“Bless their honest Irish hearts!”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day on this, the Coolidge Centennial Year!
Writing in 1926, medical doctor James J. Walsh in his book, The World’s Debt to the Irish, in his chapter on Irish Intiative, says,
“Our latest president, Calvin Coolidge, derives his Irish blood through the Barrons of Waterford, on the distaff side, according to the pedigree of the Coolidges as made out by Professor Guy Coolidge of Hobart College. Apparently there is good reason to think that every president since Lincoln with the single exception of Rutherford B. Hayes had some Irish blood in him.”
Since the Irish connection came from Coolidge’s mother, Victoria Moor, it is not surprising when we consider the source (at least in part) of his red hair, fiery temper, renowned love of pranks, and the often wry wit delivered with a straight-face but nonetheless accompanied by that characteristic twinkle in his eye.
As Coolidge forged an early base of supporters among grassroots Republicans and…
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On the Higher Work of Business
As then-Vice President Calvin Coolidge spoke just over a century ago, January 1923, to listeners of Chicago’s Jewelers’ Association and many more tuning in across the country through radio, he had this to say:
“There is a moral obligation on the part of each division [of labor] and trade to maintain its service, because the dislocation on one part dislocates the whole. The failure to secure any part of the raw material or service stops the entire production. The individual may leave it and turn to something else, but the trade, the occupation which provides its part of what is necessary for the conduct of the business of the people, under these new methods, is charged with a new moral obligation to maintain its service. We cannot prosper unless each division recognizes its prime duty to stay on the job.
“This, in turn, requires just compensation. But this is a result, not a cause. Work is not done because wages are paid, wages are paid because work is done. If the service be rendered, the compensation will be forthcoming. If the service be not rendered, there is no power that can long enforce payment. The rate of wages in the industrial world will be fixed by one main factor, and that is the amount that is earned. The amount of production, in the long run, always determines the amount of compensation. More and more emphasis is going to be placed on this end of the problem, as it is better and better understood that our real economic condition depends not so much on the amount of wages paid throughout the country as the amount of goods produced. It will always be necessary to supply along with honesty and candor and good will a large amount of hard work. The nation will seek in vain for any substitute for an honest purpose and honest work…
“The government can provide some of the elements, but it cannot provide them all. It can furnish opportunity, but the vision, the initiative, the courage, the uprightness, the application, and the enterprise to grasp it and profit by it must come from the people themselves.
“The main function of government is to maintain order, preserve liberty, and administer justice, but even these simple and elementary requirements cannot be met without the cooperation and the support of the people. This duty is not performed by mere passive acquiescence, it needs the active, energetic, and concerted action of an aroused and earnest citizenship. The business of the people will not be done unless they go to do it. They cannot leave their elections to the dictation of a few. Voluntarily, informedly, advisedly, they must go to the ballot box. They cannot leave the holding of office merely to self-seekers. They must go prepared to make the sacrifice, to endure the discomfiture and the misrepresentation, the loss of business opportunity required by being a candidate for and holding public office. They cannot even leave the administration of justice to itself, they must serve on the grand jury. They must sit in the jury box at the trial of causes, civil and criminal. All of this costs something. It may seem irksome to the business man, but it is a price which we must pay. After all, there is no business quite so important as the public business, and no other business which can succeed if that fails.
“The business men of the nation have been too prone to abdicate at the first appearance of hostile criticism. They must always expect to be criticized, nobody who accomplishes anything escapes it. It seems to accompany success in geometrical progression. Business cannot sit silent, it must justify itself by word and deed, but it is not to be pre-judged. Under our free institutions the achievement of success carries with it a presumption of a fair and honorable public service. Unless those who have a stake in the country, who have a real interest in it, are willing to go down into the public arena and unselfishly bear their share in the contests which are never without wounds and scars, they are not worthy of the institutions which have made them what they are, and have no right to complain of a lack of wisdom in the legislature, or a lack of justice in the courts. It is not enough for them to send, they ought to go. It is not their money that is wanted, it is their personal service. They ought to be among the people, knowing and sharing their burdens, not in their old effort to supplant the people but working for them by working with them…
“The modern economic fabric is exceedingly delicate. It is chiefly sustained by confidence. It is destroyed by any lack of security. It is necessary to have absolute assurance of order and the general observance of law. It is on this side that the solid and substantial element of the community is always found, and it on this side that the real welfare of the people always lies. Such security means not only tranquility at home but peace and good understanding abroad…
“The American conception of business is that it is the means of ministering to the welfare of all the people. It is from this conviction that it secures its maintenance and support. Whenever and wherever it fails of this main purpose either it should be changed and corrected or it should cease to exist. There would be little regard in our country for a prosperity which did not reach to the people. It may not begin there, but certainly it must end there. The power and strength of the people of this nation is beyond comprehension. Whatever they want they can have, on the single condition that they furnish it themselves. There is no limit to what they can take, provided they are willing to pay the price…
“The business of the country, the government of the country, are going to continue to be conducted by human beings with all their frailties, but also with all their strength. If there were any way in which this could be changed, any way that we could put ourselves in all respects, both private and public, under the jurisdiction of beings who had attained perfection, I feel warranted in asserting that there is not a high official charged with the management of any of the great business organizations of the country, or entrusted with the conduct of public office at Washington who would not gladly surrender their power and place to secure for themselves and others such an ideal condition. But the world and all the works thereof are in the hands of plain human beings…We could not, if we would, place ourselves in any other hands. Those who hold to the delusion that larceny is easier than industry would not change their character whether they came into power by the action of stockholders, or by the result at the ballot box. We shall go on making mistakes and making progress. We shall not succeed by following vain promises. We shall accomplish infinitely more good by possessing ourselves with patience, by maintaining a helpful and charitable attitude, by utilizing and perfecting to their limit the instrumentalities of business and government already at hand, than by a continual and supercilious criticism and a ceaseless demand for change. It is with the constructive forces of life that we must join our action. They are all about us, they are strong, they are ample, they are overpowering. ‘Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.’ “