Date of Award

12-2004

Document Type

Campus Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

First Advisor

Timothy Hacsi

Second Advisor

Vincent Cannato

Third Advisor

Paul G. Faler

Abstract

The Massachusetts political career of future president Calvin Coolidge from 1906-1920 was examined. Liberal historians remember Calvin Coolidge as a reactionary conservative who "detested government" and broke the Boston police union in September 1919. Conservative historians have celebrated Coolidge's limited government, tax-cutting philosophy as the visionary model lor later-day supply-side economics. Exploring Coolidge's actual record while he ascended politically in Massachusetts from House member to state Senator, Senate President, Lt. Governor and ultimately Governor show that there is an alternative interpretation of America's least understood president, that of a progressive liberal.

Coolidge has been misunderstood because subsequent biographers have either dismissed him as a weak and simple leader who helped cause the Great Depression, or have praised his conservative pro-business presidency. A brief historiography covering the major Coolidge biographies was written as an introduction in order to get at the origins oflhe vastly dirferent but exclusively conservative perceptions of Coolidge.

The second and third sections concentrate on the two major labor strikes during Coolidge's career, the Lawrence strike of 1912, and the Boston police strike of 1919. Using primary source biographies written before the Great Crash, newspapers, the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of Labor and the Coolidge Collection at the Massachusetts State House Library, to understand the major issues and Coolidge's role in both strikes, reveal that Coolidge was pro-labor, anti-monopoly, an advocate for the dispossessed and progressive during all his years as a politician in Massachusetts.

Coolidge valued the rights of labor unions, yielded to strikers when he believed their demands were just and refused to use the power of government to break strikes unless public safety was at risk. Rejecting the notion that Coolidge was only progressive for a short time as a young man, the evidence demonstrates he held a liberal outlook during all his years of public service. The conclusion asserts that Coolidge has a place in Massachusetts's long progressive tradition and that there were traces of his progressivism that were manifest even during his conservative presidency.

Comments

Free and open access to this Campus Access Thesis is made available to the UMass Boston community by ScholarWorks at UMass Boston.

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