Warren G. Harding
Warren Gamaliel Harding (2 November 1865 – 2 August 1923) was the 29th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1921 until his death. Although Harding died one of the most popular presidents in history, the subsequent exposure of scandals that took place under him, such as Teapot Dome, eroded his popular regard, as did revelations of an affair by Nan Britton, one of his mistresses. In historical rankings of the U.S. presidents, Harding is often rated among the worst.
- In the great fulfillment we must have a citizenship less concerned about what the government can do for it and more anxious about what it can do for the nation.
- Address to the 1916 Republican convention.
The Republic Must Awaken (1917)
- The Republic Must Awaken (1917).
- My countrymen, the surpassing war of all times has involved us, and found us utterly unprepared in either a mental or military sense. The Republic must awaken. The people must understand. Our safety lies in full realization the fate of the nation and the safety of the world will be decided on the western battlefront of Europe.
- Primarily the American Republic has entered the war in defense of its national rights. If we did not defend we could not hope to endure. Other big issues are involved but the maintained rights and defended honor of a righteous nation includes them all. Cherishing the national rights the fathers fought to establish, and loving freedom and civilization, we should have violated every tradition and sacrificed every inheritance if we had longer held aloof from the armed conflict which is to make the world safe for civilization. More, we are committed to sacrifice in battle in order to make America safe for Americans and establish their security on every lawful mission on the high seas or under the shining sun.
- We are testing popular government's capacity for self-defense. We are resolved to liberate the soul of American life and prove ourselves an American people in fact, spirit, and purpose, and consecrate ourselves anew and everlastingly to human freedom and humanity's justice. Realizing our new relationship with the world, we want to make it fit to live in, and with might and fright and wrathfulness and barbarity crushed by the conscience of a real civilization. Ours is a small concern about the kind of government any people may choose, but we do mean to outlaw the nation which violates the sacred compacts of international relationships. The decision is to be final.
- If the Russian failure should become the tragic impotency of nations, if Italy should yield to the pressure of military might, if heroic France should be martyred on her flaming altars of liberty and justice and only the soul of heroism remain, if England should starve and her sacrifices and resolute warfare should prove in vain, if all these improbable disasters should attend, even then we should fight on and on, making the world's cause our cause.
- A republic worth living in is worth fighting for, and sacrificing for, and dying for. In the fires of this conflict we shall wipe out the disloyalty of those who wear American garb without the faith, and establish a new concord of citizenship and a new devotion, so that we should have made a safe America the home and hope of a people who are truly American in heart and soul.
- America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality.
- Speech in Boston, Massachusetts (24 May 1920); Harding is often thought to have coined the word "normalcy" in this speech, but the word is recorded as early as the 1850s as alternative to "normality".
- Practically all we know is that thousands of native Haitians have been killed by American Marines, and that many of our own gallant men have sacrificed their lives at the behest of an Executive department in order to establish laws drafted by the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. … I will not empower an Assistant Secretary of the Navy to draft a constitution for helpless neighbors in the West Indies and jam it down their throats at the point of bayonets borne by U.S. Marines.
- Speech during Warren Harding's 1920 presidental campaign, critizing Woodrow Wilson's Haitian policies; quoted in Democracy at the Point of Bayonets (1999) by Mark Penceny, p. 2. (The Assistant Secretary of the Navy he refers to is Franklin Roosevelt, who was the Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 1920).
- I want to acclaim the day when America is the most eminent of the shipping nations. A big navy and a big merchant marine are necessary to the future of the country...The United States, before the war, never seriously contested and had no thought of contesting Great Britain’s dominance in shipping, but since, as an incident of the war, we installed a huge shipbuilding plant and became the owners of what was, for us, an unprecedented quantity of tonnage, we have come to be ambitious in this field. If the aggregate mind of our business world were distilled, it would probably be found, consciously or unconsciously, that we now have a national ambition to contest Great Britain’s shipping dominance. If we are to achieve a position in shipping and foreign trade comparable with that which Great Britain has had for many generations, we can only do so through time, patience, and the building up of the reputation for commercial skill and integrity that makes Great Britain’s prestige in every part of Asia and Africa...We are witnessing and participating in one of those great incidents in world-history which occur only once in several centuries, and which will be a subject for poets and historians for generations to come.
