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  • Archive for the 'Coolidge' Category

    The Lost Boys

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd March 2013 (All posts by )

    UPDATE: Here is one solution.

    This week Europe blew up. The media haven’t caught up yet, because they are what they are. But the markets are catching up fast.

    This is a huge event for the United States, because our political elite is bound and determined to turn us into Europe. Hasn’t the EU found the answer to war and peace and prosperity forever?

    Our Democrats believe it. Europe is their model. Every batty new idea they have is copied from the glorious European Union. Twenty years ago they still celebrated the Soviet Union, until that house of cards crumbled. Now they have shifted their fantasy paradise to Europe.

    Over there, fifty years of increasingly centralized control have made it impossible for voters to be heard. The political parties are stuck in GroupThink. Only the fascist “protest” parties agitate for reform. The ruling class doesn’t listen. They don’t have to — they don’t have to run for election.

    So European voters fled to the fascists to express their rage and despair. Imagine one out of four US voters going for Lincoln Rockwell, and you get the idea.

    Read the rest, as they say.

    Belmont Club has an unusually good post for yesterday. I could say that more than once a week, if truth be known. This one is quite to the point on Sequester Day.

    The NHS, which its creators boasted would be the ‘envy of the world’, has been found to have been responsible for up to 40,000 preventable deaths under the helm of Sir David Nicholson, a former member of the Communist Party of Britain. “He was no ordinary revolutionary. He was on the hardline, so-called ‘Tankie’ wing of the party which backed the Kremlin using military action to crush dissident uprisings” — before he acquired a taste for young wives, first class travel and honors.

    The NHS is dealing with the shortage of funds by pruning its tree of life, so to speak. He also does not tolerate anyone telling the truth about it.

    it emerged he spent 15 million pounds in taxpayer money to gag and prosecute whistleblowers — often doctors and administrators who could not stomach his policies.

    The public money spent on stopping NHS staff from speaking out is almost equivalent to the salaries of around 750 nurses.

    It has recently been noted that NHS staff no longer recommend their own hospital for family members. Also one quarter report being harassed or bullied at work.

    The other half of the equation involves the youth.

    The European Youth will remain outside the Death Pathways for some time yet. But they will spend the time waiting for their turn at affordable, caring and passionate medicine in poverty and hopelessness. With the exception of Germany youth unemployment in Europe is over 20%. “A full 62% of young Greeks are out of work, 55% of young Spaniards don’t have jobs, and 38.7% of young Italians aren’t employed.”

    Unemployment exceeds even our own Obama economy for failure. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Civil Society, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, Elections, Europe, Health Care, Leftism, Libertarianism, Obama, Political Philosophy, Public Finance, Tea Party | 11 Comments »

    Presidents’ Day: Amity Schlaes’ biography of Coolidge

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th February 2013 (All posts by )

    Very little attention is being paid to the holiday today, except as a traffic annoyance. When I was a child, we still celebrated Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) and Washington’s birthday (February 22). Since the holidays were combined and made into a long weekend, like most other American holidays, interest has declined in the subject. It has been for many years the weekend of the Midwinter yacht races in southern California, so I enjoyed it as much as anyone.

    Amity Schlaes’ new biography of Coolidge, which has been delayed for nearly a year from the original date promised, is now out and I have begun reading it. It has also attracted a hostile review in the New York Times by Jacob Heilbrunn author of such profound works as God Bless Bernie Sanders, an encomium on the Socialist Senator from the “people’s republic of Vermont”, as it is known in New Hampshire, and another tiresome attack on Justice Clarence Thomas and his wife.

    Mr Heilbrunn does not seem to be an economist and I am not certain of his qualifications to criticize President Coolidge, other than the obvious invitation by the New York Times.

    James Ceaser, a political scientist at the University of Virginia and a regular contributor to The Weekly Standard, said it was important to revive the “moral stigma” of debt, and added, “I want to go back to Coolidge and even McKinley.” The Claremont fellow Charles Kesler, author of “I Am the Change,” a recent book denouncing President Obama and liberalism, agreed: “We’re in for a Coolidge revival.”

