By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

´╗┐Title: State of the Union Addresses
Author: Wilson, Woodrow
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "State of the Union Addresses" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

State of the Union Addresses of Woodrow Wilson

The addresses are separated by three asterisks: ***

Dates of addresses by Woodrow Wilson in this eBook:

  December 2, 1913
  December 8, 1914
  December 7, 1915
  December 5, 1916
  December 4, 1917
  December 2, 1918
  December 2, 1919
  December 7, 1920


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 2, 1913

Gentlemen of the Congress:

In pursuance of my constitutional duty to "give to the Congress information
of the state of the Union," I take the liberty of addressing you on several
matters which ought, as it seems to me, particularly to engage the
attention of your honorable bodies, as of all who study the welfare and
progress of the Nation.

I shall ask your indulgence if I venture to depart in some degree from the
usual custom of setting before you in formal review the many matters which
have engaged the attention and called for the action of the several
departments of the Government or which look to them for early treatment in
the future, because the list is long, very long, and would suffer in the
abbreviation to which I should have to subject it. I shall submit to you
the reports of the heads of the several departments, in which these
subjects are set forth in careful detail, and beg that they may receive the
thoughtful attention of your committees and of all Members of the Congress
who may have the leisure to study them. Their obvious importance, as
constituting the very substance of the business of the Government, makes
comment and emphasis on my part unnecessary.

The country, I am thankful to say, is at peace with all the world, and many
happy manifestations multiply about us of a growing cordiality and sense of
community of interest among the nations, foreshadowing an age of settled
peace and good will. More and more readily each decade do the nations
manifest their willingness to bind themselves by solemn treaty to the
processes of peace, the processes of frankness and fair concession. So far
the United States has stood at the front of such negotiations. She will, I
earnestly hope and confidently believe, give fresh proof of her sincere
adherence to the cause of international friendship by ratifying the several
treaties of arbitration awaiting renewal by the Senate. In addition to
these, it has been the privilege of the Department of State to gain the
assent, in principle, of no less than 31 nations, representing four-fifths
of the population of the world, to the negotiation of treaties by which it
shall be agreed that whenever differences of interest or of policy arise
which can not be resolved by the ordinary processes of diplomacy they shall
be publicly analyzed, discussed, and reported upon by a tribunal chosen by
the parties before either nation determines its course of action.

There is only one possible standard by which to determine controversies
between the United States and other nations, and that is compounded of
these two elements: Our own honor and our obligations to the peace of the
world. A test so compounded ought easily to be made to govern both the
establishment of new treaty obligations and the interpretation of those
already assumed.

There is but one cloud upon our horizon. That has shown itself to the south
of us, and hangs over Mexico. There can be no certain prospect of peace in
America until Gen. Huerta has surrendered his usurped authority in Mexico;
until it is understood on all hands, indeed, that such pretended
governments will not be countenanced or dealt with by-the Government of the
United States. We are the friends of constitutional government in America;
we are more than its friends, we are its champions; because in no other way
can our neighbors, to whom we would wish in every way to make proof of our
friendship, work out their own development in peace and liberty. Mexico has
no Government. The attempt to maintain one at the City of Mexico has broken
down, and a mere military despotism has been set up which has hardly more
than the semblance of national authority. It originated in the usurpation
of Victoriano Huerta, who, after a brief attempt to play the part of
constitutional President, has at last cast aside even the pretense of legal
right and declared himself dictator. As a consequence, a condition of
affairs now exists in Mexico which has made it doubtful whether even the
most elementary and fundamental rights either of her own people or of the
citizens of other countries resident within her territory can long be
successfully safeguarded, and which threatens, if long continued, to
imperil the interests of peace, order, and tolerable life in the lands
immediately to the south of us. Even if the usurper had succeeded in his
purposes, in despite of the constitution of the Republic and the rights of
its people, he would have set up nothing but a precarious and hateful
power, which could have lasted but a little while, and whose eventual
downfall would have left the country in a more deplorable condition than
ever. But he has not succeeded. He has forfeited the respect and the moral
support even of those who were at one time willing to see him succeed.
Little by little he has been completely isolated. By a little every day his
power and prestige are crumbling and the collapse is not far away. We shall
not, I believe, be obliged to alter our policy of watchful waiting. And
then, when the end comes, we shall hope to see constitutional order
restored in distressed Mexico by the concert and energy of such of her
leaders as prefer the liberty of their people to their own ambitions.

I turn to matters of domestic concern. You already have under consideration
a bill for the reform of our system of banking and currency, for which the
country waits with impatience, as for something fundamental to its whole
business life and necessary to set credit free from arbitrary and
artificial restraints. I need not say how earnestly I hope for its early
enactment into law. I take leave to beg that the whole energy and attention
of the Senate be concentrated upon it till the matter is successfully
disposed of. And yet I feel that the request is not needed-that the Members
of that great House need no urging in this service to the country.

I present to you, in addition, the urgent necessity that special provision
be made also for facilitating the credits needed by the farmers of the
country. The pending currency bill does the farmers a great service. It
puts them upon an equal footing with other business men and masters of
enterprise, as it should; and upon its passage they will find themselves
quit of many of the difficulties which now hamper them in the field of
credit. The farmers, of course, ask and should be given no special
privilege, such as extending to them the credit of the Government itself.
What they need and should obtain is legislation which will make their own
abundant and substantial credit resources available as a foundation for
joint, concerted local action in their own behalf in getting the capital
they must use. It is to this we should now address ourselves.

It has, singularly enough, come to pass that we have allowed the industry
of our farms to lag behind the other activities of the country in its
development. I need not stop to tell you how fundamental to the life of the
Nation is the production of its food. Our thoughts may ordinarily be
concentrated upon the cities and the hives of industry, upon the cries of
the crowded market place and the clangor of the factory, but it is from the
quiet interspaces of the open valleys and the free hillsides that we draw
the sources of life and of prosperity, from the farm and the ranch, from
the forest and the mine. Without these every street would be silent, every
office deserted, every factory fallen into disrepair. And yet the farmer
does not stand upon the same footing with the forester and the miner in the
market of credit. He is the servant of the seasons. Nature determines how
long he must wait for his crops, and will not be hurried in her processes.
He may give his note, but the season of its maturity depends upon the
season when his crop matures, lies at the gates of the market where his
products are sold. And the security he gives is of a character not known in
the broker's office or as familiarly as it might be on the counter of the

The Agricultural Department of the Government is seeking to assist as never
before to make farming an efficient business, of wide co-operative effort,
in quick touch with the markets for foodstuffs. The farmers and the
Government will henceforth work together as real partners in this field,
where we now begin to see our way very clearly and where many intelligent
plans are already being put into execution. The Treasury of the United
States has, by a timely and well-considered distribution of its deposits,
facilitated the moving of the crops in the present season and prevented the
scarcity of available funds too often experienced at such times. But we
must not allow ourselves to depend upon extraordinary expedients. We must
add the means by which the, farmer may make his credit constantly and
easily available and command when he will the capital by which to support
and expand his business. We lag behind many other great countries of the
modern world in attempting to do this. Systems of rural credit have been
studied and developed on the other side of the water while we left our
farmers to shift for themselves in the ordinary money market. You have but
to look about you in any rural district to see the result, the handicap and
embarrassment which have been put upon those who produce our food.

Conscious of this backwardness and neglect on our part, the Congress
recently authorized the creation of a special commission to study the
various systems of rural credit which have been put into operation in
Europe, and this commission is already prepared to report. Its report ought
to make it easier for us to determine what methods will be best suited to
our own farmers. I hope and believe that the committees of the Senate and
House will address themselves to this matter with the most fruitful
results, and I believe that the studies and recently formed plans of the
Department of Agriculture may be made to serve them very greatly in their
work of framing appropriate and adequate legislation. It would be
indiscreet and presumptuous in anyone to dogmatize upon so great and
many-sided a question, but I feel confident that common counsel will
produce the results we must all desire.

Turn from the farm to the world of business which centers in the city and
in the factory, and I think that all thoughtful observers will agree that
the immediate service we owe the business communities of the country is to
prevent private monopoly more effectually than it has yet been prevented. I
think it will be easily agreed that we should let the Sherman anti-trust
law stand, unaltered, as it is, with its debatable ground about it, but
that we should as much as possible reduce the area of that debatable ground
by further and more explicit legislation; and should also supplement that
great act by legislation which will not only clarify it but also facilitate
its administration and make it fairer to all concerned. No doubt we shall
all wish, and the country will expect, this to be the central subject of
our deliberations during the present session; but it is a subject so
many-sided and so deserving of careful and discriminating discussion that I
shall take the liberty of addressing you upon it in a special message at a
later date than this. It is of capital importance that the business men of
this country should be relieved of all uncertainties of law with regard to
their enterprises and investments and a clear path indicated which they can
travel without anxiety. It is as important that they should be relieved of
embarrassment and set free to prosper as that private monopoly should be
destroyed. The ways of action should be thrown wide open.

I turn to a subject which I hope can be handled promptly and without
serious controversy of any kind. I mean the method of selecting nominees
for the Presidency of the United States. I feel confident that I do not
misinterpret the wishes or the expectations of the country when I urge the
prompt enactment of legislation which will provide for primary elections
throughout the country at which the voters of the several parties may
choose their nominees for the Presidency without the intervention of
nominating conventions. I venture the suggestion that this legislation
should provide for the retention of party conventions, but only for the
purpose of declaring and accepting the verdict of the primaries and
formulating the platforms of the parties; and I suggest that these
conventions should consist not of delegates chosen for this single purpose,
but of the nominees for Congress, the nominees for vacant seats in the
Senate of the United States, the Senators whose terms have not yet closed,
the national committees, and the candidates for the Presidency themselves,
in order that platforms may be framed by those responsible to the people
for carrying them into effect.

These are all matters of vital domestic concern, and besides them, outside
the charmed circle of our own national life in which our affections command
us, as well as our consciences, there stand out our obligations toward our
territories over sea. Here we are trustees. Porto Rico, Hawaii, the
Philippines, are ours, indeed, but not ours to do what we please with. Such
territories, once regarded as mere possessions, are no longer to be
selfishly exploited; they are part of the domain of public conscience and
of serviceable and enlightened statesmanship. We must administer them for
the people who live in them and with the same sense of responsibility to
them as toward our own people in our domestic affairs. No doubt we shall
successfully enough bind Porto Rico and the Hawaiian Islands to ourselves
by ties of justice and interest and affection, but the performance of our
duty toward the Philippines is a more difficult and debatable matter. We
can satisfy the obligations of generous justice toward the people of Porto
Rico by giving them the ample and familiar rights and privileges accorded
our own citizens in our own territories and our obligations toward the
people of Hawaii by perfecting the provisions for self-government already
granted them, but in the Philippines we must go further. We must hold
steadily in view their ultimate independence, and we must move toward the
time of that independence as steadily as the way can be cleared and the
foundations thoughtfully and permanently laid.

Acting under the authority conferred upon the President by Congress, I have
already accorded the people of the islands a majority in both houses of
their legislative body by appointing five instead of four native citizens
to the membership of the commission. I believe that in this way we shall
make proof of their capacity in counsel and their sense of responsibility
in the exercise of political power, and that the success of this step will
be sure to clear our view for the steps which are to follow. Step by step
we should extend and perfect the system of self-government in the islands,
making test of them and modifying them as experience discloses their
successes and their failures; that we should more and more put under the
control of the native citizens of the archipelago the essential instruments
of their life, their local instrumentalities of government, their schools,
all the common interests of their communities, and so by counsel and
experience set up a government which all the world will see to be suitable
to a people whose affairs are under their own control. At last, I hope and
believe, we are beginning to gain the confidence of the Filipino peoples.
By their counsel and experience, rather than by our own, we shall learn how
best to serve them and how soon it will be possible and wise to withdraw
our supervision. Let us once find the path and set out with firm and
confident tread upon it and we shall not wander from it or linger upon it.

A duty faces us with regard to Alaska which seems to me very pressing and
very imperative; perhaps I should say a double duty, for it concerns both
the political and the material development of the Territory. The people of
Alaska should be given the full Territorial form of government, and Alaska,
as a storehouse, should be unlocked. One key to it is a system of railways.
These the Government should itself build and administer, and the ports and
terminals it should itself control in the interest of all who wish to use
them for the service and development of the country and its people.

But the construction of railways is only the first step; is only thrusting
in the key to the storehouse and throwing back the lock and opening the
door. How the tempting resources of the country are to be exploited is
another matter, to which I shall take the liberty of from time to time
calling your attention, for it is a policy which must be worked out by
well-considered stages, not upon theory, but upon lines of practical
expediency. It is part of our general problem of conservation. We have a
freer hand in working out the problem in Alaska than in the States of the
Union; and yet the principle and object are the same, wherever we touch it.
We must use the resources of the country, not lock them up. There need be
no conflict or jealousy as between State and Federal authorities, for there
can be no essential difference of purpose between them. The resources in
question must be used, but not destroyed or wasted; used, but not
monopolized upon any narrow idea of individual rights as against the
abiding interests of communities. That a policy can be worked out by
conference and concession which will release these resources and yet not
jeopard or dissipate them, I for one have no doubt; and it can be done on
lines of regulation which need be no less acceptable to the people and
governments of the States concerned than to the people and Government of
the Nation at large, whose heritage these resources are. We must bend our
counsels to this end. A common purpose ought to make agreement easy.

Three or four matters of special importance and significance I beg, that
you will permit me to mention in closing.

Our Bureau of Mines ought to be equipped and empowered to render even more
effectual service than it renders now in improving the conditions of mine
labor and making the mines more economically productive as well as more
safe. This is an all-important part of the work of conservation; and the
conservation of human life and energy lies even nearer to our interests
than the preservation from waste of our material resources.

We owe it, in mere justice to the railway employees of the country, to
provide for them a fair and effective employers' liability act; and a law
that we can stand by in this matter will be no less to the advantage of
those who administer the railroads of the country than to the advantage of
those whom they employ. The experience of a large number of the States
abundantly proves that.

We ought to devote ourselves to meeting pressing demands of plain justice
like this as earnestly as to the accomplishment of political and economic
reforms. Social justice comes first. Law is the machinery for its
realization and is vital only as it expresses and embodies it.

An international congress for the discussion of all questions that affect
safety at sea is now sitting in London at the suggestion of our own
Government. So soon as the conclusions of that congress can be learned and
considered we ought to address ourselves, among other things, to the prompt
alleviation of the very unsafe, unjust, and burdensome conditions which now
surround the employment of sailors and render it extremely difficult to
obtain the services of spirited and competent men such as every ship needs
if it is to be safely handled and brought to port.

May I not express the very real pleas-are I have experienced in
co-operating with this Congress and sharing with it the labors of common
service to which it has devoted itself so unreservedly during the past
seven months of uncomplaining concentration upon the business of
legislation? Surely it is a proper and pertinent part of my report on "the
state of the Union" to express my admiration for the diligence, the good
temper, and the full comprehension of public duty which has already been
manifested by both the Houses; and I hope that it may not be deemed an
impertinent intrusion of myself into the picture if I say with how much and
how constant satisfaction I have availed myself of the privilege of putting
my time and energy at their disposal alike in counsel and in action.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 8, 1914


The session upon which you are now entering will be the closing session of
the Sixty-third Congress, a Congress, I venture to say, which will long be
remembered for the great body of thoughtful and constructive work which it
has done, in loyal response to the thought and needs of the country. I
should like in this address to review the notable record and try to make
adequate assessment of it; but no doubt we stand too near the work that has
been done and are ourselves too much part of it to play the part of
historians toward it.

Our program of legislation with regard to the regulation of business is now
virtually complete. It has been put forth, as we intended, as a whole, and
leaves no conjecture as to what is to follow. The road at last lies clear
and firm before business. It is a road which it can travel without fear or
embarrassment. It is the road to ungrudged, unclouded success. In it every
honest man, every man who believes that the public interest is part of his
own interest, may walk with perfect confidence.

Moreover, our thoughts are now more of the future than of the past. While
we have worked at our tasks of peace the circumstances of the whole age
have been altered by war. What we have done for our own land and our own
people we did with the best that was in us, whether of character or of
intelligence, with sober enthusiasm and a confidence in the principles upon
which we were acting which sustained us at every step of the difficult
undertaking; but it is done. It has passed from our hands. It is now an
established part of the legislation of the country. Its usefulness, its
effects will disclose themselves in experience. What chiefly strikes us
now, as we look about us during these closing days of a year which will be
forever memorable in the history of the world, is that we face new tasks,
have been facing them these six months, must face them in the months to
come,-face them without partisan feeling, like men who have forgotten
everything but a common duty and the fact that we are representatives of a
great people whose thought is not of us but of what America owes to herself
and to all mankind in such circumstances as these upon which we look amazed
and anxious.

War has interrupted the means of trade not only but also the processes of
production. In Europe it is destroying men and resources wholesale and upon
a scale unprecedented and appalling, There is reason to fear that the time
is near, if it be not already at hand, when several of the countries of
Europe will find it difficult to do for their people what they have
hitherto been always easily able to do,--many essential and fundamental
things. At any rate, they will need our help and our manifold services as
they have never needed them before; and we should be ready, more fit and
ready than we have ever been.

It is of equal consequence that the nations whom Europe has usually
supplied with innumerable articles of manufacture and commerce of which
they are in constant need and without which their economic development
halts and stands still can now get only a small part of what they formerly
imported and eagerly look to us to supply their all but empty markets. This
is particularly true of our own neighbors, the States, great and small, of
Central and South America. Their lines of trade have hitherto run chiefly
athwart the seas, not to our ports but to the ports of Great Britain and of
the older continent of Europe. I do not stop to inquire why, or to make any
comment on probable causes. What interests us just now is not the
explanation but the fact, and our duty and opportunity in the presence of
it. Here are markets which we must supply, and we must find the means of
action. The United States, this great people for whom we speak and act,
should be ready, as never before, to serve itself and to serve mankind;
ready with its resources, its energies, its forces of production, and its
means of distribution.

It is a very practical matter, a matter of ways and means. We have the
resources, but are we fully ready to use them? And, if we can make ready
what we have, have we the means at hand to distribute it? We are not fully
ready; neither have we the means of distribution. We are willing, but we
are not fully able. We have the wish to serve and to serve greatly,
generously; but we are not prepared as we should be. We are not ready to
mobilize our resources at once. We are not prepared to use them immediately
and at their best, without delay and without waste.

