QUOTATIONS,INSPIRATION AND PHILOSOPHY OF CALVIN COOLIDGE
Calvin Coolidge was a well read man who, in no small measure, conducted his life based upon principles from his Vermont upbringing and his Amherst education in moral philosophy. He was a reader of history, biography and literature including the Bible, Shakespeare, Milton and Dante, read in the original Italian. He also read the poems of Kipling, Field and Riley. Over his lifetime he accumulated thousands of books. Combined with his formal and self-education, he had strong preparation for the Presidency through a series of increasingly responsible governmental positions, gaining prior experience which only a handful of other presidents could match. His education and experience gave him the opportunity to offer wise commentary on a variety of issues affecting political and everyday life. Many of these insights are as valid today as they were then.
The President's speeches offer one source of his philosophy. While these are available in print from a variety of sources, an interesting way to learn about his thoughts is to hear his actual words. The Vincent Voice Library of Michigan State University provides Internet access to a number of Coolidge's speeches, as well as the voices of many other famous persons. It is a site highly worthy of investigation.
In his autobiography, Coolidge said of his mother: "She was of very light and fair complexion with a rich growth of brown hair that had a glint of gold in it. Her hands and features were regular and finely molded. The older people always told me how beautiful she was in her youth. She was practically an invalid as long as I could remember her, but used what strength she had in lavish care upon me and my sister, who was three years younger. There was a touch of poetry and mysticism in her nature which made her love to gaze at purple sunsets and watch the evening stars. Whatever was grand and beautiful in form attracted her. It seemed as though the rich green tints of the foliage and the blossoms of the flowers came for her in springtime, and in the autumn it was for her that the mountain sides were struck by crimson and gold."
"In politics, nothing is worth having, if you can't have it the right way." "It is always important to do the right thing. Things are so ordered in this world that those who violate its laws cannot escape the penalty..."
"Integrity, honesty and simplicity is what I have tried to stand for."
"It seems to be true that unless men live right they die... If men do not follow the truth, they cannot live."
"Observance of the law ensures the rights of man. The right thing to do never requires any subterfuge. It is always simple and direct. That is the reason intrigue always falls under its own weight."
"I do not think that a man who cannot take care of himself is worthy of very much consideration.
"Self government means self support...It may be that the diffusion of wealth works in an analogous way. As the little red schoolhouse is builded in the college, it may be that the fostering and protection of large aggregations of wealth are the only foundation on which to build the wealth of the whole people."
IMPORTANCE OF OWNERSHIP AND LABOR
"The man who builds a factory builds a temple, the man who works there worships there, and to each his due, not scorn or blame, but reverence and praise."
LISTENING, SILENCE, SPEAKING
"No one ever listened themselves out of job. It takes great man to be a good listener."
"He who gives license to his tongue proclaims his lack of discipline...and self-respect."
"A man of prayer speaks when speech is useful to himself or his neighbor. He will not waste energy and squander his thoughts in idle conversation." (Perhaps based upon a biblical quotation suggesting that one's speech should always serve as "a blessing to the listener".)
TAKING THE OATH FROM FATHER
"My father was the first to address me as President of the United States. It was the culmination of the lifelong desire of a father for the success of his son. I do not know of any other case in history where a father has administered a qualifying oath of office to a son to make him chief magistrate of a nation. It seemed a simple and natural thing to do at the time, but I can now realize something of the dramatic force of the event."
TO HIS FATHER, SIX MONTHS BEFORE HIS DEATH
"It was years since you woke me to bring the message that I was President. It seems a very short time. I trust it has been a great satisfaction to you. I think only two or three fathers have seen their sons chosen to be President of the United States. I am sure I came largely to it by your bringing up and your example. If that is what you wanted, you have much to be thankful for, that you have lived to so great an age to see it."
"Fate bestows it rewards on those who put themselves in the proper attitude to receive them."
A lady once told the President that she didn't know how he could bear up under all his responsibilities. He said "Oh, I don't know, there are only so many hours in the day and one can only do the best he can with the time he's got. When I was Mayor of Northampton, I was pretty busy most of the time and I don't seem much busier here. I just have to settle different kinds of things."
MAINTAINING FAITH IN THE PRESIDENCY
Coolidge told his Cabinet "The President can't resign...there are many things you gentlemen must not tell me. If you blunder, you can leave, or I can invite you to leave. But if you draw me into all our departmental decisions and something goes wrong, I must stay here, and by involving me, you have lowered the faith of the people in their government."
"No person was ever honored for what he received. Honor is the reward for what we give."
"Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race"..."If I had permitted my failures, or what seemed to me at the time a lack of success to discourage me, I cannot see any way in which I ever would have made progress."
"It has been my observation in life that, if one will exercise the patience to wait, his wants are likely to be fulfilled."
