Mr. President!

In advance, we are marking the day ninety-two years ago that the sudden news of President Harding’s death in San Francisco reached the remote village of Plymouth Notch in the early hours of August 3rd, 1923. When the Vice President’s father, Colonel Coolidge, answered the door little could anyone in the house suspect what it would portend. The younger Mr. Coolidge knew by the waver in his father’s voice that something was amiss, a tone he had heard before when death had occurred. As Calvin and his wife dressed and prepared to come downstairs, he paused to pray for strength and guidance. With most of the Harding Cabinet on the west coast near the late President and his wife, Secretary of State Hughes remained in Washington. Having spoken with Attorney General Daugherty and Secretary Hughes and consulted the provisions of the Constitution regarding the oath’s wording, Coolidge proceeded to take the oath of office. His father, a notary public, administered the oath prescribed by Article II, Section 1, Clause 8, at 2:47 in the morning before a small gathering by kerosene lamp as this simple scene by Arthur I. Keller portrays. Coolidge later attested to the accuracy of this picture. It testifies how “over-thought” our government has become. It prompts us to ask, have we lost the simplicity of applying the Constitution in the pursuit of endless regulatory minutiae? Have we not overcomplicated our system of self-government and self-assertion with the needless clutter produced by a love for bureaucratic efficiency at the expense of real liberty?

Keller Painting

Tara Ross reminds us what Coolidge did and said on the four-year anniversary of this day, a further reaffirmation of the humility and simple example of Mr. Coolidge.

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