    Indeed we are. Coolidge was a figure of sport in his own era. H. L. Mencken mocked his daily naps — “Nero fiddled, but Coolidge only snored” — and Dorothy Parker reportedly asked, “How could they tell?” when his death was announced. But such quips have only heightened the determination of a growing contingent of Coolidge buffs to resurrect him. They abhor the progressive tradition among Democrats (Woodrow Wilson) and Republicans (Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover) as hostile to big business and prosperity. Instead, their aim is to spread the austere doctrine of what might be called Republican Calvinism.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Biography, Blogging, Book Notes, Business, Civil Society, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, History, Holidays, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Politics | 9 Comments »

    Why I like Coolidge and why we are not recovering.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 3rd June 2011 (All posts by )

    I spent the past six months reading about Calvin Coolidge. I was interested in why the 1920s were a period of great prosperity and why the severe recession/ depression of 1920-1921 was so short. At its peak, there was 25% unemployment. Gross domestic product dropped by 6.9% in one report.

    The recession of 1920–21 was characterized by extreme deflation — the largest one-year percentage decline in around 140 years of data.[2] The Department of Commerce estimates 18% deflation, Balke and Gordon estimate 13% deflation, and Romer estimates 14.8% deflation. The drop in wholesale prices was even more severe, falling by 36.8%, the most severe drop since the American Revolutionary War. This is worse than any year during the Great Depression (adding all the years of the Great Depression together, however, yields more severe deflation). The deflation of 1920–21 was extreme in absolute terms, and also unusually extreme given the relatively small decline in gross domestic product.[2]

    The Harding-Coolidge administration took office in March 1921 and the recession was over in months. Why ? Governments were smaller then and had less influence on the economy. The Wilson Administration has been widely described as the equivalent of a fascist regime with its war time controls and economic meddling. Again from the Wikipedia article:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, Entrepreneurship, History, Obama, Politics, Public Finance | 20 Comments »

    Coolidge- Summing up

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th May 2011 (All posts by )

    I promise this is the last post of this series.

    Coolidge believed that the wedding of government and business would lead to socialism, communism or fascism. Hoover considered Henry Wallace a fascist for supporting the McNary-Haugen bill. Hoover, ironically, was to bring on the Depression by progressive measures that might have been called a form of fascism. The farm bill would be re-introduced under Hoover and die. Only during the New Deal would it find enough support to become law. The summer of 1927 was peaceful and prosperous. It was the summer of Babe Ruth’s 60 home runs. The Yankees would win the World Series and end up with a winning percentage of 0.714, still unsurpassed. In September, Gene Tunney defeated Jack Dempsey in the fight marked by the “long count.” The “Jazz Singer” came out that fall, the first talking feature picture. Charles Lindbergh flew the Atlantic in May of 1927. He and Coolidge were much alike yet different. Both were shy and diffident but Lindbergh was happy to cash in on his fame while Coolidge refused all offers after he left office.

    Coolidge arranged for Lindbergh to return to the states aboard the US cruiser, Memphis, where he was met by a crowd and by cabinet members, then there was a huge parade through New York City. Lindbergh and his mother stayed with the Coolidges at the temporary White House where Dwight Morrow, close friend of Coolidge from Amherst, introduced the young aviator to his daughter Ann. Aviation stocks, along with many others, soared and the Dow Jones Average by year end was at 200, the record high.

    In his December 6, 1927 State of the Union message, he mentioned an economic slowdown and asked for the same things he had been requesting; sell Muscle Shoals, help farm cooperatives and keep spending down. In May of 1928, he complained to reporters about Congressional spending. “I am a good deal disturbed at the number of proposals that are being made for the expenditure of money. The number and the amount is becoming appalling.” He managed to get another tax cut passed including a cut in the corporate tax rate. The surplus that year was $398 million.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, Elections, History, Political Philosophy, Politics, Taxes | 3 Comments »

    Dead President Speaking Tour

    Posted by Joseph Fouche on 14th May 2011 (All posts by )

    Silent Cal

    Silent Cal

    From the most recent of Michael Kennedy’s recent series of blog posts on Calvin Coolidge over at ChicagoBoyz:

    [Coolidge] used radio addresses very effectively long before Roosevelt adopted the medium. Coolidge’s voice, unlike most politicians of the era, was well suited to radio but could not reach the back of large crowds. In a 1927 poll on radio personalities, Coolidge came in fourth, after three musicians.

