Coolidge sworn in following death of President Harding

August 03 1923
share with facebook
share with twitter

The president was accompanied by Mrs. Coolidge, Governor Redfield Proctor of Vermont, former Governor Percival W. Clement, Republican Committeeman Earl S. Kinsey, United States Marshal A.V. Harvey and secret service men.

The party traveled in a special car attached to a regular train.

According to present plans the Coolidge presidential party will leave New York on the Pennsylvania Railroad at 5 p.m. and will arrive in Washington at 10:55 p.m.

By the dim light of a flickering oil lamp in a little farmhouse at Plymouth, his birthplace, Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office as president of the United States at 2:47 this morning.

Just a few hours after word of the death of Warren G. Harding had roused him from his bed, Coolidge stood in the old parlor of the family farmhouse in this isolated hamlet, deep in the Vermont mountains, and was sworn in by his aged father, John Coolidge, who is a notary public.

Other residents have taken the oath on a rostrum before the capitol at Washington, with the chief justice of the Supreme Court administering it, with troops drawn up, with bands and flags and vast cheering crowds of witnesses.

Calvin Coolidge was inaugurated in a small room just across the road from the house where he was born, hours before dawn, with his father, unshaven and collarless, handing him the well thumbed family Bible, in the presence of his wife, Jim McInerny, a chauffeur; Congressman Porter H. Dale, L.L. Lane, president of the Railway Mail Association of New England, and Secretary Geiser of his Washington office.

The night was dark, slightly overcast, and the only sign that something unusual was going on was manifested by two or three autos drawn up at the roadside and the feeble gleam of light beneath the window shade of the parlor at an hour when lights are seldom seen in Plymouth.

The decision to take the oath at once came after receipt of a telegram from Atty. Gen. Daugherty in San Francisco, urging such a course.

John Coolidge, the father, 78, but still spry, had been aroused from sleep and looked in. He came into the room coatless and collarless and then at the last minute bowed to the formalities by pulling on his coat.

He picked up the old Bible in which the family record is kept and looked at his son. They stood facing each other while the oath was repeated.

Their faces looked yellow in the lamplight. There were no reporters - it probably was the first inauguration in history without them - but those who saw it, afterward pictured it vividly, as the scene had graven itself upon their memory.

The news of President Harding's death was given to Coolidge in a telegram from Secretary George Christian at midnight.

He had retired in the belief that all was well in San Francisco and was aroused by a loud knocking at the door, to be informed that he was president of the United States.

When the newspapermen came in shortly afterward, Coolidge was quiet, stern, tight-lipped.

"Hello, boys," he said. He bent down beside the dim light to scan dispatches which were handed him, adjusting his glasses carefully.

"Maybe we ought to get a better lamp," he suggested to his wife, who was verging on tears. But a better lamp was not to be found.

The first thought of Coolidge and his wife, the new "first lady of the land," was for the bereaved "first lady" in San Francisco. They sent this telegram:

"We offer you our deepest sympathy. May God bless you and keep you.

"CALVIN COOLIDGE.

"GRACE COOLIDGE."

Then while townsfolk pressed their faces against the window panes, to see "their Cal," whom many had known since he was a barefoot lad, Coolidge dictated the following statement to his secretary:

" Reports have reached me which I fear are correct, that President Harding is gone. The world has lost a great and good man. I mourn his loss. He was my chief and my friend. It will be my purpose to carry out the policies he had begun for the services of the American people and for the meeting of their responsibilities wherever they may arise.

"For this purpose I shall seek the co-operation of all those who have been associated with the president during his term of office. Those who have given their efforts to assist him I wish to remain in office that they may assist me.

"I have faith that God will direct the destinies of our nation."

Like Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge has ridden into the position of chief executive of the nation as a result of the death of the president.

This is the second time death has played an important role in the political career of Coolidge.

His first political office was that of county clerk at Northampton, Mass. He was appointed to that office when the county clerk died.

Coolidge was born in Plymouth Village, Vt., July 4, 1872. His ancestors were Yankee farmers.

He attended Amherst College, graduating in 1895 as valedictorian of his class.

At college, Coolidge was known for two things - his scholastic ability and his prolonged silences. He was then a raw country youth with his trousers tucked in his boot-tops. John Calvin Coolidge was his name when he entered college, but he subsequently dropped John.

