Calvin Coolidge

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Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness.
It is characteristic of the unlearned that they are forever proposing something which is old, and because it has recently come to their own attention, supposing it to be new.
America is a large country. It is a tolerant country. It has room within its borders for many races and many creeds.
Upon this rock you stand for the service of humanity. Against it no power can prevail.
It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights.
If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.
Democracy is not a tearing down; it is a building up. It is not denial of the divine right of kings; it supplements that same with the assertion of the divine right of all men. It does not destroy; it fulfills. It is the consummation of all theories of government, the spirit of which all the nations of the earth must yield.
We are, in some sense, an immigrant nation, molded in the fires of a common experience. That common experience is our history. And it is that common experience we must hand down to our children, even as the fundamental principles of Americanism, based on righteousness, were handed down to us, in perpetuity, by the founders of our government.
To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.
Alone of all flags, it expresses the sovereignty of the people which endures when all else passes away. Speaking with their voice, it has the sanctity of revelations. He who lives under it and disloyal to it is a traitor to the human race everywhere. What could be saved if the flag of the American nation were to perish?
July 4, 1776 was the historic day on which the representatives of three millions of people vocalized Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, which gave notice to the world that they proposed to establish an independent nation on the theory that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
When the people of the colonies were defending their liberties against the might of kings, they chose their banner from the design set in the firmament through all eternity. The flags of great empires of that day have gone, but the stars and stripes remain.
The wonder and glory of the American people is not the ringing Declaration of that day, but the action then already begun, and in the process of being carried out, in spite of every obstacle that war could interpose, making the theory of freedom and equality a reality.
We revere that day because it marks the beginnings of independence, the beginnings of a constitution that was finally to give universal freedom and equality to all American citizens — the beginnings of a government that was to recognize beyond all others the power and worth and dignity of man.
Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people.
There is no substitute for a militant freedom. The only alternative is submission and slavery.
Our condition today is not merely that of one people under one flag, but of a thoroughly united people who have seen bitterness and enmity which once threatened to sever them pass away, and a spirit of kindness and good will reign over them all.
American citizenship is a high estate. He who holds it is the peer of kings. It has been secured only by untold toil and effort. It will be maintained by no other method.
I do not fear the arrival of as many immigrants a year as shipping conditions or passport requirements can handle, provided they are of good character.
In the case of a people which represents many nations, cultures and races, as does our own, a unification of interests and ideals in recreations is bound to wield a telling influence for solidarity of the entire population. No more truly democratic force can be set off against the tendency to class and caste than the democracy of individual parts and prowess in sport.
It is my firm opinion that America has come out of the war with a stronger determination to live by the rule of righteousness and pursue the course of truth and justice in both our domestic and foreign relations. No one can deny that we have protected the rights of our citizens, laid a firmer foundation for our institutions of liberty, and made our contribution to the cause of civilization and humanity. In doing all this we found that, though of many different nationalities, our people had a spiritual bond. They were all Americans.
America has many glories. The last one that she would wish to surrender is the glory of the men who have served her in war. While such devotion lives, the nation is secure. Whatever dangers may threaten from within or without, she can view them calmly. Turning to her veterans, she can say: 'These are our defenders. They are invincible. In them is our safety.'
Our people were influenced by many motives to undertake to carry on this gigantic conflict, but we went in and came out singularly free from those questionable causes and results which have often characterized other wars. We were not moved by the age-old antagonisms of racial jealousies and hatreds. We were not seeking to gratify the ambitions of any reigning dynasty. We were not inspired by trade and commercial rivalries. We harbored no imperialistic designs. We feared no other country. We coveted no territory.
The American forces are distinctly the forces of peace. They are the guaranties of that order and tranquility in this part of the world, which is alike beneficial to us and all the other nations. Everyone knows that we covet no territory, we entertain no imperialistic designs, we harbor no enmity toward any other people. We seek no revenge, we nurse no grievances, we have inflicted no injuries, and we fear no enemies. Our ways are the ways of peace.
All the races, religions, and nationalities of the world were represented in the armed forces of this nation, as they were in the body of our population. No man's patriotism was impugned or service questioned because of his racial origin, his political opinion, or his religious convictions. Immigrants and sons of immigrants from the central European countries fought side by side with those who descended from the countries which were our allies; with the sons of equatorial Africa; and with the red men of our own aboriginal population, all of them equally proud of the name Americans.
It is a truism, of course, but it is none the less a fact which we must never forget, that this continent and this American community have been blessed with an unparalleled capacity for assimilating peoples of varying races and nations.
If we are to have that harmony and tranquility, that union of spirit which is the foundation of real national genius and national progress, we must all realize that there are true Americans who did not happen to be born in our section of the country, who do not attend our place of religious worship, who are not of our racial stock, or who are not proficient in our language. If we are to create on this continent a free Republic and an enlightened civilization that will be capable of reflecting the true greatness and glory of mankind, it will be necessary to regard these differences as accidental and unessential.
If we are to have that harmony and tranquility, that union of spirit which is the foundation of real national genius and national progress, we must all realize that there are true Americans who did not happen to be born in our section of the country, who do not attend our place of religious worship, who are not of our racial stock, or who are not proficient in our language.
The generally expressed desire of 'America first' can not be criticized. It is a perfectly correct aspiration for our people to cherish. But the problem which we have to solve is how to make America first. It can not be done by the cultivation of national bigotry, arrogance, or selfishness. Hatreds, jealousies, and suspicions will not be productive of any benefits in this direction. Here again we must apply the rule of toleration.
We shall have to look beyond the outward manifestations of race and creed. Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character. The same principle that it is necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among our own people it is also necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among the different nations.
It is my belief that those who live here and really want to help some other country, can best accomplish that result by making themselves truly and wholly American. I mean by that, giving their first allegiance to this country and always directing their actions in a course which will be first of all for the best interests of this country. They cannot help other nations by bringing old world race prejudices and race hatreds into action here.
I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others.
The records of the selective draft show that somewhat more than 2,250,000 colored men were registered. The records further prove that, far from seeking to avoid participation in the national defense, they showed that they wished to enlist before the selective service act was put into operation, and they did not attempt to evade that act afterwards.
The colored people have repeatedly proved their devotion to the high ideals of our country. They gave their services in the war with the same patriotism and readiness that other citizens did.
We are situated differently in this respect from any other country. All the other great powers have a comparatively homogeneous population, close kindred in race and blood and speech, and commonly little divided in religious beliefs. Our great Nation is made up of the strong and virile pioneering stock of nearly all the countries of the world. We have a variety of race and language and religious belief.
The propaganda of prejudice and hatred which sought to keep the colored men from supporting the national cause completely failed. The black man showed himself the same kind of citizen, moved by the same kind of patriotism, as the white man. They were tempted, but not one betrayed his country.
The progress of the colored people on this continent is one of the marvels of modern history. We are perhaps even yet too near to this phenomenon to be able fully to appreciate its significance. That can be impressed on us only as we study and contrast the rapid advancement of the colored people in America with the slow and painful upward movement of humanity as a whole throughout the long human story.
No part of the community responded more willingly, more generously, more unqualifiedly, to the demand for special extraordinary exertion, than did the members of the Negro race.
The accomplishments of the colored people in the United States, in the brief historic period since they were brought here from the restrictions of their native continent, can not but make us realize that there is something essential in our civilization which gives it a special power.
Whether in the military service, or in the vast mobilization of industrial resources which the war required, the Negro did his part precisely as did the white man. He drew no color line when patriotism made its call upon him. He gave precisely as his white fellow citizens gave, to the limit of resources and abilities, to help the general cause.
Among well-nigh 400,000 colored men who were taken into the military service, about one-half had overseas experience. They came home with many decorations and their conduct repeatedly won high commendation from both American and European commanders.
We have waged no wars to determine a succession, establish a dynasty, or glorify a reigning house. Our military operations have been for the service of the cause of humanity. The principles on which they have been fought have more and more come to be accepted as the ultimate standards of the world.
We can not go out from this place and occasion without refreshment of faith and renewal of confidence that in every exigency our Negro fellow citizens will render the best and fullest measure of service whereof they are capable.
The American Negro established his right to the gratitude and appreciation which the Nation has been glad to accord.
The chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.
Numbered among our population are some 12,000,000 colored people. Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights.
Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race.
A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen. The decision must be made by the constituents to whom he offers himself, and by nobody else.
If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people.
I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis on the observance of the law than they do on its enforcement.
It is a maxim of our institutions, that the government does not make the people, but the people make the government.
That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad!
We do not have to examine history very far before we see whole countries that have been blighted, whole civilizations that have been shattered by a spirit of intolerance.
In time of stress and public agitation we have too great a tendency to disregard this policy and indulge in race hatred, religious intolerance, and disregard of equal rights. Such sentiments are bound to react upon those who harbor them. Instead of being a benefit they are a positive injury.

John Calvin Coolidge Jr. (4 July 18725 January 1933) was the twenty-ninth (1921–1923) Vice President and the thirtieth President of the United States of America, serving from 1923 to 1929.

Quotes[edit]

  • [Speaking of Chinese president Sun Yat-sen] ...combined Benjamin Franklin and George Washington of China.
    • As quoted in The Human Odyssey: Volume 2 by Tanim Ansary et al, p. 653.
  • Wherever we look, the work of the chemist has raised the level of our civilization and has increased the productive capacity of our nation.
    • As quoted in Sid Meier's Civilization V (2010).

1910s[edit]

Letter to John Coolidge (1910)[edit]

  • It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.
    • Letter (6 September 1910) to his father, John Coolidge, who had been elected to the Vermont State Senate; in Your Son Calvin Coolidge, as cited in Silent Cal’s Almanack: The Homespun Wit and Wisdom of Vermont's Calvin Coolidge (2011), Ed. David Pietrusza, Bookbrewer, "Legislation" : ISBN 1611560985

Speech to the Massachusetts State Senate (1914)[edit]

  • Men do not make laws. They do but discover them. Laws must be justified by something more than the will of the majority. They must rest on the eternal foundation of righteousness. That state is most fortunate in its form of government which has the aptest instruments for the discovery of law.

Address at Holy Cross (1919)[edit]

Plymouth, Labor Day (1919)[edit]

  • Workmen's compensation, hours and conditions of labor are cold consolations, if there be no employment.
    • From the speech "Plymouth, Labor Day" (1 September 1919), as printed in Have Faith in Massachusetts: A Collection of Speeches and Messages (2nd Ed.), Houghton Mifflin, pp. 200-201 : see link above.

Telegram to Samuel Gompers (1919)[edit]

1920s[edit]

  • There is no substitute for a militant freedom. The only alternative is submission and slavery.
    • The Price of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses, Coolidge, The Minerva Group (2001), p. 159
    • Acceptance of the Memorial to General Ulysses S. Grant (27 April 1922).
  • To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.
    • Message to the National Security League in honor of Constitution Day, quoted in New York Times (17 September 1923) "Ceremonies Mark Constitution Day".
  • The Constitution is the sole source and guaranty of national freedom.
    • Address accepting nomination as Republican candidate for president, Washington, D.C. (4 August 1924); published as Address of Acceptance (1924), p. 15.
  • I believe in the American Constitution. I favor the American system of individual enterprise, and I am opposed to any general extension of government ownership, and control. I believe not only in advocating economy in public expenditure, but in its practical application and actual accomplishment. I believe in a reduction and reform of taxation, and shall continue my efforts in that direction.
    • From his formal acceptance of the Republican party’s nomination for President (14 August 1924), as quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma (1998), by Robert Sobel, Regnery Publishing, p. 292.
  • I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant. Economy is idealism in its most practical form.
  • What we need is not more Federal government, but better local government.
  • About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776 — that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance of the people of that day and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But, that reasoning cannot be applied to the great charter.
    • Foundations of the Republic; Speeches and Addresses (1926), p. 451.
  • No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward a time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction cannot lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more "modern," but more ancient than those of our Revolutionary ancestors.
    • Foundations of the Republic; Speeches and Addresses (1926), p. 451.
  • Mr. Hoover, if you see ten troubles coming down the road, you can be sure that nine will run into the ditch before they reach you and you have to battle with only one of them.
    • As recounted by Herbert Hoover ; from Coolidge: An American Enigma, Robert Sobel, Regnery Publishing (2000), p. 242 : ISBN 0895262479, 9780895262479
  • I do not choose to run for President in 1928.
    • Statement to reporters (2 August 1927); cited in Bartlett's Famous Quotations, 16th ed. (1992).
  • We do not need a large land force. The present size of our regular Army is entirely adequate, but it should continue to be supplemented by a National Guard and Reserves, and especially with the equipment and organization in our industries for furnishing supplies. When we turn to the sea the situation is different. We have not only a long coast line, distant outlying possessions, a foreign commerce unsurpassed in importance, and foreign investments unsurpassed in amount, the number of our people and value of our treasure to be protected, but we are also bound by international treaty to defend the Panama Canal. Having few fuelling stations, we require ships of large tonnage, and, having scarcely any merchant vessels capable of mounting five- or six-inch guns, it is obvious that, based on positions, we are entitled to a larger number of warships than a nation having these advantages.
    • Speech on Armistice Day in Washington (11 November 1928), quoted in The Times (12 December 1928), p. 11.
  • That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad!
    • On Herbert Hoover, as quoted in "Lords of Finance" (2011), by Liaquat Ahamed, Random House, p. 299.
  • The words of a President have an enormous weight and ought not to be used indiscriminately.
    • As quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma (1998), by Robert Sobel, Regnery Publishing, p. 243.
  • I think the American people want a solemn ass as a President and I think I will go along with them.
    • To Ethel Barrymore, as quoted in Greenberg, David (2006). Calvin Coolidge. The American Presidents Series. Times Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-6957-0, p. 60.

Speech to the the Republican Commercial Travelers' Club (1920)[edit]

Speech before the Republican Commercial Travelers' Club, Boston, Massachusetts (10 April 1920)
  • Parties do not maintain themselves. They are maintained by effort. The government is not self-existent. It is maintained by the effort of those who believe in it. The people of America believe in American institutions, the American form of government and the American method of transacting business.
    • As quoted in Manuscripts: speeches and messages of Calvin Coolidge, 1895–1924, the Massachusetts State Library, George Fingold Library, Boston.

Equal Rights (1920)[edit]

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Equal Rights (1920)
  • July 4, 1776 was the historic day on which the representatives of three millions of people vocalized Concord, and Lexington, and Bunker Hill, which gave notice to the world that they proposed to establish an independent nation on the theory that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The wonder and glory of the American people is not the ringing Declaration of that day, but the action then already begun, and in the process of being carried out, in spite of every obstacle that war could interpose, making the theory of freedom and equality a reality.
  • We revere that day because it marks the beginnings of independence, the beginnings of a constitution that was finally to give universal freedom and equality to all American citizens — the beginnings of a government that was to recognize beyond all others the power and worth and dignity of man. There began the first of governments to acknowledge that it was founded on the sovereignty of the people. There the world first beheld the revelation of modern democracy.
  • Democracy is not a tearing down; it is a building up. It is not denial of the divine right of kings; it supplements that same with the assertion of the divine right of all men. It does not destroy; it fulfills. It is the consummation of all theories of government, the spirit of which all the nations of the earth must yield. It is the great constructive course of the ages. It is the alpha and omega of man's relation to man, the beginning and the end. There is, and can be, no more doubt of the triumphs of democracy in human affairs than there is of the triumph of gravitation in the physical world. The only question is how and when. Its foundation lays hold upon eternity. It is unconcerned with the idolatry, or despotism, or treason, or rebellion, or betrayal, but bows in reverence before Moses, or Hamden, or Washington, or Lincoln, or the lights that shone on Calvary.
  • The doctrine of the Declaration of Independence predicated upon the glory of man and the corresponding duty to society that the rights of citizens ought to be protected with every power and resource of the state, and a government that does any less is false to the teachings of that great document — false to the name American. The assertion of human rights is naught but a call to human sacrifice. This is yet the spirit of the American people. Only so long as this flame burns shall we endure, and the light of liberty be shed over the nations of the earth. May the increase of the years increase for America only the devotion to this spirit, only the intensity of this flame, and the eternal truth of [Lowell's] lines: "What were our lives without thee, what all our lives to save thee, we reck not what we gave thee, we will not dare to doubt thee; but ask whatever else and we will dare."

America and the War (1920)[edit]

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America and the War (1920)
  • Works which endure come from the soul of the people. The mighty in their pride walk alone to destruction. The humble walk hand in hand with providence to immortality. Their works survive.
  • When the people of the colonies were defending their liberties against the might of kings, they chose their banner from the design set in the firmament through all eternity. The flags of great empires of that day have gone, but the stars and stripes remain. It pictures a vision of a people whose eyes are turned to the rising dawn. It represents of the hope of a father for his posterity. It was never flaunted for the glory of royalty, but to be born under it is to be the child of a king, and to establish a home under it is to be the founder of a royal house. Alone of all flags, it expresses the sovereignty of the people which endures when all else passes away. Speaking with their voice, it has the sanctity of revelations. He who lives under it and disloyal to it is a traitor to the human race everywhere. What could be saved if the flag of the American nation were to perish?
  • America has many glories. The last one that she would wish to surrender is the glory of the men who have served her in war. While such devotion lives, the nation is secure. Whatever dangers may threaten from within or without, she can view them calmly. Turning to her veterans, she can say: 'These are our defenders. They are invincible. In them is our safety.'
  • After more than five years of the bitterest war in human experience, the last great stronghold of force surrendering to the demands of America and her allies agreed to cast aside the sword and live under the law. America decided that the path of the Mayflower should not be closed. She decided to sail the seas. She decided to sail not under an Edict of Potsdam, cramped in narrow lands, seeking safety in unarmed merchant men painted in fantastic hues as the badge of an infinite servitude; but she decided to sail under the ancient Declaration of Independence, choosing her own course, maintaining security by the guns of her ships of the LINE, flying at the mast the stars and stripes forever, the emblem of a militant liberty.
  • With peace has come prosperity. Burdens have been great, but the strength to bear them has been greater. The condition of those who toil is higher, better, more secure than in all the ages past. Out of the darkness of a great conflict has appeared the vision of a nearer, clearer than ever before, the life on earth and less under the deadening restraint of course more and more under the vitalizing influence of reason. Moral power has been triumphing over physical power. Education will tend to bring reason and experience of the past into the solution of the problems of the future. We must look to service and not selfishness, for service is the foundation of progress. The greatest lesson that we have to learn is to seek ever the public welfare, to build up, to maintain our American heritage.

Duty of Government (1920)[edit]

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Duty of Government (1920)
  • The first duty of a government is to be true to itself. This does not mean perfection, it means a plan to strive for perfection. It means loyalty to ideals. The ideals of America were set out in the Declaration of Independence and adopted in the Constitution. They did not represent perfection at hand, but perfection found. The fundamental principle was freedom. The fathers knew that this was not yet apprehended. They formed a government firm in the faith that it was ever to press toward this high mark. In selfishness, in greed, in lust for gain, it turned aside. Enslaving others, it became itself enslaved. Bondage in one part consumed freedom in all parts. The government of the fathers, ceasing to be true to itself, was perishing. Five score and ten years ago, that divine providence which infinite repetition has made only the more a miracle, sent into the world a new life destined to save a nation. No star, no sign foretold his coming. About his cradle all was poor and mean, save only the source of all great men, the love of a wonderful woman. When she faded away in his tender years from her deathbed in humble poverty, she endowed her son with greatness. There can be no proper observance of a birthday which forgets the mother. Into his origin, as into his life, men long have looked and wondered. In wisdom great, but in humility greater, in justice strong, but in compassion stronger, he became a leader of men by being a follower of the truth. He overcame evil with good. His presence filled the nation. He broke the might of oppression. He restored a race to its birthright.
  • His mortal frame has vanished, but his spirit increases with the increasing years the richest legacy of the greatest century. Men show by what they worship what they are. It is no accident that before the great example of American manhood, our people stand with respect and reverence. In Abraham Lincoln is revealed our ideal — the hope of our country fulfilled. He was the incarnation of what America was to be. Through him, the Almighty bestowed upon the nation a new birth of freedom that this dear land of ours might be returned to the health of its fathers.
  • We are the beneficiaries of a life of surpassing service. Wise in wisdom and gentle in gentleness. Freedom has many sides and angles. Human slavery has been swept away. With security of personal rights has come security of property rights. The freedom of the human mind is recognized in the right to free speech and free press. The public schools have made education possible for all and ignorance a disgrace. In political affairs, the vote of the humblest has long counted for as much as the vote of the most exalted. We are working towards the day when, in our industrial life, equal honor shall fall to equal endeavor.
  • Duty is collective as well as personal. Law must rest on the eternal foundations of righteousness. Industry, thrift, character, cannot be conferred by act or resolve. Government cannot relieve from toil. Do the day's work. If it be to protect the rights of the weak — whoever objects — do it. If it be to help a powerful corporation better to serve the people, whatever the opposition, do that. Expect to be called a stand patter, but don't be a stand patter. Expect to be called a demagogue, but don't be a demagogue. We need a broader, firmer, deeper faith in the people, a faith that men desire to do right, that the government is founded upon a righteousness which will endure.

Law and Order (1920)[edit]

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Law and Order (1920)
  • It is preeminently the province of government to protect the weak. The average citizen does not lead the life of independence that was his in former days under a less complex order of society. When a family tilled the soil and produced its own support it was independent. It may be infinitely better off now, but it is evident it needs a protection which before was not required.
  • Let Massachusetts continue to regard with the greatest solicitude the well-being of her people. By prescribed law, by authorized publicity, by informed public opinion, let her continue to strive to provide that all conditions under which her citizens live are worthy of the highest faith of man. Healthful housing, wholesome food, sanitary working conditions, reasonable hours, a fair wage for a fair day's work, opportunity — full and free, justice — speedy and impartial, and at a cost within the reach of all, are among the objects not only to be sought, but made absolutely certain and secure.
  • Government is not, must not be, a cold, impersonal machine, but a human and more human agency: appealing to the reason, satisfying the heart, full of mercy, assisting the good, resisting the wrong, delivering the weak from any impositions of the powerful. This is not paternalism. It is not a servitude imposed from without, but the freedom of a right to self-direction from within.
  • Industry must be humanized, not destroyed. It must be the instrument not of selfishness, but of service. Change not the law, but the attitude of the mind. Let our citizens look not to the false prophet but to the pilgrims. Let them fix their eyes on Plymouth Rock as well as Beacon Hill. The supreme choice must be not to things that are seen, but to things that are unseen.
  • Our government belongs to the people. Our property belongs to the people. It is distributed. They own it. The taxes are paid by the people. They bear the burden. The benefits of government must accrue to the people. Not to one class, but to all classes, to all the people. The functions, the power, the sovereignty of the government, must be kept where they have been placed by the Constitution and laws of the people. Not private will, but that public will, which speaks with a divine sanction, must prevail.
  • There are strident voices, urging resistance to law in the name of freedom. They are not seeking freedom for themselves, they have it. They are seeking to enslave others. Their works are evil. They know it. They must be resisted. The evil they represent must be overcome by the good others represent. Their ideas, which are wrong, for the most part imported, must be supplanted by ideas which are right. This can be done. The meaning of America is a power which cannot be overcome. Massachusetts must lead in teaching it.
  • Prosecution of the criminal and education of the ignorant are the remedies. It is fundamental that freedom is not to be secured by disobedience to law. Even the freedom of the slave depended on the supremacy of the Constitution. There is no mystery about this. They who sin are the servants of sin. They who break the laws are the slaves of their own kind. It is not for the advantage of others that the citizen is abjured to obey the laws, but for his own advantage. That what he claims a right to do to others, that must he admit others have a right to do to him. His obedience is his own protection. He is not submitting himself to the dictates of others, but responding to the requirements of his own nature.
  • Laws are not manufactured. They are not imposed. They are rules of action existing from everlasting to everlasting. He who resists them, resists himself. He commits suicide. The nature of man requires sovereignty. Government must govern. To obey is life. To disobey is death. Organized government is the expression of the life of the commonwealth. Into your hands is entrusted the grave responsibility of its protection and perpetuation.

