Warren Harding



Number President 29th President
Terms Served 1 Term Served
Dates Served 1921-1923
Party Republican
State Represented Ohio
Married to / First Lady Florence Kling Harding
Born November 2, 1865 in Corsica (Blooming Grove), Ohio
Died August 2, 1923 during his presidency while visiting San Francisco, California
Age William Harding would be 143 years old this year


A Baptist by religion, Warren Harding graduated from the Ohio Central College. He held several jobs as teacher, insurance salesman before becoming the editor and publisher of a newspaper in Marion, Ohio. Thereafter, he joined politics and served in the State Legislative Service. He soon became the Lieutenant Governor of Ohio and made a mark for himself as a person able to bind together conflicting interests.

Harding’s career in the Senate was unremarkable, in spite of being Ohio’s first popularly elected Senator.

His Presidential tenure was spent in trying to bring a nation back to normalcy after World War1 and in fact, he had won his Presidency on the strength of this promise. But, being aware of his own limitations, he tried to appoint capable men to his Cabinet.

Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes was one of the most competent of his selection. Unfortunately, Harding also surrounded himself with cheats who later came to be known as “the Ohio Gang” and many of them were later sent to jail.  He appointed Harry Dougherty as Attorney General in spite of his own misgivings. He famously remarked, “My God, this is a hell of a job! I have no trouble with my enemies….But my damn friends; they’re the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!” He simply could not say ‘no’ to his friends and bore the brunt of this habit in later years. Harding took more pleasure in being liked than in being a good leader.

Harding spoke about “return to normalcy” but had little idea about what it meant. “Though he looked like a President”, as his close associates remarked, Harding took few initiatives, preferring to let his cabinet take responsibilities. This policy of allowing his cabinet to supercede his Presidency cost him his reputation in the long run. The Presidency seemed to overwhelm him at times and he admitted to his close friends that the job was beyond him. He hardly ever took a firm stand on any issue preferring to avoid the issue altogether. He tried to make up for his limitations by giving support to a few reform measures.

His most notable domestic achievement was signing the revised version of the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 which, for the first time, permitted the President to present a unified budget. Though decidedly conservative on trade issues and opposed to organized labor, he, nevertheless tried to harmonize relations between business and labor. He unequivocally favored pro-business policies by the government. He also tackled the most controversial issue of his time, prohibition, by seeking harmony on the policy. He supported farm co-operatives bills and liberalized farm credits.

 In matters of foreign policies he depended upon his cabinet, having little idea about it. He gave a free hand to Secretary of State, Hughes. He was the first President to visit both Alaska and Canada and this tour was largely seen as ‘damage control’ to explain his policies to people, when talks of corruption among his friends whom he had appointed to office, spiraled out of control. Harding was lucky to have a few able men to run the domestic and foreign affairs competently.

An upright man himself, nevertheless, Harding’s years in office was marred by scandals, especially the ‘Tea Pot Dome’ scandal. The President saw himself simply as a ceremonial head and hesitated to take decisions which may have been controversial. Over- trusting and lacking in leadership, Harding was pushed into a job which was highly demanding and he neither had the political skill nor the inclination to undertake the Presidency successfully.

Ultimately, his legacy was tarnished not by his corrupt friends but by his own lack of political acumen and vision. He never really understood how he wanted to take the nation forward and his indecisive nature hampered him even further.



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