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Title: Address of President Roosevelt at Keokuk, Iowa, October 1, 1907
Author: Roosevelt, Theodore
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Address of President Roosevelt at Keokuk, Iowa, October 1, 1907" ***

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              KEOKUK, IOWA [Illustration] OCTOBER 1, 1907


                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE


I am glad indeed to see you and to speak to you in this thriving city
of your great and prosperous State. I believe with all my heart in the
people of Iowa, for I think that you are good, typical Americans, and
that among you there has been developed to a very high degree that
body of characteristics which we like to regard as distinctively

During the last few years we of the United States have been forced
to consider very seriously certain economic problems. We have
made a beginning in the attempt to deal with the relations of the
National Government――that is, with the relations of the people of the
country――to the huge and wealthy corporations, controlled for the
most part by a few very rich men, which are engaged in interstate
business――especially the great railway corporations. You know my views
on this matter. You know that I believe that the National Government,
in the interests of the people, should assume much the same supervision
and control over the management of the interstate common carriers that
it now exercises over the national banks. You know furthermore that
I believe that this supervision and control should be exercised in a
spirit of rigid fairness toward the corporations, exacting justice
from them on behalf of the people but giving them justice in return.

Recently I have been reading the work of the eminent Italian scholar
Ferrero on the history of the Roman Republic, when the life of the
Roman state had become that of a complex and luxurious industrial
civilization. I am happy to say that the differences between that
civilization and our own are more striking than the resemblances;
and there is no warrant for our being drawn into any pessimistic
comparison between the two civilizations. But there is every reason
why we should study carefully the past in order to draw from it lessons
for use in the present. One of the most striking features of the years
which saw the downfall of the Roman Republic was the fact that the
political life of Rome became split between two camps, one containing
the rich who wished to exploit the poor, and the other the poor who
wished to plunder the rich. Naturally, under such circumstances, the
public man who was for the moment successful tended to be either a
violent reactionary or a violent demagogue. Any such condition of
political life is as hopelessly unhealthy now as it was then. I believe
so implicitly in the future of our people, because I believe that the
average American citizen will no more tolerate government by a mob than
he will tolerate government by a plutocracy; that he desires to see
justice done to and justice exacted from rich man and poor man alike.
We are not trying to favor any man at the expense of his fellows. We
are trying to shape things so that as far as possible each man shall
have a fair chance in life; so that he shall have, so far as by law
this can be accomplished, the chance to show the stuff that there is
in him. We have no intention of trying to work for the impossible and
undesirable end of giving to the lazy, the thriftless, the weak, and
the vicious, the reward that belongs to, and in the long run can only
come to, the hard working, the thrifty, the resolute, and the honest.
But we do wish to see that the necessary struggle in life shall be
carried on under genuinely democratic conditions; that, so far as human
action can safely provide it, there shall be an approximately fair
start; that there shall be no oppression of the weak, and that no man
shall be permitted to acquire or to use a vast fortune by methods or in
ways that are tortuous and dishonest.

Therefore we need wise laws, and we need to have them resolutely
administered. We can get such laws and such administration only if
the people are alive to their interests. The other day I listened to
an admirable sermon by Bishop Johnston, of western Texas. His theme
was that the vital element in judging any man should be his conduct,
and neither his position nor his pretensions; and, furthermore,
that freedom could only stay with a people which has the habit of
self-mastery. As he said, the price of liberty is not only eternal
vigilance, but eternal virtue; and I may add, eternal common sense.
Each man here knows that he himself has been able to use his freedom
to advantage only provided that he could master himself, that he could
control his own passions and direct his own faculties. Each of you
fathers and mothers here knows that if your sons are to do well in the
world they must know how to master themselves. Every man must have a
master; if he is not his own master, then somebody else will be. This
is just as true of public life as of private life. If we can not
master ourselves, control ourselves, then sooner or later we shall have
to submit to outside control; for there must be control somewhere.

