A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
The Museum Piece

IT IS no wonder that Calvin Coolidge, though never pious, a church member only in his fifties, all his life was deeply religious. Religion was a part of the spiritual air men breathed in that New England, as it was in the earlier New England two generations before. The church life in Plymouth was not well organized. Apparently itinerant preachers of various creeds came to Plymouth Notch. For the most part they were Congregationalists, but occasionally a Baptist or Methodist appeared; and Sunday school at the Notch was held every Sunday. The little fellow went to Sunday school through his childhood and well into his youth. It was an orderly, rather intellectual religion, the folk religion of that time and place. The children heard the Bible read in school every morning and they sang the gospel hymns which celebrated the homely virtues of a thrifty and diligent people. "Pull for the Shore", "Work for the Night Is Coming", "Bringing in the Sheaves", "What Shall the Harvest Be" were favorites. These songs taught the children to work and to save, and influenced their lives probably more than the theology which indoctrinated the jingles. Indeed formal religion did not seem to influence the childhood and youth of Calvin Coolidge. No tradition of the revival nor of any emotional phase of religion survives in the Coolidge story. Doctrinal controversy had no place in Plymouth and particularly in the Notch where the Coolidge store was the core of the social crystal. But nevertheless John Calvin Coolidge and Victoria Josephine did not rear their children like heathen. Children who learn their letters from blocks and begin to read out of the Bible generally pursue their pious way, and when they are old they do not depart from it. And what with the mystery of death and bereavement and the mysticism of the Bible, with all the beauty of the mountains and their ever-changing moods,

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