Calvin Coolidge & His Presidency Synopsis

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Calvin Coolidge & His Presidency


Calvin Coolidge was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont, on July 4, 1872. Coolidge rose through the ranks of Massachusetts government as a Progressive Republican. Elected U.S. vice president in 1920, he became president following the death of Warren G. Harding in 1923. Coolidge, also known as "Silent Cal," chose not to seek a second term. He died in Northampton, Massachusetts, on January 5, 1933.

Vice Presidency and Presidency

After 10 ballots, Republican delegates settled on Senator Warren G. Harding of Ohio as their presidential nominee in 1920, and Coolidge was nominated as vice president. Harding and Coolidge beat opponents James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt in a landslide, taking every state outside of the South.
Coolidge was the first vice president to attend cabinet meetings, in addition to giving speeches and performing other official duties. The Coolidge’s attended Washington parties, where guests remarked on the terse and quiet demeanor of "Silent Cal.”
On August 2, 1923, President Harding died while traveling in California. Coolidge was in Vermont visiting his family home, which had neither electricity nor a telephone, when a messenger brought word of Harding’s death.
Coolidge addressed Congress in December, giving the first presidential speech to be broadcast to the nation over the radio. His agenda mirrored Harding’s to a large extent. Coolidge signed the Immigration Act later that year, restricting immigration from southern and eastern European countries.
President Coolidge was nominated for the presidency in 1924. Shortly after the convention, however, he experienced a personal tragedy. Coolidge's younger son, Calvin Jr., developed an infected blister and, several days later, died of sepsis. Coolidge became depressed. In spite of his subdued campaigning, he won a popular vote majority of 2.5 million over his two opponents' combined total.


During Coolidge's presidency, the United States experienced the period of rapid economic growth that characterized the "Roaring Twenties." With the exception of favoring tariffs, Coolidge disdained regulation. Some contemporaries and historians have blamed his laissez-faire ideology for the Great Depression. Coolidge was also suspicious of foreign alliances, discouraging American membership in the League of Nations. Like Harding, Coolidge refused to recognize the Soviet Union.
Coolidge spoke out in favor of civil rights. He refused to appoint any known members of the Ku Klux Klan to office, appointed African Americans to government positions and advocated for anti-lynching laws. In 1924, Coolidge signed the Indian Citizenship Act, granting full citizenship to all Native Americans while permitting them to retain tribal land rights.
In the summer of 1927, Coolidge traveled to the Black Hills of South Dakota. During his vacation, Coolidge issued a short statement indicating that he would not seek a second full term as president. The statement read: "I do not choose to run for President in 1928.”

How did Coolidge become President?

What did Coolidge do that mimicked Harding’s outlook on immigration to the United States?

On your phone, look up “laissez-faire economics” and jot down the definition:

Briefly explain Coolidge’s view on getting involved in foreign affairs:

What did Coolidge do that suggests he was supportive of civil rights for African Americans?

SOURCE: Excerpts from “Calvin Coolidge”

By David Greenberg

Washington Post
Coolidge liked to think of himself as a practitioner of laissez faire. In fact, he might better have called himself an advocate of laissez le bon temps roulez (if French had not been one of the languages in which he was silent). The Roaring Twenties were the decade of Prohibition, which didn't prevent most of those who wanted their booze from getting it. Coolidge, a son of Plymouth Notch, Vt., didn't indulge in alcohol, but he did indulge the business culture of the decade in its acquisitive ways. He supported an increase in the tariff to protect the domestic market and fatten corporate profits, and he famously declared that "the chief business of the American people is business." Under Coolidge, the stock market swelled into an enormous bubble, inflated by borrowed money and a belief that the self-proclaimed "New Era" really was new. Coolidge managed to get out of office before the bursting, but that didn't prevent hard feelings.”

The stock market crashed just months after Coolidge left office, triggering the Great Depression, and historians blamed him for ignoring structural weaknesses in the economy.”

Essential Questions:

  1. How does Greenberg describe the American economy under the Coolidge Administration?

  1. Why might big business owners like or be supportive of Coolidge as President?

  1. What critiques does Greenberg elude to regarding how Coolidge handled/mishandled the economy during his Presidency? What happened right after Coolidge left office?

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