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The policies of Harding and Coolidge

The 1920's were a time of great character and change yet Presidents Harding and Coolidge were conservative Presidents. The policies they set in place were popular at the time but as we shall see their lack of fore sight and unwillingness to stay involved internationally eventually led America into its most desperate hour... the Great Depression.

I. America in the 1920's - Presidential Policies

A. What did Harding mean by a "return to normalcy?"

1. Simpler times - Harding was a conservative. He felt that the Progressive Era had complicated things.

2. A return to Laissez Faire. Harding felt that Progressive Legislation was un American and hurt our industrial capacity.

3. Isolation - Harding believed that the less we were involved in foreign affairs the better. While he did deviate from this on several occasions his foreign policies were always directed towards reducing the chances of being involved in another conflict.

B. What were American attitudes like during the Harding administration?

1. Intolerance

2. Red Scare, Sacco Vanzetti, Palmer Raids, Ku Klux Klan

3. Emergency Quota Act

C. How involved was America in foreign policy?

1. Washington Arms Conference (1922) - attempted limited disarmament

2. Passage of Fordney-McCumber Tariff (1920)

-High protective tariffs. European exports to US fell from 5 billion to 2.5 billion in 1922.

3. Demand for reparations.

D. What scandals occured during Harding's presidency?

1. Teapot Dome Scandal - In 1921 Secretary of the Interior, a member of the Ohio Gang, was able to gain control of valuable oil fields in Teapot Dome, Wyoming and Elk Hill, California. These oil fields had been set aside by the government for use by the navy. In 1922 Secretary Fall made a secret deal with two rich oilmen. He gave them a lease to pump oil out of the fields and sell it for themselves. Fall receive $325,000 in bonds and cash as well as a large herd of cattle. After over six years of testimony and implicating others in the Harding administration Fall receive a $100,000 fine and a year in prison.

2. There were other scandals involving the Ohio Gang. Jesse Smith, assistant to Attorney General Harry M. Cramer was exposed as a "bagman." He was carrying bribes to and from the Attorney General's office. After he was banished from Washington he committed suicide. Charles Cramer, legal advisor to the Veterans Bureau was also exposed for taking bribes, he too committed suicide. Charles Forbes, head of the same bureau, was convicted of taking at least $250 million dollars in kickbacks and bribes. Colonel Thomas W. Miller, head of the Office of Alien Property was convicted of fraud. He had sold valuable German patents seized in the war for far below market price. He too had taken bribes.

E. Policies of Calvin Coolidge - Coolidge took office when Harding died. He too was a simple man with simple policies. Coolidge rarely spoke and was dubbed "Silent Cal." After the tumult of the scandal ridden Harding Administration Silent Cal's quiet leadership, simple policies and conservative values were very popular.

1. Great prosperity, simple policies.

2. Kellogg Briand Pact (1928)

-15 nations agree to renounce war. Eventually 62 sign on.

E. Effects of Coolidge's and Harding's policies

1. Rich got richer and poor got poorer.

2. Wild speculation on stocks

3. Agricultural overproduction and farm foreclosures.

4. Continuing decrease international trade caused by a terrible depression in Europe and our protective tariffs.


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