To speak plainly, we have grossly erred in the way in which we have stunted
and hindered the development of our merchant marine. And now, when we need
ships, we have not got them. We have year after year debated, without end
or conclusion, the best policy to pursue with regard to the use of the ores
and forests and water powers of our national domain in the rich States of
the West, when we should have acted; and they are still locked up. The key
is still turned upon them, the door shut fast at which thousands of
vigorous men, full of initiative, knock clamorously for admittance. The
water power of our navigable streams outside the national domain also, even
in the eastern States, where we have worked and planned for generations, is
still not used as it might be, because we will and we won't; because the
laws we have made do not intelligently balance encouragement against
restraint. We withhold by regulation.

I have come to ask you to remedy and correct these mistakes and omissions,
even at this short session of a Congress which would certainly seem to have
done all the work that could reasonably be expected of it. The time and the
circumstances are extraordinary, and so must our efforts be also.

Fortunately, two great measures, finely conceived, the one to unlock, with
proper safeguards, the resources of the national domain, the other to
encourage the use of the navigable waters outside that domain for the
generation of power, have already passed the House of Representatives and
are ready for immediate consideration and action by the Senate. With the
deepest earnestness I urge their prompt passage. In them both we turn our
backs upon hesitation and makeshift and formulate a genuine policy of use
and conservation, in the best sense of those words. We owe the one measure
not only to the people of that great western country for whose free and
systematic development, as it seems to me, our legislation has done so
little, but also to the people of the Nation as a whole; and we as clearly
owe the other fulfillment of our repeated promises that the water power of
the country should in fact as well as in name be put at the disposal of
great industries which can make economical and profitable use of it, the
rights of the public being adequately guarded the while, and monopoly in
the use prevented. To have begun such measures and not completed them would
indeed mar the record of this great Congress very seriously. I hope and
confidently believe that they will be completed.

And there is another great piece of legislation which awaits and should
receive the sanction of the Senate: I mean the bill which gives a larger
measure of self-government to the people of the Philippines. How better, in
this time of anxious questioning and perplexed policy, could we show our
confidence in the principles of liberty, as the source as well as the
expression of life, how better could we demonstrate our own self-possession
and steadfastness in the courses of justice and disinterestedness than by
thus going calmly forward to fulfill our promises to a dependent people,
who will now look more anxiously than ever to see whether we have indeed
the liberality, the unselfishness, the courage, the faith we have boasted
and professed. I can not believe that the Senate will let this great
measure of constructive justice await the action of another Congress. Its
passage would nobly crown the record of these two years of memorable

But I think that you will agree with me that this does not complete the
toll of our duty. How are we to carry our goods to the empty markets of
which I have spoken if we have not the ships? How are we to build up a
great trade if we have not the certain and constant means of
transportation upon which all profitable and useful commerce depends? And
how are we to get the ships if we wait for the trade to develop without
them? To correct the many mistakes by which we have discouraged and all but
destroyed the merchant marine of the country, to retrace the steps by which
we have.. it seems almost deliberately, withdrawn our flag from the seas..
except where, here and there, a ship of war is bidden carry it or some
wandering yacht displays it, would take a long time and involve many
detailed items of legislation, and the trade which we ought immediately to
handle would disappear or find other channels while we debated the items.

The case is not unlike that which confronted us when our own continent was
to be opened up to settlement and industry, and we needed long lines of
railway, extended means of transportation prepared beforehand, if
development was not to lag intolerably and wait interminably. We lavishly
subsidized the building of transcontinental railroads. We look back upon
that with regret now, because the subsidies led to many scandals of which
we are ashamed; but we know that the railroads had to be built, and if we
had it to do over again we should of course build them, but in another way.
Therefore I propose another way of providing the means of transportation,
which must precede, not tardily follow, the development of our trade with
our neighbor states of America. It may seem a reversal of the natural order
of things, but it is true, that the routes of trade must be actually
opened-by many ships and regular sailings and moderate charges-before
streams of merchandise will flow freely and profitably through them.

Hence the pending shipping bill, discussed at the last session but as yet
passed by neither House. In my judgment such legislation is imperatively
needed and can not wisely be postponed. The Government must open these
gates of trade, and open them wide; open them before it is altogether
profitable to open them, or altogether reasonable to ask private capital to
open them at a venture. It is not a question of the Government monopolizing
the field. It should take action to make it certain that transportation at
reasonable rates will be promptly provided, even where the carriage is not
at first profitable; and then, when the carriage has become sufficiently
profitable to attract and engage private capital, and engage it in
abundance, the Government ought to withdraw. I very earnestly hope that the
Congress will be of this opinion, and that both Houses will adopt this
exceedingly important bill.

The great subject of rural credits still remains to be dealt with, and it
is a matter of deep regret that the difficulties of the subject have seemed
to render it impossible to complete a bill for passage at this session. But
it can not be perfected yet, and therefore there are no other constructive
measures the necessity for which I will at this time call your attention
to; but I would be negligent of a very manifest duty were I not to call the
attention of the Senate to the fact that the proposed convention for safety
at sea awaits its confirmation and that the limit fixed in the convention
itself for its acceptance is the last day of the present month. The
conference in which this convention originated was called by the United
States; the representatives of the United States played a very influential
part indeed in framing the provisions of the proposed convention; and those
provisions are in themselves for the most part admirable. It would hardly
be consistent with the part we have played in the whole matter to let it
drop and go by the board as if forgotten and neglected. It was ratified in
May by the German Government and in August by the Parliament of Great
Britain. It marks a most hopeful and decided advance in international
civilization. We should show our earnest good faith in a great matter by
adding our own acceptance of it.

There is another matter of which I must make special mention, if I am to
discharge my conscience, lest it should escape your attention. It may seem
a very small thing. It affects only a single item of appropriation. But
many human lives and many great enterprises hang upon it. It is the matter
of making adequate provision for the survey and charting of our coasts. It
is immediately pressing and exigent in connection with the immense coast
line of Alaska, a coast line greater than that of the United States
themselves, though it is also very important indeed with regard to the
older coasts of the continent. We can not use our great Alaskan domain,
ships will not ply thither, if those coasts and their many hidden dangers
are not thoroughly surveyed and charted. The work is incomplete at almost
every point. Ships and lives have been lost in threading what were supposed
to be well-known main channels. We have not provided adequate vessels or
adequate machinery for the survey and charting. We have used old vessels
that were not big enough or strong enough and which were so nearly
unseaworthy that our inspectors would not have allowed private owners to
send them to sea. This is a matter which, as I have said, seems small, but
is in reality very great. Its importance has only to be looked into to be

Before I close may I say a few words upon two topics, much discussed out of
doors, upon which it is highly important that our judgment should be clear,
definite, and steadfast?

One of these is economy in government expenditures. The duty of economy is
not debatable. It is manifest and imperative. In the appropriations we pass
we are spending the money of the great people whose servants we are,-not
our own. We are trustees and responsible stewards in the spending. The only
thing debatable and upon which we should be careful to make our thought and
purpose clear is the kind of economy demanded of us. I assert with the
greatest confidence that the people of the United States are not jealous of
the amount their Government costs if they are sure that they get what they
need and desire for the outlay, that the money is being spent for objects
of which they approve, and that it is being applied with good business
sense and management.

Governments grow, piecemeal, both in their tasks and in the means by which
those tasks are to be performed, and very few Governments are organized, I
venture to say, as wise and experienced business men would organize them if
they had a clean sheet of paper to write upon. Certainly the Government of
the United States is not. I think that it is generally agreed that there
should be a systematic reorganization and reassembling of its parts so as
to secure greater efficiency and effect considerable savings in expense.
But the amount of money saved in that way would, I believe, though no doubt
considerable in itself, running, it may be, into the millions, be
relatively small,-small, I mean, in proportion to the total necessary
outlays of the Government. It would be thoroughly worth effecting, as every
saving would, great or small. Our duty is not altered by the scale of the
saving. But my point is that the people of the United States do not wish to
curtail the activities of this Government; they wish, rather, to enlarge
them; and with every enlargement, with the mere growth, indeed, of the
country itself, there must come, of course, the inevitable increase of
expense. The sort of economy we ought to practice may be effected, and
ought to be effected, by a careful study and assessment of the tasks to be
performed; and the money spent ought to be made to yield the best possible
returns in efficiency and achievement. And, like good stewards, we should
so account for every dollar of our appropriations as to make it perfectly
evident what it was spent for and in what way it was spent.

It is not expenditure but extravagance that we should fear being criticized
for; not paying for the legitimate enterprise and undertakings of a great
Government whose people command what it should do, but adding what will
benefit only a few or pouring money out for what need not have been
undertaken at all or might have been postponed or better and more
economically conceived and carried out. The Nation is not niggardly; it is
very generous. It will chide us only if we forget for whom we pay money out
and whose money it is we pay. These are large and general standards, but
they are not very difficult of application to particular cases.

The other topic I shall take leave to mention goes deeper into the
principles of our national life and policy. It is the subject of national

It can not be discussed without first answering some very searching
questions. It is said in some quarters that we are not prepared for war.
What is meant by being prepared? Is it meant that we are not ready upon
brief notice to put a nation in the field, a nation of men trained to arms?
Of course we are not ready to do that; and we shall never be in time of
peace so long as we retain our present political principles and
institutions. And what is it that it is suggested we should be prepared to
do? To defend ourselves against attack? We have always found means to do
that, and shall find them whenever it is necessary without calling our
people away from their necessary tasks to render compulsory military
service in times of peace.

Allow me to speak with great plainness and directness upon this great
matter and to avow my convictions with deep earnestness. I have tried to
know what America is, what her people think, what they are, what they most
cherish and hold dear. I hope that some of their finer passions are in my
own heart,--some of the great conceptions and desires which gave birth to
this Government and which have made the voice of this people a voice of
peace and hope and liberty among the peoples of the world, and that,
speaking my own thoughts, I shall, at least in part, speak theirs also,
however faintly and inadequately, upon this vital matter.

We are at peace with all the world. No one who speaks counsel based on fact
or drawn from a just and candid interpretation of realities can say that
there is reason to fear that from any quarter our independence or the
integrity of our territory is threatened. Dread of the power of any other
nation we are incapable of. We are not jealous of rivalry in the fields of
commerce or of any other peaceful achievement. We mean to live our own
lives as we will; but we mean also to let live. We are, indeed, a true
friend to all the nations of the world, because we threaten none, covet the
possessions of none, desire the overthrow of none. Our friendship can be
accepted and is accepted without reservation, because it is offered in a
spirit and for a purpose which no one need ever question or suspect.
Therein lies our greatness. We are the champions of peace and of concord.
And we should be very jealous of this distinction which we have sought to
earn. Just now we should be particularly jealous of it because it is our
dearest present hope that this character and reputation may presently, in
God's providence, bring us an opportunity such as has seldom been
vouchsafed any nation, the opportunity to counsel and obtain peace in the
world and reconciliation and a healing settlement of many a matter that has
cooled and interrupted the friendship of nations. This is the time above
all others when we should wish and resolve to keep our strength by
self-possession, our influence by preserving our ancient principles of

From the first we have had a clear and settled policy with regard to
military establishments. We never have had, and while we retain our present
principles and ideals we never shall have, a large standing army. If asked,
Are you ready to defend yourselves? we reply, Most assuredly, to the
utmost; and yet we shall not turn America into a military camp. We will not
ask our young men to spend the best years of their lives making soldiers of
themselves. There is another sort of energy in us. It will know how to
declare itself and make itself effective should occasion arise. And
especially when half the world is on fire we shall be careful to make our
moral insurance against the spread of the conflagration very definite and
certain and adequate indeed.

Let us remind ourselves, therefore, of the only thing we can do or will do.
We must depend in every time of national peril, in the future as in the
past, not upon a standing army, nor yet upon a reserve army, but upon a
citizenry trained and accustomed to arms. It will be right enough, right
American policy, based upon our accustomed principles and practices, to
provide a system by which every citizen who will volunteer for the training
may be made familiar with the use of modern arms, the rudiments of drill
and maneuver, and the maintenance and sanitation of camps. We should
encourage such training and make it a means of discipline which our young
men will learn to value. It is right that we should provide it not only,
but that we should make it as attractive as possible, and so induce our
young men to undergo it at such times as they can command a little freedom
and can seek the physical development they need, for mere health's sake, if
for nothing more. Every means by which such things can be stimulated is
legitimate, and such a method smacks of true American ideas. It is right,
too, that the National Guard of the States should be developed and
strengthened by every means which is not inconsistent with our obligations
to our own people or with the established policy of our Government. And
this, also, not because the time or occasion specially calls for such
measures, but because it should be our constant policy to make these
provisions for our national peace and safety.

More than this carries with it a reversal of the whole history and
character of our polity. More than this, proposed at this time, permit me
to say, would mean merely that we had lost our self-possession, that we had
been thrown off our balance by a war with which we have nothing to do,
whose causes can not touch us, whose very existence affords us
opportunities of friendship and disinterested service which should make us
ashamed of any thought of hostility or fearful preparation for trouble.
This is assuredly the opportunity for which a people and a government like
ours were raised up, the opportunity not only to speak but actually to
embody and exemplify the counsels of peace and amity and the lasting
concord which is based on justice and fair and generous dealing.

A powerful navy we have always regarded as our proper and natural means of
defense, and it has always been of defense that we have thought, never of
aggression or of conquest. But who shall tell us now what sort of navy to
build? We shall take leave to be strong upon the seas, in the future as in
the past; and there will be no thought of offense or of provocation in
that. Our ships are our natural bulwarks. When will the experts tell us
just what kind we should construct-and when will they be right for ten
years together, if the relative efficiency of craft of different kinds and
uses continues to change as we have seen it change under our very eyes in
these last few months?

But I turn away from the subject. It is not new. There is no new need to
discuss it. We shall not alter our attitude toward it because some amongst
us are nervous and excited. We shall easily and sensibly agree upon a
policy of defense. The question has not changed its aspects because the
times are not normal. Our policy will not be for an occasion. It will be
conceived as a permanent and settled thing, which we will pursue at all
seasons, without haste and after a fashion perfectly consistent with the
peace of the world, the abiding friendship of states, and the unhampered
freedom of all with whom we deal. Let there be no misconception. The
country has been misinformed. We have not been negligent of national
defense. We are not unmindful of the great responsibility resting upon us.
We shall learn and profit by the lesson of every experience and every new
circumstance; and what is needed will be adequately done.

I close, as I began, by reminding you of the great tasks and duties of
peace which challenge our best powers and invite us to build what will
last, the tasks to which we can address ourselves now and at all times with
free-hearted zest and with all the finest gifts of constructive wisdom we
possess. To develop our life and our resources; to supply our own people,
and the people of the world as their need arises, from the abundant plenty
of our fields and our marts of trade to enrich the commerce of our own
States and of the world with the products of our mines, our farms, and our
factories, with the creations of our thought and the fruits of our
character,-this is what will hold our attention and our enthusiasm
steadily, now and in the years to come, as we strive to show in our life as
a nation what liberty and the inspirations of an emancipated spirit may do
for men and for societies, for individuals, for states, and for mankind.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 7, 1915


Since I last had the privilege of addressing you on the state of the Union
the war of nations on the other side of the sea, which had then only begun
to disclose its portentous proportions, has extended its threatening and
sinister scope until it has swept within its flame some portion of every
quarter of the globe, not excepting our own hemisphere, has altered the
whole face of international affairs, and now presents a prospect of
reorganization and reconstruction such as statesmen and peoples have never
been called upon to attempt before.

We have stood apart, studiously neutral. It was our manifest duty to do so.
Not only did we have no part or interest in the policies which seem to have
brought the conflict on; it was necessary, if a universal catastrophe was
to be avoided, that a limit should be set to the sweep of destructive war
and that some part of the great family of nations should keep the processes
of peace alive, if only to prevent collective economic ruin and the
breakdown throughout the world of the industries by which its populations
are fed and sustained. It was manifestly the duty of the self-governed
nations of this hemisphere to redress, if possible, the balance of economic
loss and confusion in the other, if they could do nothing more. In the day
of readjustment and recuperation we earnestly hope and believe that they
can be of infinite service.

In this neutrality, to which they were bidden not only by their separate
life and their habitual detachment from the politics of Europe but also by
a clear perception of international duty, the states of America have become
conscious of a new and more vital community of interest and moral
partnership in affairs, more clearly conscious of the many common
sympathies and interests and duties which bid them stand together.

There was a time in the early days of our own great nation and of the
republics fighting their way to independence in Central and South America
when the government of the United States looked upon itself as in some sort
the guardian of the republics to the South of her as against any
encroachments or efforts at political control from the other side of the
water; felt it its duty to play the part even without invitation from them;
and I think that we can claim that the task was undertaken with a true and
disinterested enthusiasm for the freedom of the Americas and the unmolested
Self-government of her independent peoples. But it was always difficult to
maintain such a role without offense to the pride of the peoples whose
freedom of action we sought to protect, and without provoking serious
misconceptions of our motives, and every thoughtful man of affairs must
welcome the altered circumstances of the new day in whose light we now
stand, when there is no claim of guardianship or thought of wards but,
instead, a full and honorable association as of partners between ourselves
and our neighbors, in the interest of all America, north and south. Our
concern for the independence and prosperity of the states of Central and
South America is not altered. We retain unabated the spirit that has
inspired us throughout the whole life of our government and which was so
frankly put into words by President Monroe. We still mean always to make a
common cause of national independence and of political liberty in America.
But that purpose is now better understood so far as it concerns ourselves.
It is known not to be a selfish purpose. It is known to have in it no
thought of taking advantage of any government in this hemisphere or playing
its political fortunes for our own benefit. All the governments of America
stand, so far as we are concerned, upon a footing of genuine equality and
unquestioned independence.

