Chapter 35: “The Politics of Boom and Bust”
~ 1920 – 1932 ~
The Republican “Old Guard” Returns
Newly elected President
Warren G. Harding
was tall, handsome, and popular, but he had
a mediocre mind and he did not like to hurt people’s feelings.
Neither could he detect the corruption of his cabinet.
His cabinet did have some good officials, though, such as Secretary of State
, who was masterful, imperious, incisive, and brilliant, Secretary of
and Secretary of the Treasury
Andrew W. Mellon
However, people like Senator
Albert B. Fall
of New Mexico, a scheming anti-
conservationist, became secretary of the interior, and
Harry M. Daugherty
reigns as attorney general.
These two became the worst of the scandalous cabinet members.
GOP Reaction at the Throttle
A good man but a weak one, Harding was the perfect front for old-fashioned politicians to
set up a McKinley style old order back onto the U.S.
It hoped to improve on laissez-faire, and one of the examples of this was the
Supreme Court, where Harding appointed four of the nine justices, including
William H. Taft
, former president of the United States.
In the early 1920s, the Supreme Court killed a federal child-labor law.
In the case of
Adkins vs. Children’s Hospital
, the court reversed its ruling in the
Muller vs. Oregon
case by invalidating a minimum wage law for women.
Under Harding, corporations could expand again, and anti-trust laws were not as enforced
or downright ignored.
Men sympathetic to railroads headed the
Interstate Commerce Commission
The Aftermath of the War
Wartime government controls disappeared (i.e. the dismantling of the
) and Washington returned control of railroads to private hands by the
Cummins Transportation Act
Merchant Marine Act
of 1920 authorized the
, which controlled
about 1500 vessels, to get rid of a lot of ships at bargain prices, thus reducing the navy.
Labor lost much of its power, as a strike was ruthlessly broken in 1919, and the
ordered a wage cut of 12% in 1922.
Labor membership shrank by 30% from 1920 to 1930.
In 1921, the
was created to operate hospitals and provide vocational
rehabilitation for the disabled.
Many veterans wanted the monetary compensation promised to them for their
services in the war.
Adjusted Compensation Act
gave every former soldier a paid-up insurance
policy due in twenty years, and was passed by Congress twice (the second time to