— 30th President of the United States —
SUCCEEDED / ELECTED FROM: Massachusetts
POLITICAL PARTY: Republican
TERM: August 3, 1923 to March 3, 1929
BORN: July 4, 1872
BIRTHPLACE: Plymouth, Vermont
DIED: January 5, 1933, Northampton, Massachusetts
Buried in Plymouth, Vermont
MARRIED: Grace Goodhue, 1905
CHILDREN: John, Calvin Jr.
Calvin Coolidge often got nervous when meeting new people. "I
remember I would go into a panic as a youngster if I heard
strange voices in the kitchen," he said. "The hardest thing in
the world would be to go through that kitchen door and give them
a greeting. Every time I meet a stranger, I have to go through
that kitchen door, and it's not easy."
A typical conversation involved the hostess who told the
president she had bet she could get more than two words out of
him. "You lose," Coolidge said.
Coolidge grew up in Plymouth, Vermont. His early dreams involved
being a storekeeper, like his father. He helped out with the
plowing, planting, and wood cutting. His favorite job was
tapping the maple trees and processing sugar and syrup. Young
Coolidge did not participate in team sports but liked horseback
His situation at Amherst College improved dramatically after the
first two years. He studied ancient and modern languages and
became proficient in Greek, calculus, and literature.
Coolidge chose not to join a fraternity until his senior year.
That was the same year he won first prize, a $150 gold medal,
for his essay, "The Principles Fought For in the American
His first elected office was as a member of the Massachusetts
General Court. He also served as mayor of Northampton,
Massachusetts state senator, lieutenant governor, and governor
of Massachusetts before becoming vice president.
Coolidge defeated Democrat John W. Davis, 54 percent to 29
percent, for the presidency.
Coolidge's first job as president was to deal with the problems
that had marked the Harding presidency. He also was instrumental
in passing the Revenue Acts of 1924 and 1926 that freed up money
for investment. However, they contributed to wild investment and
helped lead to the stock market "crash" of 1929.
In 1927, Coolidge surprised the nation with the simple
statement, "I do not choose to run" for president in 1928.He
didn't say why, but some people say it was out of concern for
his health and the health of his wife.
Coolidge died at his office in Northampton, Massachusetts on
January 5, 1933.
John Calvin Coolidge (1872-1933) was the thirtieth president of
the United States. He has become symbolic of the smug and
self-satisfied conservatism that helped bring on the Great
Calvin Coolidge (he dropped the John after college) was born
July 14, 1872, at Plymouth Notch, a tiny, isolated village in
southern Vermont; he was descended from colonial New England
stock. His father was a thrifty, hard-working, self-reliant
storekeeper and farmer, active in local politics. Calvin was a
shy and frail boy, sober, frugal, industrious, and taciturn. But
he acquired from his mother, whom he remembered as having "a
touch of mysticism and poetry," a yearning for something better
than Plymouth Notch.
Coolidge entered Amherst College in 1891 and graduated cum
laude. While there he became an effective debater, and his
professors imbued him with the ideal of public service. Unable
to afford law school, he read law and clerked in a law office in
Northampton, Mass. In 1897 he was admitted to the bar and the
following year opened an office in Northampton. He built a
modestly successful local practice. In 1905 he married Grace
Goodhue, a charming and vivacious teacher. They had two sons:
John, born 1906, and Calvin, born 1908.
Coolidge became active in local Republican politics, serving as
a member of the city council, city solicitor, clerk of the
Hampshire County courts, and chairman of the Republican city
committee. He spent two terms in the Massachusetts House of
Representatives and two terms as mayor of Northampton. In 1911
he was elected to the state senate and 2 years later - thanks to
luck, hard work, and cautious but skillful political maneuvering
- he became president of the state senate. This was a
traditional stepping-stone to the lieutenant governorship; he
was elected to this post in 1915 and reelected in 1916 and 1917.
Meanwhile, he gained a reputation as a loyal party man and
follower of the powerful U.S. senator W. Murray Crane, a safe
and sound man as regards business and a champion of governmental
economy and efficiency. And Coolidge won the friendship of
Boston department store owner Frank W. Stearns, who became his
enthusiastic political booster.
But Coolidge was no narrow-minded standpatter. His credo was the
promotion of stability and harmony through the balancing of all
legitimate interests. Thus, he supported woman's suffrage,
popular election of U.S. senators, establishment of a public
service commission, legislation to prohibit the practice of
undercutting competition by charging less than cost, protection
of child and woman workers, maternity aid legislation, and the
state's savings-bank insurance system.
