With nearly 250 years since its foundation, the United States currently has had 45 presidents, but not every president is exemplary and left legacies for America. Some presidents even had a negative reputation. Due to a presidential appearance, Warren G. Harding was actively encouraged by his relatives and helped by them to become the 29th President of the United States (Pecquet). However, during two years of his tenure, he did almost nothing remarkable. Mentioning this president, people only remember his affairs and luxurious pleasures (Payne). However, why do people judge him as such a bad president? To understand the cause, it is necessary to look back on Harding's political life with his wife’s support, the scandals in his own cabinet, and his bohemian private life.
Harding's success did not come from his ability but from support from his relatives, especially his wife, Florence. Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Corsica, later called Blooming Grove, in Ohio. Having doctors as parents, his childhood was more fulfilling than other kids at that time. At the age of 14, Harding entered the University of Central Ohio (“Warren Gamaliel Harding”). With his innate speech talent, he was admired by many people and assigned to take charge of the school's internal newspaper. Also with this talent, Harding could later rise to the top, despite the lack of ability (Downes).
After graduating from university in 1882, he returned to his hometown to work as a teacher at a small school and sold insurance as a secondary job. In 1882, he and two friends bought the daily newspaper Marion Star in Marion, Ohio, which was nearly bankrupt. Under Harding's management, this newspaper also had certain achievements but nothing outstanding (Downes).
After that, he met Florence Kling de Wolfe and married her in 1891. Florence was born on August 15, 1860. Her father wanted to have a son and, as an only child, Florence had to play the role of a boy, so she had a tough personality. At the time of meeting Harding, Florence had just divorced her ex-husband, but she was a woman who had a good vision and financial resources. Immediately, she managed the financial function of Marion Star and brought record sales, making this daily newspaper even stronger. That's why Warren called his wife 'boss,' and later “duchess' (Pecquet).
In 1898, with his wife’s urging, Warren G. Harding took his first steps into the political arena. With his reputation and his wife’s support, in the same year, he won a seat in the Ohio state legislature and served two consecutive terms. As a typical conservative Republican and innate speaker, Harding received durable support from the heads of cities in the state, leading to the development of his political career. In 1903, he became governor of the state and held this position for two years before returning to journalism (Downes).
In 1910, Harding again ran for the governor position but failed. However, he succeeded in running for the US Senate. As a senator, he actively supported the benefits of businesses and the imposition of moderate taxes on business units. Not only that, but he also chose to operate safely, and not to participate in controversial issues; therefore, many people mistakenly thought that he was an 'always right' politician (Downes).
By 1920, Harry Daugherty, a politician that had a reputation and was a longtime friend of Harding, began to campaign to nominate his friend to the position of president because he “looks like a president' according to Daugherty (Noggle). Being in a basic family in the United States, there were no major political opponents or controversy, and being a representative of Ohio, an important state, Harding could take part in the campaign smoothly (Downes).
At the Republican conference occurring in June 1920, after eleven rounds of voting, Harding officially became a candidate for the party to run for president at the election that year. During the election campaign, Harding used safe speeches, not many new points, even considered cliché but easy for the voters to hear (Downes). At the same time, Florence strove to help disabled veterans and fight for women's rights. Many historians argued that his wife’s support was the factor to help Harding’s campaign to succeed. To the public eye, she was considered an indispensable part of her husband (Tester).
In the election that year, Harding easily won with a ratio of 37 of the 48 states electing Warren G. Harding. Warren became the 29th President of the United States exactly as Florence wanted (Downes). His friends in the Republic Party knew that Florence was tougher and smarter than her husband. Florence insisted on participating in all political discussions and was remembered as a commanding person. Florence Harding became a dazzling first lady. She hosted press conferences and encouraged women to learn careers and play sports to be equal to men. Therefore, she was considered an archetype for many American women (Tester).
Despite his wife’s and friends’ help to rise to the pinnacle of his political career, Harding himself ruined everything, making his political life unremarkable and disreputable. During Harding's term, his administration did some notable work such as signing the Budget and Accounting Act, which allowed the president to submit his budget plan to Congress and established an audit office to audit government spending. He also supported African-American civil rights and agricultural development. Financial and foreign affairs were also actively promoted by the government of Harding. The US banking system thrived, reaching its global position. The US government also successfully negotiated many important trade agreements with its partners in Asia and the Middle East. The Harding administration also played an important role in rebuilding Europe after World War I and opening trade with Asia (Downes). However, in fact, the government's achievements under the administration of Harding were largely due to the self-regulating, self-sufficiency of the government. In fact, the president transferred his power to his subordinates (Payne).
