The Spectacle Blog

Calvin Coolidge’s Advice for Gov. Scott Walker

By on 2.18.11 | 2:57PM

Boston, Massachusetts. 1919.

The Boston police had decided -- against the law -- that they would organize a union. The police commissioner said they were in violation of the law. Samuel Gompers, the head of the American Federation of Labor, jumped into the middle of the dispute and issued the police an AFL charter as a union. The police went on strike.

The situation was rapidly deteriorating.

Governor Calvin Coolidge was furious. The police were fired by the Commissioner of Police, and Coolidge backed him up, calling out the National Guard. The Governor refused to re-instate the union policemen. Said Coolidge: "There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, any time, anywhere."

The statement electrified the nation and assured Coolidge a place on the 1920 Republican ticket as vice president. With the death of Warren Harding, Coolidge became president.

Wrote Coolidge in his memoirs:

This phrase caught the attention of the nation. It was beginning to be clear that if voluntary associations were to be permitted to substitute their will for the authority of public officials the end of our government was at hand. The issue was nothing less than whether the law which the people had made through their duly authorized agencies should be supreme.

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