Biography of Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States

President Warren G. Harding At Desk
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Warren Gamaliel Harding (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923) was the 29th president of the United States. He was in office when World War I was formally ended by the signing of the Knox–Porter Resolution. Harding died of a heart attack while he was still in the White House; he was succeeded by his vice president, Calvin Coolidge.

Fast Facts: Warren G. Harding

  • Known For: Harding was the 29th president of the United States; he died of a heart attack while he was still in office.
  • Born: November 2, 1865 in Blooming Grove, Ohio
  • Parents: George Tryon Harding and Phoebe Elizabeth Dickerson Harding
  • Died: August 2, 1923 in San Francisco, California
  • Education: Ohio Central College (B.A.)
  • Spouse: Florence Kling (m. 1891-1923)
  • Children: Elizabeth
  • Notable Quote: "America's present need is not heroics, but healing; not nostrums, but normalcy; not revolution, but restoration; not agitation, but adjustment; not surgery, but serenity; not the dramatic, but the dispassionate; not experiment, but equipoise; not submergence in internationality, but sustainment in triumphant nationality."

Early Life

Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Corsica, Ohio. His father George was a doctor, and his mother Phoebe was a midwife. Warren was raised on the family farm and attended a small local school. When he was only 14 years old, he began attending Ohio Central College. As a student, Warren and a friend published a small paper called the Iberia Spectator. Warren graduated from college in 1882.

Career

After college, Harding worked briefly as a teacher, an insurance salesman, and a reporter before buying a newspaper called the Marion Star. Through persistence and hard work he was able to turn the failing newspaper into a powerful local institution. Harding used the paper to promote local businesses and build relationships with advertisers.

On July 8, 1891, Harding married Florence Mabel Kling DeWolfe. She was divorced with one son. Harding is known to have had two extramarital affairs while married to Florence. He had no legitimate children; however, he did later have one daughter—Elizabeth—through an extramarital affair with Nan Britton.

In 1899, Harding was elected as an Ohio State Senator. He served until 1903, making a name for himself as one of the most popular Republicans in Ohio. He was then elected lieutenant governor of the state. Harding attempted to run for the governorship but lost in 1910. In 1915, he became a U.S. Senator from Ohio, a position he held until 1921. As a senator, Harding was part of Congress's Republican minority, and he tried to preserve his popularity by avoiding controversial political positions. On the subject of women's suffrage, for example, he did not voice support until other Senate Republicans did, and he took stances both for and against Prohibition.

Presidential Election

Harding was nominated to run for president for the Republican Party as a dark horse candidate following the 1919 death of Theodore Roosevelt, the party's favorite. Harding's running mate was Calvin Coolidge, the governor of Massachusetts. He was opposed by Democrat James Cox. In 1920, Harding won the election with 60 percent of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes.

Presidency

President Harding's time in office was marked by several major scandals. The most significant scandal was known as Teapot Dome. Secretary of the Interior Albert Fall secretly sold the right to oil reserves in Teapot Dome, Wyoming, to a private company in exchange for $308,000 and some cattle. He also sold the rights to other national oil reserves. After he was caught, Fall was sentenced to one year in jail. Other officials under Harding were also implicated in or convicted of bribery, fraud, conspiracy, and other forms of wrongdoing. Harding died, however, before these events began to affect his presidency.

Unlike his predecessor, Woodrow Wilson, Harding did not support America joining the League of Nations (an early version of the United Nations). His opposition meant that America did not join the organization at all. The body ended in failure without America's participation. Even though America did not ratify the Treaty of Paris ending World War I, Harding did sign a joint resolution officially ending the state of war between Germany and America.

As part of his isolationist stance, Harding also opposed further American intervention in Latin America; he was critical of Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt for their involvement in American activities in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

From 1921 to 1922, America agreed to a limit of arms according to a set tonnage ratio between Great Britain, the United States, Japan, France, and Italy. Furthermore, America agreed to respect the Pacific property of Great Britain, France, and Japan and to preserve the Open Door Policy in China.

During his presidency, Harding also spoke out on civil rights and commuted the sentence of socialist Eugene V. Debs, who had been convicted of anti-war demonstrations during World War I and imprisoned in the Atlanta Penitentiary. Harding also released other anti-war activists. Though he was only in office for a short time, Harding made four appointments to the Supreme Court, nominating former president William Howard Taft, George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, and Edward Terry Sanford.

Death

On August 2, 1923, Harding died of a heart attack in San Francisco, California, which he was visiting as part of a tour of the western United States. He was succeeded as president by Calvin Coolidge.

Legacy

Harding is widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history. Much of this is due to the number of scandals that his appointees were involved in. He was important for keeping America out of the League of Nations while meeting with key nations to attempt to limit arms. He created the Bureau of the Budget as the first formal budgetary body. His early death probably saved him from impeachment over the many scandals of his administration.

Sources

  • Dean, John W. "Warren G. Harding." Thorndike Press, 2004.
  • Mee, Charles L. "Ohio Gang: the World of Warren G. Harding." M Evans & Co, 2014.