Mr. Chairman and My Fellow Citizens:
In accepting the great honor you have brought me, I desire to speak so simply and so plainly that every man and woman in the United States who may hear or read my words cannot misunderstand.
The last three years have been a time of unparalleled economic calamity. They have been years of greater suffering and hardship than any which have come to the American people since the aftermath of the Civil War. As we look back over these troubled years we realize that we have passed through two stages of dislocation and stress.
Before the storm broke we were steadily gaining in prosperity. Our wounds from the war were rapidly healing. Advances in science and invention had opened vast vistas of new progress. Being prosperous, we became optimistic -- all of us. From optimism some of us went to over expansion in anticipation of the future, and from over expansion to reckless speculation. In the soil poisoned by speculation grew those ugly weeds of waste, exploitation, and abuse of financial power. In this overproduction and speculative mania we marched with the rest of the world. Then three years ago came retribution by the inevitable worldwide slump in consumption of goods, in prices, and employment. At that juncture it was the normal penalty for a reckless boom such as we have witnessed a score of times in our history. Through such depressions we have always passed safely after a relatively short period of losses, of hardship and adjustment. We adopted policies in the government, which were fitting to the situation. Gradually the country began to right itself. Eighteen months ago there was solid basis for hope that recovery was in sight.
Then there came to us a new calamity, a blow from abroad of such dangerous character as to strike at the very safety of the Republic. The countries of Europe proved unable to withstand the stress of the depression. The memories of the world had ignored the fact that the insidious diseases left by the Great War had not been cured. The skill and intelligence of millions in Europe had been blotted out by battle, disease and starvation. Stupendous burdens of national debts had been built up. Poisoned springs of political instability lay in the treaties which closed the war. Fears and hates held armaments to double those before the war. Governments were fallaciously seeking to build back by enlarged borrowing, by subsidizing industry and employment with taxes that slowly sapped the savings upon which industry must be rejuvenated and commerce solidly built. Under these strains the financial systems of many foreign countries crashed one by one.
New blows from decreasing world consumption of goods and from failing financial systems rained upon us. We are part of a world the disturbance of whose remotest populations affects our financial system, our employment, our markets, and prices of our farm products. Thus beginning eighteen months ago, the worldwide storm rapidly grew to hurricane force and the greatest economic emergency in all history. Unexpected, unforeseen, and violent shocks with every month brought new dangers and new emergencies. Fear and apprehension gripped the heart of our people in every village and city.
If we look back over the disasters of these three years, we find that three-quarters of the population of the globe has suffered from the flames of revolution. Many nations have been subject to constant change and vacillation of government. Others have resorted to dictatorship or tyranny in desperate attempts to preserve some sort of social order….
Two courses were open. We might have done nothing. That would have been utter ruin. Instead, we met the situation with proposals to private business and the Congress of the most gigantic program of economic defense and counter attack ever evolved in the history of the Republic. We put it into action.
Our measures have repelled these attacks of fear and panic. We have maintained the financial integrity of our government. We have cooperated to restore and stabilize the situation abroad. As a nation we have paid every dollar demanded of us. We have used the credit of the government to aid and protect our institutions, public and private. We have provided methods and assurances that there shall be none to suffer from hunger and cold. We have instituted measures to assist farmers and homeowners. We have created vast agencies for employment. Above all, we have maintained the sanctity of the principles upon which this Republic has grown great.
In a large sense the test of success of our program is simple. Our people, while suffering great hardships have been and will be cared for. In the long view our institutions have been sustained intact and are now functioning with increasing confidence of the future. As a nation we are undefeated and unafraid. Government by the people has not been defiled.
With the humility of one who by necessity has stood in the midst of this storm I can say with pride that the distinction for these accomplishments belongs not to the government or to any individual. It is due to the intrepid soul of our people. It is to their character, their fortitude, their initiative, and their courage that we owe these results. We of this generation did not build the great Ship of State. But the policies I have inaugurated have protected and aided its navigation in this storm. These policies and programs have not been partisan. I gladly give tribute to those members of the Democratic Party in Congress whose patriotic cooperation against factional and demagogic opposition has assisted in a score of great undertakings. I likewise give credit to Democratic as well as Republican leaders among our citizens for the cooperation and help.
