The thirtieth President of the United States was born in 1872. No-one knew much about him, except his reputation for long silences broken by periods of terseness, until he became Governor of Massachusetts. He intervened in a strike called by Boston policemen, stating that after the strike was over none of the those involved in it would get their police jobs back. Coolidge broke his customary silence by saying firmly, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, anytime.” He soon earned the nickname, ‘Silent Cal’.
He enjoyed the reputation for upholding law and order almost to the extent of mania – but it got him the post of Vice-President when Warren Harding was elected President in 1921. Two years later Harding died suddenly, perhaps due to the strain of having a silent Vice . . . but anyway Calvin Coolidge became President, and was re-elected properly in 1924.
He was as dour as any Scotsman, aloof as the Duke of Wellington (q.v.) and of course silently inscrutable; he saw the work of a President of the US in a negative way. This was America and Government should not be allowed to interefere with private enterprise under any circumstance. “The business of Americais business,” he said once, to some surprised listeners, who maybe thought their President was dumb.
American journalists were unanimous when they judged Coolidge as President: one reported referred to ‘that masterly inactivity for which he was so splendidly equipped.’
America was at that time enjoying economic prosperity, at least on the surface. Coolidge concentrated whatever energy he could summon on cutting government expenditure, no bad thing: he brightly said, “I am for the economy, and after that I am for more economy.”
He used his power of veto to divert bills that might have provided some relief for hard-pressed farmers, at the same time as cutting income tax to help the rich, whom he never ceased to praise.
On the positive side he showed what he thought about fighting wars abroad when he presented the Kellogg/Briand Pact (1928) which renounced war as a means of settling conflict. Sadly nearly all the signatories he gathered ignored the Pact in practice.
Calvin Coolidge could probably have served in a third administration as President, but he broke silence to say, “I do not choose to run for President in 1928.” And he didn’t.
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