Warren G.

Harding

Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th President of the United States, serving from 1921 until his death from a heart attack in 1923. A Republican from Ohio, Harding was an influential newspaper publisher. He served in the Ohio Senate (1899–1903) and later as the 28th Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903–1905) and as a U.S. Senator (1915– 1921). His conservative stance on issues such as taxes, affable manner, and campaign manager Harry Daugherty's 'make no enemies' strategy enabled Harding to become the compromise choice at the 1920 Republican National Convention. During his presidential campaign, in the aftermath of World War I; he promised a return to "normalcy"; an "America first" campaign that encouraged industrialization and a strong economy independant of foreign influence. In the 1920 election, he and his running-mate, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Democrat and fellow Ohioan James M. Cox, in what was then the largest presidential popular vote landslide in American history since the popular vote tally began to be recorded in 1824: 60.36% to 34.19%. President Harding headed a cabinet of notable men such as Charles Evans Hughes, Andrew Mellon, and future president Herbert Hoover. However, he was careless with other associates and rewarded his close friends with powerful positions. Scandals and corruption would eventually be found in the Harding Administration; Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall was jailed for involvement in theTeapot Dome scandal; Director of Veterans Bureau, Charles R. Forbes was involved in bribery and price skimming from bootleggers and drug dealers. In foreign affairs, Harding rejected the League of Nations; signed a separate peace treaty with Germany and Austria formally ending World War I. He also led the way to world Naval disarmament at the 1921– 22 Washington Naval Conference. Domestically Harding signed the first child welfare program in the United States and delt with striking workers in the mining and railroad industries. Traditionally, polls of historians and scholars have ranked Harding as one of the worst Presidents; due to the multiple scandals in his

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administration caused by the "Ohio Gang"; Harding's cabinet and appointees who warranted federal corruption investigations, charges, and convictions. •

His presidency has been recently evaluated in terms of presidential record and accomplishments in addition to the scandals. Harding's reputation has been rising since the 1990s. Most recently, the British Times Online, reported that a recent survey shows that Harding's reputation, while still in the bottom ten, ranked 34 out of 43 men who have held the job; the bottom rung now occupied by Abraham Lincoln's predecessor James Buchanan. When President Harding assumed office on March 4, 1921 the United States was in the midst of a post war economic depression. By 1920, unemployment had jumped up to 12 percent and the GNP had dropped by 17 percent. Harding ignored Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover's recommendation for proactive federal intervention; rather Harding cut tax rates for all groups and reduced the national debt. Recovery began to take place in summer of 1921; by 1922 unemployment receded to 6.4 percent; by 1923 the unemployment rate was 2.4 percent. Economist Benjamin Anderson writes, "In 1920–21 we [the U.S.] took our losses, we readjusted our financial structure, we endured our depression, and in August 1921 we started up again. . . . The rally in business production and employment that started in August 1921 was soundly based on a drastic cleaning up of credit weakness, a drastic reduction in the costs of production, and on the free play of private enterprise. It was not based on governmental policy designed to make business good.

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