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Title: Address of President Roosevelt at Chautauqua, New York, August 11, 1905
Author: Roosevelt, Theodore
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Address of President Roosevelt at Chautauqua, New York, August 11, 1905" ***

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                       AT CHAUTAUQUA, NEW YORK,
                            AUGUST 11, 1905


                      GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE

To-day I wish to speak to you on one feature of our national foreign
policy and one feature of our national domestic policy.

The Monroe Doctrine is not a part of international law. But it is the
fundamental feature of our entire foreign policy so far as the Western
Hemisphere is concerned, and it has more and more been meeting with
recognition abroad. The reason why it is meeting with this recognition
is because we have not allowed it to become fossilized, but have
adapted our construction of it to meet the growing, changing needs of
this hemisphere. Fossilization, of course, means death, whether to an
individual, a government, or a doctrine.

It is out of the question to claim a right and yet shirk the
responsibility for exercising that right. When we announce a policy
such as the Monroe Doctrine we thereby commit ourselves to accepting
the consequences of the policy, and these consequences from time to
time alter.

Let us look for a moment at what the Monroe Doctrine really is. It
forbids the territorial encroachment of non-American powers on American
soil. Its purpose is partly to secure this Nation against seeing great
military powers obtain new footholds in the Western Hemisphere, and
partly to secure to our fellow-republics south of us the chance to
develop along their own lines without being oppressed or conquered
by non-American powers. As we have grown more and more powerful our
advocacy of this doctrine has been received with more and more respect;
but what has tended most to give the doctrine standing among the
nations is our growing willingness to show that we not only mean what
we say and are prepared to back it up, but that we mean to recognize
our obligations to foreign peoples no less than to insist upon our own

We can not permanently adhere to the Monroe Doctrine unless we succeed
in making it evident in the first place that we do not intend to treat
it in any shape or way as an excuse for aggrandizement on our part
at the expense of the republics to the south of us; second, that we
do not intend to permit it to be used by any of these republics as
a shield to protect that republic from the consequences of its own
misdeeds against foreign nations; third, that inasmuch as by this
doctrine we prevent other nations from interfering on this side of the
water, we shall ourselves in good faith try to help those of our sister
republics, which need such help, upward toward peace and order.

As regards the first point we must recognize the fact that in some
South American countries there has been much suspicion lest we
should interpret the Monroe Doctrine in some way inimical to their
interests. Now let it be understood once for all that no just and
orderly government on this continent has anything to fear from us.
There are certain of the republics south of us which have already
reached such a point of stability, order, and prosperity that they are
themselves, although as yet hardly consciously, among the guarantors
of this doctrine. No stable and growing American republic wishes to
see some great non-American military power acquire territory in its
neighborhood. It is the interest of all of us on this continent that
no such event should occur, and in addition to our own Republic there
are now already republics in the regions south of us which have reached
a point of prosperity and power that enables them to be considerable
factors in maintaining this doctrine which is so much to the advantage
of all of us. It must be understood that under no circumstances will
the United States use the Monroe Doctrine as a cloak for territorial
aggression. Should any of our neighbors, no matter how turbulent, how
disregardful of our rights, finally get into such a position that the
utmost limits of our forbearance are reached, all the people south of
us may rest assured that no action will ever be taken save what is
absolutely demanded by our self-respect; that this action will not take
the form of territorial aggrandizement on our part, and that it will
only be taken at all with the most extreme reluctance and not without
having exhausted every effort to avert it.