We have been put to the test in the case of Mexico, and we have stood the
test. Whether we have benefited Mexico by the course we have pursued
remains to be seen. Her fortunes are in her own hands. But we have at least
proved that we will not take advantage of her in her distress and undertake
to impose upon her an order and government of our own choosing. Liberty is
often a fierce and intractable thing, to which no bounds can be set, and to
which no bounds of a few men's choosing ought ever to be set. Every
American who has drunk at the true fountains of principle and tradition
must subscribe without reservation to the high doctrine of the Virginia
Bill of Rights, which in the great days in which our government was set up
was everywhere amongst us accepted as the creed of free men. That doctrine
is, "That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit,
protection, and security of the people, nation, or community"; that "of all
the various modes and forms of government, that is the best which is
capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety, and is
most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that,
when any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these
purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, inalienable, and
indefeasible right to reform, alter, or abolish it, in such manner as shall
be judged most conducive to the public weal." We have unhesitatingly
applied that heroic principle to the case of Mexico, and now hopefully
await the rebirth of the troubled Republic, which had so much of which to
purge itself and so little sympathy from any outside quarter in the radical
but necessary process. We will aid and befriend Mexico, but we will not
coerce her; and our course with regard to her ought to be sufficient proof
to all America that we seek no political suzerainty or selfish control.

The moral is, that the states of America are not hostile rivals but
cooperating friends, and that their growing sense of community or interest,
alike in matters political and in matters economic, is likely to give them
a new significance as factors in international affairs and in the political
history of the world. It presents them as in a very deep and true sense a
unit in world affairs, spiritual partners, standing together because
thinking together, quick with common sympathies and common ideals.
Separated they are subject to all the cross currents of the confused
politics of a world of hostile rivalries; united in spirit and purpose they
cannot be disappointed of their peaceful destiny.

This is Pan-Americanism. It has none of the spirit of empire in it. It is
the embodiment, the effectual embodiment, of the spirit of law and
independence and liberty and mutual service.

A very notable body of men recently met in the City of Washington, at the
invitation and as the guests of this Government, whose deliberations are
likely to be looked back to as marking a memorable turning point in the
history of America. They were representative spokesmen of the several
independent states of this hemisphere and were assembled to discuss the
financial and commercial relations of the republics of the two continents
which nature and political fortune have so intimately linked together. I
earnestly recommend to your perusal the reports of their proceedings and of
the actions of their committees. You will get from them, I think, a fresh
conception of the ease and intelligence and advantage with which Americans
of both continents may draw together in practical cooperation and of what
the material foundations of this hopeful partnership of interest must
consist,-of how we should build them and of how necessary it is that we
should hasten their building.

There is, I venture to point out, an especial significance just now
attaching to this whole matter of drawing the Americans together in bonds
of honorable partnership and mutual advantage because of the economic
readjustments which the world must inevitably witness within the next
generation, when peace shall have at last resumed its healthful tasks. In
the performance of these tasks I believe the Americas to be destined to
play their parts together. I am interested to fix your attention on this
prospect now because unless you take it within your view and permit the
full significance of it to command your thought I cannot find the right
light in which to set forth the particular matter that lies at the very
font of my whole thought as I address you to-day. I mean national defense.

No one who really comprehends the spirit of the great people for whom we
are appointed to speak can fail to perceive that their passion is for
peace, their genius best displayed in the practice of the arts of peace.
Great democracies are not belligerent. They do not seek or desire war.
Their thought is of individual liberty and of the free labor that supports
life and the uncensored thought that quickens it. Conquest and dominion are
not in our reckoning, or agreeable to our principles. But just because we
demand unmolested development and the undisturbed government of our own
lives upon our own principles of right and liberty, we resent, from
whatever quarter it may come, the aggression we ourselves will not
practice. We insist upon security in prosecuting our self-chosen lines of
national development. We do more than that. We demand it also for others.
We do not confine our enthusiasm for individual liberty and free national
development to the incidents and movements of affairs which affect only
ourselves. We feel it wherever there is a people that tries to walk in
these difficult paths of independence and right. From the first we have
made common cause with all partisans of liberty on this side the sea, and
have deemed it as important that our neighbors should be free from all
outside domination as that we ourselves should be. We have set America
aside as a whole for the uses of independent nations and political freemen.

Out of such thoughts grow all our policies. We regard war merely as a means
of asserting the rights of a people against aggression. And we are as
fiercely jealous of coercive or dictatorial power within our own nation as
of aggression from without. We will not maintain a standing army except for
uses which are as necessary in times of peace as in times of war; and we
shall always see to it that our military peace establishment is no larger
than is actually and continuously needed for the uses of days in which no
enemies move against us. But we do believe in a body of free citizens ready
and sufficient to take care of themselves and of the governments which they
have set up to serve them. In our constitutions themselves we have
commanded that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be
infringed," and our confidence has been that our safety in times of danger
would lie in the rising of the nation to take care of itself, as the
farmers rose at Lexington.

But war has never been a mere matter of men and guns. It is a thing of
disciplined might. If our citizens are ever to fight effectively upon a
sudden summons, they must know how modern fighting is done, and what to do
when the summons comes to render themselves immediately available and
immediately effective. And the government must be their servant in this
matter, must supply them with the training they need to take care of
themselves and of it. The military arm of their government, which they will
not allow to direct them, they may properly use to serve them and make
their independence secure,-and not their own independence merely but the
rights also of those with whom they have made common cause, should they
also be put in jeopardy. They must be fitted to play the great role in the
world, and particularly in this hemisphere, for which they are qualified by
principle and by chastened ambition to play.

It is with these ideals in mind that the plans of the Department of War for
more adequate national defense were conceived which will be laid before
you, and which I urge you to sanction and put into effect as soon as they
can be properly scrutinized and discussed. They seem to me the essential
first steps, and they seem to me for the present sufficient.

They contemplate an increase of the standing force of the regular army from
its present strength of five thousand and twenty-three officers and one
hundred and two thousand nine hundred and eighty-five enlisted men of all
services to a strength of seven thousand one hundred and thirty-six
officers and one hundred and thirty-four thousand seven hundred and seven
enlisted men, or 141,843, all told, all services, rank and file, by the
addition of fifty-two companies of coast artillery, fifteen companies of
engineers, ten regiments of infantry, four regiments of field artillery,
and four aero squadrons, besides seven hundred and fifty officers required
for a great variety of extra service, especially the all important duty of
training the citizen force of which I shall presently speak, seven hundred
and ninety-two noncommissioned officers for service in drill, recruiting
and the like, and the necessary quota of enlisted men for the Quartermaster
Corps, the Hospital Corps, the Ordnance Department, and other similar
auxiliary services. These are the additions necessary to render the army
adequate for its present duties, duties which it has to perform not only
upon our own continental coasts and borders and at our interior army posts,
but also in the Philippines, in the Hawaiian Islands, at the Isthmus, and
in Porto Rico.

By way of making the country ready to assert some part of its real power
promptly and upon a larger scale, should occasion arise, the plan also
contemplates supplementing the army by a force of four hundred thousand
disciplined citizens, raised in increments of one hundred and thirty-three
thousand a year throughout a period of three years. This it is proposed to
do by a process of enlistment under which the serviceable men of the
country would be asked to bind themselves to serve with the colors for
purposes of training for short periods throughout three years, and to come
to the colors at call at any time throughout an additional "furlough"
period of three years. This force of four hundred thousand men would be
provided with personal accoutrements as fast as enlisted and their
equipment for the field made ready to be supplied at any time. They would
be assembled for training at stated intervals at convenient places in
association with suitable units of the regular army. Their period of annual
training would not necessarily exceed two months in the year.

It would depend upon the patriotic feeling of the younger men of the
country whether they responded to such a call to service or not. It would
depend upon the patriotic spirit of the employers of the country whether
they made it possible for the younger men in their employ to respond under
favorable conditions or not. I, for one, do not doubt the patriotic
devotion either of our young men or of those who give them
employment,--those for whose benefit and protection they would in fact
enlist. I would look forward to the success of such an experiment with
entire confidence.

At least so much by way of preparation for defense seems to me to be
absolutely imperative now. We cannot do less.

The programme which will be laid before you by the Secretary of the Navy is
similarly conceived. It involves only a shortening of the time within which
plans long matured shall be carried out; but it does make definite and
explicit a programme which has heretofore been only implicit, held in the
minds of the Committees on Naval Affairs and disclosed in the debates of
the two Houses but nowhere formulated or formally adopted. It seems to me
very clear that it will be to the advantage of the country for the Congress
to adopt a comprehensive plan for putting the navy upon a final footing of
strength and efficiency and to press that plan to completion within the
next five years. We have always looked to the navy of the country as our
first and chief line of defense; we have always seen it to be our manifest
course of prudence to be strong on the seas. Year by year we have been
creating a navy which now ranks very high indeed among the navies of the
maritime nations. We should now definitely determine how we shall complete
what we have begun, and how soon.

The programme to be laid before you contemplates the construction within
five years of ten battleships, six battle cruisers, ten scout cruisers,
fifty destroyers, fifteen fleet submarines, eighty-five coast submarines,
four gunboats, one hospital ship, two ammunition ships, two fuel oil ships,
and one repair ship. It is proposed that of this number we shall the first
year provide for the construction of two battleships, two battle cruisers,
three scout cruisers, fifteen destroyers, five fleet submarines,
twenty-five coast submarines, two gunboats, and one hospital ship; the
second year, two battleships, one scout cruiser, ten destroyers, four fleet
submarines, fifteen coast submarines, one gunboat, and one fuel oil ship;
the third year, two battleships, one battle cruiser, two scout cruisers,
five destroyers, two fleet sub marines, and fifteen coast submarines; the
fourth year, two battleships, two battle cruisers, two scout cruisers, ten
destroyers, two fleet submarines, fifteen coast submarines, one ammunition
ship, and one fuel oil ship; and the fifth year, two battleships, one
battle cruiser, two scout cruisers, ten destroyers, two fleet submarines,
fifteen coast submarines, one gunboat, one ammunition ship, and one repair

The Secretary of the Navy is asking also for the immediate addition to the
personnel of the navy of seven thousand five hundred sailors, twenty-five
hundred apprentice seamen, and fifteen hundred marines. This increase would
be sufficient to care for the ships which are to be completed within the
fiscal year 1917 and also for the number of men which must be put in
training to man the ships which will be completed early in 1918. It is also
necessary that the number of midshipmen at the Naval academy at Annapolis
should be increased by at least three hundred in order that the force of
officers should be more rapidly added to; and authority is asked to
appoint, for engineering duties only, approved graduates of engineering
colleges, and for service in the aviation corps a certain number of men
taken from civil life.

If this full programme should be carried out we should have built or
building in 1921, according to the estimates of survival and standards of
classification followed by the General Board of the Department, an
effective navy consisting of twenty-seven battleships of the first line,
six battle cruisers, twenty-five battleships of the second line, ten
armored cruisers, thirteen scout cruisers, five first class cruisers, three
second class cruisers, ten third class cruisers, one hundred and eight
destroyers, eighteen fleet submarines, one hundred and fifty-seven coast
submarines, six monitors, twenty gunboats, four supply ships, fifteen fuel
ships, four transports, three tenders to torpedo vessels, eight vessels of
special types, and two ammunition ships. This would be a navy fitted to our
needs and worthy of our traditions.

But armies and instruments of war are only part of what has to be
considered if we are to provide for the supreme matter of national
self-sufficiency and security in all its aspects. There are other great
matters which will be thrust upon our attention whether we will or not.
There is, for example, a very pressing question of trade and shipping
involved in this great problem of national adequacy. It is necessary for
many weighty reasons of national efficiency and development that we should
have a great merchant marine. The great merchant fleet we once used to make
us rich, that great body of sturdy sailors who used to carry our flag into
every sea, and who were the pride and often the bulwark of the nation, we
have almost driven out of existence by inexcusable neglect and indifference
and by a hopelessly blind and provincial policy of so-called economic
protection. It is high time we repaired our mistake and resumed our
commercial independence on the seas.

For it is a question of independence. If other nations go to war or seek to
hamper each other's commerce, our merchants, it seems, are at their mercy,
to do with as they please. We must use their ships, and use them as they
determine. We have not ships enough of our own. We cannot handle our own
commerce on the seas. Our independence is provincial, and is only on land
and within our own borders. We are not likely to be permitted to use even
the ships of other nations in rivalry of their own trade, and are without
means to extend our commerce even where the doors are wide open and our
goods desired. Such a situation is not to be endured. It is of capital
importance not only that the United States should be its own carrier on the
seas and enjoy the economic independence which only an adequate merchant
marine would give it, but also that the American hemisphere as a whole
should enjoy a like independence and self-sufficiency, if it is not to be
drawn into the tangle of European affairs. Without such independence the
whole question of our political unity and self-determination is very
seriously clouded and complicated indeed.

Moreover, we can develop no true or effective American policy without ships
of our own,--not ships of war, but ships of peace, carrying goods and
carrying much more: creating friendships and rendering indispensable
services to all interests on this side the water. They must move constantly
back and forth between the Americas. They are the only shuttles that can
weave the delicate fabric of sympathy, comprehension, confidence, and
mutual dependence in which we wish to clothe our policy of America for

The task of building up an adequate merchant marine for America private
capital must ultimately undertake and achieve, as it has undertaken and
achieved every other like task amongst us in the past, with admirable
enterprise, intelligence, and vigor; and it seems to me a manifest dictate
of wisdom that we should promptly remove every legal obstacle that may
stand in the way of this much to be desired revival of our old independence
and should facilitate in every possible way the building, purchase, and
American registration of ships. But capital cannot accomplish this great
task of a sudden. It must embark upon it by degrees, as the opportunities
of trade develop. Something must be done at once; done to open routes and
develop opportunities where they are as yet undeveloped; done to open the
arteries of trade where the currents have not yet learned to
run,-especially between the two American continents, where they are,
singularly enough, yet to be created and quickened; and it is evident that
only the government can undertake such beginnings and assume the initial
financial risks. When the risk has passed and private capital begins to
find its way in sufficient abundance into these new channels, the
government may withdraw. But it cannot omit to begin. It should take the
first steps, and should take them at once. Our goods must not lie piled up
at our ports and stored upon side tracks in freight cars which are daily
needed on the roads; must not be left without means of transport to any
foreign quarter. We must not await the permission of foreign ship-owners
and foreign governments to send them where we will.

With a view to meeting these pressing necessities of our commerce and
availing ourselves at the earliest possible moment of the present
unparalleled opportunity of linking the two Americas together in bonds of
mutual interest and service, an opportunity which may never return again if
we miss it now, proposals will be made to the present Congress for the
purchase or construction of ships to be owned and directed by the
government similar to those made to the last Congress, but modified in some
essential particulars. I recommend these proposals to you for your prompt
acceptance with the more confidence because every month that has elapsed
since the former proposals were made has made the necessity for such action
more and more manifestly imperative. That need was then foreseen; it is now
acutely felt and everywhere realized by those for whom trade is waiting but
who can find no conveyance for their goods. I am not so much interested in
the particulars of the programme as I am in taking immediate advantage of
the great opportunity which awaits us if we will but act in this emergency.
In this matter, as in all others, a spirit of common counsel should
prevail, and out of it should come an early solution of this pressing

There is another matter which seems to me to be very intimately associated
with the question of national safety and preparation for defense. That is
our policy towards the Philippines and the people of Porto Rico. Our
treatment of them and their attitude towards us are manifestly of the first
consequence in the development of our duties in the world and in getting a
free hand to perform those duties. We must be free from every unnecessary
burden or embarrassment; and there is no better way to be clear of
embarrassment than to fulfil our promises and promote the interests of
those dependent on us to the utmost. Bills for the alteration and reform of
the government of the Philippines and for rendering fuller political
justice to the people of Porto Rico were submitted to the sixty-third
Congress. They will be submitted also to you. I need not particularize
their details. You are most of you already familiar with them. But I do
recommend them to your early adoption with the sincere conviction that
there are few measures you could adopt which would more serviceably clear
the way for the great policies by which we wish to make good, now and
always, our right to lead in enterprises of peace and good will and
economic and political freedom.

The plans for the armed forces of the nation which I have outlined, and for
the general policy of adequate preparation for mobilization and defense,
involve of course very large additional expenditures of money,-expenditures
which will considerably exceed the estimated revenues of the government. It
is made my duty by law, whenever the estimates of expenditure exceed the
estimates of revenue, to call the attention of the Congress to the fact and
suggest any means of meeting the deficiency that it may be wise or possible
for me to suggest. I am ready to believe that it would be my duty to do so
in any case; and I feel particularly bound to speak of the matter when it
appears that the deficiency will arise directly out of the adoption by the
Congress of measures which I myself urge it to adopt. Allow me, therefore,
to speak briefly of the present state of the Treasury and of the fiscal
problems which the next year will probably disclose.

On the thirtieth of June last there was an available balance in the general
fund of the Treasury Of $104,170,105.78. The total estimated receipts for
the year 1916, on the assumption that the emergency revenue measure passed
by the last Congress will not be extended beyond its present limit, the
thirty-first of December, 1915, and that the present duty of one cent per
pound on sugar will be discontinued after the first of May, 1916, will be
$670,365,500. The balance of June last and these estimated revenues come,
therefore, to a grand total of $774,535,605-78. The total estimated
disbursements for the present fiscal year, including twenty-five millions
for the Panama Canal, twelve millions for probable deficiency
appropriations, and fifty thousand dollars for miscellaneous debt
redemptions, will be $753,891,000; and the balance in the general fund of
the Treasury will be reduced to $20,644,605.78. The emergency revenue act,
if continued beyond its present time limitation, would produce, during the
half year then remaining, about forty-one millions. The duty of one cent
per pound on sugar, if continued, would produce during the two months of
the fiscal year remaining after the first of May, about fifteen millions.
These two sums, amounting together to fifty-six millions, if added to the
revenues of the second half of the fiscal year, would yield the Treasury at
the end of the year an available balance Of $76,644,605-78.