Whose Country Is This? (1921)[edit]

"Whose Country Is This?" (February 1921), Good Housekeeping Magazine.
  • Men and women, in and of themselves, are desirable. There can not be too many inhabitants of the right kind, distributed in the right place. Great work, there is for each and every one of them to perform. The country needs all the intelligence, and skill, and strength of mind and body it can get. whether we draw such from those within our gates, or from those without, seeking entrance. But since we are confronted by the clamor of multitudes who desire the opportunity offered by American life, we must face the situation unflinchingly, determined to relinquish not one iota of our obligations to others, yet not so sentimental as to overlook our obligations to ourselves.
  • It is a self-evident truth that in a healthy community there is no place for the vicious, the weak of body, the shiftless, or the improvident. As Professor Sumner, of Yale, asserts in his book. The Forgotten Man, 'Every part of capital which is wasted on the vicious, the idle, and the shiftless, is so much taken from the capital available to reward the independent and productive laborer.'
  • We are in agreement with him in his conviction that the laborer must be protected 'against the burdens of the good-for-nothing'. We want no such additions to our population as those who prey upon our institutions or our property. America has, in the popular mind, been an asylum for those who have been driven from their homes in foreign countries because of various forms of political and religious oppression. But America can not afford to remain an asylum after such people have passed the portals and begun to share the privileges of our institutions.
  • These institutions have flourished by reason of a common background of experience; they have been perpetuated by a common faith in the righteousness of their purpose; they have been handed down undiminished in effectiveness from our forefathers who conceived their spirit and prepared the foundations. We have put into operation our faith in equal opportunity before the law in exchange for equal obligation of citizenship.
  • All native-born Americans, directly or indirectly, have the advantage of our schools, our colleges, and our religious bodies. It is our belief that America could not otherwise exist. Faith in mankind is in no wise inconsistent with a requirement for trained citizenship, both for men and women. No civilization can exist without a background—an active community of interest, a common aspiration—spiritual, social, and economic. It is a duty our country owes itself to require of all those aliens who come here that they have a background not inconsistent with American institutions.
  • Such a background might consist either of a racial tradition or a national experience. But in its lowest terms it must be characterized by a capacity for assimilation. While America is built on a broad faith in mankind, it likewise gains its strength by a recognition of a needed training for citizenship. The Pilgrims were not content merely to reach our shores in safety, that they might live according to a sort of daily opportunism. They were building on firmer ground than that. Sixteen years after they landed at Plymouth, they and their associates founded Harvard College. They institutionalized their faith in education; that was their offering for the common good.
  • It would not be unjust to ask of every alien: What will you contribute to the common good, once you are admitted through the gates of liberty? Our history is full of answers of which we might be justly proud. But of late, the answers have not been so readily or so eloquently given. Our country must cease to be regarded as a dumping ground. Which does not mean that it must deny the value of rich accretions drawn from the right kind of immigration. Any such restriction, except as a necessary and momentary expediency, would assuredly paralyze our national vitality. But measured practically, it would be suicidal for us to let down the bars for the inflowing of cheap manhood, just as, commercially, it would be unsound for this country to allow her markets to be overflooded with cheap goods, the product of a cheap labor. There is no room either for the cheap man or the cheap goods.
  • On every hand we hear that the quality of immigration is not what it used to be. This is unwisely construed as meaning that we must withdraw our faith in mankind and raise rigid barriers always. Such a confession would declare the weakness of our institutions and undermine our faith in the principles on which the government is founded. The continuance of our faith is not interrupted by our intense conviction that there is no room in our midst for those whose direct purpose is political, social, or economic mischief, and whose presence jeopardizes the physical or moral health of the community. Certain laws of supply and demand take care, in normal times, of the coming and going of the alien. But it may be that today conditions abroad are so intolerable that men and women run chances in coming over without knowing the actual conditions they must face. Wise immigration laws would deal with such a pressure.
  • Generally, and under normal conditions, people turn to America when there is something that attracts them, when they can find here an opportunity. If such an opportunity no longer exists, they do not come. Should this country experience a period of economic depression, the natural working of this law would be that many classes of unskilled labor—especially those who come here temporarily, expecting to return once they have accumulated sufficient money—would, of their own accord, leave the country.
  • It must always be borne in mind that each and every individual is not only a producer but a consumer. In the final analysis of our conditions, we have to admit that it is not lack of consumption, but lack of production which is our present economic danger. The immigrant is needed, provided this fact is overcome, provided supply—whether in schools, in homes, or in shoes—does not fall behind demand. The public could today consume much more of the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than they are able to procure or have ever been able to procure in a country where the standard of living is so high. If, through cheap labor, and an increased willingness on the part of alien labor to live on the edge of existence, these standards are threatened, then is the time to bring legislative action to bear on the situation.
  • The laws of supply and demand, therefore, are adjuncts to immigration regulation. I do not fear the arrival of as many immigrants a year as shipping conditions or passport requirements can handle, provided they are of good character. But there is no room for the alien who turns toward America with the avowed intention of opposing government, with a set desire to teach destruction of government— which means not only enmity toward organized society, but toward every form of religion and so basic an institution as the home.
  • If we believe, as we do, in our political theory that the people are the guardians of government, we should not subject our government to the bitterness and hatred of those who have not been born of our tradition and are not willing to yield an increase to the strength inherent in our institutions. American liberty is dependent on quality in citizenship. Our obligation is to maintain that citizenship at its best. We must have nothing to do with those who would undermine it. The retroactive immigrant is a danger in our midst. His discontent gives him no time to seize a healthy opportunity to improve himself. His purpose is to tear down. There is no room for him here. He needs to be deported, not as a substitute for, but as a part of his punishment. There are racial considerations too grave to be brushed aside for any sentimental reasons. Biological laws tell us that certain divergent people will not mix or blend. The Nordics propagate themselves successfully. With other races, the outcome shows deterioration on both sides. Quality of mind and body suggests that observance of ethnic law is as great a necessity to a nation as immigration law.
  • From its very beginning our country has been enriched by a complete blend of varied strains in the same ethnic family. We are, in some sense, an immigrant nation, molded in the fires of a common experience. That common experience is our history. And it is that common experience we must hand down to our children, even as the fundamental principles of Americanism, based on righteousness, were handed down to us, in perpetuity, by the founders of our government.
  • The immigrant who comes to us from a life of oppression must be made to realize that he assumes an obligation; otherwise, he is not wanted. Either he must live with us in the light of the highest citizenship, or else society will impose upon him the very restrictions he has sought to escape by coming here. It is the wolf in sheep's clothing who has cast a slur on immigration. There are many who land here who really never get to America. They become Americanized in everything but in heart. To teach the foreigner English is a necessary step; but it is not an end in itself; it is merely one of the implements of Americanization. This may hold diners peoples together for a while, just as economic opportunity and financial reward may cover their isolation. But unless, in their living—rather than in then livelihood—they daily exercise the principles on which the Republic rests, we have among us a shell of citizenship liable to explode at the least upsetting of economic balance, rather than the vital spirit which is at the basis of American life.
  • Hysteria will not help us to solve the problem that confronts us. We overstate the danger when we say that twelve millions seek, because of post-war conditions abroad, to come immediately to America. Ending June 30, 1914, the year's immigration figures were 1,218,480. Then came the war and a vast slump, from which we are just recovering. Calculations placed immigration statistics for the current year as 1,079,428—figures still below the prewar status. But even though we need have no grave fears, now is the time for a careful reexamination and revision of our immigration policies. We should have no more aliens to cope with, in the immediate months to come, than our institutions are able to handle. To assume burdens we can not easily meet would lie unfair both to us and to the alien. In protecting ourselves we are protecting him as well. We can not lower our standards, or allow them to be lowered, so as to include him. We must prepare him for our standards. And that means wise education. In the home, in the school, in industry, in citizenship, we have not heretofore applied thoroughly the human test, and that is our next step in the Americanization of the alien. Much work has yet to be done in the immediate months to come. Some protective measure, therefore, seems necessary.
  • Would scientific distribution send the alien where he is most needed? On the surface, such an expediency seems a way cut of our dilemma. The land is broad, and population is unevenly distributed. But once a person is here— beyond the bars of Ellis Island, or any other port of entry—he has a right, under our law, to go whither he phases. To limit him suggests a return to medievalism, to vassalage. It aims a blow at personal liberty and challenges opposition. What the economist and sociologist call the 'law of status' is usually applied to the weak and incapable—not to the fit. The man who would lift himself to a higher goal desires freedom of movement, freedom of choice. Our Constitution guarantees this to him; it offers him opportunities. What opportunities he takes advantage of depends on what he is. It might be wise to examine closely our immigration agencies abroad, and test the alien before he sails, suggesting a locality which needs him, and where he will take root to the best advantage.
  • For, primarily, the immigrant comes here for economic reasons. If he is a dependent, there is no room for him. If he believes that in America one need not work, there is no room for him. If he has been taught that his labor is a commodity for sale, he must learn that labor is no more a commodity than management. It is the product of labor, the product of management, that is put up for sale. In the last analysis, it is man's intelligence that is purchased. Only in undeveloped countries can man be regarded as a beast of burden.
  • Intelligence is given every wise opportunity to develop. Unfortunate if it is overclouded by class consciousness. If labor's fear of immigration is only a way of asserting, in an organized plea, labor's right to monopoly, it must be remembered that such an attitude has never been successful, and will not be successful in this case. There are those who leach the laborer that the fewer hours he works, the better off he is. In order to maintain that belief, they have attempted, through organization, to dictate to government. This attitude is against public conscience, against the working of economic law. There was a time, in our country's history, when we believed that leisure meant opportunity. But educated people soon found that opportunity lay not in leisure but in effort; so they went to work. The ideal for rich and poor alike is that any one, through honest effort, may assume and secure any position for which he is fitted.
  • It is a false doctrine that labor must assume all management. Those best suited for management must manage, whatever may lie their source. Every industry is searching eagerly for brains. My observation convinces me that most business firms pledged to welfare work are interested in their employed; they often remain open in order to protect those who serve them, even though it might be more profitable for them to close down. People need to stop to think, when the laborer clamors against the unorganized labor market, whether the menace is from the immigrant or from some other source. For no business enterprise wishes its help to leave that it may employ others; the turnover is one of the most expensive things industry has to face. The expense of breaking in new help is appalling.
  • There is ample work for all in this country provided all will work. The problem of unemployment is aggravated, not wholly by the alien knocking at our gate, but by the laborer at home slamming the door of production behind him and walking out. Stopping industry will not right the matter. And in the last analysis it is the earnings of industry, which on the average are only fair, that provide alike for wages and the increase of investment on which is the sole dependence of the advance of civilization.
  • These are points to consider when we put our house in order for the advancing hordes of aliens. Experience has taught us to have faith in the bulk of our people. The great decisions in American history have always been right. The heart of the nation is sound and must be kept sound. It is a characteristic of ours that we are ashamed not to be right. I believe that our present concern about immigration is a fear that we will not be able to protect ourselves and at the same time discharge our obligations.
  • We must remember that we have not only the present but the future to safeguard; our obligations extend even to generations yet unborn. The unassimilated alien child menaces our children, as the alien industrial worker, who has destruction rather than production in mind, menaces our industry. It is only when the alien adds vigor to our stock that he is wanted. The dead weight of an alien accretion stifles national progress. But we have a hope that can not be crushed; we have a background that we will not allow to be obliterated. The only acceptable immigrant is the one who can justify our faith in man by a constant revelation of the divine purpose of the Creator.

First State of the Union Address (1923)[edit]

Calvin Coolidge's First State of the Union Address (6 December 1923)
  • Numbered among our population are some 12,000,000 colored people. Under our Constitution their rights are just as sacred as those of any other citizen. It is both a public and a private duty to protect those rights. The Congress ought to exercise all its powers of prevention and punishment against the hideous crime of lynching, of which the negroes are by no means the sole sufferers, but for which they furnish a majority of the victims.
  • Already a considerable sum is appropriated to give the negroes vocational training in agriculture. About half a million dollars is recommended for medical courses at Howard University to help contribute to the education of 500 colored doctors needed each year. On account of the integration of large numbers into industrial centers, it has been proposed that a commission be created, composed of members from both races, to formulate a better policy for mutual understanding and confidence. Such an effort is to be commended. Everyone would rejoice in the accomplishment of the results which it seeks. But it is well to recognize that these difficulties are to a large extent local problems which must be worked out by the mutual forbearance and human kindness of each community. Such a method gives much more promise of a real remedy than outside interference.

Proclamation Upon the Death of Woodrow Wilson (1924)[edit]

Proclamation Upon the Death of Woodrow Wilson (1924)
  • To the people of the United States, the death of Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States from March 4, 1913, to March 4, 1921, which occurred at 11:15 o'clock today at his home at Washington, District of Columbia, deprives the country of a most distinguished citizen, and is an event which causes universal and genuine sorrow. To many of us it brings the sense of a profound personal bereavement.
  • His early profession as a lawyer was abandoned to enter academic life. In this chosen field he attained the highest rank as an educator, and has left his impress upon the intellectual thought of the country. From the Presidency of Princeton University he was called by his fellow citizens to be the Chief Executive of the State of New Jersey. The duties of this high office he so conducted as to win the confidence of the people of the United States, who twice elected him to the Chief Magistracy of the Republic. As President of the United States he was moved by an earnest desire to promote the best interests of the country as he conceived them. His acts were prompted by high motives and his sincerity of purpose can not be questioned. He led the nation through the terrific struggle of the world war with a lofty idealism which never failed him. He gave utterance to the aspiration of humanity with an eloquence which held the attention of all the earth and made America a new and enlarged influence in the destiny of mankind.
  • In testimony of the respect in which his memory is held by the Government and people of the United States, I do hereby direct that the flags of the White House and of the several Departmental buildings be displayed at half staff for a period of thirty days, and that suitable military and naval honors under orders of the Secretary of War and of the Secretary of the Navy may be rendered on the day of the funeral.

The Democracy of Sports (1924)[edit]

Speech at the National Conference on Outdoor Recreation (22 May 1924), Washington, D.C.
  • This conference has been called to encourage Americans to make more of their opportunities and appropriate more of the advantages of America. For a long time one of the ideals of perfection has been that of a sound mind in a sound body. When most of our original educational institutions were founded, they at first served a race of pioneers. They were attended by those whose very existence depended on an active outdoor life in the open country. The most universal custom among all the people was bodily exercise. Those days long ago passed away for most of the people of this country.
  • There is still and must ever be a tremendous amount of manual labor, but to a large extent this has become specialized and too often would be designated correctly as drudgery. The opportunity for education of the mind, however, has greatly increased until it has become well-nigh universal. School and college athletics have become necessary. With the development of our industrial and commercial life, there are more and more those who are engaged in purely clerical activities. All of this makes it more necessary than ever that we should stimulate every possible interest in out of door health-giving recreation.
  • I am hopeful that the conference can coordinate our national resources and opportunities in a way better to serve this purpose. It is by no means intended that there should be any suggestion of Federal domination in these activities. Necessarily they are largely local and individual, and to be helpful they must always be spontaneous. But this conference can be of great aid by making something of an inventory of our national resources and opportunities and determining how these may best be put to the most desirable use, and, further, by exchanging ideas, create new interests and open to view new fields.
  • Nearly every city is making large appropriations for laying out spacious parks and playgrounds. These are providing recreation fields for the playing of outdoor games by both old and young. Golf courses and tennis courts abound. Too much emphasis can not be placed on the effort to get the children out of the alleys and off the streets into spacious open places where there is good sunlight and plenty of fresh air. Such an opportunity has both a physical and mental effect. It restores the natural balance of life and nourishes the moral fiber of youth.
  • Another activity which is being encouraged is that of gardening. This is necessarily somewhat limited, but the opportunity for engaging in it has never been anywhere near exhausted. It makes its appeal alike to youth and age. It is extremely practical on the one hand, and lends itself to the artistic on the other.
  • A form of recreation not so accesible to many as games, but one which has in it a peculiar hold on that which is elemental in human nature, is hunting and fishing. These are true outdoor sports in the highest sense, and must be pursued in a way that develops energy, perseverance, skill, and courage of the individual. They call for personal direction, and can not be taken up vicariously. There is a great wealth of life and experience in this field which is never exhausted, and always fresh and new. It is accompanied by traits of character which make a universal appeal. A knowledge of these arts may well be cultivated and cherished like a knowledge of the humanities and the sciences. Around hunting and fishing is gathered a great wealth of prose and poetry, which testifies to the enduring interest which these sports have held all through the development of the race.
  • A certain type of outdoor activity has been much developed in recent years and calls great throngs together, which may properly be designated as exhibition games. Under this head comes first in importance baseball, which is often known as the national game. Football and polo come in the same class. These activities require such long and intensive training that participation in them is necessarily confined to a class and can not be said to be open to the general public. But for creating an interest which extends to every age and every class, for giving an opportunity for a few hours in the open air which will provide a change of scene, a new trend of thought, and the arousing of new enthusiasm for the great multitude of our people, these have no superior.
  • But it is unnecessary for me to do more than mention a few of the representative forms of recreation. We all know that their name is legion, and that different tastes require different activities. I am not trying to recommend one above another, but I am trying to point out the national value which would accrue if there were an organized, instructed, and persistent effort to bring these benefits to the people at large. It can not be that our country is making a great outlay for playgrounds in our schools, for athletic fields in our colleges, for baseball fields in our cities, for recreation parks in our metropolitan districts, for State and national forest reservations, unless these all represent an opportunity for a real betterment of the life of the people. These are typically American in all their aspects. They minister directly to the welfare of all our inhabitants.
  • Civilization is measured in no small part by these standards. The famous beauty and symmetry of the Greek race in its prime was due in no small part to their general participation in athletic games. This meant development.
  • We can see in the gladiatorial shows of Rome, which degenerated into the butchery alike of beasts and men, the sure sign of moral decay which ended in the destruction of the empire and the breaking up of the great influence it had cast over the world. It is altogether necessary that we keep our own amusements and recreations within that field which will be prophetic, not of destruction, but of development. It is characteristic of almost the entire American life that it has a most worthy regard for clean and manly sports. It has little appetite for that which is unwholesome or brutal.
  • We have at hand these great resources and great opportunities. They can not be utilized to their fullest extent without careful organization and methodical purpose. Our youth need instruction in how to play as much as they do in how to work. There are those who are engaged in our industries who need an opportunity for outdoor life and recreation no less than they need opportunity of employment. Side by side with the industrial plant should be the gymnasium and the athletic field. Along with the learning of a trade by which a livelihood is to be earned should go the learning of how to participate in the activities of recreation, by which life is made not only more enjoyable, but more rounded out and complete. The country needs instruction in order that we may better secure these results.
  • A special consideration suggests the value of a development of national interest in recreation and sports. There is no better common denominator of a people. In the case of a people which represents many nations, cultures and races, as does our own, a unification of interests and ideals in recreations is bound to wield a telling influence for solidarity of the entire population. No more truly democratic force can be set off against the tendency to class and caste than the democracy of individual parts and prowess in sport.
  • Out of this conference I trust there may come a better appreciation of the necessary development of our life along these directions. They should be made to contribute to health, to broader appreciation of nature and her works, to a truer insight into the whole affair of existence. They should be the means to acquainting all of us with the wonders and delights of this world in which we live, and of this country of which we are the joint inheritors. Through them we may teach our children true sportsmanship, right living, the love of being square, the sincere purpose to make our lives genuinely useful and helpful to our fellows. All of these may be implanted through a wise use of recreational opportunities.
  • I want to see all Americans have a reasonable amount of leisure. Then I want to see them educated to use such leisure for their own enjoyment and betterment, and the strengthening of the quality of their citizenship. We can go a long way in that direction by getting them out of doors and really interested in nature. We can make still further progress by engaging them in games and sports. Our country is a land of cultured men and women. It is a land of agriculture, of industries, of schools, and of places of religious worship. It is a land of varied climes and scenery, of mountain and plain, of lake and river. It is the American heritage. We must make it a land of vision, a land of work, of sincere striving for the good, but we must add to all these, in order to round out the full stature of the people, an ample effort to make it a land of wholesome enjoyment and perennial gladness.
  • A mightier force than ever followed Grant or Lee has leveled both their hosts, raised up an united Nation, and made us all partakers of a new glory. It is not for us to forget the past but to remember it, that we may profit by it. But it is gone; we can not change it. We must put our emphasis on the present and put into effect the lessons the past has taught us.

Freedom and its Obligations (1924)[edit]

Speech at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia (30 May 1924).
  • We meet again upon this hallowed ground to commemorate those who played their part in a particular outbreak of an age-old conflict. Many men have many theories about the struggle that went on from 1861 to 1865. Some say it had for its purpose the abolition of slavery. President Lincoln did not so consider it. There were those in the South who would have been willing to wage war for its continuation, but I very much doubt if the South as a whole could have been persuaded to take up arms for that purpose. There were those in the North who would have been willing to wage war for its abolition, but the North as a whole could not have been persuaded to take up arms for that purpose. President Lincoln made it perfectly clear that his effort was to save the Union — with slavery if he could save it that way; without slavery if he could save it that way. But he would save the Union. The South stood for the principle of the sovereignty of the States. The North stood for the principle of the supremacy of the Union.
  • This was an age-old conflict. At its foundation lies the question of how can the Government govern and the people be free? How can organized society make and enforce laws and the individual remain independent? There is no short sighted answer to these inquiries. Whatever may have been the ambiguity in the Federal Constitution, of course the Union had to be supreme within its sphere or cease to be a Union. It was also certain and obvious that each State had to be sovereign within its sphere or cease to be a State.
  • It is equally clear that a government must govern, must prescribe and enforce laws within its sphere or cease to be a government. Moreover, the individual must be independent and free within his own sphere or cease to be an individual. The fundamental question was then, is now, and always will be through what adjustments, by what actions, these principles may be applied.
  • It needs but very little consideration to reach the conclusion that all of these terms are relative, not absolute, in their application to the affairs of this earth. There is no absolute and complete sovereignty for a State, nor absolute and complete independence and freedom for an individual. It happened in 1861 that the States of the North and the South were so fully agreed among themselves that they were able to combine against each other. But supposing each State of the Union should undertake to make its own decisions upon all questions, and that all held divergent views. If such a condition were carried to its logical conclusion, each would come into conflict with all the others, and a condition would arise which could only result in mutual destruction. It is evident that this would be the antithesis of State sovereignty. Or suppose that each individual in the assertion of his own independence and freedom undertook to act in entire disregard of the rights of others. The end would be likewise mutual destruction, and no one would be independent and no one would be free. Yet these are conflicts which have gone on ever since the organization of society into government, and they are going on now. To my mind this was fundamental of the conflict which broke out in 1861.
  • The thirteen Colonies were not unaware of the difficulties which these problems presented. We shall find a great deal of wisdom in the method by which they dealt with them. When they were finally separated from Great Britain, the allegiance of their citizens was not to the Nation, for there was none. It was to the States. For the conduct of the war there had been a voluntary confederacy loosely constructed and practically impotent. Continuing after peace was made, when the common peril which had been its chief motive no longer existed, it grew weaker and weaker. Each of the States could have insisted on an entirely separate and independent existence, having full authority over both their internal and external affairs, sovereign in every way. But such sovereignty would have been a vain and empty thing. It would have been unsupported by adequate resources either of property or population, without a real national spirit; ready to fall prey to foreign intrigue or foreign conquest. That kind of sovereignty meant but little. It had no substance in it. The people and their leaders naturally sought for a larger, more inspiring ideal. They realized that while to be a citizen of a State meant something, it meant a great deal more if that State were a part of a national union. The establishment of a Federal Constitution giving power and authority to create a real National Government did not in the end mean a detriment, but rather an increment to the sovereignty of the several States. Under the Constitution there was brought into being a new relationship, which did not detract from but added to the power and the position of each State. It is true that they surrendered the privilege of performing certain acts for themselves, like the regulation of commerce and the maintenance of foreign relations, but in becoming a part of the Union they received more than they gave.
  • The same thing applies to the individual in organized society. When each citizen submits himself to the authority of law he does not thereby decrease his independence or freedom, but rather increases it. By recognizing that he is a part of a larger body which is banded together for a common purpose, he becomes more than an individual, he rises to a new dignity of citizenship. Instead of finding himself restricted and confined by rendering obedience to public law, he finds himself protected and defended and in the exercise of increased and increasing rights. It is true that as civilization becomes more complex it is necessary to surrender more and more of the freedom of action and live more and more according to the rule of public regulation, but it is also true that the rewards and the privileges which come to a member of organized society increase in a still greater proportion. Primitive life has its freedom and its attraction, but the observance of the restrictions of modern civilization enhances the privileges of living a thousandfold.
  • Perhaps I have said enough to indicate the great advantages that accrue to all of us by the support and maintenance of our Government, the continuation of the functions of legislation, the administration of justice, and the execution of the laws. There can be no substitute for these, no securing of greater freedom by their downfall and failure, but only disorganization, suffering and want, and final destruction. All that we have of rights accrue from the Government under which we live.
  • In these days little need exists for extolling the blessings of our Federal Union. Its benefits are known and recognized by all its citizens who are worthy of serious attention. No one thinks now of attempting to destroy the Union by armed force. No one seriously considers withdrawing from it. But it is not enough that it should be free from attack — it must be approved and supported by a national spirit. Our prime allegiance must be to the whole country. A sentiment of sectionalism is not harmless because it is unarmed. Resistance to the righteous authority of Federal law is not innocent because it is not accompanied by secession. We need a more definite realization that all of our country must stand or fall together, and that it is the duty of the Government to promote the welfare of each part and the duty of the citizen to remember that he must be first of all an American.
  • Only one conclusion appears to me possible. We shall not promote our welfare by a narrow and shortsighted policy. We can gain nothing by any destruction of govern- ment or society. That action which in the long run is for the advantage of the individual, as it is for the support of our Union, is best summed up in a single word — renunciation. It is only by surrendering a certain amount of our liberty, only by taking on new duties and assuming new obligations, that we make that progress which we characterize as civilization. It is only in like manner that the become partakers of its glory. That is the answer to every herald of discontent and to every preacher of destruction. While this is understood, American institutions and the American Union are secure.
  • This principle can not be too definitely or emphatically proclaimed. American citizenship is a high estate. He who holds it is the peer of kings. It has been secured only by untold toil and effort. It will be maintained by no other method. It demands the best that men and women have to give. But it likewise awards to its partakers the best that there is on earth. To attempt to turn it into a thing of ease and inaction would be only to debase it. To cease to struggle and toil and sacrifice for it is not only to cease to be worthy of it but is to start a retreat toward barbarism. No matter what others may say, no matter what others may do, this is the stand that those must maintain who are worthy to be called Americans.
  • But that great struggle was carried on by those whom this day is set apart to commemorate, not only for the preservation of the Union. The authority of the Federal Government had been resisted by armed force. They were also striving to restore peace. It must be remembered that our Republic was organized to avoid and discourage war, and to promote and establish peace. It is the leading characteristic of our national holidays that they are days of peace. The ways of our people are the ways of peace. They naturally seek ways to make peace more secure.
  • It is not to be inferred that it would be anything less than courting national disaster to leave our country barren of defense. Human nature is a very constant quality. While there is justification for hoping and believing that we are moving toward perfection, it would be idle and absurd to assume that we have already reached it. We can not disregard history. There have been and will be domestic disorders. There have been and will be tendencies of one nation to encroach on another. I believe in the maintenance of an Army and Navy, not for aggression but for defense. Security and order are our most valuable possessions. They are cheap at any price. But I am opposed to every kind of military aggrandizement and to all forms of competitive armament. The ideal would be for nations to become parties to mutual covenants limiting their military establishments, and making it obvious that they are not maintained to menace each other. This ideal should be made practical as fast as possible.
  • Our Nation has associated itself with other great powers for the purpose of promoting peace in the regions of the Pacific Ocean. It has steadily refused to accept the covenant of the League of Nations, but long before that was thought of, before the opening of the present century, we were foremost in promoting the calling of a conference at The Hague to provide for a tribunal of arbitration for the settlement of international disputes. We have made many treaties on that basis with other nations.
  • But we have an opportunity before us to reassert our desire and to lend the force of our example for the peaceful adjudication of differences between nations. Such action would be in entire harmony with the policy which we have long advocated. I do not look upon it as a certain guaranty against war, but it would be a method of disposing of troublesome questions, an accumulation of which leads to irritating conditions and results in mutually hostile sentiments. More than a year ago President Harding proposed that the Senate should authorize our adherence to the protocol of the Permanent Court of International Justice, with certain conditions. His suggestion has already had my approval. On that I stand. I should not oppose other reservations, but any material changes which would not probably receive the consent of the many other nations would be impracticable. We can not take a step in advance of this kind without assuming certain obligations. Here again if we receive anything we must surrender something. We may as well face the question candidly, and if we are willing to assume these new duties in exchange for the benefits which would accrue to us, let us say so. If we are not willing, let us say that. We can accomplish nothing by taking a doubtful or ambiguous position. We are not going to be able to avoid meeting the world and bearing our part of the burdens of the world. We must meet those burdens and overcome them or they will meet us and overcome us. For my part I desire my country to meet them without evasion and without fear in an upright, downright, square, American way.
  • While there are those who think we would be exposed to peril by adhering to this court, I am unable to attach great weight to their arguments. Whatever differences, whatever perils exist for us in the world, will come anyway, whether we oppose or support the court. I am one of those who believe we would be safer and that we would be meeting our duties better by supporting it and making every possible use of it. I feel confident that such action would make a greater America, that it would be productive of a higher and finer national spirit, and of a more complete national life.
  • It is these two thoughts of union and peace which appear to me to be especially appropriate for our consideration on this day. Like all else in human experience, they are not things which can be set apart and have an independent existence. They exist by reason of the concrete actions of men and women. It is the men and women whose actions between 1861 and 1865 gave us union and peace that we are met here this day to commemorate. When we seek for the chief characteristic of those actions, we come back to the word which I have already uttered — renunciation. They gave up ease and home and safety and braved every impending danger and mortal peril that they might accomplish these ends. They thereby became in this Republic a body of citizens set apart and marked for every honor so long as our Nation shall endure. Here on this wooded eminence, overlooking the Capital of the country for which they fought, many of them repose, officers of high rank and privates mingling in a common dust, holding the common veneration of a grateful people. The heroes of other wars lie with them, and in a place of great preeminence lies one whose identity is unknown, save that he was a soldier of this Republic who fought that its ideals, its institutions, its liberties, might be perpetuated among men. A grateful country holds all these services as her most priceless heritage, to be cherished forevermore.
  • We can testify to these opinions, not by our words but by our actions. Our country can not exist on the renunciation of the heroic souls of the past. Public service, from the action of the humblest voter to the most exalted office, can not be made a mere matter of hire and salary. The supporters of our institutions must be inspired by a more dominant motive than a conviction that their actions are going to be profitable. We can not lower our standards to what we think will pay, but we must raise them to what we think is right. It is only in that direction that we shall find true patriotism. It is only by that method that we can maintain the rights of the individual, the sovereignty of the States, the integrity of the Union, the permanency of peace, and the welfare of mankind. You soldiers of the Republic enrolled under her banner that through your sacrifices there might be an atonement for the evils of your day. That is the standard of citizenship for all time. It is the requirement which must be met by those who hold public place. That must be the ideal of those who are worthy to share in the glory which you have given to the name of America, the ideal of those who hold fellowship with Washington and Lincoln.

