What is the History of America's Silent President?

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Calvin CoolidgeWikimedia Commons

As a matter of tabloid scrutiny and criticism, the presidential history of the United States has always received a great deal of attention. However, not every president has had the same graph of history. While many presidents today are known for their fiery remarks, there was once an almost unknown president.

Our reference is to the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, who served as a moderately silent president during his power in office. His relative quietness does not mean he bored people around him, but he preferred not to speak in general.

Irrespective of whether Calvin Coolidge makes either of the lists of America’s best or worst presidents, his career should receive the fair share of discussion.

His Childhood Was Torn Apart by Twin Tragedies

Among the notable events of 1872 that occurred on July 4 in Plymouth, Vermont, one was the birth of John Calvin Coolidge. His birth on the 96th Independence Day might not have meant much to him as a child, but it felt like a sign from the universe when he plunged headfirst into politics much later in life. Coolidge would regard highly of his father, who named him as well.

In his early years as a young boy, Coolidge was an introvert to the extreme. Known for his small talk, he eventually became famous for being “mute” because he generally would not speak more than two words in a conversation.

An ordinary boyhood spent in the humble town of Plymouth Notch, Coolidge had his fair share of difficulties. His mother succumbed to tuberculosis when he was only 12 years old. At such a young age, he found it overwhelming to deal with the loss, but the support from his father helped him cope. However, only five years later, tragedy struck again when death took away his beloved sister.

In the aftermath of these two losses, he likely learned to keep everything inside, which led to his apparent silence. Eventually, Coolidge, who was 19 years old, had to get an education and leave his old life behind. Having left his hometown, he traveled to Amherst to pursue a college education.

A Man on His Own

While initially, he was reluctant to accept the place, it eventually proved to be a blessing in disguise. After being raised by a strict father and a mother who instilled in him a love for literature, Coolidge was bound for academic success.

Calvin Coolidge, a law student, soon began to break out of his shell and speak at least more than he usually did. Besides interacting with great professors and having the chance to express himself, Coolidge also participated in speeches and debates. By 1897, Coolidge had graduated from Amherst College and was now practicing law.

One thing about Coolidge was incredibly remarkable in that he always kept his priorities clear. In one of the letters to his father, he wrote,

“I should like to live where I can be of some use to the world and not simply where I should get a few dollars together.” (Britannica)

One Step At a Time

Everything considered, his arrival in politics was not as straightforward as waking up one day and becoming the President. Rather, it was a gradual leap, driven by many tries and hard work. Having witnessed his father’s election to the Vermont Legislature as a child, he was somewhat in tune with the world of politics.

His career as a politician began in Northampton, Massachusetts, in 1898. As he rose in power, he began to develop his political skills. Coolidge rose to prominence in 1918 amid a crisis that would make him a household name. The Boston Police Strike was a difficult time for the entire state, as without police the city would descend into chaos.

Now it was up to Coolidge to either have the popularity or throw his long mediated career into good for nothing. As someone of virtue and great understanding, he was able to navigate the storm with ease.

When labor leaders asked him if he would support their call to reinstate police officers fired for striking, Coolidge refused to support their initiative. He stated a phrase that resonated throughout the country,

“There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.” (Britannica)

From Being Unknown To Being Elected

Just with that statement, the unknown politician, Calvin Coolidge, became the talk of the town. Not only did the general public applaud him, but famous professionals also praised his work. Consequently, all the praises favored him in the elections.

Rather than submit to their superiors at the convention in June of 1920, the delegates enthusiastically chose Calvin Coolidge as Warren G. Harding’s running mate. Though Harding won the election with a greater margin than Coolidge, the latter’s steps in the office would soon be destined.

In 1923, due to the sudden passing of Harding, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the official 30th President of the US. However, things at the office had gotten pretty bizarre. In three years of his presidency, Harding had done more corruption than anything else. In reassuring the public, Coolidge conveyed confidence that the presidency would be in safe hands.

The Country Changed

A kerosene lamp lit the dim room of Silent Cal’s childhood home in Plymouth in the early hours of August 3, 1923. His father, a prominent figure, administered the oath of office, and Coolidge officially became the President of the US.

The year 1924 saw him win a landslide victory, winning 54% of the popular vote, and rewarded with a full-time reign as President. Hence, he was then no more accustomed to Harding’s wrongdoings.

A relatively new era for the US, the Roaring 20s, saw President Coolidge use his cut-to-chase approach to change the country’s course for the better. According to him, reducing taxes on the rich would enhance the nation’s wealth, and so he cut them. With a relatively limited government, he said, new businesses could be formed.

His conservative mindset enabled him to support the American industries and make them so prosperous that people could live in comfort and luxury. However, he was barely interested in politics beyond the nation’s borders. Having rejected membership in the League of Nations, he placed high tariffs on imports to protect American industry.

After his flourishing four years in office, the Silent President finally announced in 1928 that he did not wish to run again. Within a year after he departed the White House, the Great Depression struck, which dealt a blow to Coolidge that he did indeed ignore the underlying problems.

Even so, he gave the country a better economic situation and a better time to live in. After only 60 years of age, Calvin Coolidge died of a heart attack in his Northhampton home on January 5, 1933.

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