On Guilt and Innocence

“It is my duty to extend to every individual the constitutional right to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. But I have another duty equally constitutional, and even more important, of securing the enforcement of the law. In that duty I do not intend to fail.

“Character is the only secure foundation of the State. We know well that all plans for improving the machinery of government and all measures for social betterment fail, and the hopes of progress wither, when corruption touches administration. At the revelation of greed making its subtle approaches to public officers, of the prostitution of high place to private profit, we are filled with scorn and with indignation. We have a deep sense of humiliation at such gross betrayal of trust, and we lament the undermining of public confidence in official integrity. But we can not rest with righteous wrath; still less can we permit ourselves to give way to cynicism. The heart of the American people is sound. Their officers with rare exception are faithful and high-minded. For us, we propose to follow the clear, open path of justice. There will be immediate, adequate, unshrinking prosecution, criminal and civil, to punish the guilty and to protect every national interest. In this effort there will be no politics and no partisanship. It will be speedy, it will be just. I am a Republican, but I can not on that account shield anyone because he is a Republican. I am a Republican, but I can not on that account prosecute anyone because he is a Democrat.

“I want no hue and cry, no mingling of innocent and guilty in unthinking condemnation, no confusion of mere questions of law with questions of fraud and corruption. It is at such a time that the quality of our citizenry is tested–unrelenting toward evil, fair-minded and intent upon the requirements of due process, the shield of the innocent and the safeguard of society itself. I ask the support of our people, as Chief Magistrate, intent on the enforcement of our laws without fear and without favor, no matter who is hurt or what the consequences.”

— President Calvin Coolidge, before the National Republican Club at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, February 12, 1924.


Photo credit: Library of Congress.

Still looking for that elusive catch out there? Calvin Coolidge might have already been there first…if he didn’t catch it, he sure intimidated it!

The Importance of the Obvious

During the summer of 1928, the Coolidges established White House quarters on the Brule River, near Superior, Wisconsin. On the occasion of one of his press conferences, the subject of the President’s itinerary came up. Coolidge, straight-faced as ever, said, “I have been so busy out at the Lodge catching fish–there are 45,000 out there–I haven’t caught them all yet, but I have them all pretty well intimidated. They have had to restock one lake” (The Talkative President, p.18). Here, in this photograph, Coolidge is enthusiastically hauling in a trout, not in Wisconsin, but from a lake in Connecticut four years later.

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“…but I have them all pretty well intimidated…”

On Historical Pageantry

Coolidges at Wildwood Pageant 1911

Coolidge takes up dramatic performance? The original actor turned President? Looking for costume ideas this fall?

Here we see a photo from the 4-day Historic Pageant at Wildwood (Childs Park) in Northampton (May 31-June 3) in the summer of 1911, an extensive production involving some 700 cast members and covering over 1000 years of history, from the landing of William the Conqueror at Hastings in 1066, the inauguration of Lawrence Washington (an ancestor of our first President) as mayor of Northamptonshire in England (the namesake of Northampton in MA) in the late 1500s to the arrival of the pilgrims in 1620 and their meeting of the natives at Nonotuck (original Northampton).

It was then Mayor Coolidge (can you spot him in this picture?) who played chief Chickwallop presiding over the tribe’s hunt dance, corn festival, and feather dance in three scenes of the pageant. The august chief oversees the purchase of Nonotuck from the natives by the pilgrims. Grace and young John also took part as pilgrims (in the third and fourth segments of the program).

It is recounted by the great Jim Cooke that the Mayor walked home in costume and took position at the latched screen door, peering silently inside until his mother-in-law, having remained at home to watch the Coolidge’s youngest, experienced the requisite shock from seeing the terrible visage of the chief standing on the porch. Who knew that this would not be the last time the weight of chiefdom would come to Cal?


Calvin Coolidge, now President of the United States, wearing his gifted headdress bestowed by the Sioux in South Dakota, the summer of 1927.