Daniel Butchen Essay # 8 The 1920’s were a time of prosperity in our country. War was over, businesses were booming, and everybody seemed to be having a good time. This was especially true for president Warren G. Harding. He was a man that enjoyed women, poker, and drinking during a time when alcohol was supposed to be illegal. “More controversial was his use of liquor. Throughout his adult life Harding drank and saw nothing wrong in it. He was never personally committed to Prohibition, even though he had voted for it and, like many Americans, pretended the law did not apply to him.
He was careful to serve liquor only in his private rooms in the White House and would sometimes take visitors there for that purpose. It was later claimed that Harding was a heavy drinker, although no one ever reported seeing him drunk. Still, such “sneaking around” by the president to break the law, when added to smoking, chewing, and poker playing, raised in some minds the specter of low-life carousals. ” (http://www. presidentprofiles. com/Grant-Eisenhower/Warren-G-Harding-Presidential-appointments-and-style. html).
This was Harding, he did what he wanted to do, no matter how other people viewed him. He was a man who represented the time he was in office well. America was having a good time, so Harding made sure he was having a good one as well. Harding physically embodied the American President. He was tall, dark, and was a good-looking man. It was once said of Harding that “He looked like a President. ”(http://www. whitehouse. gov/about/presidents/warren Harding). And at the time, it seemed to be good enough. Harding didn’t have any grand plans.
He didn’t want to change much, and after going through years of progressives, such as Roosevelt, and Wilson, the American people seemed content on electing a president who’s policy was “To return to normalcy. ” America wanted a break from the chaos, and in Harding they saw a man who was content on letting the country run itself. “Less government in business and more business in government,”(http://www. whitehouse. gov/about/presidents/warren Harding) Harding would often say. Harding’s biggest flaw, and what would go on to ruin his reputation was the way in which he hired people for office positions.
It was no secret that Harding handed out positions to friends, whom were often not qualified for the positions. Many people believed his style was very similar to Andrew Jackson’s “Kitchen Cabinet”, in which he hired friends to fill key positions. “Kindliness, friendliness, and generosity were his most winning traits and undoubtedly sprang from his dislike of contention and disharmony and from his compulsive need for friends. Given these traits, it is not surprising that Harding placed a high value on loyalty.
An acquaintance once said, “He liked politicians for the reason that he loved dogs, because they were usually loyal to their friends. ” Harding’s fear of offending anyone, his desire to grant requests, and his indiscriminate loyalty placed him in constant danger. Harding’s father once remarked that it was fortunate he was not a girl; he would have been in a family way all the time because he could not say no. ” (http://www. presidentprofiles. com/Grant-Eisenhower/Warren-G-Harding-Presidential-appointments-and-style. html). Harding’s nepotism dealt a big blow to his reputation.
Harding is looked at as one of our countries worst presidents, and while his domestic impact might not have been too big, positively, or negatively, his presidency was clouded by a number of scandals that would go on to destroy his reputation. Harding had appointed a man by the name of Albert Fall as Secretary of the Interior. Fall had illegally leased land out west to people he had no power to do so to, in exchange for a hefty sum of bribe money. This was known as the “Teapot Dome Scandal”. Fall was found guilty in court and was even sentenced to jail time. While this wasn’t directly Harding’s fault, it dealt a huge blow to his reputation.
This was Harding’s biggest mistake; the people he hired. Still, Harding did manage to do some damage to his own reputation with his actions. After Harding passed away a women named Nan Britton had come out publicly saying Harding had an affair with her, and had fathered her child. While it was swept under the rug successfully during his years in office, it was pretty well-known that this was true. While Harding is mostly known for his scandals and inactivity, he did accomplish some things in office. He had kept a very successful watch over the budget and government spending.
He had fought for civil rights and had gone into America’s most racist city, Birmingham, Alabama, and delivered a key civil rights speech. However, his successes are overmatched by his scandals, and in 1923, 3 years after being elected, Harding had been through enough physically and mentally, and died while in office. He was succeeded by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge. Coolidge had a very different personality than Harding. Coolidge was a rather cold person. He spoke in a high pitched, squeaky voice and spoke as little as possible. He had a dry sense of humor and was rather boring.
Similar to Harding, Coolidge was a big proponent of doing as little as possible. Coolidge was born in Vermont, and had gradually climbed his way up the political ladder, until he finally became president. The transition from Harding to Coolidge was a pretty easy one. “When he took over from Harding, Coolidge did not do much to change the organizational structure of the White House as he found it…Coolidge was more of a conservative than Harding had been, and he lacked any of his predecessor’s interest in reshaping the federal government along more efficient lines. ” (Gould 66-67). Coolidge was very active with the media.
He was a revolutionary in the way he dealt with the press. “ Coolidge was eager to cooperate with reporters when he traveled around the country. The size of the press entourage that accompanied him on his summer vacations during the 1920s swelled until it included thirty or so correspondents, along with motion picture and still photographers. ” (Gould 69). It was through this use of the media that Coolidge was so easily able to gain re-election in the 1924 election. His catch-phrase was to “Keep cool with Coolidge”. This pretty much summed up Coolidge’s beliefs, and pretty much summed up his presidency. He really idn’t do much. It’s hard to see any long lasting impact that was a result of Coolidge’s presidency. Coolidge was known for his luck in timeliness. In 1928 he simply decided to not run again. He left the office just before the great depression hit. Some people think he knew it was coming, but still he does not get any credit for the crash of the stock market and his reputation isn’t terrible. It’s hard to say a lot about Coolidge, because frankly Coolidge really didn’t do anything as president that is worth noting. He’ll always be looked at as a middle of the road president who will continue to be forgotten as the years go by.
Harding and Coolidge were very similar presidents. They just wanted to ride the waves of prosperity of the roaring twenties, sit back, and let the country play out the way it wanted to. These weren’t the typed of guys that were big on taking action. That’s not even to say it’s a bad thing. The country in many ways needed a break from the progressive movement, and all the political dramatics that ensued from the Roosevelt years. America went to the polls and decided that they wanted a break, and that’s what these two men were. A break from the chaos, and a return to normalcy.