The additional revenues required to carry out the programme of military and
naval preparation of which I have spoken, would, as at present estimated,
be for the fiscal year, 1917, $93,800,000. Those figures, taken with the
figures for the present fiscal year which I have already given, disclose
our financial problem for the year 1917. Assuming that the taxes imposed by
the emergency revenue act and the present duty on sugar are to be
discontinued, and that the balance at the close of the present fiscal year
will be only $20,644,605.78, that the disbursements for the Panama Canal
will again be about twenty-five millions, and that the additional
expenditures for the army and navy are authorized by the Congress, the
deficit in the general fund of the Treasury on the thirtieth of June, 1917,
will be nearly two hundred and thirty-five millions. To this sum at least
fifty millions should be added to represent a safe working balance for the
Treasury, and twelve millions to include the usual deficiency estimates in
1917; and these additions would make a total deficit of some two hundred
and ninety-seven millions. If the present taxes should be continued
throughout this year and the next, however, there would be a balance in the
Treasury of some seventy-six and a half millions at the end of the present
fiscal year, and a deficit at the end of the next year of only some fifty
millions, or, reckoning in sixty-two millions for deficiency appropriations
and a safe Treasury balance at the end of the year, a total deficit of some
one hundred and twelve millions. The obvious moral of the figures is that
it is a plain counsel of prudence to continue all of the present taxes or
their equivalents, and confine ourselves to the problem of providing one
hundred and twelve millions of new revenue rather than two hundred and
ninety-seven millions.

How shall we obtain the new revenue? We are frequently reminded that there
are many millions of bonds which the Treasury is authorized under existing
law to sell to reimburse the sums paid out of current revenues for the
construction of the Panama Canal; and it is true that bonds to the amount
of approximately $222,000,000 are now available for that purpose. Prior to
1913, $134,631,980 of these bonds had actually been sold to recoup the
expenditures at the Isthmus; and now constitute a considerable item of the
public debt. But I, for one, do not believe that the people of this country
approve of postponing the payment of their bills. Borrowing money is
short-sighted finance. It can be justified only when permanent things are
to be accomplished which many generations will certainly benefit by and
which it seems hardly fair that a single generation should pay for. The
objects we are now proposing to spend money for cannot be so classified,
except in the sense that everything wisely done may be said to be done in
the interest of posterity as well as in our own. It seems to me a clear
dictate of prudent statesmanship and frank finance that in what we are now,
I hope, about to undertake we should pay as we go. The people of the
country are entitled to know just what burdens of taxation they are to
carry, and to know from the outset, now. The new bills should be paid by
internal taxation.

To what sources, then, shall we turn? This is so peculiarly a question
which the gentlemen of the House of Representatives are expected under the
Constitution to propose an answer to that you will hardly expect me to do
more than discuss it in very general terms. We should be following an
almost universal example of modern governments if we were to draw the
greater part or even the whole of the revenues we need from the income
taxes. By somewhat lowering the present limits of exemption and the figure
at which the surtax shall begin to be imposed, and by increasing, step by
step throughout the present graduation, the surtax itself, the income taxes
as at present apportioned would yield sums sufficient to balance the books
of the Treasury at the end of the fiscal year 1917 without anywhere making
the burden unreasonably or oppressively heavy. The precise reckonings are
fully and accurately set out in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury
which will be immediately laid before you.

And there are many additional sources of revenue which can justly be
resorted to without hampering the industries of the country or putting any
too great charge upon individual expenditure. A tax of one cent per gallon
on gasoline and naphtha would yield, at the present estimated production,
$10,000,000; a tax of fifty cents per horse power on automobiles and
internal explosion engines, $15,000,000; a stamp tax on bank cheques,
probably $18,000,000; a tax of twenty-five cents per ton on pig iron,
$10,000,000; a tax of twenty-five cents per ton on fabricated iron and
steel, probably $10,000,000. In a country of great industries like this it
ought to be easy to distribute the burdens of taxation without making them
anywhere bear too heavily or too exclusively upon any one set of persons or
undertakings. What is clear is, that the industry of this generation should
pay the bills of this generation.

I have spoken to you to-day, Gentlemen, upon a single theme, the thorough
preparation of the nation to care for its own security and to make sure of
entire freedom to play the impartial role in this hemisphere and in the
world which we all believe to have been providentially assigned to it. I
have had in my mind no thought of any immediate or particular danger
arising out of our relations with other nations. We are at peace with all
the nations of the world, and there is reason to hope that no question in
controversy between this and other Governments will lead to any serious
breach of amicable relations, grave as some differences of attitude and
policy have been land may yet turn out to be. I am sorry to say that the
gravest threats against our national peace and safety have been uttered
within our own borders. There are citizens of the United States, I blush to
admit, born under other flags but welcomed under our generous
naturalization laws to the full freedom and opportunity of America, who
have poured the poison of disloyalty into the very arteries of our national
life; who have sought to bring the authority and good name of our
Government into contempt, to destroy our industries wherever they thought
it effective for their vindictive purposes to strike at them, and to debase
our politics to the uses of foreign intrigue. Their number is not great as
compared with the whole number of those sturdy hosts by which our nation
has been enriched in recent generations out of virile foreign stock; but it
is great enough to have brought deep disgrace upon us and to have made it
necessary that we should promptly make use of processes of law by which we
may be purged of their corrupt distempers. America never witnessed anything
like this before. It never dreamed it possible that men sworn into its own
citizenship, men drawn out of great free stocks such as supplied some of
the best and strongest elements of that little, but how heroic, nation that
in a high day of old staked its very life to free itself from every
entanglement that had darkened the fortunes of the older nations and set up
a new standard here, that men of such origins and such free choices of
allegiance would ever turn in malign reaction against the Government and
people who had welcomed and nurtured them and seek to make this proud
country once more a hotbed of European passion. A little while ago such a
thing would have seemed incredible. Because it was incredible we made no
preparation for it. We would have been almost ashamed to prepare for it, as
if we were suspicious of ourselves, our own comrades and neighbors! But the
ugly and incredible thing has actually come about and we are without
adequate federal laws to deal with it. I urge you to enact such laws at the
earliest possible moment and feel that in doing so I am urging you to do
nothing less than save the honor and self-respect of the nation. Such
creatures of passion, disloyalty, and anarchy must be crushed out. They are
not many, but they are infinitely malignant, and the hand of our power
should close over them at once. They have formed plots to destroy property,
they have entered into conspiracies against the neutrality of the
Government, they have sought to pry into every confidential transaction of
the Government in order to serve interests alien to our own. It is possible
to deal with these things very effectually. I need not suggest the terms in
which they may be dealt with.

I wish that it could be said that only a few men, misled by mistaken
sentiments of allegiance to the governments under which they were born, had
been guilty of disturbing the self-possession and misrepresenting the
temper and principles of the country during these days of terrible war,
when it would seem that every man who was truly an American would
instinctively make it his duty and his pride to keep the scales of judgment
even and prove himself a partisan of no nation but his own. But it cannot.
There are some men among us, and many resident abroad who, though born and
bred in the United States and calling themselves Americans, have so
forgotten themselves and their honor as citizens as to put their passionate
sympathy with one or the other side in the great European conflict above
their regard for the peace and dignity of the United States. They also
preach and practice disloyalty. No laws, I suppose, can reach corruptions
of the mind and heart; but I should not speak of others without also
speaking of these and expressing the even deeper humiliation and scorn
which every self-possessed and thoughtfully patriotic American must feel
when he thinks of them and of the discredit they are daily bringing upon

While we speak of the preparation of the nation to make sure of her
security and her effective power we must not fall into the patent error of
supposing that her real strength comes from armaments and mere safeguards
of written law. It comes, of course, from her people, their energy, their
success in their undertakings, their free opportunity to use the natural
resources of our great home land and of the lands outside our continental
borders which look to us for protection, for encouragement, and for
assistance in their development; from the organization and freedom and
vitality of our economic life. The domestic questions which engaged the
attention of the last Congress are more vital to the nation in this its
time of test than at any other time. We cannot adequately make ready for
any trial of our strength unless we wisely and promptly direct the force of
our laws into these all-important fields of domestic action. A matter which
it seems to me we should have very much at heart is the creation of the
right instrumentalities by which to mobilize our economic resources in any
time of national necessity. I take it for granted that I do not need your
authority to call into systematic consultation with the directing officers
of the army and navy men of recognized leadership and ability from among
our citizens who are thoroughly familiar, for example, with the
transportation facilities of the country and therefore competent to advise
how they may be coordinated when the need arises, those who can suggest the
best way in which to bring about prompt cooperation among the manufacturers
of the country, should it be necessary, and those who could assist to bring
the technical skill of the country to the aid of the Government in the
solution of particular problems of defense. I only hope that if I should
find it feasible to constitute such an advisory body the Congress would be
willing to vote the small sum of money that would be needed to defray the
expenses that would probably be necessary to give it the clerical and
administrative Machinery with which to do serviceable work.

What is more important is, that the industries and resources of the country
should be available and ready for mobilization. It is the more imperatively
necessary, therefore, that we should promptly devise means for doing what
we have not yet done: that we should give intelligent federal aid and
stimulation to industrial and vocational education, as we have long done in
the large field of our agricultural industry; that, at the same time that
we safeguard and conserve the natural resources of the country we should
put them at the disposal of those who will use them promptly and
intelligently, as was sought to be done in the admirable bills submitted to
the last Congress from its committees on the public lands, bills which I
earnestly recommend in principle to your consideration; that we should put
into early operation some provision for rural credits which will add to the
extensive borrowing facilities already afforded the farmer by the Reserve
Bank Act, adequate instrumentalities by which long credits may be obtained
on land mortgages; and that we should study more carefully than they have
hitherto been studied the right adaptation of our economic arrangements to
changing conditions.

Many conditions about which we I-lave repeatedly legislated are being
altered from decade to decade, it is evident, under our very eyes, and are
likely to change even more rapidly and more radically in the days
immediately ahead of us, when peace has returned to the world and the
nations of Europe once more take up their tasks of commerce and industry
with the energy of those who must bestir themselves to build anew. Just
what these changes will be no one can certainly foresee or confidently
predict. There are no calculable, because no stable, elements in the
problem. The most we can do is to make certain that we have the necessary
instrumentalities of information constantly at our service so that we may
be sure that we know exactly what we are dealing with when we come to act,
if it should be necessary to act at all. We must first certainly know what
it is that we are seeking to adapt ourselves to. I may ask the privilege of
addressing you more at length on this important matter a little later in
your session.

In the meantime may I make this suggestion? The transportation problem is
an exceedingly serious and pressing one in this country. There has from
time to time of late been reason to fear that our railroads would not much
longer be able to cope with it successfully, as at present equipped and
coordinated I suggest that it would be wise to provide for a commission of
inquiry to ascertain by a thorough canvass of the whole question whether
our laws as at present framed and administered are as serviceable as they
might be in the solution of the problem. It is obviously a problem that
lies at the very foundation of our efficiency as a people. Such an inquiry
ought to draw out every circumstance and opinion worth considering and we
need to know all sides of the matter if we mean to do anything in the field
of federal legislation.

No one, I am sure, would wish to take any backward step. The regulation of
the railways of the country by federal commission has had admirable results
and has fully justified the hopes and expectations of those by whom the
policy of regulation was originally proposed. The question is not what
should we undo? It is, whether there is anything else we can do that would
supply us with effective means, in the very process of regulation, for
bettering the conditions under which the railroads are operated and for
making them more useful servants of the country as a whole. It seems to me
that it might be the part of wisdom, therefore, before further legislation
in this field is attempted, to look at the whole problem of coordination
and efficiency in the full light of a fresh assessment of circumstance and
opinion, as a guide to dealing with the several parts of it.

For what we are seeking now, what in my mind is the single thought of this
message, is national efficiency and security. We serve a great nation. We
should serve it in the spirit of its peculiar genius. It is the genius of
common men for self-government, industry, justice, liberty and peace. We
should see to it that it lacks no instrument, no facility or vigor of law,
to make it sufficient to play its part with energy, safety, and assured
success. In this we are no partisans but heralds and prophets of a new age.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 5, 1916


In fulfilling at this time the duty laid upon me by the Constitution of
communicating to you from time to time information of the state of the
Union and recommending to your consideration such legislative measures as
may be judged necessary and expedient, I shall continue the practice, which
I hope has been acceptable to you, of leaving to the reports of the several
heads of the executive departments the elaboration of the detailed needs of
the public service and confine myself to those matters of more general
public policy with which it seems necessary and feasible to deal at the
present session of the Congress.

I realize the limitations of time under which you will necessarily act at
this session and shall make my suggestions as few as possible; but there
were some things left undone at the last session which there will now be
time to complete and which it seems necessary in the interest of the public
to do at once.

In the first place, it seems to me imperatively necessary that the earliest
possible consideration and action should be accorded the remaining measures
of the program of settlement and regulation which I had occasion to
recommend to you at the close of your last session in view of the public
dangers disclosed by the unaccommodated difficulties which then existed,
and which still unhappily continue to exist, between the railroads of the
country and their locomotive engineers, conductors and trainmen.

I then recommended:

First, immediate provision for the enlargement and administrative
reorganization of the Interstate Commerce Commission along the lines
embodied in the bill recently passed by the House of Representatives and
now awaiting action by the Senate; in order that the Commission may be
enabled to deal with the many great and various duties now devolving upon
it with a promptness and thoroughness which are, with its present
constitution and means of action, practically impossible.

Second, the establishment of an eight-hour day as the legal basis alike of
work and wages in the employment of all railway employes who are actually
engaged in the work of operating trains in interstate transportation.

Third, the authorization of the appointment by the President of a small
body of men to observe actual results in experience of the adoption of the
eight-hour day in railway transportation alike for the men and for the

Fourth, explicit approval by the Congress of the consideration by the
Interstate Commerce Commission of an increase of freight rates to meet such
additional expenditures by the railroads as may have been rendered
necessary by the adoption of the eight-hour day and which have not been
offset by administrative readjustments and economies, should the facts
disclosed justify the increase.

Fifth, an amendment of the existing Federal statute which provides for the
mediation, conciliation and arbitration of such controversies as the
present by adding to it a provision that, in case the methods of
accommodation now provided for should fail, a full public investigation of
the merits of every such dispute shall be instituted and completed before a
strike or lockout may lawfully be attempted.

And, sixth, the lodgment in the hands of the Executive of the power, in
case of military necessity, to take control of such portions and such
rolling stock of the railways of the country as may be required for
military use and to operate them for military purposes, with authority to
draft into the military service of the United States such train crews and
administrative officials as the circumstances require for their safe and
efficient use.

The second and third of these recommendations the Congress immediately
acted on: it established the eight-hour day as the legal basis of work and
wages in train service and it authorized the appointment of a commission to
observe and report upon the practical results, deeming these the measures
most immediately needed; but it postponed action upon the other suggestions
until an opportunity should be offered for a more deliberate consideration
of them.

The fourth recommendation I do not deem it necessary to renew. The power of
the Interstate Commerce Commission to grant an increase of rates on the
ground referred to is indisputably clear and a recommendation by the
Congress with regard to such a matter might seem to draw in question the
scope of the commission's authority or its inclination to do justice when
there is no reason to doubt either.

The other suggestions-the increase in the Interstate Commerce Commission's
membership and in its facilities for performing its manifold duties; the
provision for full public investigation and assessment of industrial
disputes, and the grant to the Executive of the power to control and
operate the railways when necessary in time of war or other like public
necessity-I now very earnestly renew.

The necessity for such legislation is manifest and pressing. Those who have
entrusted us with the responsibility and duty of serving and safeguarding
them in such matters would find it hard, I believe, to excuse a failure to
act upon these grave matters or any unnecessary postponement of action upon

Not only does the Interstate Commerce Commission now find it practically
impossible, with its present membership and organization, to perform its
great functions promptly and thoroughly, but it is not unlikely that it may
presently be found advisable to add to its duties still others equally
heavy and exacting. It must first be perfected as an administrative

The country cannot and should not consent to remain any longer exposed to
profound industrial disturbances for lack of additional means of
arbitration and conciliation which the Congress can easily and promptly

And all will agree that there must be no doubt as to the power of the
Executive to make immediate and uninterrupted use of the railroads for the
concentration of the military forces of the nation wherever they are needed
and whenever they are needed.

This is a program of regulation, prevention and administrative efficiency
which argues its own case in the mere statement of it. With regard to one
of its items, the increase in the efficiency of the Interstate Commerce
Commission, the House of Representatives has already acted; its action
needs only the concurrence of the Senate.

I would hesitate to recommend, and I dare say the Congress would hesitate
to act upon the suggestion should I make it, that any man in any I
occupation should be obliged by law to continue in an employment which he
desired to leave.

To pass a law which forbade or prevented the individual workman to leave
his work before receiving the approval of society in doing so would be to
adopt a new principle into our jurisprudence, which I take it for granted
we are not prepared to introduce.

But the proposal that the operation of the railways of the country shall
not be stopped or interrupted by the concerted action of organized bodies
of men until a public investigation shall have been instituted, which shall
make the whole question at issue plain for the judgment of the opinion of
the nation, is not to propose any such principle.

It is based upon the very different principle that the concerted action of
powerful bodies of men shall not be permitted to stop the industrial
processes of the nation, at any rate before the nation shall have had an
opportunity to acquaint itself with the merits of the case as between
employe and employer, time to form its opinion upon an impartial statement
of the merits, and opportunity to consider all practicable means of
conciliation or arbitration.

I can see nothing in that proposition but the justifiable safeguarding by
society of the necessary processes of its very life. There is nothing
arbitrary or unjust in it unless it be arbitrarily and unjustly done. It
can and should be done with a full and scrupulous regard for the interests
and liberties of all concerned as well as for the permanent interests of
society itself.

Three matters of capital importance await the action of the Senate which
have already been acted upon by the House of Representatives; the bill
which seeks to extend greater freedom of combination to those engaged in
promoting the foreign commerce of the country than is now thought by some
to be legal under the terms of the laws against monopoly; the bill amending
the present organic law of Porto Rico; and the bill proposing a more
thorough and systematic regulation of the expenditure of money in
elections, commonly called the Corrupt Practices Act.

I need not labor my advice that these measures be enacted into law. Their
urgency lies in the manifest circumstances which render their adoption at
this time not only opportune but necessary. Even delay would seriously
jeopard the interests of the country and of the Government.

Immediate passage of the bill to regulate the expenditure of money in
elections may seem to be less necessary than the immediate enactment of the
other measures to which I refer, because at least two years will elapse
before another election in which Federal offices are to be filled; but it
would greatly relieve the public mind if this important matter were dealt
with while the circumstances and the dangers to the public morals of the
present method of obtaining and spending campaign funds stand clear under
recent observation, and the methods of expenditure can be frankly studied
in the light of present experience; and a delay would have the further very
serious disadvantage of postponing action until another election was at
hand and some special object connected with it might be thought to be in
the mind of those who urged it. Action can be taken now with facts for
guidance and without suspicion of partisan purpose.

