1923-1929Born: July 4, 1872 in Plymouth, Vermont
Died: January 5, 1933 in
Married to Grace Anna Goodhue Coolidge
At 2:30 on the morning of August 3, 1923, while visiting
in Vermont, Calvin Coolidge received word that he was President. By the
light of a kerosene lamp, his father, who was a notary public, administered
the oath of office as Coolidge placed his hand on the family Bible.
Coolidge was "distinguished for character more than for heroic
achievement," wrote a Democratic admirer, Alfred E. Smith. "His
great task was to restore the dignity and prestige of the Presidency
when it had reached the lowest ebb in our history ... in a time of extravagance
Born in Plymouth, Vermont, on July 4, 1872, Coolidge was the son of
a village storekeeper. He was graduated from Amherst College with honors,
and entered law and politics in Northampton, Massachusetts. Slowly, methodically,
he went up the political ladder from councilman in Northampton to Governor
of Massachusetts, as a Republican. En route he became thoroughly conservative.
As President, Coolidge demonstrated his determination to preserve the
old moral and economic precepts amid the material prosperity which many
Americans were enjoying. He refused to use Federal economic power to
check the growing boom or to ameliorate the depressed condition of agriculture
and certain industries. His first message to Congress in December 1923
called for isolation in foreign policy, and for tax cuts, economy, and
limited aid to farmers.
He rapidly became popular. In 1924, as the beneficiary of what was becoming
known as "Coolidge prosperity," he polled more than 54 percent
of the popular vote.
In his Inaugural he asserted that the country had achieved "a state
of contentment seldom before seen," and pledged himself to maintain
the status quo. In subsequent years he twice vetoed farm relief bills,
and killed a plan to produce cheap Federal electric power on the Tennessee
The political genius of President Coolidge, Walter Lippmann pointed
out in 1926, was his talent for effectively doing nothing: "This
active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country
admirably. It suits all the business interests which want to be let alone....
And it suits all those who have become convinced that government in this
country has become dangerously complicated and top-heavy...."
Coolidge was both the most negative and remote of Presidents, and the
most accessible. He once explained to Bernard Baruch why he often sat
silently through interviews: "Well, Baruch, many times I say only
'yes' or 'no' to people. Even that is too much. It winds them up for
twenty minutes more."
But no President was kinder in permitting himself to be photographed
in Indian war bonnets or cowboy dress, and in greeting a variety of delegations
to the White House.
Both his dry Yankee wit and his frugality with words became legendary.
His wife, Grace Goodhue Coolidge, recounted that a young woman sitting
next to Coolidge at a dinner party confided to him she had bet she could
get at least three words of conversation from him. Without looking at
her he quietly retorted, "You lose." And in 1928, while vacationing
in the Black Hills of South Dakota, he issued the most famous of his
laconic statements, "I do not choose to run for President in 1928."
By the time the disaster of the Great Depression hit the country, Coolidge
was in retirement. Before his death in January 1933, he confided to an
old friend, ". . . I feel I no longer fit in with these times."