On Dedicating National Treasures

Nicolas Cage in National Treasure

While we could venture to decipher the degrees of separation between Calvin Coolidge and Nicholas Cage, who, it is rumored, will reprise his role as Ben Gates next year in the third National Treasure film, we find that reality is both more interesting and more instructive. The original manuscripts of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence spent much of our nation’s history en route to somewhere more permanent and protected. The Declaration, being of course the older of the two, followed Congress through Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and back again before coming to Washington in 1800 at the direction of President Adams. These two National treasures would move again when the British threatened the Capital and once more when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor but 1921 found them in the papers of the State Department, under the responsibility of the new Secretary of State, Charles Evans Hughes. It was Hughes who quickly recognized the urgent need of securing those invaluable documents in a place befitting their importance. After many years of travel and duplication, especially after the “wet transfer” method inflicted on the Declaration by William J. Stone (authorized by then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams) in 1820, the documents needed protection from light, moisture and fire. Keeping them in facilities that were anything but fireproof was unthinkable to Hughes or his chief, President Harding.

The Secretary went to Harding with an executive order approving transfer of these historic charters to the custody and care of competent archivists at the Library of Congress, where they could be displayed inside specially-designed frames in a secure yet dignified setting. The Librarian of Congress, Herbert Putnam, eagerly prepared to receive and display both manuscripts. To sell the Budget Bureau on the idea, Librarian Putnam explained how he envisioned the display would look, “There is a way…we could construct, say, on the second floor on the western side in that long open gallery a railed inclosure, material of bronze, where these documents, with one or two auxiliary documents leading up to them, could be placed, where they need not be touched by anybody but where a mere passer-by could see them, where they could be set in permanent bronze frames and where they could be protected from the natural light, lighted only by soft incandescent lamps. The result could be achieved and you would have something every visitor to Washington would wish to tell about when he returned…” A special mail truck delivered them and even before plans could be drawn up for their resting place, $12,000 in appropriations had been secured just before final estimates of the year were submitted by the Bureau in 1922.

Transferring the Declaration from the offices of the State Department to the Library of Congress, September 30, 1921.

Transferring the Declaration from the offices of the State Department to the Library of Congress, September 30, 1921.

Mail truck is loaded with the Declaration and Constitution as Herbert Putnam, wearing the fedora, supervises the transfer to the Library.

Mail truck is loaded with the Declaration and Constitution as Herbert Putnam, standing at center in the fedora, supervises this sensitive operation. Read more at http://www.archives.gov/exhibits.charters/declaration_history.html.

Francis H. Bacon began drawing a design for what journalists dubbed at the time, a “sort of shrine” to the great principles articulated in these two documents. It would be Bacon’s brother, Henry, who conceived the Lincoln Memorial which was dedicated in May that same year. It would not be until early 1924, however, before what was to be a suitable final resting place was ready for the Constitution and Declaration. Bronze frames with double-paned glass would house each manuscript. Between each pane of glass was placed a layer of gelatin film to block out any damage inflicted by light. Marble carefully selected from New York, Tennessee and, of course, Vermont, surrounded and supported the two bronze frames. Greek and Italian marble comprised the display’s flooring and ballustrade to match the materials in the rest of the Library. American materials only would have the closest contact with each document, however. A 24-hour guard would be placed to ensure the site remained protected. Gold-plated bronze doors would open to present the Declaration above the glass and marble case containing the Constitution. At last complete, the site would be dedicated by none other than President Calvin Coolidge, joined by Mrs. Coolidge, Secretary Hughes, Librarian of Congress Putnam, and numerous other dignitaries on February 28, 1924.

 

President and Mrs. Coolidge, with Mr. Putnam and others come together to ensure both documents are properly preserved for generations to come, February 28, 1924.

President and Mrs. Coolidge, with Mr. Putnam and others come together to ensure both documents are properly preserved for generations to come, February 28, 1924.

