Will Rogers on Calvin Coolidge

Donald Day, ed., The Autobiography of Will Rogers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1949), pp.307-308. Copyright 1949 by Rogers Company; renewed 1977 by Donald Day and Beth Day. Reprinted without permission of the publisher.

Beverly Hills, January 5:

Mr. Coolidge, you didn't have to die for me to throw flowers on your grave. I have told a million jokes about you but everyone was based on some of your splendid qualities. You had a hold on the American people regardless of politics. They knew you were honest, economical and had a native common sense. History generally records a place for a man that is ahead of his time. But we that lived with you will always remember you because you was ''with" your times. By golly, you little red-headed New Englander, I liked you. You put horse sense into statesmanship and Mrs. Coolidge's admiration for you is an American trait.

January 7:

Did Coolidge Know the Bust was Coming? Well we just canít hardly get over the shock of the death of Mr. Coolidge.

I have had many Republican politicians tell me, "Will, you are one of Mr. Coolidge's best boosters." Well I did like him. I could get a laugh out of almost all the little things he said, but at the same time they were wise. He could put more in a line than any public man could in a whole speech.

Here is a thing do you reckon Mr. Coolidge worried over in late years? Now he could see further than any of these politicians. Things were going so fast and everybody was so cuckoo during his term in office, that lots of them just couldnít possibly see how it could ever do otherwise than go up. Now Mr. Coolidge didnít think that. He knew that it couldn't. He knew that we couldn't just keep running stocks and everything else up and up and them paying no dividends in comparison to the price. His whole fundamental training was against all that inflation. Now there was times when he casually in a speech did give some warning but he really never did come right out and say, ''Hold on there, this thing canít go on! You people are crazy. This thing has got to bust.''

But how could he have said or done that? What would have been the effect? Everybody would have said, "Ha, whatís the idea of butting into our prosperity? Here we are going good, and you our President try to crab it. Let us alone. We know our business."

There is a thousand things they would have said to him or about him. He would have come in for a raft of criticism. The Republican Party, the party of big business, would have done their best to have stopped him, for they couldn't see it like he did, and they never could have understood until a year later.

Later in his own heart did Calvin Coolidge ever wish that he had preached it from the housetops regardless of what big business, his party, or what anybody would have said?

Now here is another thing too in Mr. Coolidge's favor in not doing it. He no doubt ever dreamed of the magnitude of this depression. That is he knew the thing had to bust, but he didnít think it would bust so big, or be such a permanent bust. Had he known of the tremendous extent of it, I'll bet he would have defied hell and damnation and told and warned the people about it. Now in these after years as he saw the thing overwhelm everybody, he naturally thought back to those hectic days when as President the country was paying a dollar down on everything on earth.

But all this is what they call in baseball a ''Second Guess.'' Itís easy to see now what might have helped lighten or prolong the shock, but put yourself in his place and I guess 99 out of a 100 would have done as he did.

Now on the other hand in saying he saw the thing coming, might be doing him an injustice. He might not. He may not have known any more about it than all our other prominent men. But we always felt he was two jumps ahead of any of them on thinking ahead.