..."There are those who complain that they do not have any luck. They are opportunists, who think that their destiny is all shaped outside themselves. They are waiting for something to happen...Our real luck lies within ourselves. It is a question of character. It depends on whether we follow the inner light of our conscience...If we cannot control our environment, we can control ourselves and our destiny. The man who is right makes his own luck."
"Any reward that is worth having comes only to the industrious..." "Substitute the midnight oil for the limelight." "The success which is made in any walk of life is measured almost exactly by the amount of hard work that is put into it."
"...The measure of success is not merchandise, but character."
"Prosperity is only an instrument to be used, not a deity to be worshipped."
"We do not need more material development, we need more spiritual development. We do not need more intellectual power, we need more moral power. We do not need more knowledge, we need more character. We do not need more law, we need more religion."
"Men show, by what they worship, what they are."
ART REVEALS NATIONS
An English author, Beverly Nichols, interviewed the President for his book called "The Star Spangled Manner". Coolidge told him "Not long ago, I happened to visit an exhibition of modern pictures. It was held in Pittsburgh and almost every major nation was represented, and as I looked at those pictures, I felt I could see through them, into the minds of the nations which had created them. I could see the torment out of which they had been born. If the nation's psychology was diseased, so was its art. The traces of neurosis were unmistakable. If, on the other hand, if the nation was on the way to recovery, if its people were rediscovering the happiness which they had lost, the story was in the picture too."
PEACE IN THE WORLD
”Everything of value starts in the heart. If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”
The President met occasionally with Bernard Baruch, a well known financier and advisor to presidents. When talking about disarmament, Coolidge told him "If the people want to fight, they will fight with broomsticks if they can't find anything else." Baruch remarked later in his writings that he was pleased to hear Coolidge's views and that he found him to be much more human and so much more of a companion than he ever could have believed from the stories he had heard about him. He felt that he was always the human being, very shy, but always considerate of his associates.
THE ULTIMATE COMPLIMENT
David Belasco, the leading light of the time in American theater was taken by Sol Bloom to call at the White House. Upon meeting the President, Belasco said, "Mr. President, this is a great honor." "No, Mr. Belasco, Coolidge said, "There have been many Presidents, but there is only one David Belasco."
"Whether ones traces his Americanism back three centuries to the Mayflower, or three years to steerage, is not half so important as whether his Americanism of today is real and genuine. No matter by what crafts we came here, we are all now in the same boat."
"Christmas represents love and mercy. It was ushered in by the star of hope and remains forever consecrated by the sacrifice of the cross. Christmas holds its place in the hearts of men because they know that love is the greatest thing in the world. Christmas is celebrated in the true spirit only by those who make some sacrifice for the benefit of their fellow men."
RESTRAINT A WISE COURSE
" I didn't see the need to do things that didn't need to be done. Sometimes matters just resolve themselves if you leave them alone long enough...Public administrators would get along better if they would restrain the impulse to butt in, or to be dragged into trouble. They should remain silent until an issue is reduced to its lowest terms, until it boils down into something like a moral issue." "When you see ten troubles rolling down the road, if you don't do anything, nine of them will roll into a ditch before they get to you." "Four-fifths of all our troubles in this life would disappear if we would just sit down and keep still." "When things are going all right, it is a good plan to let them alone."
THE PRESIDENT MUST STAND FOR THE PEOPLE "
...It is important for the President to stand for the people. It is because in the hour of their timidity, the Congress becomes subservient to the importunities of organized minorities that the President comes more and more to stand as the champion of the rights of the whole country..."
PRESIDENT NOT A GREAT MAN
It is a "major source of safety to the country" for the President to "know that he is not a great man. When a man begins to feel that he is the only one who can lead the republic, he is guilty of treason to the spirit of our institutions."
THE BUSINESS OF AMERICA IS BUSINESS?
This is one of the most often quoted, and misquoted, lines of President Coolidge. Coolidge wanted all Americans to prosper. He thought by helping business prosper, everyone would benefit. Additionally, the context in which he was speaking at the time, while emphasizing prosperity, was really focused on idealism: "...After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world. I am strongly of the opinion that the great majority of people will always find these are the moving impulses of our life." But "it is only those who do not understand our people, who believe that our national life is entirely absorbed by material motives. We make no concealment of the fact that we want wealth, but there are many other things that we want much more. We want peace and honor, and that charity which is so strong an element of all civilization. The chief ideal of the American people is idealism."
Coolidge was misquoted not only in saying that "the business of America is business", but in the interpretation of his message. The abbreviated context of his words implied that Coolidge favored business over the needs of the working man. He said he had always tried to be fair in any disputes between labor and business and viewed business success as a way to help the people. Professor Robert Sobel, a leading Coolidge scholar and biographer, also noted that the argument Coolidge favored business was weak.