    This being the age of YouTube, I went looking for audio so I could hear the voice of Silent Cal whisper from the dust:

    This led me to a collection of YouTube audio of presidents that were even more dead than Silent Cal. Quoth the collection:

    Scholars routinely observe that the advent of radio reshaped political speech. But for more than a decade before the first commercial radio broadcast station was inaugurated in Pittsburgh in 1920, citizens had been listening to candidate speeches. This feat was made possible by the phonograph.

    I’m old enough to remember being chided by my parents or older siblings not to jump up and down as a small child because I might make the record player jump and scratch the record. To the youngins of today who grew up sniffing heavy doses of Steven Paul Job’s Reality Distortion Field, this might as well have happened long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away where dinosaurs and discos ruled the Earth by walking 100 miles to school through 1 mile deep snow uphill both ways. But digital audio only discriminates based on the skill of the encoder and the compression algorithm used to encode so here’s a few highlights from the Dead Presidents Society on YouTube:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Coolidge, History, Video | 2 Comments »

    The Coolidge Presidency III

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th May 2011 (All posts by )

    La Follette ran for president in 1924, as feared by the Republicans, but on the Socialist ticket and got little support from mainstream voters. His issue was “control of government and industry by private monopoly.” Coolidge ran a low key campaign and, as he had done in Massachusetts, did not name his opponents. His speeches were not in campaign style but on general subjects like “What it means to be a Boy Scout,” and “The duties of citizenship” including, of course, the obligation to vote. He used radio addresses very effectively long before Roosevelt adopted the medium. Coolidge’s voice, unlike most politicians of the era, was well suited to radio but could not reach the back of large crowds. In a 1927 poll on radio personalities, Coolidge came in fourth, after three musicians.

    One of Coolidge’s radio talks had a profound impact on a nine-year-old boy who had put together the crystal set on which he heard the president. It was 1922 and Eugene Fluckey was nine years old. What he heard was “Press on. Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education alone will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are important.” The boy was so awestruck that he scribbled down the president’s words. He would later become the most decorated submarine captain of World War II and completed 12 war patrols without the loss of a single man in his crew. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and five Navy Crosses. He and his ship, the USS Barb, were known as “the galloping ghost.” Fluckey later told the story, “Silent Cal did not speak often but when he did people listened.”

    Some of Coolidge’s refusal to campaign was certainly his depression after the death of his son. Some was a recognition of his own abilities, or lack of them. In his Autobiography, he says, “When he went, the power and glory of the presidency went with him. I don’t know why such a price was exacted for occupying the White House.” Dawes took up the slack and enjoyed campaigning. His delivery was electric. One said of him, ” It was said that he was the only man in the world who, when he spoke, could keep both feet and both arms in the air at once.” His principal themes were LaFollette and the Democrats. For LaFollette, it was “red radicalism.” He spoke out forcefully against the Klan in August but was warned that it could hurt the ticket and he left that topic alone thereafter. Davis, the Democrat, in spite of being warned, attacked the Klan forcefully but nobody was paying much attention. Oddly enough, he would be the opposing counsel in 1954 for Brown vs Board of Education opposing school integration.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Coolidge, History, Libertarianism, Political Philosophy, Politics, Taxes | 1 Comment »

    The presidency of Calvin Coolidge II

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th May 2011 (All posts by )

    Coolidge was more concerned with domestic issues than foreign policy. This had been true of most US presidents since the Civil War until 1917 and it was part of Harding’s “Return to Normalcy” plan. Coolidge knew little about other countries although he was not an isolationist. The true isolationist policy of the US was in the 1930s under Roosevelt who canceled a Hoover sponsored economic summit in Britain as soon as he was inaugurated. Only in 1939 and 40 was Roosevelt converted to the internationalist that is remembered by his supporters and biographers, internationalists themselves. I will have more to say about the slanders of Harding and Coolidge by the political left and the historians later.

