On the State of the Union

President Coolidge addressing Congress.

President Coolidge addressing Joint Session of Congress. Courtesy of Getty Images.

“To the Congress of the United States:

“The present state of the Union, upon which it is customary for the President to report to the Congress under the provisions of the Constitution, is such that it may be regarded with encouragement and satisfaction by every American. Our country is almost unique in its ability to discharge fully and promptly all its obligations at home and abroad, and provide for all its inhabitants an increase in material resources, in intellectual vigor and in moral power. The Nation holds a position unsurpassed in all former human experience. This does not mean that we do not have any problems. It is elementary that the increasing breadth of our experience necessarily increases the problems of our national life. But it does mean that if all will but apply ourselves industriously and honestly, we have ample powers with which to meet our problems and provide for I heir speedy solution. I do not profess that we can secure an era of perfection in human existence, but we can provide an era of peace and prosperity, attended with freedom and justice and made more and more satisfying by the ministrations of the charities and humanities of life…

“In my opinion the Government can do more to remedy the economic ills of the people by a system of rigid economy in public expenditure than can be accomplished through any other action… The fallacy of the claim that the costs of government are borne by the rich and those who make a direct contribution to the National Treasury can not be too often exposed. No system has been devised, I do not think any system could be devised, under which any person living in this country could escape being affected by the cost of our government. It has a direct effect both upon the rate and the purchasing power of wages. It is felt in the price of those prime necessities of existence, food, clothing, fuel and shelter. It would appear to be elementary that the more the Government expends the more it must require every producer to contribute out of his production to the Public Treasury, and the less he will have for his own benefit. The continuing costs of public administration can be met in only one way — by the work of the people. The higher they become, the more the people must work for the Government. The less they are, the more the people can work for themselves…

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“Anybody can reduce taxes, but it is not so easy to stand in the gap and resist the passage of increasing appropriation bills which would make tax reduction impossible. It will be very easy to measure the strength of the attachment to reduced taxation by the power with which increased appropriations are resisted…

“But it would be idle to expect any such results unless business can continue free from excess profits taxation and be accorded a system of surtaxes at rates which have for their object not the punishment of success or the discouragement of business, but the production of the greatest amount of revenue from large incomes…

“It is axiomatic that our country can not stand still. It would seem to be perfectly plain from recent events that it is determined to go forward. But it wants no pretenses, it wants no vagaries. It is determined to advance in an orderly, sound and common-sense way. It does not propose to abandon the theory of the Declaration that the people have inalienable rights which no majority and no power of government can destroy. It does not propose to abandon the practice of the Constitution that provides for the protection of these rights. It believes that within these limitations, which are imposed not by the fiat of man but by the law of the Creator, self-government is just and wise. It is convinced that it will be impossible for the people to provide their own government unless they continue to own their own property.

“These are the very foundations of America. On them has been erected a Government of freedom and equality, of justice and mercy, of education and charity. Living under it and supporting it the people have come into great possessions on the material and spiritual sides of life. I want to continue in this direction. I know that the Congress shares with me that desire. I want our institutions to be more and more expressive of these principles. I want the people of all the earth to see in the American flag the symbol of a Government which intends no oppression at home and no aggression abroad, which in the spirit of a common brotherhood provides assistance in time of distress” — President Calvin Coolidge, December 3, 1924

President Calvin Coolidge

Courtesy of Getty Images.

 

On Swampscott

6192834981_7b846e3eb5_b At Swampscott

Serving as the summer White House in 1925, this historic 28-room mansion known as “White Court” is joining the list of historic sites to be redeveloped. We’ve already seen the sale and re-purposing of the Patterson House in Washington, D. C., where President and First Lady Coolidge stayed during renovations to the official White House in May 1927 while welcoming Charles Lindbergh home from his 33.5 hour solo crossing of the Atlantic. Now get ready for “White Court” to become an age-restricted community of 18 condominiums.