It was also because of that neglect that Harding's tenure was full of scandals, beginning with some of his unscrupulous and corrupt senior positions. Despite all the problems they created, Harding still believed in appointing his old friends, whom the press at that time called the 'Ohio gang' (hinting implicitly at those who acted stealthily like mafias in Ohio at the time), to enter the cabinet list and to serve as commanders in many key areas. Among them, the most notable names are Albert B. Fall, who was appointed as Secretary of Interior, Edwin C. Denby, and Harry Daugherty, who respectively took the Secretary of Navy Secretary of and Justice (Noggle).
The lack of responsibility in the way of selecting cabinet members quickly made the new president pay an expensive cost. Public perceptions at that time pointed out that Albert B. Fall robbed lands and properties into his own pocket. He convinced Harding to delegate supervision of oil reserves from the Department of Navy to the Department of the Interior. After that, Albert's ploy involved leasing oil companies around the Elk Hills oilfield in California and Teapot Dome in Wyoming and collecting the profits in his own pocket. However, man plans God laughs: the president's shadow could not be big enough to shield the intrigued Albert, and the incident was revealed. The investigations showed that Albert B. Fall had received bribes of over $ 400,000 (Payne). He had to resign and was convicted of corruption, becoming the first cabinet member in American history to be imprisoned. Whether the investigation agencies were unable to find or were forced to suppress evidence of Warren Harding's solidarity, Harding's prestige was shaken and fell sharply (Noggle).
Even Harding's close friend and also his manager of political activities, Harry Daugherty, also faced several impeachment votes in Congress and was prosecuted twice for alleged government fraud and was forced to resign later. Harding himself repeatedly confessed that he had no preparation for becoming president and was incompatible with the position of president and “should not have been here [The White House] at all' (Payne). With managing the cabinet ineffectively and using people emotionally, Warren Harding is classified by historians as the most inferior president in American history.
In 1923, news of corruption in Harding's administration began to spread among the public. In that summer, President Harding and his wife, and his political advisers were active and outlined measures to rectify the government in the hope of saving his reputation. However, his wish was never successful. After a business trip to Alaska in the summer of 1923, the president's health dropped rapidly. On August 2, 1923, President Harding suffered a heart attack and died shortly after. For a long time, people believed that the president was indeed poisoned by his wife. According to the press, the reason was that she resented his affairs with other women. However, this incident has never been thoroughly investigated (Ferrell).
The rumors about Florence poisoning her husband are understandable because Harding was famous for his mischievous playfulness from his youth, especially his gambling, and adultery (Ferrell). The president regularly invited friends to the White House to have meals and to drink, regardless of violating the prohibition ban imposed at that time. He did the same with gambling. On one occasion, he lost a whole set of precious Chinese porcelain cups in just one game. In addition, golf, yacht, and fishing were also his hobbies (Payne).
Not only that, but the president was also closely connected with love affairs. Officially, the President had only one wife and no two children between them. However, in 1927, a woman named Nan Britton, less than 31 years old from Harding, published a book and said that she had been with the president for a long time. Britton also claimed that she had children with the deceased president. However, Britton was then unable to prove the information she had provided because she burned all the love letters between two people at Harding's request. It was not until August 2015 that new genetic analysis techniques showed that Britton was telling the truth. Her daughter Elizabeth Ann Blaesing was exactly Harding's daughter, ending the nearly century-long dispute between the Britton and Harding families (Ferrell).
In 1963, people continued to discover a store of love letters between Harding and a woman named Carrie Phillips. She was the wife of a close friend of the presidential family and even sneaked back and forth with Harding for 15 years without anyone knowing. This affair was said to have happened more than 10 years ago when Harding became president and at the same time, Harding traveled with Britton. On the whole, all his life, Harding cheated his wife with several different affairs (Payne).
Ninety-five years after his death, Warren Harding is mentioned as one of the worst presidents in US history. Lack of talent, Haring still became the president with his wife’s and friend’s support. However, his political arena would have been better if he had not been irresponsible in the way of choosing the cabinet and controlled his personal pleasures. Scandals around him destroyed his life’s reputation. Until now, people still argue and investigate his love affairs. Perhaps, people only remember him as the 29th president of the US but not his legacies or achievements.