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Calvin Coolidge
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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Mar 05, 2010 09:03PM) (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Calvin 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 and waste...."

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 River.

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."

Source: The White House Biographies

message 3: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Thank you Bryan for the adds.

message 4: by Bryan (last edited May 26, 2011 01:18PM) (new)

Bryan Craig His autobiography:

The Autobiography Of Calvin Coolidge by Calvin Coolidge Calvin Coolidge Calvin Coolidge

His wife's:
Grace Coolidge An Autobiography by Grace Coolidge Grace Coolidge

message 5: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Grace Coolidge: the people's lady in Silent Cal's White House

Grace Coolidge The People's Lady in Silent Cal's White House by Robert H. Ferrell Robert H. Ferrell


When Grace Anna Goodhue wed Calvin Coolidge in 1905, she thought then that marriage "has seldom united two people of more vastly different temperaments and tastes." Warm and vivacious to her husband's dour and taciturn, Grace was to be a contrast to Calvin for years to come. But as Robert Ferrell shows, their marriage ensured her husband's rise to high office.

Ferrell focuses on Grace Coolidge's years in the White House, 1923-1929. Although the president did his best to rein her in--even forbidding her to speak on public issues--Grace quickly became one of the most popular and stylish of first ladies. Among the best-dressed women of her time (famously in red), she became the nation's fashion leader. She also opened the White House to the public, sponsored musicales within its walls, and worked on behalf of the deaf and disabled--all despite a less than supportive spouse. Ferrell recounts how she accomplished all of this, finding strength through the years in her Burlington background, her family, and her faith.

In this lively book Ferrell provides a perceptive and often moving account of Grace Coolidge. From his insightful portrait of her Vermont roots to a frank assessment of the Coolidges and their sons, he offers a fresh perspective on a much-admired woman who was perhaps her husband's greatest political asset.

Ferrell also takes readers inside Grace's strained marriage to the famously taciturn president who kept his wife in the dark about his plans, both political and personal. He offers a much more subtle look at the Coolidges and their relationship in the public eye than we've had, shedding new light on how she managed to deal with his irascible temper--and how the marriage ultimately triumphed over difficulties that Calvin could not have handled alone.

Alternately charming and analytic, Ferrell's narrative will leave readers with the real sense of Grace Coolidge as a human being and a contributor to the historical legacy of presidential wives. For she did more than simply enliven a quiet White House--she set the tone for a nation and for first ladies to come.

This book is part of the Modern First Ladies series.

message 6: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Good adds Bryan - I like the format in message five with the synopsis - interesting reading.

message 7: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Coolidge

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes


Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man, delivers a brilliant and provocative reexamination of America’s thirtieth president, Calvin Coolidge, and the decade of unparalleled growth that the nation enjoyed under his leadership. In this riveting biography, Shlaes traces Coolidge’s improbable rise from a tiny town in New England to a youth so unpopular he was shut out of college fraternities at Amherst College up through Massachusetts politics. After a divisive period of government excess and corruption, Coolidge restored national trust in Washington and achieved what few other peacetime presidents have: He left office with a federal budget smaller than the one he inherited. A man of calm discipline, he lived by example, renting half of a two-family house for his entire political career rather than compromise his political work by taking on debt. Renowned as a throwback, Coolidge was in fact strikingly modern—an advocate of women’s suffrage and a radio pioneer. At once a revision of man and economics, Coolidge gestures to the country we once were and reminds us of qualities we had forgotten and can use today.

message 8: by John (new)

John | 167 comments Just picked up Amity Shlaes' Coolidge this week and will start it this evening. Looking forward to it- I note the books mentioned in the thread thus far and was aware of the autobiographies. As I was skimming her bibliography and notes section, I noticed that, aside from Sobel's and that's 1998) there doesn't seem to be too many recent full scale biographies of Silent Cal or examinations of his Presidency. Are there any others that some might be aware of or suggest?

