Warren G. Harding, an Ohio Republican, was the 29th
President of the
Before his nomination, Warren G. Harding declared, "
A Democratic leader, William Gibbs McAdoo, called Harding's speeches "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea." Their very murkiness was effective, since Harding's pronouncements remained unclear on the League of Nations, in contrast to the impassioned crusade of the Democratic candidates, Governor James M. Cox of Ohio and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Thirty-one distinguished Republicans had signed a
manifesto assuring voters that a vote for Harding was a vote for the League. But
Harding interpreted his election as a mandate to stay out of the
Harding, born near Marion, Ohio, in 1865, became the
publisher of a newspaper. He married a divorcee, Mrs.
He organized the Citizen's Cornet Band, available for both Republican and Democratic rallies; "I played every instrument but the slide trombone and the E-flat cornet," he once remarked.
Harding's undeviating Republicanism and vibrant speaking
voice, plus his willingness to let the machine bosses set policies, led him far
Thus a group of Senators, taking control of the 1920 Republican Convention when the principal candidates deadlocked, turned to Harding. He won the Presidential election by an unprecedented landslide of 60 percent of the popular vote.
Republicans in Congress easily got the President's signature on their bills. They eliminated wartime controls and slashed taxes, established a Federal budget system, restored the high protective tariff, and imposed tight limitations upon immigration.
By 1923 the postwar depression seemed to be giving way to a new surge of prosperity, and newspapers hailed Harding as a wise statesman carrying out his campaign promise--"Less government in business and more business in government."
Behind the facade, not all of Harding's Administration was so impressive. Word began to reach the President that some of his friends were using their official positions for their own enrichment. Alarmed, he complained, "My...friends...they're the ones that keep me walking the floors nights!"
Looking wan and depressed, Harding journeyed westward in
the summer of 1923, taking with him his upright Secretary of Commerce, Herbert
Hoover. "If you knew of a great scandal in our administration," he asked
He did not live to find out how the public would react to
the scandals of his administration. In August of 1923, he died in