As this blog starts into 2011, following a record-setting December and Dec. 31st (most blog visitors in a month, respectively a day), I feel more than ever that Calvin Coolidge is a subject worth exploring and developing further. With Glenn Beck coming out as a Coolidge fan last summer, and with the publication date of Amity Shlaes’ new biography approaching, not to mention the publication of “Why Coolidge Matters” by the National Notary Association, it appears that interest in the 30th president hasn’t crested yet.
I trust in time more people will come to share the assessment by Coolidge’s authoritative and sympathetic biographer Claude M. Fuess (“Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont”, p. vii):
Some statesmen diminish in size and importance under microscopic study. Coolidge, on the other hand, has seemed to me to grow more interesting. I finish this biography with the conviction that he was not only a useful public servant but a great and good man.
This same conviction guides me as I continue to write this hopefully intermittently interesting blog in the coming year.
Over at Slate, David Greenberg feels compelled to defend Woodrow Wilson against attacks by Glenn Beck and othe conservatives. Here, we have pointed out how illiberal and awful Wilson was from a libertarian perspective and our friends at reason recently compiled a short list of Wilsonian offenses. Greenberg appears to think that a century’s worth of fairly uncritical acceptance of Progressivist tenets have made them unassailable. I think evidence is accumulating that it was the central Progressivist idea that government was needed to step in and regulate the economy is the idea that in the long run will be seen as a detour, if not in fact a wrong turn. From my reading of Coolidge I get the impression that while over the course of his political career he was open to and even supportive of some progressive positions, such as woman suffrage, most of the rest were anathema to him. I’d be interested in learning what readers of this blog think!
Update: Calvin Coolidge, who encountered Wilson on a few occasions, eulogized him on February 4, 1924 with the words,
The death of Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States from March 4, 1913, to March 4, 1921, which occurred at 11:15 o’clock today at his home at Washington, District of Columbia, deprives the country of a most distinguished citizen, and is an event which causes universal and genuine sorrow. To many of us it brings the sense of a profound personal bereavement.
His early profession as a lawyer was abandoned to enter academic life. In this chosen field he attained the highest rank as an educator, and has left his impress upon the intellectual thought of the country. From the Presidency of Princeton University he was called by his fellow citizens to be the Chief Executive of the State of New Jersey. The duties of this high office he so conducted as to win the confidence of the people of the United States, who twice elected him to the Chief Magistrate of the Republic. As President of the United States he was moved by an earnest desire to promote the best interests of the country as he conceived them. His acts were prompted by high motives and his sincerity of purpose can not be questioned. He led the nation through the terrific struggle of the world war with a lofty idealism which never failed him.
He gave utterance to the aspiration of humanity with an eloquence which held the attention of all the earth and made America a new and enlarged influence in the destiny of mankind.