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Although the Harding presidency had a number of large successes and variety of dark scandals, it ended before the first term was up. In July 1923, while traveling in Seattle, the president suffered a heart attack. On August 2, in his weakened condition, he suffered a stroke and died in San Francisco, leaving the presidency to his vice president, Calvin Coolidge. As for Harding, few presidents were so deeply mourned by the populace. His kindly nature and ability to poke fun at himself endeared him to the public.

Listen to some of Harding’s speeches at The University of Virginia’s Miller Center’s website.

A man of few words

Coolidge ended the scandals, but did little beyond that. Walter Lippman wrote in 1926 that “Mr. Coolidge’s genius for inactivity is developed to a very high point. It is a grim, determined, alert inactivity, which keeps Mr. Coolidge occupied constantly.”

Coolidge had a strong belief in the Puritan work ethic: Work hard, save your money, keep your mouth shut and listen, and good things will happen to you. Known as “Silent Cal,” his clean image seemed capable of cleaning up scandals left by Harding. Republicans—and the nation—now had a president who combined a preference for normalcy with the respectability and honesty that was absent from the Harding administration.

Coolidge’s first term was devoted to eliminating the taint of scandal that Harding had brought to the White House. Domestically, Coolidge adhered to the creed: “The business of America is business.” He stood in awe of Andrew Mellon and followed his fiscal policies, which made him the only president to turn a legitimate profit in the White House. Coolidge believed the rich were worthy of their property and that poverty was the wage of sin. Most importantly, Coolidge believed that since only the rich best understood their own interests, the government should let businessmen handle their own affairs with as little federal intervention as possible. Coolidge was quoted as saying, “The man who builds a factory builds a temple. The man who works there worships there.”

Thus, silence and inactivity became the dominant characteristics of the Coolidge presidency. Coolidge’s legendary reserve was famous in Washington society. Contemporaries told a possibly apocryphal story of how, at a dinner party at the White House, a woman bet her friends that she could get Coolidge to say more than three words. He looked at her and said, “you lose.”

The 1924 election saw Coolidge win easily over the divided Democrats, who fought over their nomination. Southerners wanted to nominate pro-prohibition, pro-Klan, anti-immigrant candidate William G. McAdoo. The eastern establishment wanted Alfred E. Smith, a Catholic, urban, and anti-prohibition candidate. After many battles, they compromised on corporation lawyer John W. Davis. Midwesterner Robert M. La Follette, promoted by farmers, socialists, and labor unions, attempted to resurrect the Progressive Party. Coolidge easily beat both candidates.

The election of 1928

This cultural battle between the forces of reaction and rebellion appeared to culminate with the election of 1928, the height of Republican ascendancy. On August 2, 1927, Coolidge announced that he would not be participating in the 1928 election; “I choose not to run,” was his comment ( [link] ). Republicans promoted the heir apparent, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover. The Democrats nominated Governor Alfred E. Smith of New York. Smith represented everything that small-town, rural America hated: He was Irish, Catholic, anti-prohibition, and a big-city politician. He was very flamboyant and outspoken, which also did not go over well with many Americans.

A cartoon shows a man in a hat and neckerchief reclining against a pillow in a small boat, holding a fishing rod. Beside the man’s face are the words “Choosin’ to run isn’t as restful as this.”
In this cartoon, Clifford Berryman lampoons Coolidge’s laid-back attitude as he chooses “not to run” in 1928.

Republican prosperity carried the day once again, and Hoover won easily with twenty-one million votes over Al Smith’s fifteen million. The stock market continued to rise, and prosperity was the watchword of the day. Many Americans who had not done so before invested in the market, believing that the prosperous times would continue.

As Hoover came into office, Americans had every reason to believe that prosperity would continue forever. In less than a year, however, the bubble would burst, and a harsh reality would take its place.