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes

Coolidge An American Enigma by Robert Sobel Robert Sobel

message 9: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Hey John:

He isn't someone on the radar of many historians or biographers. Message 2 mentions a few others.

Let us know how you like Shlaes' book. It is on my TBR pile.

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes

message 10: by John (new)

John | 167 comments Will do Bryan-

message 11: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Grace Coolidge: C-SPAN's First Ladies: Influence & Image:

message 12: by Michael (new)

Michael Oliver | 6 comments Would love to read more about Coolidge. The aspect of his personality that fascinates me the most were his fabled long silences. Would it be possible for a 21st century president, in today's media soundbite age, to be of a similar personality?

message 13: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Good question, Michael, I think it would be very hard for a personality like Coolidge to campaign successfully. You got to have the charisma to get the base out to vote or you are sunk.

message 14: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Why Coolidge Matters: Leadership Lessons from America’s Most Underrated President

Why Coolidge Matters Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President by Charles C. Johnson by Charles C. Johnson (no photo)


Imagine a country in which strikes by public-sector unions occupied the public square; where foreign policy wandered aimlessly as America disentangled itself from wars abroad and a potential civil war on its southern border; where racial and ethnic groups jostled for political influence; where a war on illicit substances led to violence in its cities; where technology was dramatically changing how mankind communicated and moved about—and where the educated harbored increasing contempt for the philosophic underpinnings of our republic.

That country, the America of the 1920s, looked a lot like America today. One would think, then, that the President who successfully navigated these challenges, Calvin Coolidge, might be esteemed today. Instead, Coolidge’s record is little known, the result of efforts by both the left and right to distort his legacy.

Why Coolidge Matters revisits the record of our most underrated president, examining Coolidge’s views on governance, public sector unions, education, race, immigration, and foreign policy. Most importantly, Why Coolidge Matters explains what lessons Coolidge—the last president to pay down the national debt—can offer the limited government movement in the post-industrial age.

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 30, 2014 05:36AM) (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
My understanding is that Clinton also eliminated the debt and had a surplus at the end of his presidency. I was curious at these words - "the last president to pay down the national debt".

Have you had a chance to read this book Bryan - would be interested to hear what you thought of it. Coolidge has always been in the third or fourth quartile in the rankings of Presidents (similar to his successor Hoover). But he never ran dead last as Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan and later Andrew Johnson did (what a span of deadbeats the country must have had during these years) or the rankings are impossibly skewed for other reasons. Ulysses S Grant surprisingly after his Civil War successes also did not fare well. And did I forget to mention Tyler.

If you look at the standings - after Polk who was well thought of - the other Presidents from Zachary Taylor until Hayes took over did not fare well (from the 12th to the 19th presidents) aside from Lincoln who was shot. Even Nixon who was impeached ranked better.

I have to wonder whether these previous presidents from this time period are getting more of a bum rap because these evaluations are not happening while they were president. Somebody voted for these men at the time.

message 16: by Bryan (last edited Apr 30, 2014 06:28AM) (new)

Bryan Craig I have not read Johnson's book, but I have read Shlaes, and she makes the same point: fiscally, Coolidge did great. I have to agree that he did a good job with the debt, and Clinton was the last president to balance the budget and have a surplus. I'm not sure how this guy missed it.

I used to give quite a bit of stock in the presidential rankings, but I don't so much anymore. You bring up great thoughts on why the rankings are a little wonky.

Good news: Grant is receiving more of his due among historians for his work on civil rights. Some are calling him the best president on that between Lincoln and LBJ. I have to agree with that since he tried hard to give blacks the vote and the offices they deserved after the war. He also hunted down the KKK. It will be interesting if Grant moves up on the polls or not.

Why Coolidge Matters Leadership Lessons from America's Most Underrated President by Charles C. Johnson by Charles C. Johnson (no photo)

Coolidge by Amity Shlaes by Amity Shlaes Amity Shlaes

message 17: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
I wondered the same thing (smile) - obviously does not like Clinton so he just forgot that fact (lol).

