On Strengthening America’s Civic Participation

The Coolidges arrive in Hammond, Indiana, on Flag Day, June 14, 1927.

The Coolidges arrive in Hammond, Indiana, on Flag Day, June 14, 1927.

Arriving in Hammond, the Coolidges pause respectfully at Wicker Park

Arriving in Hammond, the Coolidges pause respectfully for the National Anthem at Wicker Park

The Coolidges at the rear of their train

The Coolidges at the rear of their train

When the enormous delegation from Hammond, Indiana, stepped off the train and went to make their request at the White House on March 11, 1927, little would anyone realize the significance their visit would have on the future or the power of the statement it represented. They had not come to request money, propose an appropriation or even lobby for Federal patronage. They had come with something far more altruistic and responsible in mind. Instead of what they could get from Washington, they were inspired by what they could give, how they could promote, not themselves, but the efficacy of solvent local governments, civic-minded neighborhoods and proactive citizenship. Ever determined to pay their own way, they arrived not with the expectation of political or monetary reimbursement but to approach the President as their equal in citizenship. Quietly honoring the sovereign balance between states, the people and their national government, the Hammond delegation invited President Coolidge, as their guest, to dedicate a 225-acre park they had already acquired, paid for and provisioned so that posterity, memorializing the veterans of World War I, would be able to enjoy both the beauty of the outdoors and the rejuvenation afforded by its opportunities for wholesome recreation.

Of course, the President’s travel would cost just as would the attendant expenses of his stay. However, they knew in Mr. Coolidge there was someone who could masterfully save public money, finding ways not only in avoiding debts but amassing surpluses on even the cheapest of trips. A negotiation ensued. Perhaps he could give the speech that morning and “save…the trouble of going out there,” Coolidge offered. Well, that would curtail their time to speak now on the merits of their park, their neighborhoods and their people. They were here to underscore the strength of local civic participation after all. Ever respectful of that sovereign principle, Cal deferred and as the plan for his visit to their town took shape in the coming months, he would endorse their example in word as well as deed.

n083479 with crowd

By stopping in Hammond only two hours en route to his famous stay in the Black Hills that summer, leaving immediately after the simple ceremony, Coolidge avoided the costs of accommodations, food, and the endless parade of elaborate outlay expected to accompany a Presidential visit. He detested ostentatious displays, especially at the hands of government officeholders, in part because of his own self-effacing nature but also because it always exacted a tax for which people had to work longer hours for fewer wages, seeing less a reward for themselves and more for those who have not earned it. Even on the road, Coolidge would practice economy. He would stay in unassuming places, attend rural church services rather than the grand churches of the nearest city and exercise the powers of his office to serve, not be served.

The story is told of the strenuous efforts to provide a pristine washroom for the President during one of his stops on the road. Newly supplied with soap and clean, white towels, every corner of the room was ready for his arrival. Moments before being shown these facilities, however, a hot and dusty aide hurried to the room, drying his hands on one of those towels. Claude Fuess recounts what happened next, “When the President was escorted to the washroom, his companion noticed that one of the towels was streaked with dirt, and proffered him the remaining one, but Coolidge waved him aside, saying, ‘Why soil it? There’s one that’s been used. That’s clean enough.’ ” As Fuess aptly summarizes, the account would “hardly be worth relating” if not for the light that it sheds on Coolidge’s consistent sense of humility and economy (Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont, pp.487-8).

The President faces his audience - 150,000 strong - at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, Hammond, Indiana

The President faces his audience – 150,000 strong – at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, Hammond, Indiana

Looking out across the crowds past the baseball field, walking trails, tennis courts and 18-hole golf course, Coolidge saw something more as he began,

“Fellow Citizens:

“This section represents a phase of life which is typically American. A few short years ago it was an uninhabited area of sand and plain. To-day it is a great industrial metropolis. The people of this region have been creating one of the most fascinating epics. The fame of it, reaching to almost every quarter of the globe, has drawn hither the energetic pioneer spirits of many different races all eager to contribute their share and to receive in return the abundant rewards which advancing enterprise can give…Here are communities inspired with a strong civic spirit moving majestically forward, serving themselves and their fellow men. Here is life and light and liberty. Here is a common purpose – working, organizing, thinking, building for eternity.” This vibrant collaboration was not instituted by government mandate, it flowered under the care of the people themselves. Moreover, it was a structure built by all races, a legacy on which everyone had left an impression and contributed a part. Such is the nature of liberty. Coolidge could easily have said the converse is equally as possible: Without a constantly replenished civic spirit, a community soon experiences death, darkness and slavery.