As to the second point, if a republic to the south of us commits a
tort against a foreign nation, such, for instance, as wrongful action
against the persons of citizens of that nation, then the Monroe
Doctrine does not force us to interfere to prevent punishment of the
tort, save to see that the punishment does not directly or indirectly
assume the form of territorial occupation of the offending country.
The case is more difficult when the trouble comes from the failure to
meet contractual obligations. Our own Government has always refused to
enforce such contractual obligations on behalf of its citizens by the
appeal to arms. It is much to be wished that all foreign governments
would take the same view. But at present this country would certainly
not be willing to go to war to prevent a foreign government from
collecting a just debt or to back up some one of our sister republics
in a refusal to pay just debts; and the alternative may in any case
prove to be that we shall ourselves undertake to bring about some
arrangement by which so much as is possible of the just obligations
shall be paid. Personally I should always prefer to see this country
step in and put through such an arrangement rather than let any foreign
country undertake it.

I do not want to see any foreign power take possession permanently or
temporarily of the custom-houses of an American republic in order to
enforce its obligations, and the alternative may at any time be that
we shall be forced to do so ourselves.

Finally, and what is in my view, really the most important thing of
all, it is our duty, so far as we are able, to try to help upward our
weaker brothers. Just as there has been a gradual growth of the ethical
element in the relations of one individual to another, so that with all
the faults of our Christian civilization it yet remains true that we
are, no matter how slowly, more and more coming to recognize the duty
of bearing one another’s burdens, similarly I believe that the ethical
element is by degrees entering into the dealings of one nation with

Under strain of emotion caused by sudden disaster this feeling is very
evident. A famine or a plague in one country brings much sympathy and
some assistance from other countries. Moreover, we are now beginning
to recognize that weaker peoples have a claim upon us, even when the
appeal is made, not to our emotions by some sudden calamity, but to our
consciences by a long continuing condition of affairs.

I do not mean to say that nations have more than begun to approach the
proper relationship one to another, and I fully recognize the folly of
proceeding upon the assumption that this ideal condition can now be
realized in full――for, in order to proceed upon such an assumption,
we would first require some method of forcing recalcitrant nations to
do their duty, as well as of seeing that they are protected in their

In the interest of justice, it is as necessary to exercise the police
power as to show charity and helpful generosity. But something can even
now be done toward the end in view. That something, for instance, this
Nation has already done as regards Cuba, and is now trying to do as
regards Santo Domingo. There are few things in our history in which
we should take more genuine pride than the way in which we liberated
Cuba, and then, instead of instantly abandoning it to chaos, stayed in
direction of the affairs of the island until we had put it on the right
path, and finally gave it freedom and helped it as it started on the
life of an independent republic.

Santo Domingo has now made an appeal to us to help it in turn, and not
only every principle of wisdom but every generous instinct within
us bids us respond to the appeal. The conditions in Santo Domingo
have for a number of years grown from bad to worse until recently all
society was on the verge of dissolution. Fortunately just at this time
a wise ruler sprang up in Santo Domingo, who, with his colleagues,
saw the dangers threatening their beloved country, and appealed to
the friendship of their great and powerful neighbor to help them. The
immediate threat came to them in the shape of foreign intervention.
The previous rulers of Santo Domingo had recklessly incurred debts, and
owing to her internal disorders she had ceased to be able to provide
means of paying the debts. The patience of her foreign creditors had
become exhausted, and at least one foreign nation was on the point of
intervention and was only prevented from intervening by the unofficial
assurance of this Government that it would itself strive to help Santo
Domingo in her hour of need. Of the debts incurred some were just,
while some were not of a character which really renders it obligatory
on, or proper for, Santo Domingo to pay them in full. But she could not
pay any of them at all unless some stability was assured.

Accordingly the Executive Department of our Government negotiated
a treaty under which we are to try to help the Dominican people to
straighten out their finances. This treaty is pending before the
Senate, whose consent to it is necessary. In the meantime we have made
a temporary arrangement which will last until the Senate has had time
to take action upon the treaty. Under this arrangement we see to the
honest administration of the custom-houses, collecting the revenues,
turning over forty-five per cent to the Government for running expenses
and putting the other fifty-five per cent into a safe deposit for
equitable division among the various creditors, whether European or
American, accordingly as, after investigation, their claims seem just.

