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Title: Address of President Roosevelt on the Occasion of the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Pilgrim Memorial Monument, Provincetown, Massachusetts, August 20, 1907
Author: Roosevelt, Theodore
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address of President Roosevelt on the Occasion of the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Pilgrim Memorial Monument, Provincetown, Massachusetts, August 20, 1907" ***

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1907 ***

                        MONUMENT, PROVINCETOWN,
                     MASSACHUSETTS, AUGUST 20, 1907


                       GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

It is not too much to say that the event commemorated by the monument
which we have come here to dedicate was one of those rare events which
can in good faith be called of world importance. The coming hither of
the Pilgrim three centuries ago, followed in far larger numbers by his
sterner kinsmen, the Puritans, shaped the destinies of this continent,
and therefore profoundly affected the destiny of the whole world.
Men of other races, the Frenchman and the Spaniard, the Dutchman, the
German, the Scotchman, the Irishman, and the Swede, made settlements
within what is now the United States, during the colonial period of
our history and before the Declaration of Independence; and since then
there has been an ever-swelling immigration from Ireland and from the
mainland of Europe; but it was the Englishman who settled in Virginia
and the Englishman who settled in Massachusetts who did most in
shaping the lines of our national development.

We can not as a nation be too profoundly grateful for the fact that the
Puritan has stamped his influence so deeply on our national life. We
need have but scant patience with the men who now rail at the Puritan’s
faults. They were evident, of course, for it is a quality of strong
natures that their failings, like their virtues, should stand out in
bold relief; but there is nothing easier than to belittle the great
men of the past by dwelling only on the points where they come short
of the universally recognized standards of the present. Men must be
judged with reference to the age in which they dwell, and the work they
have to do. The Puritan’s task was to conquer a continent; not merely
to overrun it, but to settle it, to till it, to build upon it a high
industrial and social life; and, while engaged in the rough work of
taming the shaggy wilderness, at that very time also to lay deep the
immovable foundations of our whole American system of civil, political,
and religious liberty achieved through the orderly process of law. This
was the work allotted him to do; this is the work he did; and only a
master spirit among men could have done it.

We have traveled far since his day. That liberty of conscience which
he demanded for himself, we now realize must be as freely accorded to
others as it is resolutely insisted upon for ourselves. The splendid
qualities which he left to his children, we other Americans who are
not of Puritan blood also claim as our heritage. You, sons of the
Puritans, and we, who are descended from races whom the Puritans would
have deemed alien――we are all Americans together. We all feel the same
pride in the genesis, in the history, of our people; and therefore this
shrine of Puritanism is one at which we all gather to pay homage, no
matter from what country our ancestors sprang.

We have gained some things that the Puritan had not――we of this
generation, we of the twentieth century, here in this great Republic;
but we are also in danger of losing certain things which the Puritan
had and which we can by no manner of means afford to lose. We have
gained a joy of living which he had not, and which it is a good thing
for every people to have and to develop. Let us see to it that we
do not lose what is more important still; that we do not lose the
Puritan’s iron sense of duty, his unbending, unflinching will to do the
right as it was given him to see the right. It is a good thing that
life should gain in sweetness, but only provided that it does not lose
in strength. Ease and rest and pleasure are good things, but only if
they come as the reward of work well done, of a good fight well won,
of strong effort resolutely made and crowned by high achievement. The
life of mere pleasure, of mere effortless ease, is as ignoble for a
nation as for an individual. The man is but a poor father who teaches
his sons that ease and pleasure should be their chief objects in life;
the woman who is a mere petted toy, incapable of serious purpose,
shrinking from effort and duty, is more pitiable than the veriest
overworked drudge. So he is but a poor leader of the people, but a poor
national adviser, who seeks to make the nation in any way subordinate
effort to ease, who would teach the people not to prize as the greatest
blessing the chance to do any work, no matter how hard, if it becomes
their duty to do it. To the sons of the Puritans it is almost needless
to say that the lesson above all others which Puritanism can teach this
nation is the all-importance of the resolute performance of duty. If we
are men we will pass by with contemptuous disdain alike the advisers
who would seek to lead us into the paths of ignoble ease and those
who would teach us to admire successful wrongdoing. Our ideals should
be high, and yet they should be capable of achievement in practical
fashion; and we are as little to be excused if we permit our ideals to
be tainted with what is sordid and mean and base, as if we allow our
power of achievement to atrophy and become either incapable of effort
or capable only of such fantastic effort as to accomplish nothing
of permanent good. The true doctrine to preach to this nation, as to
the individuals composing this nation, is not the life of ease, but
the life of effort. If it were in my power to promise the people of
this land anything, I would not promise them pleasure. I would promise
them that stern happiness which comes from the sense of having done in
practical fashion a difficult work which was worth doing.

