The king is dead; long live the King – Aug. 3, 1923

Calvin Coolidge being sworn in by his father

August 3 is an important date for Coolidge fans. On this day, in the wee early hours of the morning, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as the nation’s 30th president following the passing of his predecessor Warren G. Harding. The scene of Calvin Coolidge being sworn in as president by his father is a unique and cherished one in American history.

TIME Magazine of Monday Aug. 13, 1923 reported the event as follows interspersed with reminiscences by Coolidge himself:

In the early morning hours of August 3 an automobile full of newspaper correspondents sped over Vermont roads to Plymouth Notch at the southern end of the Green Mountains. It drew up at the two-story, white frame house of John C. Coolidge, father of the Vice President. Word was sent upstairs of the tremendous news from San Francisco. The Vice President had retired for the night. In a few moments he had dressed and descended the stairs with his wife. The scene was in effect, if not in words, a representation of the ancient theme: ” The King is dead; long live the King! ”

On the night of August 2, 1923, I was awakened by my father coming up the stairs calling my name. I noticed that his voice trembled. As the only times I had ever observed that before were when death had visited our family, I knew that something of the gravest nature had occurred. My wife and I at once dressed…Before leaving the room I knelt down and, with the same prayer with which I have since approached the altar of the church, asked God to bless the American people and give me power to serve them.

In an unpretentious New England living room Mr. Coolidge, pale, and silent, read the telegrams telling of President Harding’s death. Then he slowly dictated a statement expressing his sorrow, and his intention of carrying out the policies of his predecessor, and also a telegram of condolence and sympathy to Mrs. Harding, signed “Calvin Coolidge; Grace Coolidge.”

The next morning, the oath of office having been wired from Washington, Calvin Coolidge was sworn in as President of the United States, by his father, a Justice of the Peace.

When I started for Washington that morning I turned aside from the main road to make a short devotional visit to the grave of my mother…Some way, that morning, she seemed very near to me.

Later in the day the new President started by special train to Washington, where he arrived late in the evening. He and Mrs. Coolidge went to the Willard Hotel, which has been their Washington home. He held conferences on succeeding days in his old offices in the Senate building. He saw Chairman John T. Adams of the Republican National Committee, D. R. Crissinger (Governor of the Federal Reserve Board), Chairman Farley of the Shipping Board, Senator Cummins of Iowa, John Hays Hammond (Chairman of the Coal Commission), President Samuel Gompers of the American Federation of Labor.

Except for the announcement that he would retain President Harding’s Cabinet, and continue his policies, Mr. Coolidge declined to make public any administrative plans until after the late President’s funeral.

With sandy hair untouched with gray, with clear, calm blue eyes, the new President is slow of speech, dry of humor, sparing of words. He comes from the long line of New England Coolidges. The first of them, John Coolidge, came to this country in 1687. The President is descended from another John Coolidge, a captain in the Revolutionary War, who went from Lancaster, Mass., to Vermont to reestablish his fortunes after the war.

Calvin Coolidge studied law, and entered politics at Northampton, Mass. He distinguished himself as Governor of Massachusetts by his declaration against the strikers on the Boston police force in 1919, and the measures he took to suppress the strike.

As Vice President he was noteworthy for “keeping silent in 16 different languages.” He has not the geniality of his predecessor, but those who know him say that there is more “steel” in his makeup. He is silent, shrewd, slow, firm.

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