Warren G. Harding: Foreign & Domestic Policy

Instructor: Evan Thompson

Evan has taught high school History and has a bachelor's degree in history with a master's degree in teaching.

Warren Harding's short administration is known mainly for the Teapot Dome Scandal and his death in office. Did anything happen in the way of domestic or foreign policy? Read on to find out.

Warren G. Harding's Foreign & Domestic Policy

Most people know very little about Warren Harding. His presidency was the shortest of the 20th century (twelve days shorter than Gerald Ford), and it's typically glossed over in history books. The only mention he usually gets involves the Teapot Dome Scandal (which is addressed better in a different lesson). Was anything else done during his presidency? Yes. Quite a bit, actually. Let's take a look.

Senator Warren Harding, June 1920
Senator Warren Harding

The 'Forgotten Depression' (1920-1921)

When the soldiers came home from Europe after World War I, an economic depression came soon thereafter. It struck in 1920, and it was bad. Very bad. Unemployment increased sharply, and prices and wages plummeted. When Harding was inaugurated in March of 1921, he addressed Congress on the issue, encouraging cuts in spending. He also asked Congress to create a budget office in order to make the budgeting process more efficient and spending cuts more realistic. Despite cries for government intervention, Congress took his advice and cut taxes. They also cut spending by a 65% margin and in June passed an act creating the Bureau of the Budget, which is now the Office of Management and Budget, to propose and administer the federal budget. (Before the Bureau, the federal budget was proposed by each cabinet official on a department-by-department basis. One can imagine that this got messy.) By July, things started to turn around, and by 1923, the economic boom of the Roaring Twenties was in full swing.

Civil Rights

Harding believed in Civil Rights, especially for African Americans. He gave a speech encouraging Civil Rights to a segregated crowd in Birmingham, Alabama -- quite a daring venture during the Jim Crow era in the Deep South. He also encouraged Congress to pass an anti-lynching bill -- something that was filibustered in the Senate by Southern Democrats.

Dawes Plan

Harding did not want the massive war reparations (payments made by the loser in a war to the winner) that Germany had to pay to continue crippling the German economy, which was a complete disaster. He had a committee headed by Charles Dawes draft a repayment plan that was much easier for Germany to handle. The Dawes Plan set an installment plan for Germany's repayment, and the German economy began to stabilize and slowly improve.

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