Monday, June 30, 2014

Vice President Charles Dawes-Part 2

Coolidge left the selection of his vice presidential candidate to the 1924 convention delegates since that was how he had gotten the nomination in 1920. The Republican convention first nominated Illinois Governor Frank Lowden. He had already said he would not accept the office and promptly declined. So the convention turned to Charles G. Dawes, Harding’s Director of the Bureau of the Budget. See the last post for Dawes’ background.

Dawes campaigned hard and after the ticket won office in a Republican landslide, he made several mistakes early in his tenure. Even before being sworn in, he baffled Coolidge by saying he would not attend cabinet meetings. Coolidge was the first vice president to attend these meetings at the invitation of Harding and felt  it was important. Coolidge does not mention Dawes in his autobiography, but says this about the vice presidency, “If the Vice-President is a man of discretion and character…he should be in the Cabinet because he might become President and ought to be informed on the policies of the administration…My experience in the Cabinet was of supreme value to me when I became President.” (Coolidge, Autobiography, page 163-164)

It was the custom at that time that the vice president was inaugurated inside the Senate Chambers where he gave a few remarks. So on March 4, 1925, after taking the oath, Dawes lectured the gathered senators for about one half hour, advocating changes in the seniority system and limits on the use of the filibuster. The senators were not happy and neither was Coolidge, because the press focused on Dawes remarks more than the president’s inaugural address.

Later, Dawes left Capitol Hill to take a nap when Coolidge’s nominee for attorney general, Charles Warren, was up for confirmation in the Senate. There was an unexpected tie which the vice president could break, if he could get back in time. Unfortunately, he did not return to the chambers in time, a pro vote change to a ‘no’ vote, and the candidate was defeated. It was the first rejection of a cabinet appointee since the presidency of Andrew Johnson, and Coolidge held Dawes responsible.

Dawes served out his term out of favor with the president, but was appointed ambassador to Britain (1929–32) by Herbert-Hoover His home in Illinois is preserved as the Evanston Historical Center.

Dawes has the distinction of being the only vice president to write the melody, but not the lyrics, to a No. 1 pop single. He knew it as “Melody in A Major” which he composed in 1911. It is too bad this multi-talented man did not live to get solace from the lyrics penned in 1958, “It’s All in the Game.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

Vice President Dawes

Illustrious ancestors, a profitable business career, and remarkable civilian and military government service does not guarantee successful electoral office.  In Calvin Coolidge’s world, no one better demonstrates this than his vice president, Charles Gates Dawes. Although one of his forebears was the William Dawes who rode with Paul Revere to warn Lexington and Concord that the British were coming, Charlie Dawes never recovered from some missteps early in his vice presidential term.

Born in Ohio, Dawes made his name in business and banking in Lincoln, Nebraska and later Chicago, Illinois, after graduating from Marietta College. He turned to politics as an Illinois campaign worker for President William McKinley, who appointed him Comptroller of the Currency, a post he held from 1898 to 1901. He immediately ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senator from Illinois in 1902, but lost to Albert J. Hopkins (R), the eventual winner, who was backed by the new president, Theodore Roosevelt.

Dawes then returned to banking until World War I when he was head of supply procurement for the American Expeditionary Force in France and became a brigadier general.  He received a nickname when testifying in front of a congressional committee looking into overspending during the war. When a member of the committee asked Dawes if it was true that excessive prices were paid for mules in France, he replied, “Hell and Maria, I'd have paid horse prices for sheep, if the sheep could have pulled artillery to the front!” Thus he was ‘Hell and Maria’ Dawes or ‘Helen Maria’ Dawes, as he always insisted.

Dawes was appointed the first Director of the Bureau of the Budget in 1921 by President Harding. He served on the Allied Reparations Commission negotiating with European colleagues to find a plan for Germany to pay war compensation to the victors. The Dawes Plan provided for a reorganization of German finances with loans from American investors. For his effort, he shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1925. He gave the money from the prize to Johns Hopkins University. Unfortunately, the plan was not a long term solution, and the German economy collapsed.

