The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses
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The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1910) is a collection of Theodore Roosevelt’s published commentaries and public addresses on what is necessary for a vital and healthy political, social and individual life.
- 1 The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1900)
- 1.1 The Strenous Life
- 1.2 Expansion and Peace
- 1.3 Latitude and Longitude among Reformers
- 1.4 Fellow-Feeling as a Political Factor
- 1.5 Civic Helpfulness
- 1.6 Character and Success
- 1.7 The Eighth and Ninth Commandments in Politics
- 1.8 The Best and The Good
- 1.9 Promise and Performance
- 1.10 The American Boy
- 1.11 Military Preparedness and Unpreparedness
- 1.12 Admiral Dewey
- 1.13 Grant
- 1.14 The Two Americas
- 1.15 Manhood and Statehood
- 1.16 Brotherhood and the Heroic Virtues
- 1.17 National Duties
- 1.18 The Labor Question
- 1.19 Christian Citizenship
The Strenuous Life: Essays and Addresses (1900)
The Strenous Life
- I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.
- A life of slothful ease, a life of that peace which springs merely from lack either of desire or of power to strive after great things, is as little worthy of a nation as of an individual. [...] If you are rich and are worth your salt, you will teach your sons that though they may have leisure, it is not to be spent in idleness; for wisely used leisure merely means that those who possess it, being free from the necessity of working for their livelihood, are all the more bound to carry on some kind of non-remunerative work in science, in letters, in art, in exploration, in historical research—work of the type we most need in this country, the successful carrying out of which reflects most honor upon the nation. We do not admire the man of timid peace. We admire the man who embodies victorious effort; the man who never wrongs his neighbor, who is prompt to help a friend, but who has those virile qualities necessary to win in the stern strife of actual life. It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed. In this life we get nothing save by effort. Freedom from effort in the present merely means that there has been stored up effort in the past. A man can be freed from the necessity of work only by the fact that he or his fathers before him have worked to good purpose. If the freedom thus purchased is used aright, and the man still does actual work, though of a different kind, whether as a writer or a general, whether in the field of politics or in the field of exploration and adventure, he shows he deserves his good fortune. But if he treats this period of freedom from the need of actual labor as a period, not of preparation, but of mere enjoyment, even though perhaps not of vicious enjoyment, he shows that he is simply a cumberer of the earth's surface, and he surely unfits himself to hold his own with his fellows if the need to do so should again arise.
- A mere life of ease is not in the end a very satisfactory life, and, above all, it is a life which ultimately unfits those who follow it for serious work in the world. In the last analysis a healthy state can exist only when the men and women who make it up lead clean, vigorous, healthy lives; when the children are so trained that they shall endeavor, not to shirk difficulties, but to overcome them; not to seek ease, but to know how to wrest triumph from toil and risk.
- Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in that grey twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.
- We cannot, if we would, play the part of China, and be content to rot by inches in ignoble ease within our borders, taking no interest in what goes on beyond them, sunk in a scrambling commercialism; heedless of the higher life, the life of aspiration, of toil and risk, busying ourselves only with the wants of our bodies for the day, until suddenly we should find, beyond a shadow of question, what China has already found, that in this world the nation that has trained itself to a career of unwarlike and isolated ease is bound, in the end, to go down before other nations which have not lost the manly and adventurous qualities. If we are to be a really great people, we must strive in good faith to play a great part in the world.
- We cannot avoid meeting great issues. All that we can determine for ourselves is whether we shall meet them well or ill.
- We have a given problem to solve. If we undertake the solution, there is, of course, always danger that we may not solve it aright; but to refuse to undertake the solution simply renders it certain that we cannot possibly solve it aright.
- No country can long endure if its foundations are not laid deep in the material prosperity which comes from thrift, from business energy and enterprise, from hard, unsparing effort in the fields of industrial activity; but neither was any nation ever yet truly great if it relied upon material prosperity alone. All honor must be paid to the architects of our material prosperity, to the great captains of industry who have built our factories and our railroads, to the strong men who toil for wealth with brain or hand; for great is the debt of the nation to these and their kind. But our debt is yet greater to the men whose highest type is to be found in a statesman like Lincoln, a soldier like Ulysses S. Grant. They showed by their lives that they recognized the law of work, the law of strife; they toiled to win a competence for themselves and those dependent upon them; but they recognized that there were yet other and even loftier duties—duties to the nation and duties to the race. We cannot sit huddled within our own borders and avow ourselves merely an assemblage of well-to-do hucksters who care nothing for what happens beyond. Such a policy would defeat even its own end; for as the nations grow to have ever wider and wider interests, and are brought into closer and closer contact, if we are to hold our own in the struggle for naval and commercial supremacy, we must build up our power without our own borders. We must build the Isthmian Canal, and we must grasp the points of vantage which will enable us to have our say in deciding the destiny of the oceans of the East and the West.
- Let us, as we value our own self-respect, face the responsibilities with proper seriousness, courage, and high resolve. We must demand the highest order of integrity and ability in our public men who are to grapple with these new problems. We must hold to a rigid accountability those public servants who show unfaithfulness to the interests of the nation or inability to rise to the high level of the new demands upon our strength and our resources. Of course we must remember not to judge any public servant by any one act, and especially should we beware of attacking the men who are merely the occasions and not the causes of disaster.
- We must see that there is civic honesty, civic cleanliness, civic good sense in our home administration of city, State, and nation. We must strive for honesty in office, for honesty toward the creditors of the nation and of the individual; for the widest freedom of individual initiative where possible, and for the wisest control of individual initiative where it is hostile to the welfare of the many. But because we set our own household in order we are not thereby excused from playing our part in the great affairs of the world. A man's first duty is to his own home, but he is not thereby excused from doing his duty to the State; for if he fails in this second duty it is under the penalty of ceasing to be a freeman. In the same way, while a nation's first duty is within its own borders, it is not thereby absolved from facing its duties in the world as a whole; and if it refuses to do so, it merely forfeits its right to struggle for a place among the peoples that shape the destiny of mankind.
- If we stand idly by, if we seek merely swollen, slothful ease and ignoble peace, if we shrink from the hard contests where men must win at hazard of their lives and at the risk of all they hold dear, then the bolder and stronger peoples will pass us by, and will win for themselves the domination of the world. Let us therefore boldly face the life of strife, resolute to do our duty well and manfully; resolute to uphold righteousness by deed and by word; resolute to be both honest and brave, to serve high ideals, yet to use practical methods. Above all, let us shrink from no strife, moral or physical, within or without the nation, provided we are certain that the strife is justified, for it is only through strife, through hard and dangerous endeavor, that we shall ultimately win the goal of true national greatness.
Expansion and Peace
- Published in the "Independent", October 21, 1899
- Cowardice does not promote peace.
- Peace is a great good; and doubly harmful, therefore, is the attitude of those who advocate it in terms that would make it synonymous with selfish and cowardly shrinking from warring against the existence of evil. The wisest and most far-seeing champions of peace will ever remember that, in the first place, to be good it must be righteous, for unrighteous and cowardly peace may be worse than any war; and, in the second place, that it can often be obtained only at the cost of war.
- The growth of peacefulness between nations, however, has been confined strictly to those that are civilized. It can only come when both parties to a possible quarrel feel the same spirit. With a barbarous nation peace is the exceptional condition. On the border between civilization and barbarism war is generally normal because it must be under the conditions of barbarism. Whether the barbarian be the Red Indian on the frontier of the United States, the Afghan on the border of British India, or the Turkoman who confronts the Siberian Cossack, the result is the same. In the long run civilized man finds he can keep the peace only by subduing his barbarian neighbor; for the barbarian will yield only to force, save in instances so exceptional that they may be disregarded. Back of the force must come fair dealing, if the peace is to be permanent. But without force fair dealing usually amounts to nothing. In our history we have had more trouble from the Indian tribes whom we pampered and petted than from those we wronged; and this has been true in Siberia, Hindustan, and Africa. Every expansion of civilization makes for peace. In other words, every expansion of a great civilized power means a victory for law, order, and righteousness. [...] The rule of law and of order has succeeded to the rule of barbarous and bloody violence. Until the great civilized nations stepped in there was no chance for anything but such bloody violence.
- Nations that expand and nations that do not expand may both ultimately go down, but the one leaves heirs and a glorious memory, and the other leaves neither. The Roman expanded, and he has left a memory which has profoundly influenced the history of mankind, and he has further left as the heirs of his body, and, above all, of his tongue and culture, the so-called Latin peoples of Europe and America. Similarly to-day it is the great expanding peoples which bequeath to future ages the great memories and material results of their achievements, and the nations which shall have sprung from their loins, England standing as the archetype and best exemplar of all such mighty nations. But the peoples that do not expand leave, and can leave, nothing behind them.
- It is only the warlike power of a civilized people that can give peace to the world. The Arab wrecked the civilization of the Mediterranean coasts, the Turk wrecked the civilization of southeastern Europe, and the Tatar desolated from China to Russia and to Persia, setting back the progress of the world for centuries, solely because the civilized nations opposed to them had lost the great fighting qualities, and, in becoming overpeaceful, had lost the power of keeping peace with a strong hand. Their passing away marked the beginning of a period of chaotic barbarian warfare. Those whose memories are not so short as to have forgotten the defeat of the Greeks by the Turks, of the Italians by the Abyssinians, and the feeble campaigns waged by Spain against feeble Morocco, must realize that at the present moment the Mediterranean coasts would be overrun either by the Turks or by the Sudan Mahdists if these warlike barbarians had only to fear those southern European powers which have lost the fighting edge. Such a barbarian conquest would mean endless war; and the fact that nowadays the reverse takes place, and that the barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows their retrogression or conquest, is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway.
Latitude and Longitude among Reformers
- Published in the "Century", June, 1900
- The quality of striving after the ideal, that is, the quality which makes men reformers, and the quality of so striving through practical methods—[is] the quality which makes men efficient. Both qualities are absolutely essential. The absence of either makes the presence of the other worthless or worse.
