Bill McStay recalls history’s verdict on Calvin Coolidge
Donald Trump was inauguratred as the 45th President of the United States in late January when he took the oath of office in Washington. All America, and indeed an interested world, will be hoping for decisive leadership.
A similar air of expectation awaited the incoming President in 1925, as people hoped that he would sweep away the wholesale corruption which had disgraced the administration of his Republican predecessor Warren Harding.
Calvin Coolidge would live up to their expectations, for he was a man of unbending integrity. And yet the verdict of history on this incorruptible man is that he failed his country in her hour of need.
Coolidge was born to a Vermont farming family on 4 July 1872, and would thus be the only president ever to be born on his country’s Independence Day. He inherited the family’s puritan belief in the virtues of hard work.
Whilst still a boy, he lost his adored mother and only sister, and was reared by a stern grandmother to whom fun, joy and sin all meant the same thing—and that was sin. Educated for a career in law, he was dutiful and dour, and as sparing with words as he was with money.
He amused his colleagues by declaring that he would marry the popular and charming Grace Goodhue. They scoffed at the chances of one whose conversation they alleged ‘bloomed like the edelweiss—rarely’. But Calvin confounded the critics, and married Grace against even her own mother’s bitter opposition.