The New Nationalism Theodore Roosevelt

the new nationalism we come here today to commemorate one of the epic making events of the long struggle for the rights of man the long struggle for the uplift of humanity our country this great Republic means nothing unless it means the triumph of a real democracy the triumph of popular government and in the long run of an economic system under which each man shall be guaranteed the opportunity to show the best that there is in him that is why the history of America is now the central feature of the history of the world for the world has set its face hopefully toward our democracy and my fellow citizens each one of you carries on your shoulders not only the burden of doing well for the sake of your country but the burden of doing well and of seeing that this nation does well for the sake of mankind there have been two great crises in our country's history first when it was formed and then again when it was perpetuated and in the second of these great crises in the time of stress and strain which culminated in a civil war on the outcome of which depended the justification of what had been done earlier you men of the Grand Army you men who fought through the Civil War not only did you justify your generation but you justified the wisdom of Washington and Washington's colleagues if this Republic had been founded by them only to be split asunder into fragments when the strain came then the judgment of the world would have been that Washington's work was not worth doing it was you who crowned Washington's work as you carried to achievement the high purpose of Abraham Lincoln now with this second period of our history the name of John Brown will forever be associated and Kansas was the theatre upon which the first act of the second of our great national life dramas was played it was the result of the struggle in Kansas which determined that our country should be indeed as well as a name devoted to both Union and freedom that the great experiment of democratic government on a national scale should succeed and not fail in name we had the Declaration of Independence in 1776 but we gave the lie by our acts to the words of the Declaration until 1865 and words count for nothing except insofar as they represent acts this is true everywhere but my friends it should be truest of all in political life a broken promise is bad enough in private life it is worse in the field of politics no man is worth his salt in public life who makes on the stump a pledge which he does not keep after election and if he makes such a pledge and does not keep it hunt him out of public life I care for the great deeds of the past chiefly as Spurs to drive us onward in the present I speak of the men of the past partly that they may be honored by our praise of them but more that they may serve as examples for the future it was a heroic struggle and as is inevitable with all struggles it also had a dark and terrible side very much was done of good and much also of evil and as was inevitable in such a period of revolution often the same man did both good and evil for our great fortune as a nation we the people of the United States as a whole can now afford to forget the evil or at least to remember it without bitterness and to fix our eyes with pride only on the good that was accomplished even in ordinary times there are very few of us who do not see the problems of life as through a glass darkly and when the glass is clouded by the murk of furious popular passion the vision of the best and the brightest is dimmed looking back we are all of us now able to do justice to the Valor the disinterestedness and the love of the right as to each it was given to see the right shown both by the men of the north and the men of the south in that contest which was finally decided by the attitude of the West we can admire the heroic valor the sincerity the self devotion shown alike by the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the grey and our sadness that such men should have to fight one another is tempered by the glad knowledge that ever hereafter their descendants shall be fighting side-by-side struggling in peace as well as war for the uplift of their common country all alike resolute to race to the highest pitch of honour and usefulness the nation to which they all belong as for the veterans of the Grand Army of the Republic they deserve honor and recognition such as is paid to no other citizens of the Republic for to them the Republic owes it all for to them it is its very existence it is because of what you and your comrades did in the dark years that we have today walk each of us head erect and proud that we belong not to one of a dozen little squabbling contemptible Commonwealth's but to the mightiest nation upon which the Sun shines I do not speak of this struggle of the past merely from a historic standpoint our interest is primarily in the application today of the lessons taught by the contest a half-century ago it is of little use for us to pay little tea to the mighty men of the past unless we sincerely endeavour to apply to the problems of the present precisely the qualities which in other crises enabled the men of that day to meet those crises 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 19th century while at the same time these same good people nervously shrink from or frantically denounced those who are trying to meet the problems of the 20th century in the spirit which was accountable for the successful solution of the problems of Lincoln's time of that generation of men to whom we owe so much the man to whom we owe the most is of course Lincoln part of our debt to him is because he forecast our present struggle and saw the way out he said quote I hold that while man exists it is his duty to improve not only his own condition but to assist in ameliorating mankind end quote and again quote labor is prior to and independent of capital capital is only the fruit of labor and could never have existed if labor had not first existed labor is the superior of capital and deserves much the higher consideration end quote if that remark was original with me I should be even more strongly denounced as a communist agitator then I shall be anyhow it is Lincoln's I am only quoting it and that is one side that is the side the capitalists should hear now let the working man hear his side quote