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1916 Democratic Party Platform

June 14, 1916

The Democratic Party, in National Convention assembled, adopts the following declaration to the end that the people of the United States may both realize the achievements wrought by four years of Democratic administration and be apprised of the policies to which the party is committed for the further conduct of National affairs.


I. Record of Achievement

We endorse the administration of Woodrow Wilson. It speaks for itself. It is the best exposition of sound Democratic policy at home and abroad.

We challenge comparison of our record, our keeping of pledges and our constructive legislation, with those of any party of any time.

We found our country hampered by special privilege, a vicious tariff, obsolete banking laws and an inelastic currency. Our foreign affairs were dominated by commercial interests for their selfish ends. The Republican Party, despite repeated pledges, was impotent to correct abuses which it had fostered. Under our Administration, under a leadership which has never faltered, these abuses have been corrected, and our people have been freed therefrom.

Our archaic banking and currency system, prolific of panic and disaster under Republican administrations,—long the refuge of the money trust,—has been supplanted by the Federal Reserve Act, a true democracy of credit under government control, already proved a financial bulwark in a world crisis, mobilizing our resources, placing abundant credit at the disposal of legitimate industry and making a currency panic impossible.

We have created a Federal Trade Commission to accommodate perplexing questions arising under the anti-trust laws, so that monopoly may be strangled at its birth and legitimate industry encouraged. Fair competition in business is now assured.

We have effected an adjustment of the tariff, adequate for revenue under peace conditions, and fair to the consumer and to the producer. We have adjusted the burdens of taxation so that swollen incomes bear their equitable share. Our revenues have been sufficient in times of world stress, and will largely exceed the expenditures for the current fiscal year.

We have lifted human labor from the category of commodities and have secured to the workingman the right of voluntary association for his protection and welfare. We have protected the rights of the laborer against the unwarranted issuance of writs of injunction, and have guaranteed to him the right of trial by jury in cases of alleged contempt committed outside the presence of the court.

We have advanced the parcel post to genuine efficiency, enlarged the postal savings system, added ten thousand rural delivery routes and extensions, thus reaching two and one-half millions additional people, improved the postal service in every branch, and for the first time in our history, placed the post-office system on a self-supporting basis, with actual surplus in 1913, 1914 and 1916.


II. Economic Freedom

The reforms which were most obviously needed to clear away special privilege, prevent unfair discrimination and release the energies of men of all ranks and advantages, have been effected by recent legislation. We must now remove, as far as possible, every remaining element of unrest and uncertainty from the path of the business men of America, and secure for them a continued period of quiet, assured and confident prosperity.


III. Tariff

We reaffirm our belief in the doctrine of a tariff for the purpose of providing sufficient revenue for the operation of the government economically administered, and unreservedly endorse the Underwood tariff law as truly exemplifying that doctrine. We recognize that tariff rates are necessarily subject to change to meet changing conditions in the world's productions and trade. The events of the last two years have brought about many momentous changes. In some respects their effects are yet conjectural and wait to be disclosed, particularly in regard to our foreign trade. Two years of a war which has directly involved most of the chief industrial nations in the world, and which has indirectly affected the life and industry of all nations are bringing about economic changes more varied and far-reaching than the world has ever before experienced. In order to ascertain just what those changes may be, the Democratic Congress is providing for a non-partisan tariff commission to make impartial and thorough study of every economic fact that may throw light either upon our past or upon our future fiscal policy with regard to the imposition of taxes on imports or with regard to the changed and changing conditions under which our trade is carried on. We cordially endorse this timely proposal and declare ourselves in sympathy with the principle and purpose of shaping legislation within that field in accordance with clearly established facts rather than in accordance with the demands of selfish interests or upon information provided largely, if not exclusively, by them.