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While it is likely a happy occasion for the people of the Lyn, Massachusetts, area (some of whom helped buy the real estate for $2.7 million), to see this property returning to usefulness after the 2015 closure of Marion Court College (which previously utilized the house and grounds), it is not without an ample tinge of sadness. I say sadness because another piece of history is to give way to redevelopment. Not every place can be preserved nor every location remain as it was in a given time. If it could, most of this nation would look far different than it does today.

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Courtesy: Leslie Jones Collection.

If places have memories as well, though, “White Court” has many stories that its walls, rooms, and corridors will soon be unable to tell in anything more than a disconnected, distant way. The spaces that once hosted these memories will continue to make new ones for new people but only by sacrificing what “White Court” once was, no longer able to share its original character and personality, how it looked and felt for people like the Coolidges (and many others), and so will join the silently yellowing footnotes of history, just another obscure entry from a world we no longer care to know.

White Court Swampscott 1925

On Christmas Eve

Calvin Coolidge with Pallophotophone

Vice President Coolidge delivers a Christmas message into the pallophotophone on December 13, 1922.

Dear friend and Coolidge scholar Jerry L. Wallace has compiled this transcription of then Vice-President Calvin Coolidge’s radio broadcast nationally over WGY (General Electric Radio), delivered on Christmas Eve in 1922. It is replicated here in full from reports in the December 25, 1922 editions of The New York Times and Washington Evening Star.

Speaking into the pallophotophone twelve days before its broadcast, Coolidge is one of the first to debut a technology that would become perhaps the most influential form of modern media: an early form of the “talkie.” It had been devised by General Electric that year combining sound film with photographic film, playing both simultaneously. It precedes magnetic recording by about twenty years, with the debut of stereo tape recording in 1943.

Coolidge had this to say that Christmas Eve, ninety-five years ago today:

“When the first Christmas came to mankind it brought the assurance that their faith and hope were justified.  It revealed the existence of an everlasting righteousness.  It established the foundation of civilization of the western world.  Through all the shifting changes of more than nineteen centuries this revelation has remained, constant, unshaken, secure.

     “Through the influence of its teachings there has come a recognition of the glory of man.  He has been raised up to his true position, ‘a little lower than the angels.’  The universal right of freedom has been acknowledged.  Obedience to authority has been sanctified.  The existence of a common brotherhood has been disclosed.  The ever-abiding obligation of service has been established.

    “These are the fundamental principles of American institutions.  They were not created by man.  They cannot be destroyed by man.  They have a higher, more imposing source, reaching from everlasting to everlasting.  To observe these principles, to live by them, to translate them into action, is the way to good citizenship, to progress and to economic success.  There is no other way.  The full significance of Christmas is not lost unless, as a part of its observance, the American people think of these things.

    “It is the realization of these great truths that warrants an abounding optimism.  They have not failed, they cannot fall.  There are times when they may appear to be rejected, but they always emerge strengthened through increasing allegiance, triumphant through enlarging victories.

    “These are the reasons why our country has no need of revolution.  What it needs is perfection.  The world waits on the extension of these principles into the practical affairs of people.  Their application will be found not in some complicated legislative enactment, not in some abstruse theory, but in the simple and homely experience of everyday life.  If more freedom is desired, it can be had by more obedience.  If there is a need of more brotherhood, it will be found in more service.  If success be sought, the way lies open through thrift and industry.  If character is wanted, it can be created by hard work and kind deeds.  This is the substance of which America has been built.

     “Of all the countries on earth ours needs the least apology.  Whatever it is desirable for a people to have, here it may be secured.  Opportunity is open.  The rewards of effort are sure and large.  They are growing better. 

    “All this leads to but one conclusion:  Preserve American institutions.  Perfect the relationships of our daily life.  Preserve and go forward, obedient to divine instruction:  ‘Be ye constant in doing well.’  That way lies our promised peace and good will of which the angels sang with joy as they beheld the miracle of the first Christmas.  The mission of America is to make that vision a reality.”

A Merry Christmas to all!