30 - Calvin Coolidge
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Coolidge's family spoke in sign language when they did not wish to be overheard.
Calvin Coolidge, a man of few words, was so famous for saying so little that a White House dinner guest made a bet that she could get the president to say more than two words. She told the president of her wager. His reply: "You lose."
Calvin Coolidge was sworn into office by his own father, who was a justice of the peace, at 2:47 in the morning. Coolidge then went back to sleep.
He liked to be photographed while wearing Indian headdresses and Boy Scout uniforms.
When governor of Massachusetts, Coolidge was once punched in the eye by the mayor of Boston.
Coolidge's last will and testament, executed in December 1926, was just 23 words long: "Not unmindful of my son John, I give all my estate, both real and personal, to my wife, Grace Coolidge, in fee simple."
Autobiography of Calvin Coolidge
This is a short, succinct biography aimed at high school students. It is one of the Garrett Educational Corporation's series, "Presidents of the United States". When I went looking for an affordable one volume biography of Mr. Coolidge, this was the only thing I could find. My copy is an ex-library book from Blue Springs, Missouri.
Sometimes it seems that USA takes who it can get and gets who it deserves. If everyone who can vote ever clutched their brains in, learned about the issues and the men available and then got out and voted, things might well be a lot different in the country and the crazy electoral college system might be circumvented by the populace. We could possibly get someone most of us could put our trust in and not someone foisted on us by the moneyed few.
It seems that in 1924 the country decided somehow that returning Mr. Coolidge would restore prestige and dignity to the Presidency after it had "suffered a time of extravagance and waste". If vetoing a Soldier's Bonus Bill, vetoing a Farm Relief Bill, pocket vetoing bills that would have allowed certain Indian tribes to submit treaty claims, advocating a "hands-off" policy towards business, vetoing a bill that would have raised salaries to some government workers, signing a bill to raise the salaries of the Vice President, cabinet members and congress, signing income tax reduction bills, signing a bill that increased estate taxes, and expanding the Navy all constitute a restoration of prestige and dignity to the Presidency, they also constitute a steady encouragement for business science and industry to grow and develop such that uncontrolled systems were set-up perfectly for a stock market crash in 1929, after he had served out his elected term. Don't tell me that he was a better President than Woodrow Wilson. He was one of the first of the modern day Republicans. You know, the same sort of politicians who recently declared an unprovoked war and conducted a revenge war, both unfunded in any national budget, and who set the country up for financial difficulty in such a way that they could blame someone else for it.
A prominent writer of the time who, when told that Mr. Coolidge had died, asked: "How can they tell?"
That kind of says it all for me. Except that I once read an article about the loss of his son, Calvin, in Issue #1 of the "Presidential History" magazine dated July 1998 which painted a sympathetic picture of a tortured father who had great difficulty in dealing with the loss because of his natural reticence - he couldn't talk it through with anyone and therefore deal with the "elephant in the room". It seemed to hurt more for him than it might have in a more open-hearted person.
Not really a good book and not really a good President.
Oops, I think my own politics have just been aired, sorry.
Silent Cal is usually lumped with Harding and Hoover as the low-ranked gap between activists Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. But there's more to him than meets the eye. He was the first US President to make extensive use of the broadcast medium - in this case, radio - to reach out to the American public as a whole. Following Harding, Coolidge increased the use of the burgeoning advertising industry to manage his public image. His approach to governing - lowering taxes, cutting spending, deregulating business - foreshadowed Reagan, and was occasionally cited by Reagan as an inspiration.
Coolidge governed during one of the strongest boom times, the Roaring Twenties, and left office just a few months before the crash of '29 and the start of the Great Depression. Looking back from the other side of those bad times, it's clear that things were about to go so wrong. But as Greenberg points out, seeing Coolidge only from that perspective gives a skewed picture of the man. A fuller picture, says Greenberg, is one of a man bridging the gap between 19th century values and 20th century culture.