The Puritan owed his extraordinary success in subduing this continent
and making it the foundation for a social life of ordered liberty
primarily to the fact that he combined in a very remarkable degree both
the power of individual initiative, of individual self-help, and the
power of acting in combination with his fellows; and that furthermore
he joined to a high heart that shrewd common sense which saves a man
from the besetting sins of the visionary and the doctrinaire. He was
stout hearted and hard headed. He had lofty purposes, but he had
practical good sense, too. He could hold his own in the rough workaday
world without clamorous insistence upon being helped by others, and yet
he could combine with others whenever it became necessary to do a job
which could not be as well done by any one man individually.

These were the qualities which enabled him to do his work, and they
are the very qualities which we must show in doing our work to-day.
There is no use in our coming here to pay homage to the men who founded
this nation unless we first of all come in the spirit of trying to do
our work to-day as they did their work in the yesterdays that have
vanished. The problems shift from generation to generation, but the
spirit in which they must be approached, if they are to be successfully
solved, remains ever the same. The Puritan tamed the wilderness,
and built up a free government on the stump-dotted clearings amid
the primeval forest. His descendants must try to shape the life of
our complex industrial civilization by new devices, by new methods,
so as to achieve in the end the same results of justice and fair
dealing toward all. He cast aside nothing old merely for the sake of
innovation, yet he did not hesitate to adopt anything new that would
save his purpose. When he planted his commonwealths on this rugged
coast he faced wholly new conditions and he had to devise new methods
of meeting them. So we of to-day face wholly new conditions in our
social and industrial life. We should certainly not adopt any new
scheme for grappling with them merely because it is new and untried;
but we can not afford to shrink from grappling with them because they
can only be grappled with by some new scheme.

The Puritan was no Laodicean, no _laissez-faire_ theorist. When he saw
conduct which was in violation of his rights――of the rights of man,
the rights of God, as he understood them――he attempted to regulate such
conduct with instant, unquestioning promptness and effectiveness. If
there was no other way to secure conformity with the rule of right,
then he smote down the transgressor with the iron of his wrath. The
spirit of the Puritan was a spirit which never shrank from regulation
of conduct if such regulation was necessary for the public weal; and
this is the spirit which we must show to-day whenever it is necessary.

The utterly changed conditions of our national life necessitate changes
in certain of our laws, of our governmental methods. Our federal system
of government is based upon the theory of leaving to each community,
to each State, the control over those things which affect only its
own members and which the people of the locality themselves can best
grapple with, while providing for national regulation in those matters
which necessarily affect the nation as a whole. It seems to me that
such questions as national sovereignty and state’s rights need to be
treated not empirically or academically, but from the standpoint of
the interests of the people as a whole. National sovereignty is to be
upheld in so far as it means the sovereignty of the people used for
the real and ultimate good of the people; and state’s rights are to
be upheld in so far as they mean the people’s rights. Especially is
this true in dealing with the relations of the people as a whole to
the great corporations which are the distinguishing feature of modern
business conditions.

Experience has shown that it is necessary to exercise a far more
efficient control than at present over the business use of those
vast fortunes, chiefly corporate, which are used (as under modern
conditions they almost invariably are) in interstate business. When
the Constitution was created none of the conditions of modern
business existed. They are wholly new and we must create new agencies
to deal effectively with them. There is no objection in the minds of
this people to any man’s earning any amount of money if he does it
honestly and fairly, if he gets it as the result of special skill and
enterprise, as a reward of ample service actually rendered. But there
is a growing determination that no man shall amass a great fortune
by special privilege, by chicanery and wrongdoing, so far as it is
in the power of legislation to prevent; and that a fortune, however
amassed, shall not have a business use that is antisocial. Most large
corporations do a business that is not confined to any one State.
Experience has shown that the effort to control these corporations by
mere State action can not produce wholesome results. In most cases such
effort fails to correct the real abuses of which the corporation is or
may be guilty; while in other cases the effort is apt to cause either
hardship to the corporation itself, or else hardship to neighboring
States which have not tried to grapple with the problem in the same
manner; and of course we must be as scrupulous to safeguard the rights
of the corporations as to exact from them in return a full measure of
justice to the public. I believe in a national incorporation law for
corporations engaged in interstate business. I believe, furthermore,
that the need for action is most pressing as regards those corporations
which, because they are common carriers, exercise a quasi-public
function; and which can be completely controlled, in all respects by
the Federal Government, by the exercise of the power conferred under
the interstate-commerce clause, and, if necessary, under the post-road
clause, of the Constitution. During the last few years we have taken
marked strides in advance along the road of proper regulation of these
railroad corporations; but we must not stop in the work. The National
Government should exercise over them a similar supervision and control
to that which it exercises over national banks. We can do this only by
proceeding farther along the lines marked out by the recent national