- Success is abhorrent if attained by the sacrifice of the fundamental principles of morality. The successful man, whether in business or in politics, who has risen by conscienceless swindling of his neighbors, by deceit and chicanery, by unscrupulous boldness and unscrupulous cunning, stands toward society as a dangerous wild beast. The mean and cringing admiration which such a career commands among those who think crookedly or not at all makes this kind of success perhaps the most dangerous of all the influences that threaten our national life. Our standard of public and private conduct will never be raised to the proper level until we make the scoundrel who succeeds feel the weight of a hostile public opinion even more strongly than the scoundrel who fails. On the other hand, mere beating the air, mere visionary adherence to a nebulous and possibly highly undesirable ideal, is utterly worthless.
- Now and then one can stand uncompromisingly for a naked principle and force people up to it. This is always the attractive course; but in certain great crises it may be a very wrong course. Compromise, in the proper sense, merely means agreement; in the proper sense opportunism should merely mean doing the best possible with actual conditions as they exist. A compromise which results in a half-step toward evil is all wrong, just as the opportunist who saves himself for the moment by adopting a policy which is fraught with future disaster is all wrong; but no less wrong is the attitude of those who will not come to an agreement through which, or will not follow the course by which, it is alone possible to accomplish practical results for good.
- These two attitudes, the attitude of deifying mere efficiency, mere success, without regard to the moral qualities lying behind it, and the attitude of disregarding efficiency, disregarding practical results, are the Scylla and Charybdis between which every earnest reformer, every politician who desires to make the name of his profession a term of honor instead of shame, must steer. He must avoid both under penalty of wreckage, and it avails him nothing to have avoided one, if he founders on the other. People are apt to speak as if in political life, public life, it ought to be a mere case of striving upward—striving toward a high peak. The simile is inexact. Every man who is striving to do good public work is traveling along a ridge crest, with the gulf of failure on each side—the gulf of inefficiency on the one side, the gulf of unrighteousness on the other. All kinds of forces are continually playing on him, to shove him first into one gulf and then into the other; and even a wise and good man, unless he braces himself with uncommon firmness and foresight, as he is pushed this way and that, will find that his course becomes a pronounced zigzag instead of a straight line; and if it becomes too pronounced he is lost, no matter to which side the zigzag may take him.
- In every community there are little knots of fantastic extremists who loudly proclaim that they are striving for righteousness, and who, in reality, do their feeble best for unrighteousness. Just as the upright politician should hold in peculiar scorn the man who makes the name of politician a reproach and a shame, so the genuine reformer should realize that the cause he champions is especially jeopardized by the mock reformer who does what he can to make reform a laughingstock among decent men. A caustic observer once remarked that when Dr. Johnson spoke of patriotism as the last refuge of a scoundrel, "he was ignorant of the infinite possibilities contained in the word 'reform.'" The sneer was discreditable to the man who uttered it, for it is no more possible to justify corruption by railing at those who by their conduct throw scandal upon the cause of reform than it is to justify treason by showing that men of shady character frequently try to cover their misconduct by fervent protestations of love of country. Nevertheless, the fact remains that exactly as true patriots should be especially jealous of any appeal to what is base under the guise of patriotism, so men who strive for honesty, and for the cleansing of what is corrupt in the dark places of our politics, should emphatically disassociate themselves from the men whose antics throw discredit upon the reforms they profess to advocate.
- Few things hurt a good cause more than the excesses of its nominal friends.
- Strive manfully for righteousness, and strive so as to make your efforts for good count. You are not to be excused if you fail to try to make things better; and the very phrase "trying to make things better" implies trying in practical fashion. One man's capacity is for one kind of work and another man's capacity for another kind of work. One affects certain methods and another affects entirely different methods. All this is of little concern. What is of really vital importance is that something should be accomplished, and that this something should be worthy of accomplishment. The field is of vast size, and the laborers are always too few. There is not the slightest excuse for one sincere worker looking down upon another because he chooses a different part of the field and different implements. It is inexcusable to refuse to work, to work slackly or perversely, or to mar the work of others.
- No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency. He is bound to do all the good possible. Yet he must consider the question of expediency, in order that he may do all the good possible, for otherwise he will do none.
- We need upright politicians, who will take the time and trouble, and who possess the capacity, to manage caucuses, conventions, and public assemblies. [...] In public life we need not only men who are able to work in and through their parties, but also upright, fearless, rational independents, who will deal impartial justice to all men and all parties. We need men who are far-sighted and resolute; men who combine sincerity with sanity. [...] It is vital that every man who is in politics, as a man ought to be, with a disinterested purpose to serve the public, should strive steadily for reform; that he should have the highest ideals. He must lead, only he must lead in the right direction, and normally he must be in sight of his followers. Cynicism in public life is a curse, and when a man has lost the power of enthusiasm for righteousness it will be better for him and the country if he abandons public life.
- We of to-day are bound to try to tread in the footsteps of those great Americans who in the past have held a high ideal and have striven mightily through practical methods to realize that ideal. There must be many compromises; but we cannot compromise with dishonesty, with sin.
- To pander to depravity inevitably means to increase the depravity.
- There can be no meddling with the laws of righteousness, of decency, of morality. We are in honor bound to put into practice what we preach; to remember that we are not to be excused if we do not; and that in the last resort no material prosperity, no business acumen, no intellectual development of any kind, can atone in the life of a nation for the lack of the fundamental qualities of courage, honesty, and common sense.
Fellow-Feeling as a Political Factor
- Published in the "Century", January, 1900. Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com.
- FELLOW-FEELING, sympathy in the broadest sense, is the most important factor in producing a healthy political and social life. Neither our national nor our local civic life can be what it should be unless it is marked by the fellow-feeling, the mutual kindness, the mutual respect, the sense of common duties and common interests, which arise when men take the trouble to understand one another, and to associate together for a common object. A very large share of the rancor of political and social strife arises either from sheer misunderstanding by one section, or by one class, of another, or else from the fact that the two sections, or two classes, are so cut off from each other that neither appreciates the other's passions, prejudices, and, indeed, point of view, while they are both entirely ignorant of their community of feeling as regards the essentials of manhood and humanity.
- The only true solution of our political and social problems lies in cultivating everywhere the spirit of brotherhood, of fellow-feeling and understanding between man and man, and the willingness to treat a man as a man, which are the essential factors in American democracy as we still see it in the country districts.
- The chief factor in producing such sympathy is simply association on a plane of equality, and for a common object. Any healthy-minded American is bound to think well of his fellow-Americans if he only gets to know them. The trouble is that he does not know them.
- It is this capacity for sympathy, for fellow-feeling and mutual understanding, which must lie at the basis of all really successful movements for good government and the betterment of social and civic conditions. There is no patent device for bringing about good government. Still less is there any patent device for remedying social evils and doing away with social inequalities. Wise legislation can help in each case, and crude, vicious, or demagogic legislation can do an infinity of harm. But the betterment must come through the slow workings of the same forces which always have tended for righteousness, and always will.
- The prime lesson to be taught is the lesson of treating each man on his worth as a man, and of remembering that while sometimes it is necessary, from both a legislative and social standpoint, to consider men as a class, yet in the long run our safety lies in recognizing the individual's worth or lack of worth as the chief basis of action, and in shaping our whole conduct, and especially our political conduct, accordingly. It is impossible for a democracy to endure if the political lines are drawn to coincide with class lines. The resulting government, whether of the upper or the lower class, is not a government of the whole people, but a government of part of the people at the expense of the rest. Where the lines of political division are vertical, the men of each occupation and of every social standing separating according to their vocations and principles, the result is healthy and normal. Just so far, however, as the lines are drawn horizontally, the result is unhealthy, and in the long run disastrous, for such a division means that men are pitted against one another in accordance with the blind and selfish interests of the moment. Each is thus placed over against his neighbor in an attitude of greedy class hostility, which becomes the mainspring of his conduct, instead of each basing his political action upon his own convictions as to what is advisable and what inadvisable, and upon his own disinterested sense of devotion to the interests of the whole community as he sees them. Republics have fallen in the past primarily because the parties that controlled them divided along the lines of class, so that inevitably the triumph of one or the other implied the supremacy of a part over the whole. [...] The only way to provide against the evils of a horizontal cleavage in politics is to encourage the growth of fellow-feeling, of a feeling based on the relations of man to man, and not of class to class.
- As a matter of fact, the enormous mass of our legislation and administration ought to be concerned with matters that are strictly for the commonweal; and where special legislation or administration is needed, as it often must be, for a certain class, the need can be met primarily by mere honesty and common sense. But if men are elected solely from any caste, or on any caste theory, the voter gradually substitutes the theory of allegiance to the caste for the theory of allegiance to the commonwealth as a whole, and instead of demanding as fundamental the qualities of probity and broad intelligence—which are the indispensable qualities in securing the welfare of the whole—as the first consideration, he demands, as a substitute, zeal in the service, or apparent service, of the class, which is quite compatible with gross corruption outside. In short, we get back to the conditions which foredoomed democracy to failure in the ancient Greek and medieval republics, where party lines were horizontal and class warred against class, each in consequence necessarily substituting devotion to the interest of a class for devotion to the interest of the state and to the elementary ideas of morality. The only way to avoid the growth of these evils is, so far as may be, to help in the creation of conditions which will permit mutual understanding and fellow-feeling between the members of different classes. To do this it is absolutely necessary that there should be natural association between the members for a common end or with a common purpose. As long as men are separated by their caste lines, each body having its own amusements, interests, and occupations, they are certain to regard one another with that instinctive distrust which they feel for foreigners. There are exceptions to the rule, but it is a rule.
- About "party organizations" and "serious political organizations": If they are to be successful they must necessarily be democratic, in the sense that each man is treated strictly on his merits as a man. No one can succeed who attempts to go in on any other basis.