The custom-houses offer well-nigh the only sources of revenue in
Santo Domingo, and the different revolutions usually have as their
real aim the obtaining possession of these custom-houses. The mere
fact that we are protecting the custom-houses and collecting the
revenue with efficiency and honesty has completely discouraged all
revolutionary movement, while it has already produced such an increase
in the revenues that the Government is actually getting more from the
forty-five per cent that we turn over to it than it got formerly when
it took the entire revenue. This is enabling the poor harrassed people
of Santo Domingo once more to turn their attention to industry and to
be free from the curse of interminable revolutionary disturbance. It
offers to all bona fide creditors, American and European, the only
really good chance to obtain that to which they are justly entitled,
while it in return gives to Santo Domingo the only opportunity of
defense against claims which it ought not to pay――for now if it meets
the views of the Senate we shall ourselves thoroughly examine all
these claims, whether American or foreign, and see that none that are
improper are paid. Indeed, the only effective opposition to the treaty
will probably come from dishonest creditors, foreign and American, and
from the professional revolutionists of the island itself. We have
already good reason to believe that some of the creditors who do not
dare expose their claims to honest scrutiny are endeavoring to stir up
sedition in the island, and are also endeavoring to stir up opposition
to the treaty both in Santo Domingo and here, trusting that in one
place or the other it may be possible to secure either the rejection of
the treaty or else its amendment in such fashion as to be tantamount to

Under the course taken, stability and order and all the benefits
of peace are at last coming to Santo Domingo, all danger of foreign
intervention has ceased, and there is at last a prospect that all
creditors will get justice, no more and no less. If the arrangement
is terminated, chaos will follow; and if chaos follows, sooner or
later this Government may be involved in serious difficulties with
foreign governments over the island, or else may be forced itself to
intervene in the island in some unpleasant fashion. Under the present
arrangement the independence of the island is scrupulously respected,
the danger of violation of the Monroe Doctrine by the intervention of
foreign powers vanishes, and the interference of our Government is
minimized, so that we only act in conjunction with the Santo Domingo
authorities to secure the proper administration of the customs, and
therefore to secure the payment of just debts and to secure the Santo
Dominican Government against demands for unjust debts. The present
method prevents there being any need of our establishing any kind of
protectorate over the island and gives the people of Santo Domingo the
same chance to move onward and upward which we have already given to
the people of Cuba. It will be doubly to our discredit as a nation if
we fail to take advantage of this chance; for it will be of damage to
ourselves, and, above all, it will be of incalculable damage to Santo
Domingo. Every consideration of wise policy, and, above all, every
consideration of large generosity, bids us meet the request of Santo
Domingo as we are now trying to meet it.

So much for one feature of our foreign policy. Now for one feature
of our domestic policy. One of the main features of our national
governmental policy should be the effort to secure adequate and
effective supervisory and regulatory control over all great corporations
doing an interstate business. Much of the legislation aimed to prevent
the evils connected with the enormous development of these great
corporations has been ineffective, partly because it aimed at doing too
much, and partly because it did not confer on the Government a really
efficient method of holding any guilty corporation to account. The
effort to prevent all restraint of competition, whether harmful or
beneficial, has been ill-judged; what is needed is not so much the
effort to prevent combination as a vigilant and effective control of the
combinations formed, so as to secure just and equitable dealing on their
part alike toward the public generally, toward their smaller
competitors, and toward the wage-workers in their employ.

Under the present laws we have in the last four years accomplished
much that is of substantial value; but the difficulties in the way
have been so great as to prove that further legislation is advisable.
Many corporations show themselves honorably desirous to obey the law;
but, unfortunately, some corporations, and very wealthy ones at that,
exhaust every effort which can be suggested by the highest ability, or
secured by the most lavish expenditure of money, to defeat the purposes
of the laws on the statute books.

Not only the men in control of these corporations, but the business
world generally, ought to realize that such conduct is in every way
perilous, and constitutes a menace to the nation generally, and
especially to the people of great property.