Recommended. This is a pretty good entry in the American Presidents series.
by Amity Shlaes
In my last review of a presidential biography, I asked, "Where have all the meaty biographies gone?" I was quite surprised to find one waiting for me when I tackled the next president on my list. Ms. Shlaes has written a nice 456 pager, covering the life of Calvin Coolidge. Since it fit in with my purpose for reading such biographies, I have to say she did a great job. She recounts Coolidge's life, showing where he and his family fit in American history and how events of the day affected his life. There's an economic flavor to the book, especially as President Coolidge attains office and has to deal with the unprecedented debt left by World War I. Economics are one of those topics that threaten to cause my eyes to glaze over, but even I found it a bit interesting, knowing that the economy of the 1920s was heading towards Black Tuesday on October 24, 1929. Surprisingly enough, Coolidge was expecting that, though I don't think he envisioned the Depression that followed. Anyway, this sympathetic biography is well worth checking out. I'm not sure I would ever have voted for Coolidge, I did come away with a respect for him.
“Unabashed apology for Coolidge. The author fails to analyze Coolidge's role in helping to create the conditions that lead to the Great Depression. The author suggests Hoover and FDR should have done nothing. The author says the country would have benefited by allowing the natural business cycle pull the country out of the Depression. The author correctly praises Coolidge for the Yankee honesty in his administration after the scandals of the Harding administration. When the country was afflicted by great floods, the author notes Coolidge adhered to his "do nothing" policy. His minimalist role for the federal government certainly would not work today. He never would have initiated the interstate highways like Ike did. He never would have initiated the space program like JFK. In foreign policy his administration is known for the Kellogg-Briand Treaty which asked countries to renounce war. Countries such as Mussolini's Italy and Japan signed on to the Treaty only to engage in aggressive wars shortly afterwards. Coolidge naively thought this type of Treaty would have stopped WW I. He was a popular president largely due to the fact the country was prosperous during his administration except for farmers who he declined to help. He knew the Roaring Twenties was going to end badly but adhering to his non-interference in business policy he took no action to stop speculation. Thus, after his presidency, the country fell into the Great Depression. He did balance the budget during most of his terms which cannot be said for most of our modern presidents. The death of his son Calvin at the beginning of his second term may have caused him to lose interest in the presidency.
Coolidge was kept away from the Harding administration because they considered him too straight-lace. He would have probably been shocked! The Coolidge administration is remembered for prosperity and thrift. Never had Americans been so prosperous as during the Coolidge administration--their definition of prosperous is the number of households having savings accounts. Coolidge was aided in his economic plans by Mellon and Hoover (then Sec. of Commerce). His policies, (Revenue Acts of 1924, 1926, and 1928), reduced the national debt , helped businesses and cut federal taxes.
Americans viewed Coolidge as a simple man with simple living habits. He was from a Vermont farm and talked often making analogies about the farm and the Whitehouse. His domestic theme was "The Business of America is Business."
As to the secret service whocovered him: they claim he always tried to escape them. Here is an excerpt from the book: "On awakening in the morning he would walk across the upstairs hallway to the Lincoln Room in his long nightgown and slippers. There he would peek out the window to see whether I was on the lawn. ... If he did not see me, he would have Brooks telephone downstairs to ask if I were in the building. . . . Sometimes he would tell the elevator operator to take him to the basement. Then he would try to sneak out the East or the West entrance, just to fool me. Everyone on the staff cooperated with me and tipped me off, so I was always able to catch him. One day I turned the tables on him and hid in the police box on the East side. He came out of the engine room, up the East steps, and passed right by me. I' fell into position behind him. When he reached the gate he turned around with a look of glee on his face. 'Good morning, Mr. President,' I said. He turned and headed for F Street without saying a word."
According to Secret Service and Whitehouse staff, neither of the Coolidges never really recovered from their 16 year old son's death from a staph infection. Here is more from Starling's book: "Starling found a boy with his face pressed to the iron railings of the White House. He wanted to shake hands with the President. The Colonel took him in. Later, when they were out walking, Coolidge said: "Colonel, whenever a boy wants to see me, always bring him in. Never turn one away or make him wait." Says Colonel Starling: "He was thoughtful, he was intelligent, he was sentimental, he was wise. There were times when he was irascible. . . . But I found him in the large and full portions of existence an admirable and satisfying man, a peaceful and pleasing and loyal friend. ... I liked him as a man; I loved him as a friend."