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Who is Calvin Coolidge?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated May 23, 2024
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Calvin Coolidge served as the 30th President of the United States from 1923-29. Coolidge was a lawyer and Republican. Born John Calvin Coolidge, Jr., in Plymouth, Vermont, on 4 July 1872, he attended school in Vermont during his early years. In 1895, Coolidge graduated with honors from Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Coolidge did not attend law school, but rather apprenticed with a law firm in Northampton, Massachusetts, and was admitted to the bar. He started his own law practice in 1898. In 1905, Coolidge married a schoolteacher Grace Anna Goodhue. The couple had two sons, John and Calvin, Jr.

The early political career of Calvin Coolidge included a council seat, a seat in the Massachusetts State Legislature, and the mayoral position of Northampton. He was elected Governor of Massachusetts in 1918. His platform supported conservative fiscal practices, mild opposition to prohibition, as well as support for women’s right to vote and the United State’s involvement in World War I. During his term as Governor, Coolidge received much attention during the Boston Police Strike, with his declaration that the police force had no right to strike. The ending result: over one thousand of the striking officers were fired and replaced by unemployed World War I veterans.

Calvin Coolidge served as U.S. Vice-President to Warren Harding from 1921-23. When Harding died of a heart attack on 3 August 1923, Coolidge was sworn in as President of the U.S. at 2:30 a.m. His own father, a public notary, administered the oath of office. In his first message to Congress, Coolidge purported tax cuts, limited aid to farmers and isolation in foreign policy. After fulfilling the remainder of Harding’s term, Coolidge was elected to a succeeding 4-year term.

When Coolidge first became President, the U.S. enjoyed positive economic times labeled the “Roaring Twenties.” During his administration, taxes were lowered and federal expenses were cut. Coolidge, nicknamed “Silent Cal,” was not only a man of few words, but also considered a “hands-off” leader.

Following the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, Coolidge received criticism due to his seeming lack of interest in the federal government’s role in flood control. During his presidency, Calvin Coolidge granted Native Americans full U.S. citizenship. He was reluctant to ally the U.S. with foreign countries, initially by discounting membership in the League of Nations and later by advising modifications to the possibility of the U.S. joining the Permanent Court of International Justice. Neither membership even occurred.

Coolidge chose not to run for re-election in 1928. He reasoned that if he was elected again he would be in the White House for a total of ten years, which he said was way too long for one man. After his presidency, Coolidge served on various committees and wrote his autobiography and a newspaper column. He died of a heart attack on 5 January 1933.

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Discussion Comments
By FitzMaurice — On Feb 05, 2011

Silent Cal should not be demonized: he was merely echoing the common sentiments of his times. Like so many of the founding fathers, he was ignorant of important lessons we have learned from history at this time. But we would be foolish to think that had we been alive during his time, we would've acted differently.

By Leonidas226 — On Feb 03, 2011

@arod2b42

If an Irish president was something to be frowned at in the days of Calvin Coolidge, imagine what they would've thought of an African American president! Today we are finally emerging from the environment of racism and bigotry which spawned so many of the tragedies of the 20th century.

By arod2b42 — On Feb 02, 2011

@Tufenkian925

Today, Anglo-Saxons in much of the US have become a minority, and are often subject to discrimination by the multi-ethnic spheres of thinking, which include the upwardly mobile Irish-Americans. During and after the presidency of Coolidge, Irish Catholics began to take a strong foothold in the Northeast, culminating in the eventual political dominance of the Kennedys.

By Tufenkian925 — On Jan 31, 2011

Sadly, Calvin Coolidge was much like other Anglo-Saxons of his time, believing that Northern and Western Europeans were inherently superior to other groups. He even helped to ensure that immigrants from other locations were less likely to be admitted to the US. This curtailed immigration, and propagated a destructive system of thinking which was only slightly behind that of Hitler's reich.

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