IV. Americanism

The part that the United States will play in the new day of international relationships that is now upon us will depend upon our preparation and our character. The Democratic party, therefore, recognizes the assertion and triumphant demonstration of the indivisibility and coherent strength of the nation as the supreme issue of this day in which the whole world faces the crisis of manifold change. It summons all men of whatever origin or creed who would count themselves Americans, to join in making clear to all the world the unity and consequent power of America. This is an issue of patriotism. To taint it with partisanship would be to defile it. In this day of test, America must show itself not a nation of partisans but a nation of patriots. There is gathered here in America the best of the blood, the industry and the genius of the whole world, the elements of a great race and a magnificent society to be welded into a mighty and splendid Nation. Whoever, actuated by the purpose to promote the interest of a foreign power, in disregard of our own country's welfare or to injure this government in its foreign relations or cripple or destroy its industries at home, and whoever by arousing prejudices of a racial, religious or other nature creates discord and strife among our people so as to obstruct the wholesome process of unification, is faithless to the trust which the privileges of citizenship repose in him and is disloyal to his country. We therefore condemn as subversive to this Nation's unity and integrity, and as destructive of its welfare, the activities and designs of every group or organization, political or otherwise, that has for its object the advancement of the interest of a foreign power, whether such object is promoted by intimidating the government, a political party, or representatives of the people, or which is calculated and tends to divide our people into antagonistic groups and thus to destroy that complete agreement and solidarity of the people and that unity of sentiment and purpose so essential to the perpetuity of the Nation and its free institutions. We condemn all alliances and combinations of individuals in this country, of whatever nationality or descent, who agree and conspire together for the purpose of embarrassing or weakening our government or of improperly influencing or coercing our public representatives in dealing or negotiating with any foreign power. We charge that such conspiracies among a limited number exist and have been instigated for the purpose of advancing the interests of foreign countries to the prejudice and detriment of our own country. We condemn any political party which, in view of the activity of such conspirators, surrenders its integrity or modifies its policy.


V. Preparedness

Along with the proof of our character as a Nation must go the proof of our power to play the part that legitimately belongs to us. The people of the United States love peace. They respect the rights and covet the friendship of all other nations. They desire neither any additional territory nor any advantage which cannot be peacefully gained by their skill, their industry, or their enterprise; but they insist upon having absolute freedom of National life and policy, and feel that they owe it to themselves and to the role of spirited independence which it is their sole ambition to play that they should render themselves secure against the hazard of interference from any quarter, and should be able to protect their rights upon the seas or in any part of the world. We therefore favor the maintenance of an army fully adequate to the requirements of order, of safety, and of the protection of the nation's rights, the fullest development of modern methods of seacoast defence and the maintenance of an adequate reserve of citizens trained to arms and prepared to safeguard the people and territory of the United States against any danger of hostile action which may unexpectedly arise; and a fixed policy for the continuous development of a navy, worthy to support the great naval traditions of the United States and fully equal to the international tasks which this Nation hopes and expects to take a part in performing. The plans and enactments of the present Congress afford substantial proof of our purpose in this exigent matter.


VI. International Relation

The Democratic administration has throughout the present war scrupulously and successfully held to the old paths of neutrality and to the peaceful pursuit of the legitimate objects of our National life which statesmen of all parties and creeds have prescribed for themselves in America since the beginning of our history. But the circumstances of the last two years have revealed necessities of international action which no former generation can have foreseen. We hold that it is the duty of the United States to use its power, not only to make itself safe at home, but also to make secure its just interests throughout the world, and, both for this end and in the interest of humanity, to assist the world in securing settled peace and justice. We believe that every people has the right to choose the sovereignty under which it shall live; that the small states of the world have a right to enjoy from other nations the same respect for their sovereignty and for their territorial integrity that great and powerful nations expect and insist upon; and that the world has a right to be free from every disturbance of its peace that has its origin in aggression or disregard of the rights of people and nations; and we believe that the time has come when it is the duty of the United States to join the other nations of the world in any feasible association that will effectively serve those principles, to maintain inviolate the complete security of the highway of the seas for the common and unhindered use of all nations.

The present Administration has consistently sought to act upon and realize in its conduct of the foreign affairs of the Nation the principle that should be the object of any association of the nations formed to secure the peace of the world and the maintenance of national and individual rights. It has followed the highest American traditions. It has preferred respect for the fundamental rights of smaller states even to property interests, and has secured the friendship of the people of these States for the United States by refusing to make a more material interest an excuse for the assertion of our superior power against the dignity of their sovereign independence. It has regarded the lives of its citizens and the claims of humanity as of greater moment than material rights, and peace as the best basis for the just settlement of commercial claims. It has made the honor and ideals of the United States its standard alike in negotiation and action.