capital has its rights which are as worthy of protection as any other rights nor should this lead to a war upon the owners of property property is the fruit of Labor property is desirable and is a positive good in the world end quote and then comes a thoroughly Lincoln like sentence quote let not him who is houseless pulled down the house of another but let him work diligently and build one for himself thus by example assuring that his own shall be safe from violence when built end quote 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 timeliness and charity an indispensable lesson to us of today but this wise kind leanness and charity never weakened his arm or numbed his heart we cannot afford weakly to blind ourselves to the actual conflict which faces us today the issue is joined and we must fight or fail in every why struggle for human betterment one of the main objects and often the only object has been to achieve in large measure equality of opportunity in the struggle for this great end nations rise from barbarism to civilization and through it people press forward from one stage of enlightenment to the next one of the chief factors in progress is the destruction of special privilege the essence of any struggle for healthy Liberty has always been and must always be to take from someone man or class of men the right to enjoy power or wealth or position or immunity which has not been earned by service to his they're fellows that is what you've fought for in the Civil War and that is what we strive for now 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 in our day it appears as the struggle of Freeman to gain and hold the right of self-government as against the special interests who twist the methods of free government into machinery for defeating the popular will at every stage and under all circumstances the essence of the struggle is to equalize opportunity destroy privilege and give to the life and citizenship of every individual the highest possible value both to himself and to the Commonwealth that is nothing new all I ask in civil life is what you fought for in the Civil War I asked that civil life be carried on according to the spirit in which the army was carried on you never get perfect justice but the effort in handling the army was to bring to the front the men who could do the job nobody grudged promotion to grant Sherman Thomas or Sheridan because they earned it the only complaint was when a man got a promotion which he did not earn practical equality of opportunity for all citizens when we achieve it we'll have two great results first every man will have a fair chance to make of himself all that in him lies to reach the highest point to which his capacities unassisted by special privilege of his own and unhampered by the special privilege of others can carry him and to get for himself and his family substantially what he has earned second equality of opportunity means that the Commonwealth will get from every citizen the highest service of which he is capable no man who carries the burden of the special privileges of another can give to the Commonwealth that service to which it is fairly entitled 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 a reward for equally good service one word of warning which i think is hardly necessary in Kansas when I say I want a square deal for the poor man I do not mean that I want a square deal for the man who remains poor because he has not the energy to work for himself if a man who has had a chance will not make good then he has got to quit and you men of the Grand Army you want justice for the brave man who fought and punishment for the coward who shirked his work is that not so now this means that our government national and state must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War so now the great special interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit we must drive the special interests out of politics that is one of our tasks today every special interest is entitled to justice full fair and complete and now mind you if there were any attempt by mob violence to plunder and work harm to the special interest whatever it may be that I most dislike and the wealthy man whomsoever he may be for whom I had the greatest contempt I would fight for him and you would if you were worth your salt he should have justice for every special interest is entitled to justice but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress to a voice on the bench or to representation in any public office the Constitution guarantees protection to property and we must make that promise good but it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation the true friend of property the true conservative is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the Commonwealth who insists that the creature of man's making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it the citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being there can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains we must have complete and effective publicity of corporate affairs so that the people may know beyond peradventure whether the corporations obey the law and whether their management entitles them to the confidence of the public it is necessary that law should be passed to prohibit the use of corporate funds directly or indirectly for political purposes it is still more necessary that such laws should be thoroughly enforced corporate 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 capitalisation not only a public service corporations including particularly railways but of all corporations doing an interstate business I do not wish to see the nation forced into the ownership of the railways if it can possibly be avoided and the only alternative is thoroughgoing and effective legislation which shall be based on a full knowledge of all the facts including a physical valuation of property this physical valuation is not needed or at least is very rarely needed for fixing rates but it is needed as the basis of honest capitalization we have come to recognize that franchises should never be granted except for a limited time and never without proper provision for compensation to the public it is my personal belief that the same kind and degree of control and supervision which should be exercised over public service corporations should be