As Coolidge kept his commitment to speak at the dedication of Wicker Memorial Park, the visit of that large delegation stuck with him. He likely saw many of those familiar faces among the 150,000 who were there that day. He was not there to honor himself, he was there to commemorate the sacrifice of those who, not unlike the engaged citizens of Hammond, had done more than simply talk about what needs to be done, they got busy and did what needed doing. The veterans of the World War took up the full burden of American citizenship. It is only fitting that they were in turn honored by those ready to partake in that higher kind of devotion. “Not the visionary variety,” Coolidge observes, “which talks of love of country but makes no sacrifices for it, but the higher, sterner kind, which does and dares, defending assaults upon its firesides and intrusion upon its liberty with a musket in its hands.” The men and women of Hammond were not lawless anarchists or violent deviants, but “orderly, peaceable people, neither arrogant nor quarrelsome, seeking only those advantages which come from the well-earned rewards of enterprise and industry.” As a result, the people of Hammond, like Americans all across the country, were simply demonstrating what it means to responsibly exercise American citizenship.

7-6-2-1-editAs he stepped to the podium, Coolidge’s mind would turn again to the astounding achievements of this region of Indiana, he would reflect on the rapid but substantial rise from wilderness to thriving neighborhoods, towns and metropolises. These were not developments over which to mourn, they exemplified the strength and progress of men and women engaged in their own communities, free to direct their own destinies and make their own decisions. They embodied self-government at its finest. With local obligations being met so proficiently, it made the intervention of national authority unnecessary, redundant and destructive. The better local institutions work, as the citizens of Hammond proved, the less room there remains for central government to justify its presence. This exemplary success of civic participation was not from some coincidental combination of factors in history, as if it were all by accident, it was directly a result of the daring spirit of Americans themselves. It came from the character they possessed. As the President would remark on that occasion, “It is inconceivable that it could take place in any land but America.” The very ground on which they stood was testament to that truth. It had once been a dry, sandy plain. Now it was a garden appealing not only to the mind but to the spirit of man. It was conceived and carried out not by the votes of politicians but through the effort and perseverance of citizens who recognized they had an obligation to give, not merely to take. Men like George Hammond, whose packing plant helped establish the town; or the 16 men of North Township who joined together to bequeath this large property to posterity for its practical usage in bettering people.

n083468 looking down in convertible

n083471 backseat of convertible

“Such a people always respond when there is need for military service.” The service Hammond was rendering was hardly the first time that area had known sacrifice. Every war down to the latest World War had seen Hammond give of its own to something greater than accolades or recognition. It had helped decide the “chief issue” of the Great War: “whether an autocratic form or a republican form of government was to be predominant among the great nations of the earth. It was fought to a considerable extent to decide whether the people were to rule, or whether they were to be ruled; whether self-government or autocracy should prevail. Victory finally rested on the side of the people…This park is a real memorial to World War service because it distinctly recognizes the sovereignty and materially enlarges the dominion of the people. It is a true emblem of our Republic.”

The President elaborated on this concept by looking back through history. Ancient gardens and Old World parks “had little to do with the public. Parks were private affairs for the benefit of royalty and the nobility.” Recent past had seen an outpouring of interest and investment “in our country…for these important functions.” But here, in stark difference from antiquity, these places of recreation are as important as where people work and live. They are just as essential as homes and workplaces in rearing a people “who are fit to rule.” It was uniquely and “triumphantly American” that places like Wicker Park take on such importance in the community. Since, Coolidge explains, “[i]in this country the sciences, the arts, the humanities, are not reserved for a supposed aristocracy, but for the whole of the people. Here we do not extend privilege to a few, we extend privilege to everybody. That which was only provided for kings and nobles in former days, bestow freely on the people at large. The destiny of America is to give the people still more royal powers, to strengthen their hand for a more effective grasp upon the scepter.”