What struck everyone, and would distinguish that occasion from later dedication ceremonies, was its quiet simplicity. Unlike the 1952 move of that same historic pair of treasures to their current home at the National Archives, there were no elaborate ceremonies, no speeches, no troops, no Marine Corps Band. Those gathered witnessed a much humbler scene in the Great Hall of the Library of Congress on that February day in 1924. Two Library policemen held flags lowered in salute on either side of the display, raising them at the crucial moment to reveal the Declaration and Constitution viewable together at last. All remained silent as the Librarian of Congress, red-headed Herbert Putnam, stepped forward to place both documents into their respective bronze fittings. Finally a small choir of Library employees took up the familiar lines of Samuel Smith’s 1832 anthem, America. Attended by our red-headed President and Mrs. Coolidge, it was not long before many in the audience were singing along. No doubt Grace’s melodic voice stirred many present to join in that spontaneous expression of their love for America’s ideals. Together the crowd sang two stanzas and the ceremony was over. It was altogether a fitting tribute to the two greatest charters of liberty humanity has ever known.

My country, ’tis of Thee,
Sweet Land of Liberty
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountain side
Let Freedom ring.

…Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of Liberty,
To thee we sing,
Long may our land be bright
With Freedom’s holy light,
Protect us by thy might
Great God, our King.

The Empty Shrine: The Transfer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the National Archives by Milton O. Gustafson, published in American Archivist 39.3 (July 1976): 271-285. Digitized courtesy of the Society of American Archivists at http://archivists.metapress.com/content/n50n22w711j64203/fulltext.pdf.

From “The Empty Shrine: The Transfer of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution to the National Archives” by Milton O. Gustafson, published in American Archivist 39.3 (July 1976): 271-285. Digitized courtesy of the Society of American Archivists at http://archivists.metapress.com/content/n50n22w711j64203/fulltext.pdf. The materials comprising this display, emptied of the Declaration and Constitution, were finally placed into storage in the late 1990s.

For further reading see also:

John Y. Cole, “The Library and the Declaration: LC Has Long History with Founding Document,” The Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/loc/lcib/9708/declare.html (accessed June 4, 2014).

A comic strip narrating the 1924 dedication and subsequent history at the National Archives can be found in “Flashbacks” by Patrick M. Reynolds at http://www.redrosestudio.com/Natl%20Archives.html.

On the Business Organization of the Government

While this source parrots much the same accepted narrative for Coolidge's supposed "do nothing" time in the White House, these numbers comprise part of a sizable record contradicting that erroneous claim, an empty assertion echoed far too long in denial of the record by New Deal "historians," like Art Schlesinger and William Leuchtenburg. http://us-presidents.findthebest.com/l/12/Calvin-Coolidge.

While this source parrots much the same accepted narrative for Coolidge’s supposed “do nothing” time in the White House, these numbers comprise part of a sizable record contradicting that biased claim, shattering much of the shallow veneer plastered up against the Coolidge Era for far too long by New Deal “historians” like Art Schlesinger, William Leuchtenburg and those who echo their assumptions. http://us-presidents.findthebest.com/l/12/Calvin-Coolidge.

