Only Calvin Can Save Us…
Calvin Coolidge, 30th President of the United States
Coolidge was certainly the shyest of all our presidents, even more so than Lincoln. Silent he was not. He was known to be a skilled and effective public speaker, in private he was a man of few words and was therefore commonly referred to as “Silent Cal.”
He was the last great American president before Ronald Reagan. He is very forgotten about. Even by people on the right. He was a model small-government conservative. I have long regarded Calvin Coolidge as the greatest President of the 20th Century (yes, even above Reagan), and one of our best overall. We could use another Calvin Coolidge now.
Ronald Reagan admired him greatly. In fact, when Reagan was first viewing his new house—the White House—shortly after his inaugural in 1981, he entered into the Cabinet Room. On the wall were portraits of Truman, Jefferson, and Lincoln. The White House curator commented at the time, “If you don’t like Mr. Truman, you can move Mr. Truman out.”
Even though Reagan, a former Democrat, had voted for Truman back in 1948, he made his decision: Truman’s portrait was removed and one of Calvin Coolidge was dusted off and put in its place. The portrait was borrowed from the American Antiquarian Society. When President Reagan rode into his sunset, the portrait — by Frank O. Salisbury — was returned to Antiquarian Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Vice President Coolidge was visiting his father, and, in the middle of the night was informed that President Harding died and that he must take the oath of office, as soon as possible. The Secretary of State told Coolidge that any notary public could administer the oath. It turned out that Calvin’s father was a notary.
So at 2:47 in the morning John Coolidge, using the family Bible—in a small room with a wood stove and a rocking chair, lit by an oil lamp–swore his son in as president. When Coolidge was asked what he thought of becoming president, he said: “I think I can swing it.” He ran in 1924 and was elected by a handsome margin.
And swing it he did.
Calvin Coolidge did not think that a president was better suited to advance the welfare of the people than they were themselves. He thought the people ought to be left pretty much alone to advance their own welfare. And he was even less prone to tell them what to think.
He wrote his own fine speeches; No one ever doubted his integrity. He believed in a very limited role for the federal government and took seriously the limitations on federal power in the US Constitution… maybe the last President who actually took seriously his oath to defend the Constitution.
Coolidge helped lead the United States out of a depression caused in large part by the progressive policies of Woodrow Wilson, he helped to restore liberty and was the man largely responsible for making the ”Roaring Twenties” roar.
In 1929 America was considerably more prosperous, more content, and more peaceful—war with Mexico having been averted—than in 1923 when Coolidge accepted the presidency. One reason was that Coolidge vetoed foolish and expensive legislation.
Watch and listen to this thing of beauty… A motion picture with sound in 1924 makes this one of the earliest of its kind. Its pretty remarkable.
Coolidge believed in the vision of the Founding Fathers and their concept of limited government. He remained true to the principles of self-government and the sanctity of private property. The rule of law was paramount in his political philosophy.
No one was above the law, a belief that, if followed, would keep the people safe from the power of an overextended government. Today our government has moved so far from Coolidge’s tenets that it’s difficult to imagine such policies being emulated. Cal is probably rolling around in his grave with our $17 trillion dollar debt.
- “Silent Cal” cut the U.S. national debt by one third. Federal budget was reduced 50%.
- Unemployment was pared from its high in 1921 of 20% to an average of 3.3% for the remainder of the decade.
- By 1927, only the richest 2% of taxpayers paid any federal income tax; 98% of the population paid no income tax at all.
- He lowered Taxes from the 77% top bracket to 25% (a level that hasn’t been seen since).
- Per capita income increased more than 30%.
- Coolidge disdained regulation, and carried about this belief by making appointments who did little to restrict the activities of businesses.
- He declared that agriculture must stand “on an independent business basis,” and said: “government control cannot be divorced from political control.” He opposed subsidies and price controls.
- Coolidge spoke out in favor of the civil rights of African Americans and Catholics.
- He started the lighting of the Christmas tree on the White House lawn.
- He Started the Vermont Fish and Wild Life and Forestry Department.
- He started the Foundation for Mount Rushmore.
- He advocated for immigration restrictions, yet granted full U.S. citizenship to all American Indians, while permitting them to retain tribal land and cultural rights.
- While he was not an isolationist, Coolidge was reluctant to enter into foreign alliances.
- He was against America being a member of the League of Nations (UN).
- He stated the American people were not going to support the down trotten of society. He was a strong advocate for working hard to raise family and support family.
- He saw the Crash coming and warned his predecessor, Herbert Hoover.
Coolidge was the Reagan of his time – and is often underestimated. His accomplishments have been largely scrubbed from textbooks but increasingly, his post-presidential writings are only just now getting the recognition they deserve. His “business of America is business” quote has been taken out of context for decades.
In reality, Coolidge wanted economic freedom for Americans so more and more of them could have prosperity through their own hard work. Coolidge restored public confidence in the White House after the scandals of his predecessor’s administration, and left office with considerable popularity.
You hear so much talk about Reagan and being Reagan Conservatives, I tell people I’m a Coolidge Conservative. He was the man. For a different but accurate “take” on Coolidge – read John Derbyshire’s “Seeing Calvin Coolidge in a Dream.” It is fiction but you won’t discover any misstatement of facts therein.
“I want to people to work less for the government and more for themselves. I want them to have their rewards of their industries. This is chief meaning of freedom. Until we can re-establish a condition, under which the earnings of the people can be kept by the people. We are bound to suffer a very severe and distinct curtail of liberty!” – Coolidge
He understood the true heritage of American value, that is, small government and liberty are inseparable:
“The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen”
The distance we have fallen since Coolidge is truly mind-bending.
Only a Calvin can save us.