90 years ago

Just a short note that today, Sep. 9,  marks the 90th anniversary of the Boston police strike, the seminal event of 1919 that thrust Calvin Coolidge into the national political spotlight and provided him with the opportunity to make a statement that is forever linked with his name, “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

On Sep. 8, the police force of Boston had overwhelmingly voted to strike, and  a large majority of them walked off the job on the following day. With a situation that had been brewing for weeks rapidly deteriorating, governor Coolidge called out the state militia on Sep. 11, reacting to widespread, wanton unlawfulness. While Coolidge pledged to find work for policemen fired because of the strike, he also made sure that none of them were employed again in public safety positions, at least in Massachusetts.

It is worth noting that Coolidge initially expected his action to cost him any hope of re-election, let alone for higher office but acted as he felt he had to. While some have criticized his slowness to act, the episode is actually a fine example of his belief in delegating authority and having decisions and actions taken and carried out at the level closest to the people. Only when the resources and authority of the police commissioner and mayor had been found lacking, intervention from the state level was required and initiated without delay.

The SilentCal blog will feature posts by Amity Shlaes and Joe Thorndike on the subject of the police strike in the next few weeks, don’t miss them!


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