This month, like January, held a special place during the Coolidge years. It was the continuance of a tradition begun under Harding but abruptly ended with his successor, Hoover. It would come to carry the resolute Vermonter’s unique imprint on its importance to transparent and sound government. It was the bi-annual meeting for the Business Organization of the Government. Held for eight years in various auditoriums around Washington, from the Interior Department offices to the Continental Hall, Coolidge would take part in no less than ten such gatherings.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921, shepherded to passage by Harding and its first Director, General Charles G. Dawes, brought what had been an arbitrary and chaotic budget process to order. Some years would see more than twelve competing budgetary packages presented to the Congress from the various bureaus, departments and agencies in Washington. Requests would often be made for the same appropriated amounts, with Congress left to sort out and streamline the tangled mess. The Budget Act changed all of that, restoring authority for Executive Branch responsibilities to the President. Now it was through the Chief Executive that all Cabinet heads and bureau chiefs had to request their respective budgeted funds, not the Congress. It served to reaffirm the Constitution’s separation of powers but also to put the brakes on a random exchange of favors and hold the Federal Government to the discipline of time-tested household budgeting. Harding and Director Dawes would lead the first meeting on June 29, 1921. As Harding’s momentum slowed, it would fall to Coolidge, even as Vice President, to present the case for what would come to be called “scientific economy.” It would be the preparation of Calvin Coolidge that particularly qualified him more than any of his contemporaries in the White House to exercise the necessary perseverance to follow-through with a consistent restraint of Congressional spending on one side and Executive regulation on the other.

Graph encompasses the final year of President Wilson through the third year of President Hoover

Graph encompasses the final year of President Wilson through the third year of President Hoover. Notice the consistent retirement of debt each year of the Harding and Coolidge administrations. It was so strong a system that it carried forward into Hoover’s first year, until spending resumed its climb from 1930 onward.

Unlike many of his peers however, his accomplishments did not end with rhetoric. He practiced what he preached, holding firm grasp on the White House staff budget, a duty he viewed as under his own personal purview. He left office having saved most of his $75,000 annual paycheck. He achieved what so many, even the great Ronald Reagan, failed to do: actually reduce Federal spending while paying down the nation’s debt from $25.9 to $16.9 billion in six years. He did so not by “wheeling and dealing” with the very recalcitrant Republican Congress of his day, but by winning their respect with his honesty, political experience and courage. He did not flinch when lesser men did. While he left many wondering at how he was able to co-opt allies and neutralize opponents, he never exchanged what was right for everyone in place of personal electoral advantage. In this way he proved successful in anticipating what Congress would see and do, as Dawes later noted of him, better than the House and Senate themselves most of the time. Yet, Hoover, in part because of his refusal to recognize Congress’ role as legitimate, would see his work frustrated and his goals repeatedly redirected. On the other hand, it was Coolidge’s fairness, good sense and integrity that equipped him to overcome each challenge and keep the agenda moving.

Coolidge made it plain in his Autobiography that he refused to take reprisals or exert coercion on those who disagreed with him (p.232). He simply exercised his responsibilities justly and impartially, keeping his door open to everyone. If they passed disagreeable legislation, he had the veto, which was used fifty times during his tenure. He hardly operated alone, appointing able men like C. Bascom Slemp and Everett Sanders, former Congressmen, who knew the political topography like few did. He also had the determined General Lord, whom he consistently backed with each decision to cut, eliminate and chip away at Washington’s wasteful expenditures. When the issue, no less contentious than now, concerned budgeting and taxes, he was particularly apt at taking his reasons directly to the American people on these two grand occasions each January and June, letting them see and especially hear the logic behind and importance of “scientific economy.”

A look at the Federal Budget Surpluses and Deficit totals from Harding through Hoover after the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. Coolidge maintained healthy surpluses all six years of his tenure.

A look at the Federal Budget Surpluses and Deficit totals from Harding through Hoover after the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921. Coolidge maintained healthy surpluses all six years of his tenure. It was Hoover who ended that achievement and suspended the bi-annual meeting of the Business Organization of the Government.

In the coming weeks, we will showcase some of the highlights of the ten speeches he made before the Business Organization of the Government as President, most of which were carried over the radio for millions of Americans to listen in for the first time. Marshaling his talent for this new medium combined with a very genuine passion for strict economy, Coolidge even infused a strong sense of dramatic flare to make his case directly to us. In this impressive fusion of salesmanship and substance, it marked an incredible time in American history when none less than the President of the United States championed good governance and constructive economy.

