Title: Tribute to Harding at Marion Memorial Erection
Date: June 16, 1931
Location: Marion, OH
Context: Coolidge delivers a speech celebrating Harding’s presidency and legacy at the erection of the new Harding Memorial in Marion, Ohio, alongside President Hoover and others.
Mr. President and my fellow-citizens:
In behalf of the Harding Memorial association I formally accept this stately monument erected to the memory of Warren Gamaliel Harding, the twenty-ninth president of the United States. It is fittingly located in the city where he so long made his home among the neighbors and friends whom he loved and who loved him.
In his absence his fondest thoughts constantly turned in this direction. Here above all other places he would wish his last resting place to be located, where he has found peace in surroundings that will be a constant reminder of him. In the future years not even a stranger could approach this shrine without some sense of that charming cordiality that could not be described, but was always felt by all who came in contact with him.
His social graces, however, were only an appropriate setting for a strong and rugged personality. He was not taken from obscurity and raised by fate to the White House. He won his place in public life step by step. For years a newspaper publisher and editor, meantime a State Senator, a Lieutenant Governor, a United States Senator, chairman of the National Republican convention in 1916—this was the solid and substantial groundwork of experience in public service by which he fitted himself for the office of President of this Republic. Nor was he unknown to the people. He had ranged far and wide as the principal speaker at many banquets and the orator of the day on many public occasions. To whatever position he was called he demonstrated his power by work done.
It often has been remarked that when a particular crisis in human affairs has required a certain type of ability to meet it the right man has appeared. Whether this is because the times call the man or because there are latent powers in all of us which give those who become charged with responsibility the ability to respond by rising above themselves, it is impossible to decide. Perhaps it is enough to know that when the world has a work to do some one appears who is able to do it.
It seems as though President Harding was pre-eminently fitted to serve the country in the disturbed and distraught period following the war. He had experience and ability, courage and patience, combined with a generous toleration and cheerful optimism that inspired confidence. He had a natural gift of expression which he developed into an art. He understood the people and the people understood him. In composing a situation, in pacifying men he was a master.
Those qualities which were so much needed in our own country and in the world he brought to the presidential office. When he began his term our domestic situation was chaotic. Credit was overextended. Commodity prices had experienced a perpendicular decline. Unemployment was extensive. Agriculture was prostrate. The national debt was enormous. War taxes prevailed. Government expenses were heavy. All kinds of business were in distress.
Our foreign relations were precarious. We had rejected the treaty of Versailles, but we had not made peace. We were engaged in building the greatest Navy in the world. The islands in the Pacific Ocean were a source of friction. Europe looked on us with suspicion.
To deal with these problems, President Harding summoned the Congress and kept it in session for nearly two years. The credit stringency was relieved by reviving the War Finance Corporation. Our markets were protected by enacting an emergency tariff law. Labor was protected by restricting immgration. A Budget Bureau was established, and a system of rigid economy was adopted. To discharge our obligations to ex-service men, the Veterans’ Bureau was organized.
A new internal revenue law reduced taxes hundreds of millions of dollars annually. A permanent tariff bill gave protection to our markets in harmony with the new conditions of world trade. Surplus war materials and Treasury assets were converted into cash to pay expenses and reduce debts. Several billions of short-term governmental obligations were paid or refunded. The shipping business and the railroad administration were put in the way of liquidation.
While these measures were being adopted for our domestic benefit settlements of even greater magnitude were being made in the foreign field. Peace treaties were negotiated with those with whom we had been at war. A long-standing difference with Colombia was generously composed. Diplomatic relations were resumed with Mexico. A commission was appointed under authority of the Congress to negotiate a settlement of our foreign debts, under which an agreement was speedily made with Great Britain.
In spite of a universally genuine desire for peace the world was engaging in a competitive race in armaments which was a source of expense and suspicion. To relieve humanity from this increasing menace President Harding called the historic Washington Conference on the Limitation of Armaments. A preliminary treaty was drafted for the present and future settlement of differences among the many international interests in the Pacific Ocean. The British and Japanese alliance was terminated. The five great maritime powers then entered into a solemn covenant limiting most of the different types of warships in respect to number, tonnage and armaments. When that treaty was signed it marked an epoch in history.
Such in barest outline are some of the policies adopted under the leadership of President Harding for the restoration of the United States and the pacification of the world. Under this benign influence trade revived and a better international understanding prevailed: He would be the last to claim all the credit for these accomplishments. He had the loyal and patriotic co-operation of public men within and without his own party.
All he could do through governmental agencies was to proceed in harmony with sound economic laws which would strengthen and support the recuperative power of the people in working out their own business revival. He had the advantage, too, of the deeply interested and watchful care of a wife who was ever devoted to his welfare and shared with him his burdens. No record of his work would satisfy him which failed to recognize the helpful influence of Mrs. Harding, who sleeps here by his side.
Frequently he asserted that he declared his administration to be an era of good understanding. Conflicts between the Government and business he believed should be removed. Differences between capital and labor he wished to see adjusted. There was no room in his broad sympathy for any taint of sectionalism.
But chiefly he was determined to use his great office to the full extent of its powers to prevent future wars. He was for good understanding among nations. His vision was broad. His statesmanship was inclusive. It would be difficult to find any peace-time period of a little over two years when so much that was beneficial was accomplished as during his administration.
Before he could see the full fruition of his policies fate brought him to a tragic end. As we can now realize the wisdom of the foundation which he laid we are consoled by the thought that for some reason we cannot fathom his work was done, his course was finished, he was gathered to his fathers, to rest in the peace which he had desired so fervently to bestow upon all humanity.
Citation: The Evening Star, June 17, 1931.