Calvin Coolidge

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I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis upon the observance of the law than they do upon its enforcement.
Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments.
It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.
He who lives under it and disloyal to it is a traitor to the human race everywhere. What could be saved if the flag of the American nation were to perish?
I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others.
The chief business of the American people is business.
Numbered among our population are some 12,000,000 colored people. Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights.
Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race.
A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen. The decision must be made by the constituents to whom he offers himself, and by nobody else.
If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.

John Calvin Coolidge Jr. (4 July 18725 January 1933) was the twenty-ninth (1921–1923) Vice President and the thirtieth (1923–1929) President of the United States.

Quotes[edit]

  • [Speaking of Chinese president Sun Yat-sen] ...combined Benjamin Franklin and George Washington of China.
    • The Human Odyssey: Volume 2 by Tanim Ansary et al, p. 653.

1910s[edit]

  • It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.
    • Letter (6 September 1910) to his father, John Coolidge, who had been elected to the Vermont State Senate; in Your Son Calvin Coolidge, as cited in Silent Cal’s Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge (2011), Ed. David Pietrusza, Bookbrewer, "Legislation" : ISBN 1611560985
  • Workmen’s compensation, hours and conditions of labor are cold consolations, if there be no employment.
    • From the speech ‘Plymouth, Labor Day’ (1 September 1919), as printed in Have Faith in Massachusetts: A Collection of Speeches and Messages (2nd Ed.), Houghton Mifflin, pp. 200-201 : see link above

1920s[edit]

  • Parties do not maintain themselves. They are maintained by effort. The government is not self-existent. It is maintained by the effort of those who believe in it. The people of America believe in American institutions, the American form of government and the American method of transacting business.
    • Speech before the Republican Commercial Travelers' Club, Boston, Massachusetts (10 April 1920); in Manuscripts: speeches and messages of Calvin Coolidge, 1895–1924, the Massachusetts State Library, George Fingold Library, Boston.
  • There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons. Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.
    • "Whose Country Is This?", Good Housekeeping Magazine (February 1921).
  • There is no substitute for a militant freedom. The only alternative is submission and slavery.
    • The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses, Coolidge, The Minerva Group (2001), p. 159
    • Acceptance of the Memorial to General Ulysses S. Grant (27 April 1922)
  • To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.
    • Message to the National Security League in honor of Constitution Day, quoted in New York Times (17 September 1923) "Ceremonies Mark Constitution Day"
  • The Constitution is the sole source and guaranty of national freedom.
    • Address accepting nomination as Republican candidate for president, Washington, D.C. (4 August 1924); published as Address of Acceptance (1924), p. 15.
  • I believe in the American Constitution. I favor the American system of individual enterprise, and I am opposed to any general extension of government ownership, and control. I believe not only in advocating economy in public expenditure, but in its practical application and actual accomplishment. I believe in a reduction and reform of taxation, and shall continue my efforts in that direction.
    • From his formal acceptance of the Republican party’s nomination for President, as quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma,Robert Sobel,Regnery Publishing (1998),p. 292 : ISBN 0895264102, 9780895264107
    • Sobel gives the date of this address as 14 August 1924.
  • I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.
  • After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.
  • What we need is not more Federal government, but better local government.
  • About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776 — that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance of the people of that day and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But, that reasoning cannot be applied to the great charter.
    • Foundations of the Republic; Speeches and Addresses (1926), p. 451.
  • No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward a time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more "modern," but more ancient than those of our Revolutionary ancestors.
    • Foundations of the Republic; Speeches and Addresses (1926), p. 451.
  • Mr. Hoover, if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.
    • As recounted by Herbert Hoover ; from Coolidge: An American Enigma, Robert Sobel, Regnery Publishing (2000), p. 242 : ISBN 0895262479, 9780895262479
  • I do not choose to run for President in 1928.
    • Statement to reporters (2 August 1927); cited in Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992).
  • That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad!
    • On Herbert Hoover
    • Ahamed, Liaquatː "Lords of Finance" (2011). Random House. Pg 299

Equal Rights (1920)[edit]