The Progress of a People (1924)[edit]

Commencement address at Howard University (6 June 1924), Washington, D.C.
  • It has come to be a legend, and I believe with more foundation of fact than most legends, that Howard University was the outgrowth of the inspiration of a prayer meeting. I hope it is true, and I shall choose to believe it, for it makes of this scene and this occasion a new testimony that prayers are answered. Here has been established a great university, a sort of educational laboratory for the production of intellectual and spiritual leadership among a people whose history, if you will examine it as it deserves, is one of the striking evidences of a soundness of our civilization.
  • The accomplishments of the colored people in the United States, in the brief historic period since they were brought here from the restrictions of their native continent, can not but make us realize that there is something essential in our civilization which gives it a special power. I think we shall be able to agree that this particular element is the Christian religion, whose influence always and everywhere has been a force for the illumination and advancement of the peoples who have come under its sway.
  • The progress of the colored people on this continent is one of the marvels of modern history. We are perhaps even yet too near to this phenomenon to be able fully to appreciate its significance. That can be impressed on us only as we study and contrast the rapid advancement of the colored people in America with the slow and painful upward movement of humanity as a whole throughout the long human story.
  • An occasion such as this which has brought us here can not but direct our consideration to these things. It has been a painful and difficult experience, this by which another race has been recruited to the standard of civilization and enlightenment; for that is really what has been going on; and the episodes of Negro slavery in America, of civil war, and emancipation, and, following that, the rapid advancement of the American colored people both materially and spiritually, must be recognized as parts of a long evolution by which all mankind is gradually being led to higher levels, expanding its understanding of its mission here, approaching nearer and nearer to the realization of its full and perfected destiny.
  • In such a view of the history of the Negro race in America, we may find the evidences that the black man's probation on this continent was a necessary part in a great plan by which the race was to be saved to the world for a service which we are now able to vision and, even if yet somewhat dimly, to appreciate. The destiny of the great African continent, to be added at length — and in a future not now far beyond us — to the realms of the highest civilization, has become apparent within a very few decades. But for the strange and long inscrutable purpose which in the ordering of human affairs subjected a part of the black race to the ordeal of slavery, that race might have been assigned to the tragic fate which has befallen many aboriginal peoples when brought into conflict with more advanced communities. Instead, we are able now to be confident that this race is to be preserved for a great and useful work. If some of its members have suffered, if some have been denied, if some have been sacrificed, we are able at last to realize that their sacrifices were borne in a great cause. They gave vicariously, that a vastly greater number might be preserved and benefited through them. The salvation of a race, the destiny of a continent, were bought at the price of these sacrifices.
  • Howard University is but one of the many institutions which have grown up in this country, dedicated to this purpose of preserving one of the races of men and fitting it for its largest usefulness. Here is a people adapted, as most people are not, to life in the tropics. They are capable of redeeming vast luxuriant areas of unexampled productivity, and of reclaiming them for the sustenance of mankind and the increasing security of the human community. It is a great destiny, to which we may now look forward with confidence that it will be fully realized.
  • Looking back only a few years, we appreciate how rapid has been the progress of the colored people on this continent. Emancipation brought them the opportunity of which they have availed themselves. It has been calculated that in the first year following the acceptance of their status as a free people, there were approximately 4,000,000 members of the race in this country, and that among these only 12,000 were the owners of their homes; only 20,000 among them conducted their own farms, and the aggregate wealth of these 4,000,000 people hardly exceeded $20,000,000. In a little over a half century since, the number of business enterprises operated by colored people had grown to near 50,000, while the wealth of the Negro community has grown to more than $1,100,000,000. And these figures convey a most inadequate suggestion of the material progress. The 2,000 business enterprises which were in the hands of colored people immediately following emancipation were almost without exception small and rudimentary. Among the 50,000 business operations now in the hands of colored people may be found every type of present-day affairs. There are more than 70 banks conducted by thoroughly competent colored business men. More than 80 percent of all American Negroes are now able to read and write. When they achieved their freedom not 10 percent were literate. There are nearly 2,000,000 Negro pupils in the public schools; well-nigh 40,000 Negro teachers are listed, more than 3,000 following their profession in normal schools and colleges. The list of educational institutions devoting themselves to the race includes 50 colleges, 13 colleges for women, 26 theological schools, a standard school of law, and 2 high-grade institutions of medicine. Through the work of these institutions the Negro race is equipping men and women from its own ranks to provide its leadership in business, the professions, in all relations of life.
  • This, of course, is the special field of usefulness for colored men and women who find the opportunity to get adequate education. Their own people need their help, guidance, leadership, and inspiration. Those of you who are fortunate enough to equip yourselves for these tasks have a special responsibility to make the best use of great opportunities. In a very special way it is incumbent upon those who are prepared to help their people to maintain the truest standards of character and unselfish purpose. The Negro community of America has already so far progressed that its members can be assured that their future is in their own hands. Racial hostility, ancient tradition, and social prejudice are not to be eliminated immediately or easily, but they will be lessened as the colored people by their own efforts and under their own leaders shall prove worthy of the fullest measure of opportunity.
  • The Nation has need of all that can be contributed to it through the best efforts of all its citizens. The colored people have repeatedly proved their devotion to the high ideals of our country. They gave their services in the war with the same patriotism and readiness that other citizens did. The records of the selective draft show that somewhat more than 2,250,000 colored men were registered. The records further prove that, far from seeking to avoid participation in the national defense, they showed that they wished to enlist before the selective service act was put into operation, and they did not attempt to evade that act afterwards.
  • The propaganda of prejudice and hatred which sought to keep the colored men from supporting the national cause completely failed. The black man showed himself the same kind of citizen, moved by the same kind of patriotism, as the white man. They were tempted, but not one betrayed his country. Among well-nigh 400,000 colored men who were taken into the military service, about one-half had overseas experience. They came home with many decorations and their conduct repeatedly won high commendation from both American and European commanders.
  • The armies in the field could not have done their part in the war if they had not been sustained and supported by the far greater civilian forces at home, which through unremitting toil made it possible to sustain our war effort. No part of the community responded more willingly, more generously, more unqualifiedly, to the demand for special extraordinary exertion, than did the members of the Negro race. Whether in the military service, or in the vast mobilization of industrial resources which the war required, the Negro did his part precisely as did the white man. He drew no color line when patriotism made its call upon him. He gave precisely as his white fellow citizens gave, to the limit of resources and abilities, to help the general cause. Thus the American Negro established his right to the gratitude and appreciation which the Nation has been glad to accord.
  • We are not all permitted the privilege of a university training. We can not all enter the professions. What is the great need of American citizenship? To my mind it is this, that each should take up the burden where he is. 'Do the day's work', I have said, and it should be done in the remembrance that all work is dignified. Your race is entitled to great praise for the contribution it makes in doing the work of the world.
  • There will be other crises in the national history which will make other demands for the fullest and most unselfish contribution to the national interest. No generation will be denied its opportunity, will be spared its duty, to put forth its best efforts. We devoutly hope that these contributions will not be demanded upon the field of battle. But they will be just as truly needed, just as urgently summoned, in the activities of peace, the efforts of industry, the performance of all the obligations of citizenship. We can not go out from this place and occasion without refreshment of faith and renewal of confidence that in every exigency our Negro fellow citizens will render the best and fullest measure of service whereof they are capable.

Letter to Charles F. Gardner (1924)[edit]

Letter to Charles F. Gardner (9 August 1924), Fort Hamilton, New York
  • Your letter is received, accompanied by a newspaper clipping which discusses the possibility that a colored man may be the Republican nominee for Congress from one of the New York districts.
  • Leaving out of consideration the manifest impropriety of the President intruding himself in a local contest for nomination, I was amazed to receive such a letter. During the war 500,000 colored men and boys were called up under the draft, not one of whom sought to evade it. They took their places wherever assigned in defense of the nation of which they are just as truly citizens as are any others. The suggestion of denying any measure of their full political rights to such a great group of our population as the colored people is one which, however it might be received in some other quarters, could not possibly be permitted by one who feels a responsibility for living up to the traditions and maintaining the principles of the Republican Party. Our Constitution guarantees equal rights to all our citizens, without discrimination on account of race or color. I have taken my oath to support that Constitution. It is the source of your rights and my rights. I propose to regard it, and administer it, as the source of the rights of all the people, whatever their belief or race.
  • A colored man is precisely as much entitled to submit his candidacy in a party primary, as is any other citizen. The decision must be made by the constituents to whom he offers himself, and by nobody else.

Ordered Liberty and World Peace (1924)[edit]

Address delivered at the dedication of a monument to Lafayette, Saturday (6 September 1924), Baltimore, Maryland.
  • This occasion is dedicated to freedom. The people of Baltimore, and of Maryland, are gathered here in that spirit. Because Americans cherish that sentiment they cherish the name of Lafayette. On the anniversary of his birth, we are gathered about his statue in this proud city which we know he loved, almost in the shadow of the stately monument reared to his great friend Washington, to rededicate ourselves to the inspiring memory of a true son of world freedom.
  • This is not only his birthday, but the anniversary of the farewell reception extended to him at the White House by President Adams during his last visit to our country. This day not only recalls his youth and his dashing figure in our Revolution, but it reminds us of the venerable man, half a century later, held in love and admiration by two countries for the sacrifices he had made in the service of liberty.
  • His picture to me seems always to have the enthusiasm and freshness of youth, moved with the high-minded and patriotic purpose of maturity. He displayed the same ambition for faithful service, whether he was leading his soldiers in the last charge for American liberty at Yorktown or rebuking the mob at Paris for its proposal to make him king. His part in the French Revolution is well known. He served the cause of ordered liberty in America; he was unwilling to serve any other cause in France. His admirers might say of him on the first anniversary of Bastile Day, 'He is galloping through the ages' But he refused to be a man on horseback. He knew that the welfare of his country lay in moderation. The people trusted him, but the extremists, whether Jacobin or Royalist, feared him. He urged the National Assembly to establish by constitutional guarantees what the Revolution had gained.
  • As Commander of the National Guard, again he might have made himself dictator. Instead he was pleading with the Assembly to adopt the preamble of the American Constitution as the foundation of its declaration of rights. When alien armies were brought to France to crush her liberties he was put at the head of the Army of the North, but treachery and suspicion overcame him. He was retired from his command and was seeking to leave the country when he was captured and held for five years in imprisonment. Tradition has it that he was released through the joint efforts of Washington and Napoleon.
  • He had a deep appreciation of this action, but always refused to support the Napoleonic regime. After Waterloo he insisted that Napoleon must abdicate and that the nation must guarantee his life and liberty. When the Bourbons were restored he denounced usurpations in the name of royalty, as he had formerly denounced usurpations in the name of liberty. As a consequence he was charged with treason. He defied the Assembly to try him on such a charge. 'During the whole of a life devoted entirely to liberty I have constantly been attacked by the enemies of that cause', he declared. 'I demand a public inquiry within the walls of this chamber and in the face of this nation'. As his enemies dared riot meet the challenge, he was acquitted.
  • After a few years of private retirement he emerged to pay a visit to this country, one hundred years ago. Congress bestowed upon him citizenship and treasure and he was received everywhere with reverence and acclaim. When the Revolution of July occurred in 1830 he once more became Commander of the National Guard, where his influence saved his people from horrible excesses. Again there was an effort to establish a republic and make him President. But he thought a constitutional monarchy best adapted to the needs of his nation. So he refused this most appealing of all honors and returned to his country home. His long career was ended.
  • He represents a noble and courageous dedication to the service of freedom. He never sought for personal aggrandizement, but under heavy temptation remained loyal to the great Cause. He possessed a character that will abide with us through the generations. He loved his fellowmen, and believed in the ultimate triumph of self-government. But he did not consider France had reached a point where representative democracy would be a success. He was practical. Like Washington, he refused a crown. But while he believed Washington performed a great service in accepting the Presidency of America, he believed he had performed an equally great service in rejecting the Presidency of France. He approved the establishment of our republican institutions, and hoped they would one day be a model for the government of his own country. He recognized the value of native institutions. So, while he was loyal to freedom, he was likewise loyal to the Crown. In moderation, in the gradual evolution of government and society, he perceived the strongest defense against both reaction and revolution, and the greatest hope for permanent progress.
  • We have come here today to honor the memory of Lafayette, because long ago he came to this country as a private citizen at his own expense and joined us in fighting for the maintenance and extension of our institutions. It was not so much to acquire new rights, as to maintain old rights, that the men of that day put their fortunes to the hazard of war. They were resisting usurpations; they were combating unlawful tyrannies. No doubt they wanted to be Americans, but they wanted most of all to be free. They believed in individual liberty, safeguarded by constitutional guarantees. This principle to them was dearer than life itself. What they fought to preserve and extend, we ought to be ready to fight to maintain.
  • Very little danger exists of an open and avowed assault upon the principle of individual freedom. It is more likely to be in peril indirectly perhaps from the avowed intention of protecting it or enlarging it. Out of a long experience with many tyrannies abroad and a weak and inefficient government at home, the Constitution of the United States was adopted and ratified. The people who largely contributed to the early settlement of America came to escape the impositions of despotic kings. Many of the early inhabitants were separatists from the established church. They fled under the threat of the English King, that he would make them conform or harry them out of the land. Their descendants fought the Revolutionary war in order that they might escape the impositions of a despotic parliament.
  • This lesson was firmly in the minds of those who made the American Constitution. They proposed to adopt institutions under which the people should be supreme, and the government should derive its just powers from the consent of the governed. They were determined to be a sovereign people under a government having such powers as they from time to time should confer upon it by a written constitution. They did not propose to be under the tyranny of either the executive or the legislature.
  • They knew, however, that self-government is still government, and that the authority of the Constitution and the law is still authority. They knew that a government without power is a contradiction in terms. In order that their President and their Congress might not surpass the bounds of the authority granted to them, by the Constitution which the people had made, and so infringe upon the liberties of the people, they established a third independent department of the government, with the power to interpret and declare the Constitution and the law, the inferior courts and the Supreme Court of the United States. No President, however powerful, and no majority of Congress however large, can take from an individual, no matter how humble, that freedom and those rights which are guaranteed to him by the Constitution. The Supreme Court has final authority to determine all questions arising under the Constitution and laws of the United States.
  • That power and that authority has to reside somewhere in every government. Originally it lay with the king. After limitations began to be placed upon him, it was conferred upon the parliamentary body. One of the great contributions which America made to the science of government was the establishment of an independent judiciary department under which this authority resides in the Supreme Court. That tribunal has been made as independent and impartial as human nature could devise. This action was taken with the sole purpose of protecting the freedom of the individual, of guarding his earnings, his home, his life.
  • It is frequently charged that this tribunal is tyrannical. If the Constitution of the United States be tyranny; if the rule that no one shall be convicted of a crime save by a jury of his peers; that no orders of nobility shall be granted; that slavery shall not be permitted to exist in any state or territory; that no one shall be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law; if these and many other provisions made by the people be tyranny, then the Supreme Court when it makes decisions in accordance with these principles of our fundamental law is tyrannical. Otherwise it is exercising the power of government for the preservation of liberty. The fact is that the Constitution is the source of our freedom. Maintaining it, interpreting it, and declaring it, are the only methods by which the Constitution can be preserved and our liberties guaranteed.
  • Somewhere must be lodged the power to declare the Constitution. If it be taken away from the Court, it must go either to the executive or the legislative branch of the Government. No one, so far as I know, has thought that it should go to the Executive. All those who advocate changes propose, I believe, that it should be transferred in whole or in part to the Congress. I have a very high regard for legislative assemblies. We have put a very great emphasis upon representative government. It is the only method by which due deliberation can be secured. That is a great safeguard of liberty. But the legislature is not judicial. Along with what are admitted to be the merits of the question, also what is supposed to be the popular demand and the greatest partisan advantage weigh very heavily in making legislative decisions. It is well known that when the House of Representatives sits as a judicial body, to determine contested elections, it has a tendency to decide in a partisan way. It is to be remembered also that under recent political practice there is a strong tendency for legislatures to be very much influenced by the Executive. Whether we like this practice or not, there is no use denying that it exists. With a dominant Executive and a subservient legislature, the opportunity would be very inviting to aggrandizement, and very dangerous to liberty. That way leads toward imperialism. Some people do not seem to understand fully the purpose of our constitutional restraints. They are not for protecting the majority, either in or out of the Congress. They can protect themselves with their votes. We have adopted a written constitution in order that the minority, even down to the most insignificant individual, might have their rights protected. So long as our Constitution remains in force, no majority, no matter how large, can deprive the individual of the right of life, liberty or property, or prohibit the free exercise of religion or the freedom of speech or of the press. If the authority now vested in the Supreme Court were transferred to the Congress, any majority no matter what their motive could vote away any of these most precious rights. Majorities are notoriously irresponsible. After irreparable damage had been done the only remedy that the people would have would be the privilege of trying to defeat such a majority at the next election. Every minority body that may be weak in resources or unpopular in the public estimation, also nearly every race and religious belief, would find themselves practically without protection, if the authority of the Supreme Court should be broken down and its powers lodged with the Congress.
  • The same reasoning that applies to the individual person applies to the individual state. A very broad twilight zone exists in which it is difficult to distinguish where state right ends and federal right begins. Deprived of the privilege of its day in court, each state would be compelled to submit to the exactions of the Congress or resort to resistance by force. On the other hand, the legislatures of states, and sometimes the people, through the initiative and referendum, may pass laws which are very injurious to the minority residents of that state, by attempting to take away the privilege which they hold under the Federal Constitution. Except for the courts, such a minority would have no remedy for wrong done them. Their ultimate refuge is the Supreme Court of the United States.
  • At a time when all the world is seeking for the adjudication of differences between nations, not by war, but by reason, the suggestion that we should limit the jurisdiction of our domestic courts is reactionary in the highest degree. It would cast aside the progress of generations to begin again the contest for supremacy between executive and legislature. Whichever side has won in that struggle, the people have always lost.
  • Our Constitution has raised certain barriers against too hasty change. I believe such provision is wise. I doubt if there has been any change that has ever really been desired by the people which they have not been able to secure. Stability of government is a very important asset. If amendment be made easy, both revolution and reaction, as well as orderly progress, also become easy. The nation has lost little, but has gained much, through the necessity of due deliberation. The pressing need of the present day is not to change our constitutional rights, but to observe our constitutional rights.
  • A deliberate and determined effort is being made to break down the guarantees of our fundamental law. It has for its purpose the confiscation of property and the destruction of liberty. At the present time the chief obstacle to this effort is the Supreme Court of the United States. In this contest there is but one place for a real American to stand. That is on the side of ordered liberty under constitutional government. This is not the struggle of the rich and powerful. They will be able to survive. It is the struggle of the common run of people. Unless we can maintain our institutions of liberty unimpaired they will see their savings swept away, their homes devastated, and their children perish from want and hunger.
  • The time to stop those who would loosen and weaken the fabric of our government is before they begin. The time for Americans to range themselves firmly, squarely and uncompromisingly behind American ideals is now. The great body of our people have an abiding faith in their own country. The time has come when they should supplement that faith with action. The question is whether America will allow itself to be degraded into a communistic and socialistic state, or whether it will remain American. Those who want to continue to enjoy the high estate of American citizenship will resist all attempts to encroach upon their liberties by encroachment upon the power of the courts.
  • The Constitution of the United States has for its almost sole purpose the protection of the freedom of the people. We must combat every attempt to break down or to make it easy, under the pretended guise of legal procedure, to throw open the way to reaction or revolution. To adopt any other course is to put in jeopardy the sacred right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness.
  • Lafayette was always an interested student of our affairs. Though he distrusted the effort to make France a republic, he believed greatly in our Republic and our Constitution. He had fought to establish American independence, in order that these might come into being. That independence to which he contributed has come to be with us a national axiom. We have always guarded it with the utmost jealousy. We have sought to strengthen it with the Monroe Doctrine. We have refrained from treaties of offensive and defensive alliance. We have kept clear from political entanglements with other countries. Under this wise and sound policy America has been a country on the whole dedicated to peace, through honorable and disinterested relations with the other peoples of the earth. We have always been desirous not to participate in controversies, but to compose them. What a success this has brought to us at home, and what a place of respect and moral power it has gained for us abroad, is known of all men.
  • To continue to be independent we must continue to be whole-hearted American. We must direct our policies and lay our course with the sole consideration of serving our own people. We cannot become the partisans of one nation, or the opponents of another. Our domestic affairs should be entirely free from foreign interference, whether such attempt be made by those who are without or within our own territory. America is a large country. It is a tolerant country. It has room within its borders for many races and many creeds. But it has no room for those who would place the interests of some other nation above the interests of our own nation.
  • To be independent to my mind does not mean to be isolated, to be the priest or the Levite, but rather to be the good Samaritan. There is no real independence save only as we secure it through the law of service.
  • The course of our country in recent years has been an example of these principles. We have avoided entanglements by reserving to our own decision when and how we should help. We have not failed to help. We have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign charities. We have given freely of our counsel to the settlement of difficulties in Latin America and the adjustment of war problems in Europe. We are still pursuing that course. It has been a practical course, and it has secured practical results. One of these most important results is found in the disarmament treaties, which have saved our own country to date about $300,000,000, and likewise relieved other nations. Another important result has been the adoption of the Dawes plan for the settlement of reparations. The effect these will have in averting war and promoting peace cannot possibly be overestimated. They stand out as great monuments, truly directing the course of men along the way to more civilization, more enlightenment, and more righteousness. They appear to me properly to mark the end of the old order, and the beginning of a new era. We hope they are the end of aggressive war and the beginning of permanent peace.
  • Great changes have come over the world since Lafayette first came here desirous of aiding the cause of freedom. His efforts in behalf of an American republic have been altogether successful. In no other country in the world was economic opportunity for the people ever so great as it is here. In no other country was it ever possible in a like degree to secure equality and justice for all. Just as he was passing off the stage, the British adopted their reform measures giving them practically representative government. His own France has long since been welcomed into the family of republics. Many others have taken a like course. The cause of freedom has been triumphant. We believe it to be, likewise, the cause of peace. But peace must have other guarantees than constitutions and covenants. Laws and treaties may help, but peace and war are attitudes of mind. American citizens, with the full sympathy of our Government, have been attempting with apparent success to restore stricken Europe.
  • We have acted in the name of world peace and of humanity. Always the obstacles to be encountered have been distrust, suspicion and hatred. The great effort has been to allay and remove these sentiments. I believe that America can assist the world in this direction by her example. We have never forgotten the service done us by Lafayette, but we have long ago ceased to bear an enmity toward Great Britain by reason of two wars that were fought out between us. We want Europe to compose its difficulties and liquidate its hatreds. Would it not be well if we set the example and liquidated some of our own? The war is over. The militarism of Central Europe which menaced the security of the world has been overthrown. In its place have sprung up peaceful republics. Already we have assisted in refinancing Austria. We are about to assist refinancing Germany. We believe that such action will be helpful to France, but we can give further and perhaps even more valuable assistance both to ourselves and to Europe by bringing to an end our own hatreds. The best way for us who wish all our inhabitants to be single-minded in their Americanism is for us to bestow upon each group of our inhabitants that confidence and fellowship which is due to all Americans. If we want to get the hyphen out of our country, we can best begin by taking it out of our own minds. If we want France paid, we can best work towards that end by assisting in the restoration of the German people, now shorn of militarism, to their full place in the family of peaceful mankind.
  • I want to see America set the example to the world both in our domestic and foreign relations of magnanimity.
  • We cannot make over the people of Europe. We must help them as they are, if we are to help them at all. I believe that we should help, not at the sacrifice of our independence, not for the support of imperialism, but to restore to those great peoples a peaceful civilization. In that course lies the best guarantee of freedom. In that course lies the greatest honor which we can bestow upon the memory of Lafayette.