Governor of Massachusetts
Elected governor in 1918, Coolidge pushed through a far-reaching
reorganization of the state government, supported adoption of
legislation against profiteering, and won a reputation for
fairness as a mediator in labor disputes. But what brought him
national fame was the Boston police strike of 1919. He avoided
involvement in the dispute on the ground that he had no legal
authority to interfere. Even when the police went out on strike,
Coolidge failed to act until after Boston's mayor had brought
the situation under control. Yet again Coolidge's luck held; and
he, not the mayor, received the credit for maintaining law and
order. His reply to the plea of the American Federation of Labor
president Samuel Gompers for reinstatement of the dismissed
strikers - "There is no right to strike against the public
safety by anybody, anywhere, any time" - made him a popular hero
and won him reelection that fall with the largest vote ever
received by a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate. At the
Republican National Convention the following year the
rank-and-file delegates rebelled against the party leaders'
choice for the vice-presidential nominee and named Coolidge on
the first ballot.
Sudden Thrust to the Presidency
Coolidge found the vice presidency frustrating and unrewarding.
He presided over the Senate and unobtrusively sat in on Cabinet
meetings at President Warren G. Harding's request but took no
active role in administration decision making, gaining the
nickname "Silent Cal."
Harding's death in 1923 catapulted Coolidge into the White
House. The new president's major problem was the exposure of the
corruption that had gone on under his predecessor. But his own
reputation for honesty and integrity, his early appointment of
special counsel to investigate the Teapot Dome oil-lease scandal
and prosecute wrongdoers, and his removal of Attorney General
Harry Daugherty when Daugherty refused to open Justice
Department files to Senate investigators, effectively defused
the corruption issue. Simultaneously, he smoothed the path for
his nomination in 1924 through skillful manipulation of
patronage. The Republican themes in the 1924 election were
prosperity, governmental economy, and "Keep Cool with Coolidge."
He won decisively.
Except for legislation regulating and stabilizing the chaotic
radio industry, the subsidization and promotion of commercial
aviation, and the Railroad Labor Act of 1926 establishing more
effective machinery for resolving railway labor disputes, the
new Coolidge administration's record in the domestic sphere was
largely negative. Coolidge was handicapped by the split in
Republican congressional ranks between the insurgents and
regulars; furthermore, he was not a strong leader and remained
temperamentally averse to making moves that might lead to
trouble. He was also handcuffed by his conviction that the
executive's duty was simply to administer the laws Congress
passed. Most important, he was limited by his devotion to
governmental economy, his belief in allowing the widest possible
scope for private enterprise, his faith in business
self-regulation, his narrow definition of the powers of the
national government under the Constitution, and his acceptance
of the "trickle-down" theory of prosperity through the
encouragement of big business.
Coolidge's domestic program was in line with this philosophy. He
strongly backed Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon's
proposals for tax cuts to stimulate investment, and the Revenue
Act of 1926 cut the maximum surtax from 40 to 20 percent,
abolished the gift tax, and halved the estate tax. He vetoed the
World War I veterans' bonus bill (1924), but Congress overrode
his veto. He packed the regulatory commissions with appointees
sympathetic to business. He twice vetoed the McNary-Haugen bills
for the subsidized dumping of agricultural surpluses abroad in
hopes of bolstering domestic prices. Coolidge unsuccessfully
urged the sale or lease of Muscle Shoals to private enterprise
and in 1928 pocket-vetoed a bill providing for government
operation. He succeeded in limiting expenditures for flood
control and Federal development of water resources. He resisted
any reductions in the protective tariff. And he not only failed
to restrain, but encouraged, the stock market speculation that
was to have such disastrous consequences in 1929.
Coolidge left foreign affairs largely in the hands of his
secretaries of state, Charles Evans Hughes and then Frank B.
Kellogg. The administration's major achievements in this area
were its fostering of a professional civil service, its cautious
sympathy toward Chinese demands for revision of the tariff and
extraterritoriality treaties, and its efforts to restore
friendship with Latin America.
Coolidge had a vague, idealistic desire to promote international
stability and peace. But he rejected American membership in the
League of Nations as then constituted and, whatever his personal
feelings, regarded the League as a dead issue. He felt bound by
Harding's prior commitment to support American membership on the
World Court, but he never fought for its approval and dropped
the issue when other members balked at accepting the
reservations added by the Senate anti-internationalists.