The children of the Carmelite Orphanage enthusiastically receive the Coolidges

The children of the Carmelite Orphanage enthusiastically receive the Coolidges.

Even with all the progress America has brought, “we are still a great distance from what we would like to be.” Education, religious devotion and economic opportunities need further improvement. Recognizing that we are far from perfection, these all deserve the best we can render to close that distance and “work toward…elimination” of our shortcomings in regard to God and man. “But we should not be discouraged because we are surrounded by human limitations and handicapped by human weakness. We are also possessors of human strength, intelligence, courage, fidelity, character – these, also, are our heritage and our mark of the Divine image.” We neglect that truth to our peril. “The conclusion that our institutions are sound, that our social system is correct, has been demonstrated beyond question by our experience. It is necessary that this should be known and properly appreciated.” The President then predicted what would happen should this fail to be done. “Unless it continues to be the public conviction, we are likely to fall a more easy prey to the advocates of false economic, political, and social doctrines. It is always very easy to promise everything. It is sometimes difficult to deliver anything. In our political and economic life there will always be those who are lavish with unwanted criticism and well supplied with false hopes. It is always well to remember that American institutions have stood the test of experience. They do not profess to promise everything, but to communities and to individuals who have been content to live by them they have never failed in their satisfactions and rewards. Here industry can find employment, thrift can amass a competency, and square dealing is assured of justice.”

Loretta Jablowski, age 6, welcomes the President and First Lady to Hammond

Loretta Jablowski, age 6, welcomes the President and First Lady to Hammond

As Coolidge neared the end of his dedicatory message, he returned to the importance of what was not merely being said over the microphone, but what was being lived in the deeds of communities like Hammond and the people of North Township but in places all across America. It had to continue. Civic participation — the substance of an active, engaged citizenship — had to be nurtured and continually developed or else stagnation and decay would result. Crucial to the strength of that civic spirit are the unseen realities: the ideals of this country. “Amid all her prosperity, America has not forgotten her ideals,” the President testified. He saw their vigor and life at every stop along the tracks to South Dakota that summer. He saw them in the accomplishments of young men like Charles Lindbergh. He also saw them in the simple acts of kindness shown by the children the Coolidges met on that trip. Calvin would joyfully take up one of them, a little girl of six years, in his arms in appreciation for the bouquet she had for Mrs. Coolidge. It was Cal, welcoming all the children who had come with flags, flowers and tokens of their patriotism, dismissed the Secret Service’s well-intentioned efforts to prevent them. The love those children had for America was not something to shame and disparage but to keep kindled and encouraged. It was, after all, the seed of a greater and greater civic involvement that would preserve communities’ soundness and self-sufficiency by keeping governance nearest to those it concerned. “It is but a passing glance that we bestow upon wealth and place,” Cal would say as he closed his message at Wicker Park, “compared with that which we pour out upon courage, patriotism, holiness, and character. We dedicate no monuments to merely financial and economic success, while our country is filled with memorials to those who have done some service for their fellow men. This park stands as a fitting example of these principles. It is a memorial to those who defended their country in its time of peril. Through the benefits that it will bestow upon this community, it is an example of practical idealism.”

As Coolidge surveyed the hundreds of thousands of Americans who filled the park that day, he saw in our future not a sapping despair or delusion of cynicism but one bright with better things in store, a future resplendent with the potential of a free and actively engaged citizenry. That future, however, was conditional. If our country was to lead the way toward realizing “a world fit for the abode of heroes,” as Coolidge sincerely wanted, “it can only be through the industry, the devotion, and the character of the people themselves. The Government can help to provide opportunity, but the people must take advantage of it. As the inhabitants of the North Township repair to this park in the years to come, as they are reinvigorated in body and mind by its use, as they are moved by the memory of the heroic deeds of those to whom it is dedicated, may they become the partakers and promoters of a more noble, more exalted, more inspired American life.” He knew Americans, taking responsibility themselves rather than waiting for government to act, were more than up to this challenge. It remains for us to prove we are now.