Authority and Religious Liberty (1924)[edit]

Address before the Holy Name Society, Washington, D.C., (21 September 1924).
  • Something in all human beings makes them want to do the right thing. Not that this desire always prevails; oftentimes it is overcome and they turn towards evil. But some power is constantly calling them back. Ever there comes a resistance to wrongdoing. When bad conditions begun to accumulate, when the forces of darkness become prevalent, always they are ultimately doomed to fail, as the better angels of human nature are roused to resistance.
  • Your great demonstration which marks this day in the City of Washington is only representative of many like observances extending over our own country and into other lands, so that it makes a truly world-wide appeal. It is a manifestation of the good in human nature which is of tremendous significance. More than six centuries ago, when in spite of much learning and much piety there was much ignorance, much wickedness and much warfare, when there seemed to be too little light in the world, when the condition of the common people appeared to be sunk in hopelessness, when most of life was rude, harsh and cruel, when the speech of men was too often profane and vulgar, until the earth rang with the tumult of those who took the name of the Lord in vain, the foundation of this day was laid in the formation of the Holy Name Society. It had an inspired purpose. It sought to rededicate the minds of the people to a true conception of the sacredness of the name of the Supreme Being. It was an effort to save all reference to the Deity from curses and blasphemy, and restore the lips of men to reverence and praise. Out of weakness there began to be strength; out of frenzy there began to be self-control; out of confusion there began to be order. This demonstration is a manifestation of the wide extent to which an effort to do the right thing will reach when it is once begun. It is a purpose which makes a universal appeal, an effort in which all may unite.
  • The importance of the lesson which this Society was formed to teach would be hard to overestimate. Its main purpose is to impress upon the people the necessity for reverence. This is the beginning of a proper conception of ourselves, of our relationship to each other, and our relationship to our Creator. Human nature cannot develop very far without it. The mind does not unfold, the creative faculty does not mature, the spirit does not expand, save under the influence of reverence. It is the chief motive of an obedience. It is only by a correct attitude of mind begun early in youth and carried through maturity that these desired results are likely to be secured. It is along the path of reverence and obedience that the race has reached the goal of freedom, of self-government, of a higher morality, and a more abundant spiritual life.
  • Out of a desire that there may be a progress in these directions, with all that such progress means, this great Society continues its efforts. It recognizes that whoever has an evil tongue cannot have a pure mind. We read that 'out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh'. This is a truth which is worthy of much thought. He who gives license to his tongue only discloses the contents of his own mind. By the excess of his words he proclaims his lack of discipline. By his very violence he shows his weakness. The youth or man who by disregarding this principle thinks he is displaying his determination and resolution and emphasizing his statements is in reality only revealing an intellectual poverty, a deficiency in self-control and self-respect, a want of accurate thinking and of spiritual insight, which cannot come save from a reverence for the truth. There are no human actions which are unimportant, none to which we can be indifferent. All of them lead either towards destruction and death, or towards construction and life.
  • To my mind, the great strength of your Society lies in its recognition of the necessity of discipline. We live in an impatient age. We demand results, and demand them at once. We find a long and laborious process very irksome, and are constantly seeking for a short cut. But there is no easy method of securing discipline. It is axiomatic that there is no royal road to learning. The effort for discipline must be intensive, and to a considerable degree it must be lifelong. But it is absolutely necessary, if there is to be any self-direction or any self-control. The worst evil that could be inflicted upon the youth of the land would be to leave them without restraint and completely at the mercy of their own uncontrolled inclinations. Under such conditions education would be impossible, and all orderly development intellectually or morally would be hopeless. I do not need to picture the result. We know too well what weakness and depravity follow when the ordinary processes of discipline are neglected.
  • Yet the world has never thoroughly learned this lesson It has never been willing entirely to acknowledge this principle. One of the greatest needs of the present day is the establishment and recognition of standards, and holding ourselves up to their proper observance. This cannot be done without constant effort and it will meet constant opposition. Always there have been those who fail to recognize this necessity. Their opposition to it and their philosophy of life were well expressed by Robert Burns in that poem which describes the carousings of a collection of vagabonds, where one of them gave his views: 'A fig for those by law protected! Liberty's a glorious feast! Courts for cowards were erected, Churches built to please the priest'.
  • That character clearly saw no use for discipline, and just as clearly found his reward in the life of an outcast. The principles which he proclaimed could not lead in any other direction. Vice and misery were their natural and inevitable consequences. He refused to recognize or obey any authority, save his own material inclinations. He never rose above his appetites. Your Society stands as a protest against this attitude of mind.
  • But there are altogether too many in the world who consciously or unconsciously do hold those views and follow that example. I believe such a position arises from a misconception of the meaning of life. They seem to think that authority means some kind of an attempt to force action upon them which is not for their own benefit, but for the benefit of others. To me they do not appear to understand the nature of law, and therefore refuse obedience. They misinterpret the meaning of individual liberty, and therefore fail to attain it. They do not recognize the right of property, and therefore do not come into its possession. They rebel at the idea of service, and therefore lack the fellowship and cooperation of others. Our conception of authority, of law and liberty, of property and service, ought not to be that they imply rules of action for the mere benefit of someone else, but that they are primarily for the benefit of ourselves. The Government supports them in order that the people may enjoy them.
  • Our American government was the result of an effort to establish institutions under which the people as a whole should have the largest possible advantages. Class and privilege were outlawed, freedom and opportunity were guaranteed. They undertook to provide conditions under which service would be adequately rewarded, and where the people would own their own property and control their own government. They had no other motive. They were actuated by no other purpose. If we are to maintain what they established, it is important to understand the foundation on which they built, and the claims by which they justified the sovereign rights and royal estate of every American citizen.
  • They did not deny the existence of authority. They recognized it and undertook to abide by it, and through obedience to it secure their freedom. They made their appeal and rested their cause not merely upon earthly authority, but in the very first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence asserted that they proposed 'to assume, among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them.' And as they closed that noble document in which they submitted their claims to the opinions of mankind they again revealed what they believed to be the ultimate source of authority by stating that they were also 'appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of' their 'intentions.'
  • When finally our Constitution was adopted, it contained specific provision that the President and members of the Congress and of state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officials, should be qualified for the discharge of their office by oath or affirmation. By the statute law of the United States, and I doubt not by all States, such oaths are administered by a solemn appeal to God for help in the keeping of their covenants. I scarcely need to refer to the fact that the houses of the Congress, and so far as I know the state legislatures, open their daily sessions with prayer. The foundation of our independence and our Government rests upon our basic religious convictions. Back of the authority of our laws is the authority of the Supreme Judge of the World, to whom we still appeal for their final justification.
  • The Constitution and laws of our country are adopted and enacted through the direct action of the people, or through their duly chosen representatives. They reflect the enlightened conscience of our country. They ought always to speak with the true and conscientious voice of the people. Such voice has from time immemorial had the authority of divine sanction. In their great fundamentals they do not change. As new light arrives they may be altered in their details, but they represent the best that we know at any given time. To support the Constitution, to observe the laws, is to be true to our own higher nature. That is the path, and the only path, towards liberty. To resist them and violate them is to become enemies to ourselves and instruments of our own destruction. That is the path towards servitude. Obedience is not for the protection of someone else, but for the protection of ourselves. It needs to be remembered that it has to be secured not through the action of others, but through our own actions. Liberty is not collective, it is personal. All liberty is individual liberty.
  • Coincident with the right of individual liberty under the provisions of our Government is the right of individual property. The position which the individual holds in the conception of American institutions is higher than that ever before attained anywhere else on earth. It is acknowledged and proclaimed that he has sovereign powers. It is declared that he is endowed with inalienable rights which no majority, however great, and no power of the Government, however broad, can ever be justified in violating. 'The principle of equality is recognized. It follows inevitably from belief in the brotherhood of man through the fatherhood of God. When once the right of the individual to liberty and equality is admitted, there is no escape from the conclusion that he alone is entitled to the rewards of his own industry. Any other conclusion would necessarily imply either privilege or servitude. Here again the right of individual property is for the protection of society.
  • When service is performed, the individual performing it is entitled to the compensation for it. His creation becomes a part of himself. It is his property. To attempt to deal with persons or with property in a communistic or socialistic way is to deny what seems to me to be this plain fact. Liberty and equality require that equal compensation shall be paid for equal service to the individual who performs it. Socialism and communism cannot be reconciled with the principles which our institutions represent. They are entirely foreign, entirely un-American. We stand wholly committed to the policy that what the individual produces belongs entirely to him to be used by him for the benefit of himself, to provide for his own family and to enable him to serve his fellow men.
  • Of course we are all aware that the recognition of brotherhood brings in the requirement of charity. But it is only on the basis of individual property that there can be any charity. Our very conception of the term means that we deny ourselves of what belongs to us, in order to give it to another. If that which we give is not really our own, but belongs to the person to whom we give it, such an act may rightfully be called justice, but it cannot be regarded as charity.
  • These are some of our American standards. These principles, in the province to which they relate, bestow upon the people all there is to bestow. They recognize in the people all that there is to recognize. They are the ultimates. There is no beyond. They are solely for the benefit and advantage of all the people. If any change is made in these principles it will not be by giving more to the people, but by taking from them something of that which they now have. It cannot be progress. It must be reaction. I do not say that we, as citizens, have always held ourselves to a proper observance of these standards towards each other, but we have nevertheless established them and declared our duty to be obedience to them. This is the American ideal of ordered liberty under the law. It calls for rigid discipline.
  • What a wide difference between the American position and that imagined by the vagabond who thought of liberty as a glorious feast unprotected and unregulated by law. This is not civilization, but a plain reversion to the life of the jungle. Without the protection of the law, and the imposition of its authority, equality cannot be maintained, liberty disappears and property vanishes. This is anarchy. The forces of darkness are traveling in that direction. But the spirit of America turns its face towards the light.
  • That spirit I have faith will prevail. America is not going to abandon its principles or desert its ideals. The foundation on which they are built will remain firm. I believe that the principle which your organization represents is their main support. It seems to me perfectly plain that the authority of law, the right to equality, liberty and property, under American institutions, have for their foundation reverence for God. If we could imagine that to be swept away, these institutions of our American government could not long survive. But that reverence will not fail. It will abide. Unnumbered organizations of which your own is one exist for its promotion. In the inevitable longing of the human soul to do right is the secure guarantee of our American institutions. By maintaining a society to promote reverence for the Holy Name you are performing both a pious and a patriotic service.
  • We Americans are idealists. We are willing to follow the truth solely because it is the truth. We put our main emphasis on the things which are spiritual. While we possess an unsurpassed skill in marshaling and using the material resources of the world, still the nation has not sought for wealth and power as an end but as a means to a higher life.
  • Yet Americans are not visionary, they are not sentimentalists. They want idealism, but they want it to be practical, they want it to produce results. It would be little use to try to convince them of the soundness and righteousness of their institutions, if they could not see that they have been justified in the past history and the present condition of the people. They estimate the correctness of the principle by the success which they find in their own experience. They have faith but they want works.
  • The fame of the advantages which accrue to the inhabitants of our country has spread throughout the world. If we doubt the high estimation in which these opportunities are held by other peoples, it is only necessary to remember that they sought them in such numbers as to require our own protection by restrictive immigration. I am aware that our country and its institutions are often the subject of censure. I grieve to see them misrepresented for selfish and destructive aims. But I welcome candid criticism, which is moved by a purpose to promote the public welfare. But while we should always strive for improvement by living in more complete harmony with out ideals, we should not permit incidental failure or unwarranted blame to obscure the fact that the people of our country have secured the greatest success that was ever before experienced in human history.
  • The evidence of this is all about us, in our wealth, our educational facilities, our charities, our religious institutions, and in the moral influence which we exert on the world. Most of all, it is apparent in the unexampled place which is held by the people who toil. Our inhabitants are especially free to promote their own welfare. They are unburdened by militarism. They are not called upon to support any imperialistic designs. Every mother can rest in the assurance that her children will find here a land of devotion, prosperity and peace. The tall shaft near which we are gathered and yonder stately memorial remind us that our standards of manhood are revealed in the adoration which we pay to Washington and Lincoln. They are unrivaled and unsurpassed. Above all else, they are Americans. The institutions of our country stand justified both in reason and in experience. I am aware that they will continue to be assailed. But I know they will continue to stand. We may perish, but they will endure. They are founded on the Rock of Ages.

The Genius of America (1924)[edit]

"The Genius of America" speech, to a delegation of foreign-born citizens at the White House, Thursday morning (16 October 1924), Washington, D.C.
  • The members of this delegation, whom I have much pleasure in receiving, are all American citizens who chance to have been born in other countries than our own. You have called upon me to testify for yourselves and the millions of others who, though not natives to our soil, are in every other respect thorough-going, loyal and devoted Americans. I am glad to welcome you, not only to this place, but to the full privileges and opportunities, and especially to the full responsibilities and duties, of American citizens. It is not very long, as history views matters, since all of us were alien to this soil. I suppose that if Methuselah were at this time an American in his period of middle life, and should drop in on our little party, he would regard us all as upstarts. Fortunately, American ideas of hospitality have been greatly modified since the times when some of my early American forbears argued the matter with the Indian known as King Philip. He and his Indian supporters regarded themselves as the real Americans, and maintained their case all too effectively.
  • It is a truism, of course, but it is none the less a fact which we must never forget, that this continent and this American community have been blessed with an unparalleled capacity for assimilating peoples of varying races and nations. The continuing migration which in three centuries has established here this nation of more than a hundred million, has been the greatest that history records as taking place in any such brief period. Viewing it historically, we find that the migration to America was little more than a westward projection of the series of great movements of peoples, by which Europe was given its present population. But there is a striking difference between the migrations into Europe, and the later movements of the same racial elements to the New World.
  • It was the fate of Europe to be always a battleground. Differences in race, in religion, in political genius and social ideals, seemed always, in the atmosphere of our mother continent, to be invitations to contest by battle. From the dawn of history, and we can only conjecture how much longer, the conflicts of races and civilizations, of traditions and usages, have gone on. It is one of the anomalies of the human story that these peoples, who could not be assimilated and unified under the skies of Europe, should on coming to America discover an amazing genius for cooperation, for fusion, and for harmonious effort. Yet they were the same people when they came here that they had been on the other side of the Atlantic. Quite apparently, they found something in our institutions, something in the American system of Government and society which they themselves helped to construct, that furnished to all of them a political and cultural common denominator.
  • Is it possible for us to make an analysis which will disclose this element that has wrought such a strangely different result here in our country? It must be an element that was present among the peoples of Europe while they were still in Europe. It could not have been brought here except by them. There has been nobody else to bring it. The original human materials were the same in both cases.
  • It has seemed to me that our search for this mysterious factor of difference must lead to the conclusion that it was not a single factor but the united workings of at least three forces, that brought about the wide difference.
  • Among these I should place, first, the broadly tolerant attitude that has been a characteristic of this country. I use the word in its most inclusive sense, to cover tolerance of religious opinion, tolerance in politics, tolerance in social relationships; in general, the liberal attitude of every citizen toward his fellows. It is this factor which has preserved to all of us that equality of opportunity which enables every American to become the architect of whatever fortune he deserves.
  • Along with this element of universal tolerance, I should couple our Republican system of Government, which gives to every man a share and a responsibility in the direction of public affairs. And third, I should place our system of universal free education.
  • I shall not quarrel with anybody who chooses to give these three factors a different order of importance. That is a matter for individual judgment. But I do believe that these three factors largely represent the advantages which our people have enjoyed, and which have made it possible for them to build here a great, harmonious, liberal, community of free people. Starting anew in a land of almost unlimited natural opportunity, the early settlers found that the success of their nation-building experiments must depend upon their working harmoniously together, sinking non-essential differences, cooperating frankly and sincerely in the general interest, and, above all else, forgetting the ancient antagonisms. It has been our good fortune that we have been able to shake off the old traditions, to strike hands with our neighbor in the common effort to preserve our new-found liberties. And along with this, through our system of universal education, we have been able to guard against the revival of old, or the creation of new regional or group hostilities.
  • You who represent the more recent accretions to our population, know how generously you have been received. You know how free and unquestioned has been your access to the opportunities of this land. You have been expected to do your honest share of the day's work in a community which ranked productive toil as a distinction rather than a degradation. We have all taken our chance on that condition. Because we have been willing to do so, we have been prospered in material things and, what is ever more worth while, in the things of the spirit. Generation after generation, from the beginnings of permanent settlement here, the country has been able to receive and absorb a great number of newcomers from the older countries. That was possible so long as there was cheap land for settlement, and the assurance that industry could put value into it.
  • But with the passing of the day of lands so cheap as to be well-nigh free, we are coming to confront a new set of conditions. It has been found necessary to inquire whether under these new conditions we can be sure of finding employment for the diverse elements and enormous numbers of new immigrants that are offered to us. We are all agreed, whether we be Americans of the first or of the seventh generation on this soil, that it is not desirable to receive more immigrants than can reasonably be assured of bettering their condition by coming here. For the sake both of those who would come and more especially of those already here, it has been thought wise to avoid the danger of increasing our numbers too fast. It is not a reflection on any race or creed. We might not be able to support them if their numbers were too great. In such event, the first sufferers would be the most recent immigrants, unaccustomed to our life and language and industrial methods. We want to keep wages and living conditions good for everyone who is now here or who may come here.
  • As a Nation, our first duty must be to those who are already our inhabitants, whether native or immigrants. To them we owe an especial and a weighty obligation. They came to us with stout hearts and high hopes of bettering their estate. They have contributed much to making our country what it is. They magnificently proved their loyalty by contributing their full part when the war made demand for sacrifices by all Americans.
  • It must be the hope of every American citizen to maintain here as a permanent establishment, and as a perpetual inheritance for Americans of the future, the full measure of benefits and advantages which our people have been privileged to enjoy. It is our earnest wish to cooperate and to help in every possible way in restoring the unfortunate countries of the Old World. We want to help them to rid themselves of the bad traditions, the ancient animosities, the long established hostilities. We want our America to continue an example and a demonstration that peace, harmony, cooperation and a truly national patriotic sentiment may be established and perpetuated on an American scale. We believe our first great service to the Old World will be in proving this. And in proving it, we shall be doing the things that will best equip us, spiritually and materially, to give the most effective help toward relieving the suffering nations of the Old World.
  • You have demonstrated again and again that it is useless to appeal to you on any thing but patriotic motives. You are for America, you are for our Constitution, you will not be tempted to take any action that will imperil our society or our Government.
  • It is the natural and correct attitude of mind for each of us to have regard for our own race and the place of our own origin. There is abundant room here for the preservation and development of the many divergent virtues that are characteristic of the different races which have made America their home. They ought to cling to all these virtues and cultivate them tenaciously. It is my own belief that in this land of freedom new arrivals should especially keep up their devotion to religion. Disregarding the need of the individual for a religious life, I feel that there is a more urgent necessity, based on the requirements of good citizenship and the maintenance of our institutions, for devotion to religion in America than anywhere else in the world. One of the greatest dangers that beset those coming to this country, especially those of the younger generation, is that they will fall away from the religion of their fathers, and never become attached to any other faith.
  • But in cherishing all that is best in the land of your origin, and in desiring the highest welfare of the people of the old home, the question arises as to how that result can best be secured. I know that there is no better American spirit than that which is exhibited by many of those who have recently come to our shores. It is my belief that those who live here and really want to help some other country, can best accomplish that result by making themselves truly and wholly American. I mean by that, giving their first allegiance to this country and always directing their actions in a course which will be first of all for the best interests of this country. They cannot help other nations by bringing old world race prejudices and race hatreds into action here. In fact, they can best help other countries by scrupulously avoiding any such motives. It can be taken for granted that we all wish to help Europe. We cannot secure that result by proposing or taking any action that would injure America. Nor can we secure it by proposing or taking any action that would seriously injure some European country.
  • The spirit of America is to help everybody and injure nobody. We can be in a position to help only by unifying the American nation, building it up, making it strong, keeping it independent, using its inclination to help and its disclination to injure. Those who cast in their lot with this country can be true to the land of their origin only by first being true to America. When the public sees and realizes that racial groups here are first of all devoted to the interests of this country, there will be little difficulty in securing here the present needed help and assistance for the countries of the old world.
  • This is the main thought which your presence here brings to my mind. Let us maintain all the high ideals which have been characteristic of our different races at home. Let us keep our desire to help other lands as a great and broad principle, not to help in one place and do harm in another, but to render assistance everywhere. Let us remember also that the best method of promoting this action is by giving undivided allegiance to America, maintaining its institutions, supporting its Government, and, by leaving it internally harmonious, making it eternally powerful in promoting a reign of justice and mercy throughout the earth.