In dealing with any totally new set of conditions there must at the
outset be hesitation and experiment. Such has been our experience
in dealing with the enormous concentration of capital employed in
interstate business. Not only the legislatures but the courts and the
people need gradually to be educated so that they may see what the
real wrongs are and what the real remedies. Almost every big business
concern is engaged in interstate commerce, and such a concern must not
be allowed by a dexterous shifting of position, as has been too often
the case in the past, to escape thereby all responsibility either to
State or to nation. The American people became firmly convinced of the
need of control over these great aggregations of capital, especially
where they had a monopolistic tendency, before they became quite
clear as to the proper way of achieving the control. Through their
representatives in Congress they tried two remedies, which were to a
large degree, at least as interpreted by the courts, contradictory. On
the one hand, under the antitrust law the effort was made to prohibit
all combination, whether it was or was not hurtful or beneficial to
the public. On the other hand, through the interstate-commerce law a
beginning was made in exercising such supervision and control over
combinations as to prevent their doing anything harmful to the body
politic. The first law, the so-called Sherman law, has filled a useful
place, for it bridges over the transition period until the American
people shall definitely make up its mind that it will exercise over
the great corporations that thoroughgoing and radical control which it
is certain ultimately to find necessary. The principle of the Sherman
law so far as it prohibits combinations which, whether because of
their extent or of their character, are harmful to the public must
always be preserved. Ultimately, and I hope with reasonable speed,
the National Government must pass laws which, while increasing the
supervisory and regulatory power of the Government, also permits such
useful combinations as are made with absolute openness and as the
representatives of the Government may previously approve. But it will
not be possible to permit such combinations save as the second stage in
a course of proceedings of which the first stage must be the exercise
of a far more complete control by the National Government.

In dealing with those who offend against the antitrust and interstate
commerce laws the Department of Justice has to encounter many and
great difficulties. Often men who have been guilty of violating these
laws have really acted in criminal fashion, and if possible should
be proceeded against criminally; and therefore it is advisable that
there should be a clause in these laws providing for such criminal
action, and for punishment by imprisonment as well as by fine. But, as
is well known, in a criminal action the law is strictly construed in
favor of the defendant, and in our country, at least, both judge and
jury are far more inclined to consider his rights than they are the
interests of the general public; while in addition it is always true
that a man’s general practices may be so bad that a civil action will
lie when it may not be possible to convict him of any one criminal
act. There is unfortunately a certain number of our fellow-countrymen
who seem to accept the view that unless a man can be proved guilty of
some particular crime he shall be counted a good citizen, no matter how
infamous the life he has led, no matter how pernicious his doctrines
or his practices. This is the view announced from time to time with
clamorous insistence, now by a group of predatory capitalists, now
by a group of sinister anarchistic leaders and agitators, whenever a
special champion of either class, no matter how evil his general life,
is acquitted of some one specific crime. Such a view is wicked whether
applied to capitalist or labor leader, to rich man or poor man; (and by
the way, I take this opportunity of stating that all that I have said
in the past as to desirable and undesirable citizens remains true, and
that I stand by it).

