AT THE TURN of the twentieth century, the United States took on several outlandish possessions which demanded considerable attention for the next four decades. Washington statesmen also had to attend to that imperial purchase of 1867, Alaska, which was something of a nuisance to govern. And in the Latin American countries they faced the delicate political, economic, and moral issues of rule and intervention.
Curiously, in his press conferences Coolidge said little or nothing about the Hawaiian Islands. But the Philippines commanded his attention. During his presidency the Islands were in their usual muddled political situation. In 1921 the Harding Administration had sent out General Leonard Wood as Governor General. Wood brought order to Philippine finances, bucked up a sagging administration, and restored health and sanitary conditions. But in the process the not always tactful general incurred the ill will of the Filipino politicos, who on the whole were an extremely uncooperative group. While their rallying call was independence, they did not in fact really want it; they feared its economic and military consequences. Wood saw through their pretense. Meanwhile, his health was declining, but the old fighter would not give up the job at Malacafian long enough to return to the United States to report to the President. Consequently, Coolidge, inadequately briefed about conditions in the Philippines, dispatched Colonel Carmi Thompson on a thinly disguised inspection tour. Wood finally returned in 1927 and died in a Boston hospital.