I PROPOSE no extensive address in inducting this Commission formally into its duties.
Its members have large understanding and long service in the field whose problems it is assembled to study and consider. I have already expressed my views publicly upon its purpose and its necessity.
The American people are deeply concerned over the alarming [p.160] disobedience of law, the abuses in law enforcement, and the growth of organized crime, which has spread in every field of evil-doing and in every part of our country. A nation does not fail from its growth of wealth or power. But no nation can for long survive the failure of its citizens to respect and obey the laws which they themselves make. Nor can it survive a decadence of the moral and spiritual concepts that are the basis of respect for law nor from neglect to organize itself to defeat crime and the corruption that flows from it. Nor is this a problem confined to the enforcement and obedience of one law or the laws of the Federal or State Governments separately. The problem is partly the attitude toward all law.
It is my hope that the Commission shall secure an accurate determination of fact and cause, following them with constructive, courageous conclusions which will bring public understanding and command public support of its solutions. The general public approval of the necessity for the creation of this Commission and the extraordinary universality of approval of its membership are in themselves evidences of the responsibility that lies upon you and of the great public concern in your task and of the hopes that you may succeed. I do pray for the success of your endeavors, for by such success you will have performed one of the greatest services to our generation.Note: The President spoke in the Cabinet Room at the White House at 2:30 p.m. The White House also released statements made at the meeting by Attorney General William D. Mitchell and the new Commission Chairman, George W. Wickersham, as follows:
STATEMENT BY ATTORNEY GENERAL MITCHELL
The work of this Commission will touch very closely the Department of Justice, and naturally we have a very earnest desire that the Commission's efforts will result in giving to the Department of Justice a basis for distinct improvement and accomplishment in the task of law enforcement.
With that interest in the Commission's work, the Department of Justice can be counted on to cooperate with you to the fullest extent, and I desire to place at the disposal of the Commission every facility of every agency of the Department. No doubt we have in the Department much information relating to the operations of our Federal courts, and of the Federal agencies for the detection of crime and the [p.161] enforcement of criminal laws, which may be of use to the Commission in the course of its work.
I hope the Commission will feel free to call upon us for any service it requires.
STATEMENT BY CHAIRMAN WICKERSHAM
I am confident I express the feelings of all members of this Commission when I say, we are deeply sensible of the high compliment you have paid us in your invitation to serve as members of a body called to consider a problem the solution of which you regard as more vital to the preservation of our institutions than any other question before the American people.
Every one of us has had occasion, either from the standpoint of the bench, the bar, the office of public prosecutor, the teacher, or the student of public justice, to consider the fundamental questions of human conduct in its relation to law, the character of our laws, and the machinery for law enforcement. In the light of that experience we realize the gravity of the situation we are called upon to consider. The opinions or conclusions we have formed as the result of such experience will constitute our initial contribution to the solution of the problem submitted to us. But, outside of the limits of our own experience--wholly or in part--we understand there is a vast accumulation of records, including statistics, reports, and other material bearing upon the administration of justice, assembled in departments of the National and State Governments, which should be examined, analyzed, classified and studied as bearing upon the matters before us.
There are also many public and private organizations which have been studying questions bearing upon matters involved in our inquiry, and we expect material assistance from them as well as from other students of our social conditions.
We approach our task with a profound realization of its importance and with minds open to consider on their merits all intelligent suggestions from unprejudiced sources.
We are under no illusions as to the difficulty of our task. We know there is no short cut to the millennium. But we have confidence in the fundamental honesty and right-mindedness of the American people and their readiness to support sound methods of reform when the existence of evils is exposed and practical methods for their eradication submitted to popular judgment.
To the discharge of the undertaking you have devolved upon us we pledge our best endeavors, invoking divine guidance in the performance of our task.