On the Future Soundness of Medicine

“America has so many elements of greatness that it is difficult to decide which is the most important. It is probable that a careful consideration would reveal that the progress of civilization is so much a matter of interdependence that we could not dispense with any of them without great sacrifice…[O]ne of the most important factors of our everyday existence is the public health, which has come to be dependent upon sanitation and the medical profession…This great work is carried on partly through private initiative, partly through Government effort, partly by a combination of these two working in harmony with the science of chemistry, of engineering, and of applied medicine. In its main aspects it is preventive, but in a very large field it is remedial. Without this service our large centers of population would be overwhelmed and dissipated almost in a day and the modern organization of society would be altogether destroyed. The debt which we owe to the science of medicine is simply beyond computation or comprehension…

Poster in front of a Chicago theater in 1918

Poster in front of a Chicago theater in 1918. Most Americans remembered that dreadful outbreak as the American Medical Association met in May 1927 for its 78th Annual Session in Washington. They knew it was the courageous doctors and nurses throughout the country who treated the sick, helped whom they could and prevented many more deaths at great personal risk.

“…Although great progress has been made and certain fundamental rules have become well established, we can not yet estimate the development of scientific research as much more than begun. But great effort is being put out all around us and a constant advancement of knowledge is in progress. This has been especially true in the science of medicine. Many of the diseases which laid a heavy toll on life have been entirely eradicated and many others have been greatly circumscribed. The average length of life has been much increased…

“…If there is any one thing which the progress of science has taught us, it is the necessity of an open mind. Without this attitude very little advancement could be made. Truth must always be able to demonstrate itself. But when it has been demonstrated, in whatsoever direction it may lead, it ought to be followed. The remarkable ability of America to adopt this policy has been one of the leading factors in its rise to power. When a principle has been demonstrated, the American people have not hesitated to adopt it and put it into practice. Being free from the unwarranted impediments of custom and caste, we have been able to accept whole-heartedly the results of research and investigation and the benefits of discovery and invention.

“This policy has been the practical working out of the applied theory of efficiency in life. We have opened our mines and assembled coal and iron with which we have wrought wonderful machinery, we have harnessed our water power, we have directed invention to agriculture, the result of which has been to put more power at the disposal of the individual, eliminating waste and increasing production. It has all been a coordination of effort, which has raised the whole standard of life.

John A. Andrew Hospital, the well-known Tuskegee Veterans medical facility, directed by Dr. John A. Kenney, Jr. It would be none other than President Coolidge who defended the black leadership of that institution and helped ensure proper care was given to all those who came to it. Coolidge did not abide racial preferences on any front, but was especially involved in the controversy at Tuskegee over race and the progress of medicine there.

John A. Andrew Hospital, the well-known Tuskegee Veterans medical facility, directed by Dr. John A. Kenney, Jr. a leading specialist in dermatology research. It would be none other than President Coolidge who defended the black leadership of that institution and helped ensure proper care was given to all those who came to it. Coolidge did not abide racial preferences on any front, but was especially involved in the controversy at Tuskegee over race and the progress of medicine there.

“In the development of this general policy the science of medicine has had its part to play…We are practicing economy in our governmental affairs. But the conservation of human health and life is one of the greatest achievements in the advance of civilization, both socially and economically.

“What an incalculable loss to the world may have been the premature blotting out of a single brilliant creative mind which might have been saved through modern healing or preventive measures.” A policy which subordinates the precious potential of an individual’s life to inefficient and wasteful procedures is a repudiation of civilization. Coolidge makes clear who is responsible for such continual advancements in medicine, looking back to a time before “medical men,” without the involvement of bureaucrats, removed diseases “of their terrors,” when once “a single case of yellow fever or cholera reported in New York Harbor caused such panic as seriously to interfere with business. Now such sporadic cases would scarcely cause public comment…There is no finer page in the history of civilization than that which records the advance of medical science. The heroism of those who have worked with deadly germs and permitted themselves to be inoculated with disease, to the end that countless thousands might be saved, was less spectacular but no less far-reaching than that on the battle field or of an isolated rescue from a burning building or a sinking ship.”