We have to take this feeling into account when we are debating
whether it is possible to get a conviction in a criminal proceeding
against some rich trust magnate, many of whose actions are severely
to be condemned from the moral and social standpoint, but no one
of whose actions seems clearly to establish such technical guilt as
will ensure a conviction. As a matter of expediency, in enforcing the
law against a great corporation, we have continually to weigh the
arguments pro and con as to whether a prosecution can successfully be
entered into, and as to whether we can be successful in a criminal
action against the chief individuals in the corporation, and if not
whether we can at least be successful in a civil action against the
corporation itself. Any effective action on the part of the Government
is always objected to, as a matter of course, by the wrongdoers, by
the beneficiaries of the wrongdoers, and by their champions; and
often one of the most effective ways of attacking the action of the
Government is by objecting to practical action upon the ground that it
does not go far enough. One of the favorite devices of those who are
really striving to prevent the enforcement of these laws is to clamor
for action of such severity that it can not be undertaken because it
will be certain to fail if tried. An instance of this is the demand
often made for criminal prosecutions where such prosecutions would be
certain to fail. We have found by actual experience that a jury which
will gladly punish a corporation by fine, for instance, will acquit
the individual members of that corporation if we proceed against them
criminally because of those very things which the corporation which
they direct and control has done. In a recent case against the Licorice
Trust we indicted and tried the two corporations and their respective
presidents. The contracts and other transactions establishing the
guilt of the corporations were made through, and so far as they were
in writing were signed by, the two presidents. Yet the jury convicted
the two corporations and acquitted the two men. Both verdicts could not
possibly have been correct; but apparently the average juryman wishes
to see trusts broken up, and is quite ready to fine the corporation
itself; but is very reluctant to find the facts “proven beyond a
reasonable doubt” when it comes to sending to jail a reputable member
of the business community for doing what the business community has
unhappily grown to recognize as well-nigh normal in business. Moreover,
under the necessary technicalities of criminal proceedings, often the
only man who can be reached criminally will be some subordinate who is
not the real guilty party at all.

Many men of large wealth have been guilty of conduct which from the
moral standpoint is criminal, and their misdeeds are to a peculiar
degree reprehensible, because those committing them have no excuse
of want, of poverty, of weakness and ignorance to offer as partial
atonement. When in addition to moral responsibility these men have a
legal responsibility which can be proved so as to impress a judge
and jury, then the Department will strain every nerve to reach them
criminally. Where this is impossible, then it will take whatever action
will be most effective under the actual conditions.

In the last six years we have shown that there is no individual and no
corporation so powerful that he or it stands above the possibility of
punishment under the law. Our aim is to try to do something effective;
our purpose is to stamp out the evil; we shall seek to find the
most effective device for this purpose; and we shall then use it,
whether the device can be found in existing law or must be supplied
by legislation. Moreover, when we thus take action against the wealth
which works iniquity, we are acting in the interest of every man of
property who acts decently and fairly by his fellows; and we are
strengthening the hands of those who propose fearlessly to defend
property against all unjust attacks. No individual, no corporation,
obeying the law has anything to fear from this Administration.

During the present trouble with the stock market I have, of course,
received countless requests and suggestions, public and private,
that I should say or do something to ease the situation. There is a
world-wide financial disturbance; it is felt in the bourses of Paris
and Berlin; and British consols are lower than for a generation, while
British railway securities have also depreciated. On the New York
Stock Exchange the disturbance has been peculiarly severe. Most of
it I believe to be due to matters not peculiar to the United States,
and most of the remainder to matters wholly unconnected with any
governmental action; but it may well be that the determination of the
Government (in which, gentlemen, it will not waver), to punish certain
malefactors of great wealth, has been responsible for something of the
trouble; at least to the extent of having caused these men to combine
to bring about as much financial stress as possible, in order to
discredit the policy of the Government and thereby secure a reversal
of that policy, so that they may enjoy unmolested the fruits of their
own evil-doing. That they have misled many good people into believing
that there should be such reversal of policy is possible. If so I am
sorry; but it will not alter my attitude. Once for all let me say that
so far as I am concerned, and for the eighteen months of my Presidency
that remain, there will be no change in the policy we have steadily
pursued, no let up in the effort to secure the honest observance of
the law; for I regard this contest as one to determine who shall rule
this free country――the people through their governmental agents or a
few ruthless and domineering men, whose wealth makes them peculiarly
formidable, because they hide behind the breastworks of corporate
organization. I wish there to be no mistake on this point; it is idle
to ask me not to prosecute criminals, rich or poor. But I desire
no less emphatically to have it understood that we have sanctioned
and will sanction no action of a vindictive type, and above all no
action which shall inflict great and unmerited suffering upon innocent
stockholders or upon the public as a whole. Our purpose is to act with
the minimum of harshness compatible with attaining our ends. In the
man of great wealth who has earned his wealth honestly and uses it
wisely we recognize a good citizen of the best type, worthy of all
praise and respect. Business can only be done under modern conditions
through corporations, and our purpose is heartily to favor the
corporations that do well. The Administration appreciates that liberal
but honest profits for legitimate promoting, good salaries, ample
salaries, for able and upright management, and generous dividends for
capital employed either in founding or continuing wholesome business
ventures, are the factors necessary for successful corporate activity
and therefore for generally prosperous business conditions. All these
are compatible with fair dealing as between man and man and rigid
obedience to the law. Our aim is to help every honest man, every honest
corporation, and our policy means in its ultimate analysis a healthy
and prosperous expansion of the business activities of honest business
men and honest corporations.

