Calvin Coolidge - Assessment

Coolidge was fortunate that his administration faced no great emergencies. It can be said that he met well most of the crises that occurred during his presidency. He astutely handled the Teapot Dome and other scandals, as he did crises in Mexico, China, and Nicaragua and the uproar over the court-martial of Mitchell. Coolidge was shrewd in his efforts to win nomination and election as president in 1924. Moreover, he showed outstanding talents as an administrator and fiscal manager. Although his personality made him seem a throwback to an earlier time, he was skillful at gaining the respect of the public. He was also adept at exploiting America's growing prosperity for political purposes.

Despite all this, Coolidge was not outstanding at exercising leadership. Most of his successes on Capitol Hill were transitory, such as the tax measures of 1926 and 1928, or were routine. He intended to be a president representative of his time and society, and in this he was successful. Speaking for large numbers of Americans, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "While I don't expect anything very astonishing from [Coolidge] I don't want anything very astonishing." Coolidge obliged. He did the day's work very well, but he felt little motivation to look ahead, to meet future problems. Admittedly, his was not a promising time to do so. He was, moreover, not one to borrow trouble by taking on unnecessary tasks or launching crusades. In sum, what Coolidge did, he usually did as well as could be expected and without indulging in theatrics. He was largely content to preside over the nation, willing to try to rule only when crisis called for it. Americans during his presidency were generally satisfied with that.

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Bill Kendall
Coolidge governed consistent with his stated philosophy of limited government.

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