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Title: Address of President Roosevelt at St. Louis, Missouri, October 2, 1907
Author: Roosevelt, Theodore
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 "Address of President Roosevelt at St. Louis, Missouri, October 2, 1907" ***

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           ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI [Illustration] OCTOBER 2, 1907


                       GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

It is a very real pleasure to address this body of citizens of Missouri
here in the great city of St. Louis. I have often visited St. Louis
before, but always by rail. Now I am visiting it in the course of a
trip by water, a trip on the great natural highway which runs past
your very doors――a highway once so important, now almost abandoned,
which I hope this nation will see not only restored to all its
former usefulness, but given a far greater degree of usefulness to
correspond with the extraordinary growth in wealth and population of
the Mississippi Valley. We have lived in an era of phenomenal railroad
building. As routes for merchandise, the iron highways have completely
supplanted the old wagon roads, and under their competition the
importance of the water highways has been much diminished. The growth
of the railway system has been rapid all over the world, but nowhere so
rapid as in the United States. Accompanying this there has grown in the
United States a tendency toward the practically complete abandonment of
the system of water transportation. Such a tendency is certainly not
healthy and I am convinced that it will not be permanent. There are
many classes of commodities, especially those which are perishable in
their nature and where the value is high relatively to the bulk, which
will always be carried by rail. But bulky commodities which are not of
a perishable nature will always be specially suited for the conditions
of water transport. To illustrate the truth of this statement it would
only be necessary to point to the use of the canal system in many
countries of the Old World; but it can be illustrated even better by
what has happened nearer home. The Great Lakes offer a prime example of
the importance of a good water highway for mercantile traffic. As the
line of traffic runs through lakes, the conditions are in some respects
different from what must obtain on even the most important river.
Nevertheless, it is well to remember that a very large part of this
traffic is conditioned upon an artificial waterway, a canal――the famous
Soo. The commerce that passes through the Soo far surpasses in bulk and
in value that of the Suez Canal.

From every standpoint it is desirable for the Nation to join in
improving the greatest system of river highways within its borders, a
system second only in importance to the highway afforded by the Great
Lakes; the highways of the Mississippi and its great tributaries, such
as the Missouri and Ohio. This river system traverses too many States
to render it possible to leave merely to the States the task of fitting
it for the greatest use of which it is capable. It is emphatically
a national task, for this great river system is itself one of our
chief national assets. Within the last few years there has been an
awakening in this country to the need of both the conservation and the
development of our national resources under the supervision of and by
the aid of the Federal Government. This is especially true of all that
concerns our running waters. On the mountains from which the springs
start we are now endeavoring to preserve the forests which regulate the
water supply and prevent too startling variations between droughts and
freshets. Below the mountains, in the high dry regions of the western
plains, we endeavor to secure the proper utilization of the waters
for irrigation. This is at the sources of the streams. Farther down,
where they become navigable, our aim must be to try to develop a policy
which shall secure the utmost advantage from the navigable waters.
Finally, on the lower courses of the Mississippi, the Nation should
do its full share in the work of levee building; and, incidentally
to its purpose of serving navigation, this will also prevent the ruin
of alluvial bottoms by floods. Our knowledge is not sufficiently far
advanced to enable me to speak definitely as to the plans which should
be adopted; but let me say one word of warning: The danger of entering
on any such scheme lies in the adoption of impossible and undesirable
plans, plans the adoption of which means an outlay of money extravagant
beyond all proportion to the return, or which, though feasible, are
not, relatively to other plans, of an importance which warrant their
adoption. It will not be easy to secure the assent of a fundamentally
cautious people like our own to the adoption of such a policy as that
I hope to see adopted; and even if we begin to follow out such a
policy it certainly will not be persevered in if it is found to entail
reckless extravagance or to be tainted with jobbery. The interests of
the Nation as a whole must be always the first consideration.

This is properly a national movement, because all interstate and
foreign commerce, and the improvements and methods of carrying it on,
are subjects for national action. Moreover, while of course the matter
of the improvement of the Mississippi River and its tributaries is one
which especially concerns the great middle portion of our country, the
region between the Alleghenies and the Rockies, yet it is of concern to
the rest of the country also, for it can not too often be said that
whatever is really beneficial to one part of our country is ultimately
of benefit to the whole. Exactly as it is a good thing for the interior
of our country that the seaports on the Atlantic and the Pacific and
the Gulf should be safe and commodious, so it is to the interest of the
dwellers on the coast that the interior should possess ample facilities
for the transportation of its products. Our interests are all closely
interwoven, and in the long run it will be found that we go up or go
down together.

