Warren G. Harding
The 29th President of the United States (1921–23)
A politician from Ohio, Warren G. Harding had few enemies because he rarely took a firm enough stand on an issue to make any. Much like modern presidents Mr. Harding saw the President's role as largely ceremonial and most historians regard Harding as the worst President in the nation's history as he rewarded friends and political contributors, referred to as the Ohio Gang, with financially powerful positions.
In the end, it was not his corrupt friends, but rather, Harding's own lack of vision that was most responsible for his tarnished legacy. Harding won a seat in the Ohio State Senate, serving two terms before becoming a U.S. senator from Ohio in 1914. During his term as senator, Harding missed more sessions than he attended, being absent for key debates on prohibition and women's suffrage.
Taking no stands meant making no enemies, and his fellow Republicans awarded Harding the 1920 presidential nomination, sensing the nation's fatigue with the reform agenda of Woodrow Wilson. Running with the slogan, "A Return to Normalcy," Harding beat progressive Democrat James M. Cox in a massive landslide. Harding's inauguration was unremarkable in terms of celebration.
Harding Cancelled Most of the Planned Festivities, including the Customary Parade
Leaving only the swearing-in ceremony and a brief reception at the White House. In his inaugural speech he declared, "Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much from the government and at the same time do too little for it. On the League of Nations, he opposed President Woodrow Wilson's version of the League but Interestingly when Harding was President his position on the League of Nations was no longer as clear.
Harding spurned the League of Nations, and signed a separate peace treaty with Germany and Austria, formally ending World War I. Equally important in setting a pro-business tone were Harding's actions to encourage the Federal Trade Commission, the Justice Department, and the Interstate Commerce Commission to cooperate with corporations rather than to regulate them or to instigate anti-monopoly actions against them and gave his secretary of state, Charles Evans Hughes, a free hand in foreign affairs.
A leading internationalist, Hughes worked with Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and Secretary of Treasury Andrew Mellon to design a foreign policy enabling the U.S. to participate in the world's economic life while retaining a free hand in international relations. They hoped to use American banks, such as the John D. Rockefeller backed Chase National Bank, to replace British financiers in the handling and financing of world trade. Hoover established a corps of Commercial Attaches to work with career Foreign Service officers in the pursuit of foreign markets.
Harding was a Man Who could not Say "No" to His Friends
In fact, his father once told him that it was good that he had not been born "a gal," or else he would have been "in the family way all the time." Harding surrounded himself with an unpleasant group of dishonest cheats and Harding clearly knew of their limitations, but he liked to play poker with them, drink whiskey, smoke, tell jokes, play golf, and keep late hours. He once gambled away the entire White House china set in a card game. Harding was a Freemason, initiated: June 28, 1901, Marion Lodge No. 70
From a Progressive Socialist viewpoint the Presidents greatest achievement was a Federal Prisoner named Eugene V. Debs... Harding backed away from granting a general amnesty to the hundreds of Americans jailed for nonviolent antiwar protests during the Wilson years, but he did pardon Eugene V. Debs, the Socialist leader and five-time presidential candidate, who was serving a ten-year sentence at the federal penitentiary in Atlanta. Debs had won over ninety thousand votes from his prison cell in the 1920 election. As a condition for the pardon, Harding insisted that Debs come to the White House after being released from jail so the two men could meet.
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