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Calvin Coolidge's Presidential Cabinet

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 will earn about the presidential cabinet of Calvin Coolidge. We will identify some of the notable members of his cabinet and we will highlight their accomplishments and approaches.

''Silent Cal'': An Underrated President?

If you asked the average citizen to come of with a list of 5 or 10 outstanding American presidents, who would they be? It likely George Washington and Abraham Lincoln would top the list. You might also see Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, his cousin Franklin Roosevelt, and maybe Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy. These men have typically been regarded as popular presidents. Chances are, you would not hear the name Calvin Coolidge.

Calvin Coolidge, or ''Silent Cal'' as he was nicknamed, is a name we don't hear too much. Most people (unless they are major history buffs) probably can't tell you a whole lot about President Coolidge. He seems to be one of the presidents that just sort of slips through the cracks of historical memory. However, in the past decade or so Coolidge has received increased attention.

In 2014, Amity Schlaes published a groundbreaking and definitive biography on Coolidge. Increasingly, historians are questioning if Coolidge has been vastly underrated. This is particularly true among conservative historians (Coolidge was, after all, a Republican and a staunch economic conservative). While his legacy is a matter of intense debate, President Coolidge was a fascinating man worthy of our attention. In this lesson, we will be focusing not so much on Coolidge himself, but on his presidential cabinet. Let's ''keep cool'' and dig in!

President Calvin Coolidge has recently been the subject of increased attention.
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What is a Cabinet Member?

Before we get into Coolidge's cabinet, let's first make sure we understand the term. A presidential cabinet is a body of advisers to the president who each head a specific department. Think about it: the president can't be an expert on everything ranging from education to agriculture to energy, so he (or she) has men and women serve as experts over these areas who provide advice. This allows the president to make an informed decision. The positions of Secretary of State, Secretary of Education, Secretary of Transportation, etc. are all cabinet positions. The vice president by default is also usually considered to be part of the president's cabinet. Throughout American history the number of cabinet members has grown considerably, from just a few during the Washington Administration to over a dozen today.

Calvin Coolidge's Cabinet

Let's look at some of the specific men who served in Calvin Coolidge's cabinet. We won't have time to highlight every single figure, but we'll explore some of the notable ones. President Coolidge served between 1923-1929 and during that time two men served as Secretary of State. His first Secretary of State (between 1923-1925) was Charles Evans Hughes. Hughes had served as Governor of New York and a Supreme Court Justice before being selected as Secretary of State. In 1916, he had even been a candidate for president.

Hughes resigned in 1925 and was succeed by Frank B. Kellogg who served through the end of Coolidge's turn. Kellog is famous for co-authoring the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact. Officially known as the General Treaty for Renunciation of War as an Instrument of National Policy, this pact was signed by Germany, France, the U.S., and numerous other countries around the world. It basically forbade countries from using armed conflict to settle disputes. Remember this during the time when the Nazis were increasing in power in Germany, and tensions between Germany and France were on the rise. For his work helping to develop the Kellogg-Briand Pact, Kellog won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1929.

Coolidge's Secretary of Treasury was Andrew Mellon. He was actually Treasury Secretary from 1921-1932. Mellon was a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist. In many respects, he was similar to other American industrialists like John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie. Mellon was a staunch economic conservative who believed in cutting taxes and limiting government spending. In many respects, Coolidge and Mellon were a match made in heaven. Under Coolidge and Mellon, the American economy boomed throughout the 1920s. Of course, that all changed in 1929 with the devastating Stock Market Crash.

Andrew Mellon was an staunch conservative and played a critical role in the directing the American economy during the 1920s.
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