I earnestly believe that this is true of only a relatively small
portion of the very rich men engaged in handling the largest
corporations in the country; but the attitude of these comparatively
few men does undoubtedly harm the country, and above all harm the
men of large means, by the just, but sometimes misguided, popular
indignation to which it gives rise. The consolidation in the form of
what are popularly called trusts of corporate interests of immense
value has tended to produce unfair restraints of trade of an oppressive
character, and these unfair restraints tend to create great artificial
monopolies. The violations of the law known as the anti-trust law,
which was meant to meet the conditions thus arising, have more and
more become confined to the larger combinations, the very ones against
whose policy of monopoly and oppression the policy of the law was
chiefly directed. Many of these combinations by secret methods and
by protracted litigation are still unwisely seeking to avoid the
consequences of their illegal action. The Government has very properly
exercised moderation in attempting to enforce the criminal provisions
of the statute; but it has become our conviction that in some cases,
such as that of at least certain of the beef packers recently indicted
in Chicago, it is impossible longer to show leniency. Moreover, if the
existing law proves to be inadequate, so that under established rules
of evidence clear violations may not be readily proved, defiance of
the law must inevitably lead to further legislation. This legislation
may be more drastic than I would prefer. If so, it must be distinctly
understood that it will be because of the stubborn determination of
some of the great combinations in striving to prevent the enforcement
of the law as it stands, by every device, legal and illegal. Very many
of these men seem to think that the alternative is simply between
submitting to the mild kind of governmental control we advocate and the
absolute freedom to do whatever they think best. They are greatly in
error. Either they will have to submit to reasonable supervision and
regulation by the national authorities, or else they will ultimately
have to submit to governmental action of a far more drastic type.
Personally, I think our people would be most unwise if they let any
exasperation due to the acts of certain great corporations drive them
into drastic action, and I should oppose such action. But the great
corporations are themselves to blame if by their opposition to what is
legal and just they foster the popular feeling which tells for such
drastic action.

Some great corporations resort to every technical expedient to render
enforcement of the law impossible, and their obstructive tactics and
refusal to acquiesce in the policy of the law have taxed to the
utmost the machinery of the Department of Justice. In my judgment
Congress may well inquire whether it should not seek other means for
carrying into effect the law. I believe that all corporations engaged
in interstate commerce should be under the supervision of the National
Government. I do not believe in taking steps hastily or rashly, and
it may be that all that is necessary in the immediate future is to
pass an interstate-commerce bill conferring upon some branch of the
executive government the power of effective action to remedy the
abuses in connection with railway transportation. But in the end, and
in my judgment at a time not very far off, we shall have to, or at
least we shall find that we ought to, take further action as regards
all corporations doing interstate business. The enormous increase in
interstate trade, resulting from the industrial development of the last
quarter of a century, makes it proper that the Federal Government
should, so far as may be necessary to carry into effect its national
policy, assume a degree of administrative control of these great

It may well be that we shall find that the only effective way of
exercising this supervision is to require all corporations engaged
in interstate commerce to produce proof satisfactory, say, to the
Department of Commerce, that they are not parties to any contract
or combination or engaged in any monopoly in interstate trade
in violation of the anti-trust law, and that their conduct on
certain other specified points is proper; and, moreover, that these
corporations shall agree, with a penalty of forfeiture of their right
to engage in such commerce, to furnish any evidence of any kind as to
their trade between the States whenever so required by the Department
of Commerce.

It is the almost universal policy of the several States, provided by
statute, that foreign corporations may lawfully conduct business
within their boundaries only when they produce certificates that they
have complied with the requirements of their respective States; in
other words, that corporations shall not enjoy the privileges and
immunities afforded by the State governments without first complying
with the policy of their laws. Now the benefits which corporations
engaged in interstate trade enjoy under the United States Government
are incalculable; and in respect of such trade the jurisdiction of the
Federal Government is supreme when it chooses to exercise it.