On John Ericsson and What It Means to be American

May-June 1926 Taft and King of Sweden

“Friends and Fellow Citizens:

“It is one of the glories of our country that we all have the privilege of being Americans. Some of us were born here of an ancestry that has lived here for generations. Others of us were born abroad and brought here at a tender age, or have come to these shores as a result of mature choice. But when once our feet have touched this soil, when once we have made this land our home, wherever our place of birth, whatever our race, we are all blended in one common country. All artificial distinctions of lineage and rank are cast aside. We all rejoice in the title of Americans. But this is not done by discarding the teachings and beliefs or the character which have contributed to the strength and progress of the peoples from which our various strains derived their origin, but rather from the acceptance of all their good qualities and their adaptation to the requirements of our institutions. None of those who come here are required to leave any good qualities behind, but they are rather required to strengthen and fortify them and supplement them with such additional good qualities as they find among us.

“While it is eminently proper for us to glory in our origin and to cherish with pride the contributions which our race has made to the common progress of humanity, we can not put too much emphasis on the fact that in this country we are all bound together in a common destiny. We must all be united as one people. This principle works both ways. As we do not recognize any inferior races, so we do not recognize any superior races. We all stand on an equality of rights and of opportunity, each deriving just honor from their own worth and accomplishments. It is not, then, for the purpose of setting one people above another that we assemble here to-day to do reverence to the memory of a great son of Sweden, but rather to glory in the name of John Ericsson and his race as a preeminent example of the superb contribution which has been made by many different nationalities to the cause of our country. We honor him most of all because we can truly say he was a great American.

John Ericsson, 1862

John Ericsson, 1862

“Great men are the product of a great people. They are the result of many generations of effort, toil, and discipline. They do not stand by themselves; they are more than an individual. They are the incarnation of the spirit of a people. We should fail in our understanding of Ericsson unless we first understand the Swedish people both as they have developed in the land of their origin and as they have matured in the land of their adoption.”

Coolidge proceeded to recount precisely that development of the Swedish people. From the rugged terrain under the Arctic these hardy people have demonstrated “independence, courage and resourcefulness” since ancient time, taking to the seas, defending greater and greater religious freedom and leaving a fixed imprint on the growth and success of America. Establishing a colony here in 1638, they “laid the basis for a religious structure, built the first flour mills, the first ships, the first brickyards, and made the first roads, while they introduced horticulture and scientific forestry into the Delaware region.”

"Landing of the Swedes" by Stanley M. Arthurs, depicting the first contact in 1638 between Swedish settlers and Delaware Indians along the Christina River in what is now Wilmington.

“Landing of the Swedes” by Stanley M. Arthurs, depicting the first contact in 1638 between Swedish settlers and Delaware Indians along the Christina River in what is now Wilmington.

They not only cleared and cultivated the forests and prairies but they built churches and charities, established schools and businesses. Despite being “few in numbers…they supported the Colonial cause and it has been said that King Gustavus III, writing to a friend, declared, ‘If I were not King I would proceed to America and offer my sword on behalf of the brave Colonies.’ “ John Mortenson was among the Signers of the Declaration and John Hanson among those to hold the office of “President of the United States in Congress Assembled.” It would be Sweden to become the “first European power which voluntarily and without solicitation tendered its friendship to the young Republic” in 1783. But also, with the removal in 1843 of restrictions in their native land, the large number of Swedish immigrants began their move to America and greater liberty.

