A Puritan in Babylon: The Story of Calvin Coolidge

By William Allen White | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XVIII
He Waits Off Stage for His Cue

BUSINESS leaders generally scorn politicians. But business and politics are parts of an interacting whole. To know the politics of an era intelligently, one must study its economics. Kings and bankers, demagogues and industrial captains are blood brothers born of one womb. This biography of Calvin Coolidge, consummate craftsman of politics, is the story of a stage in the economic development of his country. The man is but a wraith, giving human features and evanescent flesh and blood to a dramatic moment in American history. Politics being the human shadow of the economic reality makes it necessary to review business conditions both before and after the Boston police strike. The period from 1914 to 1920 was a war period in out economic history, dominated by a gigantic outpouring of goods to Europe on credit. That credit affected the politics and the banks of Massachusetts, but neither the bankers nor Calvin Coolidge realized how this bank credit later would affect his life.1 The absorption of foreign securities from 1914 to April of 1917, was greatly facilitated by

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1
The credit was rather easily given because Europe was sending us gold, increasing out bank reserves, that made possible a multiple expansion of bank credit, which could be used to finance the European securities that were coming over. This does not mean that the banks were buying these European securities, but it means that they were lending money to facilitate their issue and to release funds which would not otherwise have been available for the purchases of these European securities.

Various things were happening as this immense demand grew. The first impact of this war demand was a quickening of American industry. Commodity prices rose only about five per cent in 1915 as compared with 1914, but by early 1916 industry was fully employed and labor was fully employed. Then commodity prices began to shoot up rapidly. The rises in commodity prices were so rapid that country retailers were caught utterly unaware. Further, labor was gaining disproportionately in these years, because of the cessation of immigration. The war stopped immigration. It was during these years that wages were rising fast.

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