As I Knew Them – Part I

From the memoirs of Sen. James E. Watson, “As I Knew Them” (1936, Bobbs-Merrill).

In this June, 1926 picture, Sen Watson is seen at the left of Pres. Coolidge, with the Indiana State Republican Committee

I do not know of anyone at all who thought it possible for Calvin Coolidge to be nominated in the event of Harding living out his term. In fact, it was very much bruited about that he would not even be nominated for the vice-presidency again with Harding, if that gentleman weathered the presidential storms of the first four years. There was a decided movement to have Coolidge run for the senatorship of Massachusetts, because everybody believed that he could carry that state against any and all comers. But these things were all set at naught when President Harding died and Coolidge assumed the first position in the country.

Even up to the time he delivered his first message to Congress, it was not seriously believed by many politicians anywhere that he could be nominated for the presidency. But, after that first deliverance to the House and Senate in joint session, there was never the slightest doubt about his nomination. He argued the question of taxation, which was very close to the public heart at that time, with such force and cogency that we all knew he had sounded the keynote for the next campaign and defined the issue for that struggle.

“Our main problems,” he said, “are domestic problems. Financial stability is the first requisite of sound government. (…) This is being accomplished by a drastic but orderly retrenchment which is bringing our expenses within our means. (…) This great concentration of effort by the administration and Congress has brought the expenditures (…) down to three billion dollars. It is possible, in consequence, to make a large reduction of the taxes of the people, which is the sole object of all curtailment. (…) I especially commend a decrease on earned incomes, and further abolition of admission, message, and nuisance taxes. The amusement and educational value of moving pictures ought not to be taxed. Diminishing charges against moderate incomes from investment will afford immense relief, while a revision of the surtaxes wil not only provide additional money for capital investment, thus stimulating industry and employing more labor, but will not greatly reduce the revenue from that source, and may in future actually increase it.

“Being opposed to war taxes in time of peace, I am not in favor of excess-profits taxes. A very great service could be rendered through immediate enactment of legislation relieving the people of some of the burden of taxation. To reduce war taxes is to give every home a better chance. For seven years the people have borne with uncomplaining courage the tremendous burden of national and local taxation. These must both be reduced. The taxes of the nation must be reduced now as much as prudence will permit, and expenditures must be reduced accordingly. High taxes reach eveywhere and burden everybody. They bear most heavily upon the poor. They diminish industry and commerce. They make agriculture unprofitable. They increase the rates on transportation. They are acharge on every necessity of life. Of all services which Congress can render to the country, I have no hesitation in declaring this one to be paramount. To neglect it, to postpone it, to obstruct it by unsound proposals, is to become unworthy of public confidence and untrue to public trust. The country wants this measure to have the right of way over all others.”

I call the attention of every reader to these words of wisdom, for they seem almost like a message from beyond the vale, admonishing us of the dangers that confront us and exhorting us to a more faithful discharge of our duties and obligations. In the midst of the unprecedented turmoil and agitation of this present period (Note: Watson was writing these memoirs in 1936, at the height of the New Deal ), with schemes of taxation being proposed and executed such as were never before thought of in American history, and with a debt piled so high upon us as to be fittingly described only with the term “astronomical,” and with burdens to bear that are crushing to nation, to state, to city, and to the individual, how solemn these words sound and how deeply they ought to strike home to every heart!

Continued h e r e

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