By John Hendrickson
Coolidge was arguing that the Republican Party had a credible track record of not only establishing sound public policies, but also effectively handling political and economic emergencies.
In defending Hoover and his administration he urged the American people to stop blaming the President for the Depression, which arose outside of his control. As Coolidge stated:
Perhaps it would therefore be more in accord with the even-handed justice demanded by the facts to stop blaming President Hoover for the conditions of the depression, the devastating effects of which arose almost entirely outside of his jurisdiction and beyond his control, and judge him in accordance with the patience, courage and success with which he has been able to propose and supply remedies.[ii]
Coolidge also reminded the nation that the “first duty of any President is to support the Constitution of the United States, maintain public order and preserve unimpaired our peculiarly American social institutions,” and this is what Hoover has done.[iii]
Both Coolidge and Hoover understood that the Depression raised several “intricate problems,” not only within the United States, but also in Europe and that fidelity to constitutional principles was just as important as recovery measures.[iv] “If we have the courage and vision to maintain our governmental and social structure we can meet all other problems,” stated Coolidge.[v]
Coolidge was also prophetic, just as with Hoover, in regard to the New Deal philosophy and its consequences upon both economic policy and the Constitution. Coolidge argued that:
the forces of discord always work in an insidious way. They often attempt to conceal the peril of their unsound proposals under the claim that they are liberal. When that is analyzed it usually means that they attend to give away the money which someone else has earned. Such a process, once started, is bound to increase until it lands the country in universal bankruptcy and general disintegration.[vi]
Coolidge also urged the American people to look beyond the platitudes of Roosevelt’s New Deal and promises of “bold experimentation,” when he stated that “our situation is too serious for us to consider employing a personal favorite or anyone because he smiles at us and entertains us.”[vii]
Coolidge’s support for Hoover and the Republican Party in 1932 through his written statements and speeches were an attempt to defend the principles of the Republican Party in the midst of the Great Depression. Although Coolidge would not live to see the impact of Roosevelt’s New Deal his concern for the American people abandoning what he saw as constitutional principles because of the Great Depression turned out to be true.
Hoover and Coolidge may not have been the closest of friends, but they did share the same faith in the Republican Party as the best vehicle to advance sound economic policies and defend constitutional principles. Hoover would be defeated in a landslide by Roosevelt in 1932 and both Hoover and Coolidge were correct in their prediction that the New Deal, for better or for worse, changed the direction of American government still to this day.
[i] Calvin Coolidge, “The Republican Case,” Herbert Hoover Presidential Papers: “Republican Party-Campaign Literature, 1932-Calvin Coolidge Presents the Republican Case,” 31-hhpz-sub-b308-f20, Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.
[vii] Calvin Coolidge, “Ex-President Coolidge, Northhampton, Massachusetts, November 7, 1932,” in Campaign Speeches of 1932 by President Hoover and Ex-President Coolidge, Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., Garden City, New York, p. 266.