Take, for instance, the Panama Canal. If the Mississippi is restored
to its former place of importance as a highway of commerce, then the
building of the Panama Canal will be felt as an immediate advantage
to the business of every city and country district in the Mississippi
Valley. I think that the building of that canal will be of especial
advantage to the States that lie along the Pacific and the States that
lie along the Gulf; and yet, after all, I feel that the advantage will
be shared in an only less degree by the States of the interior and of
the Atlantic coast. In other words, it is a thoroughly national work,
undertaken for and redounding to the advantage of all of us――to the
advantage of the Nation as a whole. Therefore I am glad to be able to
report to you how well we are doing with the canal. There is bound to
be a certain amount of experiment, a certain amount of feeling our way,
in a task so gigantic――a task greater than any of its kind that has
ever hitherto been undertaken in the whole history of mankind; but the
success so far has been astonishing, and we have not met with a single
one of the accidents or drawbacks which I freely confess I expected
we should from time to time encounter. We, in the first place, laid
the foundation for the work by securing the most favorable possible
conditions as regard the health, comfort, and safety of the men who
were to do it; and now the Canal Zone is in point of health better
off than the average district of the same size at home. Then we went
at the problem of the actual digging and dam building. For over a year
past we have been engaged in making the dirt fly in good earnest,
and the output of the giant steam shovels has steadily increased. It
is now the rainy season, when work is most difficult on the Isthmus,
yet in the month of August last we excavated over a million and two
hundred thousand cubic yards of earth and rock, a greater amount than
in any previous month. If we are able to keep up substantially the
rate of progress that now obtains we shall finish the actual digging
within five or six years; though when we come to the great Gatun dam
and locks, while there is no question as to the work being feasible,
there are several elements entering into the time problem which make it
unwise at present to hazard a prophecy in reference thereto.

Now, gentlemen, this leads me up to another matter for national
consideration, and that is our Navy. The Navy is not primarily of
importance only to the coast regions. It is every bit as much the
concern of the farmer who dwells a thousand miles from sea water as
of the fisherman who makes his living on the ocean, for it is the
concern of every good American who knows what the meaning of the
word patriotism is. This country is definitely committed to certain
fundamental policies――to the Monroe doctrine, for instance, and to
the duty not only of building, but, when it is built, of policing
and defending the Panama Canal. We have definitely taken our place
among the great world powers, and it would be a sign of ignoble
weakness, having taken such a place, to shirk its responsibilities.
Therefore, unless we are willing to abandon this place, to abandon
our insistence upon the Monroe doctrine, to give up the Panama Canal,
and to be content to acknowledge ourselves a weak and timid nation,
we must steadily build up and maintain a great fighting Navy. Our
Navy is already so efficient as to be a matter of just pride to every
American. So long as our Navy is no larger than at present, it must
be considered as an elementary principle that the bulk of our battle
fleet must always be kept together. When the Panama Canal is built it
can be transferred without difficulty from one part of our coast to
the other; but even before that canal is built it ought to be thus
transferred to and fro from time to time. In a couple of months our
fleet of great armored ships starts for the Pacific. California,
Oregon, and Washington have a coast line which is our coast line just
as emphatically as the coast line of New York and Maine, of Louisiana
and Texas. Our fleet is going to its own home waters in the Pacific,
and after a stay there it will return to its own home waters in the
Atlantic. The best place for a naval officer to learn his duties is
at sea, by performing them, and only by actually putting through a
voyage of this nature, a voyage longer than any ever before undertaken
by as large a fleet of any nation, can we find out just exactly what
is necessary for us to know as to our naval needs and practice our
officers and enlisted men in the highest duties of their profession.
Among all our citizens there is no body of equal size to whom we owe
quite as much as to the officers and enlisted men of the Army and Navy
of the United States, and I bespeak from you the fullest and heartiest
support, in the name of our Nation and of our flag, for the services
to which these men belong.