A record of these dangers and these policies in the last three years will be set down in books. Much of it is interest only to history. Our interest now is the future. I dwell upon these policies and problems only where they illustrate the questions of the day and our course in the future. As a government and as a people we still have much to do. We must continue the building of our measures of restoration. We must profit by the lessons of this experience.
Before I enter upon a discussion of these policies I wish to say something of my conception of the relation of our government to the people and of the responsibilities of both, particularly as applied to these times. The spirit and devising of this government by the people was to sustain a dual purpose -- on the one hand to protect our people among nations and in domestic emergencies by great national power, and on the other to preserve individual liberty and freedom through local government.
The function of the Federal Government in these times is to use its reserve powers and its strength for the protection of citizens and local governments by supporting our institutions against forces beyond their control. It is not the function of the government to relieve individuals of the responsibilities to their neighbors, or to relieve private institutions of their responsibilities to the public, or of local government to the States, or of State governments to the Federal Government. In giving that protection and that aid the Federal Government must insist that all of them exert their responsibilities in full. It is vital that the programs of the government shall not compete with or replace any of them but shall add to their initiative and their strength. It is vital that by the use of public avenues and public credit in emergency the nation shall be strengthened and not weakened.
And in all these emergencies and crises, and in all our future policies, we must also preserve the fundamental principles of our social and economic system. That system is founded upon a conception of ordered freedom. The test of that freedom is that there should be maintained equality of opportunity to every individual so that he may achieve for himself the best to which his character, ability, and ambition entitle him. It is only by this release of initiative, this insistence upon individual responsibility, that we accrue the great sums of individual accomplishment which carry this nation forward. This is not an individualism which permits men to run riot in selfishness or to over-ride equality of opportunity for others. It permits no violation of ordered liberty. In the race after the false gods of materialism, men and groups have forgotten their country. Equality of opportunity contains no conception of exploitation by any selfish, ruthless, class-minded men or groups. They have no place in the American system. As against these stand the guiding ideals and concepts of our nation. I propose to maintain them.
The solution of our many problems which arise from the shifting scene of national life is not to be found in haphazard experimentation or by revolution. It must be through organic development of our national life under these ideals. It must secure that cooperative action which builds initiative and strength outside of government. It does not follow, because our difficulties are stupendous, because there are some souls timorous enough to doubt the validity and effectiveness of our ideals and our system, that we must turn to a State-controlled or State-directed social or economic system in order to cure our troubles. That is not liberalism; it is tyranny. It is the regimentation of men under autocratic bureaucracy with all its extinction of liberty, or hope, and of opportunity. Of course, no man of understanding says that our system works perfectly. It does not. The human race is not perfect. Nevertheless, the movement of a true civilization is toward freedom rather than regimentation. This is our ideal.
Ofttimes the tendency of democracy in presence of national danger is to strike blindly, to listen to demagogues and slogans, all of which would destroy and would not save. We have refused to be stampeded into such courses. Ofttimes democracy elsewhere in the world has been unable to move fast enough to save itself in emergency. There have been disheartening delays and failures in legislation and private action which have added to the losses of our people, yet this democracy of ours has proved its ability to act.
Our emergency measures of the last three years form a definite strategy dominated in the background by these American principles and ideals, forming a continuous campaign waged against the forces of destruction on an ever widening or constantly shifting front.
