A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XI
Our Hero Dances at the Grand Ball and Meets One Grand Old Duke

IN 1913 Frank W. Stearns, a trustee of Amherst College, went to interview Senator Calvin Coolidge in his office during the last few days of a legislative session. Tradition declares that Senator Coolidge kept the extra chair in his room locked in a closet. Certainly he wanted no casual loafers bothering him. But he graciously unlocked the closet and brought out the chair for Stearns. Stearns called to interest Senator Coolidge in a bill providing for some sort of sewer construction in and around Amherst College. Senator Coolidge never had seen Stearns before. To Coolidge, Frank Stearns was only a merchant prince, partner and head of the advertising department in one of the large dry goods stores of Boston. He had heard of Stearns as a trustee of Amherst. The Senator was busy. He knew that the legislative day for introducing new bills was past. He let Stearns sit in the precious chair and make his speech. Then the Senator snapped the merchant prince off with five words, "I'm sorry! It's too late?"1 and turning around resumed his work.

Stearns found his own way to the door as Coolidge put away the chair and sat down. Stearns looked at Coolidge's back as the narrow-chested little man bent over his task in the senatorial ashes. Here was a jolting insult to a man who was to become Coolidge's benefactor.

Senator Coolidge's second term was closing. His legislative performance had been unimportant. But out of it two assets had been garnered for his career: first, the reputation based upon a solid character for being a safe partisan Republican, an acolyte at Guy Currier's altar, a follower of Uncle

____________________
1
All of the early Coolidge biographies agree on this story.

-110-

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