Thesis: Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover led the nation from post World War I recession, to the roaring twenties, and then into a depression. Republicans sought to serve the public good less by direct government action and more through cooperation with big business. The United States was continuing political isolationism. The Politics of Boom and Bust
The Republican “Old Guard” Returns
Pres. Harding looked the part as president—tall, handsome, silver-haired and was friendly and popular. But, he was of average intelligence and he was gullible. The saying was that George Washington couldn't tell a lie and Harding couldn't tell a liar. Harding sought to collect the "best minds" to be in his administration. Charles Evans Hughes became secretary of state. He was very able in that role. Andrew Mellon became secretary of the treasury and managed the budget extremely well. Due to his food-saving successes in WWI, Herbert Hoover became secretary of commerce. Despite the highlights above, there were also huge duds in the Harding administration. Albert B.Fall was a schemer and anti-conservationist, yet was appointed secretary of the interior to manage natural resources. Harry M. Daugherty was a small-town lawyer, was crooked, yet was appointed attorney general. GOP Reaction at the Throttle
Harding was a good man at heart, but he lacked the vigor of a strong leader. In Harding, the less-than-honest had the perfect front for their schemes. The "Old Guard", McKinley-style industrialists sought to further laissez-faire; in other words, to let business run wild and free. Harding appointed 4 Supreme Court justices. Three were standard traditionalists. The other was former president William Taft as chief justice. He judged a bit more liberal. The conservative court halted progressive laws.
A federal child-labor law was stopped.
In the case of Adkins v. Children's Hospital the court reversed its own reasoning that had been set in Muller v. Oregon. The Muller case had said women need special protection in the work place. The Adkins decision erased the idea of women's protection at work and wiped out a minimum wage law for women. The Anti-trust laws which had been applied during the Progressive years were set aside. The Harding-era trend was clear for businesses: it's a go for expansion and free from fear that the government might interfere. An example would be the I.C.C. (the Interstate Commerce Commission, set up to regulate the railroads). It was made up of men sympathetic to the railroad managers. The Aftermath of the War
With the war over, the government stepped back and away from business intervention. Two examples were that the War Industries Board was gone and control of the railroads went back to private enterprise in the Esch-Cummins Transportation Act. The federal government got out of shipping by passing the Merchant Marine Act (1920). It authorized the Shipping Board to sell some 1,500 WWI-era ships to private shippers. This meant a smaller navy and less hassles. In the era of laissez-faire and pro-business policies, the labor movement struggled badly. A bloody strike was broken in 1919, crippling the labor movement. In 1922, the Railway Labor Board cut wages by 12%. This started a two month strike. Atty. Gen. Daugherty laid down a stinging injunction and crushed the strike. This was a near-death blow to labor unions and union enrollment dropped by 30%. Veterans began organizing. Teddy Roosevelt started the American Legion in Paris in 1919. Vets got together socially, but also for other reasons, mainly seeking money. The vets sought wages lost while away and/or veterans benefits. Their pressure got Congress to pass a "bonus" bill, Harding vetoed it. Congress passed another, the Adjusted Compensation Act, Pres. Calvin Coolidge vetoed it, but Congress overrode the veto. America Seeks Benefits Without Burdens
Because the Senate had not approved of the Treaty of Versailles, America was still,...