It is half melancholy and half amusing to see the way in which well-meaning people gather to do honor to the men who, in company with John Brown, and under the lead of Abraham Lincoln, faced and solved the great problems of the nineteenth century, while, at the same time, these same good people nervously shrink from, or frantically
denounce, those who are trying to meet the problems of the twentieth century
It seems to me that, in these words, Lincoln took substantially the attitude that we ought to take; he showed the proper sense of
proportion in his relative estimates of capital and labor, of human rights and property rights.
Above all, in this speech, as in many others, he taught a lesson in wise kindliness and
charity; an indispensable lesson to us of to-day.
One of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special
At many stages in the advance of humanity, this conflict between the men who
possess more than they have earned and the men who have earned more than they
possess is the central condition of progress.
I stand for the square deal. But when I say that I am for the square deal, I mean not merely that I stand for fair play under the present rules of the game, but that I stand for having those rules changed so as to work for a more substantial equality of
opportunity and of reward for equally good service.
Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and
corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit.
expenditures for political purposes, and especially such
expenditures by public service corporations, have supplied one of the principal sources of corruption in our political affairs.
It has become entirely clear that we must have government supervision of the capitalization, not only of public service
corporations, including, particularly, railways, but of all
corporations doing an interstate business.
The absence of effective State, and, especially, national,
restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.
This, I know, implies a policy of a far more active governmental
interference with social and economic conditions in this country than we have yet had, but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary.
Every dollar received should represent a dollar’s worth of
service rendered — not gambling in stocks, but
Therefore, I believe in a
graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in another tax which is far more easily collected and far more effective — a
graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, properly safeguarded against evasion, and increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.
It is of profound importance that our
financial system should be promptly investigated, and so thoroughly and effectively revised as to make it certain that hereafter our currency will no longer fail at critical times to meet our needs.
It is hardly necessary to me to repeat that I believe in an efficient army and a navy large enough to
secure for us abroad that respect which is the surest guarantee of peace.
Justice and fair dealings among nations rest upon
principles identical with those which control justice and fair dealing among the individuals of which nations are composed, with the vital exception that each nation must do its own part in international police work.
Of all the questions which can come before this nation, short of the actual preservation of its existence in a great war, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us, and training them into a better race to inhabit the land and pass it on.
Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.
The man who wrongly holds that every human right is secondary to his profit must now give way to the
advocate of human welfare, who rightly maintains that every man holds his property subject to the general right of the community to regulate its use to whatever degree the public welfare may require it.
The fundamental thing to do for every man is to give him a chance to reach a place in which he will make the greatest possible
contribution to the public welfare.
No man can be a good citizen unless he has a wage more than
sufficient to cover the bare cost of living, and hours of labor short enough so after his day’s work is done he will have time and energy to bear his share in the management of the community, to help in carrying the general load.
We need comprehensive workman’s
compensation acts, both State and national laws to regulate child labor and work for women, and, especially, we need in our common schools not merely education in book-learning, but also practical training for daily life and work.
We need to enforce better
sanitary conditions for our workers and to extend the use of safety appliances for workers in industry and commerce, both within and between the States.
If I could ask but one thing of my fellow countrymen, my request would be that, whenever they go in for
reform, they remember the two sides, and that they always exact justice from one side as much as from the other.
efficiency has to do, not only with natural resources and with men, but it is equally concerned with institutions. The State must be made efficient for the work which concerns only the people of the State; and the nation for that which concerns all the people.
I do not ask for the over centralization; but I do ask that we work in a spirit of broad and far-reaching
nationalism where we work for what concerns our people as a whole.
The National Government belongs to the whole American people, and where the whole American people are interested, that interest can be guarded effectively only by the National Government. The betterment which we seek must be
accomplished, I believe, mainly through the National Government.
It is impatient of the utter confusion that results from
local legislatures attempting to treat national issues as
local issues. It is still more impatient of the impotence which springs from over division of governmental powers, the impotence which makes it possible for
local selfishness or for legal cunning, hired by wealthy special interests, to bring national activities to a deadlock.
This New Nationalism regards the executive power as the
steward of the public welfare.
It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human
welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.
Those who oppose reform will do well to remember that ruin in its worst form is inevitable if our national life brings us nothing better than swollen fortunes for the few and the triumph in both politics and business of a sordid and selfish
I believe that the prompt removal of unfaithful or
incompetent public servants should be made easy and sure in whatever way experience shall show to be most expedient in any given class of cases.
The material progress and
prosperity of a nation are desirable chiefly so long as they lead to the moral and material welfare of all good citizens.
We must have the right kind of
character that makes a man, first of all, a good man in the home, a good father, and a good husband — that makes a man a good neighbor.
You must have that, and, then, in addition, you must have the kind of law and the kind of
administration of the law which will give to those qualities in the private citizen the best possible chance for development.
The prime problem of our nation is to get the right type of good citizenship, and, to get it, we must have progress, and our public men must be genuinely