A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
Our Hero Does the Best Day's Work in His Life

EVEN before Calvin Coolidge became chairman of the Republican central committee for Northampton, the worm was in the bud for his party. The triumph of the militant plutocracy led by Mark Hanna, which elected William McKinley President in 1896, enjoyed a short, sharp climax. The gold of the Klondike and from the African mines inflating the currency, the Spanish American war stimulating trade, brought back prosperity with a rush during the last three years of the old century. With prosperity came its handmaidens--stock gambling, chicane and corruption. It was a boiling mess of pottage with the lid off. Naturally, this broad statement must quickly be qualified. Gambling, chicane and corruption blighted only a small area of American life. But the blight colored the picture far beyond that small area. The Democratic party as an opposition party was divided under Bryan's leadership. Republicans controlled government unquestioned at Washington, and in most of the state capitals and in the larger cities of the North. Swindlers and cheats were inadequately checked in small business, and the higher realms of business ran with a loose rein. Still put together large and small they made but a fractional percent of the population. Small grafters and corruptionists, if not directly aided, were at least comforted by the respectables. Mark Hanna's alliance between business and politics in Washington, without buying and selling men, soon gave Wall Street leaders political control in many states through state bosses who named federal Representatives and Senators. When they appeared in Washington these Congressmen were bought and paid for--not all, not even a majority, but many.

It was a great day at the court of Belshazzar. Then suddenly death played a trump card. McKinley was assassinated. Theodore Roosevelt appeared. The

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