Calvin Coolidge

Coolidge succeeded Harding upon his untimely death. Characteristic of the bland politics of the times, Coolidge made a habit of taking long naps in the afternoon. He maintained the pro-business policies of his predecessor. Some of his famous sayings reflecting this attitude include “The business of America is business”; “Those who build a factory build a house of worship; those who work in a factory, worship there”. Coolidge’s proudest achievement was the reduction of the public debt at the same time as taxes were reduced significantly. “The great god business was supreme in the land, and Calvin Coolidge was fortunate enough to become almost a demi-god by doing discreet obeisance before the altar.” (Allen, VII, 8)

Coolidge’s well-deserved nickname was “Silent Cal.” Examples of his oral reluctance follow: Some acquaintances wagered whether they could make him say more than two words. When asked about his reaction to the bet, he said, “You lose.” During the 1924 presidential race, reporters asked him whether he had any statement about the campaign. “No,” he replied. When he was then asked whether he had anything to say about the world situation, he again said “No.” He then responded “no” to a question about whether he had anything to say about Prohibition, telling  the reporters, “Now remember, don’t quote me.” Finally, at the end of his presidency, he was asked whether he had a farewell message for the American people, he paused and said, “Good-bye.”

Walter Winchell, social and political columnist of the day, said about Coolidge: “Mr. Coolidge’s genius for inactivity is developed to a very high point. It is far from being an indolent activity. It is a grim, determined alert inactivity, which keeps Mr. Coolidge occupied constantly. Nobody has ever worked harder at inactivity…. Mr. Coolidge’s inactivity is not merely the absence of activity. It is on the contrary a steady application to the task of neutralizing and thwarting political activity where there are signs of life. The White House is extremely sensitive to the first symptoms of any desire on the part of Congress or of the executive departments to do something, and the skill with which Mr. Coolidge can apply a wet blanket to an enthusiast is technically marvelous.” (Streissguth, p. 104)

In keeping with his personality and political philosophy, Coolidge’s five plus years in office left very little mark on the country domestically. It has been said his administration’s greatest accomplishments were that it “cleaned up the rampant corruption of the Harding administration and provided a model of stability and respectability for the American people” (

However, there were several notable foreign policy accomplishments during the Coolidge Administration, largely, if not entirely, led by the Republican-controlled Congress. Congress set high tariffs on imported goods to protect American industry. (This later was looked upon as a significant factor that led to the Depression.) Coolidge signed the Immigration Act that restricted immigration from southern and eastern European countries.

The Dawes Plan, proposed by the Senate Dawes Committee, chaired by Charles G. Dawes, was an attempt in 1924 to solve Germany’s severe economic problems caused by the reparations it had to pay the winning side after World War I. The main points of The Dawes Plan were: Germany would be loaned 800 million marks, chiefly from the U.S. and   by a consortium of American investment banks, led by J.P. Morgan & Co. under the supervision of the US State Department; The Reichsbank would be re-organized under Allied supervision; reparation payments would begin at one billion marks the first year, increasing annually to two and a half billion marks after five years; and the German sources for the reparation money would include transportation, excise, and customs taxes. Thus, there was a cycle of money from U.S. loans to Germany, which made reparations to other European nations, who paid off their debts to the United States. This pattern enhanced the economic prosperity of the Twenties, at least for a while.

Another significant foreign policy accomplishment of the Coolidge Administration was The Locarno Pact or the Treaty of Locarno. The Treaty was a series of seven agreements where WWI powers and the new states of Central and Eastern Europe sought to reinforce the post-war territorial settlement of the Versailles Treaty. It also attempted to return normalized relations with Germany. As a result, Germany joined the League of Nations in 1926, and Allied troops withdrew from occupying Germany’s Rhineland, although the Rhineland was to remain demilitarized.

The Kellogg – Briand Pact, signed on August 27, 1928 by 62 nations, including all the major WW I combatants, was perhaps the most altruistic expression of international policy ever entered by modern nation-states. The agreement, which was named after Frank Kellogg, the United States Secretary of State and Aristide Briand, French Foreign Minister, who were instrumental in its passage, condemned recourse to war for the settlement of international differences and outlawed it as an instrument of national policy except in the case of legitimate defense. The treaty was subsequently ratified by the United States Senate in a vote of 85 to 1 and remains on the books to this day as part of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution.

The French Foreign Minister Briand, whose initiative had led to the Pact and whose previous work for peace had already earned him a Nobel Peace Prize, remarked at the signing ceremony:

For the first time, on a scale as absolute as it is vast, a treaty has been truly devoted to the very establishment of peace and has laid down laws that are new and free from all political considerations. Such a treaty means a beginning and not an end. . .. [S]elfish and willful war which has been regarded from of old as springing from divine right and has remained in international ethics as an attribute of sovereignty, has been at last deprived by law of what constituted its most serious danger, its legitimacy. For the future, branded with illegality, it is by mutual accord truly and regularly outlawed so that a culprit must incur the unconditional condemnation and probably the hostility of all his co-signatories.

“Last Night I had the Strangest Dream”, written by Ed McCurdy (1950), sung by Pete Seeger, was inspired by the Kellogg-Briand Pact.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

I dreamed I saw a mighty room
The room was filled with men
And the paper they were signing said
They’d never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed

And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

“The Calvin Coolidge Song”, written by Matt Beat, sung by Electric Needle Room, highlights the major characteristics of President Coolidge.

Booming times and he was there

He limited the government, like he limited himself

Never said much, but when he did choose his words so carefully

Frugally lived modestly, sense of humor dry as can be

He said “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

“If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace, opposites in every way

Was born and raised in Vermont, but rose in Massachusetts

Did well as Mayor, Governor, ended the Boston Police Strike

Asked by Harding to be his Vice, not polite if he declined

He said “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

“If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

Silent Cal rarely spoke more than he had to

Hey, did you know he had a pet raccoon?

Harding died and he was in, shocked everyone and was reelected

Restricted immigration, went against farm subsidies

Focus internally first, except the Kellogg-Briand Pact

He said “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

“If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

He said “If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”

“If you don’t say anything, you won’t be called on to repeat it”


Coolidge ran for president in 1924 and won decisively over the Democratic candidate, U.S. Representative John W. Davis of West Virginia, and the Progressive Party candidate, U.S. Senator Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin. Coolidge got about 54 percent of the popular vote to Davis’s 29 percent and La Follette’s nearly 17 percent. In the electoral college, Coolidge received 382 votes to Davis’s 136 and La Follette’s 13. Coolidge declined to run for president in 1928, although there was nothing constitutionally at the time that prohibited him from doing so, and, not having served two full terms, he would not have violated any established traditions.