- A man who has taken an active part in the political life of a great city possesses an incalculable advantage over his fellow-citizens who have not so taken part, because normally he has more understanding than they can possibly have of the attitude of mind, the passions, prejudices, hopes, and animosities of his fellow-citizens, with whom he would not ordinarily be brought into business or social contact. Of course there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. A man who is drawn into politics from absolutely selfish reasons, and especially a rich man who merely desires to buy political promotion, may know absolutely nothing that is of value as to any but the basest side of the human nature with which his sphere of contact has been enlarged; and, on the other hand, a wise employer of labor, or a philanthropist in whom zeal and judgment balance each other, may know far more than most politicians. But the fact remains that the effect of political life, and of the associations that it brings, is of very great benefit in producing a better understanding and a keener fellow-feeling among men who otherwise would know one another not at all, or else as members of alien bodies or classes.
- If a man permits largeness of heart to degenerate into softness of head, he inevitably becomes a nuisance in any relation of life. If sympathy becomes distorted and morbid, it hampers instead of helping the effort toward social betterment. Yet without sympathy, without fellow-feeling, no permanent good can be accomplished. In any healthy community there must be a solidarity of sentiment and a knowledge of solidarity of interest among the different members. Where this solidarity ceases to exist, where there is no fellow-feeling, the community is ripe for disaster. Of course the fellow-feeling may be of value much in proportion as it is unconscious. A sentiment that is easy and natural is far better than one which has to be artificially stimulated. But the artificial stimulus is better than none, and with fellow-feeling, as with all other emotions, what is started artificially may become quite natural in its continuance. With most men courage is largely an acquired habit, and on the first occasions when it is called for it necessitates the exercise of will-power and self-control; but by exercise it gradually becomes almost automatic.
- A man who conscientiously endeavors to throw in his lot with those about him, to make his interests theirs, to put himself in a position where he and they have a common object, will at first feel a little self-conscious, will realize too plainly his own aims. But with exercise this will pass off. He will speedily find that the fellow-feeling which at first he had to stimulate was really existent, though latent, and is capable of a very healthy growth. It can, of course, become normal only when the man himself becomes genuinely interested in the object which he and his fellows are striving to attain. It is therefore obviously desirable that this object should possess a real and vital interest for every one.
- When a partizan political organization becomes merely an association for purposes of plunder and patronage, it may be a menace instead of a help to a community; and when a non-partizan political organization falls under the control of the fantastic extremists always attracted to such movements, in its turn it becomes either useless or noxious.
- It is an excellent thing to win a triumph for good government at a given election; but it is a far better thing gradually to build up that spirit of fellow-feeling among American citizens, which, in the long run, is absolutely necessary if we are to see the principles of virile honesty and robust common sense triumph in our civic life.
- Published in the "Century", October, 1900
- Undoubtedly the best type of philanthropic work is that which helps men and women who are willing and able to help themselves; for fundamentally this aid is simply what each of us should be all the time both giving and receiving. Every man and woman in the land ought to prize above almost every other quality the capacity for self-help; and yet every man and woman in the land will at some time or other be sorely in need of the help of others, and at some time or other will find that he or she can in turn give help even to the strongest. The quality of self-help is so splendid a quality that nothing can compensate for its loss; yet, like every virtue, it can be twisted into a fault, and it becomes a fault if carried to the point of cold-hearted arrogance, of inability to understand that now and then the strongest may be in need of aid, and that for this reason alone, if for no other, the strong should always be glad of the chance in turn to aid the weak.
- The average individual will not spend the hours in which he is not working in doing something that is unpleasant, and absolutely the only way permanently to draw average men or women from occupations and amusements that are unhealthy for soul or body is to furnish an alternative which they will accept. To forbid all amusements, or to treat innocent and vicious amusements as on the same plane, simply insures recruits for the vicious amusements.
- No man can be a really good citizen unless he takes a lively interest in politics from a high standpoint. Moreover, the minute that a move is made in politics, the people who are helped and those who would help them grow to have a common interest which is genuine and absorbing instead of being in any degree artificial, and this will bring them together as nothing else would.
- Anything that encourages pauperism, anything that relaxes the manly fiber and lowers self-respect, is an unmixed evil.
- In charity the one thing always to be remembered is that, while any man may slip and should at once be helped to rise to his feet, yet no man can be carried with advantage either to him or to the community. The greatest possible good can be done by the extension of a helping hand at the right moment, but the attempt to carry any one permanently can end in nothing but harm. The really hard-working philanthropists, who spend their lives in doing good to their neighbors, do not, as a rule, belong to the "mushy" class, and thoroughly realize the unwisdom of foolish and indiscriminate giving, or of wild and crude plans of social reformations. The young enthusiast who is for the first time brought into contact with the terrible suffering and stunting degradation which are so evident in many parts of our great cities is apt to become so appalled as to lose his head. If there is a twist in his moral or mental make-up, he will never regain his poise; but if he is sound and healthy he will soon realize that things being bad affords no justification for making them infinitely worse, and that the only safe rule is for each man to strive to do his duty in a spirit of sanity and wholesome common sense.
- No one of us can make the world move on very far, but it moves at all only when each one of a very large number does his duty.
Character and Success
- Published in the "Outlook", March 31, 1900
- Bodily vigor is good, and vigor of intellect is even better, but far above both is character. It is true, of course, that a genius may, on certain lines, do more than a brave and manly fellow who is not a genius; and so, in sports, vast physical strength may overcome weakness, even though the puny body may have in it the heart of a lion. But, in the long run, in the great battle of life, no brilliancy of intellect, no perfection of bodily development, will count when weighed in the balance against that assemblage of virtues, active and passive, of moral qualities, which we group together under the name of character; and if between any two contestants, even in college sport or in college work, the difference in character on the right side is as great as the difference of intellect or strength the other way, it is the character side that will win. Of course this does not mean that either intellect or bodily vigor can safely be neglected. On the contrary, it means that both should be developed, and that not the least of the benefits of developing both comes from the indirect effect which this development itself has upon the character.
- Success must always include, as its first element, earning a competence for the support of the man himself, and for the bringing up of those dependent upon him. In the vast majority of cases it ought to include financially rather more than this. But the acquisition of wealth is not in the least the only test of success. After a certain amount of wealth has been accumulated, the accumulation of more is of very little consequence indeed from the standpoint of success, as success should be understood both by the community and the individual.
- Wealthy men who use their wealth aright are a great power for good in the community, and help to upbuild that material national prosperity which must underlie national greatness; but if this were the only kind of success, the nation would be indeed poorly off. Successful statesmen, soldiers, sailors, explorers, historians, poets, and scientific men are also essential to national greatness, and, in fact, very much more essential than any mere successful business man can possibly be. The average man, into whom the average boy develops, is, of course, not going to be a marvel in any line, but, if he only chooses to try, he can be very good in any line, and the chances of his doing good work are immensely increased if he has trained his mind. Of course, if, as a result of his high-school, academy, or college experience, he gets to thinking that the only kind of learning is that to be found in books, he will do very little; but if he keeps his mental balance,—that is, if he shows character,—he will understand both what learning can do and what it cannot, and he will be all the better the more he can get.
- The student in a college who "crams" in order to stand at the head of his class, and neglects his health and stunts his development by working for high marks, may do himself much damage; but all that he proves is that the abuse of study is wrong. The fact remains that the study itself is essential. So it is with vigorous pastimes. If rowing or foot-ball or base-ball is treated as the end of life by any considerable section of a community, then that community shows itself to be in an unhealthy condition. If treated as it should be,—that is, as good, healthy play,—it is of great benefit, not only to the body, but in its effect upon character. To study hard implies character in the student, and to work hard at a sport which entails severe physical exertion and steady training also implies character. All kinds of qualities go to make up character, for, emphatically, the term should include the positive no less than the negative virtues. If we say of a boy or a man, "He is of good character," we mean that he does not do a great many things that are wrong, and we also mean that he does do a great many things which imply much effort of will and readiness to face what is disagreeable. He must not steal, he must not be intemperate, he must not be vicious in any way; he must not be mean or brutal; he must not bully the weak. In fact, he must refrain from whatever is evil. But besides refraining from evil, he must do good. He must be brave and energetic; he must be resolute and persevering.
- We are bidden not merely to be harmless as doves, but also as wise as serpents. It is very much easier to carry out the former part of the order than the latter; while, on the other hand, it is of much more importance for the good of mankind that our goodness should be accompanied by wisdom than that we should merely be harmless. If with the serpent wisdom we unite the serpent guile, terrible will be the damage we do; and if, with the best of intentions, we can only manage to deserve the epithet of "harmless," it is hardly worth while to have lived in the world at all.
- Perhaps there is no more important component of character than steadfast resolution. The boy who is going to make a great man, or is going to count in any way in after life, must make up his mind not merely to overcome a thousand obstacles, but to win in spite of a thousand repulses or defeats. He may be able to wrest success along the lines on which he originally started. He may have to try something entirely new. On the one hand, he must not be volatile and irresolute, and, on the other hand, he must not fear to try a new line because he has failed in another.
- Character is shown in peace no less than in war. As the greatest fertility of invention, the greatest perfection of armament, will not make soldiers out of cowards, so no mental training and no bodily vigor will make a nation great if it lacks the fundamental principles of honesty and moral cleanliness.
- Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character—character that does and dares as well as endures, character that is active in the performance of virtue no less than firm in the refusal to do aught that is vicious or degraded.
The Eighth and Ninth Commandments in Politics
- Published in the "Outlook", May 12, 1900
- THE two commandments which are specially applicable in public life are the eighth and the ninth. Not only every politician, high or low, but every citizen interested in politics, and especially every man who, in a newspaper or on the stump, advocates or condemns any public policy or any public man, should remember always that the two cardinal points in his doctrine ought to be, "Thou shalt not steal," and "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor".
- We can afford to differ on the currency, the tariff, and foreign policy; but we cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure.
- Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest we have no right to keep him in public life, it matters not how brilliant his capacity, it hardly matters how great his power of doing good service on certain lines may be.