THE NEED FOR LESS GOVERNMENT
"Perhaps one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business. Government shouldn't play a part in everyday life. Jefferson said that the people should be left to manage their own affairs. His opposition will bear careful analysis, and the country could stand a good deal more of its application. The trouble with us is we talk about Jefferson, but we do not follow him. In this theory that the people should manage their government, and not be managed by it, he was everlastingly right."
Coolidge has sometimes been criticized as a "do nothing" President. However, he did what he thought needed to be done. He said he didn't think it was his job to be pressuring Congress into passing legislation. He thought we needed fewer programs, not more of them. He was a highly popular President in his time, one who easily could have won re-election to a second term of his own had he sought it. Apparently the people, in general, thought he had things just about right for the time.
Coolidge said "When I left office, the country enjoyed prosperity and strong economic growth, low inflation, low unemployment, a reduced national debt, lower taxes and peace", a legacy many other presidents failed to leave. Shortly after he left office, the stock market crashed. Coolidge has sometimes been blamed for failing to recognize the impending danger and for failing to take action to prevent it.
BELIEF IN OUR SUCCESS
In his final message to Congress, Coolidge said: "Our country has been provided with the resources with which it can enlarge its intellectual, moral and spiritual life. The issue is in the hands of the people. Our faith in man and God is the justification for the belief in our success."
THROUGH WITH PUBLIC LIFE FOREVER
In December of 1932, former President Coolidge met with Henry Stoddard, the first newspaper publisher outside New England who supported him for President. He told him: " I have been out of touch so long with political activities that I feel that I no longer fit in with these times...When I read of the newfangled things that are now so popular, I realize that my time in public affairs is past. I wouldn't know how to handle them if I were called upon to do so. That is why I am through with public life forever. I shall never hold public office again..."
KEEPING THE FAITH
"Have faith in your country, have faith in one another, and above all so live and act that you may be able to say: I have kept the faith."
WHAT SOME OTHERS SAID
Mencken was a well known newspaper critic of the day, noted for his sarcasm. He had a number of comments about Coolidge, some not complimentary: He mocked Coolidge by saying he was the "Greatest man ever to come out of Plymouth, Vermont". "His chief feat during the five years and seven months in office was to sleep more than any other President -- to sleep more and say less." "There were no thrills while he reigned, but neither were there any headaches. He had no ideas and he was not a nuisance."
In praise of Coolidge's literary style, Mencken said: "he wrote simply, innocently, artlessly. He forgot all the literary affectations and set down his ideas exactly as they came into his head. The result was a bald, but strangely appealing piece of writing - a composition of almost Lincolnian austerity and beauty. The true Vermonter was in every line of it."
The great American humorist was once a guest in the White House. He told Everett Sanders, the President's secretary, it was a great honor to be invited to stay with the Coolidges, adding "it was the first meal he had ever had on the government." He is particularly well known for his famous quotes about Coolidge's presidency: "He didn't do much, but that's what they wanted done." "The country wanted nothing done, and he done it."
Lu Knox - Curator of the "Coolidge Room",The Forbes Library
"He believed in working hard. Part of his appeal is his personality. People were always able to relate to him, because he never lost sight of where he came from."
SELECTED SPEECHES OF CALVIN COOLIDGE
ORATORY IN HISTORY
Black River Academy Commencement, 1890
To further estimate the degree in which oratory has influenced the history of the world, would be a difficult task; but the history of every country and of every age turns with miracles wrought by this necromantic form. Oratory, as every schoolboy knows, was the master spirit of both great nations of antiquity, Greece and Rome, and plays an important part in modern nations. It was not the fleets of Attica, though mighty, nor the valor of her troops, though unconquerable, that directed her destinies; but the words and gestures of the men who had the genius and skill to move, to concentrate, and to direct; the energies and passions of a whole people as though they were but one person. Even when Greece was in the last stages of decay, when she was oppressed by the galling tyranny of Philip, the Athenian populace, roused by the burning words of Demosthenes, started up with one accord and one cry to march on Philip; and the Macedonian monarch himself said of the orator who had baffled him, "Had I been there, he would have persuaded me to take up arms against myself." Such was the effect of oratory in Athens, a state weakened as it was by oppression and its life blood almost gone in long continued wars. When the commons of Rome were ground down to the dirt beneath the load of debts which they owed to their patrician creditors, it was the agonizing appeals of one old man in rags, pale and famished, who told the citizens he had fought in eight and twenty battles, and yet had been imprisoned for a debt which he had been compelled to contract but could not pay, that caused a change of laws and a restoration to liberty of those who had been enslaved by their creditors. It was not alone the fate of Lucretia, but the eloquence of Brutus that drove the Tarquin from Rome, overthrew the throne, and established the Roman Republic. Aye! "Rome, that sat on her seven hills and from her throne of beauty ruled the world" received her freedom by the power of oratory. We are told that such was the force of Cicero's