Thus we have held that the Federal Government should in the presence of great national danger use its powers to give leadership to the initiative, the courage, and the fortitude of the people themselves; but it must insist upon individual, community, and state responsibility. That it should furnish leadership to assure the coordination and unity of all existing agencies, governmental and private, for economic and humanitarian action. That where it becomes necessary to meet emergencies beyond the power of these agencies by the creation of new government instrumentalities, they should be of such character as not to supplant or weaken, but rather to supplement and strengthen, the initiative and enterprise of the people. That they must, directly, or indirectly, serve all the people. Above all, that they should be set up in such form that once the emergency is passed then can and must be demobilized and withdrawn leaving our governmental, economic, and social structure strong and whole.
We have not feared boldly to adopt unprecedented measures to meet the unprecedented violence of the storm. But, because we have kept ever before us these eternal principles of our nation, The American Government in its ideals is the same as it was when the people gave the Presidency into my trust. We shall keep it so. We have resolutely rejected the temptation under pressure of immediate events, to resort to those panaceas and short cuts which, even if temporarily successful, would ultimately undermine and weaken what has slowly been built and molded by experience and effort throughout these hundred and fifty years.
There are national policies wider than the emergency, wider than the economic horizon. They are set forth in our platform. Having the responsibility of this office, my views upon them are clearly and often set out in the public record. I may, however, summarize some of them.
I am squarely for a protective tariff. I am against the proposal of "a competitive tariff for revenue” as advocated by our opponents. That would place our farmers and our workers in competition with peasant and sweated labor products.
I am against their proposals to destroy the usefulness of the bipartisan Tariff Commission, the establishment of whole effective powers we secured during this administration twenty-five years after it was first advocated by President Theodore Roosevelt. That instrumentality enables us to correct any injustice and to readjust the rates of duty to shifting economic change, without constant tinkering and orgies of logrolling in Congress. If our opponents will descend from vague generalizations to any particular schedule, if it be higher than necessary to protect our people or insufficient for their protection, it can be remedied by this bipartisan commission.
My views in opposition to cancellation of war debts are a matter of detailed record in many public statements and a recent message to the Congress. They mark a continuity of that policy maintained by my predecessors. I am hopeful of such drastic reduction of world armament as will save the taxpayers in debtor countries a large part of the cost of their payments to us. If for any particular annual payment we are offered some other tangible form of compensation, such as the expansion of markets for American agriculture and labor, and the restoration and maintenance of our prosperity, then I am sure our citizens would consider such a proposal. But it is a certainty that these debts must not be canceled or the burdens transferred to our people.
I insist upon an army and navy of a strength which guarantees that no foreign soldier will land on American soil. That strength is relative to other nations. I favor every arms reduction which preserves that relationship.
I favor rigidly restricted immigration. I have by executive direction, in order to relieve us of added unemployment, already reduced the inward movement to less than the outward movement. I shall adhere to that policy.
I have repeatedly recommended to the Congress a revision of the railway transportation laws, in order that we may create greater stability and greater assurance of vital service in all our transportation. I shall persist in it.
I have repeatedly recommended the Federal regulation of interstate power. I shall persist in that. I have opposed the Federal Government undertaking the operation of the power business. I shall continue that opposition.
I have for years supported the conservation of national resources. I have made frequent recommendations to the Congress in respect thereto, including legislation to correct the waste and destruction of these resources through the present interpretations of the antitrust laws. I shall continue to urge such action.
This depression has exposed many weaknesses in our economic system. There have been exploitation and abuse of financial power. We will fearlessly and unremittingly reform such abuses. I have recommended to the Congress the reform of our banking laws. Unfortunately this legislation has not yet been enacted. The American people must have protection from insecure banking through a stronger system. They must be relieved from conditions which permit the credit machinery of the country to be made available without adequate check for wholesale speculation in securities with ruinous consequences to millions of our citizens and to national economy. I recommended to the Congress emergency relief for depositors in closed banks. For seven years I have repeatedly warned against private loans abroad for nonproductive purposes. I shall persist in those matters.
I have insisted upon a balanced budget as the foundation of all public and private financial stability and of all public confidence. I shall insist on the maintenance of that policy. Recent increases in revenues, while temporary, should be again examined, and if they tend to sap the vitality of industry, and thus retard employment, they must be revised….