Second State of the Union Address (1924)[edit]

Second State of the Union Address (3 December 1924)
  • To the Congress of the United States. The present state of the Union, upon which it is customary for the President to report to the Congress under the provisions of the Constitution, is such that it may be regarded with encouragement and satisfaction by every American. Our country is almost unique in its ability to discharge fully and promptly all its obligations at home and abroad, and provide for all its inhabitants an increase in material resources, in intellectual vigor and in moral power. The Nation holds a position unsurpassed in all former human experience. This does not mean that we do not have any problems. It is elementary that the increasing breadth of our experience necessarily increases the problems of our national life. But it does mean that if all will but apply ourselves industriously and honestly, we have ample powers with which to meet our problems and provide for I heir speedy solution. I do not profess that we can secure an era of perfection in human existence, but we can provide an era of peace and prosperity, attended with freedom and justice and made more and more satisfying by the ministrations of the charities and humanities of life.
  • In my opinion the Government can do more to remedy the economic ills of the people by a system of rigid economy in public expenditure than can be accomplished through any other action. The costs of our national and local governments combined now stand at a sum close to $100 for each inhabitant of the land. A little less than one-third of this is represented by national expenditure, and a little more than two-thirds by local expenditure. It is an ominous fact that only the National Government is reducing its debt. Others are increasing theirs at about $1,000,000,000 each year. The depression that overtook business, the disaster experienced in agriculture, the lack of employment and the terrific shrinkage in all values which our country experienced in a most acute form in 1920, resulted in no small measure from the prohibitive taxes which were then levied on all productive effort. The establishment of a system of drastic economy in public expenditure, which has enabled us to pay off about one-fifth of the national debt since 1919, and almost cut in two the national tax burden since 1921, has been one of the main causes in reestablishing a prosperity which has come to include within its benefits almost every one of our inhabitants. Economy reaches everywhere. It carries a blessing to everybody.
  • The fallacy of the claim that the costs of government are borne by the rich and those who make a direct contribution to the National Treasury can not be too often exposed. No system has been devised, I do not think any system could be devised, under which any person living in this country could escape being affected by the cost of our government. It has a direct effect both upon the rate and the purchasing power of wages. It is felt in the price of those prime necessities of existence, food, clothing, fuel and shelter. It would appear to be elementary that the more the Government expends the more it must require every producer to contribute out of his production to the Public Treasury, and the less he will have for his own benefit. The continuing costs of public administration can be met in only one way — by the work of the people. The higher they become, the more the people must work for the Government. The less they are, the more the people can work for themselves.
  • The present estimated margin between public receipts and expenditures for this fiscal year is very small. Perhaps the most important work that this session of the Congress can do is to continue a policy of economy and further reduce the cost of government, in order that we may have a reduction of taxes for the next fiscal year. Nothing is more likely to produce that public confidence which is the forerunner and the mainstay of prosperity, encourage and enlarge business opportunity with ample opportunity for employment at good wages, provide a larger market for agricultural products, and put our country in a stronger position to be able to meet the world competition in trade, than a continuing policy of economy. Of course necessary costs must be met, proper functions of the Government performed, and constant investments for capital account and reproductive effort must be carried on by our various departments. But the people must know that their Government is placing upon them no unnecessary burden.
  • Taxes. Everyone desires a reduction of taxes, and there is a great preponderance of sentiment in favor of taxation reform. When I approved the present tax law, I stated publicly that I did so in spite of certain provisions which I believed unwise and harmful. One of the most glaring of these was the making public of the amounts assessed against different income-tax payers. Although that damage has now been done, I believe its continuation to be detrimental To the public welfare and bound to decrease public revenues, so that it ought to be repealed.
  • Anybody can reduce taxes, but it is not so easy to stand in the gap and resist the passage of increasing appropriation bills which would make tax reduction impossible. It will be very easy to measure the strength of the attachment to reduced taxation by the power with which increased appropriations are resisted. If at the close of the present session the Congress has kept within the budget which I propose to present, it will then be possible to have a moderate amount of tax reduction and all the tax reform that the Congress may wish for during the next fiscal year. The country is now feeling the direct stimulus which came from the passage of the last revenue bill, and under the assurance of a reasonable system of taxation there is every prospect of an era of prosperity of unprecedented proportions. But it would be idle to expect any such results unless business can continue free from excess profits taxation and be accorded a system of surtaxes at rates which have for their object not the punishment of success or the discouragement of business, but the production of the greatest amount of revenue from large incomes. I am convinced that the larger incomes of the country would actually yield more revenue to the Government if the basis of taxation were scientifically revised downward. Moreover the effect of the present method of this taxation is to increase the cost of interest. on productive enterprise and to increase the burden of rent. It is altogether likely that such reduction would so encourage and stimulate investment that it would firmly establish our country in the economic leadership of the world.
  • Waterways. Meantime our internal development should go on. Provision should be made for flood control of such rivers as the Mississippi and the Colorado, and for the opening up of our inland waterways to commerce. Consideration is due to the project of better navigation from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. Every effort is being made to promote an agreement with Canada to build the, St. Lawrence waterway. There are pending before the Congress bills for further development of the Mississippi Basin, for the taking over of the Cape Cod Canal in accordance with a moral obligation which seems to have been incurred during the war, and for the improvement of harbors on both the Pacific and the Atlantic coasts. While this last should be divested of some of its projects and we must proceed slowly, these bills in general have my approval. Such works are productive of wealth and in the long run tend to a reduction of the tax burden.
  • Reclamation. Our country has a well defined policy of reclamation established under statutory authority. This policy should be continued and made a self-sustaining activity administered in a manner that will meet local requirements and bring our and lands into a profitable state of cultivation as fast as there is a market for their products. Legislation is pending based on the report of the Fact Finding Commission for the proper relief of those needing extension of time in which to meet their payments on irrigated land, and for additional amendments and reforms of our reclamation laws, which are all exceedingly important and should be enacted at once.
  • No more important development has taken place in the last year than the beginning of a restoration of agriculture to a prosperous condition. We must permit no division of classes in this country, with one occupation striving to secure advantage over another. Each must proceed under open opportunities and with a fair prospect of economic equality. The Government can not successfully insure prosperity or fix prices by legislative fiat. Every business has its risk and its times of depression. It is well known that in the long run there will be a more even prosperity and a more satisfactory range of prices under the natural working out of economic laws than when the Government undertakes the artificial support of markets and industries. Still we can so order our affairs, so protect our own people from foreign competition, so arrange our national finances, so administer our monetary system, so provide for the extension of credits, so improve methods of distribution, as to provide a better working machinery for the transaction of the business of the Nation with the least possible friction and loss. The Government has been constantly increasing its efforts in these directions for the relief and permanent establishment of agriculture on a sound and equal basis with other business.
  • It is estimated that the value of the crops for this harvest year may reach $13,000,000,000, which is an increase of over $3,000,000,000 in three years. It compares with $7,100,000,000 in 1913, arid if we make deduction from the figures of 1924 for the comparatively decreased value of the dollar, the yield this year still exceeds 1913 in purchasing power by over $1,000,000,000, and in this interval there has been no increase in the number of farmers. Mostly by his own effort the farmer has decreased the cost of production. A marked increase in the price of his products and some decrease in the price of his supplies has brought him about to a parity with the rest of the Nation. The crop area of this season is estimated at 370,000,000 acres, which is a decline of 3,000,000 acres from last year, and 6,000,000 acres from 1919. This has been a normal and natural application of economic laws, which has placed agriculture on a foundation which is undeniably sound and beginning to be satisfactory.
  • A decrease in the world supply of wheat has resulted in a very large increase in the price of that commodity. The position of all agricultural products indicates a better balanced supply, but we can not yet conclude that agriculture is recovered from the effects of the war period or that it is permanently on a prosperous basis. The cattle industry has not yet recovered and in some sections has been suffering from dry weather. Every effort must be made both by Government activity and by private agencies to restore and maintain agriculture to a complete normal relationship with other industries.
  • It was on account of past depression, and in spite of present more encouraging conditions, that I have assembled an Agricultural Conference made up of those who are representative of this great industry in both its operating and economic sides. Everyone knows that the great need of the farmers is markets. The country is not suffering on the side of production. Almost the entire difficulty is on the side of distribution. This reaches back, of course, to unit costs and diversification, and many allied subjects. It is exceedingly intricate, for our domestic and foreign trade, transportation and banking, and in fact our entire economic system, are closely related to it. In time for action at this session, I hope to report to the Congress such legislative remedies as the conference may recommend. An appropriation should be made to defray their necessary expenses.
  • Muscle shoals. The production of nitrogen for plant food in peace and explosives in war is more and more important. It is one of the chief sustaining elements of life. It is estimated that soil exhaustion each year is represented by about 9,000,000 tons and replenishment by 5,450,000 tons. The deficit of 3,550,000 tons is reported to represent the impairment of 118,000,000 acres of farm lands each year.
  • To meet these necessities the Government has been developing a water power project at Muscle Shoals to be equipped to produce nitrogen for explosives and fertilizer. It is my opinion that the support of agriculture is the chief problem to consider in connection with this property. It could by no means supply the present needs for nitrogen, but it would help and its development would encourage bringing other water powers into like use.
  • Several offers have been made for the purchase of this property. Probably none of them represent final terms. Much costly experimentation is necessary to produce commercial nitrogen. For that reason it is a field better suited to private enterprise than to Government operation. I should favor a sale of this property, or long-time lease, tinder rigid guaranties of commercial nitrogen production at reasonable prices for agricultural use. There would be a surplus of power for many years over any possibility of its application to a developing manufacture of nitrogen. It may be found advantageous to dispose of the right to surplus power separately with such reservations as will allow its gradual withdrawal and application to nitrogen manufacture. A subcommittee of the Committees on Agriculture should investigate this field and negotiate with prospective purchasers. If no advantageous offer be made, the development should continue and the plant should be dedicated primarily to the production of materials for the fertilization of the soil.
  • Railways. The railways during the past year have made still further progress in recuperation from the war, with large rains in efficiency and ability expeditiously to handle the traffic of the country. We have now passed through several periods of peak traffic without the car shortages which so frequently in the past have brought havoc to our agriculture and industries. The condition of many of our great freight terminals is still one of difficulty and results in imposing, large costs on the public for inward-bound freight, and on the railways for outward-bound freight. Owing to the growth of our large cities and the great increase in the volume of traffic, particularly in perishables, the problem is not only difficult of solution, but in some cases not wholly solvable by railway action alone.
  • In my message last year I emphasized the necessity for further legislation with a view to expediting the consolidation of our rail ways into larger systems. The principle of Government control of rates and profits, now thoroughly embedded in our governmental attitude toward natural monopolies such as the railways, at once eliminates the need of competition by small units as a method of rate adjustment. Competition must be preserved as a stimulus to service , but this will exist and can be increased tinder enlarged systems. Consequently the consolidation of the railways into larger units for the purpose of securing the substantial values to the public which will come from larger operation has been the logical conclusion of Congress in its previous enactments, and is also supported by the best opinion in the country. Such consolidation will assure not only a greater element of competition as to service, but it will afford economy in operation, greater stability in railway earnings, and more economical financing. It opens large possibilities of better equalization of rates between different classes of traffic so as to relieve undue burdens upon agricultural products and raw materials generally, which are now not possible without ruin to small units owing to the lack of diversity of traffic. It would also tend to equalize earnings in such fashion as to reduce the importance of section 15A, at which criticism, often misapplied, has been directed. A smaller number of units would offer less difficulties in labor adjustments and would contribute much to the, solution of terminal difficulties.
  • The consolidations need to be carried out with due regard to public interest and to the rights and established life of various communities in our country. It does not seem to me necessary that we endeavor to anticipate any final plan or adhere to an artificial and unchangeable project which shall stipulate a fixed number of systems, but rather we ought to approach the problem with such a latitude of action that it can be worked out step by step in accordance with a comprehensive consideration of public interest. Whether the number of ultimate systems shall be more or less seems to me can only be determined by time and actual experience in the development of such consolidations.
  • Those portions of the present law contemplating consolidations ore not, sufficiently effective in producing expeditious action and need amplification of the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission, particularly in affording a period for voluntary proposals to the commission and in supplying Government pressure to secure action after the expiration of such a period.
  • There are other proposals before Congress for amending the transportation acts. One of these contemplates a revision of the method of valuation for rate-making purposes to be followed by a renewed valuation of the railways. The valuations instituted by the Interstate Commerce Commission 10 years ago have not yet been completed. They have cost the Government an enormous sum, and they have imposed great expenditure upon the railways, most of which has in effect come out of the public in increased rates. This work should not be abandoned or supplanted until its results are known and can be considered.
  • Another matter before the Congress is legislation affecting the labor sections of the transportation act. Much criticism has been directed at the workings of this section and experience has shown that some useful amendment could be made to these provisions.
  • It would be helpful if a plan could be adopted which, while retaining the practice of systematic collective bargaining with conciliation voluntary arbitration of labor differences, could also provide simplicity in relations and more direct local responsibility of employees and managers. But such legislation will not meet the requirements of the situation unless it recognizes the principle that t e public has a right to the uninterrupted service of transportation, and therefore a right to be heard when there is danger that the Nation may suffer great injury through the interruption of operations because of labor disputes. If these elements are not comprehended in proposed legislation, it would be better to gain further experience with the present organization for dealing with these questions before undertaking a change.
  • Shipping board. The form of the organization of the Shipping Board was based originally on its functions as a semi judicial body in regulation of rates. During the war it was loaded with enormous administrative duties. It has been demonstrated time and again that this form of organization results in indecision, division of opinion and administrative functions, which make a wholly inadequate foundation for the conduct of a great business enterprise. The first principle in securing the objective set out by Congress in building up the American merchant marine upon the great trade routes and subsequently disposing of it into private operation can not proceed with effectiveness until the entire functions of the board are reorganized. The immediate requirement is to transfer into the Emergency Fleet, Corporation the whole responsibility of operation of the fleet and other property, leaving to the Shipping Board solely the duty of determining certain major policies which require deliberative action.
  • The procedure under section 28 of the merchant marine act has created great difficulty and threatened friction during the past 12 months. Its attempted application developed not only great opposition from exporters, particularly as to burdens that may be imposed upon agricultural products, but also great anxiety in the different seaports as to the effect upon their relative rate structures. This trouble will certainly recur if action is attempted under this section. It is uncertain in some of its terms and of great difficulty in interpretation.
  • It is my belief that action under this section should be suspended until the Congress can reconsider the entire question in the light of the experience that has been developed since its enactment.
  • National elections. Nothing is so fundamental to the integrity of a republican form of government as honesty in all that relates to the conduct of elections. I am of the opinion that the national laws governing the choice of members of the Congress should be extended to include appropriate representation of the respective parties at the ballot box ant equality of representation on the various registration boards, wherever they exist.
  • The judiciary. The docket of the Supreme Court is becoming congested. At the opening term last year it had 592 cases, while this year it had 687 cases. Justice long delayed is justice refused. Unless the court be given power by preliminary and summary consideration to determine the importance of cases, and by disposing of those which are not of public moment reserve its time for the more extended consideration of the remainder, the congestion of the docket is likely to increase. It is also desirable that Supreme Court should have power to improve and reform procedure in suits at law in the Federal courts through the adoption of appropriate rules. The Judiciary Committee of the Senate has reported favorably upon two bills providing for these reforms which should have the immediate favorable consideration of the Congress.
  • I further recommend that provision be made for the appointment of a commission, to consist of two or three members of the Federal judiciary and as many members of the bar, to examine the present criminal code of procedure and recommend to the Congress measures which may reform and expedite court procedure in the administration and enforcement of our criminal laws.
  • Prison reform. Pending before the Congress is a bill which has already passed one House providing for a reformatory to which could be committed first offenders and young men for the purpose of segregating them from contact with banned criminals and providing them with special training in order to reestablish in them the power to pursue a law-abiding existence in the social and economic life of the Nation. This is a matter of so much importance as to warrant the early attention of the present session. Further provision should also be made, for a like reason, for a separate reformatory for women.
  • National police bureau. Representatives of the International Police Conference will bring to the attention of the Congress a proposal for the establishment of a national police bureau. Such action would provide a central point for gathering, compiling, and later distributing to local police authorities much information which would be helpful in the prevention and detection of crime. I believe this bureau is needed, and I recommend favorable consideration of this proposal.
  • District of Columbia welfare. The welfare work of the District of Columbia is administered by several different boards dealing with charities and various correctional efforts. It would be an improvement if this work were consolidated and placed under the direction of a single commission.
  • French spoliation claims. During the last session of the Congress legislation was introduced looking to the payment of the remaining claims generally referred to as the French spoliation claims. The Congress has provided for the payment of many similar claims. Those that remain unpaid have been long pending. The beneficiaries thereunder have every reason to expect payment. These claims have been examined by the Court of Claims and their validity and amount determined. The United States ought to pay its debts. I recommend action by the Congress which will permit of the payment of these remaining claims.
  • The wage earner. Two very important policies have been adopted by this country which, while extending their benefits also in other directions, have been of the utmost importance to the wage earners. One of these is the protective tariff, which enables our people to live according to a better standard and receive a better rate of compensation than any people, any time, anywhere on earth, ever enjoyed. This saves the American market for the products of the American workmen. The other is a policy of more recent origin and seeks to shield our wage earners from the disastrous competition of a great influx of foreign peoples. This has been done by the restrictive immigration law. This saves the American job for the American workmen. I should like to see the administrative features of this law rendered a little more humane for the purpose of permitting those already here a greater latitude in securing admission of members of their own families. But I believe this law in principle is necessary and sound, and destined to increase greatly the public welfare. We must maintain our own economic position, we must defend our own national integrity.
  • It is gratifying to report that the progress of industry, the enormous increase in individual productivity through labor-saving devices, and the high rate of wages have all combined to furnish our people in general with such an abundance not only of the necessaries but of the conveniences of life that we are by a natural evolution solving our problems of economic and social justice.
  • The negro. These developments have brought about a very remarkable improvement in the condition of the negro race. Gradually, but surely, with the almost universal sympathy of those among whom they live, the colored people are working out their own destiny. I firmly believe that it is better for all concerned that they should be cheerfully accorded their full constitutional rights, that they should be protected from all of those impositions to which, from their position, they naturally fall a prey, especially from the crime of lynching and that they should receive every encouragement to become full partakers in all the blessings of our common American citizenship.
  • Civil service. The merit system has long been recognized as the correct basis for employment in our, civil service. I believe that first second, and third class postmasters, and without covering in the present membership tile field force of prohibition enforcement, should be brought within the classified service by statute law. Otherwise the Executive order of one administration is changed by the Executive order of another administration, and little real progress is made. Whatever its defects, the merit system is certainly to be preferred to the spoils system.
  • Departmental reorganization. One way to save public money would be to pass the pending bill for the reorganization of the various departments. This project has been pending for some time, and has had the most careful consideration of experts and the thorough study of a special congressional committee. This legislation is vital as a companion piece to the Budget law. Legal authority for a thorough reorganization of the Federal structure with some latitude of action to the Executive in the rearrangement of secondary functions would make for continuing economy in the shift of government activities which must follow every change in a developing country. Beyond this many of the independent agencies of the Government must be placed under responsible Cabinet officials, if we are to have safeguards of efficiency, economy, and probity.
  • Army and navy. Little has developed in relation to our national defense which needs special attention. Progress is constantly being made in air navigation and requires encouragement and development. Army aviators have made a successful trip around the world, for which I recommend suitable recognition through provisions for promotion, compensation, and retirement. Under the direction of the Navy a new Zeppelin has been successfully brought from Europe across the Atlantic to our own country.
  • Due to the efficient supervision of the Secretary of War the Army of the United States has been organized with a small body of Regulars and a moderate National Guard and Reserve. The defense test of September 12 demonstrated the efficiency of the operating plans. These methods and operations are well worthy of congressional support.
  • Under the limitation of armaments treaty a large saving in outlay and a considerable decrease in maintenance of the Navy has been accomplished. We should maintain the policy of constantly working toward the full treaty strength of the Navy. Careful investigation is being made in this department of the relative importance of aircraft, surface and submarine vessels, in order that we may not fail to take advantage of all modern improvements for our national defense. A special commission also is investigating the problem of petroleum oil for the Navy, considering the best policy to insure the future supply of fuel oil and prevent the threatened drainage of naval oil reserves. Legislative action is required to carry on experiments in oil shale reduction, as large deposits of this type have been set aside for the use of the Navy.
  • We have been constantly besought to engage in competitive armaments. Frequent reports will reach us of the magnitude of the military equipment of other, nations. We shall do well to be little impressed by such reports or such actions. Any nation undertaking to maintain a military establishment with aggressive and imperialistic designs will find itself severely handicapped in the economic development of the world. I believe thoroughly in the Army and Navy, in adequate defense and preparation. But I am opposed to any policy of competition in building and maintaining land or sea armaments.
  • Our country has definitely relinquished the old standard of dealing with other countries by terror and force, and is definitely committed to the new standard of dealing with them through friendship and understanding. This new policy should be constantly kept in mind by the guiding forces of the Army and Navy, by the. Congress and by the country at large. I believe it holds a promise of great benefit to humanity. I shall resist any attempt to resort to the old methods and the old standards. I am especially solicitous that foreign nations should comprehend the candor and sincerity with which we have adopted this position. While we propose to maintain defensive and supplementary police forces by land and sea, and to train them through inspections and maneuvers upon appropriate occasions in order to maintain their efficiency, I wish every other nation to understand that this does not express any unfriendliness or convey any hostile intent. I want the armed forces of America to be considered by all peoples not as enemies but as friends as the contribution which is made by this country for the maintenance of the peace and security of the world.
  • Veterans. With the authorization for general hospitalization of the veterans of all wars provided during the present year, the care and treatment of those who have served their country in time of peril and the attitude of the Government toward them is not now so much one of needed legislation as one of careful, generous and humane administration. It will ever be recognized that their welfare is of the first concern and always entitled to the most solicitous consideration oil the part of their fellow citizens. They are organized in various associations, of which the chief and most representative is the American Legion. Through its officers the Legion will present to the Congress numerous suggestions for legislation. They cover such a wide variety of subjects that it is impossible to discuss them within the scope of this message. With many of the proposals I join in hearty approval and commend them all to the sympathetic investigation and consideration of the Congress.
  • Foreign relations. At no period in the past 12 years have our foreign relations been in such a satisfactory condition as they are at the present time. Our actions in the recent months have greatly strengthened the American policy of permanent peace with independence. The attitude which our Government took and maintained toward an adjustment of European reparations, by pointing out that it wits not a political but a business problem, has demonstrated its wisdom by its actual results. We desire to see Europe restored that it may resume its productivity in the increase of industry and its support in the advance of civilization. We look with great gratification at the hopeful prospect of recuperation in Europe through the Dawes plan. Such assistance as can be given through the action of the public authorities and of our private citizens, through friendly counsel and cooperation, and through economic and financial support, not for any warlike effort but for reproductive enterprise, not to provide means for unsound government financing but to establish sound business administration ' should be unhesitatingly provided.
  • Ultimately nations, like individuals, can not depend upon each other but must depend upon themselves. Each one must work out its own salvation. We have every desire to help. But with all our resources we are powerless to save unless our efforts meet with a constructive response. The situation in our own country and all over the world is one Chat can be improved only by bard work and self-denial. It is necessary to reduce expenditures, increase savings and liquidate debts. It is in this direction that there lies the greatest hope of domestic tranquility and international peace. Our own country ought to finish the leading example in this effort. Our past adherence to this policy, our constant refusal to maintain a military establishment that could be thought to menace the security of others, our honorable dealings with other nations whether great or small, has left us in the almost constant enjoyment of peace.
  • It is not necessary to stress the general desire of all the people of this country for the promotion of peace. It is the leading principle of all our foreign relations. We have on every occasion tried to cooperate to this end in all ways that were consistent with our proper independence and our traditional policies. It will be my constant effort to maintain these principles, and to reinforce them by all appropriate agreements and treaties. While we desire always to cooperate and to help, we are equally determined to be independent and free. Right and truth and justice and humanitarian efforts will have the moral support of this country all over the world. But we do not wish to become involved in the political controversies of others. Nor is the country disposed to become a member of the League of Nations or to assume the obligations imposed by its covenant.
  • International court. America has been one of the foremost nations in advocating tribunals for the settlement of international disputes of a justiciable character. Our representatives took a leading in those conferences which resulted in the establishment of e ague Tribunal, and later in providing for a Permanent Court of International Justice. I believe it would be for the advantage of this country and helpful to the stability of other nations for us to adhere to the protocol establishing, that court upon the conditions stated in the recommendation which is now before the Senate, and further that our country shall not be bound by advisory opinions which may be, rendered by the court upon questions which we have not voluntarily submitted for its judgment. This court would provide a practical and convenient tribunal before which we could go voluntarily, but to which we could not be summoned, for a determination of justiciable questions when they fail to be resolved by diplomatic negotiations.
  • Disarmament conference. Many times I have expressed my desire to see the work of the Washington Conference on Limitation of Armaments appropriately supplemented by further agreements for a further reduction M for the purpose of diminishing the menace and waste of the competition in preparing instruments of international war. It has been and is my expectation that we might hopefully approach other great powers for further conference on this subject as soon as the carrying out of the present reparation plan as the established and settled policy of Europe has created a favorable opportunity. But on account of proposals which have already been made by other governments for a European conference, it will be necessary to wait to see what the outcome of their actions may be. I should not wish to propose or have representatives attend a conference which would contemplate commitments opposed to the freedom of action we desire to maintain unimpaired with respect to our purely domestic policies.
  • International law. Our country should also support efforts which are being made toward the codification of international law. We can look more hopefully, in the first instance, for research and studies that are likely to be productive of results, to a cooperation among representatives of the bar and members of international law institutes and societies, than to a conference of those who are technically representative of their respective governments, although, when projects have been developed, they must go to the governments for their approval. These expert professional studies are going on in certain quarters and should have our constant encouragement and approval.
  • Outlaw of war. Much interest has of late been manifested in this country in the discussion of various proposals to outlaw aggressive war. I look with great sympathy upon the examination of this subject. It is in harmony with the traditional policy of our country, which is against aggressive war and for the maintenance of permanent and honorable peace. While, as I have said, we must safeguard our liberty to deal according to our own judgment with our domestic policies, we can not fail to view with sympathetic interest all progress to this desired end or carefully to study the measures that may be proposed to attain it.
  • Latin America. While we are desirous of promoting peace in every quarter of the globe, we have a special interest in the peace of this hemisphere. It is our constant desire that all causes of dispute in this area may be tranquilly and satisfactorily adjusted. Along with our desire for peace is the earnest hope for the increased prosperity of our sister republics of Latin America, and our constant purpose to promote cooperation with them which may be mutually beneficial and always inspired by the most cordial friendships.
  • Foreign debts. About $12,000,000,000 is due to our Government from abroad, mostly from European governments. Great Britain, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania and Poland have negotiated settlements amounting close to $5,000,000,000. This represents the funding of over 42 per cent of the debt since the creation of the special Foreign Debt Commission. As the life of this commission is about to expire, its term should be extended. I am opposed to the cancellation of these debts and believe it for the best welfare of the world that they should be liquidated and paid as fast as possible. I do not favor oppressive measures, but unless money that is borrowed is repaid credit can not be secured in time of necessity, and there exists besides a moral obligation which our country can not ignore and no other country can evade. Terms and conditions may have to conform to differences in the financial abilities of the countries concerned, but the principle that each country should meet its obligation admits of no differences and is of universal application.
  • It is axiomatic that our country can not stand still. It would seem to be perfectly plain from recent events that it is determined to go forward. But it wants no pretenses, it wants no vagaries. It is determined to advance in an orderly, sound and common-sense way. It does not propose to abandon the theory of the Declaration that the people have inalienable rights which no majority and no power of government can destroy. It does not propose to abandon the practice of the Constitution that provides for the protection of these rights. It believes that within these limitations, which are imposed not by the fiat of man but by the law of the Creator, self-government is just and wise. It is convinced that it will be impossible for the people to provide their own government unless they continue to own their own property. These are the very foundations of America. On them has been erected a Government of freedom and equality, of justice and mercy, of education and charity. Living under it and supporting it the people have come into great possessions on the material and spiritual sides of life. I want to continue in this direction. I know that the Congress shares with me that desire. I want our institutions to be more and more expressive of these principles. I want the people of all the earth to see in the American flag the symbol of a Government which intends no oppression at home and no aggression abroad, which in the spirit of a common brotherhood provides assistance in time of distress.