I shall not argue at length the desirability of giving a freer hand in the
matter of combined and concerted effort to those who shall undertake the
essential enterprise of building up our export trade. That enterprise will
presently, will immediately assume, has indeed already assumed a magnitude
unprecedented in our experience. We have not the necessary
instrumentalities for its prosecution; it is deemed to be doubtful whether
they could be created upon an adequate scale under our present laws.

We should clear away all legal obstacles and create a basis of undoubted
law for it which will give freedom without permitting unregulated license.
The thing must be done now, because the opportunity is here and may escape
us if we hesitate or delay.

The argument for the proposed amendments of the organic law of Porto Rico
is brief and conclusive. The present laws governing the island and
regulating the rights and privileges of its people are not just. We have
created expectations of extended privilege which we have not satisfied.
There is uneasiness among the people of the island and even a suspicious
doubt with regard to our intentions concerning them which the adoption of
the pending measure would happily remove. We do not doubt what we wish to
do in any essential particular. We ought to do it at once.

At the last session of the Congress a bill was passed by the Senate which
provides for the promotion of vocational and industrial education, which is
of vital importance to the whole country because it concerns a matter, too
long neglected, upon which the thorough industrial preparation of the
country for the critical years of economic development immediately ahead of
us in very large measure depends.

May I not urge its early and favorable consideration by the House of
Representatives and its early enactment into law? It contains plans which
affect all interests and all parts of the country, and I am sure that there
is no legislation now pending before the Congress whose passage the country
awaits with more thoughtful approval or greater impatience to see a great
and admirable thing set in the way of being done.

There are other matters already advanced to the stage of conference between
the two houses of which it is not necessary that I should speak. Some
practicable basis of agreement concerning them will no doubt be found an
action taken upon them.

Inasmuch as this is, gentlemen, probably the last occasion I shall have to
address the Sixty-fourth Congress, I hope that you will permit me to say
with what genuine pleasure and satisfaction I have co-operated with you in
the many measures of constructive policy with which you have enriched the
legislative annals of the country. It has been a privilege to labor in such
company. I take the liberty of congratulating you upon the completion of a
record of rare serviceableness and distinction.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 4, 1917


Eight months have elapsed since I last had the honor of addressing you.
They have been months crowded with events of immense and grave significance
for us. I shall not undertake to detail or even to summarize those events.
The practical particulars of the part we have played in them will be laid
before you in the reports of the executive departments. I shall discuss
only our present outlook upon these vast affairs, our present duties, and
the immediate means of accomplishing the objects we shall hold always in

I shall not go back to debate the causes of the war. The intolerable wrongs
done and planned against us by the sinister masters of Germany have long
since become too grossly obvious and odious to every true American to need
to be rehearsed. But I shall ask you to consider again and with a very
grave scrutiny our objectives and the measures by which we mean to attain
them; for the purpose of discussion here in this place is action, and our
action must move straight toward definite ends. Our object is, of course,
to win the war; and we shall not slacken or suffer ourselves to be diverted
until it is won. But it is worth while asking and answering the question,
When shall we consider the war won?

From one point of view it is not necessary to broach this fundamental
matter. I do not doubt that the American people know what the war is about
and what sort of an outcome they will regard as a realization of their
purpose in it.

As a nation we are united in spirit and intention. I pay little heed to
those who tell me otherwise. I hear the voices of dissent-who does not? I
bear the criticism and the clamor of the noisily thoughtless and
troublesome. I also see men here and there fling themselves in impotent
disloyalty against the calm, indomitable power of the Nation. I hear men
debate peace who understand neither its nature nor the way in which we may
attain it with uplifted eyes and unbroken spirits. But I know that none of
these speaks for the Nation. They do not touch the heart of anything. They
may safely be left to strut their uneasy hour and be forgotten.

But from another point of view I believe that it is necessary to say
plainly what we here at the seat of action consider the war to be for and
what part we mean to play in the settlement of its searching issues. We are
the spokesmen of the American people, and they have a right to know whether
their purpose is ours. They desire peace by the overcoming of evil, by the
defeat once for all of the sinister forces that interrupt peace and render
it impossible, and they wish to know how closely our thought runs with
theirs and what action we propose. They are impatient with those who desire
peace by any sort of compromise deeply and indignantly impatient--but they
will be equally impatient with us if we do not make it plain to them what
our objectives are and what we are planning for in seeking to make conquest
of peace by arms.

I believe that I speak for them when I say two things: First, that this
intolerable thing of which the masters of Germany have shown us the ugly
face, this menace of combined intrigue and force which we now see so
clearly as the German power, a thing without conscience or honor of
capacity for covenanted peace, must be crushed and, if it be not utterly
brought to an end, at least shut out from the friendly intercourse of the
nations; and second, that when this thing and its power are indeed defeated
and the time comes that we can discuss peace when the German people have
spokesmen whose word we can believe and when those spokesmen are ready in
the name of their people to accept the common judgment of the nations as to
what shall henceforth be the bases of law and of covenant for the life of
the world-we shall be willing and glad to pay the full price for peace, and
pay it ungrudgingly.

We know what that price will be. It will be full, impartial justice-justice
done at every point and to every nation that the final settlement must
affect, our enemies as well as our friends.

You catch, with me, the voices of humanity that are in the air. They grow
daily more audible, more articulate, more persuasive, and they come from
the hearts of men everywhere. They insist that the war shall not end in
vindictive action of any kind; that no nation or people shall be robbed or
punished because the irresponsible rulers of a single country have
themselves done deep and abominable wrong. It is this thought that has been
expressed in the formula, "No annexations, no contributions, no punitive

Just because this crude formula expresses the instinctive judgment as to
right of plain men everywhere, it has been made diligent use of by the
masters of German intrigue to lead the people of Russia astray and the
people of every other country their agents could reach-in order that a
premature peace might be brought about before autocracy has been taught its
final and convincing lesson and the people of the world put in control of
their own destinies.

But the fact that a wrong use has been made of a just idea is no reason why
a right use should not be made of it. It ought to be brought under the
patronage of its real friends. Let it be said again that autocracy must
first be shown the utter futility of its claim to power or leadership in
the modern world. It is impossible to apply any standard of justice so long
as such forces are unchecked and undefeated as the present masters of
Germany command. Not until that has been done can right be set up as
arbiter and peacemaker among the nations. But when that has been done-as,
God willing, it assuredly will be-we shall at last be free to do an
unprecedented thing, and this is the time to avow our purpose to do it. We
shall be free to base peace on generosity and justice, to the exclusions of
all selfish claims to advantage even on the part of the victors.

Let there be no misunderstanding. Our present and immediate task is to win
the war and nothing shall turn us aside from it until it is
accomplished. Every power and resource we possess, whether of men, of
money, or of materials, is being devoted and will continue to be devoted to
that purpose until it is achieved. Those who desire to bring peace about
before that purpose is achieved I counsel to carry their advice elsewhere.
We will not entertain it. We shall regard the war as won only when the
German people say to us, through properly accredited representatives, that
they are ready to agree to a settlement based upon justice and reparation
of the wrongs their rulers have done. They have done a wrong to Belgium
which must be repaired. They have established a power over other lands and
peoples than their own--over the great empire of Austria-Hungary, over
hitherto free Balkan states, over Turkey and within Asia-which must be

Germany's success by skill, by industry, by knowledge, by enterprise we did
not grudge or oppose, but admired, rather. She had built up for herself a
real empire of trade and influence, secured by the peace of the world. We
were content to abide by the rivalries of manufacture, science and commerce
that were involved for us in her success, and stand or fall as we had or
did not have the brains and the initiative to surpass her. But at the
moment when she had conspicuously won her triumphs of peace she threw them
away, to establish in their stead what the world will no longer permit to
be established, military and political domination by arms, by which to oust
where she could not excel the rivals she most feared and hated. The peace
we make must remedy that wrong. It must deliver the once fair lands and
happy peoples of Belgium and Northern France from the Prussian conquest and
the Prussian menace, but it must deliver also the peoples of
Austria-Hungary, the peoples of the Balkans and the peoples of Turkey,
alike in Europe and Asia, from the impudent and alien dominion of the
Prussian military and commercial autocracy.

We owe it, however, to ourselves, to say that we do not wish in any way to
impair or to rearrange the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It is no affair of ours
what they do with their own life, either industrially or politically. We do
not purpose or desire to dictate to them in any way. We only desire to see
that their affairs are left in their own hands, in all matters, great or
small. We shall hope to secure for the peoples of the Balkan peninsula and
for the people of the Turkish Empire the right and opportunity to make
their own lives safe, their own fortunes secure against oppression or
injustice and from the dictation of foreign courts or parties.

And our attitude and purpose with regard to Germany herself are of a like
kind. We intend no wrong against the German Empire, no interference with
her internal affairs. We should deem either the one or the other absolutely
unjustifiable, absolutely contrary to the principles we have professed to
live by and to hold most sacred throughout our life as a nation.

The people of Germany are being told by the men whom they now permit to
deceive them and to act as their masters that they are fighting for the
very life and existence of their empire, a war of desperate self-defense
against deliberate aggression. Nothing could be more grossly or wantonly
false, and we must seek by the utmost openness and candor as to our real
aims to convince them of its falseness. We are in fact fighting for their
emancipation from the fear, along with our own-from the fear as well as
from the fact of unjust attack by neighbors or rivals or schemers after
world empire. No one is threatening the existence or the independence of
the peaceful enterprise of the German Empire.

The worst that can happen to the detriment the German people is this, that
if they should still, after the war is over, continue to be obliged to live
under ambitious and intriguing masters interested to disturb the peace of
the world, men or classes of men whom the other peoples of the world could
not trust, it might be impossible to admit them to the partnership of
nations which must henceforth guarantee the world's peace. That partnership
must be a partnership of peoples, not a mere partnership of governments. It
might be impossible, also, in such untoward circumstances, to admit Germany
to the free economic intercourse which must inevitably spring out of the
other partnerships of a real peace. But there would be no aggression in
that; and such a situation, inevitable, because of distrust, would in the
very nature of things sooner or later cure itself, by processes which would
assuredly set in.

The wrongs, the very deep wrongs, committed in this war will have to be
righted. That, of course. But they cannot and must not be righted by the
commission of similar wrongs against Germany and her allies. The world will
not permit the commission of similar wrongs as a means of reparation and
settlement. Statesmen must by this time have learned that the opinion of
the world is everywhere wide awake and fully comprehends the issues
involved. No representative of any self-governed nation will dare disregard
it by attempting any such covenants of selfishness and compromise as were
entered into at the Congress of Vienna. The thought of the plain people
here and everywhere throughout the world, the people who enjoy no privilege
and have very simple and unsophisticated standards of right and wrong, is
the air all governments must henceforth breathe if they would live.

It is in the full disclosing light of that thought that all policies must
be received and executed in this midday hour of the world's life. Ger. man
rulers have been able to upset the peace of the world only because the
German people were not suffered under their tutelage to share the
comradeship of the other peoples of the world either in thought or in
purpose. They were allowed to have no opinion of their own which might be
set up as a rule of conduct for those who exercised authority over them.
But the Congress that concludes this war will feel the full strength of the
tides that run now in the hearts and consciences of free men everywhere.
Its conclusions will run with those tides.

All those things have been true from the very beginning of this stupendous
war; and I cannot help thinking that if they had been made plain at the
very outset the sympathy and enthusiasm of the Russian people might have
been once for all enlisted on the side of the Allies, suspicion and
distrust swept away, and a real and lasting union of purpose effected. Had
they believed these things at the very moment of their revolution, and had
they been confirmed in that belief since, the sad reverses which have
recently marked the progress of their affairs towards an ordered and stable
government of free men might have been avoided. The Russian people have
been poisoned by the very same falsehoods that have kept the German people
in the dark, and the poison has been administered by the very same hand.
The only possible antidote is the truth. It cannot be uttered too plainly
or too often.

From every point of view, therefore, it has seemed to be my duty to speak
these declarations of purpose, to add these specific interpretations to
what I took the liberty of saying to the Senate in January. Our entrance
into the war has not altered out attitude towards the settlement that must
come when it is over.

When I said in January that the nations of the world were entitled not only
to free pathways upon the sea, but also to assured and unmolested access to
those-pathways, I was thinking, and I am thinking now, not of the smaller
and weaker nations alone which need our countenance and support, but also
of the great and powerful nations and of our present enemies as well as our
present associates in the war. I was thinking, and am thinking now, of
Austria herself, among the rest, as well as of Serbia and of Poland.

Justice and equality of rights can be had only at a great price. We are
seeking permanent, not temporary, foundations for the peace of the world,
and must seek them candidly and fearlessly. As always, the right will prove
to be the expedient.

What shall we do, then, to push this great war of freedom and justice to
its righteous conclusion? We must clear away with a thorough hand all
impediments to success, and we must make every adjustment of law that will
facilitate the full and free use of our whole capacity and force as a
fighting unit.

One very embarrassing obstacle that stands hi our way is that we are at war
with Germany but not with her allies. I, therefore, very earnestly
recommend that the Congress immediately declare the United States in a
state of war with Austria-Hungary. Does it seem strange to you that this
should be the conclusion of the argument I have just addressed to you? It
is not. It is in fact the inevitable logic of what I have said.
Austria-Hungary is for the time being not her own mistress but simply the
vassal of the German Government.

We must face the facts as they are and act upon them without sentiment in
this stern business. The Government of Austria and Hungary is not acting
upon its own initiative or in response to the wishes and feelings of its
own peoples, but as the instrument of another nation. We must meet its
force with our own and regard the Central Powers as but one. The war can be
successfully conducted in no other way.

The same logic would lead also to a declaration of war against Turkey and
Bulgaria. They also are the tools of Germany, but they are mere tools and
do not yet stand in the direct path of our necessary action. We shall go
wherever the necessities of this war carry us, but it seems to me that we
should go only where immediate and practical considerations lead us, and
not heed any others.

The financial and military measures which must be adopted will suggest
themselves as the war and its undertakings develop, but I will take the
liberty of proposing to you certain other acts of legislation which seem to
me to be needed for the support of the war and for the release of our whole
force and energy.

It will be necessary to extend in certain particulars the legislation of
the last session with regard to alien enemies, and also necessary, I
believe, to create a very definite and particular control over the entrance
and departure of all persons into and from the United States.

Legislation should be enacted defining as a criminal offense every wilful
violation of the presidential proclamation relating to alien enemies
promulgated under section 4o67 of the revised statutes and providing
appropriate punishments; and women, as well as men, should be included
under the terms of the acts placing restraints upon alien enemies.

It is likely that as time goes on many alien enemies will be willing to be
fed and housed at the expense of the Government in the detention camps, and
it would be the purpose of the legislation I have suggested to confine
offenders among them in the penitentiaries and other similar institutions
where they could be made to work as other criminals do.

Recent experience has convinced me that the Congress must go further in
authorizing the Government to set limits to prices. The law of supply and
demand, I am sorry to say, has been replaced by the law of unrestrained
selfishness. While we have eliminated profiteering in several branches of
industry, it still runs impudently rampant in others. The farmers for
example, complain with a great deal of justice that, while the regulation
of food prices restricts their incomes, no restraints are placed upon the
prices of most of the things they must themselves purchase; and similar
inequities obtain on all sides.

It is imperatively necessary that the consideration of the full use of the
water power of the country, and also of the consideration of the systematic
and yet economical development of such of the natural resources of the
country as are still under the control of the Federal Government should be
immediately resumed and affirmatively and constructively dealt with at the
earliest possible moment. The pressing need of such legislation is daily
becoming more obvious.

The legislation proposed at the last session with regard to regulated
combinations among our exporters in order to provide for our foreign trade
a more effective organization and method of co-operation ought by all means
to be completed at this session.

And I beg that the members of the House of Representatives will permit me
to express the opinion that it will be impossible to deal in any but a very
wasteful and extravagant fashion with the enormous appropriations of the
public moneys which must continue to be made if the war is to be properly
sustained, unless the House will consent to return to its former practice
of initiating and preparing all appropriation bills through a single
committee, in order that responsibility may be centered, expenditures
standardized and made uniform, and waste and duplication as much as
possible avoided.

Additional legislation may also become necessary before the present
Congress again adjourns in order to effect the most efficient co-ordination
and operation of the railways and other transportation systems of the
country; but to that I shall, if circumstances should demand, call the
attention of Congress upon another occasion.

If I have overlooked anything that ought to be done for the more effective
conduct of the war, your own counsels will supply the omission. What I am
perfectly clear about is that in the present session of the Congress our
whole attention and energy should be concentrated on the vigorous, rapid
and successful prosecution of the great task of winning the war.

We can do this with all the greater zeal and enthusiasm because we know
that for us this is a war of high principle, debased by no selfish ambition
of conquest or spoliation; because we know, and all the world knows, that
we have been forced into it to save the very institutions we five under
from corruption and destruction. The purpose of the Central Powers strikes
straight at the very heart of everything we believe in; their methods of
warfare outrage every principle of humanity and of knightly honor; their
intrigue has corrupted the very thought and spirit of many of our people;
their sinister and secret diplomacy has sought to take our very territory
away from us and disrupt the union of the states. Our safety would be at an
end, our honor forever sullied and brought into contempt, were we to permit
their triumph. They are striking at the very existence of democracy and

It is because it is for us a war of high, disinterested purpose, in which
all the free peoples of the world are banded together for the vindication
of right, a war for the preservation of our nation, of all that it has held
dear, of principle and of purpose, that we feel ourselves doubly
constrained to propose for its outcome only that which is righteous and of
irreproachable intention, for our foes as well as for our friends. The
cause being just and holy, the settlement must be of like motive and
equality. For this we can fight, but for nothing less noble or less worthy
of our traditions. For this cause we entered the war and for this cause
will we battle until the last gun is fired.

