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Title: Address of President Roosevelt at Canton, Ohio, September 30, 1907
Author: Roosevelt, Theodore
Language: English
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            CANTON, OHIO [Illustration] SEPTEMBER 30, 1907


                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

We have gathered together to-day to pay our meed of respect and
affection to the memory of William McKinley, who as President won
a place in the hearts of the American people such as but three or
four of all the Presidents of this country have ever won. He was of
singular uprightness and purity of character, alike in public and in
private life; a citizen who loved peace, he did his duty faithfully
and well for four years of war when the honor of the nation called
him to arms. As Congressman, as governor of his State, and finally as
President, he rose to the foremost place among our statesmen, reaching
a position which would satisfy the keenest ambition; but he never lost
that simple and thoughtful kindness toward every human being, great or
small, lofty or humble, with whom he was brought in contact, which
so endeared him to our people. He had to grapple with more serious
and complex problems than any President since Lincoln, and yet, while
meeting every demand of statesmanship, he continued to live a beautiful
and touching family life, a life very healthy for this nation to see
in its foremost citizen; and now the woman who walked in the shadow
ever after his death, the wife to whom his loss was a calamity more
crushing than it could be to any other human being, lies beside him
here in the same sepulcher.

There is a singular appropriateness in the inscription on his monument.
Mr. Cortelyou, whose relations with him were of such close intimacy,
gives me the following information about it: On the President’s trip
to the Pacific slope in the spring of 1901 President Wheeler, of the
University of California, conferred the degree of LL. D. upon him
in words so well chosen that they struck the fastidious taste of
John Hay, then Secretary of State, who wrote and asked for a copy of
them from President Wheeler. On the receipt of this copy he sent the
following letter to President McKinley, a letter which now seems filled
with a strange and unconscious prescience:


    President Wheeler sent me the inclosed at my request. You
    will have the words in more permanent shape. They seem to me
    remarkably well chosen, and stately and dignified enough to
    serve――long hence, please God――as your epitaph.

                          Yours, faithfully,
                                                     JOHN HAY.

                      “UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA,
                                    “_Office of the President_.

    “By authority vested in me by the regents of the University
    of California, I confer the degree of Doctor of Laws upon
    William McKinley, President of the United States, a statesman
    singularly gifted to unite the discordant forces of the
    Government and mold the diverse purposes of men toward
    progressive and salutary action, a magistrate whose poise
    of judgment has been tested and vindicated in a succession
    of national emergencies; good citizen, brave soldier, wise
    executive, helper and leader of men, exemplar to his people of
    the virtues that build and conserve the state, society, and the

    “Berkeley, May 15, 1901.”

It would be hard to imagine an epitaph which a good citizen would
be more anxious to deserve or one which would more happily describe
the qualities of that great and good citizen whose life we here
commemorate. He possessed to a very extraordinary degree the gift of
uniting discordant forces and securing from them a harmonious action
which told for good government. From purposes not merely diverse, but
bitterly conflicting, he was able to secure healthful action for the
good of the State. In both poise and judgment he rose level to the
several emergencies he had to meet as leader of the nation, and like
all men with the root of true greatness in them he grew to steadily
larger stature under the stress of heavy responsibilities. He was
a good citizen and a brave soldier, a Chief Executive whose wisdom
entitled him to the trust which he received throughout the nation. He
was not only a leader of men but preeminently a helper of men; for
one of his most marked traits was the intensely human quality of his
wide and deep sympathy. Finally, he not merely preached, he was, that
most valuable of all citizens in a democracy like ours, a man who in
the highest place served as an unconscious example to his people of
the virtues that build and conserve alike our public life, and the
foundation of all public life, the intimate life of the home.

Many lessons are taught us by his career, but none more valuable than
the lesson of broad human sympathy for and among all of our citizens of
all classes and creeds. No other President has ever more deserved to
have his life work characterized in Lincoln’s words as being carried
on “with malice toward none, with charity toward all.” As a boy he
worked hard with his hands; he entered the Army as a private soldier;
he knew poverty; he earned his own livelihood; and by his own exertions
he finally rose to the position of a man of moderate means. Not merely
was he in personal touch with farmer and town dweller, with capitalist
and wageworker, but he felt an intimate understanding of each, and
therefore an intimate sympathy with each; and his consistent effort was
to try to judge all by the same standard and to treat all with the
same justice. Arrogance toward the weak, and envious hatred of those
well off, were equally abhorrent to his just and gentle soul.