“As these Americans of Swedish blood have increased in numbers and taken up the duties of citizenship, they have been prominent in all ranks of public life.” They have served with equal distinction not only as governors and mayors, generals and admirals but also painters and musicians. Yet, Coolidge took the occasion to name one of many who exemplified that “old Norse spirit, a true American,” Irvine L. Lenroot of Wisconsin. While it is ironic that Senator Lenroot was supposed to be the Vice Presidential choice alongside candidate Harding at the 1920 Republican convention, the rank and file delegates had very different ideas of who was best qualified. Of course, we know their choice fell enthusiastically and spontaneously upon Calvin Coolidge. It is noteworthy that now as President in his own right, Coolidge exacts no political gloating or grandstanding. Instead, Mr. Coolidge recognizes his earliest national rival with respect and selfless praise, making his point of American exceptionalism even stronger.

Irvine Luther Lenroot, Senator from Wisconsin, 1918-1927, was the man who "might have been the thirtieth president of the United States." Coolidge exemplified dignity and class in his actions as much as his words, like in the dedication message here.

Irvine Luther Lenroot, Senator from Wisconsin, 1918-1927, was the man who “might have been the thirtieth president of the United States.” Coolidge, despite being decisively chosen by the delegates over Lenroot, exemplified dignity and class as his words at this dedication of Ericsson’s memorial illustrate.

“…Such is the background and greatness of the Swedish people in the country of their origin and in America that gave to the world John Ericsson. They have been characterized by that courage which is the foundation of industry and thrift, that endurance which is the foundation of military achievement, that devotion to the home which is the foundation of patriotism, and that reverence for religion which is the foundation of moral power. They are representative of the process which has been going on for centuries in many quartered of the globe to develop a strain of pioneers ready to make their contribution to the enlightened civilization of America.” The strength of America is not in its multicultural diversity, the non-essentials that keep us divided, but in its ability to attract and assimilate so many good qualities around a shared identity, a common set of principles, creating a new union of peoples called Americans.

John Ericsson validates that long-proven tradition. “The life of this great man is the classic story of the immigrant,” Coolidge reminds us, “the early struggle with adversity, the home in a new country, the final success.” Ericsson’s focus and fascination with engineering made possible the accomplishment of the Princeton, “which was the first man-of-war equipped with a screw propeller and with machinery below the water line out of reach of shot.” Ericsson did not stop there, however. His next great achievement “steamed into Hampton Roads late after dark on the day of March 8, 1862. It arrived none too soon, for that morning the Confederate ironclad Virginia, reconstructed from the Merrimac, began a work of destruction among the 16 Federal vessels, carrying 298 guns, located at that point.” The Cumberland had been pummeled to submission, the Congress was grounded and aflame, and the Roanoke and Minnesota were “damaged and run ashore.” Europe watched and stood ready to recognize the Confederacy with the next swift victory. Yet, the unprecedented success of the Merrimac would be matched with an equally “new and extraordinary naval innovation” in the Monitor. As Admiral Luce would observe years later, it was the Monitor which “exhibited in a singular manner the old Norse element in the American Navy,” since it was Ericsson “who built her,” Dahlgren “who armed her,” and Worden “who fought her.”

The Monitor battles the Virginia, formerly the Merrimac, Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862. Depiction by J. O. Davidson.

The USS Monitor battles the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimac, Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862. Depiction by J. O. Davidson.

“After a battle lasting four hours in which the Monitor suffered no material damage, except for one shell which hit the observation opening in the pilot house, temporarily blinding Lieutenant Worden, the commanding officer, the Merrimac, later reported to have been badly crippled, withdrew, never to venture out again to meet her conqueror. The old spirit of the Vikings, becoming American, had again triumphed in a victory no less decisive of future events than when it had hovered over the banner of William the Conqueror…That engagement revealed that in the future all wooden navies would be of little avail…The great genius of Ericsson had brought about a new era in naval construction…Great as were these achievements, they are scarcely greater than those which marked the engineering and inventive abilities of this great man, which were to benefit the industry, commerce, and transportation of the country. He was a lover of peace, not war. He was devoted to justice and freedom and was moved by an abiding love of America, of which he had become a citizen in 1848.”

Admiral John A. Dahlgren, beside one of his inventions, a 50-pounder Dahlgren rifle. His "soda bottle" design ensured greater safety and accuracy in artillery operation.

