Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding was the 29th President of the United States.
Warren Gamaliel Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Corsica, Ohio. He spent most of his youth at nearby Caledonia, Ohio. Beginning in 1879, Harding attended Ohio Central College. Three years later, he and a friend purchased the Marion Star, a newspaper in Marion, Ohio.
Harding struggled as a newspaper owner and editor for several years. The paper's future improved once Harding married Florence Kling De Wolfe, a wealthy divorcee. With an infusion of money from his new bride, Harding was able to expand his newspaper, making it one of the most popular and politically powerful ones in central Ohio.
In 1898, Harding embarked on a political career, winning election to the Ohio legislature in both 1898 and 1900 as a Republican. In 1903, he became the state's lieutenant governor. Following a two-year stint in this office, Harding returned to the Marion Star, but his life in politics was far from over.
In 1914, following an unsuccessful campaign for Ohio governor's seat, Harding won election to the United States Senate. As senator, Harding actively supported business interests by calling for high protective tariffs. Like many other Republicans, he also endorsed the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Volstead Act. Both of these documents helped enact Prohibition in the United States. Harding also was a strong opponent of President Woodrow Wilson's peace plan, known as the Fourteen Points, for World War I. Interestingly, Harding missed approximately two-thirds of the votes held during his time in the Senate, including one for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In 1920, the Republican Party deadlocked on its candidate for president of the United States. Finally, Harding received the nomination. He won the presidential election of 1920 with sixty-one percent of the popular vote. Harding was the first sitting-senator in American history to win election to the presidency. As president, Harding either personally overturned or permitted the Republican-controlled Congress to reverse many of former President Woodrow Wilson's policies. During Harding's administration, the federal government implemented high protective tariffs, limited immigration, reduced taxes, and eliminated spending controls instituted during World War I. The Republicans' actions led to the Roaring Twenties, but they also contributed to the Great Depression's outbreak.
For the most part, Harding proved to be a poor manager of the federal government. He delegated authority to his cabinet officials. These men became known as the "Ohio Gang." Unfortunately for Harding and the country, many of these men proved to be unscrupulous, causing a great deal of distrust among the American people for their government officials. It is unclear, however, how much Harding knew of his subordinates' actions. Perhaps, the worst scandal of Harding's administration was the Teapot Dome Scandal. Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall rented government lands to oil companies in return for personal loans. Fall was found guilty of this illegal action and was sentenced to prison in 1931. Adding to the corruption, Thomas Miller, chairman of the Office of Alien Property, accepted bribes, and Charles Forbes, the head of the Bureau of Veterans' Affairs, embezzled funds. At this same time, it became known that Harding commonly drank alcohol in the White House, although this was a direct violation of Prohibition. The American people also began to hear rumors of extramarital affairs that Harding engaged in, including one with a friend's wife, Carrie Fulton Phillips, and another with neighbor Nan Britton. Britton claimed after Harding's death to have conceived a daughter with Harding while he was a senator.
While these various scandals were becoming public knowledge, Harding left Washington, D.C., to travel across the country and to meet with typical Americans. Harding wanted to address the American people personally and educate them about his policies. Harding also hoped that a trip to the western coastline of the United States might assist his ailing wife. While on this trip, Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1923, probably of a heart attack.
- Mee, Charles L., Jr. The Ohio Gang: The World of Warren G. Harding. New York, NY: M. Evans, 1981.
- Murray, Robert K. The Harding Era: Warren G. Harding and His Administration. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1969.
- Murray, Robert K. The Politics of Normalcy: Governmental Theory and Practice in the Harding-Coolidge Era. New York, NY: Norton, 1973.
- Trani, Eugene P, and David L. Wilson. The Presidency of Warren G. Harding. Lawrence: Regents Press of Kansas, 1977.