- There are not a few public men who, though they would repel with indignation an offer of a bribe, will give certain corporations special legislative and executive privileges because they have contributed heavily to campaign funds; will permit loose and extravagant work because a contractor has political influence; or, at any rate, will permit a public servant to take public money without rendering an adequate return, by conniving at inefficient service on the part of men who are protected by prominent party leaders. Various degrees of moral guilt are involved in the multitudinous actions of this kind; but, after all, directly or indirectly, every such case comes dangerously near the border-line of the commandment which, in forbidding theft, certainly by implication forbids the connivance at theft, or the failure to punish it. One of the favorite schemes of reformers is to devise some method by which big corporations can be prevented from making heavy subscriptions to campaign funds, and thereby acquiring improper influence. But the best way to prevent them from making contributions for improper purposes is simply to elect as public servants, not professional denouncers of corporations,—for such men are in practice usually their most servile tools,—but men who say, and mean, that they will neither be for nor against corporations; that, on the one hand, they will not be frightened from doing them justice by popular clamor, or, on the other hand, led by any interest whatsoever into doing them more than justice.
- At the Anti-Trust Conference last summer Mr. Bryan commented, with a sneer, on the fact that "of course" New York would not pass a law prohibiting contributions by corporations. He was right in thinking that New York, while it retains rational civic habits, will not pass ridiculous legislation which cannot be made effective, and which is merely intended to deceive during the campaign the voters least capable of thought. But there will not be the slightest need for such legislation if only the public spirit is sufficiently healthy, sufficiently removed alike from corruption and from demagogy, to see that each corporation receives its exact rights and nothing more.
- It is, of course, not enough that a public official should be honest. No amount of honesty will avail if he is not also brave and wise. The weakling and the coward cannot be saved by honesty alone; but without honesty the brave and able man is merely a civic wild beast who should be hunted down by every lover of righteousness. No man who is corrupt, no man who condones corruption in others, can possibly do his duty by the community.
- Great is the danger to our country from the failure among our public men to live up to the eighth commandment, from the callousness in the public which permits such shortcomings. Yet it is not exaggeration to say that the danger is quite as great from those who year in and year out violate the ninth commandment by bearing false witness against the honest man, and who thereby degrade him and elevate the dishonest man until they are both on the same level. The public is quite as much harmed in the one case as in the other, by the one set of wrong-doers as by the other. "Liar" is just as ugly a word as "thief," because it implies the presence of just as ugly a sin in one case as in the other. If a man lies under oath or procures the lie of another under oath, if he perjures himself or suborns perjury, he is guilty under the statute law. Under the higher law, under the great law of morality and righteousness, he is precisely as guilty if, instead of lying in a court, he lies in a newspaper or on the stump; and in all probability the evil effects of his conduct are infinitely more wide-spread and more pernicious. The difference between perjury and mendacity is not in the least one of morals or ethics. It is simply one of legal forms.
- We need fearless criticism of dishonest men, and of honest men on any point where they go wrong; but even more do we need criticism which shall be truthful both in what it says and in what it leaves unsaid—truthful in words and truthful in the impression it designs to leave upon the readers' or hearers' minds.
- We need absolute honesty in public life; and we shall not get it until we remember that truth-telling must go hand in hand with it, and that it is quite as important not to tell an untruth about a decent man as it is to tell the truth about one who is not decent.
The Best and The Good
- Published in the "Churchman", March 17, 1900
- Mere desire to do right can no more by itself make a good statesman than it can make a good general. Of course it is entirely unnecessary to say that nothing atones for the lack of this desire to do right.
- Military power is at an end when the honor of the soldier can no longer be trusted; and, in the right sense of the word, civic greatness is at an end when civic righteousness is no longer its foundation. But, of course, every one knows that a soldier must be more than merely honorable before he is fit to do credit to the country; and just the same thing is true of a statesman. He must have high ideals, and the leader of public opinion in the pulpit, in the press, on the platform, or on the stump must preach high ideals. But the possession or preaching of these high ideals may not only be useless, but a source of positive harm, if unaccompanied by practical good sense, if they do not lead to the effort to get the best possible when the perfect best is not attainable—and in this life the perfect best rarely is attainable. Every leader of a great reform has to contend, on the one hand, with the open, avowed enemies of the reform, and, on the other hand, with its extreme advocates, who wish the impossible, and who join hands with their extreme opponents to defeat the rational friends of the reform.
- It is a great mistake to think that the extremist is a better man than the moderate. Usually the difference is not that he is morally stronger, but that he is intellectually weaker. He is not more virtuous. He is simply more foolish. This is notably true in our American life of many of those who are most pessimistic in denouncing the condition of our politics. Certainly there is infinite room for improvement, infinite need of fearless and trenchant criticism; but the improvement can only come through intelligent and straightforward effort. It is set back by those extremists who by their action always invite reaction, and, above all, by those worst enemies of our public honesty who by their incessant attacks upon good men give the utmost possible assistance to the bad.
- A revolution is sometimes necessary, but if revolutions become habitual the country in which they take place is going down-hill.
- We must never compromise in a way that means retrogression. But in moving forward we must realize that normally the condition of sure progress is that it shall not be so fast as to insure a revolt and a stoppage of the upward course.
Promise and Performance
- Published in the "Outlook", July 28, 1900
- "Compromise" is so often used in a bad sense that it is difficult to remember that properly it merely describes the process of reaching an agreement. Naturally there are certain subjects on which no man can compromise. For instance, there must be no compromise under any circumstances with official corruption, and of course no man should hesitate to say as much.
- Softness of heart is an admirable quality, but when it extends its area until it also becomes softness of head, its results are anything but admirable. It is a good thing to combine a warm heart with a cool head.
- In the last analysis it is the thrift, energy, self-mastery, and business intelligence of each man which have most to do with deciding whether he rises or falls.
- No man should be held excusable if he does not perform what he promises, unless for the best and most sufficient reason. This should be especially true of every politician.
- When a man in public life pledges himself to a certain course of action he shall as a matter of course do what he said he would do, and shall not be held to have acted honorably if he does otherwise.
- Throughout the history of the world the nations who have done best in self-government are those who have demanded from their public men only the promise of what can actually be done for righteousness and honesty, and who have sternly insisted that such promise must be kept in letter and in spirit.
- A man is worthless unless he has in him a lofty devotion to an ideal, and he is worthless also unless he strives to realize this ideal by practical methods. He must promise, both to himself and to others, only what he can perform; but what really can be performed he must promise, and such promise he must at all hazards make good.
The American Boy
- Published in the "St. Nicholas", May, 1900
- OF course what we have a right to expect of the American boy is that he shall turn out to be a good American man. Now, the chances are strong that he won't be much of a man unless he is a good deal of a boy. He must not be a coward or a weakling, a bully, a shirk, or a prig. He must work hard and play hard. He must be clean-minded and clean-lived, and able to hold his own under all circumstances and against all comers. It is only on these conditions that he will grow into the kind of American man of whom America can be really proud.
- We cannot expect the best work from soldiers who have carried to an unhealthy extreme the sports and pastimes which would be healthy if indulged in with moderation, and have neglected to learn as they should the business of their profession. A soldier needs to know how to shoot and take cover and shift for himself—not to box or play foot-ball.
- A boy needs both physical and moral courage. Neither can take the place of the other. When boys become men they will find out that there are some soldiers very brave in the field who have proved timid and worthless as politicians, and some politicians who show an entire readiness to take chances and assume responsibilities in civil affairs, but who lack the fighting edge when opposed to physical danger. In each case, with soldiers and politicians alike, there is but half a virtue. The possession of the courage of the soldier does not excuse the lack of courage in the statesman and, even less does the possession of the courage of the statesman excuse shrinking on the field of battle.
- A coward who will take a blow without returning it is a contemptible creature; but, after all, he is hardly as contemptible as the boy who dares not stand up for what he deems right against the sneers of his companions who are themselves wrong.
- Ridicule is one of the favorite weapons of wickedness, and it is sometimes incomprehensible how good and brave boys will be influenced for evil by the jeers of associates who have no one quality that calls for respect, but who affect to laugh at the very traits which ought to be peculiarly the cause for pride.
- There is no need to be a prig. There is no need for a boy to preach about his own good conduct and virtue. If he does he will make himself offensive and ridiculous. But there is urgent need that he should practise decency; that he should be clean and straight, honest and truthful, gentle and tender, as well as brave. If he can once get to a proper understanding of things, he will have a far more hearty contempt for the boy who has begun a course of feeble dissipation, or who is untruthful, or mean, or dishonest, or cruel, than this boy and his fellows can possibly, in return, feel for him. The very fact that the boy should be manly and able to hold his own, that he should be ashamed to submit to bullying without instant retaliation, should, in return, make him abhor any form of bullying, cruelty, or brutality.
- Bullies do not make brave men; and boys or men of foul life cannot become good citizens, good Americans, until they change; and even after the change scars will be left on their souls.
- The boy can best become a good man by being a good boy—not a goody-goody boy, but just a plain good boy. I do not mean that he must love only the negative virtues; I mean he must love the positive virtues also. "Good," in the largest sense, should include whatever is fine, straightforward, clean, brave, and manly. The best boys I know—the best men I know—are good at their studies or their business, fearless and stalwart, hated and feared by all that is wicked and depraved, incapable of submitting to wrong-doing, and equally incapable of being aught but tender to the weak and helpless. A healthy-minded boy should feel hearty contempt for the coward, and even more hearty indignation for the boy who bullies girls or small boys, or tortures animals. One prime reason for abhorring cowards is because every good boy should have it in him to thrash the objectionable boy as the need arises.
- Of course the effect that a thoroughly manly, thoroughly straight and upright boy can have upon the companions of his own age, and upon those who are younger, is incalculable. If he is not thoroughly manly, then they will not respect him, and his good qualities will count for but little; while, of course, if he is mean, cruel, or wicked, then his physical strength and force of mind merely make him so much the more objectionable a member of society. He cannot do good work if he is not strong and does not try with his whole heart and soul to count in any contest; and his strength will be a curse to himself and to every one else if he does not have thorough command over himself and over his own evil passions, and if he does not use his strength on the side of decency, justice, and fair dealing.
