A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VI
His Baptism of Fire

REMEMBER that Calvin Coolidge was a Republican; congenitally through his physical father, the Colonel, and spiritually through the Puritan mystic, Charles Garman. He had his baptism of fire in the fight against Bryan and fiat money. The differences between the parties were fundamental! The Democratic convention nominated as its Presidential candidate, William J. Bryan, handsome young Congressman, from Nebraska, who roused the convention by a speech dynamic with emotion and swept the delegates off their feet by his fiery eloquence. Surrounding him in power were the Dantons, Robespierres, and Murats of troubled times. Wall Street became an Octopus. The East and New England were rising to face the menace of political rebellion. It is easy to see how Young Calvin Coolidge out of the green hills of Vermont, where the farmer's thrift had bought for him a few Iowa and Kansas mortgages and where the whole civilization basked in a pre-revolutionary calm, should inevitably set his flinty New England face against the tenets of the Democratic party and its rabble-rousing candidate. Calvin Coolidge was instinctively attracted by the Republican position. Mark Hanna, the kingmaker, had contrived the nomination of William McKinley in the Republican National Convention and made "the gold standard" the issue of the campaign. Hanna's gold standard platform forced a bolt of the Republicans from the silvermining Rocky Mountain states. Moreover, McKinley, who was first of all a politician but often at incidental moments a statesman, forgot that he had once advocated free silver and casually accepted the gold standard plank in the Republican platform. Young Calvin Coolidge, a Republican by blood and in the birthright, would have accepted the Republican platform, with or without the gold standard.

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