Back when Republicans still won Nobel Peace prizes…

These days (or decades), the Nobel committee doesn’t seem to even consider the possibility that Republicans might be deserving the Nobel Peace prize (Ronald Reagan, anyone?), but there was a time when Republicans actually did find favor with the committee. In the early days of the peace prize, it was even granted to the first president Roosevelt, a figure not usually associated with a peaceful approach to politics.

While Calvin Coolidge himself never seriously was in the running for the peace prize, his first vice president Charles G. Dawes was co-recipient of the 1925 prize for his work on the eponymous Dawes Plan, an attempt to find a solution that would allow the collection of war reparations from Germany while at the same time preventing a collapse of the German economy. One criticism of the Peace Prize has been that it usually is awarded for relatively recent achievements (in marked difference to the scientific awards which generally come at the end of long and distinguished careers) so that some awards have been somewhat tarnished by subsequent developments. This is also true for the Dawes Plan which,  while initially successful,  proved to be unsustainable and was abandoned in favor of the Young Plan by 1929.

Coolidge-Dawes

President Calvin Coolidge and Vice-President Charles G. Dawes

Dawes is an interesting figure, with a long career that included work in banking, the military, and politics. He was not Coolidge’s favorite for the vice-presidential slot in 1924, having been nominated on the third ballot only after Coolidge’s choice, Illinois governor Frank Lowden, declined. In office, the relationship between Coolidge and Dawes, such as it was, started on a low note when Dawes imperiously informed the president by letter that he did not intend to sit in on cabinet meetings. It quickly sank to a new low only days into the new administration, when Dawes, in his function as President of the Senate,  failed to prevent this body’s rejection of Coolidge’s nominee for attorney general, Charles B. Warren, famously opting to take a nap at the Willard Hotel when his presence as a tie-breaker was needed in the Capitol.  Coolidge may have suspected that Dawes’ absence was not entirely accidental, as Warren was a highly controversial nominee. Notwithstanding Warren’s qualifications, his rejection by the Senate is named by some as Coolidge’s most embarrassing political defeat. Dawes later was at cross purposes with Coolidge over the McNary-Haugen farm relief bill, supporting passage of the bill in the Senate. When someone remarked to Coolidge that Dawes seemed to be well liked among farmers, Coolidge replied, “Yes, I have noticed that the McNary-Haugen people have their headquarters in his chambers.” On a positive side, Dawes was helpful in getting the Kellogg-Briand Pact passed in early 1929.

Coolidge biographer McCoy notes that “Dawes (…) would not accept direction from the President, and almost as bad, when his views coincided with Coolidge’s there was the possibility that his work on behalf of Administration measures would hurt them. He was eagerly used by Coolidge’s opponents and resented by many of the President’s allies.”

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