Warren G. Harding, one of America's Greatest Presidents

by Murrell Selden

My grandmother, who was Edna Mae Harding, was a geneologist. She wrote Selden and Kindred of Virginia, an in depth book about the Selden Family. But, she never wrote a single thing about the Harding family. I always figured it was that (since she came from PA near OH) that it was because she was ashamed of being related to Warren G. Harding, former President of the USA. I cannot imagine what the relationship would be exactly.
Warren G. Harding (1865-1923)

Recently, a TV program (on cable) featured Warren G. Harding. I was surprised to find that three scandals occurred in his Presidency. But, historians said that he was not directly responsible for any of them. True, his Dept. of Interior appointee, had sold illegally, interests to Sinclair Oil. But, they said, about "Teapot Dome" that Harding had died and never knew anything about it. He was really not responsible at all. He was not responsible for the two other minor scandals either, though his people were involved.

After learning more about Harding, I think my grandmother had nothing to be ashamed of at all. I now believe Harding was one of America's greatest presidents.

His major problem was the muckrackers and Democrats trying to tear him down. But, what he really did was good.

He was the first Republican president to support the right of women to vote. He hailed this prospect at his acceptance speech in 1920. He was a leader in bringing about postwar economic development after WWI. He took responsibility and held governmental officials accountable. He is the first president to require budgets in all departments of the government - especially the War Dept. There was much graft and corruption in defense spending, and Harding brought it under control with budgets. I cannot think of a single big, successful company today without a budget.

Of course, for Harding, it would have been unthinkable to have checks bounce, as the world chess federation has allowed.

Sad to say, Harding died in 1924 and was not around to personally defend himself on the issue of Teapot Dome. I would say he was NOT GUILTY in the least! He may have been guilty of some bad associations - but most of his cabinet was made up of the highest quality men of the day. He appointed Charles Evans Hughes to State, Herbert Hoover to Commerce and Andrew Mellon to Treasury.

I hope the chess people have a budget and have accounting controls that will prevent them from passing bad checks. But, remember Harding, as he received little love for his excellent efforts on behalf of the US Government. Harding said that he wanted government out of people's business, but he wanted government to be businesslike and to tend to its business in an efficient way. I shudder to think of what may have happened, in the event the War Dept. had no budget by WWII.

In conclusion, I now believe Harding to have been one of the greatest presidents, a man after my own heart. And, maybe, could be Great Grandpa.

I cannot say what relationship my grandmother, Edna Mae Harding, had to Pres. Harding. Maybe he was my great grandpa, or probably not. But, there may well be a relationship. Just how close, I cannot say.

I would note that the 1920's was a farm economy with growth of big business, such as the oil trusts and cartels. PA was very big in the oil interests. No doubt, the oil interests of the Rockefeller family was involved somehow. In fact, I would not be surprised if the Standard Oil interests vs. Sinclair were not at the root of much of the muckracking. This would have to be investigated, but it seems clear to me that such motivation must have existed.

Harding was actually from a poor family. He was everyman's president (and everywoman's president). His became the dream of the common man - to be president of the U. S. without being a rich man. It was true for him! Today, Clinton has been under "financial attack" due to his not being a billionaire. Sad to say, but it seems that vast riches are required (or at least some very good financial friends) to ward off evil. (Being chaste or celibate could perhaps be helpful!). As far as I know, Harding was "true to his office."

I would say that Harding did an excellent job for a common man without the trappings of the rich. Of course, he was not Jesus Christ. And, I would say, even though Harding was not guilty (my opinion) of Teapot Dome, I cannot say it was all bad (in view of the fact that there were no Anti-Trust laws in that day). In my view, the smearing of Harding took advantage of ignorant farmers (the most of the population in his day) via muckracking newspapers run by big business!

Best wishes.

Murrell Selden

To contact the author, please send e-mail to Murrell Selden at the following address: murrellg@mediaone.net
Editor's Notes: Warren G. Harding died on August 2, 1923 at age 58 inside the Palace Hotel on Market Street in San Francisco, which is now known as the Sheraton Palace Hotel. At the moment that Harding died, the Western Chess Championship, now known as the US Open Chess Championship, was being played across the street at the Mechanics Institute.

I discovered this fact when I was in the San Francisco Public Library looking through 1923 editions of the San Francisco Call, the leading newspaper in San Francisco at the time, looking for games and results in the Western Chess Championship being played, when the newspapers blared out that Harding had died.

The co-winner of the chess tournament was Norman T. Whitaker, an international chess master and notorious criminal who, along with Gaston B. Means, a former FBI agent who had gone bad, was implicated in the Lindbergh kidnapping case. Interestingly, Gaston B. Means was a biographer of Warren G. Harding. Means wrote "The Strange Death of President Harding", published in 1930. Means died in prison after being convicted in the Lindbergh case.

Harding's alleged mistress, Nan Britton, gave birth to an illegitimate daughter in 1919. Nan Britton wrote a book about this which was published after Harding's death entitled The President's Daughter. The book became a best seller and is one of the main reasons that Harding has been given such a bad reputation by history. Nan Britton died in Oregon in 1991, so forgotten by history that no obituary was published of her. There is no record of what happened to the child, who would be 80 years old now and could easily still be alive, living in anonymity. Her name was Elizabeth Ann (Harding). A good research project would be to find her.

Harding had at least one other mistress, Carrie Phillips, whose relationship went on for 15 years before Harding became president. It is not known if Phillips gave birth to Harding's child. Phillips threatened to derail his presidential bid by releasing letters from their 15-year liaison. She accepted more than $20,000 to keep quiet. Carrie Phillips apparently got back in touch with Harding after he was elected.

Harding remains the only ex-president of the 20th century not to be portrayed in a movie. Here is another good project.

Sam Sloan

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