extended also to combinations which control necessaries of life such as meat oil or coal or which deal in them on an important scale I have no doubt that the ordinary man who has control of them is much like ourselves I have no doubt he would like to do well but I want to have enough supervision to help him realize that desire to do well I believe that the officers and especially the directors of corporations should be held personally responsible when any corporation breaks the law combinations in industry are the result of an imperative economic law which cannot be repealed by political legislation the effort at prohibiting all combination has substantially failed the way out lies not in attempting to prevent such combinations but in completely controlling them in the interest of the public welfare for that purpose the Federal Bureau of corporations is an agency of first importance its powers and therefore its efficiency as well as that of the Interstate Commerce Commission should be largely increased we have a right to expect from the Bureau of corporations and from the Interstate Commerce Commission a very high grade of public service we should be assure of the proper conduct of the Interstate railways and the proper management of Interstate business as we are now sure of the conduct and management of the national banks and we should have as effective supervision in one case as in the other the Hepburn Act and the amendment to the Act in the shape in which it finally passed Congress at the last session represent a long step in advance and we must go yet further there is a widespread belief among our people that under the methods of making tariffs which have hitherto obtained the special interests are too influential probably this is true of both the big special interests and a little special interests these methods have put a premium on selfishness and naturally the selfish big interests have gotten more than their smaller though equally selfish brothers the duty of Congress is to provide a method by which the interest of the whole people shall be all that receives consideration to this end there must be an expert tariff commission wholly removed from the possibility of political pressure or of improper business influence such a commission can find the real difference between costs of production which is mainly the difference of labor cost here and abroad as fast as its recommendations are made I believe in revising one schedule at a time a general revision of the tariff almost inevitably leads to log-rolling and the subordination of the general public interest to local and special interests the absence of effective state and especially national upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormous ly wealthy and economically powerful men whose chief object is to hold and increase their power the prime need to is to change the conditions which enable these men to accumulate power which it is not for the general welfare that they should hold or exercise we grudge no man a fortune which represents his own power and sagacity when exercised with entire regard to the welfare of his fellows again comrades over there take the lesson from your own experience not only did you not grudge but you glory din the promotion of the great generals who gained their promotion by leading their army to victory so it is with us we grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well used it is not even enough that it should have been gained without doing damage to the community we should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community this I know implies a policy of a far more active governmental interference with social and economic conditions in this country then we have yet had but I think we have got to face the fact that such an increase in governmental control is now necessary no man should receive a dollar unless that dollar has been fairly earned every dollar received should represent a dollars worth of service rendered not gambling and stocks but service rendered the really big fortune the swollen fortune by the mere fact of its size acquires qualities which differentiate it in kind as well as in degree from what is possessed by men of relatively small means 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 the people of the United States suffer from periodical financial panics to a degree substantially unknown to the other nations which approach us in financial strength there is no reason why we should suffer what they escaped 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 a word of special warning to my fellow citizens who are as progressive as I hope I am I want them to keep their interest in our international affairs and I want them also continually to remember Uncle Sam's interests abroad 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 if you get into trouble here you can call for the police but if Uncle Sam gets into trouble he has got to be his own policeman and I want to see him strong enough to encourage the peaceful aspirations of other peoples in connection with us I believe in national friendships and hardiest goodwill to all nations but national friendships like those between men must be founded on respect as well as on liking on forbearance as well as upon trust I should be heartily ashamed of any American who did not try to make the American government act as justly towards the other nations in international relations as he himself would act toward any individual in private relations I should be heartily ashamed to see us wrong a weaker power and I should hang my head forever if we tamely suffered wrong from a stronger power of conservation I shall speak more at length elsewhere conservation means development as much as it does protection I recognize the right and duty of this generation to develop and use the natural resources of our land but I do not recognize the right to waste them or to rob by wasteful use the generations that come after us I ask nothing of the nation except that it's so behaved as each farmer here behaves with reference to his own children that farmer is a poor creature who skins the land and leaves it worthless to his children the farmer is a good farmer who having enabled the land to support himself and to provide for the education of his children leaves it to them a little better than he found it himself I believe the same