oratory, that it not only confounded the audacious Cataline, and silenced the eloquent Hortentious, not only deprived Curio of all power of recollection, when he rose to oppose that great master of enchanting rhetoric, but made even Caesar tremble, change his determined purpose and acquit the man he had resolved to condemn. It was not till the two champions of ancient liberty, Demosthenes and Cicero, were silenced that the triumph of Despotism in Greece and Rome was complete. In the Dark Ages, the earnest tones of a simple private man; who has left to posterity only his baptismal name with the modest surname of Hermit, that aroused the people to engage in the Crusades; drove back the victorious crescent, overthrew feudalism, freed the serfs, delivered the towns from the oppression of the Barons, and changed the moral face of all Europe. Two centuries later, the voice of a solitary monk shook the Vatican, and emancipated half of Europe from the dominion of Papal Rome. In later times, the achievements of oratory have been hardly less potent. What mighty changes have been wrought in England's political system within the last fifty years by the indomitable energy of such orators as Vincent, Cobden, Bright, and scores of others, who traversed the kingdom, advocating the repeal of the Corn Laws and other measures which were once deemed Utopian and hopeless! During the French Revolution, it was the voice of Mirabeau, hurling defiance at the king, that inspired the Tiers-Etat with courage. When he cried out to the astonished emissary of Louis: "Slave, go tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and that we will depart only at the point of the bayonet," the words sounded like a thunder clap to all Europe, and from that moment the bondage of the nation was broken and the fate of despotism sealed. Who can say what the history of Europe or even of the world would have been, had the British Parliament never been shaken by the powerful eloquence of Fox, Camden, or Grattan; or had Miribeau, Louvert, and Danton never hurled their fiery bolts from the French tribune? No one will say that in our own struggle for independence the majestic eloquence of Chatham, the profound reasoning of Burke, the burning satire and irony of Barre did not have influence on our fortunes in America. They tended to diminish the confidence of the British ministry in their hopes to hold us in subjection. There was not a man who did not struggle more boldly for liberty when those exhilarating sounds, uttered in the two houses of Parliament, reached him across the seas. In the history of our own country, the triumphs of oratory have been hardly less marked than those of the Old World. In the night of tyranny, the eloquence of the country first blazed up, like the lighted signal fires of a distracted border to startle and enlighten the community. Everywhere as the news of some fresh invasion of our liberties and rights was bourne on the wings of the wind, men ran together and called upon some earnest citizen to address them. When, in 1761, James Otis, in a Boston popular assembly, denounced the British Writs of Assistance, in words like Marc Anthony, who said, "I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts, . . . I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know"; his hearers were hurried away resistlessly on the torrents of his impressive speech. When he concluded, every man of the vast audience went away resolved to take up arms against the injustice. In the first American Congress, convened at Philadelphia, Patrick Henry arose, and drew such a picture of the horrors of servitude and the charms of freedom that his hearers became activated as one soul, and the universal shout was "Liberty or Death." The single speech of this one illustrious man gave an impulse which probably decided the fate of America. During the present century, the effects of oratory are no less obvious. As it was the eloquence of Hamilton, spoken and written, which in no small degree established our political system, so it was the eloquence of Webster, with his clarion voice and mighty words, that mainly defended and saved it. As the great orator of Massachusetts, the champion of the Federal Constitution, closed his memorable reply to Hayne, profound silence reigned in the crowded Senate Chamber. When again, over thirty years later, Nullification once more raised its front, and stood forth armed for a long and desperate conflict, it was the ignited logic of this same Defender of the Constitution, and the echo of his burning, enthusiastic appeals for: "Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable" which roused the people to resistance, and, with the eloquence of Garrison and Philips, broke the fetters of the slave, then remaining the most formidable obstacle to the complete union of North and South. The effects of sacred oratory on the history of the world would fill volumes. We will only recall the manner of John the Baptist, Paul, Peter, and Chrysostom, the golden mouthed; and in modern times, the names of such pulpit orators as Whitfield, Hall, Chalmers, Latimer, Knox, Edwards, Beecher, and Brookes. It would be hardly too much to say, that since the dawn of civilization, the triumphs of the tongue have rivaled, if not surpassed, those of the sword. Although some of the most fiery themes of eloquence may have passed away with the occasions of tyranny, outrage, and oppression that created them, though the age of Philippics has happily gone; yet so long as wickedness and misery, injustice and wretchedness prevail on the earth, so long as the millennium is still distant and Utopia a dream, the voice of the orator will still be needed to warn, to denounce, to terrify, and to overwhelm.
LAW AND ORDER
It is preeminently the province of government to protect the weak. The average citizen does not lead the life of independence that was his in former days under a less complex order of society. When a family tilled the soil and produced its own support it was independent. It may be infinitely better off now, but it is evident it needs a protection which before was not required.