    Coolidge’s domestic agenda was dominated by a few issues. The first was the emergence of the “Farm Bloc” in Congress. The McNary- Haugen bill was the first of the “farm relief” bills and would dog Coolidge through his presidency as he vetoed it but it kept coming back as the farm bloc grew stronger. The background of the bill is well stated in the Wikipedia article:

    World War I had created an atmosphere of high prices for agricultural products as European nations demand for exports surged. Farmers had enjoyed a period of prosperity as U.S. farm production expanded rapidly to fill the gap left as European belligerents found themselves unable to produce enough food. When the war ended, supply increased rapidly as Europe’s agricultural market rebounded. Overproduction led to plummeting prices which led to stagnant market conditions and living standards for farmers in the 1920s. Worse, hundreds of thousands of farmers had taken out mortgages and loans to buy out their neighbors property, and were now unable to meet the financial burden. The cause was the collapse of land prices after the wartime bubble when farmers used high prices to buy up neighboring farms at high prices, saddling them with heavy debts. Farmers, however, blamed the decline of foreign markets, and the effects of the protective tariff. They demanded relief as the agricultural depression grew steadily worse in the middle 1920s, while the rest of the economy flourished.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, Elections, History, Politics | 9 Comments »

    The presidency of Calvin Coolidge- I

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 6th May 2011 (All posts by )

    Friday, August 2, 1923 was to be Coolidge’s last day of vacation at Plymouth Notch. He had posed for photographs for the small pool of reporters who covered his doings. They had shown him chopping away rot from a maple tree, wearing his suit pants and vest but bowing to the informality of the occasion by removing his suit coat. He had previously worn a woolen smock that had belonged to his grandfather for such chores but, recently, there had been accusations that it was a costume of some sort. He remarked that “In public life it is sometimes necessary in order to appear really natural to be actually artificial.”

    The Coolidge family retired early. A telegram from San Francisco conveying the news of the president’s death reached reporters staying in a boarding house in Bridgewater, Vermont. They hastened the eight miles to Plymouth Notch and knocked on the door of John Coolidge’s house. He awakened his son who then dressed and came downstairs. He was informed in a telephone call from his father’s store to Secretary of State Hughes that the oath of office could be administered by a notary. Coolidge returned home and, at 2:47 am, his father administered the oath of office as president.

    The nation’s newspapers carried drawings and paintings of the scene the next day. It is still the only instance of a father administering the oath of office of president to his son and of a man taking the oath at home. The house was small and lacked indoor plumbing. It was typical of Coolidge in its lack of pretension and the image was a powerful one to begin his presidency. After the oath was administered, the Coolidges returned to bed, also typical. They arose at 6 am and began the trip back to Washington with a stop at his mother’s grave in a nearby cemetery. These symbols would stand him in good stead when the Harding scandals began to fill the newspapers in the months to come.

    Harding’s body was returned to Washington on August 7 where he lay in state in the Capitol. Coolidge issued a proclamation for a day of national mourning and it was apparent that Harding was genuinely liked by the public. The funeral was in Marion, Ohio on August 10.

    In 1923, the presidency was very different from what it became under Hoover and Roosevelt. Coolidge greeted White House visitors in person, the last president to do so. He had one secretary and no aides. His telephone was not on his desk but in a nearby booth and unused. He did not know how to drive a car. He had carefully cultivated his image, even to his famous lack of small talk. At a dinner party while vice-president, a woman next to him at the dinner table told him she had a bet with her husband that she could get him to say at least three words. His reply was, “You lose.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, Elections, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 6 Comments »

    Harding and Coolidge

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 18th April 2011 (All posts by )

    The Republican convention of 1920 knew that the party was heavily favored to win the fall election. Wilson was forlornly hoping for third term nomination in spite of his crippled state as a result of the stroke. Teddy Roosevelt had died in 1919 at the age of 60. The contenders on the Republican side included Illinois Governor Frank Lowden whose only major handicap with the voters was the fact the he had married the daughter of George Pullman, the railroad tycoon, and was rather ostentatious in displaying his wealth. He had, however, been a reform governor of Illinois. General Leonard Wood, who had been a medical officer commissioned into the regular army in 1886 as a line officer, was another. He had been the senior officer of the US Army in 1917, yet President Wilson had appointed John J. Pershing, junior to Wood, to the European command. Wilson considered Wood a potential political rival, somewhat like Harry Truman and Franklin Roosevelt considered General MacArthur.

    The third contender was Hiram Johnson, who had run as Teddy Roosevelt’s VP candidate on the Progressive ticket in 1912. There was little enthusiasm for him except among former Progressives who had returned to the party for 1920. Warren Harding is often described as a dark horse who was selected by party bosses after the leaders had exhausted each other. In fact, he was always in the top four and his selection was not a surprise to the convention.

