Coolidge was born in Plymouth, Vermont, of a family of very moderate means. They were of old Yankee stock and were members the Congregational Church. Dr. Bonnell seizes upon three incidents m Coolidge’s life to give evidence of the religion of this man. (He is very effusive about the religious nature of Coolidge and Hoover also.)
When was a boy his mother died. There is a scene of the family gathered around the bed in prayer. To Dr. Bonnell this is of great significance. Coolidge read the Bible regularly to his grandfather. The grandfather's favorite Book was the Gospel According to John. When his father administered the oath of office to him, Coolidge opened the Bible to the Book of John, placed his hand on it, and took the oath. While president, one of his sons had a blister on his heel. This lead to blood poisoning, and nothing could be done for the boy. Coolidge wrote in his Autobiography that he sat by the boy's side and the boy said "Make me well." Coolidge wrote, “I could not," and then he added, "All the power and the glory of the presidency went with him." Dr. Bonnell says that the Coolidges attended the Congregational Church in Washington. I do not know which one. I assume that there are more than one. And this is the only place that I have seen reference to church attendance.
While all of the above certainly indicate a man of fine feelings, they are hardly sufficient to show a man of strong religious feelings. In that scene with his son, I see a grief stricken father. I do know at the time that no one could see the President for months. While I understand, I don't see how he could act this way. The president is not a free agent. The "power and the glory of the presidency" cannot go with anybody but the president. When Lincoln died, they went to Andrew Johnson.
I would like to digress here and make a few observations. What does religion require of and give to us? Let me name at least three items: 1. Spiritual and emotional uplift. 2. Intellectual stimulus. 3. Recognition of and acceptance of responsibility. Apply these to Coolidge and the findings are not good.
Coolidge was not a crook. But we can't settle for such a low standard as that. What was he? We know that he could not bear to discuss problems. Examples: The press: "Mr. President, what do you think should be done about the enforcement of prohibition?" Mr. Coolidge: "I do not choose to discuss that." The press: "Mr. President, bank failures increase every day. What should we do?" Mr. Coolidge: "I do not choose to discuss that." Ike Hoover, who was Usher of the White House from McKinley through FDR, wrote in his memoir that of them all Coolidge did the least and was the worst. Question: What is the relationship between response to duty and religion?
Coolidge, a graduate of Amherst , had been Governor of Massachusetts. In that position he received credit for something he never did and so attained some national recognition, but the real reason for his selection as Vice Presidential candidate was the fact that he was from Massachusetts. According to our system until very recently, the ticket must be balanced geographically. In 1920 the Republicans felt that they needed New England. Coolidge was the man. Besides it was always said, "He will never be president anyway. " Six years of "do not choose" left the Republicans jittery because he was eligible for a second full term under our tradition. When he said "I do not choose to run" the collective sign of relief from the Republicans could be heard throughout the land. (Congress had tried to fill the vacuum but a committee cannot lead. The Constitution places leadership in the presidency.)
I would like to digress here again. Politicians do not like a horse race. They like a sure thing. In 1928 the Republicans believed that they had a sure thing and he was not Calvin Coolidge. They wanted one of the outstanding men in the country, the Secretary of Commerce, Herbert Hoover.
Related albums • See other albumsReligion In The Lives Of The American Presidents
Related peoplePresident John Calvin "Silent Cal" Coolidge II
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