I have spoken plainly because this seems to me the time when it is most
necessary to speak plainly, in order that all the world may know that, even
in the heat and ardor of the struggle and when our whole thought is of
carrying the war through to its end, we have not forgotten any ideal or
principle for which the name of America has been held in honor among the
nations and for which it has been our glory to contend in the great
generations that went before us. A supreme moment of history has come. The
eyes of the people have been opened and they see. The hand of God is laid
upon the nations. He will show them favor, I devoutly believe, only if they
rise to the clear heights of His own justice and mercy.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 2, 1918


The year that has elapsed since I last stood before you to fulfil my
constitutional duty to give to the Congress from time to time information
on the state of the Union has been so crowded with great events, great
processes, and great results that I cannot hope to give you an adequate
picture of its transactions or of the far-reaching changes which have been
wrought of our nation and of the world. You have yourselves witnessed these
things, as I have. It is too soon to assess them; and we who stand in the
midst of them and are part of them are less qualified than men of another
generation will be to say what they mean, or even what they have been. But
some great outstanding facts are unmistakable and constitute, in a sense,
part of the public business with which it is our duty to deal. To state
them is to set the stage for the legislative and executive action which
must grow out of them and which we have yet to shape and determine.

A year ago we had sent 145,918 men overseas. Since then we have sent
1,950,513, an average of 162,542 each month, the number in fact rising, in
May last, to 245,951, in June to 278,760, in July to 307,182, and
continuing to reach similar figures in August and September, in August
289,570 and in September 257,438. No such movement of troops ever took
place before, across three thousand miles of sea, followed by adequate
equipment and supplies, and carried safely through extraordinary dangers of
attack,-dangers which were alike strange and infinitely difficult to guard
against. In all this movement only seven hundred and fifty-eight men were
lost by enemy attack, six hundred and thirty of whom were upon a single
English transport which was sunk near the Orkney Islands.

I need not tell you what lay back of this great movement of men and
material. It is not invidious to say that back of it lay a supporting
organization of the industries of the country and of all its productive
activities more complete, more thorough in method and effective in result,
more spirited and unanimous in purpose and effort than any other great
belligerent had been able to effect. We profited greatly by the experience
of the nations which had already been engaged for nearly three years in the
exigent and exacting business, their every resource and every executive
proficiency taxed to the utmost. We were their pupils. But we learned
quickly and acted with a promptness and a readiness of cooperation that
justify our great pride that we were able to serve the world with
unparalleled energy and quick accomplishment.

But it is not the physical scale and executive efficiency of preparation,
supply, equipment and despatch that I would dwell upon, but the mettle and
quality of the officers and men we sent over and of the sailors who kept
the seas, and the spirit of the nation that stood behind them. No soldiers
or sailors ever proved themselves more quickly ready for the test of battle
or acquitted themselves with more splendid courage and achievement when put
to the test. Those of us who played some part in directing the great
processes by which the war was pushed irresistibly forward to the final
triumph may now forget all that and delight our thoughts with the story of
what our men did. Their officers understood the grim and exacting task they
had undertaken and performed it with an audacity, efficiency, and
unhesitating courage that touch the story of convoy and battle with
imperishable distinction at every turn, whether the enterprise were great
or small, from their great chiefs, Pershing and Sims, down to the youngest
lieutenant; and their men were worthy of them,-such men as hardly need to
be commanded, and go to their terrible adventure blithely and with the
quick intelligence of those who know just what it is they would accomplish.
I am proud to be the fellow-countryman of men of such stuff and valor. Those
of us who stayed at home did our duty; the war could not have been won or
the gallant men who fought it given their opportunity to win it otherwise;
but for many a long day we shall think ourselves "accurs'd we were not
there, and hold our manhoods cheap while any speaks that fought" with these
at St. Mihiel or Thierry. The memory of those days of triumphant battle
will go with these fortunate men to their graves; and each will have his
favorite memory. "Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot, but hell
remember with advantages what feats he did that day!"

What we all thank God for with deepest gratitude is that our men went in
force into the line of battle just at the critical moment when the whole
fate of the world seemed to hang in the balance and threw their fresh
strength into the ranks of freedom in time to turn the whole tide and sweep
of the fateful struggle,-turn it once for all, so that thenceforth it was
back, back, back for their enemies, always back, never again forward! After
that it was only a scant four months before the commanders of the Central
Empires knew themselves beaten; and now their very empires are in

And throughout it all how fine the spirit of the nation was: what unity of
purpose, what untiring zeal! What elevation of purpose ran through all its
splendid display of strength, its untiring accomplishment! I have said that
those of us who stayed at home to do the work of organization and supply
will always wish that we had been with the men whom we sustained by our
labor; but we can never be ashamed. It has been an inspiring thing to be
here in the midst of fine men who had turned aside from every private
interest of their own and devoted the whole of their trained capacity to
the tasks that supplied the sinews of the whole great undertaking! The
patriotism, the unselfishness, the thoroughgoing devotion and distinguished
capacity that marked their toilsome labors, day after day, month after
month, have made them fit mates and comrades of the men in the trenches and
on the sea. And not the men here in Washington only. They have but directed
the vast achievement. Throughout innumerable factories, upon innumerable
farms, in the depths of coal mines and iron mines and copper mines,
wherever the stuffs of industry were to be obtained and prepared, in the
shipyards, on the railways, at the docks, on the sea, in every labor that
was needed to sustain the battle lines, men have vied with each other to do
their part and do it well. They can look any man-at-arms in the face, and
say, We also strove to win and gave the best that was in us to make our
fleets and armies sure of their triumph!

And what shall we say of the women,-of their instant intelligence,
quickening every task that they touched; their capacity for organization
and cooperation, which gave their action discipline and enhanced the
effectiveness of everything they attempted; their aptitude at tasks to
which they had never before set their hands; their utter self-sacrifice
alike in what they did and in what they gave? Their contribution to the
great result is beyond appraisal. They have added a new lustre to the
annals of American womanhood.

The least tribute we can pay them is to make them the equals of men in
political rights as they have proved themselves their equals in every field
of practical work they have entered, whether for themselves or for their
country. These great days of completed achievement would be sadly marred
were we to omit that act of justice. Besides the immense practical services
they have rendered the women of the country have been the moving spirits in
the systematic economies by which our people have voluntarily assisted to
supply the suffering peoples of the world and the armies upon every front
with food and everything else that we had that might serve the common
cause. The details of such a story can never be fully written, but we carry
them at our hearts and thank God that we can say that we are the kinsmen of

And now we are sure of the great triumph for which every sacrifice was
made. It has come, come in its completeness, and with the pride and
inspiration of these days of achievement quick within us, we turn to the
tasks of peace again,-a peace secure against the violence of irresponsible
monarchs and ambitious military coteries and made ready for a new order,
for new foundations of justice and fair dealing.

We are about to give order and organization to this peace not only for
ourselves but for the other peoples of the world as well, so far as they
will suffer us to serve them. It is international justice that we seek, not
domestic safety merely. Our thoughts have dwelt of late upon Europe, upon
Asia, upon the near and the far East, very little upon the acts of peace
and accommodation that wait to be performed at our own doors. While we are
adjusting our relations with the rest of the world is it not of capital
importance that we should clear away all grounds of misunderstanding with
our immediate neighbors and give proof of the friendship we really feel? I
hope that the members of the Senate will permit me to speak once more of
the unratified treaty of friendship and adjustment with the Republic of
Colombia. I very earnestly urge upon them an early and favorable action
upon that vital matter. I believe that they will feel, with me, that the
stage of affairs is now set for such action as will be not only just but
generous and in the spirit of the new age upon which we have so happily

So far as our domestic affairs are concerned the problem of our return to
peace is a problem of economic and industrial readjustment. That problem is
less serious for us than it may turn out too he for the nations which have
suffered the disarrangements and the losses of war longer than we. Our
people, moreover, do not wait to be coached and led. They know their own
business, are quick and resourceful at every readjustment, definite in
purpose, and self-reliant in action. Any leading strings we might seek to
put them in would speedily become hopelessly tangled because they would pay
no attention to them and go their own way. All that we can do as their
legislative and executive servants is to mediate the process of change
here, there, and elsewhere as we may. I have heard much counsel as to the
plans that should be formed and personally conducted to a happy
consummation, but from no quarter have I seen any general scheme of
"reconstruction" emerge which I thought it likely we could force our
spirited business men and self-reliant laborers to accept with due pliancy
and obedience.

While the war lasted we set up many agencies by which to direct the
industries of the country in the services it was necessary for them to
render, by which to make sure of an abundant supply of the materials
needed, by which to check undertakings that could for the time be dispensed
with and stimulate those that were most serviceable in war, by which to
gain for the purchasing departments of the Government a certain control
over the prices of essential articles and materials, by which to restrain
trade with alien enemies, make the most of the available shipping, and
systematize financial transactions, both public and private, so that there
would be no unnecessary conflict or confusion,-by which, in short, to put
every material energy of the country in harness to draw the common load
and make of us one team in the accomplishment of a great task. But the
moment we knew the armistice to have been signed we took the harness off.
Raw materials upon which the Government had kept its hand for fear there
should not be enough for the industries that supplied the armies have been
released and put into the general market again. Great industrial plants
whose whole output and machinery had been taken over for the uses of the
Government have been set free to return to the uses to which they were put
before the war. It has not been possible to remove so readily or so quickly
the control of foodstuffs and of shipping, because the world has still to
be fed from our granaries and the ships are still needed to send supplies
to our men overseas and to bring the men back as fast as the disturbed
conditions on the other side of the water permit; but even there restraints
are being relaxed as much as possible and more and more as the weeks go by.

Never before have there been agencies in existence in this country which
knew so much of the field of supply, of labor, and of industry as the War
Industries Board, the War Trade Board, the Labor Department, the Food
Administration, and the Fuel Administration have known since their labors
became thoroughly systematized; and they have not been isolated agencies;
they have been directed by men who represented the permanent Departments of
the Government and so have been the centres of unified and cooperative
action. It has been the policy of the Executive, therefore, since the
armistice was assured (which is in effect a complete submission of the
enemy) to put the knowledge of these bodies at the disposal of the business
men of the country and to offer their intelligent mediation at every point
and in every matter where it was desired. It is surprising how fast the
process of return to a peace footing has moved in the three weeks since the
fighting stopped. It promises to outrun any inquiry that may be instituted
and any aid that may be offered. It will not be easy to direct it any
better than it will direct itself. The American business man is of quick

The ordinary and normal processes of private initiative will not, however,
provide immediate employment for all of the men of our returning armies.
Those who are of trained capacity, those who are skilled workmen, those who
have acquired familiarity with established businesses, those who are ready
and willing to go to the farms, all those whose aptitudes are known or will
be sought out by employers will find no difficulty, it is safe to say, in
finding place and employment. But there will be others who will be at a
loss where to gain a livelihood unless pains are taken to guide them and
put them in the way of work. There will be a large floating residuum of
labor which should not be left wholly to shift for itself. It seems to me
important, therefore, that the development of public works of every sort
should be promptly resumed, in order that opportunities should be created
for unskilled labor in particular, and that plans should be made for such
developments of our unused lands and our natural resources as we have
hitherto lacked stimulation to undertake.

I particularly direct your attention to the very practical plans which the
Secretary of the Interior has developed in his annual report and before
your Committees for the reclamation of arid, swamp, and cutover lands which
might, if the States were willing and able to cooperate, redeem some three
hundred million acres of land for cultivation. There are said to be fifteen
or twenty million acres of land in the West, at present arid, for whose
reclamation water is available, if properly conserved. There are about two
hundred and thirty million acres from which the forests have been cut but
which have never yet been cleared for the plow and which lie waste and
desolate. These lie scattered all over the Union. And there are nearly
eighty million acres of land that lie under swamps or subject to periodical
overflow or too wet for anything but grazing, which it is perfectly
feasible to drain and protect and redeem. The Congress can at once direct
thousands of the returning soldiers to the reclamation of the arid lands
which it has already undertaken, if it will but enlarge the plans and
appropriations which it has entrusted to the Department of the Interior. It
is possible in dealing with our unused land to effect a great rural and
agricultural development which will afford the best sort of opportunity to
men who want to help themselves and the Secretary of the Interior has
thought the possible methods out in a way which is worthy of your most
friendly attention.

I have spoken of the control which must yet for a while, perhaps for a long
long while, be exercised over shipping because of the priority of service
to which our forces overseas are entitled and which should also be accorded
the shipments which are to save recently liberated peoples from starvation
and many devastated regions from permanent ruin. May I not say a special
word about the needs of Belgium and northern France? No sums of money paid
by way of indemnity will serve of themselves to save them from hopeless
disadvantage for years to come. Something more must be done than merely
find the money. If they had money and raw materials in abundance to-morrow
they could not resume their place in the industry of the world
to-morrow,-the very important place they held before the flame of war swept
across them. Many of their factories are razed to the ground. Much of their
machinery is destroyed or has been taken away. Their people are scattered
and many of their best workmen are dead. Their markets will be taken by
others, if they are not in some special way assisted to rebuild their
factories and replace their lost instruments of manufacture. They should
not be left to the vicissitudes of the sharp competition for materials and
for industrial facilities which is now to set in. I hope, therefore, that
the Congress will not be unwilling, if it should become necessary, to grant
to some such agency as the War Trade Board the right to establish
priorities of export and supply for the benefit of these people whom we
have been so happy to assist in saving from the German terror and whom we
must not now thoughtlessly leave to shift for themselves in a pitiless
competitive market.

For the steadying, and facilitation of our own domestic business
readjustments nothing is more important than the immediate determination of
the taxes that are to be levied for 1918, 1919, and 1920. As much of the
burden of taxation must be lifted from business as sound methods of
financing the Government will permit, and those who conduct the great
essential industries of the country must be told as exactly as possible
what obligations to the Government they will be expected to meet in the
years immediately ahead of them. It will be of serious consequence to the
country to delay removing all uncertainties in this matter a single day
longer than the right processes of debate justify. It is idle to talk of
successful and confident business reconstruction before those uncertainties
are resolved.

If the war had continued it would have been necessary to raise at least
eight billion dollars by taxation payable in the year 1919; but the war has
ended and I agree with the Secretary of the Treasury that it will be safe
to reduce the amount to six billions. An immediate rapid decline in the
expenses of the Government is not to be looked for. Contracts made for war
supplies will, indeed, be rapidly cancelled and liquidated, but their
immediate liquidation will make heavy drains on the Treasury for the months
just ahead of us. The maintenance of our forces on the other side of the
sea is still necessary. A considerable proportion of those forces must
remain in Europe during the period of occupation, and those which are
brought home will be transported and demobilized at heavy expense for
months to come. The interest on our war debt must of course be paid and
provision made for the retirement of the obligations of the Government
which represent it. But these demands will of course fall much below what a
continuation of military operations would have entailed and six billions
should suffice to supply a sound foundation for the financial operations of
the year.

I entirely concur with the Secretary of the Treasury in recommending that
the two billions needed in addition to the four billions provided by
existing law be obtained from the profits which have accrued and shall
accrue from war contracts and distinctively war business, but that these
taxes be confined to the war profits accruing in 1918, or in 1919 from
business originating in war contracts. I urge your acceptance of his
recommendation that provision be made now, not subsequently, that the taxes
to be paid in 1920 should be reduced from six to four billions. Any
arrangements less definite than these would add elements of doubt and
confusion to the critical period of industrial readjustment through which
the country must now immediately pass, and which no true friend of the
nation's essential business interests can afford to be responsible for
creating or prolonging. Clearly determined conditions, clearly and simply
charted, are indispensable to the economic revival and rapid industrial
development which may confidently be expected if we act now and sweep all
interrogation points away.

I take it for granted that the Congress will carry out the naval programme
which was undertaken before we entered the war. The Secretary of the Navy
has submitted to your Committees for authorization that part of the
programme which covers the building plans of the next three years. These
plans have been prepared along the lines and in accordance with the policy
which the Congress established, not under the exceptional conditions of the
war, but with the intention of adhering to a definite method of development
for the navy. I earnestly recommend the uninterrupted pursuit of that
policy. It would clearly be unwise for us to attempt to adjust our
programmes to a future world policy as yet undetermined.

The question which causes me the greatest concern is the question of the
policy to be adopted towards the railroads. I frankly turn to you for
counsel upon it. I have no confident judgment of my own. I do not see how
any thoughtful man can have who knows anything of the complexity of the
problem. It is a problem which must be studied, studied immediately, and
studied without bias or prejudice. Nothing can be gained by becoming
partisans of any particular plan of settlement.

It was necessary that the administration of the railways should be taken
over by the Government so long as the war lasted. It would have been
impossible otherwise to establish and carry through under a single
direction the necessary priorities of shipment. It would have been
impossible otherwise to combine maximum production at the factories and
mines and farms with the maximum possible car supply to take the products
to the ports and markets; impossible to route troop shipments and freight
shipments without regard to the advantage or-disadvantage of the roads
employed; impossible to subordinate, when necessary, all questions of
convenience to the public necessity; impossible to give the necessary
financial support to the roads from the public treasury. But all these
necessities have now been served, and the question is, What is best for the
railroads and for the public in the future?

Exceptional circumstances and exceptional methods of administration were
not needed to convince us that the railroads were not equal to the immense
tasks of transportation imposed upon them by the rapid and continuous
development of the industries of the country. We knew that already. And we
knew that they were unequal to it partly because their full cooperation was
rendered impossible by law and their competition made obligatory, so that
it has been impossible to assign to them severally the traffic which could
best be carried by their respective lines in the interest of expedition and
national economy.

We may hope, I believe, for the formal conclusion of the war by treaty by
the time Spring has come. The twenty-one months to which the present control
of the railways is limited after formal proclamation of peace shall have
been made will run at the farthest, I take it for granted, only to the
January of 1921. The full equipment of the railways which the federal
administration had planned could not be completed within any such period.
The present law does not permit the use of the revenues of the several
roads for the execution of such plans except by formal contract with their
directors, some of whom will consent while some will not, and therefore
does not afford sufficient authority to undertake improvements upon the
scale upon which it would be necessary to undertake them. Every approach to
this difficult subject-matter of decision brings us face to face,
therefore, with this unanswered question: What is it right that we should
do with the railroads, in the interest of the public and in fairness to
their owners?

Let me say at once that I have no answer ready. The only thing that is
perfectly clear to me is that it is not fair either to the public or to the
owners of the railroads to leave the question unanswered and that it will
presently become my duty to relinquish control of the roads, even before
the expiration of the statutory period, unless there should appear some
clear prospect in the meantime of a legislative solution. Their release
would at least produce one element of a solution, namely certainty and a
quick stimulation of private initiative.