Admiral John A. Dahlgren, beside one of his inventions, a 50-pounder Dahlgren rifled gun. His “soda bottle” design ensured greater safety and accuracy in artillery operation. The Monitor had two such guns.

Lieutenant John L. Worden, commander of the Monitor in that historic match between steam-powered ironclads, March 8-9, 1862.

Lieutenant John L. Worden, commander of the Monitor in that historic match between steam-powered ironclads, March 8-9, 1862.

“Ericsson continued his labors in his profession with great diligence, even into his eighty-sixth year, when he passed away at his home in New York City on the 8th of March, 1889, the anniversary of the arrival of Monitor in Hampton Roads. At the request of the Royal United Kingdoms of Sweden and Norway, all that was mortal of the great engineer was restored to his native land during the following year.” In debt to what we owed to Sweden for what Admiral Schley called “the gift of Ericsson,” his body was returned to “his native country.” “Crowned with honor” by not only the land in which he was born but also America, “the land of his adoption, he sleeps among the mountains he had loved so well as a boy. But his memory abides here.”

It was this occasion that rejoined both America and Sweden in the dedication of “another memorial to the memory of this illustrious man.” President Coolidge would stand with Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf and Crown Princess Louise “to be present…and join with us in paying tribute to a patriot who belongs to two countries. It is significant that as Ericsson when he was a young soldier had the friendship and favor of the Crown Prince of that day, so his memory has the marked honor of the Crown Prince of to-day.”

“As the ceaseless throng of our citizens of various races shall come and go,” Coolidge concluded, “as they enter and leave our Capital City in the years to come, as they look upon their monument and upon his and recall that though he and they differed in blood and race they were yet bound together by the tie that surpasses race and blood in the communion of a common spirit, and as they pause and contemplate that communion, may they not fail to say in their hearts, ‘Of such is the greatness of America.’ “

John Ericsson Memorial, sculpted by James Earle Fraser from pink Milford granite. Fraser would create some of the most iconic images of modern time, from the Buffalo nickel, the bronze of General Patton at West Point, the Franklin Memorial in Philadelphia and the Contemplation of Justice atop the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

The John Ericsson Memorial, sculpted by James Earle Fraser from pink Milford granite. Fraser would create some of the most iconic images of modern time, including the Indian head on the Buffalo nickel, the bronze of General Patton at West Point, the Franklin Memorial in Philadelphia and the Contemplation of Justice atop the Supreme Court Building in Washington.

On Lessons from Phillips Andover

Celebrations at Andover as the Coolidges arrive, May 19, 1928

Celebrations at Andover as the Coolidges arrive, May 19, 1928

It was on this day eighty-six years ago that the President and First Lady came to Andover, Massachusetts, to join in the celebrations of one of the oldest chartered secondary schools in America, marking its one hundred and fiftieth anniversary, May 19, 1928. Phillips Andover, established in 1778, is now two hundred and thirty-six years of age, virtually born with the country. While it has built a long and distinguished reputation, with alumni including two presidents, numerous judges, educators, scholars, statesmen, entrepreneurs, architects, diplomats, military heroes, economists, authors and actors, from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1825) and Frederick Law Olmstead (1838) to Bill Belichick (1971) and John F. Kennedy Jr. (1979). It is necessary, however, to do more than take stock of where we now are but look back at the foundations of this institution for a renewed sense of purpose and revitalized direction ahead. Coolidge calls us to reflect on the man whose devoted character established this academy and who still summons all Americans to live worthy of its ideals.

President Coolidge addressing the crowds at the Academy

President Coolidge addressing the crowds at the Academy

President Coolidge, addressing the crowds in Andover that day, said,

“My Fellow Citizens:

“It is more than the passage of time that brings us here to observe and celebrate this anniversary of Phillips Academy. One hundred and fifty years is a very respectable period of modern history. The number of chartered institutions which can claim an existence of that length is not large. The significance of this occasion, however, lies not in the number of days but in the importance of purpose and the magnitude of accomplishment. This institution had its beginnings in a very interesting era. The morning mist at Lexington and Concord had scarcely been dissipated. The Declaration of Independence was still a novelty. Liberty and independence were in the making. A new nation was coming into existence. Men were turning toward the dawn, intent upon establishing institutions stamped with their own individuality…