    The huge surprise was the nomination of Coolidge for Vice-President. He did not seek the nomination and was not interested after his experience as lieutenant governor of Massachusetts. After the Boston Police Strike, his name was familiar to the nation and in a favorable way. A big issue was the League of Nations and Coolidge favored membership, although with the Lodge reservations. Senator Lodge, no ally of Coolidge, exchanged letters with him on the League and agreed to disagree. Nevertheless, Lodge offered to place Coolidge’s name in nomination for President. Why he made the offer is not know. After several very favorable newspaper profiles appeared in early 1920, Coolidge made another statement that he was not a candidate for President. Frank Stearns and Lodge tried to bring a Coolidge delegation to the convention but Wood lived in Massachusetts and the delegation split. His interest in the nomination was further diminished by the death of his beloved step-mother, Carrie in May 1920.

    Lowden’s handlers favored Coolidge as a VP candidate as he and the governor were from different parts of the country. Lowden’s biggest problem with the bosses was his reputation as incorruptible. The Illinois party bosses distrusted him. They feared he couldn’t be bought, or if so, wouldn’t stay bought. Robert Sobel, in his biography of Coolidge, says that Lowden was probably the best qualified Republican of the 1920s. One of the party bosses, Boies Penrose, asked Harding if he wanted to be president. Harding liked being a Senator and declined, leading Penrose to look elsewhere. By the time of the convention, Penrose was fatally ill, although his reputation was still powerful. He awakened from a coma during the convention, asked about the voting and suggested they choose Harding. Then, he lapsed into the coma again.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Coolidge, Elections, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 11 Comments »

    Coolidge as Governor

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Coolidge’s friends and supporters knew he would like to be Governor. As he put it, ” a man would scarcely be willing to be Lieutenant Governor,” if he did not wish the higher office. As President of the Senate, a powerful office in Massachusetts, he had had much to do with the success of Governor Walsh’s legislative initiatives, quite Progressive at the time. In 1915, the party chose Samuel McCall for governor and Coolidge for the Lieutenant governor spot. McCall had been a Mugwump in the 1884 election, supporting Democrat Grover Cleveland and was considered a reformer. McCall had been forgiven by the party, mostly because he had not joined the Progressives in 1912, and he and Coolidge were elected in the primary which McCall had lost the previous year. The platform, largely due to Coolidge’s influence, was quite Progressive, including workman’s compensation, public education, including vocational education, pure food and drug laws, honest weights and measures and wage and hours reform. Coolidge polled better than McCall suggesting that some still had not forgiven the latter for his mugwump radicalism.

    The family taken in 1924 before Calvin Jr.’s death.

    In 1912, Coolidge first met one of his two mentors, Frank Stearns, a fellow Amherst alumnus and a wealthy department store owner. Their first meeting was not promising as Coolidge’s abrupt manner offended Stearns. Later, in 1915, he learned that the local issue he was trying to present to Coolidge had been enacted without his influence. Stearns thereafter was a major supporter of Coolidge along with Murray Crane, a former Massachusetts governor and Senator, who became his chief adviser. Crane died just at the time Coolidge was inaugurated President and the president bitterly regretted the loss of this friend and adviser. Crane and Stearns would have much to do with getting Coolidge the vice-presidential nomination as he was not the choice of the party bosses who chose Harding.

    Stearns on left with John Coolidge (Sr).

    Coolidge and Governor McCall were re-elected in 1916 with increased margins and again in 1917. In the 1917 election, Coolidge came within 2500 votes of winning Boston, indicating his good relationships with Democrats and especially the Irish. McCall had told Coolidge that he really wished to be Senator, elected by the legislature until 1913 and the 17th Amendment, but would not mention this during the election. A few months after this election, McCall asked Coolidge to announce that he planned to run for Governor in 1918 and the Governor would run for the Senate. The incumbent Senator, Weeks, was a dull figure and out of touch. Coolidge announced but McCall, the incumbent Governor, withdrew from the Senate primary race because of the war and a lack of enthusiasm for his candidacy. This left Coolidge with the Republican nomination. His Democratic opponent was a shoe manufacturer named Long who had previously been a Republican. Their platform was moderately progressive and the race seemed comfortably in their hands. Weeks, however, was a weak candidate and the attempt of McCall to replace him divided the party somewhat. Long, his opponent, attacked him incessantly but, typically, Coolidge refused to return the attacks or even mention the name of his opponent. Coolidge was elected by a narrow, 17,000 vote, margin and Weeks lost to former Governor Walsh

    Influenza epidemic had prevented the parties from holding state conventions or doing much campaigning. Patriotism had led much of the electorate to support the Wilson Administration. There was also the growing influence of immigrants in eastern Massachusetts, especially the Irish and Italians, who tended to vote Democratic. Coolidge got on well with Democrats and their support, as in this case, often made the difference for him. He was now Governor of Massachusetts, the height of any ambition, as he tells us in his autobiography.

