“You lose”- said Coolidge to a woman who challenged
that she could make him say more than two words. Coolidge was a taciturn, frugal
man also known as “Silent Cal”.A man of few words, Coolidge kept a
low profile throughout his Presidency. After graduating from Amherst College, he
studied law and his early career began as a lawyer. His political career began
by holding various Republican offices including serving in the State Legislative
Assembly and becoming the Mayor of Massachusetts. He was also the State Senate
Coolidge was elected Lieutenant Governor and then the Governor of
It was during his term as Governor that the Police Strike took place and by his
bold statement, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by
anybody, anywhere, anytime” Coolidge catapulted to fame and earned the
vice-presidential nomination of the Republican Party. As Vice-President, he
seldom exercised his constitutional right to speak as presiding officer of the
Senate and preferred maintaining a low profile during cabinet meetings.
After becoming President, Coolidge embarked on the policy of
minimum government interference in domestic affairs. He was an ardent admirer of
business leaders and felt that the “business of America is business”.
He supported the Revenue Acts of 1924 and 1926 which gave tax relief to the
rich. This caused uneven distribution of wealth and a surplus of goods which put
the economy in jeopardy. 200 corporations were in charge of 50percent of the
nation’s wealth. His thoughts mirrored that of the business and corporate
community and though the stock market reached great heights and the economy
Coolidge’s Presidency saw economic disparities in the nation
and the prosperity did not touch everyone equally. In fact, these Acts which
freed private funds were the reason behind the infamous stock market crash of
1929. He supported the Immigration Act of 1924 which limited the number of
Eastern and Southern Europeans permitted in America and excluded the Japanese
totally. He wrongly protested against farm relief legislation that might have
helped in propping up a depressed farm economy.
In matters of foreign policy, he gave a free hand to his cabinet.
In Latin America, Coolidge showed signs of economic imperialism and felt that
America should seek out foreign marketsIn 1928, Latin American nations were keen
to reject US business practices and it took all of Secretary Hughes skills to
stop them from passing anti-US drafts. He was against participation in the
League of Nations and did not want to get involved into any encumbering
alliances. Though, Coolidge was for the 1928 Kellog-Briand Pact which outlined
rejecting war as a means of settling disputes, the pact had no legal enforcement
and remained a gesture on paper only.
It was during his term that Charles Lindbergh took off for his
famous flight. It was also during his tenure that the members of the Ku Klux
Klan exceeded 4 million in number and Babe Ruth hit his legendary 60 home
runsThough Coolidge disliked small talk, he was surprisingly extremely
media-savvy. Giving press conferences, speaking on the radio, posing for
portraits- Coolidge was a very visible leader. He had emerged untarnished from
the scandals which had rocked the Harding government and was viewed as an honest
and industrious man. He believed in the motto “let well enough alone”
and this, along with his philosophical conviction that everything was Destiny,
was perhaps the reason for his passive style of leadership.
He hated confrontations, had a propensity to delegate authority
and disliked taking advice. He once remarked of his Secretary of Commerce,
Herbert Hoover, “That man has offered me unsolicited advice everyday for
six years, all of it bad”, when all that Hoover wanted to do was to make
the government more proactive.Coolidge was one of the three Mayors to become
President. Though he had won the public’s admiration during his
Presidency, the Great Depression turned public tide against him with the
majority feeling that it was Coolidge’s poor policy decisions that were
responsible for the collapse of the economy. He ranks amongst the bottom of
American Presidents as regards to his legacy.