I believe that it will be serviceable for me to set forth as explicitly as
possible the alternative courses that lie open to our choice. We can simply
release the roads and go back to the old conditions of private management,
unrestricted competition, and multiform regulation by both state and
federal authorities; or we can go to the opposite extreme and establish
complete government control, accompanied, if necessary, by actual
government ownership; or we can adopt an intermediate course of modified
private control, under a more unified and affirmative public regulation and
under such alterations of the law as will permit wasteful competition to be
avoided and a considerable degree of unification of administration to be
effected, as, for example, by regional corporations under which the
railways of definable areas would be in effect combined in single systems.

The one conclusion that I am ready to state with confidence is that it
would be a disservice alike to the country and to the owners of the
railroads to return to the old conditions unmodified. Those are conditions
of restraint without development. There is nothing affirmative or helpful
about them. What the country chiefly needs is that all its means of
transportation should be developed, its railways, its waterways, its
highways, and its countryside roads. Some new element of policy, therefore,
is absolutely necessary--necessary for the service of the public, necessary
for the release of credit to those who are administering the railways,
necessary for the protection of their security holders. The old policy may
be changed much or little, but surely it cannot wisely be left as it was. I
hope that the Con will have a complete and impartial study of the whole
problem instituted at once and prosecuted as rapidly as possible. I stand
ready and anxious to release the roads from the present control and I must
do so at a very early date if by waiting until the statutory limit of time
is reached I shall be merely prolonging the period of doubt and uncertainty
which is hurtful to every interest concerned.

I welcome this occasion to announce to the Congress my purpose to join in
Paris the representatives of the governments with which we have been
associated in the war against the Central Empires for the purpose of
discussing with them the main features of the treaty of peace. I realize
the great inconveniences that will attend my leaving the country,
particularly at this time, but the conclusion that it was my paramount duty
to go has been forced upon me by considerations which I hope will seem as
conclusive to you as they have seemed to me.

The Allied governments have accepted the bases of peace which I outlined to
the Congress on the eighth of January last, as the Central Empires also
have, and very reasonably desire my personal counsel in their
interpretation and application, and it is highly desirable that I should
give it in order that the sincere desire of our Government to contribute
without selfish purpose of any kind to settlements that will be of common
benefit to all the nations concerned may be made fully manifest. The peace
settlements which are now to be agreed upon are of transcendent importance
both to us and to the rest of the world, and I know of no business or
interest which should take precedence of them. The gallant men of our armed
forces on land and sea have consciously fought for the ideals which they
knew to be the ideals of their country; I have sought to express those
ideals; they have accepted my statements of them as the substance of their
own thought and purpose, as the associated governments have accepted them;
I owe it to them to see to it, so far as in me lies, that no false or
mistaken interpretation is put upon them, and no possible effort omitted to
realize them. It is now my duty to play my full part in making good what
they offered their life's blood to obtain. I can think of no call to
service which could transcend this.

I shall be in close touch with you and with affairs on this side the water,
and you will know all that I do. At my request, the French and English
governments have absolutely removed the censorship of cable news which
until within a fortnight they had maintained and there is now no censorship
whatever exercised at this end except upon attempted trade communications
with enemy countries. It has been necessary to keep an open wire constantly
available between Paris and the Department of State and another between
France and the Department of War. In order that this might be done with the
least possible interference with the other uses of the cables, I have
temporarily taken over the control of both cables in order that they may be
used as a single system. I did so at the advice of the most experienced
cable officials, and I hope that the results will justify my hope that the
news of the next few months may pass with the utmost freedom and with the
least possible delay from each side of the sea to the other.

May I not hope, Gentlemen of the Congress, that in the delicate tasks I
shall have to perform on the other side of the sea, in my efforts truly and
faithfully to interpret the principles and purposes of the country we love,
I may have the encouragement and the added strength of your united support?
I realize the magnitude and difficulty of the duty I am undertaking; I am
poignantly aware of its grave responsibilities. I am the servant of the
nation. I can have no private thought or purpose of my own in performing
such an errand. I go to give the best that is in me to the common
settlements which I must now assist in arriving at in conference with the
other working heads of the associated governments. I shall count upon your
friendly countenance and encouragement. I shall not be inaccessible. The
cables and the wireless will render me available for any counsel or service
you may desire of me, and I shall be happy in the thought that I am
constantly in touch with the weighty matters of domestic policy with which
we shall have to deal. I shall make my absence as brief as possible and
shall hope to return with the happy assurance that it has been possible to
translate into action the great ideals for which America has striven.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 2, 1919


I sincerely regret that I cannot be present at the opening of this session
of the Congress. I am thus prevented from presenting in as direct a way as
I could wish the many questions that are pressing for solution at this
time. Happily, I have had the advantage of the advice of the heads of the
several executive departments who have kept in close touch with affairs in
their detail and whose thoughtful recommendations I earnestly second.

In the matter of the railroads and the readjustment of their affairs
growing out of Federal control, I shall take the liberty at a later date of
addressing you.

I hope that Congress will bring to a conclusion at this session legislation
looking to the establishment of a budget system. That there should be one
single authority responsible for the making of all appropriations and that
appropriations should be made not independently of each other, but with
reference to one single comprehensive plan of expenditure properly related
to the nation's income, there can be no doubt I believe the burden of
preparing the budget must, in the nature of the case, if the work is to be
properly done and responsibility concentrated instead of divided, rest upon
the executive. The budget so prepared should be submitted to and approved
or amended by a single committee of each House of Congress and no single
appropriation should be made by the Congress, except such as may have been
included in the budget prepared by the executive or added by the particular
committee of Congress charged with the budget legislation.

Another and not less important aspect of the problem is the ascertainment
of the economy and efficiency with which the moneys appropriated are
expended. Under existing law the only audit is for the purpose of
ascertaining whether expenditures have been lawfully made within the
appropriations. No one is authorized or equipped to ascertain whether the
money has been spent wisely, economically and effectively. The auditors
should be highly trained officials with permanent tenure in the Treasury
Department, free of obligations to or motives of consideration for this or
any subsequent administration, and authorized and empowered to examine into
and make report upon the methods employed and the results obtained by the
executive departments of the Government. Their reports should be made to
the Congress and to the Secretary of the Treasury.

I trust that the Congress will give its immediate consideration to the
problem of future taxation. Simplification of the income and profits taxes
has become an immediate necessity. These taxes performed indispensable
service during the war. They must, however, be simplified, not only to save
the taxpayer inconvenience and expense, but in order that his liability may
be made certain and definite.

With reference to the details of the Revenue Law, the Secretary of the
Treasury and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue will lay before you for
your consideration certain amendments necessary or desirable in connection
with the administration of the law-recommendations which have my approval
and support. It is of the utmost importance that in dealing with this
matter the present law should not be disturbed so far as regards taxes for
the calendar year 1920 payable in the calendar year 1921. The Congress
might well consider whether the higher rates of income and profits taxes
can in peace times be effectively productive of revenue, and whether they
may not, on the contrary, be destructive of business activity and
productive of waste and inefficiency. There is a point at which in peace
times high rates of income and profits taxes discourage energy, remove the
incentive to new enterprises, encourage extravagant expenditures and
produce industrial stagnation with consequent unemployment and other
attendant evils.

The problem is not an easy one. A fundamental change has taken place with
reference to the position of America in the world's affairs. The prejudice
and passions engendered by decades of controversy between two schools of
political and economic thought,-the one believers in protection of American
industries, the other believers in tariff for revenue only,-must be
subordinated to the single consideration of the public interest in the light
of utterly changed conditions. Before the war America was heavily the
debtor of the rest of the world and the interest payments she had to make
to foreign countries on American securities held abroad, the expenditures
of American travelers abroad and the ocean freight charges she had to pay
to others, about balanced the value of her pre-war favorable balance of
trade. During the war America's exports have been greatly stimulated, and
increased prices have increased their value. On the other hand, she has
purchased a large proportion of the American securities previously held
abroad, has loaned some $9,000,000,000 to foreign governments, and has
built her own ships. Our favorable balance of trade has thus been greatly
increased and Europe has been deprived of the means of meeting it
heretofore existing. Europe can have only three ways of meeting the
favorable balance of trade in peace times: by imports into this country of
gold or of goods, or by establishing new credits. Europe is in no position
at the present time to ship gold to us nor could we contemplate large
further imports of gold into this country without concern. The time has
nearly passed for international governmental loans and it will take time to
develop in this country a market for foreign securities. Anything,
therefore, which would tend to prevent foreign countries from settling for
our exports by shipments of goods into this country could only have the
effect of preventing them from paying for our exports and therefore of
preventing the exports from being made. The productivity of the country,
greatly stimulated by the war, must find an outlet by exports to foreign
countries, and any measures taken to prevent imports will inevitably
curtail exports, force curtailment of production, load the banking
machinery of the country with credits to carry unsold products and produce
industrial stagnation and unemployment. If we want to sell, we must be
prepared to buy. Whatever, therefore, may have been our views during the
period of growth of American business concerning tariff legislation, we
must now adjust our own economic life to a changed condition growing out of
the fact that American business is full grown and that America is the
greatest capitalist in the world.

No policy of isolation will satisfy the growing needs and opportunities of
America. The provincial standards and policies of the past, which have held
American business as if in a strait-jacket, must yield and give way to the
needs and exigencies of the new day in which we live, a day full of hope
and promise for American business, if we will but take advantage of the
opportunities that are ours for the asking. The recent war has ended our
isolation and thrown upon us a great duty and responsibility. The United
States must share the expanding world market. The United States desires for
itself only equal opportunity with the other nations of the world, and that
through the process of friendly cooperation and fair competition the
legitimate interests of the nations concerned may be successfully and
equitably adjusted.

There are other matters of importance upon which I urged action at the last
session of Congress which are still pressing for solution. I am sure it is
not necessary for me again to remind you that there is one immediate and
very practicable question resulting from the war which we should meet in
the most liberal spirit. It is a matter of recognition and relief to our
soldiers. I can do no better than to quote from my last message urging this
very action:

"We must see to it that our returning soldiers are assisted in every
practicable way to find the places for which they are fitted in the daily
work of the country. This can be done by developing and maintaining upon an
adequate scale the admirable organization created by the Department of
Labor for placing men seeking work; and it can also be done, in at least
one very great field, by creating new opportunities for individual
enterprise. The Secretary of the Interior has pointed out the way by which
returning soldiers may be helped to find and take up land in the hitherto
undeveloped regions of the country which the Federal Government has already
prepared, or can readily prepare, for cultivation and also on many of the
cutover or neglected areas which lie within the limits of the older states;
and I once more take the liberty of recommending very urgently that his
plans shall receive the immediate and substantial support of the

In the matter of tariff legislation, I beg to call your attention to the
statements contained in my last message urging legislation with reference
to the establishment of the chemical and dyestuffs industry in America:

"Among the industries to which special consideration should be given is
that of the manufacture of dyestuffs and related chemicals. Our complete
dependence upon German supplies before the war made the interruption of
trade a cause of exceptional economic disturbance. The close relation
between the manufacture of dyestuffs, on the one hand, and of explosive and
poisonous gases, on the other, moreover, has given the industry an
exceptional significance and value. Although the United States will gladly
and unhesitatingly join in the programme of international disarmament, it
will, nevertheless, be a policy of obvious prudence to make certain of the
successful maintenance of many strong and well-equipped chemical plants.
The German chemical industry, with which we will be brought into
competition, was and may well be again, a thoroughly knit monopoly capable
of exercising a competition of a peculiarly insidious and dangerous kind."

During the war the farmer performed a vital and willing service to the
nation. By materially increasing the production of his land, he supplied
America and the Allies with the increased amounts of food necessary to keep
their immense armies in the field. He indispensably helped to win the war.
But there is now scarcely less need of increasing the production in food
-and the necessaries of life. I ask the Congress to consider means of
encouraging effort along these lines. The importance of doing everything
possible to promote production along economical lines, to improve
marketing, and to make rural life more attractive and healthful, is
obvious. I would urge approval of the plans already proposed to the
Congress by the Secretary of Agriculture, to secure the essential facts
required for the proper study of this question, through the proposed
enlarged programmes for farm management studies and crop estimates. I would
urge, also, the continuance of Federal participation in the building of
good roads, under the terms of existing law and under the direction of
present agencies; the need of further action on the part of the States and
the Federal Government to preserve and develop our forest resources,
especially through the practice of better forestry methods on private
holdings and the extension of the publicly owned forests; better support
for country schools and the more definite direction of their courses of
study along lines related to rural problems; and fuller provision for
sanitation in rural districts and the building up of needed hospital and
medical facilities in these localities. Perhaps the way might be cleared
for many of these desirable reforms by a fresh, comprehensive survey made
of rural conditions by a conference composed of representatives of the
farmers and of the agricultural agencies responsible for leadership.

I would call your attention to the widespread condition of political
restlessness in our body politic. The causes of this unrest, while various
and complicated, are superficial rather than deep-seated. Broadly, they
arise from or are connected with the failure on the part of our Government
to arrive speedily at a just and permanent peace permitting return to
normal conditions, from the transfusion of radical theories from seething
European centers pending such delay, from heartless profiteering resulting
in the increase of the cost of living, and lastly from the machinations of
passionate and malevolent agitators. With the return to normal conditions,
this unrest will rapidly disappear. In the meantime, it does much evil. It
seems to me that in dealing with this situation Congress should not be
impatient or drastic but should seek rather to remove the causes. It should
endeavor to bring our country back speedily to a peace basis, with
ameliorated living conditions under the minimum of restrictions upon
personal liberty that is consistent with our reconstruction problems. And
it should arm the Federal Government with power to deal in its criminal
courts with those persons who by violent methods would abrogate our
time-tested institutions. With the free expression of opinion and with the
advocacy of orderly political change, however fundamental, there must be no
interference, but towards passion and malevolence tending to incite crime
and insurrection under guise of political evolution there should be no
leniency. Legislation to this end has been recommended by the Attorney
General and should be enacted. In this direct connection, I would call your
attention to my recommendations on August 8th, pointing out legislative
measures which would be effective in controlling and bringing down the
present cost of living, which contributes so largely to this unrest. On
only one of these recommendations has the Congress acted. If the
Government's campaign is to be effective, it is necessary that the other
steps suggested should be acted on at once.

I renew and strongly urge the necessity of the extension of the present
Food Control Act as to the period of time in which it shall remain in
operation. The Attorney General has submitted a bill providing for an
extension of this Act for a period of six months. As it now stands, it is
limited in operation to the period of the war and becomes inoperative upon
the formal proclamation of peace. It is imperative that it should be
extended at once. The Department of justice has built up extensive
machinery for the purpose of enforcing its provisions; all of which must be
abandoned upon the conclusion of peace unless the provisions of this Act
are extended.

During this period the Congress will have an opportunity to make similar
permanent provisions and regulations with regard to all goods destined for
interstate commerce and to exclude them from interstate shipment, if the
requirements of the law are not compiled with. Some such regulation is
imperatively necessary. The abuses that have grown up in the manipulation
of prices by the withholding of foodstuffs and other necessaries of life
cannot otherwise be effectively prevented. There can be no doubt of either
the necessity of the legitimacy of such measures.

As I pointed out in my last message, publicity can accomplish a great deal
in this campaign. The aims of the Government must be clearly brought to the
attention of the consuming public, civic organizations and state officials,
who are in a position to lend their assistance to our efforts. You have
made available funds with which to carry on this campaign, but there is no
provision in the law authorizing their expenditure for the purpose of
making the public fully informed about the efforts of the Government.
Specific recommendation has been made by the Attorney General in this
regard. I would strongly urge upon you its immediate adoption, as it
constitutes one of the preliminary steps to this campaign.

I also renew my recommendation that the Congress pass a law regulating cold
storage as it is regulated, for example, by the laws of the State of New
Jersey, which limit the time during which goods may be kept in storage,
prescribe the method of disposing of them if kept beyond the permitted
period, and require that goods released from storage shall in all cases
bear the date of their receipt. It would materially add to the
serviceability of the law, for the purpose we now have in view, if it were
also prescribed that all goods released from storage for interstate
shipment should have plainly marked upon each package the selling or market
price at which they went into storage. By this means the purchaser would
always be able to learn what profits stood between him and the producer or
the wholesale dealer.

I would also renew my recommendation that all goods destined for interstate
commerce should in every case, where their form or package makes it
possible, be plainly marked with the price at which they left the hands of
the producer.

We should formulate a law requiring a Federal license of all corporations
engaged in interstate commerce and embodying in the license or in the
conditions under which it is to be issued, specific regulations designed to
secure competitive selling and prevent unconscionable profits in the method
of marketing. Such a law would afford a welcome opportunity to effect other
much needed reforms in the business of interstate shipment and in the
methods of corporations which are engaged in it; but for the moment I
confine my recommendations to the object immediately in hand, which is to
lower the cost of living.

No one who has observed the march of events in the last year can fail to
note the absolute need of a definite programme to bring about an
improvement in the conditions of labor. There can be no settled conditions
leading to increased production and a reduction in the cost of living if
labor and capital are to be antagonists instead of partners. Sound thinking
and an honest desire to serve the interests of the whole nation, as
distinguished from the interests of a class, must be applied to the
solution of this great and pressing problem. The failure of other nations
to consider this matter in a vigorous way has produced bitterness and
jealousies and antagonisms, the food of radicalism. The only way to keep
men from agitating against grievances is to remove the grievances. An
unwillingness even to discuss these matters produces only dissatisfaction
and gives comfort to the extreme elements in our country which endeavor to
stir up disturbances in order to provoke governments to embark upon a
course of retaliation and repression. The seed of revolution is repression.
The remedy for these things must not be negative in character. It must be
constructive. It must comprehend the general interest. The real antidote
for the unrest which manifests itself is not suppression, but a deep
consideration of the wrongs that beset our national life and the
application of a remedy.