    He went to Maine to rest after the election and, a few days later, was awakened to learn of the Armistice. The Great War was over as he settled into his duties as Governor. Since there was no residence for the Governor, he stayed at the Adams House, a boarding house where he had stayed when in Boston as a member of the Legislature and as Lieutenant Governor. His wife remained at home with the boys. Eventually, they took a two room suite at Adams House and the family moved to Boston. President Wilson stopped in Boston on his way back from Europe and he and Coolidge began a friendship that lasted until Wilson’s death and continued with Mrs Wilson after.

    A strike of Boston public railway workers began a series of labor upsets due to the inflation that had outpaced wages. Coolidge helped to negotiate between the parties and the matter was turned over to arbitration with a satisfactory outcome for both the workers and the railway companies which had limited options as their income was derived from fares. At this period, and really for much of his career, Coolidge was very close to the Progressives in his ideas about labor and what we would call the welfare state. He supported limits on working hours for women and children and even a minimum daily wage. Historians, enamored with Wilson and Roosevelt, have misrepresented his beliefs.

    Upon his return from Vermont in August, he faced a growing problem with the policemen of Boston. When hired, they had signed an agreement that they would not join a union. In spite of this agreement, a local “Boston Social Club” had been formed. The union now proposed to join the AFL. Police strikes in London and Liverpool had resulted in better pay and hours. The move toward a true union was strongly opposed by Curtis, the police commissioner. The Boston Mayor, a Democrat, intervened and tried to convince Coolidge to press the commissioner for arbitration. Coolidge had appointed the commissioner and could remove him but he felt he could not intervene otherwise. Furthermore, he agreed with the commissioner that the principle was more important than arbitration could establish. Coolidge was convinced that the matter would probably result in denying him re-election but he refused to pressure the commissioner. At the same time, he was sympathetic to the policemen whose hours and working conditions needed improvement.

    On Sunday, September 7, the matter came to a head. Ironically, on that day he was scheduled to speak at the state AFL Convention, which he did. The police union did not come up. When the union refused to back down, its officers were brought before the police commission, charged and removed from their positions. At that point, 75% of Boston policemen went on strike. It was Tuesday, September 9, 1919. The number of strikers was much larger than expected. The strike began at about 5 PM on the ninth. There were contingency plans with Metropolitan Police and State Police but the numbers were small and that night, about midnight, there was a rash of window smashing and theft from shops. Coolidge was outraged but he bided his time.

    He had been considered pro-union as a politician thus far and he had had considerable experience with labor strife. A harsh letter from Samuel Gompers, who did not know Coolidge, did not help matters. A reporter about this time wrote: “The Governor is a Republican, but it is said that the Democrats would do anything for him, many of them as much as vote for him.” Coolidge arrived back in Boston on August 19 and issued a statement supporting Curtis. Peters, the Mayor and a Democrat, dithered, appointing a commission to study the problem. Coolidge kept his counsel as the crisis grew. He deferred to Curtis, a pattern he would repeat as President, delegating authority and allowing the man on the spot to go as far as he could to a solution before intervening. According to William Allen White, a Democratic party boss and union leader, Big Jim Timilty, who had served in the Massachusetts Senate with him, called on Coolidge to reassure him that the other unions were not going to support the police union with a general strike. “You see, Cal’s my kind of guy and he’s right about those damned cops,” he told a reporter years later.

    Once the police actually struck, he was ready. First, Mayor Peters called out a volunteer militia. The violence was exaggerated but there was a lot of agitation about safety. Eventually, the city of Boston paid out $34,000 for damages. Three people were killed. By the third day, the strikers were having second thoughts. President Wilson had denounced them. The Mayor’s commission had recommended that the city recognize the union. That was unacceptable. Coolidge then acted. He called out the state Guard, took control of the police force and restored Curtis who had been dismissed by the Mayor.