Influenza took the lives of 6 million people in 1918. Those who survived remembered how devastating the loss was, especially just as the War came to a halt.

Influenza took the lives of 6 million people in 1918. Those who survived remembered how devastating the loss was, especially just as the War came to a halt. It was also remembered that government-operated military bases were the first and most severe hit. Coolidge, like most in the audience in May of 1927, knew that government’s tendency to place political considerations in the administration of healthcare was not a viable model or safe solution for the future.

It was hardly coincidental that not only had average lifespans tripled since the early 19th century but “most of that gain has been made in the past half century” through the increase of knowledge and personal initiative by practitioners and patients. Of course, government at all levels had become aware of the “public functions” entailed in preserving health and conserving life, as “[n]o more striking achievement was ever accomplished than by Doctor Gorgas, of the United States Army, in cleaning up the Panama Canal Zone. Under French control, the death rate in that area was 240 per thousand. In 1913 it had dropped to 8.35 per thousand. Without this work the construction and operation of the canal would have been impossible.” Yet, government does not maintain health, it can only help the institutions which do, the individual and the doctor.

For medical advances to continue in the universities  and growing number of hospitals around the country, physicians and nurses would have to be allowed to continue their work freed of regulatory and administrative constraints to apply new findings and best procedures for the good of the patient. Free markets had and would continue to furnish results. The affordability of health insurance would continue to spread, so that Coolidge could proudly observe that “[n]ot a few individuals” could retain the physicians they chose to provide personal care all year around. The steadfast and formal opposition to mandatory health insurance by the very group of medical professionals President Coolidge addressed was not a roadblock to progress, it was a means to conserve and expand sustainable and proficient care for as many people as wished to make use of it. A sound future remained in this direction. “The modern broad-minded physician…willing to use or to recommend whatever methods seem best suited to the case in hand” had to be encouraged not shackled by the red-tape of administration. It is the physician — not government — who is “the strongest advocate of prevention.” Bureaucrats, known for prioritizing political considerations above real-time initiative and medical innovation, simply do not possess the competence or skill necessary to supplant those closest to the situation, even in the best of times.

Dr. Jabez N. Jackson led the American Medical Association  and its Annual proceedings as Coolidge came to visit, May 1927.

Dr. Jabez N. Jackson led the American Medical Association and its Annual proceedings as Coolidge came to visit, May 1927.

Mordecai Johnson, the new President of Howard University in 1926, would cultivate and develop a medical school that would lead research and medical knowledge in the years to come. Bringing on Amherst graduate (class of 1926) Dr. Charles R. Drew would prove an immeasurable contribution to medical care, especially in the field of blood transfusion. Coolidge was a faithful advocate for the University and helped build up its medical program.

Mordecai Johnson, the new President of Howard University in 1926, would cultivate and develop a medical school that would lead research and medical knowledge in the years to come. Bringing on Amherst graduate (class of 1926) Dr. Charles R. Drew would prove an immeasurable contribution to medical advancement, especially in the field of blood transfusion. Coolidge was a faithful advocate for the University and helped build up its medical program.

Dr. Charles R. Drew

Dr. Charles R. Drew

 

The roar of economic growth during the 1920s contributed tremendously to the breadth and inclusiveness of opportunities, not merely economic and professional but in the health of Americans. Coolidge could report with the full awareness of so illustrious an assembly of medical people as present that night that “the great body of our population is able to secure adequate medical attention.” How was this possible? This was long before the New Deal, the Great Society or “Obamacare.” He was not exaggerating, however, as the more than 6,200 attendees knew. The audience filling a packed auditorium that day comprised members of the American Medical Association, an organization representing 94,000 of the 140,000 physicians in the country at that time. They knew he was right. “This is true,” Coolidge declared, “to a remarkable degree of all our great centers of population,” with only the remotest quarters unable to provide such service, a fact which was itself changing with better roads and Ford’s automobile. The larger cities could furnish “free dispensaries” and “free service” thanks to the unsparing dedication of “time and…skill” physicians were already giving “for the alleviation of human suffering.” America’s “private benefactors,” “organized charities” and “governmental agencies” may contribute support and encouragement “to this most important purpose” but it is to those directly concerned, the skilled medical men and women of this country and their patients, who make it possible.