When, as is now the case, many of the great corporations consistently
strain the last resources of legal technicality to avoid obedience
to a law for the reasonable regulation of their business, the only
way effectively to meet this attitude on their part is to give to the
Executive Department of the Government a more direct and therefore more
efficient supervision and control of their management.

In speaking against the abuses committed by certain very wealthy
corporations or individuals, and of the necessity of seeking so far as
it can safely be done to remedy these abuses, there is always danger
lest what is said may be misinterpreted as an attack upon men of means
generally. Now it can not too often be repeated in a Republic like
ours that the only way by which it is possible permanently to benefit
the condition of the less able and less fortunate, is so to shape our
policy that all industrious and efficient people who act decently
may be benefited; and this means, of course, that the benefit will
come even more to the more able and more fortunate. If, under such
circumstances, the less fortunate man is moved by envy of his more
fortunate brother to strike at the conditions under which they have
both, though unequally, prospered, he may rest assured that while the
result may be damaging to the other man, it will be even more damaging
to himself. Of course, I am now speaking of prosperity that comes
under normal and proper conditions.

In our industrial and social system the interests of all men are
so closely intertwined that in the immense majority of cases the
straight-dealing man who by ingenuity and industry benefits himself
must also benefit others. The man of great productive capacity who gets
rich through guiding the labor of hundreds or thousands of other men
does so, as a rule, by enabling their labor to produce more than it
would without his guidance, and both he and they share in the benefit,
so that even if the share be unequal it must never be forgotten that
they too are really benefited by his success.

A vital factor in the success of any enterprise is the guiding
intelligence of the man at the top, and there is need in the interest
of all of us to encourage rather than to discourage the activity of the
exceptional men who guide average men so that their labor may result
in increased production of the kind which is demanded at the time.
Normally we help the wage-worker, we help the man of small means, by
making conditions such that the man of exceptional business ability
receives an exceptional reward for that ability.

But while insisting with all emphasis upon this, it is also true that
experience has shown that when there is no governmental restraint or
supervision, some of the exceptional men use their energies, not in
ways that are for the common good, but in ways which tell against this
common good; and that by so doing they not only wrong smaller and less
able men――whether wage-workers or small producers and traders――but
force other men of exceptional abilities themselves to do what is
wrong under penalty of falling behind in the keen race for success.
There is need of legislation to strive to meet such abuses. At one
time or in one place this legislation may take the form of factory
laws and employers’ liability laws. Under other conditions it may
take the form of dealing with the franchises which derive their value
from the grant of the representatives of the people. It may be aimed
at the manifold abuses, far-reaching in their effects, which spring
from overcapitalization. Or it may be necessary to meet such conditions
as those with which I am now dealing and to strive to procure proper
supervision and regulation by the National Government of all great
corporations engaged in interstate commerce or doing an interstate

There are good people who are afraid of each type of legislation; and
much the same kind of argument that is now advanced against the effort
to regulate big corporations has been again and again advanced against
the effort to secure proper employers’ liability laws or proper factory
laws with reference to women and children; much the same kind of
argument was advanced but five years ago against the franchise-tax law
enacted in this State while I was governor.

Of course there is always the danger of abuse if legislation of this
type is approached in a hysterical or sentimental spirit, or, above
all, if it is approached in a spirit of envy and hatred toward men of

We must not try to go too fast, under penalty of finding that we may
be going in the wrong direction; and in any event, we ought always to
proceed by evolution and not by revolution. The laws must be conceived
and executed in a spirit of sanity and justice, and with exactly as
much regard for the rights of the big man as for the rights of the
little man――treating big man and little man exactly alike.

Our ideal must be the effort to combine all proper freedom for
individual effort with some guarantee that the effort is not exercised
in contravention of the eternal and immutable principles of justice.

                   *       *       *       *       *

 Transcriber’s Note:

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

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