Let Massachusetts continue to regard with the greatest solicitude the well-being of her people. By prescribed law, by authorized publicity, by informed public opinion, let her continue to strive to provide that all conditions under which her citizens live are worthy of the highest faith of man. Healthful housing, wholesome food, sanitary working conditions, reasonable hours, a fair wage for a fair day's work, opportunity -- full and free, justice -- speedy and impartial, and at a cost within the reach of all, are among the objects not only to be sought, but made absolutely certain and secure.
Government is not, must not be, a cold, impersonal machine, but a human and more human agency: appealing to the reason, satisfying the heart, full of mercy, assisting the good, resisting the wrong, delivering the weak from any impositions of the powerful. This is not paternalism. It is not a servitude imposed from without, but the freedom of a right to self-direction from within.
Industry must be humanized, not destroyed. It must be the instrument not of selfishness, but of service. Change not the law, but the attitude of the mind. Let our citizens look not to the false prophet but to the pilgrims. Let them fix their eyes on Plymouth Rock as well as Beacon Hill. The supreme choice must be not to things that are seen, but to things that are unseen.
Our government belongs to the people. Our property belongs to the people. It is distributed. They own it. The taxes are paid by the people. They bear the burden. The benefits of government must accrue to the people. Not to one class, but to all classes, to all the people. The functions, the power, the sovereignty of the government, must be kept where they have been placed by the Constitution and laws of the people. Not private will, but that public will, which speaks with a divine sanction, must prevail.
There are strident voices, urging resistance to law in the name of freedom. They are not seeking freedom for themselves, they have it. They are seeking to enslave others. Their works are evil. They know it. They must be resisted. The evil they represent must be overcome by the good others represent. Their ideas, which are wrong, for the most part imported, must be supplanted by ideas which are right. This can be done. The meaning of America is a power which cannot be overcome. Massachusetts must lead in teaching it. Prosecution of the criminal and education of the ignorant are the remedies.
It is fundamental that freedom is not to be secured by disobedience to law. Even the freedom of the slave depended on the supremacy of the Constitution. There is no mystery about this. They who sin are the servants of sin. They who break the laws are the slaves of their own kind. It is not for the advantage of others that the citizen is abjured to obey the laws, but for his own advantage. That what he claims a right to do to others, that must he admit others have a right to do to him. His obedience is his own protection. He is not submitting himself to the dictates of others, but responding to the requirements of his own nature.
Laws are not manufactured. They are not imposed. They are rules of action existing from everlasting to everlasting. He who resists them, resists himself. He commits suicide. The nature of man requires sovereignty. Government must govern. To obey is life. To disobey is death. Organized government is the expression of the life of the commonwealth. Into your hands is entrusted the grave responsibility of its protection and perpetuation.
Wednesday, March 4, 1925
My Countrymen: No one can contemplate current conditions without finding much that is satisfying and still more that is encouraging. Our own country is leading the world in the general readjustment to the results of the great conflict. Many of its burdens will bear heavily upon us for years, and the secondary and indirect effects we must expect to experience for some time. But we are beginning to comprehend more definitely what course should be pursued, what remedies ought to be applied, what actions should be taken for our deliverance, and are clearly manifesting a determined will faithfully and conscientiously to adopt these methods of relief. Already we have sufficiently rearranged our domestic affairs so that confidence has returned, business has revived, and we appear to be entering an era of prosperity which is gradually reaching into every part of the Nation.
Realizing that we can not live unto ourselves alone, we have contributed of our resources and our counsel to the relief of the suffering and the settlement of the disputes among the European nations. Because of what America is and what America has done, a firmer courage, a higher hope, inspires the heart of all humanity. These results have not occurred by mere chance. They have been secured by a constant and enlightened effort marked by many sacrifices and extending over many generations. We can not continue these brilliant successes in the future, unless we continue to learn from the past. It is necessary to keep the former experiences of our country both at home and abroad continually before us, if we are to have any science of government. If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite knowledge of the old foundations. We must realize that human nature is about the most constant thing in the universe and that the essentials of human relationship do not change. We must frequently take our bearings from these fixed stars of our political firmament if we expect to hold a true course. If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine the more accurately what we can do.