In conclusion I wish to say a word to this body, containing as it
does so many business men, upon what is preeminently a business
proposition, and that is the proper national supervision and control of
corporations. At the meeting of the American Bar Association in this
last August, Judge Charles F. Amidon, of North Dakota, read a paper on
the Nation and the Constitution so admirable that it is deserving of
very wide study; for what he said was, as all studies of law in its
highest form ought to be, a contribution to constructive jurisprudence
as it should be understood not only by judges but by legislators, not
only by those who interpret and decide the law, but by those who make
it and who administer or execute it. He quoted from the late Justice
Miller, of the Supreme Court, to show that even in the interpretation
of the Constitution by this, the highest authority of the land, the
court’s successive decisions must be tested by the way they work in
actual application to the National life; the court adding to its
thought and study the results of experience and observation until the
true solution is evolved by a process both of inclusion and exclusion.
Said Justice Miller: “The meaning of the Constitution is to be sought
as much in the National life as in the dictionary;” for, as has been
well said, government purely out of a law library can never be really
good government.

Now that the questions of government are becoming so largely economic,
the majority of our so-called constitutional cases really turn not
upon the interpretation of the instrument itself, but upon the
construction, the right apprehension of the living conditions to which
it is to be applied. The Constitution is now and must remain what it
always has been; but it can only be interpreted as the interests of
the whole people demand, if interpreted as a living organism, designed
to meet the conditions of life and not of death; in other words, if
interpreted as Marshall interpreted it, as Wilson declared it should be
interpreted. The Marshall theory, the theory of life and not of death,
allows to the Nation, that is to the people as a whole, when once it
finds a subject within the national cognizance, the widest and freest
choice of methods for national control, and sustains every exercise of
national power which has any reasonable relation to national objects.
The negation of this theory means, for instance, that the Nation――that
we, the ninety millions of people of this country――will be left
helpless to control the huge corporations which now domineer in our
industrial life, and that they will have the authority of the courts to
work their desires unchecked; and such a decision would in the end be
as disastrous for them as for us. If the theory of the Marshall school
prevails, then an immense field of national power, now unused, will be
developed, which will be adequate for dealing with many, if not all,
of the economic problems which vex us; and we shall be saved from the
ominous threat of a constant oscillation between economic tyranny and
economic chaos. Our industrial, and therefore our social, future as a
Nation depends upon settling aright this urgent question.

The Constitution is unchanged and unchangeable save by amendment in due
form. But the conditions to which it is to be applied have undergone
a change which is almost a transformation, with the result that many
subjects formerly under the control of the States have come under the
control of the Nation. As one of the justices of the Supreme Court has
recently said: “The growth of national powers, under our Constitution,
which marks merely the great outlines and designates only the great
objects of national concern, is to be compared to the growth of a
country not by the geographical enlargement of its boundaries, but
by the increase of its population.” A hundred years ago there was,
except the commerce which crawled along our seacoast or up and down our
interior waterways, practically no interstate commerce. Now, by the
railroad, the mails, the telegraph, and the telephone an immense part
of our commerce is interstate. By the transformation it has escaped
from the power of the State and come under the power of the Nation.
Therefore there has been a great practical change in the exercise
of the National power, under the acts of Congress, over interstate
commerce; while on the other hand there has been no noticeable change
in the exercise of the National power “to regulate commerce with
foreign nations and with the Indian tribes.” The change as regards
interstate commerce has been, not in the Constitution, but in the
business of the people to which it is to be applied. Our economic
and social future depends in very large part upon how the interstate
commerce power of the Nation is interpreted.

I believe that the Nation has the whole governmental power over
interstate commerce and the widest discretion in dealing with that
subject; of course under the express limits prescribed in the
Constitution for the exercise of all powers, such for instance as the
condition that “due process of law” shall not be denied. The Nation
has no direct power over purely intrastate commerce, even where it is
conducted by the same agencies which conduct interstate commerce. The
courts must determine what is national and what is State commerce. The
same reasoning which sustained the power of Congress to incorporate
the United States Bank tends to sustain the power to incorporate an
interstate railroad, or any other corporation conducting an interstate