Congress has already shown its willingness to deal with these industrial
wrongs by establishing the eight-hour day as the standard in every field of
labor. It has sought to find a way to prevent child labor. It has served
the whole country by leading the way in developing the means of preserving
and safeguarding lives and health in dangerous industries. It must now help
in the difficult task of finding a method that will bring about a genuine
democratization of industry, based upon the full recognition of the right
of those who work, in whatever rank, to participate in some organic way in
every decision which directly affects their welfare. It is with this
purpose in mind that I called a conference to meet in Washington on
December 1st, to consider these problems in all their broad aspects, with
the idea of bringing about a better understanding between these two

The great unrest throughout the world, out of which has emerged a demand
for an immediate consideration of the difficulties between capital and
labor, bids us put our own house in order. Frankly, there can be no
permanent and lasting settlements between capital and labor which do not
recognize the fundamental concepts for which labor has been struggling
through the years. The whole world gave its recognition and endorsement to
these fundamental purposes in the League of Notions. The statesmen gathered
at Versailles recognized the fact that world stability could not be had by
reverting to industrial standards and conditions against which the average
workman of the world had revolted. It is, therefore, the task of the states
men of this new day of change and readjustment to recognize world
conditions and to seek to bring about, through legislation, conditions that
will mean the ending of age-long antagonisms between capital and labor and
that will hopefully lead to the building up of a comradeship which will
result not only in greater contentment among the mass of workmen but also
bring about a greater production and a greater prosperity to business

To analyze the particulars in the demands of labor is to admit the justice
of their complaint in many matters that lie at their basis. The workman
demands an adequate wage, sufficient to permit him to live in comfort,
unhampered by the fear of poverty and want in his old age. He demands the
right to live and the right to work amidst sanitary surroundings, both in
home and in workshop, surroundings that develop and do not retard his own
health and wellbeing; and the right to provide for his children's wants in
the matter of health and education. In other words, it is his desire to
make the conditions of his life and the lives of those dear to him
tolerable and easy to bear.

The establishment of the principles regarding labor laid down ill the
covenant of the League of Nations offers us the way to industrial peace and
conciliation. No other road lies open to us. Not to pursue this one is
longer to invite enmities, bitterness, and antagonisms which in the end
only lead to industrial and social disaster. The unwilling workman is not a
profitable servant. An employee whose industrial life is hedged about by
hard and unjust conditions, which he did not create and over which he has
no control, lacks that fine spirit of enthusiasm and volunteer effort which
are the necessary ingredients of a great producing entity. Let us be frank
about this solemn matter. The evidences of world-wide unrest which manifest
themselves in violence throughout the world bid us pause and consider the
means to be found to stop the spread of this contagious thing before it
saps the very vitality of the nation itself. Do we gain strength by
withholding the remedy? Or is it not the business of statesmen to treat
these manifestations of unrest which meet us on every hand as evidences of
an economic disorder and to apply constructive remedies wherever necessary,
being sure that in the application of the remedy we touch not the vital
tissues of our industrial and economic life? There can be no recession of
the tide of unrest until constructive instrumentalities are set up to stem
that tide.

Governments must recognize the right of men collectively to bargain for
humane objects that have at their base the mutual protection and welfare of
those engaged in all industries. Labor must not be longer treated as a
commodity. It must be regarded as the activity of human beings, possessed
of deep yearnings and desires. The business man gives his best thought to
the repair and replenishment of his machinery, so that its usefulness will
not be impaired and its power to produce may always be at its height and
kept in full vigor and motion. No less regard ought to be paid to the human
machine, which after all propels the machinery of the world and is the
great dynamic force that lies back of all industry and progress. Return to
the old standards of wage and industry in employment are unthinkable. The
terrible tragedy of war which has just ended and which has brought the
world to the verge of chaos and disaster would be in vain if there should
ensue a return to the conditions of the past. Europe itself, whence has
come the unrest which now holds the world at bay, is an example of
standpatism in these vital human matters which America might well accept as
an example, not to be followed but studiously to be avoided. Europe made
labor the differential, and the price of it all is enmity and antagonism
and prostrated industry, The right of labor to live in peace and comfort
must be recognized by governments and America should be the first to lay
the foundation stones upon which industrial peace shall be built.

Labor not only is entitled to an adequate wage, but capital should receive
a reasonable return upon its investment and is entitled to protection at
the hands of the Government in every emergency. No Government worthy of the
name can "play" these elements against each other, for there is a mutuality
of interest between them which the Government must seek to express and to
safeguard at all cost.

The right of individuals to strike is inviolate and ought not to be
interfered with by any process of Government, but there is a predominant
right and that is the right of the Government to protect all of its people
and to assert its power and majesty against the challenge of any class. The
Government, when it asserts that right, seeks not to antagonize a class but
simply to defend the right of the whole people as against the irreparable
harm and injury that might be done by the attempt by any class to usurp a
power that only Government itself has a right to exercise as a protection
to all.

In the matter of international disputes which have led to war, statesmen
have sought to set up as a remedy arbitration for war. Does this not point
the way for the settlement of industrial disputes, by the establishment of
a tribunal, fair and just alike to all, which will settle industrial
disputes which in the past have led to war and disaster? America,
witnessing the evil consequences which have followed out of such disputes
between these contending forces, must not admit itself impotent to deal
with these matters by means of peaceful processes. Surely, there must be
some method of bringing together in a council of peace and amity these two
great interests, out of which will come a happier day of peace and
cooperation, a day that will make men more hopeful and enthusiastic in
their various tasks, that will make for more comfort and happiness in
living and a more tolerable condition among all classes of men. Certainly
human intelligence can devise some acceptable tribunal for adjusting the
differences between capital and labor.

This is the hour of test and trial for America. By her prowess and
strength, and the indomitable courage of her soldiers, she demonstrated her
power to vindicate on foreign battlefields her conceptions of liberty and
justice. Let not her influence as a mediator between capital and labor be
weakened and her own failure to settle matters of purely domestic concern
be proclaimed to the world. There are those in this country who threaten
direct action to force their will, upon a majority. Russia today, with its
blood and terror, is a painful object lesson of the power of minorities. It
makes little difference what minority it is; whether capital or labor, or
any other class; no sort of privilege will ever be permitted to dominate
this country. We are a partnership or nothing that is worth while. We are a
democracy, where the majority are the masters, or all the hopes and
purposes of the men who founded this government have been defeated and
forgotten. In America there is but one way by which great reforms can be
accomplished and the relief sought by classes obtained, and that is through
the orderly processes of representative government. Those who would propose
any other method of reform are enemies of this country. America will not be
daunted by threats nor lose her composure or calmness in these distressing
times. We can afford, in the midst of this day of passion and unrest, to be
self-contained and sure. The instrument of all reform in America is the
ballot. The road to economic and social reform in America is the straight
road of justice to all classes and conditions of men. Men have but to
follow this road to realize the full fruition of their objects and
purposes. Let those beware who would take the shorter road of disorder and
revolution. The right road is the road of justice and orderly process.


State of the Union Address
Woodrow Wilson
December 7, 1920


When I addressed myself to performing the duty laid upon the President by
the Constitution to present to you an annual report on the state of the
Union, I found my thought dominated by an immortal sentence of Abraham
Lincoln's--"Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith let
us dare to do our duty as we understand it"--a sentence immortal because it
embodies in a form of utter simplicity and purity the essential faith of
the nation, the faith in which it was conceived, and the faith in which it
has grown to glory and power. With that faith and the birth of a nation
founded upon it came the hope into the world that a new order would prevail
throughout the affairs of mankind, an order in which reason and right would
take precedence over covetousness and force; and I believe that I express
the wish and purpose of every thoughtful American when I say that this
sentence marks for us in the plainest manner the part we should play alike
in the arrangement of our domestic affairs and in our exercise of influence
upon the affairs of the world.

By this faith, and by this faith alone, can the world be lifted out of its
present confusion and despair. It was this faith which prevailed over the
wicked force of Germany. You will remember that the beginning of the end of
the war came when the German people found themselves face to face with the
conscience of the world and realized that right was everywhere arrayed
against the wrong that their government was attempting to perpetrate. I
think, therefore, that it is true to say that this was the faith which won
the war. Certainly this is the faith with which our gallant men went into
the field and out upon the seas to make sure of victory.

This is the mission upon which Democracy came into the world. Democracy is
an assertion of the right of the individual to live and to be treated
justly as against any attempt on the part of any combination of individuals
to make laws which will overburden him or which will destroy his equality
among his fellows in the matter of right or privilege; and I think we all
realize that the day has come when Democracy is being put upon its final
test. The Old World is just now suffering from a wanton rejection of the
principle of democracy and a substitution of the principle of autocracy as
asserted in the name, but without the authority and sanction, of the
multitude. This is the time of all others when Democracy should prove its
purity and its spiritual power to prevail. It is surely the manifest
destiny of the United States to lead in the attempt to make this spirit

There are two ways in which the United States can assist to accomplish this
great object. First, by offering the example within her own borders of the
will and power of Democracy to make and enforce laws which are
unquestionably just and which are equal in their administration-laws which
secure its full right to Labor and yet at the same time safeguard the
integrity of property, and particularly of that property which is devoted
to the development of industry and the increase of the necessary wealth of
the world. Second, by standing for right and justice as toward individual
nations. The law of Democracy is for the protection of the weak, and the
influence of every democracy in the world should be for the protection of
the weak nation, the nation which is struggling toward its right and toward
its proper recognition and privilege in the family of nations.

The United States cannot refuse this role of champion without putting the
stigma of rejection upon the great and devoted men who brought its
government into existence and established it in the face of almost
universal opposition and intrigue, even in the face of wanton force, as,
for example, against the Orders in Council of Great Britain and the
arbitrary Napoleonic decrees which involved us in what we know as the War
of 1812.

I urge you to consider that the display of an immediate disposition on the
part of the Congress to remedy any injustices or evils that may have shown
themselves in our own national life will afford the most effectual offset
to the forces of chaos and tyranny which are playing so disastrous a part
in the fortunes of the free peoples of more than one part of the world. The
United States is of necessity the sample democracy of the world, and the
triumph of Democracy depends upon its success.

Recovery from the disturbing and sometimes disastrous effects of the late
war has been exceedingly slow on the other side of the water, and has given
promise, I venture-to say, of early completion only in our own fortunate
country; but even with us the recovery halts and is impeded at times, and
there are immediately serviceable acts of legislation which it seems to me
we ought to attempt, to assist that recovery and prove the indestructible
recuperative force of a great government of the people. One of these is to
prove that a great democracy can keep house as successfully and in as
business-like a fashion as any other government. It seems to me that the
first step toward providing this is to supply ourselves with a systematic
method of handling our estimates and expenditures and bringing them to the
point where they will not be an unnecessary strain upon our income or
necessitate unreasonable taxation; in other words, a workable budget
system. And I respectfully suggest that two elements are essential to such
a system-namely, not only that the proposal of appropriations should be in
the hands of a single body, such as a single appropriations committee in
each house of the Congress, but also that this body should be brought into
such cooperation with the Departments of the Government and with the
Treasury of the United States as would enable it to act upon a complete
conspectus of the needs of the Government and the resources from which it
must draw its income.

I reluctantly vetoed the budget bill passed by the last session of the
Congress because of a constitutional objection. The House of
Representatives subsequently modified the bill in order to meet this
objection. In the revised form, I believe that the bill, coupled with
action already taken by the Congress to revise its rules and procedure,
furnishes the foundation for an effective national budget system. I
earnestly hope, therefore, that one of the first steps to be taken by the
present session of the Congress will be to pass the budget bill.

The nation's finances have shown marked improvement during the last year.
The total ordinary receipts of $6,694,000,000 for the fiscal year 1920
exceeded those for 1919 by $1,542,000,000, while the total net ordinary
expenditures decreased from $18,514,000,000 to $6,403,000,000. The gross
public debt, which reached its highest point on August 31, 1919, when it
was $26,596,000,000, had dropped on November 30, 1920, to $24,175,000,000.

There has also been a marked decrease in holdings of government war
securities by the banking institutions of the country, as well as in the
amount of bills held by the Federal Reserve Banks secured by government war
obligations. This fortunate result has relieved the banks and left them
freer to finance the needs of Agriculture, Industry, and Commerce. It has
been due in large part to the reduction of the public debt, especially of
the floating debt, but more particularly to the improved distribution of
government securities among permanent investors. The cessation of the
Government's borrowings, except through short-term certificates of
indebtedness, has been a matter of great consequence to the people of the
country at large, as well as to the holders of Liberty Bonds and Victory
Notes, and has had an important bearing on the matter of effective credit

The year has been characterized by the progressive withdrawal of the
Treasury from the domestic credit market and from a position of dominant
influence in that market. The future course will necessarily depend upon
the extent to which economies are practiced and upon the burdens placed
upon the Treasury, as well as upon industrial developments and the
maintenance of tax receipts at a sufficiently high level. The fundamental
fact which at present dominates the Government's financial situation is
that seven and a half billions of its war indebtedness mature within the
next two and a half years. Of this amount, two and a half billions are
floating debt and five billions, Victory Notes and War. Savings
Certificates. The fiscal program of the Government must be determined with
reference to these maturities. Sound policy demands that Government
expenditures be reduced to the lowest amount which will permit the various
services to operate efficiently and that Government receipts from taxes and
salvage be maintained sufficiently high to provide for current
requirements, including interest and sinking fund charges on the public
debt, and at the same time retire the floating debt and part of the Victory
Loan before maturity.

With rigid economy, vigorous salvage operations, and adequate revenues from
taxation, a surplus of current receipts over current expenditures can be
realized and should be applied to the floating debt. All branches of the
Government should cooperate to see that this program is realized. I cannot
overemphasize the necessity of economy in Government appropriations and
expenditures and the avoidance by the Congress of practices which take
money from the Treasury by indefinite or revolving fund appropriations. The
estimates for the present year show that over a billion dollars of
expenditures were authorized by the last Congress in addition to the
amounts shown in the usual compiled statements of appropriations. This
strikingly illustrates the importance of making direct and specific
appropriations. The relation between the current receipts and current
expenditures of the Government during the present fiscal year, as well as
during the last half of the last fiscal year, has been disturbed by the
extraordinary burdens thrown upon the Treasury by the Transportation Act,
in connection with the return of the railroads to private control. Over
$600,000,000 has already been paid to the railroads under this
act-$350,000,000 during the present fiscal year; and it is estimated that
further payments aggregating possibly $650,000,000 must still be made to
the railroads during the current year. It is obvious that these large
payments have already seriously limited the Government's progress in
retiring the floating debt.

Closely connected with this, it seems to me, is the necessity for an
immediate consideration of the revision of our tax laws. Simplification of
the income and profits taxes has become an immediate necessity. These taxes
performed an indispensable service during the war. The need for their
simplification, however, is very great, in order to save the taxpayer
inconvenience and expense and in order to make his liability more certain
and definite. Other and more detailed recommendations with regard to taxes
will no doubt be laid before you by the Secretary of the Treasury and the
Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

It is my privilege to draw to the attention of Congress for very
sympathetic consideration the problem of providing adequate facilities for
the care and treatment of former members of the military and naval forces
who are sick and disabled as the result of their participation in the war.
These heroic men can never be paid in money for the service they
patriotically rendered the nation. Their reward will lie rather in
realization of the fact that they vindicated the rights of their country
and aided in safeguarding civilization. The nation's gratitude must be
effectively revealed to them by the most ample provision for their medical
care and treatment as well as for their vocational training and placement.
The time has come when a more complete program can be formulated and more
satisfactorily administered for their treatment and training, and I
earnestly urge that the Congress give the matter its early consideration.
The Secretary of the Treasury and the Board for Vocational Education will
outline in their annual reports proposals covering medical care and
rehabilitation which I am sure will engage your earnest study and commend
your most generous support.

Permit me to emphasize once more the need for action upon certain matters
upon which I dwelt at some length in my message to the second session of
the Sixty-sixth Congress. The necessity, for example, of encouraging the
manufacture of dyestuffs and related chemicals; the importance of doing
everything possible to promote agricultural production along economic
lines, to improve agricultural marketing, and to make rural life more
attractive and healthful; the need for a law regulating cold storage in
such a way as to limit the time during which goods may be kept in storage,
prescribing the method of disposing of them if kept beyond the permitted
period, and requiring goods released from storage in all cases to bear the
date of their receipt. It would also be most serviceable if it were
provided that all goods released from cold storage for interstate shipment
should have plainly marked upon each package the selling or market price at
which they went into storage, in order that the purchaser might be able to
learn what profits stood between him and the producer or the wholesale
dealer. Indeed, It would be very serviceable to the public if all goods
destined for interstate commerce were made to carry upon every packing case
whose form made it possible a plain statement of the price at which they
left the hands of the producer. I respectfully call your attention also to
the recommendations of the message referred to with regard to a federal
license for all corporations engaged in interstate commerce.

In brief, the immediate legislative need of the time is the removal of all
obstacles to the realization of the best ambitions of our people in their
several classes of employment and the strengthening of all
instrumentalities by. which difficulties are to be met and removed and
justice dealt out, whether by law or by some form of mediation and
conciliation. I do not feel it to be my privilege at present to, suggest
the detailed and particular methods by which these objects may be attained,
but I have faith that the inquiries of your several committees will
discover the way and the method.

In response to what I believe to be the impulse of sympathy and opinion
throughout the United States, I earnestly suggest that the Congress
authorize the Treasury of the United States to make to the struggling
government of Armenia such a loan as was made to several of the Allied
governments during the war, and I would also suggest that it would be
desirable to provide in the legislation itself that the expenditure of the
money thus loaned should be under the supervision of a commission, or at
least a commissioner, from the United States in order that revolutionary
tendencies within Armenia itself might not be afforded by the loan a
further tempting opportunity.

Allow me to call your attention to the fact that the people of the
Philippine Islands have succeeded in maintaining a stable government since
the last action of the Congress in their behalf, and have thus fulfilled
the condition set by the Congress as precedent to a consideration of
granting independence to the Islands. I respectfully submit that this
condition precedent having been fulfilled, it is now our liberty and our
duty to keep our promise to the people of those islands by granting them
the independence which they so honorably covet.

I have not so much laid before you a series of recommendations, gentlemen,
as sought to utter a confession of faith, of the faith in which I was bred
and which it is my solemn purpose to stand by until my last fighting day. I
believe this to be the faith of America, the faith of the future, and of
all the victories which await national action in the days to come, whether
in America or elsewhere.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "State of the Union Addresses" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.