One way of exercising such control is through the laws of the land.
Ours is a government of liberty, but it is a government of that
orderly liberty which comes by and through the honest enforcement of
and obedience to the law. At intervals during the last few months the
appeal has been made to me not to enforce the law against certain
wrongdoers of great wealth because to do so would interfere with the
business prosperity of the country. Under the effects of that kind of
fright which when sufficiently acute we call panic, this appeal has
been made to me even by men who ordinarily behave as decent citizens.
One newspaper which has itself strongly advanced this view gave
prominence to the statement of a certain man of great wealth to the
effect that the so-called financial weakness “was due entirely to the
admitted intention of President Roosevelt to punish the large moneyed
interests which had transgressed the laws.” I do not admit that this
has been the main cause of any business troubles we have had; but it is
possible that it has been a contributory cause. If so, friends, as far
as I am concerned it must be accepted as a disagreeable but unavoidable
feature in a course of policy which as long as I am President will
not be changed. In any great movement for righteousness, where the
forces of evil are strongly intrenched, it is unfortunately inevitable
that some unoffending people should suffer in company with the real
offenders. This is not our fault. It is the fault of those to whose
deceptive action these innocent people owe their false position. A year
or two ago certain representatives of labor called upon me and in the
course of a very pleasant conversation told me that they regarded me
as “the friend of labor.” I answered that I certainly was, and that I
would do everything in my power for the laboring man _except anything
that was wrong_. I have the same answer to make to the business man.
I will do everything I can do to help business conditions, except
anything that is wrong. And it would be not merely wrong but infamous
to fail to do all that can be done to secure the punishment of those
wrongdoers whose deeds are peculiarly reprehensible because they are
not committed under the stress of want. Whenever a serious effort
is made to cut out what is evil in our political life, whether the
effort takes the shape of warring against the gross and sordid forms
of evil in some municipality, or whether it takes the shape of trying
to secure the honest enforcement of the law as against very powerful
and wealthy people, there are sure to be certain individuals who
demand that the movement stop because it may hurt business. In each
case the answer must be that we earnestly hope and believe that there
will be no permanent damage to business from the movement, but that
if righteousness conflicts with the fancied needs of business, then
the latter must go to the wall. We can not afford to substitute any
other test for that of guilt or innocence, of wrongdoing or welldoing,
in judging any man. If a man does well, if he acts honestly, he has
nothing to fear from this Administration. But so far as in me lies
the corrupt politician, great or small, the private citizen who
transgresses the law――be he rich or poor――shall be brought before
the impartial justice of a court. Perhaps I am most anxious to get at
the politician who is corrupt, because he betrays a great trust; but
assuredly I shall not spare his brother corruptionist who shows himself
a swindler in business life; and, according to our power, crimes of
fraud and cunning shall be prosecuted as relentlessly as crimes of
brutality and physical violence.

We need good laws and we need above all things the hearty aid of good
citizens in supporting and enforcing the laws. Nevertheless, men and
women of this great State, men and women of the Middle West, never
forget that law and the administration of law, important though they
are, must always occupy a wholly secondary place as compared with the
character of the average citizen himself. On this trip I shall speak
to audiences in each of which there will be many men who fought in
the civil war. You who wore the blue and your brothers of the South
who wore the gray know that in war no general no matter how good, no
organization no matter how perfect, can avail if the average man in
the ranks has not got the fighting edge. We need the organization, the
preparation; we need the good general; but we need most the fighting
edge in the individual soldier. So it is in private life. We live in a
rough, workaday world, and we are yet a long way from the millennium.
We can not as a nation and we can not as individuals afford to
cultivate only the gentler, softer qualities. There must be gentleness
and tenderness――the strongest men are gentle and tender――but there must
also be courage and strength. I have a hearty sympathy with those who
believe in doing all that can be done for peace; but I have no sympathy
at all with those who believe that in the world as it now is we can
afford to see the average American citizen lose the qualities that in
their sum make up a good fighting man. You men must be workers who
work with all your heart and strength and mind at your several tasks
in life; and you must also be able to fight at need. You women have
even higher and more difficult duties; for I honor no man, not even
the soldier who fights for righteousness, quite as much as I honor the
good woman who does her full duty as wife and mother. But if she shirks
her duty as wife and mother then she stands on a par with the man who
refuses to work for himself and his family, for those dependent upon
him, and who in time of the nation’s need refuses to fight. The man
or woman who shirks his or her duty occupies a contemptible position.
You here are the sons and daughters of the pioneers. I preach to you no
life of ease. I preach to you the life of effort, the life that finds
its highest satisfaction in doing well some work that is well worth

So much for what concerns every man and every woman in this country.
Now, a word or two as to matters which are of peculiar interest to
this region of our country.