Although Coolidge did exert his influence to secure ratification
of the Kellogg-Briand Pact (1928) outlawing war, his hand was
forced by public opinion and he had no illusions about its
significance. He supported Hughes's efforts to resolve the
reparations tangle; but he was adamant against cancellation of
the World War I Allied debts, reportedly saying, "They hired the
money, didn't they?" His major effort in behalf of disarmament,
the Geneva Conference of 1927, was a failure.
Leaving the White House
Yet Coolidge was popular and could have been reelected in 1928.
But on Aug. 2, 1927, he publicly announced, "I do not choose to
run for president in 1928." The death of his son Calvin in 1924
had dimmed his interest in politics; both he and his wife felt
the physical strain of the presidency, and he had doubts about
the continued soundness of the economy. He left the White House
to retire to Northampton, where he died on Jan. 5, 1933, of a
Coolidge was not a leader of foresight and vision. But whatever
his shortcomings as seen in retrospect, he fitted the popular
yearning of his day for stability and normalcy.
Calvin Coolidge succeeded to the Presidency in the midst of the
Teapot Dome scandal, which involved corruption in the sale of
leases on naval oil reserves to private investors. His firm
resolve to investigate corruption, and his firing of Attorney
General Harry Daugherty for refusing to respond to
investigations of corruption, did much to restore public
confidence in the Republican party. Coolidge did little, but he
was immensely popular.
Coolidge was born in a small town in Vermont, where he worked in
his father's general store and on his own farm. He graduated
from Amherst College and two years later became a lawyer. He
then became active in Republican politics, moving from local
office to become president of the Massachusetts Senate, then
lieutenant governor, and finally governor.
Calvin Coolidge gained national attention while governor for his
handling of the Boston police strike of September 1919. The
police force demanded union recognition, and when it went out on
strike, looting and rioting occurred in the down-town stores.
Coolidge ordered the state militia into the city to restore
order, and on September 11 he took control of the police
department. He backed the Boston mayor's refusal to reinstate
the striking police officers. In a message to Samuel Gompers,
president of the American Federation of Labor, he argued, “There
is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody,
anywhere, any time.” That sentence brought him immediate acclaim
and a large reelection margin.
Coolidge went on to campaign for the Republican Presidential
nomination in 1920, but he lacked the support of Massachusetts
senator Henry Cabot Lodge. The convention denied him the
nomination, but the rank-and-file delegates selected him as
Warren Harding's running mate. Coolidge had no part in the
scandals that occurred during Harding's administration. He
presided over the Senate and was the first Vice President to
attend cabinet sessions.
After learning of President Harding's death on August 3, 1923,
Coolidge was sworn in as President by his father, the justice of
the peace in Plymouth, Vermont. He was the first President from
New England since Franklin Pierce. Coolidge became a very
popular President because of his unusual public diffidence—it
was hard for anybody, anywhere, at any time, to get a word out
of Silent Cal. In the spring of 1924, when the Teapot Dome
scandal broke, he appointed a special prosecutor and new
attorney general to investigate the scandals, using the slogan
“Let the guilty be punished.”
That summer Coolidge won the Republican nomination on the first
ballot, at the first convention to be broadcast on the radio.
With his smashing election victory over Democrat John W. Davis
and Progressive Robert La Follette, he became the second
President, after Theodore Roosevelt, to win a term in his own
right after completing the term of his deceased predecessor.
“The business of America is business,” Coolidge had observed as
Vice President, and once in the White House his priorities were
to reduce government expenditures, lessen government regulation
of corporations, promote subsidies for industries and protect
them with high tariffs (taxes on imported products), and cut
taxes. He vetoed 50 liberal spending bills passed by a coalition
of progressive Republicans and Democrats. He used surpluses to
reduce the national debt. He refused to take action in the coal
strike of 1927. He got Congress to cut the income tax and
inheritance tax. These policies fueled a boom in the stock
In foreign policy Coolidge continued the Republican opposition
to American participation in the League of Nations. He won
Senate approval of a treaty that provided for American adherence
to the World Court, but the reservations attached by the Senate
proved unacceptable to other nations and Coolidge dropped the
issue. He moderated American disputes over the oil and mineral
policy of the revolutionary government of Mexico. He sent
marines into Nicaragua to preserve order at the request of its
government, repulsing rebels led by Augusto Sandino. He
negotiated the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1927, which renounced war
as an instrument of national policy, though it did little good
in the next decade.
In 1927 Coolidge issued an announcement: “I do not choose to run
for President in 1928.” After leaving office he wrote an
autobiography and with the proceeds lived in comfortable
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This web page was last updated on:
09 December, 2008