I have repeatedly for seven years urged the Congress either themselves to abolish obsolete bureaus and commissions and to reorganize the whole government structure in the interest of the economy, or to give someone the authority to do so. I have succeeded partially in securing authority, but I regret that no substantial act under it is to be effective until approved by the next Congress.
With the collapse in world prices and depreciated currencies the farmer was never so dependent upon his tariff protection for recovery as he is at the present time. We shall hold to that. We have enacted many measures of emergency relief to agriculture. They are having effect. I shall keep them functioning until the strain is past. The original purpose of the Farm Board was to strengthen the efforts of the farmer to establish his own farmer-owned, farmer-controlled marketing agencies. It has greatly succeeded in this purpose, even in these times of adversity. The departure of the Farm Board from its original purpose by making loans to farmers' cooperatives to preserve prices from panic served the emergency, but such action in normal times is absolutely destructive to the farmers' interests.
We still have vast problems to solve in agriculture. No power on earth can restore prices except by restoration of general recovery and markets. Every measure we have taken looking to general recovery is of benefit to the farmer. There is no relief to the farmer by extending government bureaucracy to control his production and thus curtail his liberties, nor by subsidies that bring only more bureaucracy and ultimate collapse. I shall oppose them.
The most practicable relief to the farmer today aside from the general economic recovery is a definite program of readjustment and coordination of national, state, and local taxation which will relieve real property, especially the farms, from unfair burdens of taxation which the current readjustment in values has brought about. To that purpose I propose to devote myself.
I have always favored the development of rivers and harbors and highways. These improvements have been greatly expedited. We shall continue that work to completion. After twenty years of discussion between the United States and the great nation to the north, I have signed a treaty for the construction of the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence seaway. That treaty does not injure the Chicago to the Gulf waterway, the work upon which, together with the whole Mississippi system I have expedited, and in which I am equally interested. We shall undertake this great seaway, the greatest public improvement upon our continent, with its consequent employment of many men as quickly as the treaty is ratified.
Our views upon sound currency require no elucidation. They are indelibly a part of Republican history and policies. We have affirmed them by preventing the Democratic majority in the House from effecting wild schemes of uncontrolled inflation.
I have furnished to the Congress and to the states authoritative information upon the urgent need of reorganization of law enforcement agencies, the courts and their procedure, that we may reduce the lawlessness and crime in the country. I have recommended specific reforms to the Congress. I shall again press this necessity.
Upon my recommendations the Congress has enacted the most extensive measures of prison reform of two generations. As a result, and despite the doubling of the number of persons under Federal restraint in three years, we are today returning them to society far better fitted for citizenship.
There are many other important subjects fully set forth in the platform and in my public statements in the past.
The leadership of the Federal Government is not to be confined to economic and international questions. There are problems of the home, of education of children, of citizenship, the most vital of all to the future of the nation. Except in the case of aid to States which I have recommended for stimulation of the protection and health of children, they are not matters of legislation. We have given leadership to the initiative of our people for social advancement through organization against illiteracy, through the White House conferences on protection and health of children, through the National Conference on Home Ownership, through stimulation to social and recreational agencies. There are the visible evidences of spiritual leadership by government. They will be continued and constantly invigorated.
My foreign policies have been devoted to strengthening the foundations of world peace. We inaugurated the London naval treaty which reduced arms and limited the ratios between the fleets of the three powers. We have made concrete proposals at Geneva to reduce armaments of the world by one third. It would save the taxpayers of the world a billion a year. It would save us over $200,000,000. It would reduce fear and danger of war. We have expanded the arbitration of disputes. I have recommended joining the World Court under proper reservations preserving our freedom of action. We have given leadership in transforming the Kellogg-Briand pact from an inspiring outlawry of war to an organized instrument for peaceful settlements backed by definite mobilization of world public opinion against aggression. We shall, under the spirit of that pact, consult with other nations in times of emergency to promote world peace. We shall enter no agreements committing us to any future course of action or which call for use of force to preserve peace.