I very earnestly hope that the legislation which deals with the
regulation of corporations engaged in interstate business will also
deal with the rights and interests of the wageworkers employed by those
corporations. Action was taken by the Congress last year limiting the
number of hours that railway employees should be employed. The law is
a good one; but if in practice it proves necessary to strengthen it,
it must be strengthened. We have now secured a national employers’
liability law; but ultimately a more far-reaching and thorough-going
law must be passed. It is monstrous that a man or woman who is crippled
in an industry, even as the result of taking what are the necessary
risks of the occupation, should be required to bear the whole burden of
the loss. That burden should be distributed and not placed solely upon
the weakest individual, the one least able to carry it. By making the
employer liable the loss will ultimately be distributed among all the
beneficiaries of the business.

I also hope that there will be legislation increasing the power of
the National Government to deal with certain matters concerning the
health of our people everywhere; the Federal authorities, for instance,
should join with all the State authorities in warring against the
dreadful scourge of tuberculosis. Your own State government, here in
Massachusetts, deserves high praise for the action it has taken in
these public health matters during the last few years; and in this,
as in some other matters, I hope to see the National Government stand
abreast of the foremost State governments.

I have spoken of but one or two laws which, in my judgment, it is
advisable to enact as part of the general scheme for making the
interference of the National Government more effective in securing
justice and fair dealing as between man and man here in the United
States. Let me add, however, that while it is necessary to have
legislation when conditions arise where we can only cope with evils
through the joint action of all of us, yet that we can never afford
to forget that in the last analysis the all-important factor for each
of us must be his own individual character. It is a necessary thing
to have good laws, good institutions; but the most necessary of all
things is to have a high quality of individual citizenship. This does
not mean that we can afford to neglect legislation. It will be highly
disastrous if we permit ourselves to be misled by the pleas of those
who see in an unrestricted individualism the all-sufficient panacea
for social evils; but it will be even more disastrous to adopt the
opposite panacea of any socialistic system which would destroy all
individualism, which would root out the fiber of our whole citizenship.
In any great movement, such as that in which we are engaged, nothing is
more necessary than sanity, than the refusal to be led into extremes
by the advocates of the ultra course on either side. Those professed
friends of liberty who champion license are the worst foes of liberty
and tend by the reaction their violence causes to throw the Government
back into the hands of the men who champion corruption and tyranny in
the name of order. So it is with this movement for securing justice
toward all men, and equality of opportunity so far as it can be secured
by governmental action. The rich man who with hard arrogance declines
to consider the rights and the needs of those who are less well off,
and the poor man who excites or indulges in envy and hatred of those
who are better off, are alike alien to the spirit of our national life.
Each of them should learn to appreciate the baseness and degradation
of his point of view, as evil in the one case as in the other. There
exists no more sordid and unlovely type of social development than a
plutocracy, for there is a peculiar unwholesomeness in a social and
governmental ideal where wealth by and of itself is held up as the
greatest good. The materialism of such a view, whether it finds its
expression in the life of a man who accumulates a vast fortune in
ways that are repugnant to every instinct of generosity and of fair
dealing, or whether it finds its expression in the vapidly useless and
self-indulgent life of the inheritor of that fortune, is contemptible
in the eyes of all men capable of a thrill of lofty feeling. Where
the power of the law can be wisely used to prevent or to minimize the
acquisition or business employment of such wealth and to make it pay by
income or inheritance tax its proper share of the burden of government,
I would invoke that power without a moment’s hesitation.

But while we can accomplish something by legislation, legislation can
never be more than a part, and often no more than a small part, in the
general scheme of moral progress; and crude or vindictive legislation
may at any time bring such progress to a halt. Certain socialistic
leaders propose to redistribute the world’s goods by refusing to
thrift and energy and industry their proper superiority over folly and
idleness and sullen envy. Such legislation would merely, in the words
of the president of Columbia University, “wreck the world’s efficiency
for the purpose of redistributing the world’s discontent.” We should
all of us work heart and soul for the real and permanent betterment
which will lift our democratic civilization to a higher level of safety
and usefulness. Such betterment can come only by the slow, steady
growth of the spirit which metes a generous, but not a sentimental,
justice to each man on his merits as a man, and which recognizes the
fact that the highest and deepest happiness for the individual lies not
in selfishness but in service.

 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address of President Roosevelt on the Occasion of the Laying of the Corner Stone of the Pilgrim Memorial Monument, Provincetown, Massachusetts, August 20, 1907" ***

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