The Press Under a Free Government (1925)[edit]

Address before the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington (17 January 1925).
  • The relationship between governments and the press has always been recognized as a matter of large importance. Wherever despotism abounds, the sources of public information are the first to be brought under its control. Whereever the cause of liberty is making its way, one of its highest accomplishments is the guarantee of the freedom of the press. It has always been realized, sometimes instinctively, oftentimes expressly, that truth and freedom are inseparable. An absolutism could never rest upon anything save a perverted and distorted view of human relationships and upon false standards set up and maintained by force. It has always found it necessary to attempt to dominate the entire field of education and instruction. It has thrived on ignorance. While it has sought to train the minds of a few, it has been largely with the purpose of attempting to give them a superior facility for misleading the many. Men have been educated under absolutism, not that they might bear witness to the truth, but that they might be the more ingenious advocates and defenders of false standards and hollow pretenses. This has always been the method of privilege, the method of class and caste, the method of master and slave.
  • When a community has sufficiently advanced so that its government begins to take on that of the nature of a republic, the processes of education become even more important, but the method is necessarily reversed. It is all the more necessary under a system of free government that the people should be enlightened, that they should be correctly informed, than it is under an absolute government that they should be ignorant. Under a republic the institutions of learning, while bound by the constitution and laws, are in no way subservient to the government. The principles which they enunciate do not depend for their authority upon whether they square with the wish of the ruling dynasty, but whether they square with the everlasting truth. Under these conditions the press, which had before been made an instrument for concealing or perverting the facts, must be made an instrument for their true representation and their sound and logical interpretation. From the position of a mere organ, constantly bound to servitude, public prints rise to a dignity, not only of independence, but of a great educational and enlightening factor. They attain new powers, which it is almost impossible to measure, and become charged with commensurate responsibilities.
  • The public press under an autocracy is necessarily a true agency of propaganda. Under a free government it must be the very reverse. Propaganda seeks to present a part of the facts, to distort their relations, and to force conclusions which could not be drawn from a complete and candid survey of all the facts. It has been observed that propaganda seeks to close the mind, while education seeks to open it. This has become one of the dangers of the present day.
  • The great difficulty in combating unfair propaganda, or even in recognizing it, arises from the fact* that at the present time we confront so many new and technical problems that it is an enormous task to keep ourselves accurately informed concerning them. In this respect, you gentlemen of the press face the same perplexities that are encountered by legislators and government administrators. Whoever deals with current public questions is compelled to rely greatly upon the information and judgments of experts and specialists. Unfortunately, not all experts are to be trusted as entirely disinterested. Not all specialists are completely without guile. In our increasing dependence on specialized authority, we tend to become easier victims for the propagandists, and need to cultivate sedulously the habit of the open mind. No doubt every generation feels that its problems are the most intricate and baffling that have ever been presented for solution. But with all recognition of the disposition to exaggerate in this respect, I think we can fairly say that our times in all their social and economic aspects are more complex than any past period. We need to keep our minds free from prejudice and bias. Of education, and of real information we cannot get too much. But of propaganda, which is tainted or perverted information, we cannot have too little.
  • Newspaper men, therefore, endlessly discuss the question of what is news. I judge that they will go on discussing it as long as there are newspapers. It has seemed to me that quite obviously the news-giving function of a newspaper cannot possibly require that it give a photographic presentation of everything that happens in the community. That is an obvious impossibility. It seems fair to say that the proper presentation of the news bears about the same relation to the whole field of happenings that a painting does to a photograph. The photograph might give the more accurate presentation of details, but in doing so it might sacrifice the opportunity the more clearly to delineate character. My college professor was wont to tell us a good many years ago that if a painting of a tree was only the exact representation of the original, so that it looked just like the tree, there would be no reason for making it; we might as well look at the tree itself. But the painting, if it is of the right sort, gives something that neither a photograph nor a view of the tree conveys. It emphasizes something of character, quality, individuality. We are not lost in looking at thorns and defects; we catch a vision of the grandeur and beauty of a king of the forest.
  • And so I have conceived that the news, properly presented, should be a sort of cross-section of the character of current human experience. It should delineate character, quality, tendencies and implications. In this way the reporter exercises his genius. Out of the current events he does not make a drab and sordid story, but rather an informing and enlightened epic. His work becomes no longer imitative, but rises to an original art.
  • Our American newspapers serve a double purpose. They bring knowledge and information to their readers, and at the same time they play a most important part in connection with the business interests of the community, both through their news and advertising departments. Probably there is no rule of your profession to which you gentlemen are more devoted than that which prescribes that the editorial and the business policies of the paper are to be conducted by strictly separate departments. Editorial policy and news policy must not be influenced by business consideration ; business policies must not be affected by editorial programs. Such a dictum strikes the outsider as involving a good deal of difficulty in the practical adjustments of c very-day management. Yet, in fact, I doubt if those adjustments are any more difficult than have to be made in every other department of human effort. Life is a long succession of compromises and adjustments, and it may be doubted whether the press is compelled to make them more frequently than others do.
  • When I have contemplated these adjustments of business and editorial policy, it has always seemed to me that American newspapers are peculiarly representative of the practical idealism of our country. Quite recently the construction of a revenue statute resulted in giving publicity to some highly interesting facts about incomes. It must have been observed that nearly all the newspapers published these interesting facts in their news columns, while very many of them protested in their editorial columns that such publicity was a bad policy. Yet this was not inconsistent. I am referring to the incident by way of illustrating what I just said about the newspapers representing the practical idealism of America. As practical newsmen they printed the facts. As editorial idealists they protested that there ought to be no such facts available.
  • Some people feel concerned about the commercialism of the press. They note that great newspapers are great business enterprises earning large profits and controlled by men of wealth. So they fear that in such control the press may tend to support the private interests of those who own the papers, rather than the general interest of the whole people. It seems to me, however, that the real test is not whether the newspapers are controlled by men of wealth, but whether they are sincerely trying to serve the public interests. There will be little occasion for worry about who owns a newspaper, so long as its attitudes on public questions are such as to promote the general welfare. A press which is actuated by the purpose of genuine usefulness to the public interest can never be too strong financially, so long as its strength is used for the support of popular government.
  • There does not seem to be cause for alarm in the dual relationship of the press to the public, whereby it is on one side a purveyor of information and opinion and on the other side a purely business enterprise. Rather, it is probable that a press which maintains an intimate touch with the business currents of the nation, is likely to be more reliable than it would be if it were a stranger to these influences. After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are moving impulses of our life. The opposite view was oracularly and poetically set forth in those lines of Goldsmith which everybody repeats, but few really believe: 'Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.'
  • Excellent poetry, but not a good working philosophy. Goldsmith would have been right, if, in fact, the accumulation of wealth meant the decay of men. It is rare indeed that the men who are accumulating wealth decay. It is only when they cease production, when accumulation stops, that an irreparable decay begins. Wealth is the product of industry, ambition, character and untiring effort. In all experience, the accumulation of wealth means the multiplication of schools, the increase of knowledge, the dissemination of intelligence, the encouragement of science, the broadening of outlook, the expansion of liberties, the widening of culture. Of course, the accumulation of wealth cannot be justified as the chief end of existence. But we are compelled to recognize it as a means to well-nigh every desirable achievement. So long as wealth is made the means and not the end, we need not greatly fear it. And there never was a time when wealth was so generally regarded as a means, or so little regarded as an end, as today. Just a little time ago we read in your newspapers that two leaders of American business, whose efforts at accumulation had been most astonishingly successful, had given fifty or sixty million dollars as endowments to educational works. That was real news. It was characteristic of our American experience with men of large resources. They use their power to serve, not themselves and their own families, but the public. I feel sure that the coming generations, which will benefit by those endowments, will not be easily convinced that they have suffered greatly because of these particular accumulations of wealth.
  • So there is little cause for the fear that our journalism, merely because it is prosperous, is likely to betray us. But it calls for additional effort to avoid even the appearance of the evil of selfishness. In every worthy profession, of course, there will always be a minority who will appeal to the baser instinct. There always have been, and probably always will be some who will feel that their own temporary interest may be furthered by betraying the interest of others. But these are becoming constantly a less numerous and less potential element in the community. Their influence, whatever it may seem at a particular moment, is always ephemeral. They will not long interfere with the progress of the race which is determined to go its own forward and upward way. They may at times somewhat retard and delay its progress, but in the end their opposition will be overcome. They have no permanent effect. They accomplish no permanent result. The race is not traveling in that direction. The power of the spirit always prevails over the power of the flesh. These furnish us no justification for interfering with the freedom of the press, because all freedom, though it may sometime tend toward excesses, bears within it those remedies which will finally effect a cure for its own disorders.
  • American newspapers have seemed to me to be particularly representative of this practical idealism of our people. Therefore, I feel secure in saying that they are the best newspapers in the world. I believe that they print more real news and more reliable and characteristic news than any other newspaper. I believe their editorial opinions are less colored in influence by mere partisanship or selfish interest, than are those of any other country. Moreover, I believe that our American press is more independent, more reliable and less partisan today than at any other time in its history. I believe this of our press, precisely as I believe it of those who manage our public affairs. Both are cleaner, finer, less influenced by improper considerations, than ever before. Whoever disagrees with this judgment must take the chance of marking himself as ignorant of conditions which notoriously affected our public life, thoughts and methods, even within the memory of many men who are still among us.
  • It can safely be assumed that self-interest will always place sufficient emphasis on the business side of newspapers, so that they do not need any outside encouragement for that part of their activities. Important, however, as this factor is, it is not the main element which appeals to the American people. It is only those who do not understand our people, who believe that our national life is entirely absorbed by material motives. We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want very much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism. I cannot repeat too often that America is a nation of idealists. That is the only motive to which they ever give any strong and lasting reaction. No newspaper can be a success which fails to appeal to that element of our national life. It is in this direction that the public press can lend its strongest support to our Government. I could not truly criticize the vast importance of the counting room, but my ultimate faith I would place in the high idealism of the editorial room of the American newspaper.

The Reign of Law (1925)[edit]

"The Reign of Law" speech at the Memorial Exercises (30 May 1925), Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington County, Virginia.
  • For those who are the inheritors of a noble estate and a high place in the world, it is a good thing to pause at intervals and consider by what favor of fortune and of ancestry their lines have fallen in such pleasant places. Thus to meditate upon that course of events, which has given them what they have and made them what they are, will tend to remind them how great is their debt and how little is their share of merit.
  • This is the day on which the American people each year acknowledged that they have such a debt. It has been set aside that a grateful Nation may do fitting honor to the memory of those who have made the greatest and most voluntary contribution to it. Here about us, in this place of beauty and reverence, lies the mortal dust of a noble host, to whom we have come to pay our tribute, as thousands of other like gatherings will do throughout our land. In their youth and strength, their love and loyalty, those who rest here gave to their country all that mortality can give. For what they sacrificed we must give back the pledge of faith to all that they held dear, constantly renewed, constantly justified. Doing less would betray them and dishonor us.
  • To such a memorial as exists here we can only come in a spirit of humility and of gratitude. We can not hope to repay those whom we are assembled to honor. They were moved by a noble conception of human possibilities and human destiny. But we can undertake to find what was their inspiration and seek to make it our guide. By that they will be recompensed.
  • These who are represented here were men in whom courage had reached a high moral quality. They had been brave enough not to shrink from looking at facts and institutions. They had been honest enough to admit that they saw there much that was not good. They glossed over no wrongs, they hid away no skeletons. They did not pretend that wrong was right or ever could be right. They had put much thought to the lessons of hard experience, and had frankly acknowledged that they must deal with a crisis in the Nation's life. They were sure that union was a blessing, that slavery was a wrong, and that domestic war was the supreme human tragedy. This settled, they saw that one of three courses must be taken. They could have had peace with disunion, or they could have had peace and union, with slavery. Freedom with union, they saw at last, meant war. We know how they decided. We know at what fearful cost they supported their decision.
  • We live far enough away from those times of test and trial to know that sincerity and honesty did not all lie on either side. We know the conflicts of loyalties, traditions, ancestry, and interest which drew men to one side and the other. I doubt if there ever was another so great and elemental a conflict from which men emerged with so much of mutual respect, with so little of bitterness and lingering hostility. The struggle brought the whole Nation at last to see that its only assurance was in unity. United, it could go its way in all security; divided, both sections becoming the prey of jealousy and intrigue, would have dissipated all the power they now have for good in the world.
  • Our generation has recently lived through times still so vivid as to seem but as yesterday, which have taught us deeply to appreciate the value of union in purpose and effort. We have come to see as through a crystal that in the national variety of talents and resources, of cultures and capacities, of climates and of soils, of occupations and of interests, lies the guaranty of both our power and our authority. More than that, they have taught us how heavy and important is our responsibility in the world.
  • Conscious of a strength which removes us from either fear or truculence, satisfied with dominions and resources which free us from lust of territory or empire, we see that our highest interest will be promoted by the prosperity and progress of our neighbors. We recognize that what has been accomplished here has largely been due to the capacity of our people for efficient cooperation. We shall continue prosperous at home and helpful abroad, about as we shall maintain and continually adapt to changing conditions the system under which we have come thus far. I mean our Federal system, distributing powers and responsibilities between the States and the National Government. For that is the greatest American contribution to the organization of government over great populations and wide areas. It is the essence of practical administration for a nation placed as ours is. It has become so commonplace to us, and a pattern by so many other peoples, that we do not always realize how great an innovation it was when first formulated, or how great the practical problems which its operation involves. Because of my conviction that some of these problems are at this time in need of deeper consideration, I shall take this occasion to try to turn the public mind in that direction.
  • When dealing with the distribution of powers between the General Government and the States, Chief Justice Marshall declared: 'When the American people created a national legislature, with certain enumerated powers, it was neither necessary nor proper to define the powers retained by the States. Those powers proceed, not from the people of America, but from the people of the several States, and remain after the adoption of the Constitution what they were before, except in so far as they may be abridged by that instrument'.
  • Our constitutional history started with the States retaining all powers of sovereignty unimpaired, save those conferred upon the National Government. The evolution of the constitutional system has consisted largely in determining the line of demarcation between State and national authority. The cases involved are many and complicated, but there is a fairly good popular understanding of this continuing struggle between these contending sovereignties. Because of better communication and transportation, the constant tendency has been to more and more social and economic unification. The present continent-wide union of forty-eight States is much closer than was the original group of thirteen States.
  • This increasing unification has well-nigh obliterated State lines so far as concerns many relations of life. Yet, in a country of such enormous expanse, there must always be certain regional differences in social outlook and economic thought. The most familiar illustration of this is found in the history of slavery. The Constitution did not interfere with slavery, except to fix a time when the foreign slave trade should be abolished. Yet within a generation the country was confronting a sharp sectional division on this issue. Changing economic conditions made slavery profitable in the South, but left it unprofitable in the North. The resulting war might have been avoided if the South had adopted a policy of ultimate abolition. But as this method was not pursued the differences grew sharper until they brought on the great conflict.
  • Though the war ended forever the possibility of disunion, there still remain problems between State and Federal authority. There are divisions of interest, perhaps more apparent than real, among geographical sections or social groups. The seaboard thinks it has interests in maritime transportation and overseas commerce which differ greatly from those of the interior, which is peculiarly dependent upon railroads. Difference in climate and physical conditions throughout so great a territory tend to varied social habits and modes of living which react upon the economic and political attitudes. The industrial development of some sections contrasts with the agricultural character of others. Obviously, these differences give rise to many problems in government, which must always be recognized. But it is hardly conceivable that a really menacing contest between the sovereignty of the States and of the Union could ever again arise.
  • Our country, having devised this dual system of government, and lived under it longer than any other, is deeply concerned to perfect and adapt it to the changing conditions of organized society. A community comprising half a continent and more than a hundred million people could not possibly be administered under a single government organization. We must maintain a proper measure of local self-government while constantly making adjustments to an increasing interdependence among the political parts.
  • Our national history has presented various phases of this problem. Slavery showed one; the complexities of interstate commerce have kept others constantly in mind. On the day the Constitution was finished, probably more people would have seen seeds of conflict and dangers to the Union in future commercial relations than in slavery. But commerce became a source of strength, while slavery be- came a cause of division. It brought the Union into danger; and in the end was destroyed itself. Where there was sincere acceptance of the dual sovereignty theory, where the States sought to do their full part, and accepted the de- terminations of the National Government as to the rest, the plan worked. Where the States sought more from the Federal authority than it could give, and resisted national demands — then came dissension and, at length, war.
  • It would be folly to deny that we still have problems of interstate relations to handle. We boast that this is a land of equal opportunity for all. We insist that there is one law for all the people. But that equality suffers often because of the divergencies between the laws of different States. So long as some can go to a distant State for divorces which others are denied at home, there is not equality in this regard. When some States grant valuable exemptions from taxation which other States impose, one person may enjoy while another is denied these benefits.
  • A few years ago a majority of the States had adopted prohibition or rigid restrictions on the traffic in intoxicating liquor. But other States did not cooperate in advancing this policy, and ultimately by national action it was extended to all the Union. By failing to meet the requirements of a national demand the States became deprived of the power to act. If questions which the States will not fairly settle on their own account shall have to be settled for them by the Federal authority, it will only be because some States will have refused to discharge obvious duties.
  • There is another responsibility of the States. It is quite aside from this one of jurisdiction. It is the subject of law enforcement. We are not a lawless people, but we are too frequently a careless one. The multiplicity of laws, the varied possibilities of appeals, the disposition to technicality in procedure, the delays and consequent expense of litigation which inevitably inure to the advantage of wealth and specialized ability — all these have many times been recounted as reproaches to us. It is strange that such laxities should persist in a time like the present, which is marked by a determined upward movement in behalf of the social welfare. But they do exist. They demonstrate a need for better, prompter, less irksome, and expensive administration of the laws. They point the necessity for simplification and codification of laws; for uniformity of procedure; for more accurate delimitation of State and Federal authority.
  • All these problems constantly come in the work of political and social development. But they stand for a vast progression toward better conditions, a better society, a better economic system. In approaching them, we need to have in mind the Federalist's analysis of our constitutional system: — The powers delegated to the Federal Government are few and defined; those to remain in the hands of the State government are numerous and indefinite.
  • That statement can not be too much emphasized. The country's growth has compelled the Federal establishment to exceed by far the Government plants of even the greatest States. With this growth in physical extent, in revenue, in personnel, there has inevitably been the suggestion that the Federal Government was overshadowing the States. Yet the State governments deal with far more various and more intimate concerns of the people than does the National Government. All the operations of the minor civil divisions, parishes, wards, school districts, towns, cities, counties, and the like, are dependencies of the State. The maintenance of order through police, the general business of enforcing law, is left to the States. So is education.
  • Property is held and transferred on terms fixed by the States. In short, the structure of social and business relationship is built chiefly about the laws of the States. It depends upon the exercise by the States of that vastly greater share of Government power which resides in them, to the exclusion cf the Federal Government. In ordinary times nearly the entire burden of taxation represents State and local demands. Even now, despite the enormous increase of Federal taxes from pre-war years, State and local taxes far exceed the Federal requirements. Moreover, the national burden is being continually reduced, while that of the local units is growing and likely to continue to grow.
  • Such is the real distribution of duties, responsibilities, and expenses. Yet people are given to thinking and speaking of the National Government as 'the Government'. They demand more from it than it was ever intended to provide; and yet in the same breath they complain that Federal authority is stretching itself over areas which do not concern it. On one side, there are demands for more amendments to the Constitution. On the other, there is too much opposition to those that already exist.
  • Without doubt, the reason for increasing demands on the Federal Government is that the States have not discharged their full duties. Some have done better and some worse, but as a whole they have not done all they should. So demand has grown up for a greater concentration of powers in the Federal Government. If we will fairly consider it, we must conclude that the remedy would be worse than the disease. What we need is not more Federal government but better local government. Yet many people who would agree to this have large responsibility for the lapses of local authority.
  • From every position of consistency with our system, more centralization ought to be avoided. The States would protest, promptly enough, anything savoring of Federal usurpation. Their protection will lie in discharging the full obligations that have been imposed on them. Once the evasion of local responsibilities becomes a habit, there is no knowing how far the consequences may reach. Every step in such a progression will be unfortunate alike for States and Nation. The country needs, in grappling with the manifold problems of these times, all the courage, intelligence, training, and skill that can be enlisted in both State and national administrations.
  • One insidious practice which sugar-coats the dose of Federal intrusion is the division of expense for public improvements or services between State and National treasuries. The ardent States-rights advocate sees in this practice a vicious weakening of the State system. The extreme federalist is apt to look upon it in cynical fashion as bribing the States into subordination. The average American, believing in our dual-sovereignty system, must feel that the policy of national doles to the States is bad and may become disastrous. We may go on yet for a time with the easy assumption that 'if the States will not, the Nation must'. But that way lies trouble. When the National Treasury contributes half, there is temptation to extravagance by the State. We have seen some examples in connection with the Federal contributions to road building. Yet there are constant demands for more Federal contributions. Whenever by that plan we take something from one group of States and give it to another group, there is grave danger that we do an economic injustice on one side and a political injury on the other. We impose unfairly on the strength of the strong, and we encourage the weak to indulge their weakness.
  • When the local government unit evades its responsibility in one direction, it is started in the vicious way of disregard of law and laxity of living. The police force which is administered on the assumption that the violation of some laws may be ignored has started toward demoralization. The community which approves such administration is making dangerous concessions. There is no use disguising the fact that as a nation our attitude toward the prevention and punishment of crime needs more serious attention. I read the other day a survey which showed that in proportion to population we have eight times as many murders as Great Britain, and five times as many as France. Murder rarely goes unpunished in Britain or France; here the reverse is true. The same survey reports many times as many burglaries in parts of America as in all England; and, whereas a very high percent of burglars in England are caught and punished, in parts of our country only a very low percent are finally punished. The comparison can not fail to be disturbing. The conclusion is inescapable that laxity of administration reacts upon public opinion, causing cynicism and loss of confidence in both law and its enforcement and therefore in its observance. The failure of local government has a demoralizing effect in every direction.
  • These are vital issues, in which the Nation greatly needs a revival of interest and concern. It is senseless to boast of our liberty when we find that to so shocking an extent it is merely the liberty to go ill-governed. It is time to take warning that neither the liberties we prize nor the system under which we claim them are safe while such conditions exist.
  • We shall not correct admitted and grave defects if we hesitate to recognize them. We must be frank with ourselves. We ought to be our own harshest critics. We can afford to be, for in spite of everything we still have a balance of prosperity, of general welfare, of secure freedom, and of righteous purpose, that gives us assurance of leadership among the nations.
  • What America needs is to hold to its ancient and well-charted course. Our country was conceived in the theory of local self-government. It has been dedicated by long practice to that wise and beneficent policy. It is the foundation principle of our system of liberty. It makes the largest promise to the freedom and development of the individual. Its preservation is worth all the effort and all the sacrifice that it may cost.
  • It can not be denied that the present tendency is not in harmony with this spirit. The individual, instead of working out his own salvation and securing his own freedom by establishing his own economic and moral independence by his own industry and his own self-mastery, tends to throw himself on some vague influence which he denominates society and to hold that in some way responsible for the sufficiency of his support and the morality of his actions. The local political units likewise look to the States, the States look to the Nation, and nations are beginning to look to some vague organization, some nebulous concourse of humanity, to pay their bills and tell them what to do. This is not local self-government. It is not American. It is not the method which has made this country what it is. We can not maintain the western standard of civilization on that theory. If it is supported at all, it will have to be supported on the principle of individual responsibility. If that principle be maintained, the result which I believe America wishes to see produced inevitably will follow.
  • There is no other foundation on which freedom has ever found a permanent abiding place. We shall have to make our decision whether we wish to maintain our present institutions, or whether we wish to exchange them for something else. If we permit some one to come to support us, we can not prevent some one coming to govern us. If we are too weak to take charge of our own mortality, we shall not be strong enough to take charge of our own liberty. If we can not govern ourselves, if we can not observe the law, nothing remains but to have some one else govern us, to have the law enforced against us, and to step down from the honorable abiding place of freedom to the ignominious abode of servitude.
  • If these principles are sound, two conclusions follow. The individual and the local, state, and national political units ought to be permitted to assume their own responsibilities. Any other course in the end will be subversive both of character and liberty. But it is equally clear that they in their turn must meet their obligations. If there is to be a continuation of individual and local self-government and of State sovereignty, the individual and locality must govern themselves and the State must assert its sovereignty. Otherwise these rights and privileges will be confiscated under the all-compelling pressure of public necessity for a better maintenance of order and morality. The whole world has reached a stage in which, if we do not set ourselves right, we may be perfectly sure that an authority will be asserted by others for the purpose of setting us right.
  • But before we attempt to set ourselves up as exponents of universal reform, it would be wise to remember that progress is of slow growth, and also to remember that moderation, patience, forbearance, and charity are virtues in their own right. The only action which can be effective in the long run is that which helps others to help themselves. Before we assume too great responsibilities in the governing of others, it would be the part of wisdom very completely to discharge our responsibilities for governing ourselves. A large amount of work has to be done at home before we can start in on the neighbors, and very considerable duties have to be performed in America before we undertake the direction of the rest of the world. But we must at all times do the best we can for ourselves without forgetting others, and the best we can for our own country without forgetting other nations.
  • Ours is a new land. It has had an almost unbelievable task to perform, and has performed it well. We have been called to fit the institutions of ancient civilization to the conditions of a new country. In that task the leaders of the Nation have been supported by a deep devotion to the essentials of freedom. At the bottom of the national character has been a strain of religious earnestness and moral determination which has never failed to give color and quality to our institutions. Because our history shows us these things, we dare make honest appraisal of our shortcomings. We have not failed. We have succeeded. Because we have been privileged to rely upon generations of men and women ready to serve and to sacrifice, we have magnificently succeeded.
  • Our gathering here today is in testimony of supreme obligation to those who have given most to make and preserve the Nation. They established it upon the dual system of State government and Federal Government, each supreme in its own sphere. But they left to the States the main powers and functions of determining the form and course of society. We have demonstrated in the time of war that under the Constitution we possess an indestructible Union. We must not fail to demonstrate in the time of peace that we are likewise determined to possess and maintain indestructible States. This policy can be greatly advanced by individual observance of the law. It can be strongly supplemented by a vigorous enforcement of the law. The war which established Memorial Day had for its main purpose the enforcement of the Constitution. The peace which followed that war rests upon the universal observance of the Constitution. This Union can only be preserved, the States can only be maintained, under a reign of national, local, and moral law, under the Constitution established by Washington, under the peace provided by Lincoln.

