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Calvin Coolidge
1872 - 1933

30th president (Republican) of the United States from 1923-1929. Coolidge was vice-president to Warren Harding, and became president upon Harding's death. He was elected to a second term before retiring. Coolidge was a laissez-faire leader, not easily pushed to legislate or create programs when there was a reasonable expectation that free people would solve problems themselves. For this reason he is criticized as a passive president, especially for his failure to implement farm relief or to restrain economic events leading to the crash of 1929. He deserves more. John J. Miller wrote in Reason Magazine that "He is America's most underappreciated president, a tax-cutting, budget-slashing politician whose very name became synonymous with the fast-growing 1920s economy ... Coolidge stood defiantly as an anti-Progressive between two activist eras... That's the real reason so many modern academics dislike him: Coolidge didn't participate in the onward march of an ever-growing government. In fact, he actively resisted it." (Dec. 1998)


Click here for essays by Calvin Coolidge
The business of America is business.

Jan. 17, 1925 - from a speech
There is only one form of political strategy in which I have any confidence, and that is to try to do the right thing and sometimes succeed.

The general welfare cannot be provided for in any one act, but it is well to remember that the benefit of one is the benefit of all, and the neglect of one is the neglect of all. The suspension of one man's dividends is the suspension of another man's pay envelope.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things we want much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization.

Jan. 17, 1925 - from a speech to the American Society of Newspaper Editors
Character is the only secure foundation of the state.

[People] are not required to make any contribution to Government expenditures except that which they voluntarily assess upon themselves through the action of their own representatives. Whenever taxes become burdensome a remedy can be applied by the people; but if they do not act for themselves, no one can be very successful in acting for them.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
The latest, most modern, and nearest perfect system that statesmanship has devised is representative government. Its weakness is the weakness of us imperfect human beings who administer it.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
The people cannot look to legislation generally for success. Industry, thrift, character, are not conferred by act or resolve. Government cannot relieve from toil. It can provide no substitute for the rewards of service. It can, of course, care for the defective and recognize distinguished merit. The normal must care for themselves. Self-government means self-support.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

There is no dignity quite so impressive, and no one independence quite so important, as living within your means.

[Advice to legislators] Do the day's work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak, whoever objects, do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand-patter, but don't be a stand-patter. 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. Don't hurry to legislate. Give administration a chance to catch up with legislation.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.

Nothing is easier than spreading public money. It does not appear to belong to anybody. The temptation is overwhelming to bestow it on somebody.

When people are bewildered they tend to become credulous.

Ultimately, property rights and personal rights are the same thing. The one cannot be preserved if the other be violated.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.

Courts are established, not to determine the popularity of a cause, but to adjudicate and enforce rights. No litigant should be required to submit his case to the hazard and expense of a political campaign.

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be more successful. The verdict of the country has been given on this question. That verdict stands. We shall do well if we heed it.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
We cannot do everything at once, but we can do something at once.

Those who disregard the rules of society are not exhibiting a superior intelligence, are not promoting freedom and independence, are not following the path of civilization, but are displaying the traits of ignorance, of servitude, of savagery, and treading the way that leads back to the jungle.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
The attempt to regulate, control, and prescribe all manner of conduct and social relations is very old. It was always the practice of primitive peoples.

It is not the name of the action, but the result of the action, which is the chief concern.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
Duty is not collective; it is personal.

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

Jan. 7, 1914 - from a speech delivered to the Massachusetts Senate when he became its president
There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.

Sep. 14, 1919 - from a telegram sent to American Federation of Labour union leader Samuel Gompers during a Boston police strike
We do not need more knowledge, we need more character!

There is no moral standard so high that the people cannot be raised up to it.

The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny.

Mar. 24, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
We are not without our problems, but our most important problem is not to secure new advantages but to maintain those which we already possess.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
[The successes of democratic government] have been secured by a constant and enlightened effort marked by many sacrifices and extending over many generations. We can not continue these brilliant successes in the future, unless we continue to learn from the past. It is necessary to keep the former experiences of our country both at home and abroad continually before us, if we are to have any science of government. If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite knowledge of the old foundations. We must realize that human nature is about the most constant thing in the universe and that the essentials of human relationship do not change. We must frequently take our bearings from these fixed stars of our political firmament if we expect to hold a true course. If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine the more accurately what we can do.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
Little progress can be made by merely attempting to repress what is evil; our great hope lies in developing what is good.

Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped.

We need not concern ourselves much about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights of persons. ... It is not property but the right to hold property ... which our Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with a service. These rights and duties have been revealed, through the conscience of society, to have a divine sanction. The very stability of our society rests upon production and conservation. For individuals or for governments to waste and squander their resources is to deny these rights and disregard these obligations. The result of economic dissipation to a nation is always moral decay.

Mar. 4, 1925 - from his Inaugural Address
The right thing to do never requires any subterfuge, it is always simple and direct.

The measure of success is not merchandise but character.

1919 - from a speech to the Amherst Alumni Association