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Equal Rights (1920)
  • July 4, 1776 was the historic day on which the representatives of three millions of people vocalized Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, which gave notice to the world that they proposed to establish an independent nation on the theory that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The wonder and glory of the American people is not the ringing Declaration of that day, but the action then already begun, and in the process of being carried out, in spite of every obstacle that war could interpose, making the theory of freedom and equality a reality.
  • We revere that day because it marks the beginnings of independence, the beginnings of a constitution that was finally to give universal freedom and equality to all American citizens — the beginnings of a government that was to recognize beyond all others the power and worth and dignity of man. There began the first of governments to acknowledge that it was founded on the sovereignty of the people. There the world first beheld the revelation of modern democracy.
  • Democracy is not a tearing down; it is a building up. It is not denial of the divine right of kings; it supplements that same with the assertion of the divine right of all men. It does not destroy; it fulfills. It is the consummation of all theories of government, the spirit of which all the nations of the earth must yield. It is the great constructive course of the ages. It is the alpha and omega of man's relation to man, the beginning and the end. There is, and can be, no more doubt of the triumphs of democracy in human affairs than there is of the triumph of gravitation in the physical world. The only question is how and when. Its foundation lays hold upon eternity. It is unconcerned with the idolatry, or despotism, or treason, or rebellion, or betrayal, but bows in reverence before Moses, or Hamden, or Washington, or Lincoln, or the lights that shone on Calvary.
  • The doctrine of the Declaration of Independence predicated upon the glory of man and the corresponding duty to society that the rights of citizens ought to be protected with every power and resource of the state, and a government that does any less is false to the teachings of that great document — false to the name American. The assertion of human rights is naught but a call to human sacrifice. This is yet the spirit of the American people. Only so long as this flame burns shall we endure, and the light of liberty be shed over the nations of the earth. May the increase of the years increase for America only the devotion to this spirit, only the intensity of this flame, and the eternal truth of [Lowell's] lines: "What were our lives without thee, what all our lives to save thee, we reck not what we gave thee, we will not dare to doubt thee; but ask whatever else and we will dare."

America and the War (1920)[edit]

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America and the War (1920)
  • Works which endure come from the soul of the people. The mighty in their pride walk alone to destruction. The humble walk hand in hand with providence to immortality. Their works survive.
  • When the people of the colonies were defending their liberties against the might of kings, they chose their banner from the design set in the firmament through all eternity. The flags of great empires of that day have gone, but the stars and stripes remain. It pictures a vision of a people whose eyes are turned to the rising dawn. It represents of the hope of a father for his posterity. It was never flaunted for the glory of royalty, but to be born under it is to be the child of a king, and to establish a home under it is to be the founder of a royal house. Alone of all flags, it expresses the sovereignty of the people which endures when all else passes away. Speaking with their voice, it has the sanctity of revelations. He who lives under it and disloyal to it is a traitor to the human race everywhere. What could be saved if the flag of the American nation were to perish?
  • America has many glories. The last one that she would wish to surrender is the glory of the men who have served her in war. While such devotion lives, the nation is secure. Whatever dangers may threaten from within or without, she can view them calmly. Turning to her veterans, she can say: 'These are our defenders. They are invincible. In them is our safety.'
  • After more than five years of the bitterest war in human experience, the last great stronghold of force surrendering to the demands of America and her allies agreed to cast aside the sword and live under the law. America decided that the path of the Mayflower should not be closed. She decided to sail the seas. She decided to sail not under an Edict of Potsdam, cramped in narrow lands, seeking safety in unarmed merchant men painted in fantastic hues as the badge of an infinite servitude; but she decided to sail under the ancient Declaration of Independence, choosing her own course, maintaining security by the guns of her ships of the LINE, flying at the mast the stars and stripes forever, the emblem of a militant liberty.
  • With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision of a nearer, clearer than ever before, the life on earth and less under the deadening restraint of course more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. Education will tend to bring reason and experience of the past into the solution of the problems of the future. We must look to service and not selfishness, for service is the foundation of progress. The greatest lesson that we have to learn is to seek ever the public welfare, to build up, to maintain our American heritage.