We stand at the opening of the one hundred and fiftieth year since our national consciousness first asserted itself by unmistakable action with an array of force. The old sentiment of detached and dependent colonies disappeared in the new sentiment of a united and independent Nation. Men began to discard the narrow confines of a local charter for the broader opportunities of a national constitution. Under the eternal urge of freedom we became an independent Nation. A little less than 50 years later that freedom and independence were reasserted in the face of all the world, and guarded, supported, and secured by the Monroe doctrine. The narrow fringe of States along the Atlantic seaboard advanced its frontiers across the hills and plains of an intervening continent until it passed down the golden slope to the Pacific. We made freedom a birthright. We extended our domain over distant islands in order to safeguard our own interests and accepted the consequent obligation to bestow justice and liberty upon less favored peoples. In the defense of our own ideals and in the general cause of liberty we entered the Great War. When victory had been fully secured, we withdrew to our own shores unrecompensed save in the consciousness of duty done. Throughout all these experiences we have enlarged our freedom, we have strengthened our independence. We have been, and propose to be, more and more American. We believe that we can best serve our own country and most successfully discharge our obligations to humanity by continuing to be openly and candidly, intensely and scrupulously, American. If we have any heritage, it has been that. If we have any destiny, we have found it in that direction. But if we wish to continue to be distinctively American, we must continue to make that term comprehensive enough to embrace the legitimate desires of a civilized and enlightened people determined in all their relations to pursue a conscientious and religious life. We can not permit ourselves to be narrowed and dwarfed by slogans and phrases. It is not the adjective, but the substantive, which is of real importance. It is not the name of the action, but the result of the action, which is the chief concern. It will be well not to be too much disturbed by the thought of either isolation or entanglement of pacifists and militarists.
The physical configuration of the earth has separated us from all of the Old World, but the common brotherhood of man, the highest law of all our being, has united us by inseparable bonds with all humanity. Our country represents nothing but peaceful intentions toward all the earth, but it ought not to fail to maintain such a military force as comports with the dignity and security of a great people. It ought to be a balanced force, intensely modern, capable of defense by sea and land, beneath the surface and in the air. But it should be so conducted that all the world may see in it, not a menace, but an instrument of security and peace.
This Nation believes thoroughly in an honorable peace under which the rights of its citizens are to be everywhere protected. It has never found that the necessary enjoyment of such a peace could be maintained only by a great and threatening array of arms. In common with other nations, it is now more determined than ever to promote peace through friendliness and good will, through mutual understandings and mutual forbearance.
We have never practiced the policy of competitive armaments. We have recently committed ourselves by covenants with the other great nations to a limitation of our sea power. As one result of this, our Navy ranks larger, in comparison, than it ever did before. Removing the burden of expense and jealousy, which must always accrue from a keen rivalry, is one of the most effective methods of diminishing that unreasonable hysteria and misunderstanding which are the most potent means of fomenting war.
This policy represents a new departure in the world. It is a thought, an ideal, which has led to an entirely new line of action. It will not be easy to maintain. Some never moved from their old positions, some are constantly slipping back to the old ways of thought and the old action of seizing a musket and relying on force. America has taken the lead in this new direction, and that lead America must continue to hold. If we expect others to rely on our fairness and justice we must show that we rely on their fairness and justice. If we are to judge by past experience, there is much to be hoped for in international relations from frequent conferences and consultations.
We have before us the beneficial results of the Washington conference and the various consultations recently held upon European affairs, some of which were in response to our suggestions and in some of which we were active participants. Even the failures cannot but be accounted useful and an immeasurable advance over threatened or actual warfare. I am strongly in favor of continuation of this policy, whenever conditions are such that there is even a promise that practical and favorable results might be secured. In conformity with the principle that a display of reason rather than a threat of force should be the determining factor in the intercourse among nations, we have long advocated the peaceful settlement of disputes by methods of arbitration and have negotiated many treaties to secure that result. The same considerations should lead to our adherence to the Permanent Court of International Justice.
Where great principles are involved, where great movements are under way which promise much for the welfare of humanity by reason of the very fact that many other nations have given such movements their actual support, we ought not to withhold our own sanction because of any small and inessential difference, but only upon the ground of the most important and compelling fundamental reasons. We can not barter away our independence or our sovereignty, but we ought to engage in no refinements of logic, no sophistries, and no subterfuges, to argue away the undoubted duty of this country by reason of the might of its numbers, the power of its resources, and its position of leadership in the world, actively and comprehensively to signify its approval and to bear its full share of the responsibility of a candid and disinterested attempt at the establishment of a tribunal for the administration of even-handed justice between nation and nation. The weight of our enormous influence must be cast upon the side of a reign not of force but of law and trial, not by battle but by reason. We have never any wish to interfere in the political conditions of any other countries. Especially are we determined not to become implicated in the political controversies of the Old World. With a great deal of hesitation, we have responded to appeals for help to maintain order, protect life and property, and establish responsible government in some of the small countries of the Western Hemisphere. Our private citizens have advanced large sums of money to assist in the necessary financing and relief of the Old World. We have not failed, nor shall we fail to respond, whenever necessary to mitigate human suffering and assist in the rehabilitation of distressed nations. These, too, are requirements which must be met by reason of our vast powers and the place we hold in the world.
Some of the best thought of mankind has long been seeking for a formula for permanent peace. Undoubtedly the clarification of the principles of international law would be helpful, and the efforts of scholars to prepare such a work for adoption by the various nations should have our sympathy and support. Much may be hoped for from the earnest studies of those who advocate the outlawing of aggressive war. But all these plans and preparations, these treaties and covenants, will not of themselves be adequate.
