The Talkative President: The Off-The-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge

By Howard H. Quint; Robert H. Ferrell et al. | Go to book overview
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10 The Old World and the New

IN THE 1920's most Americans thought Europe the root of all evil, an opinion which President Coolidge essentially shared. He had never seen Europe nor, for that matter, had most of his countrymen, except under the unfavorable circumstances of World War I. Perhaps that experience accounted for much of the anti-European attitude in the United States. Or perhaps it was a repayment in kind for the traditional anti-American attitude of most Europeans. Whatever the causes, the fact of dislike was undeniable.

Coolidge did feel that Europeans could be saved if they became more like Americans. First, they must pay their debts. And like their descendants in America, Europeans ought to live amicably with each other. They were, however, too removed from the United States to expect American help in settling their political problems. They were eligible to receive aid only on such extraordinary occasions as a world war.

Just as Coolidge and his fellow citizens failed to perceive the approach of the Great Depression, so did they fail to sense Europe's political, economic, and social insecurity. The 1920's, as everyone knows, marked a return to the hopes of prewar years-- that the placid internationalism of the nineteenth century might be permanently re-established.

The two principal issues, along with debts and reparations, which compelled American attention toward Europe were the World Court and the Kellogg-Briand Pact. The World Court generated so much controversy in the United States that one

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