On The People

Former President Coolidge addressing Americans gathered at Madison Square Garden, October 11, 1932.

Former President Coolidge addressing Americans gathered at Madison Square Garden, October 11, 1932. Courtesy of Corbis.

In Robert J. Thompson’s fabulous compilation of Coolidge quotations up to 1924, entitled Adequate Brevity, there can be found some of my favorite thoughts regarding us, The People. The truth of these insights was grounded upon an unshakable confidence in people qualified to govern themselves, Coolidge held. It was a personal obligation and a public power in each American that remained very obvious to him all of his life. Too many folks today are prepared, however ill at ease they are doing so, to abdicate their fitness to speak up when things are wrong, when justice cries out that what is going on throughout this country needs someone to say the truth, pronounce what is reasonable to a situation otherwise stripped of all sanity or sense. The hold of political correctness only works when we cooperate and conform to this absurd game of national suicide. Refuse to play that game, being guilted into an unending atonement for someone else’s sins, perceived or real. Meanwhile, the current culprits of criminal wrongs in public office escape electoral consequences, passing accountability ultimately on to us for their inadequacies. Coolidge understood that our system was too important to leave to “experts” who, by virtue of their superior station or class, are somehow best suited to manage our freedoms, making our public decisions for us. We are absolutely qualified to weigh in on what is going on right now, to participate in our governance, to make and repeal our own laws, to choose who is worthy to represent us, The People, and decide as a people what kind of nation we are to be. These and so many other matters are not beyond our “pay grade” to determine. Coolidge’s thoughts on us, The People, could not be more timely, especially as Election Day draws near.

Cal said,

     “The ultimate decision of all questions of law and justice rests with the people themselves. They have the complete authority to enlarge or diminish, to support and to overthrow.”

He also said,

“In the last resort the people are the military power, they are the financial power, they are the moral power of the government. There is and can be no other.”

Again, he said,

“What they [the people] think determines every question of civilization.”

He even met one of today’s common threats that we, mere amateurs, better keep quiet or else face the public ostracism of politically incorrect felonies of racism, sexism, bigotry, homophobia, extremism, or any of the other labels attributed to anyone brave enough to make themselves a target by speaking truth honestly, earnestly and plainly,

“Of course it would be folly to argue the people cannot make political mistakes. They can and do make grave mistakes. They know it, they pay the penalty, but compared with the mistakes which have been made by every kind of autocracy they are unimportant.”

Or, again,

“Unless the people struggle to help themselves, no one else will or can help them. It is out of such struggle that there comes the strongest evidence of their true independence and nobility, and there is struck off a rough and incomplete economic justice, and there develops a strong and rugged national character.”


“The power to preserve America, with all that it now means to the world, all the great hope that it holds for humanity, lies in the hands of the people.”

And finally,

“There are now no pains too great, no cost too high, to prevent or diminish the duty that wisdom and knowledge, as well as virtue, be generally diffused among the body of the people.”

Well said, as always, Mr. Coolidge.

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