the roaring twenties. america’s postwar problems of inflation & labor unrest government...


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LABOR UNRESTLABOR UNREST• Government spending during WWI had Government spending during WWI had

nearly doubled the cost of livingnearly doubled the cost of living• HIGH PRICES contributed to labor HIGH PRICES contributed to labor

unrestunrest• Many strikes:Many strikes:

– Seattle General, 1919Seattle General, 1919– BOSTON POLICE FORCEBOSTON POLICE FORCE

• Calvin Coolidge, GovernorCalvin Coolidge, Governor– STEELWORKERS – STEELWORKERS – U.S. gov’tU.S. gov’t

intervenes to break the strike intervenes to break the strike

– RRs, COAL MINERSRRs, COAL MINERS– Strikers linked to Strikers linked to “Reds”

• Declining union membershipDeclining union membershipthroughout the 20’sthroughout the 20’s

The Harding YearsThe Harding Years•Dark Horse Candidate•Nominated on 10th ballot•Indecisive•Weak Intellect, Mediocre•Kind, overwhelmed by job•Extremely poor judge of character•Abominator of the English language

•“Bloviating, Normalcy”

Warren Gamaliel Harding

“While Washington could not tell a lie, Harding could not tell a liar.”

Mood of America:• “America First!”• “A Return to Normalcy”• Surrounds himself with “best minds”

– Charles Evans Hughes (State)– Andrew W. Mellon (Treasury)– Herbert Hoover (Commerce)– William H. Taft as Chief Justice

• And “worst minds” - Spoils System alive & well:– Albert B. Fall (Interior)– Harry M. Daugherty (Attorney



– Harding makes 4, including Taft as Chief Justice

– Begin striking down Progressive legislation

• Business Regulation - LAISSEZ-FAIRE– Actively pro Big-Business: “Less

government in business and more business in government.”

– ICC, FTC, Federal Reserve Board all become pro big business – why ironic?

• LABOR UNIONS decline in strength and number – why?– Pro-biz government policy– Association with communism & radicalism


• Benefit greatly frompost-war policy

• TR’s American Legion• 1921 – Veterans Bureau• 1924 – Bonus Bill

– Bill passes & calls for bonus to vets to make up for wages lost during war service

– Harding vetoes– Bill passes again in 1924– Coolidge’s veto is overridden – Benefits to be paid in 20 years (1945)


• Isolationism!

– League of Nations issue decided

– WWI ended by joint resolution of Congress, 1920

– Emergency Quota Act, 1921 (3% of 1910 census numbers allowed in)

– National Origins Act, 1924•Discriminatory to S & E

Europe, Asia, Africa in manner applied (2% of 1890 census #s get in)

•85% of new immigrants from N & W Europe

• Japanese totally excluded


– Immigration drops from over one million/year to only 150,000/year by ’27

– More leave in 1931 than arrived!– ELLIS ISLAND: for processing and


Economic Isolationism:

• TARRIFF PROTECTION – Fordney-McCumber Tariff, 1922– Fear flood of cheap European goods– Reversed Wilson’s low tariff (27% to 40%)– Allowed P to raise/lower tariffs based on

advice of specially appointed Tariff Commission

– Effect: Prolongs postwar chaos in Europe

• Taxation/Spending (Mellon)– Income tax cuts for wealthy (from 73% to

40%)– Country prospers from trickle-down theory– Budget balanced

Scandals in Harding’s Administration:

• Most corrupt administration since Grant– Reflects “get rich quick” mentality of 20’s

• OHIO GANG – poker-playing friends who used their connections to sell government pardons & immunities & appointments

• Forbes, Director of the Veteran’s Bureau, embezzles $200 million

• Attorney General Daugherty –illegal sale of pardons & liquor permits – resigns in ’24

• Affairs – several & even has illegitimate child with secretary

• WORST scandal is TEAPOT DOME SCANDAL:– Sec. Of Interior, Albert Fall, leased

out oil reserves that had been set aside for the U.S. Navy at Teapot Dome, WY for use by private individuals

– Bribery! Took $100,000 from an oilman & $300,000 from Henry Sinclair in exchange for leases to the land

– Scandal breaks in 1923 but Harding dies before it breaks publicly

• Harding felt betrayed by his friends when he first learned of Teapot Dome

• Sick/depressed; took a trip to Alaska with his wife & doctors (1923)

• On return home, gets ill & dies before scandals were made public

• Fall arrested & convicted & sent to prison for a year

• Harding is part of the 20 Year White House Curse!


“Silent Cal”“Cautious Cal”A Vermont YankeeOnly VP sworn into office his fatherOnly President born on 4th of JulySlept 10 hours a night and took a 4 hour nap every day!

The Coolidge Years

Problems of Farmersin the 20’s:

Prices down in ’20 & ’21 & never recoveredWheat production up during war ; return of foreign products & end of gov’t purchases brings price downAgricultural revolution led to surplus of crops1 in 4 farms sold for debt or taxes in the 1920s

Allies who owed $ to U.S. would buy their food imports from other countriesMcNary-Haugen Bill (gov’t to purchase surplus & sell it abroad & keep prices high)

Vetoed twice by Coolidge

Election of 1924Coolidge – RepublicanProgressives ran LaFollette

Anti-monopoly, anti-labor legislation, calls for ownership of RRs & limits on the power of the Supreme Court to invalidate laws in response to the conservative court appointees of HardingWhy don’t the Progressives do well?

Division in Democratic PartyBetween wets/drys, urban/rural, fundamentalists/modernists, northern/southern, immigrants/old stock AmericansSelect John W. Davis – wealthy lawyer - as compromise candidate

Led to easy victory for Coolidge“KEEP COOL WITH COOLIDGE!”Don’t “rock the boat” – keep business thriving


$10.3 billion owed to US but Allies not paying:Argue high US tariffs hurting their economiesUS lost fewer people in war so should assume more of debt

US responds that Allies got territory & reparations – US didn’tAllies turn the screws on Germany for reparations payments – send in troops

Dawes Plan, 1924Reschedules German reparation paymentsAllows for private loans to Germany:

Creates a web in which US bankers loan $ to Germany who repays the Allies, who in turn repay American loans!

Hoover Moratorium – 1931Germany given a break for a year and then supposed to start payments up againDidn’t – London Conference 1953 required Germany to resume payments….they finally paid in full in October, 2010

U.S. had already made agreements with 17 out of 20 nations reducing their debts (30% to 80% reductions)

KELLOGG-BRIAND PACTA 1928 Treaty that attempted to outlaw warFrance & U.S. took the lead in getting it accomplished64 nations sign the treatyWeaknesses:

Countries retained right to defend themselves against aggressionNO MEANS OF ENFORCEMENT (without aggression!)

Really just an “International Kiss”Other foreign policy issues?

BIG BUSINESS FLOURISHESMass production, standardized products, and nationwide market lead to the growth of big business with many mergers and consolidationsFavored over small since only big business can afford assembly lines & national advertising

“The business ofAmerica is business.”

“The man who builds a factory builds a temple.”

Calvin Coolidge