“…The new academy was to represent the spirit of the time. It stood upon foundations that were deeply religious. Its first and principal object was declared to be ‘the promotion of true piety and virtue. It provided instruction in the classics, the sciences, and the arts’…But this academy was conceived to have a broader purpose than to serve any profession or class, and it was therefore dedicated to teaching students ‘the great end and real business of living.’ It was to be ‘ever equally open to youth of requisite qualifications from every quarter.’ It was to be a national school of breadth and vision, of freedom and of equality, dedicated without reserve to the service of God and man.

Judge Samuel Phillips, Jr.

Judge Samuel Phillips, Jr.

“It has always been recognized that this school owes very much of the atmosphere which has always surrounded it to the character of Samuel Phillips, Jr. It was the inspiration of a young man seeking to minister to young men. When he became the object of a little envy by some of his fellow students at college, we find him writing to his father: ‘Let me be interested in the Lord and no matter who is against me.’ Such a statement from the pen of Judge Phillips was neither form nor cant, but the expression of his abiding faith in the great realities. Yet he was intensely interested in the people about him and in current affairs…He was not a recluse, but rather a leader and an organizer, even in his undergraduate days, with the natural social qualities of youth. Samuel Phillips has applied himself to his work, he had followed the truth, he had brought his faculties under discipline. His mastery over himself gave him a mastery over his associates, and imparted not only to his work, but to his pleasures, a dignity and a character…For his own part he committed himself whole-heartedly to the Revolution. We find him during the Battle of Bunker Hill removing the Harvard library to a place of safety. He was one of a number of citizens to confer with General Washington at Cambridge, and was later producing gunpowder for the Army. But he was not so much interested in warfare as he was in truth and liberty. He does not rank as a soldier, but as a statesman.

“While plans were being perfected for this academy, Judge Phillips was a member of the constitutional convention of the Commonwealth, where he served on a special committee to draft a declaration of rights and frame of government…In this work he was associated with such men as John Adams and James Bowdoin…[T]he preamble and declaration of rights…then adopted…contains more political wisdom, sound common sense, and wise statesmanship than I have ever seen anywhere else within a like compass. If it could be faithfully expounded to the youth of our country it would do much to rescue them from unsound social and political doctrines…

John Adams

John Adams

broadsideMA Constitution ratified 1780

James Bowdoin

James Bowdoin



“In the frame of government there is a noble expression of the aims of education and the arts and a wise provision for their promotion and protection by the public authorities. These were the beliefs and opinions that Judge Phillips and his associates held. For their perpetuation and preservation this school was founded.

“The character of the founder and the attendant circumstances gave it a very broad outlook. Everything provincial was disregarded. It has always been and is now decidedly national in its scope…While careful provision was made to increase the intellectual power of the students, even greater emphasis was placed on increasing their moral power. The attention of the master was especially directed to the fact that ‘knowledge without goodness is dangerous,’ and he was charged constantly to instruct the students in the precepts of the Christian religion. Our doctrine of equality and liberty, of humanity and charity, comes from our belief in the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God. The whole foundation of enlightened civilization, in government, in society, and in business, rests on religion. Unless our people are thoroughly instructed in its great truths they are not fitted either to understand neglectful of their responsibilities in this direction is to turn their graduates loose with simply an increased capacity to prey upon each other. Such a dereliction of duty would put in jeopardy the whole fabric of society. For our chartered institutions of learning to turn back to the material and neglect the spiritual would be treason, not only to the cause for which they were founded but to man and to God.

The Coolidges, both college graduates, in cap and gown during their visit to the 150th Anniversary of Phillips Academy. To their right stands the Headmaster, Alfred Stearns, to their left, Alfred L. Ripley (believe it or not).

The Coolidges, both college graduates, in academic cap and gown during their visit to the 150th Anniversary of Phillips Academy. To their right stands the Headmaster, Alfred Stearns; to their left, Alfred L. Ripley (believe it or not).

