Acton Institute Powerblog

The Declaration’s Great Defender

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My fellow members in the Calvin Coolidge Fan Club will appreciate Julia Shaw’s great article explaining why “the man remembered as ‘Silent Cal’ is one of the most eloquent voices for the great and enduring principles expressed in our Declaration of Independence.”

Historians remember Calvin Coolidge as saying the “chief business of the American people is business,” a quote that’s frequently taken out of context. . . .

Coolidge did not mean that Americans consider wealth to be the highest accomplishment. “The accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence,” he argued. “And there never was a time when wealth was so generally regarded as a means, or so little regarded as an end, as today.”

While Americans were “profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world,” their highest aim was not material success. Americans, he said, “make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization.” Americans were also concerned about character: “industry, thrift and self-control are not sought because they create wealth, but because they create character.”

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).

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