“This is an enormous contribution…to human welfare. It is one of the undeniable evidences of the soundness and success of American institutions. The fact that our attainments and our blessings have become common is no reason why they should be ignored.” As the Annual Session of 1927 would come to a close three days later, President Coolidge would launch a Committee on the Costs of Medical Care to study the intricate problems and propose solutions for making care even more attainable, lowering its costs while increasing its access. The forty-eight medical professionals, administrators and economists appointed to the Committee would meet regularly for five years, submitting numerous reports and concluding their research with a final study on the issue in 1932. Among the recommendations fought for and approved by the AMA since 1920 remained a commitment to voluntary health insurance and an individual’s choice of care.

In fact, the only way Roosevelt’s Social Security Act passed in 1935 was contingent on the stipulation insisted by the Association that health insurance remain a matter left up to individuals. The Association would continue championing freedom of choice against Truman’s plan to socialize medicine in 1948 and the practice of fee splitting in 1952, an activity that would only escalate costs and create more middlemen that further separates a patient from obtaining only the care for which one chooses to pay.

Yet, with much of this still future, President Coolidge stood before the thousands gathered in Washington that evening of May 17, 1927, to close with some timeless observations on where the future of medicine turned if it were to remain sound and solvent. We could sit back and criticize the deficiencies of our free market system and the shortcomings of medical care or we could remember how far we have come because of that freedom to innovate, improve and serve. “Mere fault finding has no value except to reveal the poverty of the intellect which constantly engages in it,” Coolidge proclaimed. “Our country, our Government, our state of society, are a long way from being perfect, but the fact that our structure is not complete is no reason for refusing to assess at their proper value the usefulness and beauty of those parts which are nearing completion, or withholding our approval from the general plan of construction and neglecting to join in the common effort to carry on the work.”

Medical professionals gathered in Washington for the 1927 AMA Session gather here to honor the 500 doctors who died while at their work during World War I, May 17, 1927.

Medical professionals gathered in Washington for the 1927 AMA Session gather here to honor the 500 doctors who died while at their work during World War I, Arlington Amphitheater, May 17, 1927.

Humanity can no longer live under the excuse of insufficient experience. “It has located a great many fixed stars in the firmament of truth. No doubt a multitude of others await the revelation of a more extended research. But because we realize that we have not yet located them all is no reason for doubting the existence of those already observed or disregarding the records which reveal their position. To engage in such a course would lead to nothing but disaster.” By rejecting the markers of history, presuming to “reinvent the wheel” of human nature along failed and close-minded lines of experience, our current crop of leaders in Washington is beckoning that very disaster Coolidge foresaw.

The problem is not one of knowledge, Coolidge reminds us, but an unwillingness “to live in accordance with the knowledge which we have.” Coolidge elaborated, “Approbation of the Ten Commandments is almost universal. The principles they declare are sanctioned by the common consent of mankind. We do not lack in knowledge of them. We lack in ability to live by them.” Medical knowledge will continue to increase but it cannot advance us beyond moral knowledge with its obligations. The “structural weakness” we see is not in the foundations of American liberties, it resides “[s]omewhere in human nature” itself. “We do not do as well as we know. We make many constitutions, we enact many laws, laying out a course of action and providing a method of relationship one with another which are theoretically above criticism, but they do not come into full observance and effect.” Crime and war continue with us, even with what is, as Coolidge affirmed on another occasion, “the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race” by living under the American Constitution. The standard of freedom is not flawed, we are, as human beings.