Many have struggled with being vice president of this country. Dawes was one of them in part because he had strong convictions and self-confidence, but the office does not lend itself to advocating for a cause. See the next blog posting for Dawes’ troubles in the office.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Silent Cal Was Orator


On September 4, 1923, the Associated Press (AP) reported that according to a biographical sketch in the Amherst College 25th Reunion Annual of the Class of 1895, Calvin Coolidge “always said something worth hearing.”  
When Calvin Coolidge became president after the sudden death of Warren G. Harding in August 1923, the country was anxious for information about him. Coolidge had gotten the public’s attention in 1919, when as the Massachusetts Governor, he handled the Boston Police Strike well. As we know, memories are short, and people wanted all the information that they could get about the new president. A frenzy of articles about Coolidge’s personality and character were feeding the public’s right and need to know.

In Oakland, California, Nelson Kingsland, a reporter and Coolidge classmate, had his copy of the Reunion Annual from 1920 and included the text of the bio in the AP article that he wrote. The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Northampton, Mass. published it the same day, one month into the Coolidge presidency.
Coolidge was selected Grove Orator by his college class. The person the student’s selected needed a sense of humor since his job was to award funny prizes to popular students during graduation celebrations, according to this article.

In the fall of 1895, two other Amherst alumni, John Hammond and Henry P. Field agreed to train Coolidge at their law firm in Northampton, Massachusetts. At least one of them had heard the Grove Oration in June, and Coolidge’s wit entered into their decision.
His former classmates were generous with their praise in the 25th Annual:

“The fact that he has risen high in public office…does not rest at all upon self-seeking ambition, for he does not seek office, offices seek him...
We in ’95 do not honor him for his office; we honor him just as all people do – because he is Calvin Coolidge. Like Abraham Lincoln, a unique personality, a real man in an age when the world needs real men.”

*Nelson Kingsland had a career as an itinerant reporter and editor in New York City, Denver, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and on the west coast. He died at age 49 in May 1924, less than a year after his article helped the country understand its new president.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

"On this day, in home and church, in family and in public gatherings, the whole nation has for generations paid the tribute due from grateful hearts for blessings bestowed."
From Calvin Coolidge's 1923 Thanksgiving Proclamation

As President, Calvin Coolidge delivered a Thanksgiving Proclamation each year.  Thanks to the American Presidency Project, you can read the complete proclamations online.  Click on the year to take you to proclamation on their website.
1923
1924
1925
1926
1927
1928

Monday, November 4, 2013

Another Royal Visitor


Queen Marie of Romania and her two youngest children, Prince Nicholas and Princess Ileana, traveled across the U.S. in 1926 with a stop in the capital to call on the President on their way to the State of Washington. Queen Marie was the consort of King Ferdinand and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
Her father was Prince Alfred, Victoria and Albert’s second son. Her mother was Grand Duchess Marie, the daughter of the Russian czar, Alexander II. Marie's father chose a naval career, and the family lived in Malta for many years so she grew up away from English court life.
At age 17, she married a man ten years her senior. She went to live in a country ruled by her husband’s uncle, King Carol who was very unsure how to use the talents of this worldly young woman. Marie’s marriage was unhappy, but she was able to use the media to bring attention to this country which had only recently gained freedom from the Ottoman Empire. She wrote books and articles for the English speaking world, and she mothered six children.

The Queen of Romania had become renown after World War I when she argued personally and passionately at the peace talks in Paris for an increase to Romania’s territory to include all areas where people spoke Romanian. She was successful in expanding her country’s footprint by more than 60 percent.
The Chief Usher at the White House remembered the October 19th visit this way:

“Of course all eyes were on the Queen, especially during her efforts to engage the President in conversation. In this she was not any more successful than others who had tried it before. Before the dinner was over, the Queen realized that most of the published reports of the President's uncommunicative disposition were true. She also seemed to appreciate that the President was paying more attention to the Princess than he was to her, for she was heard to remark to the Princess, upon leaving the White House, that the latter had made more impression during the evening than she had herself.”
Source: Hoover, Irwin H. (Ike). 42 Years in the White House. Cambridge, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, The Riverside Press, 1934, Chapter XVI, We Entertain Queen Marie.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Coolidge and Al Smith: After Retirement

Even if opposing politicians do not forge a political bond, they seem to have a personal bond – common stresses, family issues and experiences. Coolidge and Al Smith lunching with their wives on Friday, July 16, 1926 at White Pine Camp at Paul Smiths in the Adirondacks is an example. (See the last post.)