- In short, in life, as in a foot-ball game, the principle to follow is: Hit the line hard; don't foul and don't shirk, but hit the line hard!
Military Preparedness and Unpreparedness
- Published in the "Century", November, 1899
- The national trait of "smartness," used in the Yankee sense of the word, has very good and very bad sides. Among the latter is its tendency to create the belief that we need not prepare for war, because somehow we shall be able to win by some novel patent device, some new trick or new invention developed on the spur of the moment by the ingenuity of our people. In this way it is hoped to provide a substitute for preparedness—that is, for years of patient and faithful attention to detail in advance. It is even sometimes said that these mechanical devices will be of so terrible a character as to nullify the courage which has always in the past been the prime factor in winning battles. Now, as all sound military judges knew in advance must inevitably be the case, the experience of the Spanish war completely falsified every prediction of this kind. We did not win through any special ingenuity. Not a device of any kind was improvised during or immediately before the war which was of any practical service. The "bombs enveloped in petroleum" had no existence save in the brains of the Spaniards and their more credulous sympathizers. Our navy won because of its preparedness and because of the splendid seamanship and gunnery which had been handed down as traditional in the service, and had been perfected by the most careful work. The army, at the only point where it was seriously opposed, did its work by sheer dogged courage and hard fighting, in spite of an unpreparedness which almost brought disaster upon it, and would without doubt actually have done so had not the defects and shortcomings of the Spanish administration been even greater than our own.
- We won the war in a very short time, and without having to expend more than the merest fraction of our strength. The navy was shown to be in good shape; and Secretary Root, to whom the wisdom of President McKinley has intrusted the War Department, has already shown himself as good a man as ever held the portfolio—a man whose administration is certainly to be of inestimable service to the army and to the country. In consequence, too many of our people show signs of thinking that, after all, everything was all right, and is all right now; that we need not bother ourselves to learn any lessons that are not agreeable to us, and that if in the future we get into a war with a more formidable power than Spain, we shall pull through somehow. Such a view is unjust to the nation, and particularly unjust to the splendid men of the army and of the navy, who would be sacrificed to it, should we ever engage in a serious war without having learned the lessons that the year 1898 ought to have taught.
- Crews cannot be improvised. To get the very best work out of them, they should all be composed of trained and seasoned men; and in any event they should not be sent against a formidable adversary unless each crew has for a nucleus a large body of such men filling all the important positions.
- If disaster comes through lack of preparedness, the fault necessarily lies far less with the men under whom the disaster actually occurs than with those to whose wrongheadedness or short-sighted indifference in time past the lack of preparedness is due.
- But in war it is unsafe to trust to the blunders of the adversary to offset our own blunders.
- But the appropriation of money and the building of ships were not enough. We must keep steadily in mind that not only was it necessary to build the navy, but it was equally necessary to train our officers and men aboard it by actual practice. If in 1883 we had been able suddenly to purchase our present battle-ships, cruisers, and torpedo-boats, they could not have been handled with any degree of efficiency by our officers and crews as they then were. Still less would it be possible to handle them by improvised crews. In an emergency bodies of men like our naval militia can do special bits of work excellently, and, thanks to their high average of character and intellect, they are remarkably good makeshifts, but it would be folly to expect from them all that is expected from a veteran crew of trained man-of-war's-men. And if we are ever pitted ship for ship on equal terms against the first-class navy of a first-class power, we shall need our best captains and our best crews if we are to win.
- The best man alive, if allowed to rust at a three-company post, or in a garrison near some big city, for ten or fifteen years, will find himself in straits if suddenly called to command a division, or mayhap even an army-corps, on a foreign expedition, especially when not one of his important subordinates has ever so much as seen five thousand troops gathered, fed, sheltered, manoeuvered, and shipped.
- Captain (now Colonel) John Bigelow, Jr., in his account of his personal experiences in command of a troop of cavalry during the Santiago campaign, has pictured the welter of confusion during that campaign, and the utter lack of organization, and of that skilled leadership which can come only through practice.
- Published in "McClure's Magazine", October, 1899
- When the chance does come, only the great man can see it instantly and use it aright. In the second place, it must always be remembered that the power of using the chance aright comes only to the man who has faithfully and for long years made ready himself and his weapons for the possible need. Finally, and most important of all, it should ever be kept in mind that the man who does a great work must almost invariably owe the possibility of doing it to the faithful work of other men, either at the time or long before. Without his brilliancy their labor might be wasted, but without their labor his brilliancy would be of no avail.
- A service will do well or ill at the outbreak of war very much in proportion to the way it has been prepared to meet the outbreak during the preceding months. Now, it is often impossible to say whether the symptoms that seem to forbode war will or will not be followed by war. At one time, under President Harrison, we seemed as near war with Chile as ever we seemed to war with Spain under President McKinley. Therefore, when war threatens, preparations must be made in any event; for the evil of what proves to be the needless expenditure of money in one instance is not to be weighed for a moment against the failure to prepare in the other. But only a limited number of men have the moral courage to make these preparations, because there is always risk to the individual making them. Laws and regulations must be stretched when an emergency arises, and yet there is always some danger to the person who stretches them; and, moreover, in time of sudden need, some indispensable article can very possibly only be obtained at an altogether exorbitant price. If war comes, and the article, whether it be a cargo of coal, or a collier, or an auxiliary naval vessel, proves its usefulness, no complaint is ever made. But if the war does not come, then some small demagogue, some cheap economist, or some undersized superior who is afraid of taking the responsibility himself, may blame the man who bought the article and say that he exceeded his authority; that he showed more zeal than discretion in not waiting for a few days, etc. These are the risks which must be taken, and the men who take them should be singled out for reward and for duty.
- An infinity of excuses can always be found for non-action.
- It is of no use to give an army the best arms and equipment if it is not also given the chance to practise with its arms and equipment, so the finest ships and the best natural sailors and fighters are useless to a navy if the most ample opportunity for training is not allowed.
- The hero cannot win save for the forethought, energy, courage, and capacity of countless other men. Yet we must keep in mind also that all this forethought, energy, courage, and capacity will be wasted unless at the supreme moment some man of the heroic type arises capable of using to the best advantage the powers lying ready to hand. Whether it is Nelson, the greatest of all admirals, at Abukir, Copenhagen, or Trafalgar; or Farragut, second only to Nelson, at New Orleans or Mobile; or Dewey at Manila—the great occasion must meet with the great man, or the result will be at worst a failure, at best an indecisive success. The nation must make ready the tools and train the men to use them, but at the crisis a great triumph can be achieved only should some heroic man appear. Therefore it is right and seemly to pay homage of deep respect and admiration to the man when he does appear.
- Speech delivered at Galena, Illinois, 27 April 1900.
- It is only through work and strife that either nation or individual moves on to greatness. The great man is always the man of mighty effort, and usually the man whom grinding need has trained to mighty effort. Rest and peace are good things, are great blessings, but only if they come honorably; and it is those who fearlessly turn away from them, when they have not been earned, who in the long run deserve best of their country. In the sweat of our brows do we eat bread, and though the sweat is bitter at times, yet it is far more bitter to eat the bread that is unearned, unwon, undeserved.
- The man who will not fight to avert or undo wrong is but a poor creature; but, after all, he is less dangerous than the man who fights on the side of wrong.
- Again and again in a nation's history the time may, and indeed sometimes must, come when the nation's highest duty is war. But peace must be the normal condition, or the nation will come to a bloody doom.
- Let us keep ever clear before our minds the fact that mere lip-loyalty is no loyalty at all, and that the only homage that counts is the homage of deeds, not of words.
- It is but an idle waste of time to celebrate the memory of the dead unless we, the living, in our lives strive to show ourselves not unworthy of them.
- A nation that has not the power of endurance, the power of dogged insistence on a determined policy, come weal or woe, has lost one chief element of greatness.
- The man who more than any other, save Lincoln, had changed us into a nation whose citizens were all freemen, realized entirely that these freemen would remain free only while they kept mastery over their own evil passions. He saw that lawlessness in all its forms was the handmaiden of tyranny. No nation ever yet retained its freedom for any length of time after losing its respect for the law, after losing the law-abiding spirit, the spirit that really makes orderly liberty.
- Thedodore Roosevelt about General Ulysses S. Grant and the need to be law-biding.
- It is a good thing to have a keen, fine intellectual development in a nation, to produce orators, artists, successful business men; but it is an infinitely greater thing to have those solid qualities which we group together under the name of character—sobriety, steadfastness, the sense of obligation toward one's neighbor and one's God, hard common sense, and, combined with it, the lift of generous enthusiasm toward whatever is right. These are the qualities which go to make up true national greatness.
- We have difficulties and dangers enough in the present, and it is the way we face them which is to determine whether or not we are fit descendants of the men of the mighty past. We must not flinch from our duties abroad merely because we have even more important duties at home. That these home duties are the most important of all every thinking man will freely acknowledge. We must do our duty to ourselves and our brethren in the complex social life of the time. We must possess the spirit of broad humanity, deep charity, and loving-kindness for our fellow-men, and must remember, at the same time, that this spirit is really the absolute antithesis of mere sentimentalism, of soup-kitchen, pauperizing philanthropy, and of legislation which is inspired either by foolish mock benevolence or by class greed or class hate. We need to be possessed of the spirit of justice and of the spirit which recognizes in work and not ease the proper end of effort.
- If we have not both strength and virtue we shall fail.
- We do not need men of unsteady brilliancy or erratic power—unbalanced men. The men we need are the men of strong, earnest, solid character—the men who possess the homely virtues, and who to these virtues add rugged courage, rugged honesty, and high resolve.