Gathered to honor the memory of the American who discovered the aesthetic properties in surgery of sulphuric ether, Dr. Thomas A. Grooner, Dr. Charles H. Mayo and the daughter of Dr. Long, visit the statue of Crawford from Georgia, May 16, 1927.

Gathered to honor the memory of the American who discovered in 1842 the aesthetic properties in surgery of sulphuric ether, Dr. Thomas A. Grooner, Dr. Charles H. Mayo and the daughter of Dr. Long, visit the statue of Dr. Crawford Long, native of Georgia, May 16, 1927.

The future soundness of medicine rests not in greater restrictions on individual responsibility over health, the rationing of care along political factors, the replacement of medical competence with bureaucratic oversight or the increasing reach and revenue of third parties in the process but remains among those “fixed stars” discovered by America’s balance of liberty with self-government and personal prevention. The solutions are found in maximizing a patient’s range of choices, supporting not tying the able hands or closing the open-minds of those who directly provide care, while reaffirming the sanctity of an individual’s life.

President Coolidge with his predecessor's physician, General Sawyer and Passed Assistant Surgeon Joel T. Boone, who became a Coolidge family close friend and primary doctor. Boone's medical judgment was exceptional and the loss of President Harding, rescue of Mrs. Harding's life and the death of Calvin Jr. weighed heavily on him, despite doing all that the best medical expertise could do in each case. Boone was a sound physician and a strong example of medical heroism.

President Coolidge with his predecessor’s physician, General Sawyer and Passed Assistant Surgeon Joel T. Boone, who became a Coolidge family close friend and their primary doctor during the 1920s. Boone’s medical judgment was exceptional and the loss of President Harding, the timely rescue of Mrs. Harding’s life and the death of Calvin Jr. weighed heavily on him, despite doing all that the best medical expertise could do in each case. Boone was a sound physician and a strong example of medical heroism.

The Hippocratic standard “Never do harm to anyone” means more than a thousand decrees from Washington because it finds validation in the fundamental precepts of the Ten Commandments. Many “of our social problems” have physical causes but that is not the final word on the matter. Our problems go deeper than the physical symptoms. “If we could effectively rid our systems of poison, not only would our bodily vigor be strengthened, but our vision would be clearer, our judgment more accurate, and our moral power increased. We should come to a more perfect appreciation of the truth.” Coolidge maintained, “It is to your profession in its broadest sense untrammeled by the contentions of different schools,” not to mention administrative boards and political planners, “that the world may look for large contributions toward its regeneration, physically, mentally, and spiritually, when not force but reason will hold universal sway.”

President Coolidge was not pronouncing some all-encompassing faith in either a “Church of Medicine” or a Great Collective State, but was appealing to something far more profound, more ancient and eternally important. The future soundness of medicine remained where it always has — with the free will, ability and moral power of the individual, who administers care to the whole person not through coercion but through what one gives willingly in service to others according to the patient’s ability to pay. The fullest provision of treating mind, body and soul will never be actualized via statute or administrative ordinance. Only we can make that happen. Strengthening the partnership between patients and their doctors realizes the freedom of contract inherent in our system. It smooths the path to medical — and spiritual — progress. Or, as Coolidge put it, “As human beings gain in individual perfection, so the world will gain in social perfection, and we may hope to come into an era of right living and right thinking, of good will, and of peace, in accordance with the teachings of the Great Physician.”

Overruling his own doctor, President Coolidge ventures out in the rain to greet the thousands of doctors gathered at the White House the day after his speech to these professionals in Washington for the American Medical Association's Annual Session, May 18, 1927.

Overruling his own doctor, President Coolidge ventures out in the rain to greet the thousands of doctors gathered at the White House the day after his speech to these professionals in Washington for the American Medical Association’s Annual Session, May 18, 1927.