- Speech at Norfolk, Virginia (4 December 1920), quoted in The Times (6 December 1920), p. 17.
- Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much of government, and at the same time do for it too little.
- Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
- The success of our popular government rests wholly upon the correct interpretation of the deliberate, intelligent, dependable popular will of America.
- Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
- There is something inherently wrong, something out of accord with the ideals of representative democracy, when one portion of our citizenship turns its activities to private gain amid defensive war while another is fighting, sacrificing, or dying for national preservation.
- Inaugural address (4 March 1921).
- Congress ought to wipe the stain of barbaric lynching from the banners of a free and orderly representative democracy.
- Speech (12 April 1921).
- I want to see the time come when black men will regard themselves as full participants in the benefits and duties of American citizens. We cannot go on, as we have gone on for more than half a century, with one great section of our population . . . set off from real contribution to solving national issues, because of a division on race lines.
- Speech delivered to a segregated, mixed race audience at Woodrow Wilson Park in Birmingham, Alabama on the occasion of the city's semicentennial, published in the Birmingham Post (27 October 1921).
- Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.
- Speech at Birmingham, Alabama, published in the Birmingham Post (27 October 1921) quoted in Political Power in Birmingham, 1871-1921 (1977) by Carl V. Harris (1977) University of Tennessee Press, ISBN 087049211X.
- The black man should seek to be, and he should be encouraged to be, the best possible black man and not the best possible imitation of a white man.
- Speech delivered in Birmingham, Alabama, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, 27 October 1921, p. 2.
- I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies all right. But my damn friends, my god-damned friends, White, they're the ones who keep me walking the floor nights!
- Remark to editor William Alan White, as quoted in Thomas Harry Williams et al. (1959) A History of the United States.
- I don't know what to do or where to turn in this taxation matter. Somewhere there must be a book that tells all about it, where I could go to straighten it out in my mind. But I don't know where the book is, and maybe I couldn't read it if I found it.
- Remark to Judson Welliver, as quoted in Francis Russell (1968) The Shadow of Blooming Grove.
- I am not fit for this office and should never have been here.
- Quoted in Nicholas Murray Butler (1939) Across the Busy Years vol. 1.
Nationalism and Americanism (1920)
- Nationalism and Americanism (1920).
- My countrymen, the pioneers to whom I have alluded, these stalwart makers of America, could have no conception of our present day attainment. Hamilton, who conceived, and Washington, who sponsored, little dreamed of either a development or a solution like ours of today. But they were right in fundamentals. They knew what was faith, and preached security. One may doubt if either of them, if any of the founders, would wish America to hold aloof from the world. But there has come to us lately a new realization of the menace to our America in European entanglements which emphasizes the prudence of Washington, though he could little have dreamed the thought which is in my mind.
- When I sat on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and listened to American delegations appealing in behalf of kinsman or old home folks across the seas, I caught the aspirations of nationality, and the perfectly natural sympathy among kindred in this republic. But I little realized then how we might rend the concord of American citizenship in our seeking to solve Old World problems. There have come to me, not at all unbecomingly, the expressed anxieties of Americans foreign born who are asking our country's future attitude on territorial awards in the adjustment of peace. They are Americans all, but they have a proper and a natural interest in the fortunes of kinsfolk and native lands. One cannot blame them. If our land is to settle the envies, rivalries, jealousies, and hatreds of all civilization, these adopted sons of the Republic want the settlement favorable to the land from which they came.
- The misfortune is not alone that it rends the concord of nations. The greater pity is that it rends the concord of our citizenship at home. It's folly to think of blending Greek and Bulgar, Italian and Slovak, or making any of them rejoicingly American, when the land of adoption sits in judgement on the land from which he came. We need to be rescued from divisionary and fruitless pursuit of peace through super government. I do not want Americans of foreign birth making their party alignments on what we mean to do for some nation in the old world. We want them to be Republican because of what we mean to do for the United States of America. Our call is for unison, not rivaling sympathies. Our need is concord, not the antipathies of long inheritance.