- Our first duty, our most important work, is setting our own house in order. We must be true to ourselves, or else, in the long run, we shall be false to all others. The republic cannot stand if honesty and decency do not prevail alike in public and private life; if we do not set ourselves seriously at work to solve the tremendous social problems forced upon us by the far-sweeping industrial changes of the last two generations. But in considering the life of Grant it is peculiarly appropriate to remember that, besides the regeneration in political and social life within our own borders, we must also face what has come upon us from without. No friendliness with other nations, no good will for them or by them, can take the place of national self-reliance. No alliance, no inoffensive conduct on our part, would supply, in time of need, the failure in ability to hold our own with the strong hand. We must work out our own destiny by our own strength.
- The sure way to succeed is to set about our work in the spirit that marked the great soldier whose life we this day celebrate: the spirit of devotion to duty, of determination to deal fairly, justly, and fearlessly with all men, and of iron resolution never to abandon any task once begun until it has been brought to a successful and triumphant conclusion.
The Two Americas
- Speech delivered at the formal opening of the Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, May 20, 1901. Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- In order to act wisely we must first see clearly. There is no place among us for the mere pessimist; no man who looks at life with a vision that sees all black or grey can do aught healthful in molding the destiny of a mighty and vigorous people. But there is just as little use for the foolish optimist who refuses to face the many and real evils that exist, and who fails to see that only way to ensure the triumph of righteousness in the future is to war against all that is base, weak, and unlovely in the present.
- We meet to-day, representing the people of this continent, from the Dominion of Canada in the north, to Chile and the Argentine in the south; representing people who have traveled far and fast in the last century, because in them has been practically shown that is the spirit of adventure which is maker of commonwealths; people who are learning and striving to put into practice the vital truth that freedom is the necessary first step, but only the first step, in successful free government.
- Nor is there the last chance of its being broken, provided only that all of us alike with full recognition of the vital need that each should realize that his own interests can best served by serving the interests of others.
- We of the two Americas must be left to work out our own salvation along our own lines; and if we are wise we will make it understood as a cardinal feature of our joint foreign policy that, on the one hand, we will not submit to territorial aggrandizement on this continent by any Old Power, and on the other hand, among ourselves each nation must scrupulously regard the rights and interests of others, so that, instead of any one of us committing the criminal folly of trying to rise at the expense of our neighbors, we shall strive upward in honest and manly brotherhood, shoulder to shoulder.
- Here in this Exposition, on the Stadium and on the pylons of the bridge, you have written certain sentences to which we all must subscribe, and to which we must live up if we are in any way or measure to do our duty: “Who shuns the dust and sweat of the contest, on his brow falls not the cool shade of the olive,” and “A free State exists only in the virtue of the citizen.” We all accept these statements in theory, but if we do not live up to them in practice, then there is no health in us. Take the two always together.
- We need the rough, strong qualities that make a man fit to play his part well among men. Yet we need to remember even more that no ability, no strength and fore, no power of intellect or power of wealth, shall avail us, if we have not the root of living in us, if we do not pay more than a mere lip-loyalty to the old, old commonplace virtues, which stand at the foundations of all social and political well being.
- It is easy to say what we ought to do, but it is hard to do it; and yet no scheme can be devised which will save us from the need of doing just this hard work. Not merely must each of us strive to do his duty; in addition it is imperatively necessary also to establish a strong and intelligent public opinion which will require each to do his duty. If any man here falls short he should not only feel ashamed of himself, but in some way he ought also to be made conscious of the condemnation of his fellows, and this no matter what form his shortcoming takes. Doing our duty is, of course, incumbent on every one of us alike; yet the heaviest blame for dereliction should fall on the man who sins against the light, the man to whom much has been given, and from whom, therefore, we have a right to expect much in return. We should hold to a peculiarly rigid accountability those men who in public life, or as editors of great papers, or as owners of vast fortunes, or as leaders and molders of opinion in the pulpit, or on the platform, or at the bar, are guilty of wrongdoing, no matter what form that wrongdoing may take.
- On the other hand, it is equally true that the prosperity of any of can be best attained by measures that will promote the prosperity of all. The poorest motto upon which America can act is the motto of "Some men down," and the safest to follow is that of "All men up." A good deal can and ought to be done by law. For instance, the state and, if necessary, the nation should by law assume ample power of supervising and regulating acts of any corporation (which can be but its creature), and generally of those immense business enterprises which exist only because of the safety and protection to property guaranteed by our system of government. Yet it is equally true that, while this power should exist, it should be used sparingly and with self restraint.
- While striving to prevent industrial justice at home, we must not bring upon ourselves industrial weakness abroad.
- My fellow-countrymen, bad laws are evil things, good laws are necessary; and a clean, fearless, common-sense administration of the law is even more necessary; but what we need most of all is to look to our selves to see that our consciences as individuals, that our collective national conscience, may respond instantly to every appeal for high action, for lofty and generous endeavor. There must and shall be no falling off in the national traits of hardihood and manliness; and we must keep ever bright the love of justice, the spirit of strong brotherly friendship for one’s fellow, which we hope and believe will hereafter stand typical of the men who make up this, the mightiest Republic upon which the sun has ever shone.
Manhood and Statehood
- Address at the quarter-centennial celebration of Colorado statehood, Colorado Springs, August 2, 1901, Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- But when we pay homage to the hardy, grim, resolute men, who, with incredible toil and risk, laid deep the foundations of the civilization we inherit, let us steadily remember that the only homage that counts is the homage of deeds – not merely words.
- But lip-loyalty by itself avails very little, whether it is expressed concerning a nation or an ideal.
- We live in softer times. Let us see to it that, while we take advantage of every gentler and more harmonizing tendency of the age, we yet preserver the iron quality which made our forefathers and predecessors fit to do the deeds they did. It will of necessity find a different expression now, but the quality itself remains just as necessary as ever.
- If courage and strength and intellect are unaccompanied by the moral purpose, the moral sense, they become merely forms of expression for unscrupulous force and unscrupulous cunning. If the strong man has not in him the lift upward toward lofty things his strength makes him only a curse to himself and his neighbor.
- We can not retain the full measure of our self-respect if we can not retain pride in our citizenship.
Brotherhood and the Heroic Virtues
- Address at the Veterans' Reunion, Burlington, Vermont, September 5, 1901, Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- It is upon the efficiency of the enlisted man, upon the way he does his duty, that the efficiency of the whole army really depends, and the prime work of the officer is, after all, only to develop, foster and direct the good qualities of the men under him.
- We can never as a nation afford to forget that, back of our reason, our understanding, and our common-sense, there must lie, in full strength, the tremendous fundamental passions, which are not often needed, but which every truly great race must have as a well-spring of motive in time of need.
- Our country has been populated by pioneers, and therefore it has in it more energy, more enterprise, more expansive power than any other in the wide world. [...] They have shown the qualities of daring, endurance, and far-sightedness, of eager desire for victory and stubborn refusal to accept defeat, which go to make up the essential manliness of the American character. Above all, they have recognized in practical form the fundamental law of success in American life—the law of worthy work, the law of high, resolute endeavor. We have but little room among our people for the timid, the irresolute, and the idle; and it is no less true that there is scant room in the world at large for the nation with mighty thews that dares not to be great.
- Throughout our history the success of the homemaker has been but another name for the up-building of the nation.
- Poverty is a bitter thing; but it is not as bitter as the existence of restless vacuity and physical, moral, and intellectual flabbiness, to which those doom themselves who elect to spend all their years in that vainest of all vain pursuits—the pursuit of mere pleasure as a sufficient end in itself.
- The willfully idle man, like the willfully barren woman, has no place in a sane, healthy, and vigorous community. Moreover, the gross and hideous selfishness for which each stands defeats even its own miserable aims. Exactly as infinitely the happiest woman is she who has borne and brought up many healthy children, so infinitely the happiest man is he who has toiled hard and successfully in his life-work. The work may be done in a thousand different ways —with the brain or the hands, in the study, the field, or the workshop—if it is honest work, honestly done and well worth doing, that is all we have a right to ask. Every father and mother here, if they are wise, will bring up their children not to shirk difficulties, but to meet them and overcome them; not to strive after a life of ignoble ease, but to strive to do their duty, first to themselves and their families, and then to the whole state; and this duty must inevitably take the shape of work in some form or other.
- You, the sons of the pioneers, if you are true to your ancestry, must make your lives as worthy as they made theirs. They sought for true success, and therefore they did not seek ease. They knew that success comes only to those who lead the life of endeavor.
- It seems to me that the simple acceptance of this fundamental fact of American life, this acknowledgment that the law of work is the fundamental law of our being, will help us to start aright in facing not a few of the problems that confront us from without and from within. As regards internal affairs, it should teach us the prime need of remembering that, after all has been said and done, the chief factor in any man’s success or failure must be his own character—that is, the sum of his common sense, his courage, his virile energy and capacity. Nothing can take the place of this individual factor.
- Besides each one of us working individually, all of us have got to work together. We cannot possibly do our best work as a nation unless all of us know how to act in combination as well as how to act each individually for himself. The acting in combination can take many forms, but of course its most effective form must be when it comes in the shape of law —that is, of action by the community as a whole through the lawmaking body.
- But it is not possible ever to insure prosperity merely by law. Something for good can be done by law, and a bad law can do an infinity of mischief; but, after all, the best law can only prevent wrong and injustice, and give to the thrifty, the farseeing, and the hard-working a chance to exercise to best advantage their special and peculiar abilities.
- No hard-and-fast rule can be laid down as to where our legislation shall stop in interfering between man and man, between interest and interest. All that can be said is that it is highly undesirable, on the one hand, to weaken individual initiative, and, on the other hand, that in a constantly increasing number of cases we shall find it necessary in the future to shackle cunning as in the past we have shackled force. It is not only highly desirable but necessary that there should be legislation which shall carefully shield the interests of wage-workers, and which shall discriminate in favor of the honest and humane employer by removing the disadvantage under which he stands when compared with unscrupulous competitors who have no conscience and will do right only under fear of punishment. Nor can legislation stop only with what are termed labor questions. The vast individual and corporate fortunes, the vast combinations of capital, which have marked the development of our industrial system create new conditions, and necessitate a change from the old attitude of the state and the nation toward property.