thing of a nation moreover I believe that the natural resources must be used for the benefit of all our people and not monopolized for the benefit of the few and here again is another case in which I am accused of taking a revolutionary attitude people forget now that 100 years ago there were public men of good character who advocated the nation selling its public lands in great quantities so that the nation could get the most money out of it and giving it to the men who could cultivate it for their own uses we took the proper Democratic ground that the land should be granted in small sections to the men who were actually to Tillett and live on it now with water power with the forests with the mines we are brought face to face with the fact that there are many people who will go with us in conserving the resources only if they are allowed to exploit them for their own benefit that is one of the fundamental reasons why the special interests should be driven out of politics 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 that 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 ensuring the safety and continuance of the nation let me add that the health and vitality of our people are at least as well worth conserving as their forests waters lands and minerals and in this great work the national government must bear a most important part I have spoken elsewhere also of the great task which lies before the farmers of the country to get for themselves and their wives and children not only the benefits of better farming but also those of better business methods and bed conditions of life on the farm the burden of this great task will fall as it should mainly upon the great organizations of the farmers themselves I am glad at will for I believe they are well able to handle it in particular there are strong reasons why the department's of Agriculture of the various states the US Department of Agriculture and the agricultural colleges and Experiment Station should extend their work to cover all phases of farm life instead of limiting themselves as they have far too often limited themselves in the past solely to the question of the production of crops and now a special word to the farmer I want to see him make the farm as fine a farm as it can be made and let him remember to see that the improvement goes on indoors as well as out let him remember that the farmer's wife should have her share of thought and attention just as much as the farmer himself nothing is more true than that excess of every kind is followed by reaction a fact which should be pondered by reformer and reactionary alike we are face to face with new conceptions of the relations of property to human welfare chiefly because certain advocates of the rights of property as against the rights of men have been pushing their claims too far 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 but I think we may go still further the right to regulate the use of wealth in the public interest is universally admitted let us admit also the right to regulate the terms and conditions of labor which is the chief element of wealth directly in the interest of the common good 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 understand what I say there give him a chance not push him up if he will not be pushed help any man who stumbles if he lies down it is a poor job to try to but if he is a worthy man try your best to see that he gets a chance to show the worth that is in him 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 keep countless men from being good citizens by the conditions of life by which we surround them we need comprehensive workmen'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 also friends in the interest of the working man himself we need to set our faces like flint against mob violence just as against corporate greed against violence and injustice and lawlessness by wage workers just as much as against lawless cunning and greed and selfish arrogance of employers 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 I have small use for the public servant who can always see and denounce the corruption of the capitalists but who cannot persuade himself especially before election to say a word about lawless mob violence and I have equally small use for the man be he a judge on the bench or editor of a great paper or wealthy and influential private citizen who can see clearly enough and denounce the lawlessness of mob violence but whose eyes are closed so that he is blind when the question is one of corruption of business on a gigantic scale also remember what I said about excess in reformer and reactionary alike if the reactionary man who thinks of nothing but the rights of Bertie could have his way he would bring about a revolution and one of my chief fears in connection with progress comes because I do not want to see our people for a lack of proper leadership compelled the follow men whose intentions are excellent but whose eyes are a little too while to make it really safe to trust them here in Kansas there is one paper which habitually denounces me as a tool of Wall Street and at the same time frantically repudiates the statement that I am a socialist on the ground that that is an unwarranted slander of the socialists national efficiency has many factors it is a necessary result of the principle of conservation widely applied in the end it will determine our failure or success as a nation national efficiency has to do not only with the national 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 there must remain no neutral ground to serve as a refuge for lawbreakers and especially for lawbreakers of great wealth who can hire the vulpine legal cunning which will teach them how to avoid both jurisdictions it is a misfortune when the national legislature fails to do its duty in providing a national remedy so that the only national activity is the purely negative activity of the judiciary in forbidding the state to exercise power in the premises I do not ask for 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 we are Americans our common interests are as broad as the continent I speak to you here in Kansas exactly as I would speak in New York or Georgia for the most vital problems are those which affect us all alike 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 the American people are right in demanding that