VII. Pan-American Concord

We recognize now, as we have always recognized, a definite and common interest between the United States and the other peoples and republics of the Western Hemisphere in all matters of National independence and free political development. We favor the establishment and maintenance of the closest relations of amity and mutual helpfulness between the United States and the other republics of the American continents for the support of peace and the promotion of a common prosperity. To that end we favor all measures which may be necessary to facilitate intimate intercourse and promote commerce between the United States and her neighbors to the south of us, and such international understandings as may be practicable and suitable to accomplish these ends.

We commend the action of the Democratic administration in holding the Pan-American Financial Conference at Washington in May, 1915, and organizing the International High Commission, which represented the United States in the recent meeting of representatives of the Latin-American Republics at Buenos Aires, April, 1916, which have so greatly promoted the friendly relations between the people of the Western Hemisphere.


VIII. Mexico

The Monroe Doctrine is reasserted as a principle of Democratic faith. That doctrine guarantees the independent republics of the two Americas against aggression from another continent. It implies, as well, the most scrupulous regard upon our part for the sovereignty of each of them. We court their good will. We seek not to despoil them. The want of a stable, responsible government in Mexico, capable of repressing and punishing marauders and bandit bands, who have not only taken the lives and seized and destroyed the property of American citizens in that country, but have insolently invaded our soil, made war upon and murdered our people thereon, has rendered it necessary temporarily to occupy, by our armed forces, a portion of the territory of that friendly state. Until, by the restoration of law and order therein, a repetition of such incursions is improbable, the necessity for their remaining will continue. Intervention, implying as it does, military subjugation, is revolting to the people of the United States, notwithstanding the provocation to that course has been great and should be resorted to, if at all, only as a last recourse. The stubborn resistance of the President and his advisers to every demand and suggestion to enter upon it, is creditable alike to them and to the people in whose name he speaks.


IX. Merchant Marine

Immediate provision should be made for the development of the carrying trade of the United States. Our foreign commerce has in the past been subject to many unnecessary and vexatious obstacles in the way of legislation of Republican Congresses. Until the recent Democratic tariff legislation, it was hampered by unreasonable burdens of taxation. Until the recent banking legislation, it had at its disposal few of the necessary instrumentalities of international credit and exchange. Until the formulation of the pending act to promote the construction of a merchant marine, it lacked even the prospect of adequate carriage by sea. We heartily endorse the purposes and policy of the pending shipping bill and favor all such additional measures of constructive or remedial legislation as may be necessary to restore our flag to the seas and to provide further facilities for our foreign commerce, particularly such laws as may be requisite to remove unfair conditions of competition in the dealings of American merchants and producers with competitors in foreign markets.


X. Conservation

For the safeguarding and quickening of the life of our own people, we favor the conservation and development of the natural resources of the country through a policy which shall be positive rather than negative, a policy which shall not withhold such resources from development but which, while permitting and encouraging their use, shall prevent both waste and monopoly in their exploitation, and we earnestly favor the passage of acts which will accomplish these objects, reaffirming the declaration of the platform of 1912 on this subject.

The policy of reclaiming our arid lands should be steadily adhered to.


