I missed this post earlier in the week, as Mark Steyn briefly talks about visiting the grave of the 30th president in Plymouth Notch, Vermont:
Presidents are thin on the ground in my corner of New Hampshire. There’s Franklin Pierce down south, and Chester Arthur over in western Vermont (or, for believers in the original birther conspiracy, southern Quebec), but neither is any reason for a jamboree. So, for a while around Presidents Day, I’d drive my kids over the Connecticut River and we’d zig-zag down through the Green Mountain State to the Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch. And there, with the aid of snowshoes, we’d scramble up the three-foot drifts of the village’s steep hillside cemetery to Silent Cal’s grave. Seven generations of Coolidges are buried there all in a row — including Julius Caesar Coolidge, which is the kind of name I’d like to find on the ballot one November (strong on war, but committed to small government). The 30th president is as seemly and modest in death as in life, his headstone no different from those of his forebears or his sons — just a plain granite marker with name and dates: in the summer, if memory serves, there’s a small US flag in front, and there’s no snow so that, under the years of birth and death, you can see the small American eagle that is all that distinguishes this man’s gravestone from the earlier Calvin Coolidges in his line.
I do believe it’s the coolest grave of any head of state I’ve ever stood in front of. It moves me far more than the gaudier presidential memorials. “We draw our presidents from the people,” said Coolidge. “I came from them. I wish to be one of them again.” He lived the republican ideal most of our political class merely pays lip service to.
I came to Plymouth Notch during my first winter at my new home in New Hampshire, and purchased some cheddar from the village cheese factory still owned by his son John (he sold it in 1998). So, ever afterwards, the kids and I conclude our visit by swinging by the fromagerie and buying a round of their excellent granular curd cheese.
I just finished reading Amity Shlaes’ recent biography of Coolidge (highly recommended, by the way), and I have to admire a man who was able to walk away from the presidency despite the loud demands of his party to run again (and was almost certain to be re-elected if he had chosen to run). Coolidge was the last of the strong advocates for small government to occupy the White House. His immediate successor was very much the opposite: many of the big government ideals of FDR were strongly prefigured in the life and works of Hoover, despite later historians’ claims that Hoover was all about laissez faire economics.