Since I have been President I have traveled in every State of this
Union, but my traveling has been almost entirely on railroads, save
now and then by wagon or on horseback. Now I have the chance to try
traveling by river; to go down the greatest of our rivers, the Father
of Waters. A good many years ago when I lived in the Northwest I
traveled occasionally on the Upper Missouri and its tributaries; but
then we went in a flatboat and did our own rowing and paddling and
poling. Now I am to try a steamboat. I am a great believer in our
railway system; and the fact that I am very firm in my belief as to
the necessity of the Government exercising a proper supervision and
control over the railroads does not in the least interfere with the
other fact that I greatly admire the large majority of the men in all
positions, from the top to the bottom, who build and run them. Yet,
while of course I am anxious to see these men, and therefore the
corporations they represent or serve, achieve the fullest measure of
legitimate prosperity, nevertheless as this country grows I feel that
we can not have too many highroads, and that in addition to the iron
highroads of our railway system we should also utilize the great river
highways which have been given us by nature. From a variety of causes
these highways have in many parts of the country been almost abandoned.
This is not healthy. Our people, and especially the representatives
of the people in the National Congress, should give their most careful
attention to this subject. We should be prepared to put the nation
collectively back of the movement to improve them for the nation’s
use. Our knowledge at this time is not such as to permit me to go into
details, or to say definitely just what the nation should do; but most
assuredly our great navigable rivers are national assets just as much
as our great seacoast harbors. Exactly as it is for the interest of
all the country that our great harbors should be fitted to receive in
safety the largest vessels of the merchant fleets of the world, so
by deepening and otherwise our rivers should be fitted to bear their
part in the movement of our merchandise; and this is especially true
of the Mississippi and its tributaries, which drain the immense and
prosperous region which makes in very fact the heart of our nation;
the basin of the Great Lakes being already united with the basin of
the Mississippi, and both regions being identical in their products
and interests. Waterways are peculiarly fitted for the transportation
of the bulky commodities which come from the soil or under the soil;
and no other part of our country is as fruitful as is this in such

You in Iowa have many manufacturing centers, but you remain, and I
hope you will always remain, a great agricultural State. I hope that
the means of transporting your commodities to market will be steadily
improved; but this will be of no use unless you keep producing the
commodities, and in the long run this will largely depend upon your
being able to keep on the farm a high type of citizenship. The effort
must be to make farm life not only remunerative but attractive, so that
the best young men and girls will feel inclined to stay on the farm and
not to go to the city. Nothing is more important to this country than
the perpetuation of our system of medium-sized farms worked by their
owners. We do not want to see our farmers sink to the condition of the
peasants of the Old World, barely able to live on their small holdings,
nor do we want to see their places taken by wealthy men owning enormous
estates which they work purely by tenants and hired servants.

At present the ordinary farmer holds his own in the land as against
any possible representative of the landlord class of farmer――that is,
of the men who would own vast estates――because the ordinary farmer
unites his capital, his labor, and his brains with the making of a
permanent family home, and thus can afford to hold his land at a value
at which it can not be held by the capitalist, who would have to run
it by leasing it or by cultivating it at arm’s length with hired
labor. In other words, the typical American farmer of to-day gets
his remuneration in part in the shape of an independent home for his
family, and this gives him an advantage over an absentee landlord.
Now, from the standpoint of the nation as a whole it is preeminently
desirable to keep as one of our chief American types the farmer, the
farm home maker, of the medium-sized farm. This type of farm home is
one of our strongest political and social bulwarks. Such a farm worked
by the owner has proved by experience the best place in which to breed
vigorous leaders alike for country and city. It is a matter of prime
economic and civic importance to encourage this type of home-owning