XI. the Administration and the Farmer

We favor the vigorous prosecution of investigations and plans to render agriculture more profitable and country life more healthful, comfortable and attractive, and we believe that this should be a dominant aim of the nation as well as of the States. With all its recent improvement, farming still lags behind other occupations in development as a business, and the advantages of an advancing civilization have not accrued to rural communities in a fair proportion. Much has been accomplished in this field under the present administration, far more than under any previous administration. In the Federal Reserve Act of the last Congress, and the Rural Credits Act of the present Congress, the machinery has been created which will make credit available to the farmer constantly and readily, placing him at last upon a footing of equality with the merchant and the manufacturer in securing the capital necessary to carry on his enterprises. Grades and standards necessary to the intelligent and successful conduct of the business of agriculture have also been established or are in the course of establishment by law. The long-needed Cotton Futures Act, passed by the Sixty-Third Congress, has now been in successful operation for nearly two years. A Grain Grades Bill, long needed, and a permissive Warehouse Bill, intended to provide better storage facilities and to enable the farmer to obtain certificates upon which he may secure advances of money have been passed by the House of Representatives, have been favorably reported to the Senate, and will probably become law during the present session of the Congress. Both Houses have passed a good-roads measure, which will be of far reaching benefit to all agricultural communities. Above all, the most extraordinary and significant progress has been made, under the direction of the Department of Agriculture, in extending and perfecting practical farm demonstration work which is so rapidly substituting scientific for empirical farming. But it is also necessary that rural activities should be better directed through co-operation and organization, that unfair methods of competition should be eliminated and the conditions requisite for the just, orderly and economical marketing of farm products created. We approve the Democratic administration for having emphatically directed attention for the first time to the essential interests of agriculture involved in farm marketing and finance, for creating the Office of Markets and Rural Organization in connection with the Department of Agriculture, and for extending the co-operative machinery necessary for conveying information to farmers by means of demonstration. We favor continued liberal provision, not only for the benefit of production, but also for the study and solution of problems of farm marketing and finance and for the extension of existing agencies for improving country life.


XII. Good Roads

The happiness, comfort and prosperity of rural life, and the development of the city, are alike conserved by the construction of public highways. We, therefore, favor national aid in the construction of post roads and roads for like purposes.


XIII. Government Employment

We hold that the life, health and strength of the men, women and children of the Nation are its greatest asset and that in the conservation of these the Federal Government, wherever it acts as the employer of labor, should both on its own account and as an example, put into effect the following principles of just employment:

1. A living wage for all employees.

2. A working day not to exceed eight hours, with one day of rest in seven.

3. The adoption of safety appliances and the establishment of thoroughly sanitary conditions of labor.

4. Adequate compensation for industrial accidents.

5. The standards of the "Uniform Child Labor Law," wherever minors are employed.

6. Such provisions for decency, comfort and health in the employment of women as should be accorded the mothers of the race.

7. An equitable retirement law providing for the retirement of superannuated and disabled employees of the civil service, to the end that a higher standard of efficiency may be maintained.

We believe also that the adoption of similar principles should be urged and applied in the legislation of the States with regard to labor within their borders and that through every possible agency the life and health of the people of the nation should be conserved.


XIV. Labor

We declare our faith in the Seamen's Act, passed by the Democratic Congress, and we promise our earnest continuance of its enforcement.

We favor the speedy enactment of an effective Federal Child Labor Law and the regulation of the shipment of prison-made goods in interstate commerce.

We favor the creation of a Federal Bureau of Safety in the Department of Labor, to gather facts concerning industrial hazards, and to recommend legislation to prevent the maiming and killing of human beings.

We favor the extension of the powers and functions of the Federal Bureau of Mines.

We favor the development upon a systematic scale of the means already begun under the present administration, to assist laborers throughout the Nation to seek and obtain employment, and the extension of the Federal Government of the same assistance and encouragement as is now given to agricultural training.

We heartily commend our newly established Department of Labor for its fine record in settling strikes by personal advice and through conciliating agents.


XV. Public Health

We favor a thorough reconsideration of the means and methods by which the Federal Government handles questions of public health to the end that human life may be conserved by the elimination of loathsome disease, the improvement of sanitation and the diffusion of a knowledge of disease prevention

We favor the establishment by the Federal Government of tuberculosis sanitariums for needy tubercular patients.


XVI. Senate Rules

We favor such alteration of the rules of procedure of the Senate of the United States as will permit the prompt transaction of the Nation's legislative business.


XVII. Economy and the Budget

We demand careful economy in all expenditures for the support of the government, and to that end favor a return by the House of Representatives to its former practice of initiating and preparing all appropriation bills through a single committee chosen from its membership, in order that responsibility may be central, expenditures standardized and made uniform, and waste and duplication in the public service as much as possible avoided. We favor this as a practicable first step towards a budget system.


XVIII. Civil Service

We reaffirm our declarations for the rigid enforcement of the civil service laws.