- It is probably true that the large majority of the fortunes that now exist in this country have been amassed not by injuring our people, but as an incident to the conferring of great benefits upon the community; and this, no matter what may have been the conscious purpose of those amassing them. There is but the scantiest justification for most of the outcry against the men of wealth as such; and it ought to be unnecessary to state that any appeal which directly or indirectly leads to suspicion and hatred among ourselves, which tends to limit opportunity, and therefore to shut the door of success against poor men of talent, and, finally, which entails the possibility of lawlessness and violence, is an attack upon the fundamental properties of American citizenship.
- Our interests are at bottom common; in the long run we go up or go down together. Yet more and more it is evident that the state, and if necessary the nation, has got to possess the right of supervision and control as regards the great corporations which are its creatures; particularly as regards the great business combinations which derive a portion of their importance from the existence of some monopolistic tendency. The right should be exercised with caution and self restraint; but it should exist, so that it may be invoked if the need arises.
- The man who works, the man who does great deeds, in the end dies as surely as the veriest idler who cumbers the earth’s surface; but he leaves behind him the great fact that he has done his work well. So it is with nations. While the nation that has dared to be great, that has had the will and the power to change the destiny of the ages, in the end must die, yet no less surely the nation that has played the part of the weakling must also die; and whereas the nation that has done nothing leaves nothing behind it, the nation that has done a great work really continues, though in changed form, to live forevermore. The Roman has passed away exactly as all the nations of antiquity which did not expand when he expanded have passed away; but their very memory has vanished, while he himself is still a living force throughout the wide world in our entire civilization of today, and will so continue through countless generations, through untold ages.
- We admit with all sincerity that our first duty is within our own household; that we must not merely talk, but act, in favor of cleanliness and decency and righteousness, in all political, social, and civic matters. No prosperity and no glory can save a nation that is rotten at heart. We must ever keep the core of our national being sound, and see to it that not only our citizens in private life, but, above all, our statesmen in public life, practice the old commonplace virtues which from time immemorial have lain at the root of all true national wellbeing.
- Exactly as each man, while doing first his duty to his wife and the children within his home, must yet, if he hopes to amount to much, strive mightily in the world outside his home, so our nation, while first of all seeing to its own domestic well-being, must not shrink from playing its part among the great nations without. Our duty may take many forms in the future as it has taken many forms in the past. Nor is it possible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule for all cases. We must ever face the fact of our shifting national needs, of the always-changing opportunities that present themselves. But we may be certain of one thing: whether we wish it or not, we cannot avoid hereafter having duties to do in the face of other nations. All that we can do is to settle whether we shall perform these duties well or ill.
- Right here let me make as vigorous a plea as I know how in favor of saying nothing that we do not mean, and of acting without hesitation up to whatever we say. A good many of you are probably acquainted with the old proverb: "Speak softly and carry a big stick—you will go far." If a man continually blusters, if he lacks civility, a big stick will not save him from trouble; and neither will speaking softly avail, if back of the softness there does not lie strength, power.
- In private life there are few beings more obnoxious than the man who is always loudly boasting; and if the boaster is not prepared to back up his words his position becomes absolutely contemptible. So it is with the nation. It is both foolish and undignified to indulge in undue self-glorification, and, above all, in loose-tongued denunciation of other peoples. Whenever on any point we come in contact with a foreign power, I hope that we shall always strive to speak courteously and respectfully of that foreign power.
- Let us make it evident that we intend to do justice. Then let us make it equally evident that we will not tolerate injustice being done to us in return. Let us further make it evident that we use no words which we are not prepared to back up with deeds, and that while our speech is always moderate, we are ready and willing to make it good. Such an attitude will be the surest possible guarantee of that self-respecting peace, the attainment of which is and must ever be the prime aim of a self-governing people.
- We most earnestly hope and believe that the chance of our having any hostile military complication with any foreign power is very small. But that there will come a strain, a jar, here and there, from commercial and agricultural—that is, from industrial—competition is almost inevitable. Here again we have got to remember that our first duty is to our own people, and yet that we can best get justice by doing justice. We must continue the policy that has been so brilliantly successful in the past, and so shape our economic system as to give every advantage to the skill, energy, and intelligence of our farmers, merchants, manufacturers, and wage-workers; and yet we must also remember, in dealing with other nations, that benefits must be given where benefits are sought. It is not possible to dogmatize as to the exact way of attaining this end, for the exact conditions cannot be foretold. In the long run, one of our prime needs is stability and continuity of economic policy; and yet, through treaty or by direct legislation, it may, at least in certain cases, become advantageous to supplement our present policy by a system of reciprocal benefit and obligation.
- The first essential of civilization is law. Anarchy is simply the handmaiden and forerunner of tyranny and despotism. Law and order enforced with justice and by strength lie at the foundations of civilization. Law must be based upon justice, else it cannot stand, and it must be enforced with resolute firmness, because weakness in enforcing it means in the end that there is no justice and no law, nothing but the rule of disorderly and unscrupulous strength. Without the habit of orderly obedience to the law, without the stern enforcement of the laws at the expense of those who defiantly resist them, there can be no possible progress, moral or material, in civilization. There can be no weakening of the law-abiding spirit here at home, if we are permanently to succeed; and just as little can we afford to show weakness abroad.
- Barbarism has, and can have, no place in a civilized world. It is our duty toward the people living in barbarism to see that they are freed from their chains, and we can free them only by destroying barbarism itself. The missionary, the merchant, and the soldier may each have to play a part in this destruction, and in the consequent uplifting of the people. Exactly as it is the duty of a civilized power scrupulously to respect the rights of all weaker civilized powers and gladly to help those who are struggling toward civilization, so it is its duty to put down savagery and barbarism. As in such a work human instruments must be used, and as human instruments are imperfect, this means that at times there will be injustice; that at times merchant or soldier, or even missionary, may do wrong. Let us instantly condemn and rectify such wrong when it occurs, and if possible punish the wrongdoer. But shame, thrice shame to us, if we are so foolish as to make such occasional wrongdoing an excuse for failing to perform a great and righteous task. Not only in our own land, but throughout the world, throughout all history, the advance of civilization has been of incalculable benefit to mankind, and those through whom it has advanced deserve the highest honor. All honor to the missionary, all honor to the soldier, all honor to the merchant who now in our own day have done so much to bring light into the world’s dark places.
- We shall make mistakes; and if we let these mistakes frighten us from our work we shall show ourselves weaklings.
The Labor Question
- At the Chicago Labor Day Picnic, 3 September 1900, Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- When we come to dealing with our social and industrial needs, remedies, rights and wrongs, a ton of oration is not worth an ounce of hard-headed, kindly common-sense.
- The fundamental law of healthy political life in this great republic is that each man shall in deed, and not merely in word, be treated, strictly on his worth as a man; that each shall do full justice to his fellow, and in return shall exact full justice from him.
- Let us scrupulously guard the special interests of the wage-worker, the farmer, the manufacturer, and the merchant, giving each man his due and also seeing that he does not wrong his fellows; but let us keep every clearly before our minds the great fact, where the deepest chords are touched, the interests of all are alike and must be guarded alike.
- We must beware of any attempt to make hatred in any form the basis of action. Most emphatically each of us needs to stand up for his own rights; all men and all groups of men are bound to retain their self-respect, and demanding this same respect from others, to see that they are not injured and that they have secured to them the fullest liberty of thought and action. But to feed fat a grudge against others, while it may or may not harm them, is sure in the long run to do infinitely greater than harm to the man himself.
- The more a healthy a American sees his fellow-American the greater grows his conviction that our chief troubles come from mutual misunderstanding, from failure to appreciate to one’s another point of view. In other words, the great need, is fellow fellow-feeling, sympathy, brotherhood; and all this naturally comes by association. […] Our prime need as a nation is that every American should understand and work with his fellow-citizens, getting in touch with them, so that they by actual contact he max learn that fundamentally he and they have the same interests, needs and aspirations.
- While we should, so long as we can safely do so, give to each individual the largest possible liberty, a liberty which necessarily includes initiative and responsibility, yet we must not hesitate to interfere whenever it is clearly seen that harm comes from excessive individualism.
- It is not possible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule, logically perfect, as to when the State shall interfere, and when the individual must be left unhampered and unhelped. We have exactly the same right to regulate the conditions of life and work in factories and tenement-houses that we have to regulate the fire-escapes and the like in other houses. In certain communities the existence of a thoroughly efficient department of factory inspection is just as essential as the establishment of a fire department. How far we shall go in regulating the hours of labor, or the liabilities of employers, is a matter of expediency, and each case must be determined on its own merits, exactly as it is a matter of expediency to determine what so called ‘’public utilities’’ the community shall itself own and what ones shall leave to private or corporate ownership, securing to itself merely the right to regulate. Sometimes one course is expedient, sometimes the other.
- Where possible it is always better to mediate before the strike begins than to try to arbitrate when the fight is on and both sides have grown stubborn and bitter.
- To whom much has been given, from him much is rightfully expected, and a heavy burden of responsibility rests upon the man of means to justify by his actions the social conditions which have rendered it possible for him or his forefathers to accumulate and to keep the property he enjoys. He is not to be excused if he does not render full measure of service to the State and the community at large. There are many ways in which this service can be rendered, - in art, in literature, in philanthropy, as a statesman, as a soldier, - but in some way he is honor bound to render it, so that benefit may accrue to his brethren who have been less favored by than he has. In short, he must work, and work not only for himself, but for others. If he does not work, he fails not only in his duty to the rest of the community, but he fails signally in his duty to himself.
- To do our duty – that is the summing up of the whole matter. We must do our duty by ourselves and we must do our duty by our neighbors. Every good citizen, whatever his condition, owes his first service to those, who are dependent on him, to his wife and his children; next he owes his duty to his fellow-citizens, and this duty he must both perform to his individual neighbor and to the State, which is simply a form of expression for all neighbors combined. He must his self-respect and exact the respect of others.
