Warren Harding Essay, Research Paper
Warren Gamaliel Harding was the twenty-ninth president of
the United States. He was the sixth president to die in office.
Harding was a tall, handsome man with a resounding voice and a
pleasing personality. At the time he was nominated for
president, he was not widely known. He had become prominent in
Ohio as a newspaper editor, and had been elected to the state
senate. The conservative wing of his political party had found
him a safe, dependable man. He had shown no particular ability
except the ability to attract and to get votes.
Harding received the Republican party’s nomination for
president at the Chicago Convention of 1920. Harding and his
vice president, Calvin Coolidge, were elected by an overwhelming
majority of the popular and electoral votes over his opponents,
James M. Cox and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
From the beginning of his administration, Harding depended
heavily on his Congress and Cabinet to provide leadership. He
chose several qualified men to serve in his cabinet, but he also
chose many cabinet members because they were his friends or
because he owed them political debts. Many of them proved to be
completely unworthy of trust or of high office.
Harding declared early in his presidency that it was the
government’s return to normalcy. His election was interpreted to
mean that the people did not want either the Versailles Treaty or
the League of Nations. The United States made separate treaties
with Germany and its allies, and refused to take part in world
affairs. Harding believed that the U.S. should take part in the
World Court, but at the same time he approved of limitations
which would have made the Court almost powerless by separating it
completely from the League of Nations.
The most important achievement of Harding’s administration
was the Disarmament Conference which met in Washington in 1921.
Popular demand, heard through the Senate, initiated this
conference. The people wanted to put an end to the naval
competition that had sprung up between the United States and
Japan, but the administration broadened the scope of the
conference. It included an effort to limit the more dangerous
political and economic rivalries in the Far East. All the
important nations took part in this conference, and agreed to
limit their armaments, but when some nations were ready to rearm,
the agreement did not stop them from doing so.
In domestic affairs, Harding’s administration followed a
strongly conservative policy. The government had a hands-off
attitude toward business. Taxes on high incomes were reduced.
Duties on imports were raised by the Fordney-McCumber Act. The
government took the side of business in its struggles with labor,
and the Department of Justice hunted down radicals wherever they
could be found. Harding vetoed the first bonus law, mainly
because he believed that the bonus was financially unsound.
Meanwhile, important events were taking place behind the
scenes. In May, 1921, Secretary Fall persuaded President Harding
to sign an order which gave the Department of the Interior
authority over certain oil reserves in the West. These reserves,
known as Teapot Dome and Elk Hills, belonged to the United States
Navy. The Department of the Interior then proceeded to lease
these reserves to private oil companies. It was later proved
that Secretary Fall had accepted a bribe for the transfer of
naval oil reserves to private interests, and he was sent to
prison. Secretary Denby was also involved in the scandal. Soon
after the leases were signed, Senator Robert La Follette demanded
a Senate investigation. Agents of the Department of Justice and
the Veterans’ Bureau were accused of dishonest practices. The
Senate obtained information that could have had Harding
In 1923, Harding fell ill with food poisoning during a cross
country speechmaking tour. He was exhausted and developed
pneumonia. He seemed to be recovering. Then he died on August 2.
The exact cause of his death is not known.
His most important achievement was the Disarmament Conference of
1921. It was good because it limited arms in many powerful