One of the greatest dangers to peace lies in the economic pressure to which people find themselves subjected. One of the most practical things to be done in the world is to seek arrangements under which such pressure may be removed, so that opportunity may be renewed and hope may be revived. There must be some assurance that effort and endeavor will be followed by success and prosperity. In the making and financing of such adjustments there is not only an opportunity, but a real duty, for America to respond with her counsel and her resources. Conditions must be provided under which people can make a living and work out of their difficulties. But there is another element, more important than all, without which there can not be the slightest hope of a permanent peace. That element lies in the heart of humanity. Unless the desire for peace be cherished there, unless this fundamental and only natural source of brotherly love be cultivated to its highest degree, all artificial efforts will be in vain.
Peace will come when there is realization that only under a reign of law, based on righteousness and supported by the religious conviction of the brotherhood of man, can there be any hope of a complete and satisfying life. Parchment will fail, the sword will fail, it is only the spiritual nature of man that can be triumphant. It seems altogether probable that we can contribute most to these important objects by maintaining our position of political detachment and independence. We are not identified with any Old World interests. This position should be made more and more clear in our relations with all foreign countries. We are at peace with all of them. Our program is never to oppress, but always to assist. But while we do justice to others, we must require that justice be done to us. With us a treaty of peace means peace, and a treaty of amity means amity. We have made great contributions to the settlement of contentious differences in both Europe and Asia. But there is a very definite point beyond which we cannot go. We can only help those who help themselves. Mindful of these limitations, the one great duty that stands out requires us to use our enormous powers to trim the balance of the world.
While we can look with a great deal of pleasure upon what we have done abroad, we must remember that our continued success in that direction depends upon what we do at home. Since its very outset, it has been found necessary to conduct our Government by means of political parties. That system would not have survived from generation to generation if it had not been fundamentally sound and provided the best instrumentalities for the most complete expression of the popular will. It is not necessary to claim that it has always worked perfectly. It is enough to know that nothing better has been devised. No one would deny that there should be full and free expression and an opportunity for independence of action within the party. There is no salvation in a narrow and bigoted partisanship. But if there is to be responsible party government, the party label must be something more than a mere device for securing office. Unless those who are elected under the same party designation are willing to assume sufficient responsibility and exhibit sufficient loyalty and coherence, so that they can cooperate with each other in the support of the broad general principles, of the party platform, the election is merely a mockery, no decision is made at the polls, and there is no representation of the popular will. Common honesty and good faith with the people who support a party at the polls require that party, when it enters office, to assume the control of that portion of the Government to which it has been elected. Any other course is bad faith and a violation of the party pledges.
When the country has bestowed its confidence upon a party by making it a majority in the Congress, it has a right to expect such unity of action as will make the party majority an effective instrument of government. This Administration has come into power with a very clear and definite mandate from the people. The expression of the popular will in favor of maintaining our constitutional guarantees was overwhelming and decisive. There was a manifestation of such faith in the integrity of the courts that we can consider that issue rejected for some time to come.
Likewise, the policy of public ownership of railroads and certain electric utilities met with unmistakable defeat. The people declared that they wanted their rights to have not a political but a judicial determination, and their independence and freedom continued and supported by having the ownership and control of their property, not in the Government, but in their own hands. As they always do when they have a fair chance, the people demonstrated that they are sound and are determined to have a sound government. When we turn from what was rejected to inquire what was accepted, the policy that stands out with the greatest clearness is that of economy in public expenditure with reduction and reform of taxation. The principle involved in this effort is that of conservation. The resources of this country are almost beyond computation. No mind can comprehend them. But the cost of our combined governments is likewise almost beyond definition. Not only those who are now making their tax returns, but those who meet the enhanced cost of existence in their monthly bills, know by hard experience what this great burden is and what it does. No matter what others may want, these people want a drastic economy. They are opposed to waste. They know that extravagance lengthens the hours and diminishes the rewards of their labor.
I favor the policy of economy, not because I wish to save money, but because I wish to save people. The men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government. Every dollar that we carelessly waste means that their life will be so much the more meager. Every dollar that we prudently save means that their life will be so much the more abundant.
Economy is idealism in its most practical form. If extravagance were not reflected in taxation, and through taxation both directly and indirectly injuriously affecting the people, it would not be of so much consequence. The wisest and soundest method of solving our tax problem is through economy. Fortunately, of all the great nations this country is best in a position to adopt that simple remedy.
We do not any longer need wartime revenues. The collection of any taxes which are not absolutely required, which do not beyond reasonable doubt contribute to the public welfare, is only a species of legalized larceny. Under this republic the rewards of industry belong to those who earn them. The only constitutional tax is the tax which ministers to public necessity. The property of the country belongs to the people of the country. Their title is absolute. They do not support any privileged class; they do not need to maintain great military forces; they ought not to be burdened with a great array of public employees. They are not required to make any contribution to Government expenditures except that which they voluntarily assess upon themselves through the action of their own representatives.
