1920 & Warren G. Harding

1920 & Warren G. Harding

David Pietrusza has written 1920 – The year of The Six Presidents. His description of this interesting period of American history is very well written. Warren G. Harding is one of the historical figures he discusses. Harding Harding was the 29th President from 1921 to 1923. He was a Republican Senator from Ohio. Even thought he appointed such distinguished people as Charles Evans Hughes, Andrew Mellon and Herbert Hoover to positions of importance his administration was so scandal ridden as to be ranked as one of the least significant of all the American presidents. He was the sixth president to die in office. While in San Francisco in 1923 he died of what was said to be food poisoning and then stroke. The actual reason for his death is somewhat controversial.

Harding was a philanderer and an unlikely person to be elected president. Before his election he had engaged in a long affair with a married woman while he was married. He also impregnated more then one woman including a school girl, Nan Britton plus engaging in affairs with numerous women.

Nor was he great speaker. One observer noted "His speeches left the impression of an army of pompous phrases moving over the mind scape in search of an idea. Sometimes these meandering words would actually capture a straggling thought and bear it triumphantly, a prisoner in their midst, until it died of servitude and overwork."

He was not a hard worker either. Someone else described his performance in the Senate as "a turtle on a log sunning himself."

At the nominating convention it was said "Warren Harding is the best of the second-raters." The acerbic H.L. Mencken said of Harding "Harding has the intellectual grade of an aging cockroach."

The best known of many scandals during Harding’s administration became known as the "Teapot Dome Scandal." The reference was to a rock that looked like a teapot in Wyoming near government oil reserve lands. Harding had appointed New Mexico Senator Albert B. Fall as Secretary of the Interior. Fall convinced Edward Denby, Secretary of the Navy to turn over jurisdiction of the oil fields to the Department of Interior. Fall then leased the reserves to Harry Sinclair of Sinclair Oil, then known as Mammoth Oil, without any competitive bidding. He did the same with oil reserves in California to another oil company. In return, Fall was given no interest "personal loans" and "gifts" of some $400,000 which in 1921 was a considerable sum of money.

Fall was discovered and found guilty of bribery. He was fined and sentenced to prison, which was the first time a presidential cabinet member was sent to prison for crimes during their time in government. But, this was only one of the scandals that made Harding an incompetent president. More later about this man and the book.

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