Yes, after the comment that he made in his synopsis - I looked them all up because I was curious and something seems out of whack. I am glad that Grant is getting more of his due and I wonder if we are really grading these men by today's standards versus the time in which they lived and presided in that role.

In current times, Bush has been lambasted and is in the same sort of quartile as Zachary Taylor to Hayes. But other that that after FDR - most of the presidents (good or bad) have done better than the 12th through the 19th presidents in our country. This I fear may also be due to ignorance about them, their lives, their policies and what they actually accomplished in part. But we will see if Grant gets a lift in the polls. Another reason is that these presidents never really captured the interest of authors who wanted to write about them like the others - hence nobody is currently saying anything about them (good or bad).

message 18: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Your last sentence definitely rings true. Political history and presidential history actually are not very popular things among academics. Popular historians tend to take most of the "thunder" but if the interest is low to begin with, then to write about these guys like Taylor, Hayes, etc. are really low.

It is interesting to be inside the academic world as many Americans love reading about certain presidents and the popular histories become best-sellers.

message 19: by John (new)

John | 167 comments Presidential polls like those really say more about current politics and the politics of historians who can't look past them, than they do about the Presidents themselves.

message 20: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig John wrote: "Presidential polls like those really say more about current politics and the politics of historians who can't look past them, than they do about the Presidents themselves."

Indeed, John.

message 21: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (last edited Apr 30, 2014 08:03AM) (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
John wrote: "Presidential polls like those really say more about current politics and the politics of historians who can't look past them, than they do about the Presidents themselves."

I agree John - my point exactly.

@Bryan - you are right - look at how many books have been written about FDR, Lincoln, Washington, Kennedy and for the most part these are the more highly ranked presidents. The popular historians can really make a difference in the way these past presidents are viewed (good or bad).

I think that even bad press gets these presidents discussed and oddly enough even bad press presidents have higher quartile rankings than the group of presidents discussed in message 17.

message 22: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) My favorite quote by Calvin Coolidge (and there can't be many) may be apocryphal but it is funny.

A lady sitting next to Coolidge at a dinner said, "I have a bet with a friend that I can make you say more than two words"
Coolidge's reply....."You lose".

message 23: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Very funny Jill

message 24: by Bryan (last edited Dec 16, 2014 08:08AM) (new)

Bryan Craig It is a classic quote, Jill, very funny. I would say it would be great to sit down with the man, but it would be a quiet meal.

message 25: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Calvin Coolidge and the Coolidge Era: Essays on the History of the 1920s

Calvin Coolidge And The Coolidge Era Essays On The History Of The 1920s by John Earl Haynes by John Earl Haynes (no photo)


The twelve essays in this volume, originally presented to a 1995 Library of Congress symposium, seek to reassess the history of the 1920s and, in particular, the presidency of Calvin Coolidge, in accordance with the latest research.

message 26: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44126 comments Mod
Thank you Bryan for the add

message 27: by Jerome, Assisting Moderator - Upcoming Books and Releases (new)

Jerome | 4237 comments Mod
The High Tide of American Conservatism: Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election

The High Tide of American Conservatism Davis, Coolidge, and the 1924 Election by Garland S. Tucker III by Garland S. Tucker III (no photo)


Historians have generally failed to understand the significance of the election of 1924, the last time both major political parties each nominated a bona fide conservative candidate.

The High Tide of American Conservatism casts new light on both the election and the two candidates, John W. Davis and Calvin Coolidge. Both nominees articulately expounded a similar philosophy of limited government and maximum individual freedom; and both men were exemplary public servants. The enduring consequence of this election was the philosophical divergence of the two parties--Democrats leftward and Republicans rightward. As the proper role of government in a free society continues to be a topic of heated, partisan debate, every American--conservative or liberal--will benefit from an understanding of the 1924 election. Conservatives will recognize the link between Coolidge and Reagan and the modern Republican Party, and they will rejoice to discover a new conservative titan, John W. Davis.

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