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Vermont Historic Figures

Admiral George Dewey
1837-1917: Naval officer; born in Montpelier, Vt. He served under David Farragut during the Civil War, then followed the standard career of a peacetime naval officer. In 1897 he was assigned command of the Asiatic Squadron, and in May 1898 he directed the action in Manila Bay that totally defeated the Spanish fleet (during which he is said to have commanded his flagship's captain, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley.") Dewey stayed on for over a year to oversee the American takeover of the Philippines, then returned to a tremendous hero's welcome. He was honored with a special rank, admiral of the navy, and urged to run for U.S. president; but he settled for presidency of the General Board of the Navy Department, serving as an adviser on naval affairs to his death.
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Calvin Coolidge
1872-1933: Thirtieth U.S. president (was sworn in by lamplight in his Vermont home at 2:47 a.m. August 3, 1923, following the death of President Warren G. Harding.); born in Plymouth, Vt. After graduating from Amherst College (1895), he became a lawyer in Northampton, Mass. As a Republican, he held a series of local and state offices until becoming governor of Vermont (1919--20); he gained national attention for using the state militia to suppress a police strike. Elected vice-president in 1920, he succeeded to the presidency on Warren Harding's death in 1923. He was reelected the next year. A popular and deliberately hands-off president in prosperous times, he was noted more for what he did not do and say than for what he did (although among his oft-quoted phrases is his 1925 remark, "the business of America is business."). In his private life he was equally noted for his taciturn, thrifty ways. After leaving the White House, he retired to Northampton and wrote various articles promoting his conservative views as well as his autobiography (1929).
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Chester A. Arthur
1830-86: Twenty-first U.S. president; born in Fairfield, Vt. A lawyer, he joined New York's Republican political machine, which led to a patronage appointment as New York customs collector and an uproar when antipatronage President Hayes removed Arthur. Nominated as vice-president to Garfield in 1880 to pacify party regulars, Arthur became president on Garfield's assassination in July 1881. He surprised all by making solid appointments and signing the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883. He lost the 1884 nomination due to his declining health as well as to his having antagonized many Republican politicians.
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Stephen A. Douglas
1813-61: U.S. representative/senator; born in Brandon, Vt. Admitted to the Illinois bar in 1834, after a distinguished career in state politics Douglas was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., Ill.; 1843--47) and to the U.S. Senate (1847--61). Known as the "Little Giant" to his followers (because he was short and dynamic) he supported sectional compromise to avoid the threat of disunion in the 1850s. In the 1858 senatorial campaign, he debated Republican politician Abraham Lincoln seven times in what became known as the "Lincoln-Douglas debates." Although he won reelection to the Senate, his increasingly inconsistent positions on the slavery issue would cost him the support of many Democrats. In 1860, as the Northern Democrats' candidate for president, he was defeated by Lincoln. He at once called for support of Lincoln in his efforts to preserve the union, but, exhausted by his speaking tour, he died of typhoid fever less than two months after the Civil War began.
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