On expiration of his terms as county clerk, Coolidge ran for Council in Northampton and was elected.

From then on his political progress was steady.

In turn he was elected city solicitor, mayor, state senator, lieutenant governor and, finally, governor in 1918.

In 1919, came the Boston police strike. It was then the country first became really aware of the slim short gentleman with the red hair and thin compressed lips in the Massachusetts state house.

Coolidge smashed the strike of the policemen at Boston by calling out the state guard.

Asked subsequently what his objections were to permitting the Boston police to affiliate with the American Federation of Labor, Coolidge replied:

"They have been stated so many times I hardly think it necessary to go into them again. They have been stated by President Wilson very clearly.

"But perhaps I might once more suggest that the primary objection is that it is fundamental that control of the government objection is that it is fundamental that control of the government and of the maintenance of law and order must remain in the hands of the properly constituted authorities.

"We cannot for a moment think of arbitrating the government or the form of law."

In 1919, Coolidge ran for re-election as governor of Massachusetts. This was his famous "law and order" campaign.

His opponent, Richard H. Long, made the Boston police strike the issue of the campaign by promising to restore the strikers to duty and oust the police commissioner.

"So be it," Coolidge said at the time, "Our case shall be law and order."

And the "law and order" campaign was on.

Coolidge was re-elected by a majority of 130,000.

When the Republican party began to around for a presidential candidate in 1920, a boom was started for Coolidge.

A book of speeches by Coolidge under the title, "Have Faith in Massachusetts," was expected to help the boom along.

But, Warren G. Harding was nominated and Coolidge named for the vice presidency.

One of the things Harding promised during the campaign was that he would make Coolidge's job as vice president an important job.

Harding did it to the extent of having Coolidge "sit in" at the meetings of the cabinet.

Coolidge married Miss Grace Goodhue of Burlington, Vt., in 1905. There are two children, John and Calvin Jr.

Mrs. Coolidge was a teacher in the deaf and dumb school at Northampton when she and Coolidge first met.

Coolidge recently was in the limelight as one of the board of trustees of Amherst College. The board forced the resignation of Dr. Meiklejohn as president.

Coolidge always has been regarded as a conservative in national politics, more conservative, possibly, than Harding.

Coolidge says he is a poor hand at golf and he attends baseball games only on rare occasions.

He is noted for frugal habits. While lieutenant governor he lived in one hotel room.

Friends told him he ought to take a large house in the fashionable part of the town where he could entertain in style.

Instead, he changed from his one room at the hotel to a suite of two rooms.

He usually smokes stogies. "For economy's sake," so it is claimed. To his friends he is known as "Cal."

He still has the habit of silence. He is noted for saying what he does with an economy of words.

Centuries of Yankee ancestry shows themselves in Coolidge's speech, despite his classical training at Amherst.

There's a story that when he was first suggested for lieutenant governor certain politicians objected to his as a candidate.

They said that what they termed his "rural speech" would lose votes for the party in Boston.

Another story is told about Coolidge's courtship.

"Just came over to be married to Grace," so it's told, he said to Mr. Goodhue on one of his visits to Burlington, Mrs. Coolidge's home town.

"Have you spoken to Grace yet?" Mr. Goodhue is said to have asked.

"No, but I think I will in a few days," Coolidge replied.

Here are some of his characteristic utterances:

"Expect to be called a demagogue but don't be a demagogue.

"Don't hesitate to be as revolutionary as science.

"Don't hesitate to be as reactionary as the multiplication table.

"Don't expect to build up the weak by pulling down the strong."

Coolidge has a smile that is extremely fleeting. Usually he maintains what sometimes has been called a "poker face."

At Washington, Coolidge was known as a hard-working vice president, usually at his office promptly at 9.

Shortly after he had assumed the vice presidency, Coolidge was asked what he thought was the most important problem facing the country.

"Finances," was his reply. Private business of the country, as well as public, is involved in this question of finances.

"The character of taxation that may be levied by congress is an important factor, touching business as.

"The solution of the railroad problem is to a large extent the key to the existing situation.

"If that problem can be solved, the rest will follow.

Coolidge frequently spends his summer vacation on his ancestral farm in Vermont.

He likes to don overalls and an old straw hat and get out and work in the fields.

Related UPI Stories
Trending Stories