“One of the results of these beliefs led this school to come out squarely for equality. It provided an opportunity which was to be open to all. Our country has rightly put a very large emphasis on this principle…Yet there has been great difficulty in bringing the Government within its operation. At its outset there was a tendency to establish a ruling class consisting of wealth and social position. When that was overturned the other extreme prevailed, which was followed by a fluctuating back and forth between these two. Neither of them is in harmony with our theory of equality. Our country and its Government belongs to all the people. It ought not to be under the domination of any one element or any one section. For it to fall under the entire control of the people of wealth or people of poverty, of people who are employers or people who are wage earners, would be contrary to our declared principles. They should all be partakers in the responsibilities and benefits, and all be represented in the administration of our Government. Those who are charged with the conduct of our affairs should be equally solicitous for the welfare of all localities and all classes. There should be no outlaws and no favorites, but all should be beneficiaries of the common good through the discharge of common duties.

“It was the thought of Judge Phillips to give to our youth the benefit of careful training during their early years. He knew that unless correct habits of thought are formed at the very outset of life they are not formed at all. Two great tests in mental discipline are accuracy and honesty. It is far better to master a few subjects thoroughly than to have a mass of generalizations about many subjects. The world will have little use for those who are right only a part of the time. Whatever may be the standards of the classroom, practical life will require something more than 60 per cent or 70 per cent for a passing mark. The standards of the world are not like those met by the faculty, but more closely resemble those set by the student body themselves. They are not at all content with a member of the musical organizations who can strike only 90 per cent of the notes. They do not tolerate the man on the diamond who catches only 80 per cent of the balls. The standards which the student body set are high…When the world holds its examinations it will require the same standards of accuracy and honesty which the student bodies impose upon themselves. Unless the mind is brought under such training and discipline as will enable it to acquire these standards at an early period, the grave danger increases that they may never be acquired.

6208542564_a42e1fa9a4_b Coolidges at Andover 5-1928

“It is for this reason that our secondary schools are of such great importance…While the needs of our universities are very great, and every effort should be made to meet them, it does not seem that sufficient emphasis has been placed on the needs of our secondary schools…Judge Phillips said very little concerning the scholarship of the master and his assistants, but he put a great deal of emphasis on their character. He was looking beyond the lessons of the classroom to the ‘real business of living.’

“…Next after his duty to his Maker, Samuel Phillips placed his duty to his country…But it is scarcely to be considered that he thought duty to country consisted in holding public office. He undoubtedly was concerned with the larger field of good citizenship. While it will always be necessary to give attention to the choice of public officers, if good citizenship could be made to prevail, offices would very largely look after themselves…[H]e was more interested in training young men for citizenship than in preparing them for public office. To his mind, faith in God was inseparable from faith in his country and faith in his fellow men.

6192828053_50c0a1fa2a_b CC in Andover

“In these days, when there is so large an amount of delegated power, the danger increases that the average citizen may take too much for granted. Because the affairs of his country have been progressing satisfactorily, he may think nothing can change their course. Such is not the case. When the country makes progress it is because some one gives it careful attention and direction, and because the people are contented, industrious, and law-abiding, and as a whole are discharging their duties of citizenship.

“When the cause of the Revolution still hung in the balance, when this school was conducted in an abandoned carpenter shop, before our Federal Constitution had made our scattered Colonies into one nation, when authority was weak and all the future was uncertain, the patriots of that day offered life, fortune, and honor in defense of their country. They did not doubt; they did not complain. They went forward, placing their hope on the sure support of liberty and justice, the improvement of agriculture, industry, and commerce, and the advance of education. The day has come when we have seen their hope fulfilled, when we have seen their faith justified, and when success has demonstrated the correctness of their theories. The general advance made by our country is commensurate with the advance which has been made by Phillips Academy. As we behold it our doubts ought to be removed, our faith ought to be replenished. Our determination to make such sacrifices as are necessary for the common good ought to be strengthened. We may be certain that our country is altogether worthy of us. It will be necessary to demonstrate that we are worthy of our country.”