Section summary

After World War I, Americans were ready for “a return to normalcy,” and Republican Warren Harding offered them just that. Under the guidance of his big-business backers, Harding’s policies supported businesses at home and isolation from foreign affairs. His administration was wracked by scandals, and after he died in 1923, Calvin Coolidge continued his policy legacy in much the same vein. Herbert Hoover, elected as Coolidge’s heir apparent, planned for more of the same until the stock market crash ended a decade of Republican ascendancy.

Questions & Answers

What was the first problem that Franklin Roosevelt dealt with during his "First Hundred Days"?
Bryan Reply
The Great Depression
wy
worst cover up! they should feel dumb! they we're trapped in, on both sides of the East and West borders of the Islamic forces, Columbus was desperate and started voyage due to the events of his time!
Abdul
Which of the following protests was directly related to federal policies, and thus had the biggest impact in creating a negative public perception of Hoover presidency
Steven Reply
the Bonus Army
Victor
what mistakes did Britain mak the lost them the colonies
Victor Reply
tax without representation
JOE'S
they did not give the colinies any representation
Victor
they also imposed taxes ,such as the stamp Act, on those it is unwise to offend; lawyers, business men and other men of influence
Victor
the american revolution
Angelica Reply
what started the American revolution
Futuremfan
immediate cause: British tried to seize weapons stored by local militia which led to a confrontation
Victor
the British handling of the situation was quite inept and they allowed things to escalate out of control.
Victor
hi...can you state benefit of U.S constitution
Chimi Reply
bill of rights
Tom
it provided a political framework which provifed stability while at the same time permitting freedoms which allowed the American people to flourish
Victor
bill spelled out rights so there wpuld be no confusion
Victor
Among the major cause of American civil war, can I have a brief account on social cause?
Rinchen Reply
The issue of slavery between South America and North America that lead to the American Civil War
Sanusi
not sure what you mean by "social" causes. Do you mean things like differences between Northern ers & southerners?
Victor
The N & S developed very differently. This led to clashing outlooks and agendas. Slavery was the "irepressible conflict" that made compromise impossible.
Victor
what was the purpose of Operation Valkyrie?
Matthew Reply
I have no idea
Sanusi
that was the WWII attempt by German officers to overthrow Hitler.
Victor
which culture developed the writting system in the western hemisphere?
cierra Reply
the phoenicians
Victor
loops I mean the Maya
Victor
Treaty of Greenville
The Reply
By this treaty Indians gave up some land in exchange for am annuity of money & supplies. It followed Battle of Fallen Timbers, a decisive victory of US troops over Indian tribes organized into the Western Confederacy. It marks the beginning of modern state of Ohio.
Victor
Please keep in mind that it is not allowed to promote any social groups (whatsapp, facebook, etc...) or exchange phone numbers or email addresses on our platform.
QuizOver Reply
Columbus didn't discover ish. He stole America from the Natives
LovingN Reply
Who was Nat Turner? What was the cause and impact of the Nat Turner Rebellion?
LovingN
what is marcantlisim and its ultimate effects?
Zafar
Explain the concept of salavery how it developed and what were the subsequent consequences?
Zafar
The definition of the term "discovery" is to find something that; A. was lost or B. You were previously unaware of. By this definition (B) Columbus certainly DID discover a new continent that we now call America.
Victor
mercantilism was an economic philosophy. it held that the goal of a nation was to establish a favorable balance of trade, largely through accumulating a large supply if gold.
Victor
which culture developed the only writing systems in the western hemisphere
rose Reply
Maya
Victor
economic causes of American civil war
Samten Reply
do you mean the major causes of American civil war
CHEGWE
yes
Samten
South based on agriculture & slave labor, North industrializing & based on free labor. Their views on economic policy clashed.
Victor
idealistic birth of industries in great britain
Rinchen Reply
how doent show that Martin king jr dies where say that on google.com
Jessica Reply
MLK died April 4, 1968 at Memphis, TN
Victor

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Source:  OpenStax, U.s. history. OpenStax CNX. Jan 12, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11740/1.3
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