Above all, I have projected a new doctrine into international affairs, the doctrine that we do not and never will recognize title to possession of territory gained in violation of the peace pacts. That doctrine has been accepted again by all the nations of the Western Hemisphere. That is public opinion made tangible and effective.
This world needs peace. It must have peace with justice. I shall continue to strive unceasingly, with every power of mind and spirit, to explore every possible path that leads toward a world in which right triumphs over force, in which reason rules over passion, in which men and women may rear their children not to be devoured by war but to pursue in safety the nobler arts of peace.
I shall continue to build on that design.
Across the path of the nation's consideration of vast problems of economic and social order there has arisen a bitter controversy over the control of the liquor traffic. I have always sympathized with the high purpose of the Eighteenth Amendment, and I have used every power at my command to make it effective over the entire country. I have hoped it was the final solution of the evils of the liquor traffic against which our people have striven for generations. It has succeeded in great measure in those many communities where the majority sentiment is favorable to it. But in other and increasing number of communities there is a majority sentiment unfavorable to it. Laws opposed by majority sentiment create resentment which undermines enforcement and in the end produces degeneration and crime.
Our opponents pledge the members of their party to destroy every vestige of constitutional and effective Federal control of the traffic. That means over large areas the return of the saloon system with its corruption, its moral and social abuse which debauched the home, its deliberate interference with those States endeavoring to find honest solution, its permeation of political parties, and its pervasion of legislatures, which even touched at the capital of the nation. The Eighteenth Amendment smashed that regime as by a stroke of lightning. I cannot consent to the return of that system.
At the same time, we must recognize the difficulties which have developed in making the Eighteenth Amendment effective and that grave abuses have grown up. In order to secure the enforcement of the amendment under our dual form of government, the constitutional provision called for concurrent action on one hand by the State and local authorities and on the other by the Federal Government. Its enforcement requires independent but coincident action of both agencies. An increasing number of States and municipalities are proving themselves unwilling to engage in such enforcement. Owing to these forces there is in large sections an increasing illegal traffic in liquor. But worse than this there has been in those areas a spread of disrespect not only for this law but for all laws, grave dangers of practical nullification of the Constitution, a degeneration in municipal government, and an increase in subsidized crime and violence. I cannot consent to the continuation of this regime.
I refuse to accept either of these destinies, on the one hand to return to the old saloon with its political and social corruption, or on the other to ensure the bootlegger and the speakeasy with their abuses and crime. Either is intolerable. These are not the ways out.
Our objective must be a sane solution, not a blind leap back to old evils. Moreover, such a step backward would result in a chaos of new evils never yet experienced, because the local systems of prohibitions and controls which were developed over generations have been in large degree abandoned in the amendment.
The Republican platform recommends submission of the question to the States, that the people themselves may determine whether they desire a change, but insists that this submission shall propose a constructive and not a destructive change. It does not dictate to the conscience of any member of this party.
The first duty of the President of the United States is to enforce the laws as they exist. That I shall continue to do to the utmost of my ability. Any other course would be the abrogation of the very guaranties of liberty itself.
The Constitution gives the President no power or authority with respect to changes in the Constitution itself, nevertheless, my countrymen have a right to know my conclusions upon this matter. They are clear and need not be misunderstood. They are based upon the broad facts I have stated, upon my experience in this high office, and upon the deep conviction that our purpose must be the elimination of the evils of this traffic from this civilization by practical measurers.
It is my belief that in order to remedy present evils a change is necessary by which we resummon a proper share of initiative and responsibility which the very essence of our government demands shall rest upon the States and local authorities. That change must avoid the return of the saloon.
It is my conviction that the nature of this change, and one upon which all reasonable people can find common ground, is that each State shall be given the right to deal with the problem as it may determine, but subject to absolute guarantees in the Constitution of the United States to protect each State from interference and invasion by its neighbors, and that in no part of the United States shall there be a return of the saloon system with its inevitable political and social corruption and its organized interference with other States.