Toleration and Liberalism (1925)[edit]

Speech before the American Legion Convention (6 October 1925), Omaha, Nebraska.
  • It is a high privilege to sit as a member of this convention. Those who exercise it have been raised to the rank of a true nobility. It is a mark of personal merit which did not come by right of birth but by right of conquest. No one can ever question your title as patriots. No one can ever doubt the place of affection and honor which you hold forevermore in the heart of the Nation. Your right to be here results from what you dared and what you did and the sacrifices which you made for our common country. It is all a glorious story of American enterprise and American valor.
  • The magnitude of the service which you rendered to your country and to humanity is beyond estimation. Sharp outlines here and there we know, but the whole account of the World War would be on a scale so stupendous that it could never be recorded. In the victory which was finally gained by you and your foreign comrades, you represented on the battle field the united efforts of our whole people. You were there as the result of a great resurgence of the old American spirit, which manifested itself in a thousand ways, by the pouring out of vast sums of money in credits and charities, by the organization and quickening of every hand in our extended industries, by the expansion of agriculture until it met the demands of famishing continents, by the manufacture of an unending stream of munitions and supplies, by the creation of vast fleets of war and transport ships, and, finally, when the tide of battle was turning against our associates, by bringing into action a great armed force on sea and land of a character that the world had never seen before, which, when it finally took its place in the line, never ceased to advance, carrying the cause of liberty to a triumphant conclusion. You reaffirmed the position of this Nation in the estimation of mankind. You saved civilization from a gigantic reverse. Nobody says now that Americans can not fight.
  • Our people were influenced by many motives to undertake to carry on this gigantic conflict, but we went in and came out singularly free from those questionable causes and results which have often characterized other wars. We were not moved by the age-old antagonisms of racial jealousies and hatreds. We were not seeking to gratify the ambitions of any reigning dynasty. We were not inspired by trade and commercial rivalries. We harbored no imperialistic designs. We feared no other country. We coveted no territory. But the time came when we were compelled to defend our own property and protect the rights and lives of our own citizens. We believed, moreover, that those institutions which we cherish with a supreme affection, and which lie at the foundation of our whole scheme of human relationship, the right of freedom, of equality, of self-government, were all in jeopardy. We thought the question was involved of whether the people of the earth were to rule or whether they were to be ruled. We thought that we were helping to determine whether the principle of despotism or the principle of liberty should be the prevailing standard among the nations. Then, too, our country all came under the influence of a great wave of idealism. The crusading spirit was aroused. The cause of civilization, the cause of humanity, made a compelling appeal. No doubt there were other motives, but these appear to me the chief causes which drew America into the World War.
  • In a conflict which engaged all the major nations of the earth and lasted for a period exceeding four years, there could be no expectation of material gains. War in its very essence means destruction. Never before were contending peoples so well equipped with every kind of infernal engine calculated to spread desolation on land and over the face of the deep. Our country is only but now righting itself and beginning a moderate but steady recovery from the great economic loss which it sustained. That tremendous debt must be liquidated through the laborious toil of our people. Modern warfare becomes more and more to mean utter loss, destruction, and desolation of the best that there is of any people, its valiant youth and its accumulated treasure. If our country secured any benefit, if it met with any gain, it must have been in moral and spiritual values. It must be not because it made its fortune but because it found its soul. Others may disagree with me, but in spite of some incidental and trifling difficulties it is my firm opinion that America has come out of the war with a stronger determination to live by the rule of righteousness and pursue the course of truth and justice in both our domestic and foreign relations. No one can deny that we have protected the rights of our citizens, laid a firmer foundation for our institutions of liberty, and made our contribution to the cause of civilization and humanity. In doing all this we found that, though of many different nationalities, our people had a spiritual bond. They were all Americans.
  • When we look over the rest of the world, in spite of all its devastation there is encouragement to believe it is on a firmer moral foundation than it was in 1914. Much of the old despotism has been swept away, While some of it comes creeping back disguised under new names, no one can doubt that the general admission of the right of the people to self-government has made tremendous progress in nearly every quarter of the globe. In spite of the staggering losses and the grievous burden of taxation, there is a new note of hope for the individual to be more secure in his rights, which is unmistakably clearer than ever before. With all the troubles that beset the Old World, the former cloud of fear is evidently not now so appalling. It is impossible to believe that any nation now feels that it could better itself by war, and it is apparent to me that there has been a very distinct advance in the policy of peaceful and honorable adjustment of international differences. War has become less probable; peace has become more secure. The price which has been paid to bring about this new condition is utterly beyond comprehension. We can not see why it should not have come in orderly and peaceful methods without the attendant shock of fire and sword and carnage. We only know that it is here. We believe that on the ruins of the old order a better civilization is being constructed.
  • We had our domestic problems which resulted from the war. The chief of these was the care and relief of the afflicted veterans and their dependents. This was a tremendous task, on which about $3,000,000,000 has already been expended. No doubt there have been cases where the unworthy have secured aid, while the worthy have gone unrelieved. Some mistakes were inevitable, but our people and our Government have at all times been especially solicitous to discharge most faithfully this prime obligation. What is now being done is related to you in detail by General Hines, of the Veterans' Bureau, a public official of demonstrated merit, so that I shall not dwell upon it. During the past year, under the distinguished and efficient leadership of Commander Drain, the Legion itself has undertaken to provide an endowment fund of $5,000,000 to minister to the charitable requirements of their comrades. The response to this appeal has been most generous and the results appear most promising. The Government can do much, but it can never supply the personal relationship that comes from the ministrations of a private charity of that kind.
  • The next most pressing problem was the better ordering of the finances of the Nation. Our Government was costing almost more than it was worth. It had more people on the pay roll than were necessary, all of which made expenses too much and taxes too high. This inflated condition contributed to the depression which began in 1920. But the Government expenditures have been almost cut in two, taxes have been twice reduced, and the incoming Congress will provide further reductions. Deflation has run its course and an era of business activity and general prosperity, exceeding anything ever before experienced in this country and fairly well distributed among all our people, is already at hand.
  • Our country has a larger Army and a more powerful Navy, costing annually almost twice as much as it ever before had in time of peace. I am a thorough believer in a policy of adequate military preparation. We are constantly working to perfect our defenses in every branch, land forces, air forces, surface and submarine forces. That work will continue. Our Military Establishment of the Army and Navy, the National Guard, and the Reserve Corps is far superior to anything we have ever maintained before, except in time of war. In the past six years we have expended about $4,000,000,000 for this purpose. That ought to show results, and those who have correct information know that it does show results. The country can rest assured that if security lies in military force, it was never so secure before in all its history.
  • We have been attempting to relieve ourselves and the other nations from the old theory of competitive armaments. In spite of all the arguments in favor of great military forces, no nation ever had an army large enough to guarantee it against attack in time of peace or to insure its victory in time of war. No nation ever will. Peace and security are more likely to result from fair and honorable dealings, and mutual agreements for a limitation of armaments among nations, than by any attempt at competition in squadrons and battalions. No doubt this country could, if it wished to spend more money, make a better military force, but that is only part of the problem which confronts our Government. The real question is whether spending more money to make a better military force would really make a better country. I would be the last to disparage the military art. It is an honorable and patriotic calling of the highest rank. But I can see no merit in any unnecessary expenditure of money to hire men to build fleets and carry muskets when international relations and agreements permit the turning of such resources into the making of good roads, the building of better homes, the promotion of education, and all the other arts of peace which minister to the advancement of human welfare. Happily, the position of our country is such among the other nations of the world that we have been and shall be warranted in proceeding in this direction.
  • While it is true that we are paying out far more money and maintaining a much stronger Military Establishment than ever before, because of the conditions stated, we have been able to pursue a moderate course. Our people have had all the war, all the taxation, and all the military service that they want. They have therefore wished to emphasize their attachment to our ancient policy of peace. They have insisted upon economy. They have supported the principle of limitation of armaments. They have been able to do this because of their position and their strength in numbers and in resources. We have a tremendous natural power which supplements our arms. We are conscious that no other nation harbors any design to put us in jeopardy.
  • It is our purpose in our intercourse with foreign powers to rely not on the strength of our fleets and our armies but on the justice of our cause. For these reasons our country has not wished to maintain huge military forces. It has been convinced that it could better serve itself and better serve humanity by using its resources for other purposes.
  • In dealing with our military problems there is one principle that is exceedingly important. Our institutions are founded not on military power but on civil authority. We are irrevocably committed to the theory of a government by the people. We have our constitutions and our laws, our executives, our legislatures, and our courts, but ultimately we are governed by public opinion. Our forefathers had seen so much of militarism, and suffered so much from it, that they desired to banish it forever. They believed and declared in at least one of their State constitutions that the military power should be subordinate to and governed by the civil authority. It is for this reason that any organization of men in the military service bent on inflaming the public mind for the purpose of forcing Government action through the pressure of public opinion is an exceedingly dangerous undertaking and precedent. This is so whatever form it might take, whether it be for the purpose of influencing the Executive, the legislature, or the heads of departments. It is for the civil authority to determine what appropriations shall be granted, what appointments shall be made, and what rules shall be adopted for the conduct of its armed forces. Whenever the military power starts dictating to the civil authority, by whatsoever means adopted, the liberties of the country are beginning to end. National defense should at all times be supported, but any form of militarism should be resisted.
  • Undoubtedly one of the most important provisions in the preparation for national defense is a proper and sound selective service act. Such a law ought to give authority for a very broad mobilization of all the resources of the country, both persons and materials. I can see some difficulties in the application of the principle, for it is the payment of a higher price that stimulates an increased production, but whenever it can be done without economic dislocation such limits ought to be established in time of war as would prevent so far as possible all kinds of profiteering. There is little defense which can be made of a system which puts some men in the ranks on very small pay and leaves others undisturbed to reap very large profits. Even the income tax, which recaptured for the benefit of the National Treasury alone about 75 per cent of such profits, while local governments took part of the remainder, is not a complete answer. The laying of taxes is, of course, in itself a conscription of whatever is necessary of the wealth of the country for national defense, but taxation does not meet the full requirements of the situation. In the advent of war, power should be lodged somewhere for the stabilization of prices as far as that might be possible in justice to the country and its defenders.
  • But it will always be impossible to harmonize justice and war. It is always possible to purchase materials with money, but patriotism can not be purchased. Unless the people are willing to defend their country because of their belief in it, because of their affection for it, and because it is representative of their home, their country can not be defended. If we are looking for a more complete reign of justice, a more complete supremacy of law, a more complete social harmony, we must seek it in the paths of peace. Progress in these directions under the present order of the world is not likely to be made except during a state of domestic and international tranquility. One of the great questions before the nations to-day is how to promote such tranquility.
  • The economic problems of society are important. On the whole, we are meeting them fairly well. They are so personal and so pressing that they never fail to receive constant attention. But they are only a part. We need to put a proper emphasis on the other problems of society. We need to consider what attitude of the public mind it is necessary to cultivate in order that a mixed population like our own may dwell together more harmoniously and the family of nations reach a better state of understanding. You who have been in the service know how absolutely necessary it is in a military organization that the individual subordinate some part of his personality for the general good. That is the one great lesson which results from the training of a soldier. Whoever has been taught that lesson in camp and field is thereafter the better equipped to appreciate that it is equally applicable in other departments of life. It is necessary in the home, in industry and commerce, in scientific and intellectual development. At the foundation of every strong and mature character we find this trait which is best described as being subject to discipline. The essence of it is toleration. It is toleration in the broadest and most inclusive sense, a liberality of mind, which gives to the opinions and judgments of others the same generous consideration that it asks for its own, and which is moved by the spirit of the philosopher who declared that 'To know all is to forgive all'. It may not be given to infinite beings to attain that ideal, but it is none the less one toward which we should strive.
  • One of the most natural of reactions during the war was intolerance. But the inevitable disregard for the opinions and feelings of minorities is none the less a disturbing product of war psychology. The slow and difficult advances which tolerance and liberalism have made through long periods of development are dissipated almost in a night when the necessary war-time habits of thought hold the minds of the people. The necessity for a common purpose and a united intellectual front becomes paramount to everything else. But when the need for such a solidarity is past there should be a quick and generous readiness to revert to the old and normal habits of thought. There should be an intellectual demobilization as well as a military demobilization. Progress depends very largely on the encouragement of variety. Whatever tends to standardize the community, to establish fixed and rigid modes of thought, tends to fossilize society. If we all believed the same thing and thought the same thoughts and applied the same valuations to all the occurrences about us, we should reach a state of equilibrium closely akin to an intellectual and spiritual paralysis. It is the ferment of ideas, the clash of disagreeing judgments, the privilege of the individual to develop his own thoughts and shape his own character, that makes progress possible. It is not possible to learn much from those who uniformly agree with us. But many useful things are learned from those who disagree with us ; and even when we can gain nothing our differences are likely to do us no harm. In this period of after-war rigidity, suspicion, and intolerance our own country has not been exempt from unfortunate experiences. Thanks to our comparative isolation, we have known less of the international frictions and rivalries than some other countries less fortunately situated. But among some of the varying racial, religious, and social groups of our people there have been manifestations of an intolerance of opinion, a narrowness to outlook, a fixity of judgment, against which we may well be warned. It is not easy to conceive of anything that would be more unfortunate in a community based upon the ideals of which Americans boast than any considerable development of intolerance as regards religion. To a great extent this country owes its beginnings to the determination of our hardy ancestors to maintain complete freedom in religion. Instead of a state church we have decreed that every citizen shall be free to follow the dictates of his own conscience as to his religious beliefs and affiliations. Under that guaranty we have erected a system which certainly is justified by its fruits. Under no other could we have dared to invite the peoples of all countries and creeds to come here and unite with us in creating the State of which we are all citizens.
  • But having invited them here, having accepted their great and varied contributions to the building of the Nation, it is for us to maintain in all good faith those liberal institutions and traditions which have been so productive of good. The bringing together of all these different national, racial, religious, and cultural elements has made our country a kind of composite of the rest of the world, and we can render no greater service than by demonstrating the possibility of harmonious cooperation among so many various groups. Every one of them has something characteristic and significant of great value to cast into the common fund of our material, intellectual, and spiritual resources.
  • The war brought a great test of our experiment in amalgamating these varied factors into a real Nation, with the ideals and aspirations of a united people. None was excepted from the obligation to serve when the hour of danger struck. The event proved that our theory had been sound. On a solid foundation of a national unity there had been erected a superstructure which in its varied parts had offered full opportunity to develop all the range of talents and genius that had gone into its making. Well-nigh all the races, religions, and nationalities of the world were represented in the armed forces of this nation, as they were in the body of our population. No man's patriotism was impugned or service questioned because of his racial origin, his political opinion, or his religious convictions. Immigrants and sons of immigrants from the central European countries fought side by side with those who descended from the countries which were our allies; with the sons of equatorial Africa; and with the red men of our own aboriginal population, all of them equally proud of the name Americans.
  • We must not, in times of peace, permit ourselves to lose any part from this structure of patriotic unity. I make no plea for leniency toward those who are criminal or vicious, are open enemies of society and are not prepared to accept the true standards of our citizenship. By tolerance I do not mean indifference to evil. I mean respect for different kinds of good. Whether one traces his Americanisms back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to the steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of to-day is real and genuine. No matter by what various crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat. You men constituted the crew of our 'Ship of State' during her passage through the roughest waters. You made up the watch and held the danger posts when the storm was fiercest. You brought her safely and triumphantly into port. Out of that experience you have learned the lessons of discipline, tolerance, respect for authority, and regard for the basic manhood of your neighbor. You bore aloft a standard of patriotic conduct and civic integrity, to which all could repair. Such a standard, with a like common appeal, must be upheld just as firmly and unitedly now in time of peace. Among citizens honestly devoted to the maintenance of that standard, there need be small concern about differences of individual opinion in other regards. Granting first the essentials of loyalty to our country and to our fundamental institutions, we may not only overlook, but we may encourage differences of opinion as to other things. For differences of this kind will certainly be elements of strength rather than of weakness. They will give variety to our tastes and interests. They will broaden our vision, strengthen our understanding, encourage the true humanities, and enrich our whole mode and conception of life. I recognize the full and complete necessity of 100 per cent Americanism, but 100 per cent Americanism may be made up of many various elements.
  • If we are to have that harmony and tranquility, that union of spirit which is the foundation of real national genius and national progress, we must all realize that there are true Americans who did not happen to be born in our section of the country, who do not attend our place of religious worship, who are not of our racial stock, or who are not proficient in our language. If we are to create on this continent a free Republic and an enlightened civilization that will be capable of reflecting the true greatness and glory of mankind, it will be necessary to regard these differences as accidental and unessential. We shall have to look beyond the outward manifestations of race and creed. Divine Providence has not bestowed upon any race a monopoly of patriotism and character. The same principle that it is necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among our own people it is also necessary to apply to the attitude of mind among the different nations. During the war we were required not only to put a strong emphasis on everything that appealed to our own national pride but an equally strong emphasis on that which tended to disparage other peoples. There was an intensive cultivation of animosities and hatreds and enmities, together with a blind appeal to force, that took possession of substantially all the peoples of the earth. Of course, these ministered to the war spirit. They supplied the incentive for destruction, the motive for conquest. But in time of peace these sentiments are not helps but hindrances; they are not constructive.
  • The generally expressed desire of 'America first' can not be criticized. It is a perfectly correct aspiration for our people to cherish. But the problem which we have to solve is how to make America first. It can not be done by the cultivation of national bigotry, arrogance, or selfishness. Hatreds, jealousies, and suspicions will not be productive of any benefits in this direction. Here again we must apply the rule of toleration. Because there are other peoples whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not our thoughts, we are not warranted in drawing the conclusion that they are adding nothing to the sum of civilization. We can make little contribution to the welfare of humanity on the theory that we are a superior people and all others are an inferior people. We do not need to be too loud in the assertion of our own righteousness. It is true that we live under most favorable circumstances. But before we come to the final and irrevocable decision that we are better than everybody else we need to consider what we might do if we had their provocations and their difficulties. We are not likely to improve our own condition or help humanity very much until we come to the sympathetic understanding that human nature is about the same everywhere, that it is rather evenly distributed over the surface of the earth, and that we are all united in a common brotherhood. We can only make America first in the true sense which that means by cultivating a spirit of friendship and good will, by the exercise of the virtues of patience and forbearance, by being 'plenteous in mercy', and through progress at home and helpfulness abroad standing as an example of real service to humanity.
  • It is for these reasons that it seems clear that the results of the war will be lost and we shall only be entering a period of preparation for another conflict unless we can demobilize the racial antagonisms, fears, hatreds, and suspicions, and create an attitude of toleration in the public mind of the peoples of the earth. If our country is to have any position of leadership, I trust it may be in that direction, and I believe that the place where it should begin is at home. Let us cast off our hatreds. Let us candidly accept our treaties and our natural obligations of peace. We know and everyone knows that these old systems, antagonisms, and reliance on force have failed. If the world has made any progress, it has been the result of the development of other ideals. If we are to maintain and perfect our own civilization, if we are to be of any benefit to the rest of mankind, we must turn aside from the thoughts of destruction and cultivate the thoughts of construction. We can not place our main reliance upon material forces. We must reaffirm and reinforce our ancient faith in truth and justice, in charitableness and tolerance. We must make our supreme commitment to the everlasting spiritual forces of life. We must mobilize the conscience of mankind.
  • Your gatherings are a living testimony of a determination to support these principles. It would be impossible to come into this presence, which is a symbol of more than 300 years of our advancing civilization, which represents to such a degree the hope of our consecrated living and the prayers of our hallowed dead, without a firmer conviction of the deep and abiding purpose of our country to live in accordance with this vision. There have been and will be lapses and discouragements, surface storms and disturbances. The shallows will murmur, but the deep is still. If We shall be made aware of the boisterous and turbulent forces of evil about us seeking the things which are temporal. But we shall also be made aware of the still small voice arising from the fireside of every devoted home in the land seeking the things which are eternal. To such a country, to such a cause, the American Legion has dedicated itself. Upon this rock you stand for the service of humanity. Against it no power can prevail.

