March 4th was Inauguration Day, the day Warren G. Harding would replace Woodrow Wilson and become the twenty-ninth president of the United States and the first Republican president since 1912. Harding's ascendency marked an end to eight years of Democratic control of the White House and was the crowning achievement for the Grand Old Party (GOP)...The country was ready, and had been for some time.
He was struggling with deficits and the budget plan was put into action with General Charles G. ("Hell and Maria") Dawes in command...Over one hundred thousand office holders were cut from Uncle Sam's pay-roll, and no Republicans were appointed to fill the vacancies. Harding was not in favor of an extra dollar for any salary.
Harding did not enter the national consciousness until he became a presidential candidate in 1920. In death his reputation underwent such an enormous and rapid degradation that much of the complexity and nuance of Harding's life evaporated. The simplifying of his story---first to fit the log cabin myth that permeated in the 1920 campaign and then to condemn---is one of the components separating public memory from history.
Some might scratch their heads at the notion that less government creates more jobs, but that is exactly what happened under Harding. By the year Harding died unemployment had plummeted from 11.7 percent to 2.4 percent. Entrepreneurs were responding to Harding’s refreshing idea that they should get more and the taxman less—radios, air conditioners, zippers, talking movies, and even sliced bread became popular during the 1920s
His controversial death spawned a conspiracy theory implicating his wife who was accused of his death by poisoning. She enhanced the charges by refusing to permit an autopsy or a death mask. His body was returned to Washington and placed in the Gold Room where a state funeral followed at the United states Capital Building.
It was Harding's trusted advisors, however, members with whom he regularly played poker and drank boot legged liquor, who turned his term in office into a scandal-ridden mess. The most well-known was the Teapot Dome Affair, in which the Secretary of the Interior took a large payoff in return for drilling rights to federal land...Harding was never directly implicated in any of these scandals, and before being fully investigated, he died suddenly in San Francisco in his last year in office.
The unpretentious way in which his campaign was conducted was indicated in the cards used in the Republican Convention in Chicago. They were the very same as those used in the state primaries a month previous, with the words "primaries (May 4th)" blotted out...All of which recalled the simplicity of Lincoln's campaign in 1860.
Although remembered for scandal, Harding did move the nation out of wartime emergency conditions. He increased federal hiring, proposed agricultural legislation, and created a Bureau of the Budget. He concluded the peace treaties with Germany, Austria, and Hungary. He also took strong action in the movement to limit the extended hours of labor in the American Steel Industry.
Prior to being President of the United States, Harding served as Ohio State Senator (1899-1903), Lieutenant Governor of Ohio (1903-1905), and U.S. Senator (1915-1921). As U.S. Senator, he had a terrible attendance record, missing over 2/3s of the roll-call votes, including the vote to send the 19th Amendment ( Women's Suffrage ) to the States for ratification.
Warren G. Harding is best known as America's worst president. A compelling case can be made, however, that to reach such a judgement one must ignore much of the relevant information about Harding and his presidency. For example, Andrew Sinclair, a Cambridge University historian and the first to publish after Harding's presidential papers were finally made available in 1964, reports that "it cannot be the verdict of any historian who has looked at the evidence of the papers preserved at the Ohio Historical Society."