American statesmanship is capable of working out such a solution and making it effective.
My fellow citizens, the discussion of great problems of economic life and of government often seems abstract and cold. But within their right solution lie the happiness and hope of a great people. Without such solution all else is mere verbal sympathy.
Today millions of our fellow countrymen are out of work. Prices of the farmers' products are below a living standard. Many millions more who are in business or hold employment are haunted by fears for the future. No man with a spark of humanity can sit in my place without suffering from the picture of their anxieties and hardships before him day and night. They would be more than human if they were not led to blame their condition upon the government in power. I have understood their sufferings and have worked to the limits of my strength to produce action that would really help them.
Much remains to be done to attain recovery. The emergency measures now in action represent an unparalleled use of national power to relieve distress, to provide employment, to serve agriculture, the preserve the stability of the government, to maintain the integrity of our institutions. Our policies prevent unemployment caused by floods of imported goods and laborers. Our policies preserve peace. They embrace cooperation with other nations in those fields in which we can serve. With patience and perseverance these measures will succeed.
Despite the dislocation of economic life our great tools of production and distribution are more efficient than ever before; our fabulous natural resources, our farms, our homes, our skill are unimpaired. From the hard-won experience of this depression we shall build stronger methods of prevention and stronger methods of protection to our people from the abuses which have become evident. We shall march to far greater accomplishment.
With united effort we can and will turn the tide toward the restoration of business, employment, and agriculture. It will call for the utmost devotion and wisdom. Every reserve of American courage and vision must be called upon to sustain us and to plan wisely for the future.
Through it all our first duty is to preserve unfettered that dominant American spirit which has produced our enterprise and individual character. That is the bedrock of the past, and that is the guaranty of the future. Not regimented mechanisms but free men is our goal. Herein is the fundamental issue. A representative democracy, progressive and unafraid to meet its problems, but meeting them upon the foundations of experience and not upon the wave of emotion or the insensate demands of a radicalism which grasps at every opportunity to exploit the sufferings of a people.
With these courses we shall emerge from this great national strain with our American system of life and government strengthened. Our people will be free to reassert their energy and enterprise in a society eager to reward in full measure those whose industry serves its well being. Our youth will find the doors of equal opportunity still open.
The problems of the next few years are not only economic. They are also moral and spiritual. The present check to our material success must deeply stir our national conscience upon the purposes of life itself. It must cause us to revalue and reshape our drift from materialism to a higher note of individual and national ideals.
Underlying every purpose is the spiritual application of moral ideals which are the fundamental basis of happiness in a people. This is a land of homes, churches, schoolhouses dedicated to the sober and enduring satisfactions of family life and the rearing of children in an atmosphere of ideals and religious faith. Only with these high standards can we hold society together, and only from them can government survive or business prosper. They are the sole insurance to the safety of our children and the continuity of the nation.
If it shall appear that while I have had the honor of the Presidency I have contributed the part required from this high office to bringing the Republic through this dark night, and if in my administration we shall see the break of dawn to a better day, I shall have done my part in the world. No man can have a greater honor than that.
I have but one desire: that is, to see my country again on the road to prosperity which shall be more sane and lasting through the lesson of experience, to see the principles and ideals of the American people perpetuated.
I rest the case of the Republican Party on the intelligence and the just discernment of the American people. Should my countrymen again place upon me the responsibilities of this high office, I shall carry forward the work of reconstruction. I shall hope long before another four years have passed to see the world prosperous and at peace and every American home again in the sunshine of genuine progress and genuine prosperity. I shall seek to maintain untarnished and unweakened those fundamental traditions and principles upon which our nation was founded and upon which it has grown. I shall invite and welcome the help of every man and woman in the preservation of the United States for the happiness of its people. This is my pledge to the nation and to Almighty God.