- We must all learn two lessons – the lesson of self-help and the lesson of giving to and receiving help from our brother. There is not a man who does not sometimes slip, who does not sometimes need a helping hand; and woe to him who, when the chance comes, fails to stretch out that helping hand. Yet, though each man can and ought thus be helped at times, he is lost beyond redemption if he becomes so dependent upon outside help that he feels that his own exertions are secondary. Any man at times will stumble, and it is then our duty to lift him up and set him on his feet again; but no man can be permanently carried, for if he expects to be carried he shows that he is not worth carrying.
- It is not given to the wisest of us to see into the future with absolute clearness. No man can be certain that he has found the entire solution of this infinitely great and intricate problem, and yet each man of us, if he would do his duty, must strive manfully, so far as him lies to help bring about that solution.
- We can build up the standard of individual citizenship and individual well being, we can raise the national standard and make it what it can and shall be, only be each of us steadily keeping in mind that there can be no substitute for the world-old, humdrum, common-place qualities of truth, justice and courage, thrift, industry, common-sense, and genuine sympathy with and fellow-felling for others. The nation is the aggregate of the individuals composing it, and each individual American ever raises the nation higher when he does so conducts as to wrong no man, to suffer no wrong from others, and to show both his sturdy capacity for self-help and his readiness to extend a helping hand to the neighbor sinking under a burden to heavy for him to bear.
- The one fact which all of us need to keep steadfastly before our eyes is the need that performance should square with promise if good work is to be done, whether in the industrial or in the political world. Nothing does more to promote mental dishonesty and moral insincerity than the habit of promising the impossible, or finally, of failing to keep a promise that has been made; and it makes not the slightest difference whether it is a promise made on the stump or off the stump. Remember that there are two sides to the wrong thus committed. There is, first, the wrong, of failing to keep a promise made, and, in the next place, there is the wrong of demanding the impossible, and therefore forcing or permitting weak or unscrupulous men to make a promise which they either know, or should know, can not be kept.
- The success of the law for the taxation of franchises recently enacted in New York State, a measure which has resulted in putting upon the assessment books nearly $200,000,000 worth of property which had theretofore escaped taxation, is an illustration of how much can be accomplished when the effort is made along sane and sober lines, which care not to promise the impossible but to make performance square with promise, and with insistence on the fact that honesty is never one-sided, and that in dealing with corporations it is necessary both to do them and to exact from them full and complete justice.
- No man can do his duty who does not work, and the work may take many different shapes, mental and physical; but of this you can rest assured, that this work can be done well for the nation only when each of us approaches his separate task not only with the determination to do it, but with the knowledge that his fellow, when he in his turn does his task, has fundamentally the same rights and the same duties, and that while each must work for himself, yet each must also work for the common welfare of all.
- On the whole, we shall all go up or down together. Some may go up or go down further than others, but, disregarding special exceptions, the rule is we must all share in common something of whatever adversity or whatever prosperity is in store for the nation as a whole. In the long run each section of the community will rise or fall as the community rises or falls. If hard times come to the nation, whether as the result of natural causes or because they are invited by our own folly, all of us will suffer. Certain of us will suffer more, and other less, but all will suffer somewhat. If, on the other hand, under Providence, our own energy and good sense bring prosperity to us, all will share in prosperity. We will not share all alike, but something each one of us will get. Let us strive to make the conditions of life such that as nearly as possible each man shall receive the share to which he is honestly entitled and no more; and let us remember at the same time that our efforts must build up, rather than to strike down, and that we can best help ourselves, not at the expense of others, but by heartily working with them for the common good of each and all.
- Address before the Young Men's Christian Association, Carnegie Hall, New York, 30 December 1900. Pdf at theodore-roosevelt.com
- This spirit of brotherhood recognizes of necessity both the need of self-help and also the need of helping others in the only way which ever ultimately does great good, that is, of helping them to help themselves. Every man of us needs such help at some time or other, and each of us should be glad to stretch out his hand to a brother who stumbles. But while every man needs at times to be lifted up when he stumbles, no man can afford to let himself carried, and it is worth no man’s while to try thus to carry some one else. The man who lies down, who will not try to walk, has become a mre cumberer of the earth’s surface.
- The feeling of brotherhood is necessarily as remote from patronage spirit, on the other hand, as from a spirit of envy and malice, on the other. The best work for our uplifting must be done by ourselves, and yet with brotherly kindness for our neighbor.
- It is the only in this way, by all of working together in a spirit of brotherhood, by each doing his part for the betterment of himself and of others, that is possible to solve the tremendous problems with which as a nation we are now confronted.
- The power of the forces of evil has been greatly increased, and it is necessary for our self-preservation that we should similarly strengthen the forces of good. We are all of us bound to work to this end. No one of us can do everything, but each of us can do something, and if we work together the aggregate of these somethings will be very considerable. There are, of course, a thousand different ways in which the work can be done, and each man must choose as his tastes and his powers bid, if he is to do the best of which he is capable. But all the kinds of work must be carried certain definite lines if good is to come. All the work must be attempted as on the whole this Young Men’s Christian Association work has been done, that this, in a spirit of good will toward all and not of hatred toward some; in a spirit in which to broad charity for mankind there is added a keen and healthy sanity of mind. We must retain our self-respect, each and all of us, and we must beware alike of mushy sentimentality and of envy and hatred.
- I really do not know which quality is the most productive of evil to mankind in the long run, hardness of hard or softness of head.
- It ought to be no less unnecessary to say that any man who tries to solve the great problems that confront us by an appeal to anger and passion, to ignorance and folly, to malice and envy, is not, and never can be, aught but an enemy of the very people he professes to befriend. In the words of Lowell, it is far safer to adopt “All men up” than “Some men down” for a motto. Speaking broadly, we can not in the long run benefit one man by the downfall of another. Our energies, as a rule, can be employed to much better advantage in uplifting some than in pulling down others. Of course there must sometimes be pulling down, too. We have no business to blink evils, and where it is necessary that the knife should be used, let it be used unsparingly, but let it be used intelligently. When there is need of a drastic remedy, apply it, but do not apply it in the mere spirit of hate. Normally, a pound of construction is worth a ton of destruction.
- There is degradation to us if we feel envy and malice and hatred toward our neighbor for any cause; and if we envy him merely his riches, we show we have ourselves low ideals. Money is a good thing. It is a foolish affectation to deny it. But it is not the only good thing, and after a certain amount has been amassed it ceases to be the chief even of material good things. It is far better, for instance, to do well a bit of work which is well worth doing, than to have a large fortune.
- The vice of envy is not only a dangerous but also a mean vice, for it is always a confession of inferiority. It may provoke conduct which will be fruitful of wrong doing to others, and it must cause misery to the man who feels it. It will not be any the less fruitful of wrong and misery if, as is so often the case with evil motives, it adopts some high sounding alias. The truth is that each one of us has in him certain passions and instincts which if they gained the upper hand in his soul would mean that the wild beast had come uppermost in him. Envy malice and hatred are such passions, and they are just as bad if directed against a class or group of men as if directed against an individual. What we need in our leaders and teachers is help in suppressing such feelings, help in arousing and directing the feelings that are their extreme opposites. Woe to us as a nation if we ever follow the lead of men who seek not to smother but to inflame the wild beast qualities of the human heart! In social and industrial no less than in political reform we can do healthy work, work fit for a free republic, fit for self-governing democracy, only by treading in the footsteps of Washington and Franklin and Adams and Patrick Henry, and not in the steps of Marat and Robespierre.
- So far, what I have had to say has dealt mainly with our relations to one another in what may be called the service of the State. But the basis of good citizenship is in the home. A man must be a good son, husband and father, a woman a good daughter, wife and mother, first and foremost. There must be no shirking of duties in big things or in little things. The man who will not work hard for his wife and his little ones, the woman who shrinks from bearing and rearing many healthy children, these have no place among the men and women who are striving upward and onward. Of course the family is the foundation of all the things in the State. Sins against pure and healthy family life are those which of all others are sure in the end to be visited most heavily upon the nation in which they take place. We must beware, moreover, not merely of the great sins, but of the lesser ones which when taken together cause such an appalling aggregate of misery and wrong. The drunkard, the lewd liver, the coward, the liar, the dishonest man, the man who is brutal to or neglectful of parents, wife or children — of all of these the shrift should be short when we speak of decent citizenship. […] But in addition to condemning the grosser forms of evil we must not forget to condemn also the evils of bad temper, lack of gentleness, nagging and whining fretfulness, lack of consideration for others — the evils of selfishness in all its myriad forms. Each man or woman must remember his or her duty to all around, and especially to those closest and nearest, and such remembrance is the best possible preparative to doing duty for the State as a whole.
- The Decalogue and the Golden Rule must stand as the foundation of every successful effort to better either our social or our political life. "Fear the Lord and walk in His ways," and "Love thy neighbor as thyself" — when we practice these two precepts, the reign of social and civic righteousness will be close at hand. Christianity teaches not only that each of us must so live as to save his own soul, but that each must also strive to do his whole duty by his neighbor. We cannot live up to these teachings as we should; for in the presence of infinite might and infinite wisdom, the strength of the strongest man is but weakness, and the keenest of mortal eyes see but dimly. But each of us can at least strive, as light and strength are given him, towards the ideal. Effort along any one line will not suffice. We must not only be good but strong. We must not only be high-minded but brave-hearted. We must think loftily and we must also work hard. It is not written in the Holy Book that we must merely be harmless as doves. It is also not written that we must be wise as serpents. Craft unaccompanied by conscience makes the crafty man a social wild beast who preys on the community and must be hunted out of it. Gentleness and sweetness unbacked by strength and high resolve are almost impotent for good.
- The true Christian is the true citizen, lofty of purpose, resolute in endeavor, ready for a hero's deeds, but never looking down on his task because it is cast in the day of small things; scornful of baseness, awake to his own duties as well as to his rights, following the higher law with reverence, and in this world doing all that in him lies, so that when death comes he may feel that mankind isin some degree better because he has lived.