Ways to Peace (1926)[edit]

"Ways to Peace" speech at Arlington (31 May 1926).
  • Fellow Americans, this Nation approaches no ceremony with such universal sanction as that which is held in commemoration over the graves of those who have performed military duty. In our respect for the living and our reverence for the dead, in the unbounded treasure which we have poured out in bounties, in the continual requiem services which we have held, America at least has demonstrated that republics are not ungrateful. It is one of the glories of our country that so long as we remain faithful to the cause of justice and truth and liberty, this action will continue. We have waged no wars to determine a succession, establish a dynasty, or glorify a reigning house. Our military operations have been for the service of the cause of humanity. The principles on which they have been fought have more and more come to be accepted as the ultimate standards of the world. They have been of an enduring substance, which is not weakened but only strengthened by the passage of time and the contemplation of reason.
  • Our experience in that respect ought not to lead us too hastily to assume that we have been therefore better than other people, but certainly we have been more fortunate. We came on the stage at a later time, so that this country had presented to it, already attained, a civilization that other countries had secured only as a result of a long and painful struggle. Of the various races of which we are composed, substantially all have a history for making warfare which is oftentimes hard to justify, as they have come up through various degrees of development. They bore this burden in ages past in order that this country might be freed from it. Under the circumstances it behooves us to look on their record of advance through great difficulties with much compassion and be thankful that we have been spared from a like experience, and out of our compassion and our thankfulness constantly to remember that because of greater advantages and opportunities we are charged with superior duties and obligations. Perhaps no country on earth has greater responsibilities than America.
  • Notwithstanding all the honor which this country has bestowed upon the living and all the reverence that has marked its attitude toward the dead who have served us in a military capacity, we are not a warlike Nation. As a people we have not sought military glory. Because of our fortunate circumstances, such wars as we have waged have been for the purpose of securing conditions under which peace would be more permanent, liberty would be more secure, and justice would be more certain. It was this principle that peculiarly characterized the forces who acknowledged as their commander in chief Abraham Lincoln.
  • While this day was legally established many years ago as an occasion to be devoted to the memory of our country's dead, it can not but each year refresh the sentiment of respect and honor in which our country holds their living comrades. Of those great armies that maintained the long struggle from 1861 to 1865, which ranked in size with any the world had ever before seen, but a few shattered ranks now remain. The old valor yet lives. The old devotion to country, the old loyalty to the flag remain: But the youth and physical vigor which caused them to be characterized as the boys in blue are gone from these heroes of a former generation.
  • But the spirit which they so nobly represented two generations ago has not departed from the land. It was resurgent in the days of 1898 and in 1917, and finds a lineal succession in the three branches which make up the land and sea forces of the present day and in the public opinion of the people. Our country has never had a better-equipped army or a more efficient navy in time of peace than it has at the present time. The Air Service is being perfected, better quarters are being provided, and our whole Military Establishment is being made worthy of the power and dignity of this great Nation. We realize that national security and national defense can not be safely neglected. To do so is to put in peril our domestic tranquility and jeopardize our respect and standing among the other nations.
  • Yet the American forces are distinctly the forces of peace. They are the guaranties of that order and tranquility in this part of the world, which is alike beneficial to us and all the other nations. Everyone knows that we covet no territory, we entertain no imperialistic designs, we harbor no enmity toward any other people. We seek no revenge, we nurse no grievances, we have inflicted no injuries, and we fear no enemies. Our ways are the ways of peace.
  • We are attempting to make our contribution to the peace of the world, not in any sensational or spectacular way but by the application of practical, workable, seasoned methods and an appeal to the common sense of mankind. We do not rely upon the threat of force in our international relations or in our attempt to maintain our position in the world. We have seen force tried, but the more people study its results the more they must be convinced that on the whole it has failed. Conditions sometimes arise where it seems that an appeal to arms is inevitable, but such conflicts decide very little. In the end it is necessary to make an appeal to reason, and until adjustments are reached by covenants which harmonize with the prevailing sense of justice a final solution has not been found.
  • Ever since the last great conflict the world has been putting a renewed emphasis, not on preparation to succeed in war, but on an attempt by preventing war to succeed in peace. This movement has the full and complete approbation of the American Government and the American people. While we have been unwilling to interfere in the political relationship of other countries and have consistently refrained from intervening except when our help has been sought and we have felt that it could be effectively given, we have signified our willingness to become associated with other nations in a practical plan for promoting international justice through the World Court. Such a tribunal furnishes a method of the adjustment of international differences in accordance with our treaty rights and under the generally accepted rules of international law. When questions arise which all parties agree ought to be adjudicated but which do not yield to the ordinary methods of diplomacy, here is a forum to which the parties may voluntarily repair in the consciousness that their dignity suffers no diminution and that their cause will be determined impartially, according to the law and the evidence. That is a sensible, direct, efficient, and practical method of adjusting differences which can not fail to appeal to the intelligence of the American people.
  • But while we put our trust not on force but on a reign of law and the administration of justice, yet we know that the maintenance of peace can not but to a large extent be dependent upon our sentiments and desires,. In spite of all the treaties we may make and all the tribunals we may establish, unless we maintain a public opinion devoted to peace we can not escape the ravages of war. A determination to do right will be more effective than all our treaties and courts, all our armies and fleets. A peaceful people will have peace, but a warlike people can not escape war.
  • Peace has an economic foundation to which too little attention has been given. No student can doubt that it was to a large extent the economic condition of Europe that drove those overburdened countries headlong into the World War. They were engaged in maintaining competitive armaments. If one country laid the keel of one warship, some other country considered it necessary to lay the keel of two warships. If one country enrolled a regiment, some other country enrolled three regiments. Whole peoples were armed and drilled and trained to the detriment of their industrial life, and charged and taxed and assessed until the burden could no longer be borne. Nations cracked under the load and sought relief from the intolerable pressure by pillaging each other. It was to avoid a repetition of such a catastrophe that our Government proposed and brought to a successful conclusion the Washing- ton Conference for the Limitation of Naval Armaments. We have been altogether desirous of an extension of this principle and for that purpose have sent our delegates to a preliminary conference of nations now sitting at Geneva. Out of that conference we expect some practical results. We believe that other nations ought to join with us in laying aside their suspicions and hatreds sufficiently to agree among themselves upon methods of mutual relief from the necessity of the maintenance of great land and sea forces. This can not be done if we constantly have in mind the resort to war for the redress of wrongs and the enforcement of rights. Europe has the League of Nations. That ought to be able to provide those countries with certain political guaranties which our country does not require. Besides this there is the World Court, which can certainly be used for the determination of all justifiable disputes. We should not underestimate the difficulties of European nations, nor fail to extend to them the highest degree of patience and the most sympathetic consideration. But we can not fail to assert our conviction that they are in great need of further limitation of armaments and our determination to lend them every assistance in the solution of their problems. We have entered the conference with the utmost good faith on our part and in the sincere belief that it represents the utmost good faith on their part. We want to see the problems that are there presented stripped of all technicalities and met and solved in a way that will secure practical results. We stand ready to give our support to every effort that is made in that direction.
  • While we are thus desirous of the economic welfare of other countries in part because of its relation to world peace, we ought to remember that our own Government owes a great duty to the American people in this direction. It is for this reason in part that I have insisted upon a policy of constructive economy in the national administration. If we can make the circumstances of the people easy, if we can relieve them of the burden of heavy taxation, we shall have contributed to that contentment and peace of mind which will go far to render them immune from any envious inclination toward other countries. If the people prosper in their business, they will be the less likely to resort to the irritating methods of competition in foreign trade out of which arise mutual misunderstandings and animosities. They will not be driven to the employment of sharp practices in order to support and maintain their own position. Being amply supplied with their own resources, they will not be so inclined to turn covetous eyes toward the resources of other nations.
  • Such a condition will likewise give opportunity to devote our surplus wealth, not to the payment of high taxes, but to the financing of the needs of other nations. Our country has already through private sources recognized the requirements in this direction and has made large advances to foreign governments and foreign enterprises for the purpose of reestablishing their public credit and their private industry.
  • By such action we have not only discharged an obligation to humanity, but have likewise profited in our trade relations and established a community of interests which can not but be an added security for the maintenance of peace. In so far as we can confirm other people in the possession of profitable industry, without injuring ourselves, we shall have removed from them that economic pressure productive of those dissensions, discords, and hostilities which are a fruitful source of war.
  • It has been in accordance with these principles that we have made generous settlements of our foreign debts. The little sentiment of "live and let live" expresses a great truth. It has been thought wise to extend the payment of our debts over a long period of years, with a very low rate of interest, in order to relieve foreign peoples of the burden of economic pressure beyond their capacity to bear. An adjustment has now been made of all these major obligations, and they have all but one been mutually ratified. The moral principle of the payment of international debts has been preserved. Every dollar that we have advanced to these countries they have promised to repay with some interest. Our National Treasury is not in the banking business. We did not make these loans as a banking enterprise. We made them to a very large extent as an incident to the prosecution of the war. We have not sought to adjust them on a purely banking basis. We have taken into consideration all the circumstances and the elements that attended the original transaction and all the results that will probably flow from their settlement. They have been liquidated on this broad moral and humanitarian basis. We believe that the adjustments which have been made will be mutually beneficial to the trade relations of the countries involved and that out of these economic benefits there will be derived additional guaranties to the stability and peace of the world.
  • But if we are to maintain our position of understanding and good will with the nations abroad, we must continue to maintain the same sentiments at home. We are situated differently in this respect from any other country. All the other great powers have a comparatively homogeneous population, close kindred in race and blood and speech, and commonly little divided in religious beliefs. Our great Nation is made up of the strong and virile pioneering stock of nearly all the countries of the world. We have a variety of race and language and religious belief. If any of these different peoples fall into disfavor among us, there comes a quick reaction against the rest of us from the relatives and friends in their place of origin which affects the public sentiment of that country, even though it may not be actually expressed in the official actions of their Government. Such misunderstandings interfere with our friendly relations, are harmful to our trade, and retard the general progress of civilization. We all subscribe to the principle of religious liberty and toleration and equality of rights. This principle is in accordance with the fundamental law of the land. It is the very spirit of the American Constitution. We all recognize and admit that it ought to be put into practical operation. We know that every argument of right and reason requires such action.
  • Yet in time of stress and public agitation we have too great a tendency to disregard this policy and indulge in race hatred, religious intolerance, and disregard of equal rights. Such sentiments are bound to react upon those who harbor them. Instead of being a benefit they are a positive injury. We do not have to examine history very far before we see whole countries that have been blighted, whole civilizations that have been shattered by a spirit of intolerance. They are destructive of order and progress at home and a danger to peace and good will abroad. No better example exists of toleration than that which is exhibited by those who wore the blue toward those who wore the gray. Our condition today is not merely that of one people under one flag, but of a thoroughly united people who have seen bitterness and enmity which once threatened to sever them pass away, and a spirit of kindness and good will reign over them all.
  • The success with which we have met in all of these undertakings is a matter of universal knowledge. We are at peace with all the world. Those of this generation who passed through the World War have had an experience which will always cause them to realize what an infinite blessing peace is. We are in an era of unbounded prosperity. The financial condition of our National Government is beginning to be more easy to be borne. While many other nations and many localities within our own country are struggling with a burden of increased debts and rising taxes, which makes them seek for new sources from which by further taxation they can secure new revenues, we have made large progress toward paying off our national debt, have greatly reduced our national taxes, and been able to relieve the people by abandoning altogether many sources of national revenue. We are not required to look altogether to the future for our rewards and find in our lot nothing but sacrifices for the present. Now, here, to-day, we are all able to enjoy those benefits which come from universal peace and nation-wide prosperity.
  • As these old soldiers, the living descendants of the spirit of Washington that made our country, go down toward the setting sun, representing the spirit of Lincoln, who saved our country, they will have the satisfaction of knowing that they are leaving behind them the same spirit, still undaunted, still ready to maintain in the future a more abiding peace and a more abounding prosperity, under which America can continue to work for the salvation of the world.

Speech on the Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence (1926)[edit]

"Speech on the Occasion of the 150th Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence" (5 July 1926)
  • We meet to celebrate the birthday of America. The coming of a new life always excites our interest. Although we know in the case of the individual that it has been an infinite repetition reaching back beyond our vision, that only makes it the more wonderful. But how our interest and wonder increase when we behold the miracle of the birth of a new nation. It is to pay our tribute of reverence and respect to those who participated in such a mighty event that we annually observe the fourth day of July. Whatever may have been the impression created by the news which went out from this city on that summer day in 1776, there can be no doubt as to the estimate which is now placed upon it. At the end of 150 years the four corners of the earth unite in coming to Philadelphia as to a holy shrine in grateful acknowledgement of a service so great, which a few inspired men here rendered to humanity, that it is still the preeminent support of free government throughout the world.
  • Although a century and a half measured in comparison with the length of human experience is but a short time, yet measured in the life of governments and nations it ranks as a very respectable period. Certainly enough time has elapsed to demonstrate with a great deal of thoroughness the value of our institutions and their dependability as rules for the regulation of human conduct and the advancement of civilization. They have been in existence long enough to become very well seasoned. They have met, and met successfully, the test of experience.
  • It is not so much then for the purpose of undertaking to proclaim new theories and principles that this annual celebration is maintained, but rather to reaffirm and reestablish those old theories and principles which time and the unerring logic of events have demonstrated to be sound. Amid all the clash of conflicting interests, amid all the welter of partisan politics, every American can turn for solace and consolation to the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States with the assurance and confidence that those two great charters of freedom and justice remain firm and unshaken. Whatever perils appear, whatever dangers threaten, the Nation remains secure in the knowledge that the ultimate application of the law of the land will provide an adequate defense and protection.
  • It is little wonder that people at home and abroad consider Independence Hall as hallowed ground and revere the Liberty Bell as a sacred relic. That pile of bricks and mortar, that mass of metal, might appear to the uninstructed as only the outgrown meeting place and the shattered bell of a former time, useless now because of more modern conveniences, but to those who know they have become consecrated by the use which men have made of them. They have long been identified with a great cause. They are the framework of a spiritual event. The world looks upon them, because of their associations of one hundred and fifty years ago, as it looks upon the Holy Land because of what took place there nineteen hundred years ago. Through use for a righteous purpose they have become sanctified.
  • It is not here necessary to examine in detail the causes which led to the American Revolution. In their immediate occasion they were largely economic. The colonists objected to the navigation laws which interfered with their trade, they denied the power of Parliament to impose taxes which they were obliged to pay, and they therefore resisted the royal governors and the royal forces which were sent to secure obedience to these laws. But the conviction is inescapable that a new civilization had come, a new spirit had arisen on this side of the Atlantic more advanced and more developed in its regard for the rights of the individual than that which characterized the Old World. Life in a new and open country had aspirations which could not be realized in any subordinate position. A separate establishment was ultimately inevitable. It had been decreed by the very laws of human nature. Man everywhere has an unconquerable desire to be the master of his own destiny.
  • We are obliged to conclude that the Declaration of Independence represented the movement of a people. It was not, of course, a movement from the top. Revolutions do not come from that direction. It was not without the support of many of the most respectable people in the Colonies, who were entitled to all the consideration that is given to breeding, education, and possessions. It had the support of another element of great significance and importance to which I shall later refer. But the preponderance of all those who occupied a position which took on the aspect of aristocracy did not approve of the Revolution and held toward it an attitude either of neutrality or open hostility. It was in no sense a rising of the oppressed and downtrodden. It brought no scum to the surface, for the reason that colonial society had developed no scum. The great body of the people were accustomed to privations, but they were free from depravity. If they had poverty, it was not of the hopeless kind that afflicts great cities, but the inspiring kind that marks the spirit of the pioneer. The American Revolution represented the informed and mature convictions of a great mass of independent, liberty-loving, God-fearing people who knew their rights, and possessed the courage to dare to maintain them.
  • The Continental Congress was not only composed of great men, but it represented a great people. While its members did not fail to exercise a remarkable leadership, they were equally observant of their representative capacity. They were industrious in encouraging their constituents to instruct them to support independence. But until such instructions were given they were inclined to withhold action.
  • While North Carolina has the honor of first authorizing its delegates to concur with other Colonies in declaring independence, it was quickly followed by South Carolina and Georgia, which also gave general instructions broad enough to include such action. But the first instructions which unconditionally directed its delegates to declare for independence came from the great Commonwealth of Virginia. These were immediately followed by Rhode Island and Massachusetts, while the other Colonies, with the exception of New York, soon adopted a like course.
  • This obedience of the delegates to the wishes of their constituents, which in some cases caused them to modify their previous positions, is a matter of great significance. It reveals an orderly process of government in the first place; but more than that, it demonstrates that the Declaration of Independence was the result of the seasoned and deliberate thought of the dominant portion of the people of the Colonies. Adopted after long discussion and as the result of the duly authorized expression of the preponderance of public opinion, it did not partake of dark intrigue or hidden conspiracy. It was well advised. It had about it nothing of the lawless and disordered nature of a riotous insurrection. It was maintained on a plane which rises above the ordinary conception of rebellion. It was in no sense a radical movement but took on the dignity of a resistance to illegal usurpations. It was conservative and represented the action of the colonists to maintain their constitutional rights which from time immemorial had been guaranteed to them under the law of the land.
  • When we come to examine the action of the Continental Congress in adopting the Declaration of Independence in the light of what was set out in that great document and in the light of succeeding events, we can not escape the conclusion that it had a much broader and deeper significance than a mere secession of territory and the establishment of a new nation. Events of that nature have been taking place since the dawn of history. One empire after another has arisen, only to crumble away as its constituent parts separated from each other and set up independent governments of their own. Such actions long ago became commonplace. They have occurred too often to hold the attention of the world and command the admiration and reverence of humanity. There is something beyond the establishment of a new nation, great as that event would be, in the Declaration of Independence which has ever since caused it to be regarded as one of the great charters that not only was to liberate America but was everywhere to ennoble humanity.
  • It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed.
  • If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination. But remarkable as this may be, it is not the chief distinction of the Declaration of Independence. The importance of political speculation is not to be under-estimated, as I shall presently disclose. Until the idea is developed and the plan made there can be no action.
  • It was the fact that our Declaration of Independence containing these immortal truths was the political action of a duly authorized and constituted representative public body in its sovereign capacity, supported by the force of general opinion and by the armies of Washington already in the field, which makes it the most important civil document in the world. It was not only the principles declared, but the fact that therewith a new nation was born which was to be founded upon those principles and which from that time forth in its development has actually maintained those principles, that makes this pronouncement an incomparable event in the history of government. It was an assertion that a people had arisen determined to make every necessary sacrifice for the support of these truths and by their practical application bring the War of Independence to a successful conclusion and adopt the Constitution of the United States with all that it has meant to civilization.
  • The idea that the people have a right to choose their own rulers was not new in political history. It was the foundation of every popular attempt to depose an undesirable king. This right was set out with a good deal of detail by the Dutch when as early as July 26, 1581, they declared their independence of Philip of Spain. In their long struggle with the Stuarts the British people asserted the same principles, which finally culminated in the Bill of Rights deposing the last of that house and placing William and Mary on the throne. In each of these cases sovereignty through divine right was displaced by sovereignty through the consent of the people. Running through the same documents, though expressed in different terms, is the clear inference of inalienable rights. But we should search these charters in vain for an assertion of the doctrine of equality. This principle had not before appeared as an official political declaration of any nation. It was profoundly revolutionary. It is one of the corner stones of American institutions.
  • But if these truths to which the declaration refers have not before been adopted in their combined entirety by national authority, it is a fact that they had been long pondered and often expressed in political speculation. It is generally assumed that French thought had some effect upon our public mind during Revolutionary days. This may have been true. But the principles of our declaration had been under discussion in the Colonies for nearly two generations before the advent of the French political philosophy that characterized the middle of the eighteenth century. In fact, they come from an earlier date. A very positive echo of what the Dutch had done in 1581, and what the English were preparing to do, appears in the assertion of the Reverend Thomas Hooker of Connecticut as early as 1638, when he said in a sermon before the General Court that 'The foundation of authority is laid in the free consent of the people'. 'The choice of public magistrates belongs unto the people by God's own allowance'.
  • This doctrine found wide acceptance among the nonconformist clergy who later made up the Congregational Church. The great apostle of this movement was the Reverend John Wise, of Massachusetts. He was one of the leaders of the revolt against the royal governor Andros in 1687, for which he suffered imprisonment. He was a liberal in ecclesiastical controversies. He appears to have been familiar with the writings of the political scientist, Samuel Pufendorf, who was born in Saxony in 1632. Wise published a treatise, entitled "The Church's Quarrel Espoused", in 1710, which was amplified in another publication in 1717. In it he dealt with the principles of civil government. His works were reprinted in 1772 and have been declared to have been nothing less than a textbook of liberty for our Revolutionary fathers.
  • While the written word was the foundation, it is apparent that the spoken word was the vehicle for convincing the people. This came with great force and wide range from the successors of Hooker and Wise, It was carried on with a missionary spirit which did not fail to reach the Scotch-Irish of North Carolina, showing its influence by significantly making that Colony the first to give instructions to its delegates looking to independence. This preaching reached the neighborhood of Thomas Jefferson, who acknowledged that his "best ideas of democracy" had been secured at church meetings.
  • That these ideas were prevalent in Virginia is further revealed by the Declaration of Rights, which was prepared by George Mason and presented to the general assembly on May 27, 1776. This document asserted popular sovereignty and inherent natural rights, but confined the doctrine of equality to the assertion that "All men are created equally free and independent." It can scarcely be imagined that Jefferson was unacquainted with what had been done in his own Commonwealth of Virginia when he took up the task of drafting the Declaration of Independence. But these thoughts can very largely be traced back to what John Wise was writing in 1710. He said, "Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man." Again, "The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, and so forth…". And again, "For as they have a power every man in his natural state, so upon combination they can and do bequeath this power to others and settle it according as their united discretion shall determine." And still again, "Democracy is Christ's government in church and state." Here was the doctrine of equality, popular sovereignty, and the substance of the theory of inalienable rights clearly asserted by Wise at the opening of the eighteenth century, just as we have the principle of the consent of the governed stated by Hooker as early as 1638.
  • When we take all these circumstances into consideration, it is but natural that the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence should open with a reference to Nature's God and should close in the final paragraphs with an appeal to the Supreme Judge of the world and an assertion of a firm reliance on Divine Providence. Coming from these sources, having as it did this background, it is no wonder that Samuel Adams could say "The people seem to recognize this resolution as though it were a decree promulgated from heaven."
  • No one can examine this record and escape the conclusion that in the great outline of its principles the Declaration was the result of the religious teachings of the preceding period. The profound philosophy which Jonathan Edwards applied to theology, the popular preaching of George Whitefield, had aroused the thought and stirred the people of the Colonies in preparation for this great event. No doubt the speculations which had been going on in England, and especially on the Continent, lent their influence to the general sentiment of the times. Of course, the world is always influenced by all the experience and all the thought of the past. But when we come to a contemplation of the immediate conception of the principles of human relationship which went into the Declaration of Independence we are not required to extend our search beyond our own shores. They are found in the texts, the sermons, and the writings of the early colonial clergy who were earnestly undertaking to instruct their congregations in the great mystery of how to live. They preached equality because they believed in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. They justified freedom by the text that we are all created in the divine image, all partakers of the divine spirit.
  • Placing every man on a plane where he acknowledged no superiors, where no one possessed any right to rule over him, he must inevitably choose his own rulers through a system of self-government. This was their theory of democracy. In those days such doctrines would scarcely have been permitted to flourish and spread in any other country. This was the purpose which the fathers cherished. In order that they might have freedom to express these thoughts and opportunity to put them into action, whole congregations with their pastors had migrated to the colonies. These great truths were in the air that our people breathed. Whatever else we may say of it, the Declaration of Independence was profoundly American.
  • If this apprehension of the facts be correct, and the documentary evidence would appear to verify it, then certain conclusions are bound to follow. A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
  • Governments do not make ideals, but ideals make governments. This is both historically and logically true. Of course the government can help to sustain ideals and can create institutions through which they can be the better observed, but their source by their very nature is in the people. The people have to bear their own responsibilities. There is no method by which that burden can be shifted to the government. It is not the enactment, but the observance of laws, that creates the character of a nation.
  • If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.
  • There is far more danger of harm than there is hope of good in any radical changes.
  • Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. If no one is to be accounted as born into a superior station, if there is to be no ruling class, and if all possess rights which can neither be bartered away nor taken from them by any earthly power, it follows as a matter of course that the practical authority of the Government has to rest on the consent of the governed. While these principles were not altogether new in political action, and were very far from new in political speculation, they had never been assembled before and declared in such a combination.
  • In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.
  • We live in an age of science and abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create the Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all of our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage bequeathed to us, we must be like minded as the Founders who created. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had and for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed. We must keep replenished, that they may glow with a more compelling flame, the altar fires before which they worshipped.

Vermont is a State I Love (1928)[edit]

"Vermont is a state I love" (21 September 1928), Bennington, Vermont
  • It was here that I first saw the light of day; here I received my bride, here my dead lie pillowed on the loving breast of our eternal hills.
  • I love Vermont because of her hills and valleys, her scenery and invigorating climate, but most of all because of her indomitable people. They are a race of pioneers who have almost beggared themselves to serve others. If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union, and support of our institutions should languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont.

1930s[edit]

  • In other periods of depression it has always been possible to see some things which were solid and upon which you could base hope, but as I look about, I now see nothing to give ground for hope — nothing of man. But there is still religion, which is the same yesterday, today, and forever. That continues as a solid basis for hope and courage.
    • Conversation with Charles Andrews (1 January 1933), quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma (2000).
  • I sometimes wish that people would put a little more emphasis on the observance of the law than they do on its enforcement. It is a maxim of our institutions, that the government does not make the people, but the people make the government.
    • From an address before the Women’s National Committee for Law Enforcement, as quoted in The New England historical and genealogical register, Volume 87, H. F. Waters, New England Historic & Genealogical Society (1933), p. 100.
  • Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan "press on" has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
    • Quote from a program at a Coolidge memorial service (1933); cited in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1999).
  • I feel I no longer fit in with these times.
    • To a friend, shortly before Coolidge's death, as quoted in Coolidge: An American Enigma (1998), by Robert Sobel, Regnery Publishing, p. 410.


Misattributed[edit]

  • Coolidge: Sins.
    Mrs. Coolidge: Well, what did he say about it?
    Coolidge: He was against it.
    • when asked by his wife what a preacher's sermon had been about
    • John H. McKee, Coolidge: Wit and Wisdom, 1933
    • Author Nigel Rees claims this is apocryphal:
      • The taciturn President became famous for monosyllabic replies. A story from the twenties has Mrs. Coolidge asking him the subject of a sermon he had heard. "Sin," he answered. When prompted to elaborate on the clergyman's theme, Coolidge is said to have replied: "He was against it." Coolidge remarked that this story would have been funnier if it had been true.
        • Nigel Rees, Sayings of the Century, page 67.
  • They hired the money, didn't they?
    • Reportedly in response to a proposal to cancel the debts owed by Allied nations to the United States following World War I; reported in Paul F. Boller, Jr., and John George, They Never Said It: A Book of Fake Quotes, Misquotes, & Misleading Attributions (1989), p. 18.
  • Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers
    • Widely misattributed and misquoted. Coolidge was quoting Tennyson in a June 3, 1925 speech to the US Naval Academy. Foundations of the Republic pp 237 : THE NAVY AS AN INSTRUMENT OF PEACE The poet reminds us that "Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers." It may not be difficult to store up in the mind a vast ...

Quotes about Coolidge[edit]

  • How could they tell?
    • Dorothy Parker, upon learning of Coolidge's death (January 1933), as quoted in Calvin Coolidge (2006), by David Greenberg, The American Presidents Series, Times Books, p. 9.
  • Although Coolidge was characteristically laconic and withdrawn, this was exaggerated in apocryphal stories. But most of the jokes about Coolidge were originally affectionate. In fact, he gave an average of 8 press conferences a month, had a very relaxed, friendly relationship with the press, and was the first president to address the nation by radio, which he did regularly. That doesn't quite fit the 'Silent Cal' image. By one count, he ended up giving more speeches than any previous president, though they were not the kind of speeches that pushed great projects, hectored people, or even attacked anyone. They usually just enunciated what he regarded as American principles; not the kind of thing to thrill the intelligentsia later on.

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