Therefore, we should strive in every way to aid in the education of
the farmer for the farm, and should shape our school system with this
end in view; and so vitally important is this that, in my opinion,
the Federal Government should cooperate with the State governments
to secure the needed change and improvement in our schools. It is
significant that both from Minnesota and Georgia there have come
proposals in this direction in the appearance of bills introduced
into the National Congress. The Congressional land grant act of 1852
accomplished much in establishing the agricultural colleges in the
several States, and therefore in preparing to turn the system of
educational training for the young into channels at once broader and
more practicable――and what I am saying about agricultural training
really applies to all industrial training. But the colleges can not
reach the masses, and it is essential that the masses should be
reached. Such agricultural high schools as those in Minnesota and
Nebraska for farm boys and girls, such technical high schools as are
to be found, for instance, in both St. Louis and Washington, have by
their success shown that it is entirely feasible to carry in practical
fashion the fundamentals of industrial training into the realms of
our secondary schools. At present there is a gap between our primary
schools in country and city and the industrial collegiate courses,
which must be closed, and if necessary the Nation must help the State
to close it. Too often our present schools tend to put altogether too
great a premium upon mere literary education, and therefore to train
away from the farm and the shop.

We should reverse this process. Specific training of a practical kind
should be given to the boys and girls who when men and women are to
make up the backbone of this nation by working in agriculture, in
the mechanical industries, in arts and trades; in short, who are to
do the duty that should always come first with all of us, the duty of
home-making and home-keeping. Too narrow a literary education is, for
most men and women, not a real education at all; for a real education
should fit people primarily for the industrial and home-making
employments in which they must employ the bulk of their activities.
Our country offers unparalleled opportunities for domestic and social
advancement, for social and economic leadership in the world. Our
greatest national asset is to be found in the children. They need to
be trained to high ideals of everyday living, and to high efficiency
in their respective vocations; we can not afford to have them trained
otherwise, and the nation should help the States to achieve this end.

Now, men of Iowa, I want to say just a word on a matter that concerns
not the States of the Mississippi Valley itself, but the States west
of them, the States of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains.
Unfortunately, I am not able on this present trip to visit those States,
or I should speak to their own people on the point to which I now intend
to allude; but after all anything that affects a considerable number of
Americans who live under one set of conditions, must be of moment to all
other Americans, for never forget, friends, that in the long run we
shall all go up or go down together.