There are difficulties arising from our dual form of government.
If they prove to be insuperable resort must be had to the power of
amendment. Let us first try to meet them by an exercise of all the
powers of the National Government which in the Marshall spirit of
broad interpretation can be found in the Constitution as it is. They
are of vast extent. The chief economic question of the day in this
country is to provide a sovereign for the great corporations engaged
in interstate business; that is, for the railroads and the interstate
industrial corporations. At the moment our prime concern is with
the railroads. When railroads were first built they were purely
local in character. Their boundaries were not coextensive even with
the boundaries of one State. They usually covered but two or three
counties. All this has now changed. At present five great systems
embody nearly four-fifths of the total mileage of the country. All the
most important railroads are no longer State roads, but instruments
of interstate commerce. Probably 85 per cent of their business is
interstate business. It is the Nation alone which can with wisdom,
justice, and effectiveness exercise over these interstate railroads
the thorough and complete supervision which should be exercised. One
of the chief, and probably the chief, of the domestic causes for the
adoption of the Constitution was the need to confer upon the Nation
exclusive control over interstate commerce. But this grant of power
is worthless unless it is held to confer thoroughgoing and complete
control over practically the sole instrumentalities of interstate
commerce――the interstate railroads. The railroads themselves have
been exceedingly shortsighted in the rancorous bitterness which they
have shown against the resumption by the Nation of this long-neglected
power. Great capitalists, who pride themselves upon their extreme
conservatism, often believe they are acting in the interests of
property when following a course so shortsighted as to be really an
assault upon property. They have shown extreme unwisdom in their
violent opposition to the assumption of complete control over the
railroads by the Federal Government. The American people will not
tolerate the happy-go-lucky system of no control over the great
interstate railroads, with the insolent and manifold abuses which
have so generally accompanied it. The control must exist somewhere;
and unless it is by thoroughgoing and radical law placed upon the
statute books of the Nation, it will be exercised in ever-increasing
measure by the several States. The same considerations which made
the founders of the Constitution deem it imperative that the Nation
should have complete control of interstate commerce apply with peculiar
force to the control of interstate railroads at the present day; and
the arguments of Madison of Virginia, Pinckney of South Carolina,
and Hamilton and Jay of New York, in their essence apply now as they
applied one hundred and twenty years ago.

The national convention which framed the Constitution, and in which
almost all the most eminent of the first generation of American
statesmen sat, embodied the theory of the instrument in a resolution,
to the effect that the National Government should have power in cases
where the separate States were incompetent to act with full efficiency,
and where the harmony of the United States would be interrupted by
the exercise of such individual legislation. The interstate railroad
situation is exactly a case in point. There will, of course, be local
matters affecting railroads which can best be dealt with by local
authority, but as national commercial agents the big interstate
railroad ought to be completely subject to national authority. Only
thus can we secure their complete subjection to, and control by, a
single sovereign, representing the whole people, and capable both of
protecting the public and of seeing that the railroads neither inflict
nor endure injustice.

Personally I firmly believe that there should be national legislation
to control all industrial corporations doing an interstate business,
including the control of the output of their securities, but as to
these the necessity for Federal control is less urgent and immediate
than is the case with the railroads. Many of the abuses connected
with these corporations will probably tend to disappear now that
the Government――the public――is gradually getting the upper hand as
regards putting a stop to the rebates and special privileges which
some of these corporations have enjoyed at the hands of the common
carriers. But ultimately it will be found that the complete remedy for
these abuses lies in direct and affirmative action by the National
Government. That there is constitutional power for the national
regulation of these corporations I have myself no question. Two or
three generations ago there was just as much hostility to national
control of banks as there is now to national control of railroads
or of industrial corporations doing an interstate business. That
hostility now seems to us ludicrous in its lack of warrant; in
like manner, gentlemen, our descendants will regard with wonder the
present opposition to giving the National Government adequate power to
control those great corporations, which it alone can fully, and yet
wisely, safely, and justly control. Remember also that to regulate
the formation of these corporations offers one of the most direct and
efficient methods of regulating their activities.

I am not pleading for an extension of constitutional power. I am
pleading that constitutional power which already exists shall be
applied to new conditions which did not exist when the Constitution
went into being. I ask that the national powers already conferred upon
the National Government by the Constitution shall be so used as to
bring national commerce and industry effectively under the authority
of the Federal Government and thereby avert industrial chaos. My plea
is not to bring about a condition of centralization. It is that the
Government shall recognize a condition of centralization in a field
where it already exists. When the national banking law was passed it
represented in reality not centralization, but recognition of the fact
that the country had so far advanced that the currency was already
a matter of National concern and must be dealt with by the central
authority at Washington. So it is with interstate industrialism and
especially with the matter of interstate railroad operation to-day.
Centralization has already taken place in the world of commerce and
industry. All I ask is that the National Government look this fact in
the face, accept it as a fact, and fit itself accordingly for a policy
of supervision and control over this centralized commerce and industry.


                   *       *       *       *       *

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