XIX. Philippine Islands

We heartily endorse the provisions of the bill, recently passed by the House of Representatives, further promoting self-government in the Philippine Islands as being in fulfillment of the policy declared by the Democratic Party in its last national platform, and we reiterate our endorsement of the purpose of ultimate independence for the Philippine Islands, expressed in the preamble of that measure.


XX. Woman Suffrage

We recommend the extension of the franchise to the women of the country by the States upon the same terms as to men.


XXI. Protection of Citizens

We again declare the policy that the sacred rights of American citizenship must be preserved at home and abroad, and that no treaty shall receive the sanction of our Government which does not expressly recognize the absolute equality of all our citizens irrespective of race, creed or previous nationality, and which does not recognize the right of expatriation. The American Government should protect American citizens in their rights, not only at home but abroad, and any country having a government should be held to strict accountability for any wrongs done them, either to person or property. At the earliest practical opportunity our country should strive earnestly for peace among the warring nations of Europe and seek to bring about the adoption of the fundamental principle of justice and humanity, that all men shall enjoy equality of right and freedom from discrimination in the lands wherein they dwell.


XXII. Prison Reform

We demand that the modern principles of prison reform be applied in our Federal Penal System. We favor such work for prisoners as shall give them training in remunerative occupations so that they may make an honest living when released from prison; the setting apart of the net wages of the prisoner to be paid to his dependent family or to be reserved for his own use upon his release; the liberal extension of the principles of the Federal Parole Law, with due regard both to the welfare of the prisoner and the interests of society; the adoption of the Probation System especially in the case of first offenders not convicted of serious crimes.


XXIII. Pensions

We renew the declarations of recent Democratic platforms relating to generous pensions for soldiers and their widows, and call attention to our record of performance in this particular.


XXIV. Waterways and Flood Control

We renew the declaration in our last two platforms relating to the development of our waterways. The recent devastation of the lower Mississippi Valley and several other sections by floods accentuates the movement for the regulation of river flow by additional bank and levee protection below, and diversion, storage and control of the flood waters above, and their utilization for beneficial purposes in the reclamation of arid and swamp lands and development of water-power, instead of permitting the floods to continue as heretofore agents of destruction. We hold that the control of the Mississippi River is a National problem. The preservation of the depth of its waters for purposes of navigation, the building of levees and works of bank protection to maintain the integrity of its channel and prevent the overflow of its valley resulting in the interruption of interstate commerce, the disorganization of the mail service, and the enormous loss of life and property, impose an obligation which alone can be discharged by the National Government.

We favor the adoption of a liberal and comprehensive plan for the development and improvement of our harbors and inland waterways with economy and efficiency so as to permit their navigation by vessels of standard draft.


XXV. Alaska

It has been and will be the policy of the Democratic party to enact all laws necessary for the speedy development of Alaska and its great natural resources.


XXVI. Territories

We favor granting to the people of Alaska, Hawaii and Porto Rico the traditional territorial government accorded to the territories of the United States since the beginning of our government, and we believe that the officials appointed to administer the government of those several territories should be qualified by previous bona-fide residence.


XXVII. Candidates

We unreservedly endorse our President and Vice-President, Woodrow Wilson, of New Jersey, and Thomas Riley Marshall of Indiana, who have performed the functions of their great offices faithfully and impartially and with distinguished ability.

In particular, we commend to the American people the splendid diplomatic victories of our great President, who has preserved the vital interests of our Government and its citizens, and kept us out of war.

Woodrow Wilson stands to-day the greatest American of his generation.


XXVIII. Conclusion

This is a critical hour in the history of America, a critical hour in the history of the world. Upon the record above set forth, which shows great constructive achievement in following out a consistent policy for our domestic and internal development; upon the record of the Democratic administration, which has maintained the honor, the dignity and the interests of the United States, and, at the same time, retained the respect and friendship of all the nations of the world; and upon the great policies for the future strengthening of the life of our country, the enlargement of our National vision and the ennobling of our international relations, as set forth above, we appeal with confidence to the voters of the country.

APP Note: The American Presidency Project used the first day of the national nominating convention as the "date" of this platform since the original document is undated.

Democratic Party Platforms, 1916 Democratic Party Platform Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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