Foreign Policy

foreign“Coolidge arrived in the presidency without experience in foreign affairs,…he came to office with less preparation to handle matters of foreign policy than any of his presidential predecessors in the twentieth century, except McKinley.” “Coolidge had a clear concept of America’s role in the world, and the ways the president could contribute toward it.””Lack of experience hadn’t troubled earlier presidents, who tended to rely on foreign policy specialists for information and advice, and that was a practice that suited Calvin Coolidge.” “…public interest remained centered on American problems.”

In 1923: Coolidge is in favor of World Court. His First Annual Message: for trade and transportation by land and sea. 1923: His administration recognizes the new government in Mexico In 1924, the St. Lawrence Seaway is to be constructed. In 1924, Coolidge is concerned with protecting American business’s interests in Mexico. American property is being seized. War with Mexico is being discussed. “Coolidge… faced a firestorm of criticism in this period, but remained calm, and ..saw nothing to be gained from an armed conflict with Mexico.” Dwight Morrow, a Coolidge college friend and banker, is dispatched to Mexico. Coolidge believes in the Open Door policy with China. A marine garrison is based in Shanghai, but did not take action to protect American interests. Immigration Restriction: Coolidge is in favor with his December 6, 1923 message to Congress.

In 1925: Coolidge withdraws Marines from Nicaragua after units served there since 1912. Marines are returned in 1926 and remain there until Coolidge leaves office in 1929. Secretary of War Henry Stimson is sent to mediate. Also in 1925, the Coolidge administration arranges the Locarno Agreements: Europeans pledge not to go to war. Britain and Italy are to guarantee this.

In 1926, reparations are important. With the Dawes Plan, loans are made to the Germans to repay Britain and France. Then Britain and France repay the U.S. to help reduce the national debt. “Coolidge believed the wartime debts owed the United States by the Allies had to be paid.” Arms Reduction: he works hard on this to avoid war, cut military spending and get surpluses for a reduction of the debt. He opposes League of Nations. He rejects recognition of the Soviet Union. Tariffs: Manufactures, farmers and workers want tariffs and the GOP supports this. Tariffs keep the U.S. debt low.

June 20, 1927: Geneva Conference is held to address reduction of destroyers and submarines. “British fears of losing primacy on the high seas and Japan’s ambitions in Asia were problems, but so were France and Italy, who harbored hopes of great power status…” With the failure of conference, Coolidge asks for an increase in naval appropriations. Many urge war with Mexico; Coolidge sends Dwight Morrow, a J.P. Morgan banker, to keep us out of war. This is a foreign policy success for Coolidge.

1928: Calles-Morrow Agreement allows American firms to retain property acquired prior to 1917. Mexican-American relations improve with the Coolidge administration to all time high. There is expansion of trade and investment by U.S. and Coolidge encourages this. He approves the Jones-White Act of 1928 for construction of ships. He is proud of expansion of foreign trade. “…economically he was inclined toward internationalism.” Coolidge wants increased trade to help business. :His only foreign trip is to Havana, Cuba to attend 6th International Conference of American States and he gives the opening address. He wants to create harmony with other nations in the Southern sphere. His administration gives diplomatic recognition to the National Government in China.

January 17, 1929: Kellogg-Briand Pact is signed by Coolidge; 62 nations sign. It renounces war as a national policy and parties agree to peaceful means for adjustment of international differences.

Sobel, Coolidge, An American Enigma, p. 339 to p. 354