    The union now attempted to cut its losses. The Central Labor Union now voted against a general strike as Timilty had promised. The police union attempted to negotiate a return to work without penalty. It was not to be. Curtis issued an order that no man who had left his post on September 9 would be accepted back in the police force and they were not allowed to “loiter on the premises of the different station houses.” There were lots of returning veterans who were eager for jobs and the city had no difficulty replacing the strikers. There was talk of the possibility that the dismissal of the officers might cost Coolidge re-election. His response was, “It is not necessary for me to hold another office.” He knew his action was popular. In fact, it made him something of a national hero in this era of the Red Scare and nationwide labor unrest. Here is where Gompers sent his unwise telegram to Coolidge. He did not know that Coolidge was considered a friend of labor and that the unions did not support the police strike.

    Coolidge pounced, publishing the telegram and his response in the newspapers. The last sentence of his response would take him to the presidency. “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” It is easy to see why Ronald Reagan was such a fan of Coolidge and had his portrait placed in the cabinet room. In the weeks and months following the strike, Coolidge received over 70,000 letters. In his autobiography, Coolidge wrote that he tried to help the strikers find other employment but they never worked again as Boston policemen. One of the strikers was William F. Regan whose son, Donald Regan, would someday be the Secretary of the Treasury and later Chief of Staff in the Reagan White House.

    Posted in Conservatism, Coolidge, Economics & Finance, History, Law Enforcement, Political Philosophy, Politics | 12 Comments »

    Calvin Coolidge

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd April 2011 (All posts by )

    Calvin Coolidge is one of our least understood, and certainly least appreciated presidents. Here is what the hip (for the times) writers had to say.

    Apart from that, he did little, and believed that the surging stock market vindicated his minimalist approach. He showed as little concern for the idea that the boom might be unsustainable as he did for the fact that, during his presidency, membership of the Ku Klux Klan exceeded 4 million. Instead, he developed, and encouraged a reputation for being a man of few words. Commentators approved. “This active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably,” wrote Walter Lippmann in 1926. No one imagined the economic catastrophe that lay ahead.

    I have just read Coolidge’s autobiography and have another thought. First, all the clever quips about him show no understanding at all of his nature and experience. Second, would the “economic catastrophe that lay ahead” have occurred if he had chosen to run for another term ? Was the boom “unsustainable” ?

    There is a thread of self hatred in all the discussion of the “Roaring 20s” and The Depression. We deserved the Depression, as best I can tell from the writings of the Roosevelt supporters after 1932.

    Here is Coolidge in some of his own words. First, everyone should read this book to get an understanding of what America was like before the Welfare State. John Calvin Coolidge was raised by a father who taught him industry and thrift. His grandfather, Calvin Galusha Coolidge, died when his grandson was six years old. Here is the impression he made on his grandson.

    “He was a spare man over 6 feet tall, of a nature that caused people to confide in him, and of a character which made him a constant choice for public office.”

    “He and my grandmother brought up as their own children, the boy and girl of his only sister, whose parents died when they were less than two years old. He made them no charge, but managed their inheritance and turned it all over to them with the income, besides giving the boy $800 of his own money when he was eighteen years old, the same as he did my father.”

    “In his mind, the only real respectable way to get a living was from tilling the soil. He therefore did not exactly approve having his son go into trade.

    In order to tie me to the land, in his last sickness he executed a deed to me for life of forty acres, called the Lime Kiln lot, on the west part of his farm, with the remainder to my lineal descendants, thinking that, as I could not sell it, and my creditors could not get it, it would be necessary for me to cultivate it.”

    Coolidge’s father kept a store and was elected to the state legislature. He chose the law for his son although it was very hard for him when his son left for Massachusetts to follow his desires. The account of Calvin’s boyhood is one of hard work but simple pleasure. He drove a team of oxen for plowing when he was 12 years old. Anyone who assumed airs were held in contempt. If the hired girl or man needed to go to town with the family, Calvin surrendered his seat in the wagon. His mother was an invalid although a strong personality. She died at 39 when he was a boy.

    At the age of 13, he was sent to an Academy to further his schooling and prepare him for college. Both boys and girls attended and several of his family were graduates. He worked part time in a cab shop in the town where the Black River Academy lay. Vacations were from May to September to allow time for farm work. His father paid for his school expenses but any extra money he earned was deposited in a bank for him by his father. The principal and his assistant both lived to see Coolidge President.

