Calvin Coolidge's Domestic, Foreign & Economic Policy

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  • 0:03 'Keep Cool With Coolidge'
  • 1:06 Coolidge's Economic Policy
  • 2:31 Coolidge's Domestic Policy
  • 3:23 Coolidge's Foreign Policy
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Nate Sullivan

Nate Sullivan holds a M.A. in History and a M.Ed. He is an adjunct history professor, middle school history teacher, and freelance writer.

In this lesson, we'll learn about the policies of President Calvin Coolidge. We'll highlight the key achievements of his administration, and we'll understand the central tenets of his economic, domestic, and foreign policy.

'Keep Cool With Coolidge'

If you had been living during the election of 1924, you probably would have seen signs reading 'Keep Cool With Coolidge.' This was President Calvin Coolidge's campaign slogan for his reelection campaign. Calvin Coolidge is probably not a president that most Americans know a whole lot about. We focus on presidents like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and others, but Coolidge is one that has tended to slip through the cracks. This is unfortunate because he was tremendously popular in his day, and has been considered by many experts, a very good president.

In the past few years, there has been a movement among historians to draw more attention to this underrated U.S. President. Leading this rehabilitation has been Amity Schlaes, whose 2013 book Coolidge has become the definitive work on Calvin Coolidge. Let's dig deeper and learn a few things about 'Silent Cal' by examining his economic, domestic, and foreign policy.

Coolidge's Economic Policy

Calvin Coolidge was the 30th President of the United States. He was a Republican and was in office between 1923-1929. The United States underwent rapid economic and social change during this period. This was the time of the Roaring Twenties, characterized by peace, prosperity, the pursuit of pleasure, the spirit of modernity, and vibrant culture. Calvin Coolidge's economic policies are often credited as the reason for 1920s prosperity. Coolidge was a fiscal conservative who was opposed to high taxes and government regulation. He hated taxes: this can't be stressed enough. Coolidge once said: 'Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery.' Coolidge signed the Revenue Act of 1924, which lowered tax rates and reduced the number of people paying tax. Subsequent tax reforms were passed in 1926 and 1928. Coolidge made progress in reducing the federal debt thanks to his disdain for government spending. Low taxes and limited government spending were the cornerstones of his economic policy.

Critics of Coolidge condemned him as a 'do-nothing' president because he tended to favor free market economics instead of government intervention. Some historians also see his economic policy as contributing to the Great Depression that began in 1929, although it should be noted this view is controversial, and the Great Depression stemmed from a number of complex economic factors.

Coolidge's Domestic Policy

Coolidge was outspoken in his support for civil rights for African-Americans and other groups. Coolidge proposed laws to improve the lives of African-Americans. He called for laws against lynchings, but in the U.S. Congress, these bills were blocked by Southern Democrats. A number of African-Americans were appointed to federal office by Coolidge. He also signed into law the Indian Citizenship Act, allowing Native Americans to obtain U.S. citizenship and have increased rights to their tribal land.

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the worst river flood in American history. After the flood, Coolidge was reluctant to have the federal government involved in assistance. He believed assistance should take place at the local level. He was widely criticized for inaction during the flood and in its aftermath, although eventually, he appointed Herbert Hoover to take charge of the situation.

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