President Warren Harding, the 29th president of the United States, is remembered for many things including the notion that he was one of the worst presidents in America’s history. On July 29, letters that he wrote to Carrie Fulton Phillips will become public. The documents include Harding’s love letters to Phillips, as she was his mistress prior to his presidency. Also, the letters show that she was also a foreign spy who blackmailed the then-senator, according to an ABC News report on Monday.
James David Robenalt is the author of “The Harding Affair: Love and Espionage during the Great War.” That title may best sum up the documents that are to be revealed. Beyond Harding’s writings of poetry and his sexual fantasies, there are letters that reveal the threats he went through when Phillips revealed that she was a spy who was reporting to the enemy. Reportedly, Robenalt is the only person thus far who has read more than 900 pages worth of love letters written from Harding to Phillips – other than Phillips, of course.
The love letters will be made public via the Library of Congress. Robenalt has said that it is his belief that the letters will show that Harding was actually a progressive and thoughtful political power. A good portion of the letters were written in the ten years prior to Harding becoming president when he was a United States senator. Historically, the letters reveal his thoughts on whether or not the United States should have become involved in World War I. In one letter to Phillips, Harding wrote that he knew that it would ruin their relationship, but he planned on doing his duty and voted for war. He wrote, “I’m voting as my conscience tells me I must do.”
It was with that vote for war that Harding ended his relationship with Phillips. He also ended his political affiliation with then-President Woodrow Wilson as they disagreed on the reasoning for entering the war. It was during Harding’s presidential campaign that his affair with Phillips ended, and she blackmailed him. In one letter, Harding wrote to her to offer paying $5,000 a year in exchange for her silence – as long as he was in public office.
In other words, the current generation’s John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe affair as well as the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair were far from being firsts when it comes to presidents and their affairs. Harding was different in that he profoundly professed his love for his mistress in writing. Additionally, his affair was different in that his mistress turned out to be a spy.
According to Politico, Harding’s family is saying that they wish the letters had been sealed longer so they wouldn’t be becoming public at this time. Harding was president from 1921 through 1923. Prior to being president, he was a Republican from Ohio who served in the Ohio Senate and then in the U.S. Senate. When he won the presidency, he won by having the largest popular vote landslide ever. He defeated James M. Cox by 60 percent to 34 percent.