    In March of his senior year, his younger sister died of appendicitis. This was 1890 and knowledge of appendicitis was very recent. He carried this heartbreak with the discretion common for the time. After graduation, he moved on to Amherst College. His education was delayed a year as he became ill and had to spend time recovering; time he spent painting the interior of his father’s store. In the fall of 1891, he finally began at Amherst. His father remarried the year he began college and he was very fond of his stepmother, a school teacher.

    In college, Coolidge excelled in mathematics, including calculus. He was not so strong in languages. His studies in History and Philosophy were also favorites. His grades improved with time and he graduated cum laude. From there, he entered into the study of law. He served as clerk for a firm whose partners he greatly respected. He dryly comments on the two methods of learning the law, by schooling and by experience. He prefers the latter and writes, “I think counsels are mistaken in the facts of their case about as often as they are mistaken in the law.” He also comments, “It is one thing to know how to get admitted to the bar but quite another to know how to practice law. Those who attend a law school know how to pass examinations, while those who study in an office know how to apply their knowledge to actual practice.”

    He lived within the frugal limits of the funds his father provided for his upkeep, $30 per month. This left little for “unnecessary pleasantries of life.” In June of 1897, he felt adequately prepared for the bar exam and took it, passing as of July 4. 1897. He then entered the practice of general law. Since he had completed his preparation in less time than he had expected, he remained in the same law office for seven months after being admitted to the bar before he settled in an office in Northhampton. Here, he was to remain for 21 years until elected Governor of Massachusetts. His rent for his office was $200 per year.

    He became involved in local politics, natural for a lawyer, and was elected to the city council, then became City Solicitor, which came with a salary of $600 per year. He held this office until 1902. In 1903, he was appointed Clerk of the Courts for Hampshire County by the Supreme Judicial Court. He considered this the highest honor he received as a lawyer. In 1904, he met Grace Goodhue who had graduated from college and came to the Clarke School for the Deaf to teach.

    They were married in October of 1905. In 1906, they rented the home, half of a two family house, they were to have for 31 years. Their first child was born in September 1906. He was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives and served two terms, after which he declined renomination, something of a tradition in Massachusetts politics. Their second son was born and Calvin decided to devote all his time to his law practice. In 1910, he was elected Mayor of Northhampton. This was a local office and would not interfere with his law practice. In 1911, he was elected to the Massachusetts state Senate. He was re-elected in 1912 and became something of a force, interested in the western part of the state and its issues, especially transportation which at the time meant trolleys and railroads. In 1914, a bad year for Republicans, he became President of the Senate with the support of most of the Democrats as well as his own party.

    The World War began the following summer. The Republicans were able to unite and became the legislative majority in the following election. The Governor was a Democrat but he and Coolidge cooperated well. Some of Coolidge’s later philosophy began here as he shows pride in reducing the volume of legislation and regulations in each year he served as President of the Senate, an office second only to the Governor. After the 1915 legislative session, he had intended to return to his law practice but found that he was being widely supported for Lieutenant Governor. He dryly comments that he was widely considered a liberal but even the businessmen came to him to offer support. As a result, he offered his name for the office but did not campaign.

    He was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1915 by 75,000 to 50,000. He had spent the election season campaigning for the candidate for Governor, Samuel McCall. Since the office did not include presiding over the state Senate, Coolidge thought he might have time for his law practice but this was not to be and he took in an associate who, in time, took over the law practice. He mentions that the public expects Chief Executives in all levels of government to conduct themselves as an “entertainment bureau.” For this reason, he spent much time speaking on behalf of the Governor.

    In 1917, the US entered the war and the Governor, who wished to become a US Senator, suggested that Coolidge announce for Governor in 1918. He was elected and, shortly after the election, the Armistice was signed, ending the War.

    I will continue this in the next post. I think Coolidge will become a more important historical figure as we see how Barack Obama is duplicating the pattern of Hoover/Roosevelt in turning a severe recession into a depression. Had Coolidge been president in 1929-30, history might be very different. In the next post, I will go more into his political philosophy as VP and President.

    Posted in Big Government, Conservatism, Coolidge, History, Political Philosophy, Politics | 8 Comments »