Coolidge was born on the fourth of July, 1872 just eighteen months before Al Smith was born on Dec. 30, 1873.  Although nearly the same age, they had different world views that was reflected in their political beliefs, since the president was born in a small town in rural Vermont, and the governor was born on the teeming lower east side of Manhattan. Coolidge was a lawyer who graduated from Amherst College; Al Smith dropped out of school to help support his widowed mother and siblings during the eighth grade.

Their political education was similar. They learned on the job holding many of the same offices. Coolidge was a City Councilor, State Representative, Mayor, State Senator, Lt. Governor, Governor. Smith was Sheriff, State Assemblyman, president of the New York City Board of Aldermen, and four-term Governor.
After 1929, both Smith and Coolidge retired from public life, and they worked together for philanthropic causes. In early 1931, Coolidge was appointed honorary chairman of the National Red Cross fundraising drive to aid people suffering from the drought: Al Smith was one of four vice chairmen.
Conrad Hubert, a Russian Jewish immigrant, was the founder of the Ever Ready Company, which made flashlights and batteries. His will bequeathed about $8,000,000 to be administered jointly by a Protestant, a Catholic, and a Jew and given to organizations that served the general public welfare. Coolidge and Smith were joined by Julius Rosenwald, an owner of Sears, Roebuck and Company as trustees of this estate.

Al Smith came to Northampton, Massachusetts for Coolidge’s funeral in January 1933.  Smith is quoted as saying that Coolidge was "distinguished for character more than for heroic achievement. His great task was to restore the dignity and prestige of the Presidency when it had reached the lowest ebb in our history..." (1)
(1). www. WhiteHouse.gov from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” Copyright 2006 by the White House Historical Association.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Coolidge and Al Smith: Summer 1926

Coolidge had opportunities to meet and work with Democratic leaders during his lengthy career. Despite recent press coverage of President Obama and Governor Christie, working with officials of the other party is not new. The relationship between Calvin Coolidge and Alfred E. (Al) Smith, the Democratic Governor of New York, was based more on the common experiences they had in political life, and less or not at all on their political beliefs.

The summer White House was in New York State’s Adirondack region in 1926. Before the president left Washington, he received a welcoming letter and a fishing license from Governor Smith who expressed interest in greeting the president in person. By an exchange of letters between the principals and later their staffs, the two men and their wives had lunch at White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, NY, the Coolidges’ headquarters, on Friday, July 16th.
The President had put the fishing license to good use, and since the Smiths were Catholic, the main course was fish caught by Coolidge.  The President gave Smith a three pound live pike which the governor held up for waiting photographers.

Smith had presidential ambitions and had run for his party’s nomination in both 1920 and 1924. His chance was to come in 1928 when as the Democratic nominee, he lost to Herbert Hoover.  Smith’s Catholic faith was a deciding factor. However, in the summer of 1926, many people might have seen this lunch as a meeting of the two men who would head their party's ticket in 1928.

Calvin Coolidge and Al Smith had huge policy differences. For example, Smith was a notorious ‘wet’ who seemed to not follow the spirit or the letter of the prohibition laws. Coolidge followed the law by not serving alcohol in the White House.
As the Coolidge/Smith lunch was being arranged in writing, Coolidge comments about one of the common bonds:

           “We are anticipating the change, as you know from your own experience it is not possible to get a vacation.”
Sometimes an office holder of one party simply does his job when an official of another party visits his state. Coolidge, while Governor of Massachusetts, welcomed President Woodrow Wilson home, when his ship docked in Boston after the WWI peace conference in Paris. Wilson was promoting the League of Nations which was not supported by many Republicans. Perhaps Smith too was just doing his job in the Adirondacks one day in the summer of 1926.

The Coolidge Museum has just opened a small exhibition titled, Across Party Lines: Coolidge and Al Smith.