- Surely no one stops to think where the great world experiment was leading. Frankly, no one could know. We're only learning now. It would be a sorry day for this republic if we allowed our activities in seeking for peace in the Old World to blind us to the essentials of peace at home. We want a free America again. We want America free at home, and free in the world. We want to silence the outcry of nation against nation, in the fullness of understanding, and we wish to silence the cry of class against class, and stifle the party appeal to class, so that we may ensure tranquility in our own freedom. If I could choose but one, I had rather have industrial and social peace at home, than command the international peace of all the world.
The American Soldier (1920)
- The American Soldier (1920).
- My countrymen, though not in any partisan sense, I must speak of the services of the men and women who rallied to the colors of the Republic in the World War. America realizes and appreciates the services rendered, the sacrifices made, and the sufferings endured. There shall be no distinctions between those who knew the perils and glories of the battlefront or the dangers of the sea, and those who were compelled to serve behind the lines, or those who constituted the great reserve of a grand army which awaited the call in camps at home. All were brave. All were self-sacrificing. All were sharers of those ideals which sent our boys twice armed to war.
- Worthy sons and daughters these. Fit successors to those who christened our banners in the immortal beginning. Worthy sons of those who saved the Union and nationality when civil war wiped out the ambiguity from the Constitution. Ready sons of those who drew the sword for humanity's sake the first time in the world in 1898. The four million defenders on land and sea were worthy of the best traditions of a people never warlike in peace and never pacifist in war. They commanded our pride. They have our gratitude, which must have genuine expression. It's not only a duty -- it's a privilege to see that the sacrifices made shall be requited, and that those still suffering from casualties and visibilities shall be abundantly aided and restored to the highest capabilities of citizenship and its enjoyments.
- Much has been said of late about world ideals. But I prefer to think of the ideal for America. I like to think there's something more than the patriotism and practical wisdom of the founding fathers. It's good to believe that maybe destiny held this New World republic to be the supreme example of representative democracy and orderly liberty by which humanity is inspired to higher achievement. It is idle to think we have attained perfection, but there is the satisfying knowledge that we hold orderly processes for making our government reflect the heart and mind of the Republic.
- Ours is not only a fortunate people, but a very commonsensical people, with vision high, but their feet on the earth, with belief in themselves and faith in God. Whether enemies threaten from without or menaces arise from within, there is some indefinable voice saying, 'Have confidence in the Republic. America will go on'. Here is the sample of liberty no storms may shake. Here are the altars of freedom no factions shall destroy. It was American in conception, American in its building. It shall be American in the fulfillment. Factional once, we are all American now. And we mean to be all Americans to all the world.
- I would not be my natural self if I did not utter my consciousness of my limited ability to meet your full expectation or to realize the aspirations within my own breast. But I'll gladly give all that is in me, all of heart, soul, and mind and the fighting love of country, to service in our common cause. I can only pray to the omnipotent God that I may be as worthy in service as I know myself to be faithful in thought and purpose. One cannot give more.
- It is my conviction that the fundamental trouble with the people of the United States is that they have gotten too far away from Almighty God.
- Relayed by Bishop William F. Anderson as a remark by a friend of Harding, in "Pictures Harding as Man of Prayer" (2 April 1922) New York Times
Quotes about Harding
- The Teapot Dome Scandal involved a plot of federal land in Wyoming that derives its unusual name from the fact that, if viewed from a certain angle, it appears to be shaped like a scandal. The government had placed a large amount of oil under this land for safekeeping, but in 1921 it was stolen. The mystery was solved later that same evening when an alert customs inspector noticed former Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall attempting to board an oceanliner with a suitcase containing 3.256 trillion barrels of petroleum products, which he claimed had been a "gift" from a "friend." At this point, President Harding, showing the kind of class that Richard Nixon can only dream about, died.
- Dave Barry, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States (1989), p. 104-105
- Not until the administration of President Warren Harding would the U.S. Constitution guarantee a woman's right to vote.
- Michael Zak, "Congratulating the Republican Party for according women the right to vote" (15 March 2016), Grand Old Partisan