing his name for nomination to lieutenant governor. After winning reelection to the Senate by an increased margin in the 1914 elections, Coolidge was reelected unanimously to be President of the Senate.[42] As the 1915 session drew to a close, Coolidge's supporters, led by fellow Amherst alumnus Frank Stearns, encouraged him once again to run for lieutenant governor. This time, he accepted their advice.[43]

 

Lieutenant Governor

Coolidge entered the primary election for lieutenant governor and was nominated to run alongside gubernatorial candidate Samuel W. McCall. Coolidge was the leading vote-getter in the Republican primary, and balanced the Republican ticket by adding a western presence to McCall's eastern base of support.[44] McCall and Coolidge won the 1915 election, with Coolidge defeating his opponent by more than 50,000 votes.[45]

Coolidge's duties as lieutenant governor were few; in Massachusetts, the lieutenant governor does not preside over the state Senate, although Coolidge did become an ex officio member of the governor's cabinet.[46] As a full-time elected official, Coolidge no longer practiced law after 1916, though his family continued to live in Northampton.[47] McCall and Coolidge were both reelected in 1916 and again in 1917 (both offices were one-year terms in those days). When McCall decided that he would not stand for a fourth term, Coolidge announced his own intention to run for governor.[48]

 

Governor of Massachusetts

 

1918 election

Coolidge was unopposed for the Republican nomination for Governor of Massachusetts in 1918. He and his running mate, Channing Cox, a Boston lawyer and Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives, ran on the previous administration's record: fiscal conservatism, a vague opposition to Prohibition, support for women's suffrage, and support for American involvement in the First World War.[49] The issue of the war proved divisive, especially among Irish- and German-Americans.[50] Coolidge was elected by a margin of 16,773 votes over his opponent, Richard H. Long, in the smallest margin of victory of any of his state-wide campaigns.[51]

 

Boston Police Strike

In 1919 in response to rumors that policemen of the Boston Police Department planned to form a trade union, Police Commissioner Edwin U. Curtis issued a statement saying that such a move would not be countenanced. In August of that year, the American Federation of Labor issued a charter to the Boston Police Union.[52] Curtis said the union's leaders were insubordinate and planned to relieve them of duty, but said that he would suspend the sentence if the union was dissolved by September 4.[53] The mayor of Boston, Andrew Peters, convinced Curtis to delay his action for a few days, but Curtis ultimately suspended the union leaders after a brief delay, on September 8.[54]

"Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. That furnished the opportunity; the criminal element furnished the action. There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.  ... I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and laws of her people."
Telegram from Governor Calvin Coolidge to Samuel Gompers September 15, 1919.[55]

The following day about three-quarters of the policemen in Boston went on strike.[56] Coolidge had observed the situation throughout the conflict, but had not yet intervened. That night and the next, there was sporadic violence and rioting in the lawless city.[57] Peters, concerned about sympathy strikes, had called up some units of the Massachusetts National Guard stationed in the Boston area and relieved Curtis of duty.[58] Coolidge, furious that the mayor had called out state guard units, finally acted.[59] He called up more units of the National Guard, restored Curtis to office, and took personal control of the police force.[60] Curtis proclaimed that none of the strikers would be allowed back to their former jobs, and Coolidge issued calls for a new police force to be recruited.[61]

Samuel Gompers

That night Coolidge received a telegram from AFL leader Samuel Gompers. "Whatever disorder has occurred", Gompers wrote, "is due to Curtis's order in which the right of the policemen has been denied …"[62] Coolidge publicly answered Gompers's telegram with the response that would launch him into the national consciousness (quoted, above left).[62] Newspapers across the nation picked up on Coolidge's statement and he became the newest hero to defenders of American capitalism. In the midst of the First Red Scare, many Americans were terrified of the spread of communist revolution, like those that had taken place in Russia, Hungary, and Germany. While Coolidge had lost some friends among organized labor, conservatives across the nation had seen a rising star.

 

1919 election

Coolidge and Cox were renominated for their respective offices in 1919. By this time Coolidge's supporters (especially Stearns) had publicized his actions in the Police Strike around the state and the nation and some of Coolidge's speeches were reissued as a book.[39] He was faced with the same opponent as in 1918, Richard Long, but this time Coolidge defeated him by 125,101 votes, more than seven times his margin of victory from a year earlier.[63] His actions in the police strike, combined with the massive electoral victory, led to suggestions that Coolidge should run for President in 1920.[64]

 

Legislation and vetoes as governor

Governor Coolidge, laying the cornerstone at Suffolk Law School in Boston in August of 1920.

By the time Coolidge was inaugurated on January 2, 1919, the First World War had ended, and Coolidge pushed the legislature to give a $100 bonus to Massachusetts veterans. He also signed a bill reducing the work week for women and children from fifty-four hours to forty-eight, saying "we must humanize the industry, or the system will break down."[65] He signed into law a budget that kept the tax rates the same, while trimming four million dollars from expenditures, thus allowing the state to retire some of its debt.[66]

Coolidge also wielded the veto pen as governor. His most publicized veto was of a bill that would have increased legislators' pay by 50%.[67] In May 1920, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed the sale of beer or wine of 2.75% alcohol or less, in contravention of the Eighteenth Amendment. Although Coolidge himself was opposed to Prohibition, he felt constrained to veto the bill. "Opinions and instructions do not outmatch the Constitution," he said in his veto message, "Against it, they are void."[68]

 

Vice Presidency

 

1920 election

At the 1920 Republican Convention most of the delegates were selected by state party conventions, not primaries. As such, the field was divided among many local favorites.[69] Coolidge was one such candidate, and while he placed as high as sixth in the voting, the powerful party bosses never considered him a serious candidate. After ten ballots, the delegates settled on Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio as their nominee for President.[70] When the time came to select a Vice Presidential nominee, the party bosses had also made a decision on who they would nominate: Senator Irvine Lenroot of Wisconsin.[71] A delegate from Oregon, Wallace McCamant, having read Have Faith in Massachusetts, proposed Coolidge for Vice President instead.[71] The suggestion caught on quickly, and Coolidge found himself unexpectedly nominated.[72]

President Harding and Vice President Coolidge and their wives.

The Democrats nominated another Ohioan, James M. Cox, for President and the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, for Vice President. The question of the United States joining the League of Nations was a major issue in the campaign, as was the unfinished legacy of Progressivism.[73] Harding ran a "front-porch" campaign from his home in Marion, Ohio, but Coolidge took to the campaign trail in the Upper South, New York, and New England.[74] On November 2, 1920, Harding and Coolidge were victorious in a landslide, winning every state outside the South.[75] They also won in Tennessee, the first time a Republican ticket had won a Southern state since

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