new national without which we cannot hope to deal with new problems the new nationalism puts the national need before sectional or personal advantage it is impatient of the utter confusion that results from local legislators 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 I believe in shaping the ends of government to protect property as well as human welfare normally and in the long run the ends are the same but whenever the alternative must be faced I am for men and not for property as you were in the Civil War I am far from under estimating the importance of dividends but I rank dividends below human character again I do not have any sympathy with the reformer who says he does not care for dividends of course economic welfare is necessary for a man must be able to pull his own weight and be able to support his family I know well that the reformers must not bring upon the people economic ruin or the Reformers themselves will go down in the ruin but we must be ready to face temporary disaster whether or not brought on by those who will war against us to the knife 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 triumphs in both politics and business of assorted and selfish materialism if our political institutions were perfect they would absolutely prevent the political domination of money in any part of our affairs we need to make our political representatives more quickly and sensitively responsive to the people whose servants they are more direct action by the people in their own affairs under proper safeguards is vitally necessary the direct primary is a step in this direction if it is associated with a corrupt services act effective to prevent the advantage of the man willing recklessly and unscrupulously to spend money over his more honest competitor it is particularly important that all monies received are expended for campaign purposes should be publicly accounted for not only after election but before election as well political action must be made simpler easier and freer from confusion for every citizen 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 the most expedient in any given class of cases one of the fundamental necessities in a representative government such as ours is to make certain that the men to whom that people delegate their power shall serve the people by whom they are elected and not the special interests I believe that every national officer elected or appointed should be forbidden to perform any service or receive any compensation directly or indirectly from interstate corporations and a similar provision could not fail to be useful within the states the object of government is the welfare of the people 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 just in proportion as the average man and woman are honest capable of sound judgment and high ideals active in public affairs but first of all sound in their home and the father and mother of healthy children whom they bring up well just so far and no farther we may count our civilization a success we must have I believe we have already a genuine and permanent moral awakening without which no wisdom of legislation or administration really means anything and on the other hand we must try to secure the social and economic legislation without which any improvement due to purely moral agitation is necessarily evanescent let me again illustrate by a referee to the Grand Army you could not have won simply as a disorderly and disorganized mob you needed generals you needed careful administration of the most advanced type and a good commissary the cracker line you will remember that success was necessary in many different lines in order to bring about general success you had to have good administration in Washington just as you had to have the administration in the field and you had to have good work of the generals you could not have triumphed without the administration and leadership but it would all have been worthless if the average soldier had not had the right stuff in him he had to have the right stuff in him or you could not get it out of him in the last analysis therefore vitally necessary though it was to have the right kind of organization and the right kind of generalship it was even more vitally necessary that the average soldier should have the fighting edge the right character so it is in our civil life no matter how honest and decent we are in our private lives if we do not have the right kind of law and the right kind of administration of the law we cannot go forward as a nation that is imperative but it must be in addition to and not a substitute for the qualities that make us good citizens in the last analysis the most important elements in any man's career must be the some of those qualities which in the aggregate we speak of as character if he has not got it then no law that the wit of man can devise no administration of the law by the boldest and strongest executive will avail to help him we must have the right kind of character 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 progressive and of the new nationalism by Theodore Roosevelt

Maurice Vega

10 Responses

  1. This speech is right on. Property should be in the hands of the people. Capitalism is about private property and no one has destroyed private property like Ronald Reagan. Americans are increasingly paying rent, mortgages, car payments, and are becoming indebted while the few elites are sucking up property. Americans will own nothing but meager goods if Reaganism continues.

  2. There was only one president who squashed corruption like Teddy Roosevelt and his name was also Roosevelt. Our most progressive presidents made this country great! We were little before TR, and after FDR transformed the country we had the greatest middle class the world has seen. TR quotes Lincoln who is the biggest bleeding heart liberal president and our greatest president.

    Obama has made only two speeches in the voice of liberalism. That's it. We need to seek out the Roosevelts.

  3. If we would listen to what T.R. said and not what we think he said, our Congress would not be in such a mess. Our kids in school should be studying what T.R wrote and did for our country!

  4. On Mt. Rushmore, I'd replace Abraham Lincoln with Grover Cleveland and Theodore Roosevelt with Ronald Reagan.

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