Whenever taxes become burdensome a remedy can be applied by the people; but if they do not act for themselves, no one can be very successful in acting for them. The time is arriving when we can have further tax reduction, when, unless we wish to hamper the people in their right to earn a living, we must have tax reform. The method of raising revenue ought not to impede the transaction of business; it ought to encourage it. I am opposed to extremely high rates, because they produce little or no revenue, because they are bad for the country, and, finally, because they are wrong. We cannot finance the country, we cannot improve social conditions, through any system of injustice, even if we attempt to inflict it upon the rich. Those who suffer the most harm will be the poor. This country believes in prosperity. It is absurd to suppose that it is envious of those who are already prosperous. The wise and correct course to follow in taxation and all other economic legislation is not to destroy those who have already secured success but to create conditions under which every one will have a better chance to be successful. The verdict of the country has been given on this question. That verdict stands. We shall do well to heed it. These questions involve moral issues. We need not concern ourselves much about the rights of property if we will faithfully observe the rights of persons. Under our institutions their rights are supreme. It is not property but the right to hold property, both great and small, which our Constitution guarantees. All owners of property are charged with a service. These rights and duties have been revealed, through the conscience of society, to have a divine sanction.
The very stability of our society rests upon production and conservation. For individuals or for governments to waste and squander their resources is to deny these rights and disregard these obligations. The result of economic dissipation to a nation is always moral decay. These policies of better international understandings, greater economy, and lower taxes have contributed largely to peaceful and prosperous industrial relations. Under the helpful influences of restrictive immigration and a protective tariff, employment is plentiful, the rate of pay is high, and wage earners are in a state of contentment seldom before seen. Our transportation systems have been gradually recovering and have been able to meet all the requirements of the service. Agriculture has been very slow in reviving, but the price of cereals at last indicates that the day of its deliverance is at hand. We are not without our problems, but our most important problem is not to secure new advantages but to maintain those which we already possess.
Our system of government made up of three separate and independent departments, our divided sovereignty composed of Nation and State, the matchless wisdom that is enshrined in our Constitution, all these need constant effort and tireless vigilance for their protection and support. In a republic the first rule for the guidance of the citizen is obedience to law. Under a despotism the law may be imposed upon the subject. He has no voice in its making, no influence in its administration, it does not represent him. Under a free government the citizen makes his own laws, chooses his own administrators, which do represent him. Those who want their rights respected under the Constitution and the law ought to set the example themselves of observing the Constitution and the law. While there may be those of high intelligence who violate the law at times, the barbarian and the defective always violate it. Those who disregard the rules of society are not exhibiting a superior intelligence, are not promoting freedom and independence, are not following the path of civilization, but are displaying the traits of ignorance, of servitude, of savagery, and treading the way that leads back to the jungle.
The essence of a republic is representative government. Our Congress represents the people and the States. In all legislative affairs it is the natural collaborator with the President. In spite of all the criticism which often falls to its lot, I do not hesitate to say that there is no more independent and effective legislative body in the world. It is, and should be, jealous of its prerogative. I welcome its cooperation, and expect to share with it not only the responsibility, but the credit, for our common effort to secure beneficial legislation. These are some of the principles which America represents. We have not by any means put them fully into practice, but we have strongly signified our belief in them.
The encouraging feature of our country is not that it has reached its destination, but that it has overwhelmingly expressed its determination to proceed in the right direction. It is true that we could, with profit, be less sectional and more national in our thought. It would be well if we could replace much that is only a false and ignorant prejudice with a true and enlightened pride of race. But the last election showed that appeals to class and nationality had little effect.
We were all found loyal to a common citizenship. The fundamental precept of liberty is toleration. We cannot permit any inquisition either within or without the law or apply any religious test to the holding of office. The mind of America must be forever free. It is in such contemplations, my fellow countrymen, which are not exhaustive but only representative, that I find ample warrant for satisfaction and encouragement. We should not let the much that is to do obscure the much which has been done. The past and present show faith and hope and courage fully justified.
Here stands our country, an example of tranquility at home, a patron of tranquility abroad. Here stands its Government, aware of its might but obedient to its conscience. Here it will continue to stand, seeking peace and prosperity, solicitous for the welfare of the wage earner, promoting enterprise, developing waterways and natural resources, attentive to the intuitive counsel of womanhood, encouraging education, desiring the advancement of religion, supporting the cause of justice and honor among the nations. America seeks no earthly empire built on blood and force. No ambition, no temptation, lures her to thought of foreign dominions. The legions which she sends forth are armed, not with the sword, but with the cross. The higher state to which she seeks the allegiance of all mankind is not of human, but of divine origin. She cherishes no purpose save to merit the favor of Almighty God.