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June 2013 - Volume 18, Number 2


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A Constitutional Presidency

by John Hendrickson


The National Notary Association has put together a significant collection of essays on the political career and philosophy of President Calvin Coolidge. The essays contained in Why Coolidge Matters discuss why President Coolidge’s legacy is still important for today.


The purpose of the book is to remember that not only was Calvin Coolidge “the first and only President ever to be sworn in by a Notary Public,” but also for “the way he conducted his public life.”[1] After the death of President Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge took the oath of office that was administered by his father, who was a Notary Public in Vermont. The essays contained in Why Coolidge Matters are written by a diverse group of Coolidge scholars and others who are interested in preserving the legacy of “Silent Cal.” Some of the authors include historians such as Robert H. Ferrell, Amity Shlaes, and Burton Folsom, Jr., while other essays are written by politicians such as Michael Dukakis and former United States Senator and current Secretary of State John F. Kerry.


President Coolidge, who served as the thirtieth President of the United States, served during the Roaring Twenties or what became known as “Coolidge Prosperity.” As President, Coolidge was a conservative who supported limited-government policies and he was a defender of the Constitution. As Burton Folsom wrote: “Why Calvin Coolidge matters, first, is because limited government worked well during his Presidency — an ideal that is not tried often today. Second, Coolidge had a strong character, which reflected his loyalty to the principles of freedom and constitutional government.”[2] John Van Til wrote that Coolidge “thought life had two principal features,” which centered on a Christian worldview and a “deep devotion to the Founding Fathers and their achievements in creating the American System, its substance being on display in the Declaration and the Constitution.”[3]


In our current era of complex political and social problems ranging from high unemployment to the decline of American culture and values, the nation can learn a lot by studying the virtues and philosophy of President Coolidge. Why Coolidge Matters is a solid overview of why the principles of President Coolidge can be applied to the policy problems of today. “For Coolidge, conservatism meant a strict adherence to the Constitution, a tightly limited role for the Executive Branch, and above all fiscal discipline,” noted John Moser.[4] These are all principles that would serve both Republicans and Democrats well and the principles needed to restore the United States.



[1] Milt Valera, “Coolidge’s Life and Values Can Guide Us All,” in Why Coolidge Matters: How Civility in Politics Can Bring a Nation Together, The National Notary Association, Chatsworth, California, 2010, pp. xv-xvi.
[2] Burton Folsom, Jr., “An Enabler of Prosperity,” p. 13.
[3] L. John Van Til, “He Revered the Founders,” p. 113.
[4] John Moser, “He Knew When to Sit Idle,” p. 139.

LIMITS is one of our quarterly membership newsletters, arriving in March, June, September, and December. It consists of short articles and essays on protection of human rights by limiting the powers of government.


LIMITS is published by Public Interest Institute at Iowa Wesleyan College, a nonpartisan, nonprofit, research and educational institute, whose activities are supported by contributions from private individuals, corporations, companies, and foundations. The Institute does not accept government grants.


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Permission to reprint or copy in whole or part is granted, provided a version of this credit line is used: "Reprinted by permission from LIMITS, a quarterly newsletter of Public Interest Institute." The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Public Interest Institute.


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