Surely this attitude of his should be the attitude of all our people
to-day. It would be a cruel disaster to this country to permit
ourselves to adopt an attitude of hatred and envy toward success
worthily won, toward wealth honestly acquired. Let us in this respect
profit by the example of the republics of this Western Hemisphere
to the south of us. Some of these republics have prospered greatly;
but there are certain ones that have lagged far behind, that still
continue in a condition of material poverty, of social and political
unrest and confusion. Without exception the republics of the former
class are those in which honest industry has been assured of reward
and protection; those where a cordial welcome has been extended to
the kind of enterprise which benefits the whole country, while
incidentally, as is right and proper, giving substantial rewards
to those who manifest it. On the other hand, the poor and backward
republics, the republics in which the lot of the average citizen is
least desirable, and the lot of the laboring man worst of all, are
precisely those republics in which industry has been killed because
wealth exposed its owner to spoliation. To these communities foreign
capital now rarely comes, because it has been found that as soon as
capital is employed so as to give substantial remuneration to those
supplying it, it excites ignorant envy and hostility, which result in
such oppressive action, within or without the law, as sooner or later
to work a virtual confiscation. Every manifestation of feeling of this
kind in our civilization should be crushed at the outset by the weight
of a sensible public opinion.

From the standpoint of our material prosperity there is only one other
thing as important as the discouragement of a spirit of envy and
hostility toward honest business men, toward honest men of means; this
is the discouragement of dishonest business men.

Wait a moment; I don’t want you to applaud this part unless you are
willing to applaud also the part I read first, to which you listened in
silence. I want you to understand that I will stand just as straight
for the rights of the honest man who wins his fortune by honest
methods as I will stand against the dishonest man who wins a fortune
by dishonest methods. And I challenge the right to your support in one
attitude just as much as in the other. I am glad you applauded when you
did, but I want you to go back now and applaud the other statement. I
will read a little of it over again. “Every manifestation of ignorant
envy and hostility toward honest men who acquire wealth by honest means
should be crushed at the outset by the weight of a sensible public
opinion.” Thank you. Now I’ll go on.

From the standpoint of our material prosperity there is only one other
thing as important as the discouragement of a spirit of envy and
hostility toward honest business men, toward honest men of means, and
that is the discouragement of dishonest business men, the war upon the
chicanery and wrongdoing which are peculiarly repulsive, peculiarly
noxious when exhibited by men who have no excuse of want, of poverty,
of ignorance for their crimes. My friends, I will wage war against
those dishonest men to the utmost extent of my ability, and I will
stand no less stoutly in defense of honest men, rich or poor. Men of
means and, above all, men of great wealth can exist in safety under
the peaceful protection of the state only in orderly societies, where
liberty manifests itself through and under the law. That is what you
fought for, you veterans. You fought for the supremacy of the national
law in every corner of this Republic. It is these men, the men of
wealth, who more than any others, should in the interest of the class
to which they belong, in the interest of their children and their
children’s children, seek in every way, but especially in the conduct
of their lives, to insist upon and to build up respect for the law. It
is an extraordinary thing, a very extraordinary thing, that it should
be necessary for me to utter as simple a truth as that; yet it is
necessary. It may not be true from the standpoint of some particular
individual of this class of very wealthy men, but in the long run it
is preeminently true from the standpoint of the class as a whole, no
less than of the country as a whole, that it is a veritable calamity
to achieve a temporary triumph by violation or evasion of the law, and
we are the best friends of the man of property, we show ourselves the
staunchest upholders of the rights of property when we set our faces
like flint against those offenders who do wrong in order to acquire
great wealth, or who use this wealth as a help to wrongdoing.

I sometimes feel that I have trenched a little on your province,
Brother Bristol, and on that of your brethren, by preaching. But
whenever I speak of the wrongdoing of a man of wealth or of a man of
poverty, poor man or rich man, I always want to try to couple together
the fact that wrongdoing is wrong just as much in one case as in the
other, with the fact that right is just as much right in one case as
in the other. I want the plain people of this country, I want all of us
who do not have great wealth, to remember that in our own interest, and
because it is right, we must be just as scrupulous in doing justice to
the man of great wealth as in exacting justice from him.

Wrongdoing is confined to no class. Good and evil are to be found among
both rich and poor, and in drawing the line among our fellows we must
draw it on conduct and not on worldly possessions. Woe to this country
if we ever get to judging men by anything save their worth as men,
without regard to their fortune in life. In other words, my plea is
that you draw the line on conduct and not on worldly possessions. In
the abstract most of us will admit this. It is a rather more difficult
proposition in the concrete. We can act upon such doctrines only if we
really have knowledge of, and sympathy with, one another. If both the
wage-worker and the capitalist are able to enter each into the other’s
life, to meet him so as to get into genuine sympathy with him, most of
the misunderstanding between them will disappear and its place will be
taken by a judgment broader, juster, more kindly, and more generous;
for each will find in the other the same essential human attributes
that exist in himself. It was President McKinley’s peculiar glory that
in actual practice he realized this as it is given to but few men to
realize it; that his broad and deep sympathies made him feel a genuine
sense of oneness with all his fellow-Americans, whatever their station
or work in life, so that to his soul they were all joined with him in
a great brotherly democracy of the spirit. It is not given to many of
us in our lives actually to realize this attitude to the extent that he
did; but we can at least have it before us as the goal of our endeavor,
and by so doing we shall pay honor better than in any other way to
the memory of the dead President whose services in life we this day


 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 at Canton, Ohio, September 30, 1907" ***

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