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The Veterans' Bonus and the Evolving Presidency of Warren G. Harding


Niall A. Palmer is a lecturer in American history and politics at Brunel University, London, England. His publications include The Twenties in America and The New Hampshire Primary and the American Electoral Process.


Scholars attempting a positive reappraisal of Warren G. Harding's presidency claim that his political beliefs changed markedly during his short administration. This article concurs but suggests that revisionist writers underestimate the crucial part played in this metamorphosis by the president's clashes with Congress over cash compensation for war veterans. These confrontations shattered Harding's belief that the presidency and Congress could return to a cooperative working relationship after the tensions of the Roosevelt-Wilson era. The bonus clashes are, therefore, the defining moments of Harding's administration—eroding his partisan loyalty and forcing him to adopt the assertive, interventionist executive posture he had once criticized.