First State of the Union Address (1923)[edit]

Calvin Coolidge's First State of the Union Address (6 December 1923)
  • Numbered among our population are some 12,000,000 colored people. Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights. The Congress ought to exercise all its powers of prevention and punishment against the hideous crime of lynching, of which the negroes are by no means the sole sufferers, but for which they furnish a majority of the victims.
  • Already a considerable sum is appropriated to give the negroes vocational training in agriculture. About half a million dollars is recommended for medical courses at Howard University to help contribute to the education of 500 colored doctors needed each year. On account of the integration of large numbers into industrial centers, it has been proposed that a commission be created, composed of members from both races, to formulate a better policy for mutual understanding and confidence. Such an effort is to be commended. Everyone would rejoice in the accomplishment of the results which it seeks. But it is well to recognize that these difficulties are to a large extent local problems which must be worked out by the mutual forbearance and human kindness of each community. Such a method gives much more promise of a real remedy than outside interference.

Letter to Charles F. Gardner (1924)[edit]

Letter to Charles F. Gardner (9 August 1924), Fort Hamilton, New York
  • Your letter is received, accompanied by a newspaper clipping which discusses the possibility that a colored man may be the Republican nominee for Congress from one of the New York districts.
  • Leaving out of consideration the manifest impropriety of the President intruding himself in a local contest for nomination, I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others. The suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race.
  • A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen. The decision must be made by the constituents to whom he offers himself, and by nobody else.

Speech on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (1926)[edit]

"Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence" (5 July 1926)
  • Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
  • If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final.
  • There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes.
  • Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.
  • In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
  • We live in an age of science and abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create the Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all of our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the Founders who created. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had and for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped.

Vermont is a State I Love (1928)[edit]

"Vermont is a state I love" (21 September 1928), Bennington, Vermont
  • It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.
  • I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

1930s[edit]

  • In other periods of depression it has always been possible to see some things which were solid and upon which you could base hope, but as I look about, I now see nothing to give ground for hope — nothing of man. But there is still religion, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That continues as a solid basis for hope and courage.
    • Conversation with Charles Andrews (1 January 1933), quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma (2000)
  • I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis on the observance of the law than they do on its enforcement. It is a maxim of our institutions, that the government does not make the people, but the people make the government.
    • From an address before the Women’s National Committee for Law Enforcement, as quoted in The New England historical and genealogical register, Volume 87, H. F. Waters, New England Historic & Genealogical Society (1933), p. 100
  • Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
    • Quote from a program at a Coolidge memorial service (1933); cited in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999).


Misattributed[edit]

  • Coolidge: Sins.
    Mrs. Coolidge: Well, what did he say about it?
    Coolidge: He was against it.
    • when asked by his wife what a preacher's sermon had been about
    • John H. McKee, Coolidge: Wit and Wisdom, 1933
    • Author Nigel Rees claims this is apocryphal:
      • The taciturn President became famous for monosyllabic replies. A story from the twenties has Mrs. Coolidge asking him the subject of a sermon he had heard. "Sin," he answered. When prompted to elaborate on the clergyman's theme, Coolidge is said to have replied: "He was against it." Coolidge remarked that this story would have been funnier if it had been true.
        • Nigel Rees, Sayings of the Century, page 67.
  • They hired the money, didn't they?
    • Reportedly in response to a proposal to cancel the debts owed by Allied nations to the United States following World War I; reported in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 18.
  • Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers
    • Widely misattributed and misquoted. Coolidge was quoting Tennyson in a June 3, 1925 speech to the US Naval Academy. Foundations of the Republic pp 237 : THE NAVY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE The poet reminds us that "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast ...

Quotes about Coolidge[edit]

  • Isn't it past your bedtime, Calvin?
    • Groucho Marx, breaking character to address President Coolidge after he learned that the President was in the audience of their Broadway show.[citation needed]
  • [President Coolidge's] active inactivity suits the mood and certain of the needs of the country admirably. It suits all the business interests which want to be let alone… And it suits all those who have become convinced that government in this country has become dangerously complicated and top-heavy…
  • As president, Calvin Coolidge didn't do much of anything, but at the time, that's what we needed to have done.

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