The States of the high plains and of the mountains have a peculiar
claim upon me, because for a number of years I lived and worked in
them, and I have that intimate knowledge of their people that comes
under such conditions. In those States there is need of a modification
of the land laws that have worked so well in the well-watered fertile
regions to the eastward, such as those in which you here dwell.
The one object in all our land laws should always be to favor the
actual settler, the actual home maker, who comes to dwell on the
land and there to bring up his children to inherit it after him. The
Government should part with its title to the land only to the actual
home-maker――not to the profit-maker, who does not care to make a home.
The land should be sold outright only in quantities sufficient for
decent homes――not in huge areas to be held for speculative purposes or
used as ranches, where those who do the actual work are merely tenants
or hired hands. No temporary prosperity of any class of men could in
the slightest degree atone for failure on our part to shape the laws so
that they may work for the permanent good of the home-maker. This is
fundamental, gentlemen, and is simply carrying out the idea upon which
I dwell in speaking to you of your own farms here in Iowa. Now in many
States where the rainfall is light it is a simple absurdity to expect
any man to live, still less to bring up a family, on one hundred and
sixty acres. Where we are able to introduce irrigation, the homestead
can be very much less in size――can, for instance, be forty acres; and
there is nothing that Congress has done during the past six years more
important than the enactment of the national irrigation law. But where
irrigation is not applicable and the land can only be used for grazing,
it may be that you can not run more than one steer to ten acres, and
it is not necessary to be much of a mathematician in order to see that
where such is the case a homestead of one hundred and sixty acres will
not go far toward the support of a family. In consequence of this fact,
homesteaders do not take up the lands in the tracts in question. They
are left open for anybody to graze upon that wishes to. The result is
that the men who use them moderately and not with a view to exhausting
their resources are at the mercy of those who care nothing for the
future and simply intend to skin the land in the present. For instance,
the small sheep farmer who has a home and who wishes that home to pass
on to his children improved in value will naturally run his flock so
that the land will support it, not only to-day, but ten years hence;
but a big absentee sheep owner, who has no home on the land at all,
but simply owns huge migratory flocks of sheep, may well find it to
his profit to drive them over the small sheep farmer’s range and eat
it all out. He can then drive his flocks on, whereas the small man can
not. Of course, to permit such a state of things is not only evil for
the small man, but is destructive of the best interests of the country.
Substantially the same conditions obtain as regards cattle. The custom
has therefore grown up of fencing great tracts of Government land
without warrant of law. The men who fenced this land were sometimes
rich men, who, by fencing it, kept out actual settlers and thereby
worked evil to the country. But in many cases, whether they were large
men or small men, their object was not to keep out actual settlers,
but to protect themselves and their own industry by preventing
overgrazing of the range on the part of reckless stock owners who had
no place in the permanent development of the country and who were
indifferent to everything except the profits of the moment. To permit
the continuance of this illegal fencing inevitably tended to very grave
abuses, and the Government has therefore forced the fencers to take
down their fences. In doing this we have not only obeyed and enforced
the law, but we have corrected many flagrant abuses. Nevertheless, we
have also caused hardship, which, though unavoidable, I was exceedingly
unwilling to cause. In some way or other we must provide for the use of
the public range under conditions which shall inure primarily to the
benefit of the actual settlers on or near it, and which shall prevent
its being wasted. This means that in some shape or way the fencing of
pasture land must be permitted under restrictions which will safeguard
the rights of the actual settlers. I desire to act as these actual
settlers wish to have me in this matter. I wish to find out their needs
and desires and then to try to put them into effect. But they must
take trouble, must look ahead to their own ultimate and real good,
must insist upon being really represented by their public men, if we
are to have a good result. A little while ago I received a very manly
and sensible letter from one of the prominent members of the Laramie
County, Wyo., Cattle and Horse Growers’ Association. My correspondent
remarked incidentally in his letter, “I am a small ranchman, and have
to plow and pitch hay myself,” and then went on to say that the great
majority of their people had complied with the governmental order, had
removed their fences and sold their cattle, but that they must get some
kind of a lease law which would permit them to graze their stock under
proper conditions or else it would be ruinous to them to continue in
the business. The thing I have most at heart as regards this subject is
to do whatever will be of permanent benefit to just exactly the people
for whom this correspondent of mine spoke――the small ranchmen who have
to plow and pitch hay themselves. All I want to do is to find out
what will be to their real benefit, for that is certain to be to the
benefit of the country as a whole. It may be that we can secure their
interests best by permitting all homesteaders in the dry country to
inclose, individually or a certain number of them together, big tracts
of range for summer use, the tracts being proportioned to the number
of neighboring homesteaders who wish to run their cattle upon it. It
may be that parts of the range will only be valuable for companies that
can lease it and put large herds on it; for the way properly to develop
a region is to put it to those uses to which it is best adapted. The
amount to be paid for the leasing privilege is to me a matter of
comparative indifference. The Government does not wish to make money
out of the range, but simply to provide for the necessary supervision
that will prevent its being eaten out or exhausted; that is, that
will secure it undamaged as an asset for the next generation, for the
children of the present home makers. Of course we must also provide
enough to pay the proper share of the county taxes. I am not wedded to
any one plan, and I am willing to combine several plans if necessary.
But the present system is wrong, and I hope to see, in all the States
of the Great Plains and the Rockies, the men like my correspondent of
the Laramie County Cattle and Horse Growers’ Association, the small
ranchmen “who plow and pitch hay themselves,” seriously take up this
matter and make their representatives in Congress understand that there
must be some solution, and that this solution shall be one which will
secure the greatest permanent well-being to the actual settlers, the
actual home makers. I promise with all the strength I have to cooperate
toward this end.


 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 Keokuk, Iowa, October 1, 1907" ***

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